Melissa Carnicle

Melissa Carnicle

Years participated in RESESS:

An Overview

Majors: Chemistry, Geology, and Environmental Science
Academic Affiliation: University of Minnesota Morris
Research Mentors: Deborah Martin, and John Moody, USGS
Writing Mentor: Lon Abbott, CU
Grad Student Mentor: Erin Leckey, CU


Melissa grew up in Garretson, South Dakota and currently attends the University of Minnesota Morris. Her interest in geology was sparked by her first geology class, "Minnesota Geology." Melissa is especially interested in hydrology and how it ties to environmental issues. She likes to play video games and hang out with friends when she has time. Melissa's presentation on her research won first price at the Amtican Indian Science and Engineering 2011 Annual Meeting.


The evolution of ash and soil properties in a burned area, 2010 Fourmile Canyon wildfire near Boulder, Colorado

Mountainous watersheds often exhibit increased runoff and flashfloods after a wildfire. Changes in the soil’s chemical and physical properties may affect a generation of runoff from burned areas. The interactions of ash and soil after a wildfire have not been studied. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to examine the evolution of ash and soil properties in response rainfall after a wildfire.

The 2010 Fourmile Canyon wildfire burned 2500 hectares of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, Colorado. Archived samples collected in 2010 and 2011 (ash samples only from 2010) were selected based on rainfall events. Samples from five dates were chosen for analysis. We measured both physical and chemical properties of ash and soil, including pH, electrical conductivity (E.C.) of water extracts, soil organic matter, and particle size.

Soil samples from three dates were analyzed for the short term (seven day span) trends with respect to time. Soil extract pH and E.C. decreased overtime. However, pH and E.C. exhibited an increase after a rainstorm. We hypothesize this increase to be a result of water-soluble ions in the ash being leached into the soil. Soil pH decreased 0.7 over six days in comparison to an increase of 0.5 after a rainstorm. The E.C. decreased 0.01 mS/cm over six days in comparison to an increase of 0.05 mS/cm after a rain event. Soil organic matter increased 1% over six days in comparison to an increase of 8% after a rain event. We hypothesize the increase in organic matter to be a result of microbial activity.