Oregon

Q&A with Allison Aldous, Ph.D.

We sat down with Allison Aldous, a Conservancy freshwater scientist. Aldous works for the Oregon program's Freshwater Initiative, managing the groundwater program, which is focused on identifying and protecting systems and species dependent on water flowing underground.
“I’m passionate about the basic science, and I want to figure out how to make sure ecosystems that need groundwater have enough to survive.”

- Allison Aldous, Oregon freshwater scientist

nature.org:

What is groundwater, and why is it important for freshwater conservation?

Allison Aldous:

Groundwater flows underground through soils and rocks. It’s an important source of drinking water. And it feeds springs, wetlands, streams and lakes; and it is particularly important in dry places with little summer rainfall.

In Oregon, we’ve identified 1,650 species of conservation concern that rely on groundwater. Yet we understand very little about how groundwater interacts with freshwater ecosystems.

What types of wetlands depend on groundwater? How do species use groundwater? How can we protect this source of water? These are some of the questions we’re trying to answer.

nature.org:

Why do you like working on groundwater protection?

Allison Aldous:

Very few other organizations in the U.S. are working out mechanisms for protecting groundwater specifically for natural ecosystems. This is especially true for springs and wetlands. So it is a niche The Nature Conservancy has been able to fill.

But that also means there’s a lot of basic science that needs to happen. I’m passionate about the basic science, and I want to figure out how to make sure ecosystems that need groundwater have enough to survive.

nature.org:

How can The Nature Conservancy make a difference?

Allison Aldous:

We are unique in our approach because we can lay the scientific groundwork but also promote policies that protect groundwater for ecosystems. Right now, we are studying wetlands that depend on groundwater in the Upper Deschutes, Crooked and Great basins, and in the Oregon Dunes. What we learn will inform our work across the state.


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