Rachel Hutchinson, M.S.

Rachel Hutchinson, M.S.

Eastside Watershed Program Manager
Tahoe National Forest

Rachel Hutchinson is the Eastside Watershed Program Manager for the Tahoe National Forest and works primarily in meadows, wetlands, streams, and rivers as a hydrologist and a vegetation ecologist. Rachel’s research interests have focused on the response of groundwater and surface water hydrology and plant communities to restoration or changes in hydrologic regime. She applies this research by using the results of these studies to understand how specific changes to management or environmental conditions result in improvements in habitat and ecosystem services on a watershed scale.

What do you enjoy most about studying meadows and climate change in the Sierra Nevada Mountains?

As an ecologist, I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to conduct research in an area that is not only beautiful but that hosts inherently complex relationships between water, plants, insects, and wildlife. Understanding how all of the facets of this ecosystem work and how they are impacted by climate change keeps me inspired on long days in the field and long hours analyzing data back at the office.

Why is this research so important?

The Sierra Nevada Mountains are the source of California’s water. It is especially rewarding to study how climate change impacts are expressed in meadows because meadows are natural water storage basins and biodiversity hotspots in this region. Understanding how climate change impacts a meadow’s ability to store water and act as climate refugia for many different species will help to protect these beautiful habitats and provide a water resource that all Californians can benefit from.

How does citizen science support your research?

Citizen Scientists give us the ability to answer key questions about how restoration actions and climate change is altering our meadow ecosystems. Their support allows us to do this in a manner that is both scientifically defensible and can be sustained over the long term.

What is one of your favorite moments in the field?

One of my favorite moments in the field happened during a timed greenhouse gas flux sampling event in Loney Meadow. I was just about to take the third and final gas sample when a cow sauntered over to where I was standing, picked up the plastic bag containing my completed sample vials, and started to chew. After about three minutes of yelling and jumping up and down, the cow released the bag. To my relief all of the vials were intact.

Education
  • M.S. in Water Resources, University of Idaho
  • B.S. in Environmental Resource Science, University of California, Davis
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