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Sheila Murphy

Research Hydrologist

Contact Info

Short Biography

Sheila Murphy focuses on the characterization of the hydrology and water chemistry of watersheds and how they are affected by both natural factors and disturbance. Her recent research has evaluated the effects of wildfire on stream water quantity and quality in the Colorado Front Range, and the hydrologic and geochemical responses to geology, land cover change, and hurricanes in a tropical forest in Puerto Rico.


My Science Topics

Science Topic
Water Resourceswater quality
Water Resourcesdrainage basins
Water Resourcesrunoff
Water Resourcessurface water
Water Resourcessurface water quality
Water Resourceswater budget
Environmental Issuescontamination and pollution
Environmental Issuesland use change
Natural Hazardsfires

My USGS Science Strategy Areas

Climate Variability & Change

The Role of Environment and Wildlife in Human Health

The role of climate and disturbance on watershed processes and stream chemistry

Image of Current Focus for The role of climate and disturbance on watershed processes and stream chemistry

About half of the water supply in the southwestern U.S. is supplied by water conveyed from forests, which generally yield higher quality water than any other land use. However, forests are vulnerable to wildfire; more than 12 million acres of land, including important forested water-supply watersheds, have burned in the southwestern U.S. in the past 30 years. Wildfires increase susceptibility of watersheds to both flooding and erosion, and thus can impair water supplies.

We found that water quality can be substantially diminished for several years after wildfire in response to relatively common local thunderstorms. Our research showed that hydrologic and water-quality responses downstream of a burned area were primarily driven by small, brief convective storms that had relatively high, but not unusual, rainfall intensity. Read more in our recent article in Environmental Research Letters.

Sheila was a guest speaker for the University of Colorado online course, Water in the Western U.S. See the video here.

Contact Information

Sheila Murphy
3215 Marine St, Bldg 6
Boulder, CO 80309
303-541-3084 - Fax
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