Environmental engineer and 2006 John Monash Scholar Dr Sally Thompson has accepted a position at the University of California Berkeley, commencing early next year. The appointment recognizes Sally's contributions to the field of ecohydrology.
Ecohydrology is the study of the interaction of plants and water at landscape scales, and has important implications on the availability of water for people, agriculture and ecosystems. In warm and dry parts of the world, the fate of most rain up to 95% of all precipitation in some cases is to get sucked up a tree and returned to the atmosphere. "Right now the rate of land use change is accelerating globally, and rivals climate change and variability in its impacts on water cycle dynamics" says Sally. "These changes have big implications for water resources, which depend on both the choices we make about water use and catchment management, and the way that natural systems alter their behavior in response to global change. What hydrologists are realizing is that water is not just about water any more." Sally's research addresses the interconnections between ecology, hydrology and human dimensions of water.
Prior to taking up her John Monash Scholarship, Sally completed a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Western Australia, and worked as an environmental engineering consultant with Sinclair Knight Merz in Perth, Western Australia. Sally used her John Monash Scholarship to undertake a PhD in Environmental Science at Duke University in the United States, which she completed in May 2010. The basis of her thesis was the study of the interaction of water and vegetations. She developed ecohydrological models to simulate vegetation pattern formation, extended hydrological theories relating to infiltration in vegetated and microtopographically undulating terrain, and applied spatial models to tree recruitment dynamics in forests and under scenarios of climate change. Her thesis was awarded the Dean’s Award for an Outstanding Research Manuscript, from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She was also awarded an Early Career Fellowship from the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science Inc (CUAHSI) in 2010.
Following completion of her PhD, Sally worked as a Postdoctoral Associate at Duke University, as a Visiting Scholar at Princeton University and Teaching Scholar at Purdue University. Her key research interests are in ecohydrology, surface hydrology, spatial ecology, arid and semi-arid watersheds and ecosystems, pattern formation, nonlinear dynamics, plant physiology, and water resource sustainability.
In January 2012, Sally will take up her position as an Assistant Professor in Surface Water Hydrology in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Her research will focus on vegetation as a major driver of the water balance, and explore how patterns in the spatial organization of vegetation provide insight into the distribution of water. She will teach surface water hydrology courses in CEE’s Environmental Engineering program, and looks forward to developing new courses in the areas of eco-hydrology and nonlinear dynamics.