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UK Geographers Spend Summer in Ouachita National Forest

by Stephanie Lang

With the semester over, several members of the College of Arts & Sciences Geography Department hit the road on a research trip to Ouachita National Forest near Mena, Arkansas. The team includes geography professor and PI for the project, Jonathan Phillips, adjunct professor and research hydrologist with the United States Forest Service (USFS) Dan Marion, graduate students Stephanie Houck and James Jahnz, and undergraduates Megan Watkins and Eli Koslofsky. The team will work with two other USFS scientists, Ouachita National Forest hydrologist Alan Clingenpeel and soil scientist Jeff Olsen.

The main purpose of this study for the USFS is to examine the effects of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails on streams. OHV trail crossings of streams are known to have adverse impacts on stream erosion, sedimentation, water quality, and aquatic habitat in the immediate vicinities of the crossings. It is unknown the extent to which these adverse impacts are localized to the crossing area or if they effect longer lengths of the stream. The team will examine this question and develop a predictive model for estimating the spatial extent of impacts along the Wolf Pen Gap trail complex. The group also has side projects in the area dealing with the effects of tornado blowdown events on soils and the long-term evolution of river systems in the Ocachita Mountains.

A&S geography professor Alice Turkington and graduate students Michael Shouse, and Chris Van Dyke are also working on a related project in the same area and joined Phillips’ group for part of the trip in May.