CFC grad students at AGU fall meeting

Like divers coming up for air, two UM hydrology students emerged from forest research sites this week to present their findings to the larger scientific community. AGU fall meeting. Photo by Abbey Dufoe.

Zach Hoylman and Anna Bergstrom are presenting at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. Hoylman, a doctoral candidate in forest and conservation science, and Bergstrom, a masters candidate in forest management, traveled with advisor Kelsey Jencso to present posters at the meeting in San Francisco.

Hoylman is researching how terrain affects conifer growth in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest. Though scientists have an understanding of the relationship between topography, climate and vegetation productivity, there is little data to support that understanding. Hoylman hopes his findings will bolster observations seen in the field.

“We don’t really understand why we see these trends and there hasn’t been a lot of research that goes into this,” he said. “We’re trying to nail down and understand what we are seeing happen in the landscape.”

An early interest in geology and a love for the outdoors led Hoylman to Jencso’s watershed hydrology lab. There Hoylman was able to combine his background in geosciences with a deepening understanding of the factors that limit and promote plant growth.

“What really interested me is having something that I see is really important and a necessary thing to study,” he said. “Ultimately for me that was water.”

Bergstrom is examining how the interaction of surface and groundwater flow is affected by topography and geology. Her poster reflects a year’s analysis of data collected for and presented at last year’s meeting. By aggregating data collected along an entire stream reach, Bergstrom was able to identify an elegant and transferable explanation for how water moves from the stream channel into groundwater flow.

“My research is showing that a simple look at steps and cascades in a stream gives you a really good idea of how much water is being lost,” she said.

A step, or small drop in the streambed, creates an area of high pressure that forces water downwards out of the stream channel into the ground. Bergstrom found a strong correlation between the number of steps in a stream reach and the volume of water forced out of the reach.

The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest Earth and space science conference in the world, with nearly 24,000 scientists, industry representatives and journalists in attendance this year.

This is Bergstrom’s fifth time attending the meeting. The convergence of scientists across disciplines makes for unexpected collaboration, brainstorming and networking in an informal setting, she said. She sees this as a chance for building a sound knowledge base without the competition typically associated with the research and publication process.

“Let’s get together and advance the science.”

For more information about the AGU Fall Meeting, visit the event’s website at

Story by Nicky Ouellet

Photo of AGU student mixer by Abbey Dufoe