US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Steve Wondzell

Research Riparian Ecologist
3200 SW Jefferson Way
3625 SW Jefferson Way
United States

Phone: 360-758-8753
Contact Steve Wondzell

Current Research

My research is broadly focused on riparian ecohydrology. Most of that research falls into three specific topics: (1) the hyporheic zone - I am exploring the factors that control stream-groundwater interactions and create hyporheic zones in mountain stream networks and quantifying their effects on stream ecosystem processes; (2) aquatic/riparian stream network modeling - I am using models to project the response of riparian zones, stream channels, and salmon habitat to plant succession, natural disturbance, and land-use activities; (3) stream temperature monitoring and modeling - I am exploring the factors controlling stream temperatures and how they respond to natural disturbance, land-use practices, restoration, and climate change.

Research Interests

My research is broadly focused on both basic and applied problems in watershed management and on riparian and aquatic ecosystems. My basic research focuses on the interactions between hydrological, geomorphological, and ecological processes that create, maintain, or modify aquatic and riparian habitats, and the ways in which these processes either interact with, or are affected by, land-use practices. My applied research focuses on developing models and decision support tools that synthesize the current knowledge of aquatic and riparian systems into forms that can help inform management decisions at large spatial and temporal scales.

Past Research

My early career was spent as a desert plant community ecologist. I received my undergraduate degree in range science, continuing with a master's degree in plant community ecology, and then working at the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Site in the Chihuahuan Desert of south-central New Mexico. My master's thesis examined dynamics of desert grassland plant communities in the Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion, using data from a long-term project begun in 1955. I have been working with colleagues to continue that project, and we now have a unique, 50-year dataset, based on permanent plots and permanent photo points, that tracks vegetation dynamics in the desert grasslands and pinyon-juniper woodlands of Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Why This Research is Important

Water is of critical importance to human societies. It is a resource that is continually renewed by the hydrological cycle. Understanding the hydrological cycle and how it interacts with ecosystems is important to sustainable management of water resources. The hyporheic zone is a key component of hydrologic systems. Management decisions and their resulting effects on riparian vegetation can be a key factor determining water quality and habitat suitability for many species, including many cold-water-dependent species of salmon and trout. Understanding the factors controlling stream temperature will help inform management strategies to better cope with the effects of our changing climate.


  • Oregon State University, Ph.D. Forest Ecology/Hyporheic Zones 1994
  • New Mexico State University, M.S. Plant Community Ecology 1984
  • New Mexico State University, B.S. Range Science 1981

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Last updated on : 10/04/2016