Project Leader

Professor Doerthe Tetzlaff

Chair in Hydrology and Landscape Ecology at the School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen

Professor Tetzlaff has expertise in tracer hydrology, hydrological Prof. Tetzlaffmodelling and GIS-based characterisation of catchment landscapes. The basic aim of her research is to understand the spatial and temporal variability of how catchments function hydrologically at different scales; understanding the physical processes that generate runoff and stream flow, and the way these processes influence the hydrochemistry and hydroecology of streams.

Her work has explored an interdisciplinary interface that seeks to understand the interaction between physical and biological processes in catchments and river systems to aid understanding of the sensitivity and ability of catchments to mediate implications of climate change. Doerthe is interested in the processes which link landscapes and riverscapes. She uses multi-proxy approaches to understanding runoff generation processes at different spatial and temporal scales; and to assess the provenance and transit times of water in different catchment stores and at different scales.

Doerthe is the Editor-in-Chief of “Hydrological Processes”, one of the top ranking journals in the ISI Water Resources subject area, and the flagship journal on experimental hydrology. In 2013, she was appointed as a member of Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Young Academy of Scotland. Doerthe is an adjunct Visiting Scientist Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin Germany and a member of the NERC peer Review College. She has been elected as the European Co-Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Catchment Science, 2009-2011.  Currently, she is the Chair of the AGU (American Geophysical Union) Hydrology Section's Early Career Award Committee and also served as the Chair of the Hydrology Section's Surface Water Technical Committee at AGU.


Institutional Project team:

Professor Chris Soulsby

Chair in Hydrology at the School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, UKProf. Soulsby

Chris Soulsby is Professor of Hydrology and Head of the School of Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (the largest international learned society for Geoscientists). Catchment hydrology has been a major research focus of his work, with an interest in the use of environmental tracers to understand the interactions between water flow paths, storage dynamics and transit time and their influence on stream flow response. This work has been carried out in a wide variety of geographical settings and at a range of spatial scales. Related to this, he has a strong interest in how terrestrial hydrological processes connect terrestrial landscapes to riverscapes and the ecological responses.


Postdoctoral Research Fellows:

Hailong Wang

Hailong did his PhD at Flinders University of South Australia, with a focus on experimental study of environmental (temperature, humidity, radiation, rainfall, soil water content, etc.) controls on plant water use. Within the VeWa project, Hailong examines the role of plants in regulating water loss through evapotranspiration, using sap flow techniques and a newly developed entropy-based energy balance model. He also applies satellite observations and 1-dimensional model to examine the influences of vegetation change on surface hydrological processes.

Matthias SprengerPhoto of Matthias Sprenger

Matthias received his PhD at the University of Freiburg, Germany, studying the spatio-temporal variation of vadose zone transit times by the means of pore water stable isotopes. Within the VeWa project, Matthias will use the isotopic signal of the hydrological compartments to decipher the influence of vegetation and soil on the partitioning of the water within catchments in the northern latitudes. His field work and modeling approaches range from the plot to the catchment scale.

Sylvain Kuppel

Starting from a background in physics, Sylvain’s work has evolved towards studying biosphere-atmosphere exchanges and regional-to-large-scale hydrology, using global vegetation models, data assimilation techniques and data analysis. His contribution to the VeWa project will be to develop and apply a physically-based ecohydrologic modelling framework (notably integrating environmental tracers), in order to disentangle biological and physical processes driving water flow, storage and mixing across northern catchments.

Claire Tunaley

Claire TunaleyClaire ‘s interest is in tracer hydrological approaches. She has expertise in the use and analysis of stable isotope data, use of novel high frequency sensor technologies and the integration of stable isotopes in hydrochemical analysis to understand seasonal, event and diel temporal variability, along with spatial variability, across northern catchments.  An important aspect of her work is using high-frequency DOC data and stable isotopes and integrating these data into modelling frameworks to assess flow paths, connectivity and water ages. Claire successfully defended her PhD in November 2016.

Aaron Smith Aaron Smith

Aaron’s background is in the development and implementation of tracer-aided models in northern latitude watersheds, with particular focus on evaporative fractionation effects in watershed scale data sparse modelling. Within the VeWa project, he will use high temporal resolution lake fluxes and measurements of isotopic compositions to identify and improve the understanding of lake evaporative fractionation in northern catchments. Aaron’s contribution will focus on the application of lake fractionation effects to tracer-aided modelling of data poor northern watersheds.


Laboratory Technician:

Audrey Innes


Linked PhD projects:

Thea Ilaria Piovano

"Advancing spatially distributed model to understand water storage, flux and age dynamics"Thea Ilaria Piovano

Thea’s PhD project focuses on the development and use of tracer-aided models in cold regions. She will use spatially semi-distributed tracer-aided rainfall-runoff model STARR for several of the VeWa experimental sites using stable isotope tracers to constrain parameter sets and inform the model structure. The aim is to gain an understanding of the total storage, mixing processes and the spatial interactions of water ages at the catchment scale.

Bernhard ScheligaBernhard Scheliga

"Understanding spatial and temporal dynamics and linkages between subsurface and surface hydrological processes"

This PhD project aims to gain an understanding of the linkage between subsurface and surface processes, and their role in runoff generation in northern ecosystems. This will be accomplished by investigating the spatial and temporal dynamics of these hydrological processes (shallow and deeper groundwater dynamics, and surface runoff generation processes) in a  Scottish headwater catchment, the Bruntland Burn located in the Cairngorms, which is one of the VeWa sites, and comparing the field observations to catchment characteristics derivable from LiDAR imagery for possible relationships.


Completed linked PhD projects:

Claire Tunaley

"Integrating high-frequency DOC data, isotopes and modelling to assess flow path, connectivity and water age"

Claire’s PhD project aimed to explore the use of integrating high-frequency DOC data, stable isotopes and modelling as a novel way to increase our understanding of the hydrological and biogeochemical processes that control spatial and temporal DOC dynamics occurring in northern upland catchments. Results showed the utility of linking DOC dynamics, derived from in-situ FDOM sensors, with stable isotopes and water ages, extracted from a tracer-aided runoff model. This allowed the main runoff generating processes, that transport the DOC from the sources to the stream to be assessed and showed the effects of hydrologic connectivity and antecedent conditions on DOC delivery. Incorporating modelling allowed the non-stationary hydrological processes influencing runoff generation, which cannot be easily measured by field techniques, to be evaluated.

Completed linked MSc projects:

Hannah Braun

"Influence of vegetation canopy on interception, precipitation partitioning and isotope inputs in northern upland catchments"

Hannah’s MSc project aimed to understand the spatio-temporal variability of throughfall and stemflow in the Bruntland Burn headwater catchment. The project investigated differences in both the quantity and stable isotopic signature of throughfall and stemflow with the overall aim of determining the influence of vegetation canopy on interception, precipitation partitioning and isotope inputs. Altogether, 75 throughfall and 10 stemflow collectors have been placed in 4 subplots in the catchment, on different slopes and under varying vegetation.



We always welcome applications from well qualified, motivated candidates for a PhD in our Group. We seek applicants with interest and experience related to VeWa. We currently do not have funded PhD studentships, but if a candidate can secure funding (e.g. a fellowship) we are happy to supervise the candidate on a theme related to VeWa. If you are interested and for further queries, please contact Professor Doerthe Tetzlaff, email:

International Project Partners

Professor James ButtleProf. Buttle

Department of Geography, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada

Buttle’s group is heavily involved at the Dorset Environmental Science Centre in Ontario, Canada. Research at this site was established in the 1980’s to examine the biogeochemical processes associated with acidic deposition and surface water acidification. More recent work has focused on developing more integrated approaches, particularly understanding the linkages between physico-chemical processes and hydroecology.

Professor Sean CareyProf. Carey

Watershed Hydrology Group, McMaster, Canada

In Carey’s group, there is strong experience in the linkages between climate and hydrology. This expertise has been applied in the Wolf Creek experimental watershed in the Southern Yukon in Canada. Here, prolonged snow pack accumulation and permafrost conditions exert a strong seasonal control on catchment hydrology. Monitoring of climate, hydrology and water quality over the past two decades provides a good record of response to environmental change in this extreme cold environment.

Professor Matthew J. KohnMatt Kohn

Stable Isotope group, Boise State University

Kohn’s stable isotope group focuses on water cycling through the landscape, especially soil water and water uptake in plants, as well as animal migration and physiology. Most hydrologic work is based in southwestern Idaho, including the Dry Creek Experimental Watershed in conjunction with McNamara’s group.

Professor Hjalmar LaudonProf. Laudon

CCREW, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umea, Sweden

For 30 years, research at the Krycklan watershed in northern Sweden has provided insights into the climatic effects on hydrological function, biogeochemical processes and, increasingly, hydroecology particularly during the spring snowmelt period.

 Professor Marco Maneta

Geosciences Department, The University of Montana, United States of America

Marco is a computational hydrologist with an interest in the development and application of interdisciplinary models to understand how the hydrologic cycle interacts with ecological and socioeconomic processes, and specifically to understand the sensitivity of water supply and demand systems to climate variability. Marco’s group is also interested in understanding how environmental observations and monitoring systems inform models and our perception of reality.

Professor Jeff McDonnell

Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, CanadaProf. McDonnell

McDonnell’s group works across a variety of hillslope and catchment research sites in the tropics, temperate zones and sub-arctic. Their work is particularly focussed on hillslope hydrology and the ways in which water moves through the environment following rainfall and snowmelt. His recent work involves the use of tracer techniques to investigate the role of vegetation on the water balance where his group first identified the two-water world finding. His lab has now published evidence of these processes at sites in Oregon, US and Mexico with new work actively underway throughout the SE United States across a variety of topographic and vegetation conditions in the sub-tropical humid temperate zone.

Professor Jim McNamaraProf. McNamara

Hydrology, Geomorphology, Department of Geosciences, Boise State University

McNamara’s group aims to improve understanding and prediction of water, solute, and sediment movement and storage in headwater catchments. The group investigates relationships between hydrological, geomorphological and ecological processes using integrated observation and simulation approaches. Most of their field-based research is centered in the Dry Creek Experimental Watershed in the foothills overlooking Boise, Idaho, and in the greater Boise River basin.

Dr. Christopher SpenceDr. Chris Spence

National Hydrology Research Centre, Environment Canada, Saskatoon, Canada

Spence’s group has the focus on the hydrology and hydrometeorology of complex landscapes such as the Canadian Shield and Prairie. One of their key sites is the Baker Creek Research Basin, which includes integrated research and monitoring of the water cycle and aquatic chemistry. These complementary measurements continue to identify important linkages among hydrological processes and biogeochemical cycles, important to defining the hydrological and water quality regimes in northern Canada.