The science of water is Hydrology.  Water is our lifeblood, the circulatory system of or bodies, our food, our Earth.

The interconnections between water and ecosystems or organisms is captured by the science of Ecohydrology.  Ecohydrology, at its deepest levels, encapsulates three paradoxes —

  1. Where and When:
    • Life on Earth requires water to be held in extraordinarily specific places and used at extraordinarily specific times.
    • yet
    • The functions of Earth and of all its life require the inexorable, continuous movement and cycling of water.
  2. How, How Much, and For Whom:
    • The existence and cycling of water on Earth are driven precisely by imbalances in water form or abundance between adjacent locations.
    • yet
    • Spatiotemporal imbalances and continual cycling impose inescapable inequity in the natural availability of water as the most basic resource required by all Earth’s ecosystems, human life, and civilizations.
  3. Species Range and Resilience given Limited Thermal and Hydraulic Physiological Tools:
    • Life on Earth, including humans, is most often optimal at moderately-high moisture availabilities and temperatures.  and  Organisms within a species, including Homo sapiens, typically have fairly few inherent physiological mechanisms for tolerating sub-optimal or extreme moisture and temperature conditions.
    • yet
    • Subpopulations within species, especially plants but including Homo sapiens and others, have very successfully radiated to be resilient among widely distinct environments on Earth while maintaining relatively narrow interspecific types and ranges of thermal and hydraulic functions and architectures.

Dr. Moffett’s research wrestles at the nexus of these three paradoxes.

Example overarching research questions pursued by the WSU Ecohydrology Research Group are:

How do spatial and temporal variations in water flows relate to the structure, function, and stability of plant organisms, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the human environment? 

How can humans exert control on the environment to simultaneously maximize intra-human environmental and resource equity, minimize harm (externalized costs) to the non-human biotic and abiotic environment, and optimize long-term adaptive resilience?

What thermal or hydraulic limits are organisms beginning to face with local microclimate or global climate warming, and how resilient might we expect or hope those organisms, including Homo sapiens, to be?

We currently pursue answers to such questions in four major study areas/environments:

  • Urban Ecohydrology, the Urban Water Cycle, and Urban Environmental Equity
  • Ecohydrology of Forest Disturbance and Recovery from Wildfire and Climate Impacts
  • Ecohydrology of River and Wetland Systems, including Salt Marshes, Tidal Rivers, Deltaic Ecogeomorphology
  • Basic research on hydraulics and thermal dynamics of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, environmental biophysics, remote sensing, and methodological developments.

We use field studies, numerical modeling, remote sensing analysis, and laboratory experimentation to answer compelling and important research questions from plant and pore to planetary scales. We are always open to new and exciting ideas, collaborations, and methods.