Dr. Nicole Ward
Nicole joined the Carey Lab in summer 2016 to study water quality and human decision-making in lake catchments. Her PhD research was a part of the larger multidisciplinary project, “Linking land-use decision making, water quality, and lake associations to understand human-natural feedbacks in lake catchments,” which is funded by the NSF Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH). The CNH-Lakes project brings together 6+ disciplines and 20+ researchers.
Nicole conducted her research at Virginia Tech from a limnology perspective, however her diverse background fed naturally into the overall CNH-lakes project. She grew up on a lake in Minnesota and was active in the local lake association, which exposed her to the power of collective action and collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to environmental issues at a young age.
She completed a B.S. in Biology, with a focus on Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After college, she studied native mussels and stream ecology at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Stream Habitat Program. While working at the DNR, she grew interested in how upland processes and human actions influence stream conditions. So, Nicole headed west with the goal of reaching a more holistic understanding of freshwater systems. Her M.S. research in the University of Idaho Water Resources Program focused on agricultural land management and hillslope hydrology. She worked directly with local farmers, collaborated with economists, agronomists, and soil scientists, and pursued farm policy-related research.
Nicole successfully defended her dissertation in April of 2021, followed by a position as a Postdoctoral Science-Policy Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She is now working for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as the Field Station Supervisor for the Long Term Resource Monitoring element of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program, a 5-state, multi-agency collaborative program and the largest ecological restoration program in the U.S.