Dan Scott (PhD)

Dan Scott surveying a canyon in the Spanish Pyrenees to measure how humans are impacting sensitive canyon ecosystems and provide management advice to minimize those impacts.


Advisor: Ellen Wohl

Email: dan.scott@colostate.edu

Previous Education: Colorado State University (Master of Science, Geosciences, 2015); University of Washington (B.S. Earth and Space Sciences, 2013)

About Dan: I grew up in the Washington Cascades, hiking, climbing, and skiing from a young age. I enjoy spending time in the mountains and applying my outdoor skills and passion to my research. My love of geomorphology comes from using field observations to make inferences about the nature of a landscape, the processes that are causing its evolution, and what it may look like in the future. Basically, I spend a lot of time around rivers, and that drives my curiosity to figure out how they work.

ResearchLongitudinal Patterns of Organic Carbon Storage in Mountainous River Networks

My dissertation research focuses on 3 major components. First, I will be quantifying the downstream patterns of organic carbon (OC) storage in soil and wood within an entire mountain river basin. Second, I will be comparing the carbon dynamics of very different mountain river basins (2 in the Olympic Mountains of WA, 1 in the Cascade Mountains of WA, and 1 in the Wind River Range of WY) to understand the relative sensitivity of the mountain carbon stock to future changes in factors such as climate. Third, I will be comparing the carbon dynamics of one protected, unlogged basin in Olympic National Park with another basin just outside the Park that has experienced widespread clearcutting for over a century. This will provide the first comprehensive understanding of how logging affects carbon storage in mountain basins. The broad-scale objective of this work is to better constrain the mountain carbon budget and provide important data to forest managers to help them maximize carbon storage in forests in the context of anthropogenic climate change.


Dan pulling up soil from a subalpine lake delta to understand how mountain watersheds store carbon. Also, letting his bare feet soak in the mud of an old beaver dam.

Geomorphic and Lithologic Controls on Canyon Morphology, Sediment Dynamics, and Riparian Abundance: Understanding how Humans Impact Canyon Ecosystems

In Spain and across the western U.S., I’ve been working to understand the dynamic relationships between bedrock characteristics, like rock strength and fracturing, sediment dynamics, and riparian vegetation abundance. I’ve been focusing on canyons, which can harbor unique ecosystems, but also exist in a fragile balance of sediment and water dynamics that allows those ecosystems to thrive. As humans place recreational and land use pressures on canyon ecosystems, we have little data to understand how those ecosystems are responding. I’m working to understand both how canyons are shaped and store sediment, as well as how humans impact those dynamics and resulting ecosystems. This work will advance our understanding of bedrock river evolution and help us take a more informed approach to managing canyons.

Dan, working with Dr. Jose Ortega, in the Spanish Pyrenees, laughing as our friends make fun of how boring it can be to read off Schmidt Hammer measurements (“54…56…58…56…56…56…”)

Predicting Wood Jam Dynamics to Inform Wood Reintroduction and Removal Decisions in Rivers

I am also trying to understand wood jam dynamics to develop a statistical model of how and why wood jams change. If we can improve our ability to predict how wood jams change during high flows and combine that prediction with a strong understanding of the ecological benefits provided by wood, we can start to make more informed decisions regarding wood removal in rivers. This model will accompany a publicly accessible, user-contributed database of wood jam dynamics that I hope will help other folks interested in wood in rivers both conduct future research and manage wood.

Dan landing his packraft on a massive wood jam on the Hoh River, WA, while trying to figure out how wood jams change over time and how we can best manage them in rivers to balance their ecological benefits with their risks to humans and infrastructure.

Curriculum Vitae

Google Scholar Profile


Scott, D. N., Wohl, E. E. 2017. Evaluating Carbon Storage on Subalpine Lake Deltas. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4110

Wohl, E., Lininger, K., Scott, D. N., 2017. River Beads as a Conceptual Framework for Building Carbon Storage and Resilience to Extreme Climate Events into River Management. Biogeochemistry, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-017-0397-7

Wohl, E., Scott, D. N. 2017. Transience of channel head locations following disturbance. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms Letters to ESEX, 42, 1132-1139. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4124

Wohl, E., Scott, D. N. 2017. Wood and Sediment Dynamics in River Corridors. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 42, 5-23.

Scott, D.N., Brogan, D. J., Schook, D. M., Lininger, K. B., Sparacino, M. S., Daugherty, E. E., Patton, A. I. 2016. Evaluating Survey Instruments and Methods in a Steep Channel. Geomorphology 273: 236–243

Scott, D. N., Montgomery, D. R., Wohl, E. E., 2014. Log Step and Clast Interactions in Mountain Streams in the Central Cascade Range of Washington State, USA. Geomorphology, 216, 180-186.


Scott, D. N., Wohl, E. E., In Review. Synthesis of Fracture Influences on Geomorphic Process and Form Across Process Domains and Scales. Earth-Science Reviews




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