Fair Hill Watershed Study   

This study is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and investigates the transport and fate of water, carbon and nitrogen in watersheds.

FUNDING: National Science Foundation, 2008 (Grant # 0809205); Total award amount on collaborative proposal = $514,871 (University of Delaware amount = $331,920)

PROJECT INVESTIGATORS (expertise in [ ]): 

STUDENTS (graduation date and advisor in brackets):


This project seeks to advance our understanding of the transport and fate of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in watersheds. We address three novel questions: 

  1. What is the relative influence of terrestrial versus aquatic (in-stream) sources/sinks on DON and bioavailable (BDON) dynamics at various points along the drainage path? 

  2. How do DON and BDON exports vary with catchment scale? and 

  3. How do DON dynamics differ from DOC and what mechanisms are responsible for these differences? 

We address these questions across varying temporal scales from baseflow to storm events and across seasons. Catchment sources investigated include - precipitation, throughfall, stemflow, forest floor, hillslope soil water, wetland soil and ground water, groundwater seeps, hyporheic zone, and streamflow. We not only investigate how the amounts of DON in various catchment sources influence DON export, but also investigate how the mobility and lability of various dissolved organic matter (DOM) constituents regulate DON export. Special attention is given to differences in DON and DOC responses in light of hydrologic flow paths, storm event magnitude and seasonal timing, antecedent catchment wetness, and redox conditions. 

We address these questions across zero- to third-order forested catchments of the Big Elk Creek in NE Maryland, which are representative of Piedmont catchments in the mid-Atlantic region. The catchments have been intensively instrumented. We implement end member mixing analysis (EMMA) at multiple points in the catchments to characterize the spatial pattern of runoff sources and hydrologic flow paths. Spectro-fluorometric tools such as specific UV absorbance (SUVA) and excitation-emission matrices (EEMs) are used to characterize DOM composition including an in-situ logging fluorometer. 



Watershed sources analyzed: Precipitation, throughfall, stemflow, litter leachate, soil water, groundwater, stream runoff, and hyporheic water.

Data collected to date (from 2007 to 2012) - More than 4000 water samples for storm events and baseflow (more than 50 storm events over 4 years)!

Water sample analysis




  1. Van Stan, J., D. Levia, S. Inamdar, M. Lepori-Bui, M. Mitchell. 2012. The effects of phenoseason and storm characteristics on throughfall solute washoff and leaching dynamics from a temperate deciduous forest canopy. Science of the Total Environment (In Press).

  2. Inamdar, S., N. Finger*, S. Singh*, M. Mitchell, D. Levia, H. Bais, D. Scott and P. McHale. 2012. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) concentrations and quality in a forested mid-Atlantic watershed, USA. Biogeochemistry Volume 108, Numbers 1-3, 55-76, DOI: 10.1007/s10533-011-9572-4. LINK

  3. Levia, D.F., Van Stan, J.T., Inamdar, S.P., Jarvis, M.T., Mitchell, M.J., Mage, S.M., Scheick, C.E. and McHale, P.J. Temporal variability of stemflow dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration, flux and quality from a codominant beech-yellow poplar forest in the eastern USA. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 42: 207-216 (2012). LINK

  4. Inamdar, S., S. Singh, S. Dutta, D. Levia, M. Mitchell, D. Scott, H. Bais, and P. McHale (2011), Fluorescence characteristics and sources of dissolved organic matter for stream water during storm events in a forested mid-Atlantic watershed, J. Geophys. Res., 116, G03043, doi:10.1029/2011JG001735. LINK

  5. Levia, D. J. Van Stan, C. Siegert, S. Inamdar, M. Mitchell, S. Mage, and P. McHale. 2011. Atmospheric deposition and corresponding variability of stemflow chemistry across temporal scales in a mid-Atlantic broadleaved deciduous forest. Atmospheric Environment 45(18): 3046-3054. LINK

Submitted (In Review) -

Selected Manuscripts In Preparation:

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS:  (total = 17 to date; Click here for full list)



Courses enriched through watershed study visits and analyses -

Guided watershed tours and study visits have also been provided for the students (k-8) and teachers of the Fair Hill Nature Center.  A "watershed model" was also provided to the students to learn how water moves over the landscape.

Press/Media articles: