Costa Rica Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)


Dr. Georgianne Moore

REU Program Lead, Associate Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management

REU research topic: the role of vegetation in the water cycle and how global change affects water resources; evapotranspiration patterns and processes at leaf-to-stand-to-watershed scales.

Background: seeks to better understand the role of evapotranspiration (ET) in the water budget of tropical forests and how ET varies at leaf to-landscape scales and with forest management. Dr. Moore will apply innovative techniques to reveal moisture capture and evapotranspiration patterns and processes that relate to broader issues of forest productivity, biodiversity, deforestation, and climate change.

For REU inquiry:


Dr. Kelly Brumbelow

REU Program Co-Leader, Associate Professor, Water Resources Engineering

REU research topic: water resources planning and management, streamflow monitoring

Background: Dr. Kelly Brumbelow is a water resources engineer with expertise in streamflow hydrology (i.e., streamflow and sediment transport) and hydraulics as well as water resources planning and management. In addition to his past REU work at the Soltis Center and his role as TAMU Civil Engineering Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs, he serves as a technical mentor to the Texas A&M chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which has built multiple infrastructure projects in the adjacent community.


Dr. Gretchen Miller

Ecohydrology - Subsurface Hydrology
Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

REU research topic: quantifying the interactions and feedbacks within the tropical soil-plant-atmosphere continuum.

Background: Dr. Gretchen Miller is a water resources engineer specializing in geo-ecohydrology. Her research focuses on quantifying the interactions and feedbacks between groundwater and vegetation, developing methods to measure and model plant and stand scale water fluxes. Dr. Miller is the lead PI on Improving Land-Surface Modeling of Evapotranspiration Processes in Tropical Forests at the Soltis Center with Drs. Cahill and Moore.


Dr. Tony Cahill

REU Director, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

REU research topic: hydrologic measurement technologies for a rough, vegetated terrain

Background: Dr. Anthony Cahill is a civil and environmental engineer with interests in stream hydrology, runoff generation, evaporation and environmental instrumentation. Dr. Cahill will advise student research into parameterizations of land-atmosphere exchange. In his instrument development work, Dr. Cahill is particularly interested in working with students to develop hydrologic measurement technologies for a rough, vegetated terrain.


Dr. Eugenio Gonzalez

Director of TAMU Soltis Center for Research and Education

REU research topic: logistics coordination and tropical forest ecology

Background: Dr. Eugenio Gonzalez has more than 25 years of experience with international environmental research programs and author and coauthor in numerous publications on tropical forests.  Most of his research is related to reforestation and restoration of tropical areas, watershed management, and sustainable eco-agriculture. He has  also coordinated and led pioneering projects on wetland and forest restoration in Costa Rica.


Dr. Mark Everett

Professor, Department of Geology and Geophysics

REU research topic: field geophysical studies on the subsurface hydraulic properties of the watershed using GPR and EM Induction

Background: Dr. Mark Everett is a near-surface applied geophysicist specializing in electrical, magnetic, and electromagnetic techniques for imaging the shallow subsurface to depths of ~30-100 m. Dr Everett will advise students conducting field geophysical studies on the subsurface hydraulic properties of the watershed.


Dr. Peter Knappett

Assistant Professor, Department of Geology and Geophysics

REU research topic: transport of dissolved and particulate contaminants in groundwater; regional groundwater budgets and processes that negatively impact water quality.

Background: Dr. Peter Knappett is an experimental hydrogeologist who studies the transport of dissolved and particulate contaminants in groundwater. His work includes calculating regional groundwater quantity budgets and studying processes which negatively impact water quality.


Dr. Wendy Jepson

Human-environmental interaction

Associate Professor, Department of Geography

REU research topic: political ecology and environmental governance with particular focus on environmental justice and water resources in Latin America

Background: Dr. Wendy Jepson is a human-environment geographer with expertise in water governance whose NSF-supported research examines formal and informal domestic water provisioning systems and household water security in rural and peri-urban communities along the US-Mexico border and in cities of Northeastern Brazil. Dr. Jepson will help students consider the coupled biophysical processes and social systems through assessment of community-based water governance (ASADAS) and household water security in selected valley communities.


Dr. Michelle Lawing

Climate Change Biology - Paleobiogeography - Morphometrics
Assistant Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management

REU research topic: climate effects on the spatial distribution of species

Background: Dr. Michelle Lawing studies how species and communities respond to environmental change through time. Her work includes the investigation of geographic, evolutionary, and morphological responses of both species and communities to environmental changes in the past, present, and future using methods such as species distribution modeling (SDMs), geometric morphometrics (GMs), and phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs).


Dr. Christian Birkel

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose

REU research topic: catchment hydrology and the measurement and modelling of streamflow generation and biogeochemical processes.

Background: As a hydrologic modeler, Birkel has been studying tropical forest hydrology in Costa Rica since 2011. His research focuses on catchment hydrology and the measurement and modelling of streamflow generation and biogeochemical processes. Insights can be applied to assess the impacts of stream regulation and environmental change on the quality and quantity of surface waters.


Dr. Peyton Smith

Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology
Assistant Professor, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences

REU research topic: Tropical land use change or elevational effects on soil chemistry, biology and physical structure (i.e., soil aggregate or pore architecture), with an emphasis on soil organic matter (soil carbon) stabilization and transformations.

Background: Dr. Peyton Smith is a soil ecologist interested identifying how global change (land use and climate change) alters the interactions among soil microorganisms, their resources and soil structure that govern the fate and transport of organic carbon in soils. Dr. Smith can instruct students how to perform a variety of techniques in soil carbon science: soil aggregate stability, microbial enzyme activity, greenhouse gas production, and concentrations of carbon and nutrients.

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Dr. Shankar Chellam

Water and Air Quality

Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

REU research topic: Surface water quality (and implications for treatment)

Background:  Prof. Shankar Chellam is an environmental engineer with expertise in advanced water purification and measurement of trace metals in aerosols.  His current research focuses on (electro)coagulation and membrane filtration for drinking water treatment and wastewater reclamation for potable reuse.  His students also quantify primary particle releases from industries and motor vehicles as well as long-range transport of dust from the Sahara-Sahel region to Texas.  Recently, he is getting interested in topics related to urban surface water quality, especially following extreme events such as hurricanes.


Contact Us

We have moved! After a restructuring that occurred in January 2020, our department and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences disbanded. From the restructuring, two new departments were formed. Visit the new departmental sites for up-to-date information. 

Learn More:
Ecology and Conservation Biology
Rangeland Wildlife and Fisheries Management

Advising for ESSM:
Advising for students in the legacy ESSM programs is now situated under AGLS Advising Center 7

Undergraduate Advising | Ann Pool
Graduate Advising | Amanda Ray

Department Resources

College of Ag and Life Sciences

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