Research Summary and Interests
Trip is broadly interested in how the structure and function of freshwater ecosystems respond to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. His current and past work incorporates methods from limnology, ecology, hydrology, and biogeochemistry as tools to characterize and evaluate ecosystem and community level responses to disturbance at multiple spatial scales.
Currently, Trip is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech, working under Stephen Schoenholtz and Carl Zipper, and is evaluating organic matter dynamics of streams constructed as mitigation efforts (a.k.a., restorations) in the coalfields of southwest Virginia. In these streams, Trip has determined rates of riparian organic matter input, leaf breakdown, and periphyton biomass accrual, and has examined their association with structural attributes (physical, chemical, and biotic “snapshots”) at watershed, riparian, and stream-reach scales. Specifically, his research at Virginia Tech has focused on:
1) comparing functional and structural attributes of post-mining stream mitigation efforts to reference quality headwaters,
2) evaluating which individual stream mitigations function most similarly to reference,
3) determining factors which may drive differences within these stream mitigations,
4) and examining the utility of functional metrics, when coupled with current structural metrics, to establish more robust assessment protocols.
The overall purpose of this research is to gain insights into how coal mining affects the energetic resource base of these stream ecosystems, and to identify restoration methods which best ameliorate these functional impacts. Furthermore, viewing these stream channels as hierarchically nested within the riparian corridor and watershed, this research provides practical recommendations concerning ways to improve both restoration efforts and assessment techniques.
A native of the Midwest, Trip’s interest in water grew from experiences paddling, waterskiing, and fishing in the lakes, reservoirs, and big rivers of north-central Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Prior to his doctorate, he earned a B.S. in Environmental Biology from Eastern Illinois University. During this time he had the opportunity to work at Mammoth Cave National Park in the Division of Science and Resources Management, and Richardson Wildlife Foundation as a conservation intern, which stimulated an interest in ecosystem restoration/rehabilitation and conservation. Shortly after his B.S., Trip travelled to South America, where he was able to fish Andean lakes and headwaters, the Amazon and its tributaries, as well as visit Iguazu Falls and Itaipu Dam. Trip returned to Eastern Illinois University to pursue an M.S., where his research focused on a biochemical survey of phytoplankton assemblages in lakes and reservoirs throughout the state. In addition to evaluating the utility of photopigment profiles as biochemical indicators, he was able to visit lakes of various origins, one oxbow lake providing him with his first up-close aerial encounter with a bighead carp.
Trip is currently taking part in an effort to determine the ionic profiles and discharge patterns of surface water draining valley-fills constructed by different methods, and working on research to evaluate the effects of spoil handling and seeding techniques on mine-soil properties and plant community development.
Teaching Experience and Interests
Trip thoroughly enjoys teaching, and looks forward to additional teaching opportunities in the near future. He has taught multiple courses in different formats, and has had success and learned from each experience. From lecturing in the field during two semesters of Dendrology lab, to serving as the primary instructor for three sections of Biological Principles lab, Trip has developed his own unique teaching style and philosophy. He recognizes that trade-offs between teaching methods are largely determined by subject matter, learning objectives, class size, and student background, but will tell you that his most memorable experiences come from experiential and discussion-based teaching techniques. Beyond instructional duties, he has served in a number of support roles (e.g., set-up, preparation, cleaning, grading) as a teaching assistant, as a one-on-one and small group tutor, and as an informal mentor to several undergraduates. These experiences have fostered in him a deep appreciation of support personnel and their role in the teaching process. Trip is always happy to discuss and learn from the experiences and philosophies of others, and welcomes opportunities to lecture and present his work in formal or informal settings.
Links to articles featuring Trip’s work: