Kelly Heilman

Graduate Student

I am a fourth year graduate student interested in looking at vegetation dynamics from a hydrologic viewpoint. Of particular interest to me is understanding the role of hydrology and fire in shaping the prairie-forest boundary in the historic Prairie Peninsula. In some ecosystems, such as prairies and bogs, both the hydrology and fire regimes can dictate the competition between vegetation types, which consequentially can change both biomass and soil carbon storage and release rates of the ecosystem. Therefore, an understanding of hydrology and fire disturbances is essential to accurately predict terrestrial carbon dynamics under climate change scenarios. However, anthropogenic land use change, hydrologic alterations, and fire management techniques have all but erased natural fire and water processes in the Midwest, making the potential implications of these processes difficult to characterize in the present and future. I will investigate the relationship between pre-settlement vegetation and hydrology, how agricultural influences have altered these processes, and use these relationships to better inform climate model predictions.

Contact: Kelly[dot]A[dot]Heilman[dot]7[at]nd[dot]edu