Environmental Management
Amy  Merrill

Amy Merrill, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor

 

I am an ecologist currently working on water issues and river restoration in California and the Pacific Northwest. My academic training, in which I combined plant and soil ecology with river hydrology and geomorphology, gives me a foundation and framework for helping address the complex and evolving world of applied ecology.  Over the roughly ten years I have been teaching in the MSEM program at USF, I have tried to weave together the essential ecological and policy elements that help one ask the most relevant questions about how we manage ourselves and the natural world on which we depend. To the classes I teach in riparian ecology and watershed management, I bring examples of past or current restoration projects in which I am engaged as a consultant, including wetland and riparian lands restoration, monitoring and adaptive management.

 

Wetlands and riparian areas in California and the Pacific Northwest are threatened from many angles, including land use change, climate change, altered water flows (dams), invasive plants and animals, gravel mining, and other sources of stress. Understanding how natural systems respond to these factors can reveal possible solutions within our current constraints – such as gaining agreement from dam operators to alter their flow release patterns to more closely mimic the historical one, even if at a small scale; or redirecting flows around an incised channel in a degraded mountain meadow to replenish groundwater levels and restore the lush and diverse vegetation. There are more opportunities available that need to be identified, tested and brought forward as potential solutions to our many water and river challenges.

 

One area in which I am currently working involves the challenge of improving ecological integrity in private lands, which cover half of this state and well over half of this country. Clearly and transparently articulating values gained from improved land and water management in common terms, such as ‘habitat-acres’, pounds of beef, acre-feet of water, or even dollars, gets peoples’ attention. It also can, I hope, be used to broaden financial support for improved natural resources management on private lands.  Ecological restoration, water management, building systems that use new frameworks, such as ecosystem services and carbon credits, require working with many people and institutions, all with various constraints and priorities. I enjoy learning more about working with the ecological, institutional, private and public frameworks to create opportunities to improve how we live in our natural world. Teaching at USF allows me to share these interests and expand upon what I am learning with the MSEM students, who always bring in new insights and perspectives.

Education

Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley
M.S. University of Michigan