Nicole K. Ward

Biological Sciences

Nicole joined the Carey Lab in summer 2016 to study water quality and human decision-making in lake catchments. Her PhD research is part of the larger multidisciplinary project, “Linking land-use decision making, water quality, and lake associations to understand human-natural feedbacks in lake catchments,” which is funded by the NSF Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH). The CNH-Lakes project brings together 6+ disciplines and 20+ researchers.

Nicole is conducting her research at Virginia Tech from a limnology perspective, however her diverse background feeds naturally into the overall CNH-lakes project. She grew up on a lake in Minnesota and was active in the local lake association, which exposed her to the power of collective action and collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to environmental issues at a young age. She completed a B.S. in Biology, with a focus on Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After college, she studied native mussels and stream ecology at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Stream Habitat Program.



While working at the DNR, she grew interested in how upland processes and human actions influence stream conditions. So, Nicole headed west with the goal of reaching a more holistic understanding of freshwater systems. Her M.S. research in the University of Idaho Water Resources Program focused on agricultural land management and hillslope hydrology. She worked directly with local farmers, collaborated with economists, agronomists, and soil scientists, and pursued farm policy-related research. Now, her experiences studying agricultural policy and management, hillslope hydrology, and stream ecology bring her flowing down river to lake systems. She is excited to apply her diverse background to in-depth, applied limnology research, where the effects of human decisions and catchment processes cumulate!

Nicole is excited to join the IGC community to improve her understanding of major global changes, gain new approaches to interdisciplinary research, and learn about the science-policy interface.

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