Grad student studies stream restoration

Christine BrissetteFor the six years prior to starting as a master's student with professor Kelsey Jencso, Christine Brissette worked in the stream restoration field in western Montana. When she decided to return to school, she wanted to pursue research that would benefit the academic and management communities alike. In the arid west, there is growing concern over the impact of climate change on our water resources, with predictions pointing towards decreases in aquifer storage and late-season, in-stream flows. This could have dramatic effects on water available for human use and broad ecosystem function. In recent years, natural resource managers have increasingly looked to restoration as a tool to mitigate these impacts, promoting water storage in the alluvial aquifer during high flows that can sustain in-stream flows throughout the season. While previous research indicates that restoration can affect exchange and storage processes, none have linked these impacts to seasonal changes in stream flow.

Her research quantifies the effect of stream restoration on exchange, storage and streamflow generation. She has partnered with Trout Unlimited, which is leading extensive restoration efforts on Ninemile Creek (Huson, Montana). Christine's results will provide insights into the efficacy of restoration in degraded watersheds and how restoration may improve late-season flows in the context of a changing climate and increased demands for water resources.Degraded stream

Christine has received two grants to support her research: a UM Graduate Enhancement Fellowship from the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, which covered summer fieldwork expenses; and the University Grant Program awarded Jencso a seed grant to support Christine's project.

Images: Christine Brissette in the restored stream reach with piezometers to measure upwelling and downwelling in the stream bed; the degraded stream reach with a salt/dye injection that Christine uses to quantify stream discharge and measure how much water the stream is gaining or losing over that section.