Skip to main content

Breaking News

Recent Grad Claire Parchem Co-Presents Her Research at Scientific Conference

During her junior and senior years as an Environmental Science major at SCU, Claire worked with ESS faculty member Iris Stewart-Frey on how the flows and the quality of urban streams have been affected by the recent high-intensity drought in California.

Claire searching for a sensor to download data

Claire searching for a sensor to download data

Urban streams in highly seasonal, water limited environments, such as those which exist in California, provide important aquatic and riparian habitat close to population centers. They also provide other ecosystem services such as water resources, flood protection, storm water drainage and recreational functions. Yet, water management activities, channel modifications, destruction of riparian zones, and pollution from urban activities often have greatly impacted stream function in urban settings. This has potentially rendered them more vulnerable to more frequent and intense drought periods, such as are projected from climatic changes. Stream temperature is an important indicator of aquatic ecosystem health and is expected to rise by the end of the century.  From 2012 – 2016, California has experienced, to date, the most severe drought since the beginning of weather recordings. 

To measure the impacts of the recent extremely low precipitation and warmer temperatures, ‘team stream’ installed stream temperature sensors in the Los Gatos and Coyote Creeks, and in the Guadalupe River, all located in the southern San Francisco Bay Area.  Frequent visits to the sites were undertaken to monitor parameters such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, and flow depth.  Results of their work, to date, have shown that the frequency of occurrence of high stream temperatures during the drought have significantly increased, and that instream reservoirs, managed flows, and thin riparian buffers contribute to already elevated summer stream temperatures in the region.

Comparison of the percentage of extreme temperature occurrences in Los Gatos Creek

Comparison of the percentage of extreme temperature occurrences in Los Gatos Creek

During her senior year, Claire received a Clare Booth Luce undergraduate research fellowship to conduct a monitoring campaign and data analysis during the summer of 2016. Recently, Claire, who now works for Apple, co-presented results from her undergraduate work at the American Geophysical Union scientific conference in San Francisco, the largest Earth Science meeting worldwide.  She confidently explained her findings to members of the scientific community. Other members of the undergraduate research team have been Morgan Cowick (’15), Hunter Donovan (’18), and Michael DeBroek (’17).

esshome, alumni story