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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Kelly Elder - Supervisory Research Hydrologist

Kelly J. Elder

Supervisory Research Hydrologist
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins
United States

Phone: 970-498-1233
Fax: 970-498-1212
Contact Kelly J. Elder

Current Research

  • Watershed hydrology in natural, disturbed, and managed systems
    • The central focus of my research is quantifying water balance in natural, disturbed, and managed ecosystems. Basic hydrological abstractions such as precipitation, evapotranspiration, and runoff are still not well understood across spatial and temporal scales. Important processes operate across hillslope and continental scales and over times steps from minutes to centuries. Fire, invasives, and other natural disturbances affect watershed processes in sometimes predictable, but poorly quantified ways. Management of basins also affects processes that control water quantity.
  • Management of watershed processes, water balance of a subalpine forest systems, and consequences of bark beetle outbreak and management on watershed processes
    • Long-term hydrological recovery of clear-cuts in a subalpine forest
    • Consequences of beetle-induced tree mortality on basin runoff
    • Consequences of post-beetle salvage operations on hillslope hydrology
    • Recommendations to management for post-beetle infestation treatments in watersheds
  • Snow hydrology and mountain climatology
  • Remote sensing of cold land processes
    • Methods for space-borne retrieval of snow water equivalence and other cold land processes.
    • Retrieval of snowpack properties using airborne Ku-band radar.

Research Interests

Past Research

Developed instrumentation for measuring snowpack properties. Developed methods for modeling the distribution of snow cover and water equivalence in alpine and subalpine basins. Collaborated in efforts to improve the ability to recover snowpack properties from airborne remote sensing of the Earth's surface using radar.

Why This Research is Important

Water is the one substance, above all others, that sustains life. A supply of clean water helps insure survival for humans and ecosystems. Increasing demand from existing sources suggests that we need better methods of predicting supply. Climate variability and change increase uncertainty in water supply and availability. Most of the water we use in mid-latitude regions comes from melting winter snowpacks in the subalpine zone. Understanding hydrological process in the subalpine zone will increase our ability to predict and manage water resources effectively.

Timber harvest has been shown to produce more runoff from subalpine basins when sound management is used. Long-term data from the Fraser Experimental Forest is allowing us to quantify the effects of clear-cuts a half century after harvest and informs management decisions across the west. The mountain pine beetle infestation of lodgepole pine forests will affect water yield and our management response to the attack will also affect watershed processes. Studies are underway to detect and quantify changes in components of the water balance directly and indirectly linked to pine beetle induced tree mortality.


  • University of Colorado, B.A. Physical Geopraphy 1985
  • University of California, Santa Barbara, M.A. Physical Geography Hydrology 1988
  • University of California, Santa Barbara, Ph.D. Physical Geography Hydrology Statistics 1995

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Forest Service partners with NASA to better understand snow in forested areas

More than one-sixth of the world’s population rely on seasonal snow for water. In the western U.S., nearly three-quarters of the annual stream ...


Still Standing: Snagfall the First Decade After Severe Bark Beetle Infestation

Post-bark beetle outbreak snagfall dynamics create a multiple-decade legacy that will persist longer in high-elevation compared to lower-elevati ...


Last updated on : 03/27/2021