Nicole Ward


Nicole joined the lab in the summer of 2016. Her PhD research uses field data and experimentation in conjunction with simulation models to study lake water quality responses to changing land use and climate. Nicole’s work is a part of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary NSF Coupled Natural Human systems (CNH) project, “Linking land-use decision making, water quality, and lake associations to understand human-natural feedbacks in lake catchments.”

Nicole’s diverse background feeds naturally into the CNH research 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 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 in 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 downstream 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. Nicole is excited to use her background in land management and policy, upland hydrological processes, and stream ecology to better understand the feedbacks between lake systems and human decision-making! When Nicole isn’t working, you’ll probably find her on a canoe, kayak, or mountain bike.