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Katelyn P. Driscoll

Katelyn P. Driscoll

Research Ecologist

333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3407
Contact Katelyn P. Driscoll

Research Interests

My research interests include ecosystems and the complex interactions that drive largescale patterns across landscapes, particularly how the structure and function of aquatic and riparian systems are affected by natural and anthropogenic stressors and how changes to disturbance regimes like flooding and fire alter ecosystem complexity. I am also interested in upland and valley bottom restoration and different methods for evaluating the effectiveness of different treatments.

Past Research

  • My past research has focused on the link between streamflow and floodplain complexity. I used high-resolution aerial digital imagery collected on several dates throughout the course of a flood event to identify, map, and measure the changes that occur in the distribution of floodplain habitats from baseflow to peakflow to baseflow.
  • I also work on assessing the current conditions of riparian, aquatic, wetland, and groundwater-dependent ecosystems by identifying drivers and stressors. I am particularly interested in how multiple interacting stressors impact these systems at a landscape scale and what makes them more or less resistant and resilient.  


Why This Research is Important

Rivers and their floodplains are biodiversity hotspots that provide habitat to a wide range of species, as well as ecosystem services. It is important to comprehend how the timing, frequency, duration, and magnitude of flooding events is tied to predictable development of floodplain habitats. Understanding the link between discharge and complexity is critical as natural flow regimes are increasingly threatened by diversions, regulation, and climate change.

Studying the drivers, stressors, and current conditions of riparian, aquatic, wetland, and groundwater-dependent ecosystems is important for informing management actions. Our assessments directly inform the planning process carried out by National Forests and can help identify areas appropriate for restoration or protection. 

Overall, studying biotic and abiotic interactions, how they play out at the ecosystem scale, and how they are affected by climate change, fire, flooding, road construction, diversions, etc. has implications for land management and conservation.


  • University of Montana, M.S. System Ecology, Systems ecology, floodplain dynamics, aquatic and riparian systems, flooding disturbance, hydrology, geomorphology, remote sensing, 2015
  • Gonzaga University, B.S. Biology, General Biology, Ecology, Spanish Minor, 2010
  • Awards

    Outstanding Customer Service Award for the Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2017
    Awarded for providing high quality assistance to the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, the Forest Service's Intermountain & Southwest Regions, and the Forest Service's Presidential Management Fellows program.
    Conservation Education for the Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2016
    Awarded to lab for outstanding work with youth and partners to provide conservation education in the Albuquerque community.


    Finch, Deborah M.; Baldwin, Carolyn; Brown, David P.; Driscoll, Katelyn P.; Fleishman, Erica; Ford, Paulette L.; Hanberry, Brice; Symstad, Amy J.; Van Pelt, Bill; Zabel, Richard, 2019. Management opportunities and research priorities for Great Plains grasslands
    Watershed following the Las Conchas Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest. Credit goes to: Anna Jaramillo-Scarborough
    Wildfires, an important natural disturbance in southwestern ecosystems, can present challenges to resource managers, communities, and private landowners when they burn areas subject to post-fire flooding and erosion. Many government agencies and research institutions have developed science and management tools for estimating post-fire effects and mitigating risks in burned landscapes. We assessed the utility of currently available tools and resources for application on non-federal lands and by non-federal user groups.
    Image mosaic of the Clark Fork River during the falling limb of the hydrograph on July 2, 2014.
    We used aerial imagery to identify, map, and measure the area of aquatic and terrestrial floodplain habitats during a seasonal flooding disturbance. Understanding links between landscape pattern and changing discharge during a typical bankfull flood provides insight into the annual flux and spatial change in habitats, as well as the long-term structure and function of floodplains.
    Landscape impacted by spruce-beetle mortality near Lake City, CO.
    The typical way water moves through a floodplain is considered a river’s natural flow regime and it includes the size, timing, and duration of flooding events. The normal pattern of a river’s discharge is linked to the construction and destruction of its floodplain, which then affects biodiversity, plant and animal life cycles, and ecological integrity. Understanding the link between discharge and floodplain structure is critical as natural flow regimes are increasingly threatened by irrigation, dams, and climate change.
    The researchers are completing a series of riparian and groundwater-dependent ecosystem assessments for National Forests in the USFS Intermountain Region. Each assessment summarizes drivers, stressors, and current condition of these systems in relation to the natural range of variation within each forest. The reports directly inform the assessment phase of forest plan revision and continue to be produced on a schedule in line with the Region’s forest planning process.