In August of 2020, Luke began his Ph.D. in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech under the advisement of Dr. Durrelle Scott. He feels compelled to play as large of a role as he can in mitigating the impacts facing our riverine systems amidst a changing climate. Luke’s research interests include studying how we can sustainably manage our rivers on a watershed-scale to benefit both people and the environment.
After transferring from Des Moines Area Community College, Luke went on to earn his B.S. in Animal Ecology and Environmental Studies from Iowa State University in December 2019. He spent his first summer at Iowa State volunteering as a field technician for a grassland ecology lab and conducting an independent study for credits.
The next summer, Luke was accepted into his first NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of South Dakota where he discovered his interest in studying riverine systems. As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, he joined a watershed conservation lab at ISU and geospatially modeled best management practices for increasing water quality. Luke’s developing research interests led to his second NSF REU at the University of Louisiana. He created a model of a catastrophic flooding event and showed how future river modifications and climate change will likely impact water quality and flooding. His last semester at Iowa State was spent working on a similar project constructing a model to assess flood-carrying capacity in a recently restored stream system.
Luke’s interest in the natural world originally came from exploring the forests, prairies, and wetlands surrounding his home in rural Iowa. Undergraduate research experiences drastically increased his understanding of our natural world and, more importantly, the impacts of humans upon it. Climate change is arguably the largest problem facing our planet; it is altering the distribution of water and the frequency and severity of weather events. This combined with an exponentially growing population and demand for natural resources requires a rethinking of how we manage our water resources.
Luke aspires to leverage both science and policy to address the large-scale problem of how we manage our watersheds in a changing climate. Participating in the Interfaces of Global Change program will hone the skills necessary to collaboratively solve complex, interdisciplinary problems. Luke also hopes that the IGC and GCC community will better equip him to achieve his professional goal of using system-based science to inform policy that benefits our intertwined socio-ecological systems.