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Dr. Kristen Bretz

PHD FELLOW ALUMNI   |   Global Change Center

Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research, Virginia Tech

VT Alumni May 2023,  Biological Sciences  

Advisor: Dr. Erin Hotchkiss •  CV


Kristen successfully defended her thesis in April of 2023. She is now the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research at Virginia Tech.

Kristen joined Dr. Erin Hotchkiss‘ lab as a PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences to study biogeochemical processes in streams. She first became interested in freshwater ecology while conducting undergraduate research on queen snakes in the Mitchell River in North Carolina near where she grew up. After graduating from Wake Forest University with a double major in Biology and Philosophy, Kristen began a Master’s degree in the department of Environmental Science and Engineering from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research was on methane dynamics in Alaskan arctic lakes, and she spent 2 summers taking lake sediment cores while working out of the LTER at Toolik Field Station.

Eager to return to Alaska after getting her MS, Kristen interned with U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s field office on the Kenai peninsula where she taught stream science in local schools and helped with ongoing habitat conservation projects and lake trout research. Kristen also worked as a Program Coordinator with Iowa State University and USDA Veterinary services, where she worked with foreign animal disease programs. She also spent a year as an editor with the journal BioResources.

Kristen is interested in how carbon and nutrient cycling in aquatic systems are responding to climate change. While completing her PhD at Virginia Tech she investigated what impact shifts in the timing of light exposure and nutrient and carbon loading will have on stream biogeochemistry. She also studied how climate change may alter stream metabolism in ways that cause feedbacks within the ecosystem. She utilized field research and modeling to assess ecosystem function, and she still remains interested in high-latitude freshwater systems.

Kristen enjoyed her time as a member of the IGC where she was involved in interdisciplinary collaboration and gained a wider set of practical skills for addressing threats to the environment.


Last updated 8/25/2023.