Nicholas Sutfin

Rivers Connect Us!

Rivers are the arteries of Earth, delivering vital nutrients to the organs of the landscape and bringing life to even the most remote extremities of society. However, with the help of society, the Earth has developed a very unhealthy diet, which hinders the natural processes of rivers and their ability to deliver water, nutrients, and sediment.

Societies have migrated toward and developed around water and rivers. With ambition to develop the land, humanity has greatly changed the physical and biological form and process of rivers. In addition to changes in the shape and form of rivers through mining, timber harvest, dredging for navigation, urban development and building roads, we have altered the amount of water that flows in rivers. In our attempt to acquire freshwater for drinking, agriculture, and manufacturing, we have left only a trace of natural flows. This is true particularly in the western US, where increasing populations and demand for freshwater have altered the natural flow regime of rivers. This changes the form and function of rivers, threatens river ecosystems, and hinders the services that ecosystems provide. Societies have grown to expect, and often take for granted, these ecosystem services including productive fisheries and natural filtration of freshwater. The impact of societies on natural river systems is exacerbated by a changing climate. As global average temperatures increase, demand for water becomes greater all while annual average snowpack is declining. My research and collaborative efforts with other scientists seek to explore the natural processes of rivers and how land use and climate change are and will continue to influence these processes.

I also have interest and experiences in hillslope process geomorphology from slow creeping solifluction lobes to rapid downslope movement of debris flow in my work with the US Geological Survey quantifying post-fire debris-flow hazards in southern California and central Colorado, US.

I am a postdoctoral researcher with the Earth Systems Observations group (EES-14) of the Earth and Environmental Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I work with Joel Rowland on his DOE Early Career Award through the Office of Science Subsurface Biogeochemical Research Program to investigate hydrologic controls on river change over time and floodplain carbon dynamics with the goal of integrating rivers into earth system models and the global carbon cycle. In this work, I am involved as a registered visiting scientist at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, and collaborate with scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. With funding through the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, I work with other scientists using foureir transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance to determine landscape-scale regulators on the decomposition of organic matter at the watershed scale.

I earned my PhD from the Department of Geosciences in the Warner College of Natural Resources as a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellow in the Integrated Water Atmosphere Ecosystem Education and Research Program at Colorado State University with specialization in interdisciplinary research and linkages between fluvial geomorphology, catchment hydrology, riparian and aquatic ecology, and carbon dynamics.


A Midwestern deposit, I grew up among dense deciduous vegetation on the sandy ancient shorelines of Lake Erie and atop Berea sandstone and a rainbow of shale and conglomerate. As a young fine art photography student with a newly found love of geology I was enticed by the raw, naked geology of the American Rocky Mountain West, where I had spent many summers backpacking.

As an undergraduate in the Dept. of Geosciences at Boise State University, I was inspired in geomorphology and hydrology  by enthusiastic professors, including Jen Pierce and Shawn Benner. I completed a B.S. at Boise State University in Geosciences – Hydrology with a strong background in geology. Fluvial geomorphology at CSU seemed a natural union between my interests.  I earned a M.S. in Geosciences – Geomorphology and a PhD in Earth Sciences – Fluvial Geomorphology conducting research with Ellen Wohl in the Fluvial Geomorphology Lab at Colorado State.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s