Scientists & Staff

Pamela Edwards

Research Hydrologist
P.O. Box 404
Parsons, WV, 26287
Phone: 304-478-2000 x129

Contact Pamela Edwards

Current Research

  • I am working collaboratively with the Monongahela National Forest, Southern Illinois University, and West Virginia University to quantify sediment delivery to streams in undisturbed and managed forested watersheds and to define the hillslope controls of sediment delivery. This study has been going on since 1999. We have identified problems with road construction and harvesting practices that exacerbate erosion and in-stream sedimentation. From this information, I am focusing on developing new approaches and best management practices to reduce soil loss and in-stream sedimentation.
  • Over the past several years, I have worked with a team to develop a protocol for States to use to monitor the effectiveness of forestry best management practices. More recently, I have begun working with a team of primarily Forest Service personnel to develop a national approach to monitor BMP implementation and effectiveness on Agency lands for activities including but not limited to: roads, recreation sites, facilities, ATV use, mining and gas well sites, and grazing and range uses.
  • I am examining storm hydrograph responses from precipitations event on six watersheds over a 50-year period to identify how stormflow (both volume and timing parameters) is affected by forest harvesting at different intensities, road construction, and large-scale applications of herbicides.
  • I am working with a nongovernmental organization, the Cacapon Institute, and State agencies to design and test the effectiveness of small, inexpensive in-stream log structures to increase moisture storage in streambanks and floodplain pasture soils in the South Branch of the Potomac Watershed. We are trying to simulate the effects that beaver dams once had on the landscape.
  • I am examining the effects of artificial watershed acidification on soil water and stream water chemistry, particularly stormflow chemistry. This study has several cooperators and has been on-going since 1989. It is one of only two whole watershed acidification studies in the United States, examining biogeochemical processes that are expected to result from soil acidification of Northeastern forests by acid deposition.

Research Interests

Working with Regions 8 and 9 to study: 1) the efficacy and economic value of terrestrial liming to promote forest regeneration following harvesting in watersheds that have strongly acidified soils, 2) the effects on soil and soil solution chemistry in the uplands and near-stream areas, and 3) the effects on stream water chemistry (both baseflow and stormflow).

Examine changes to headwater stream channel morphology that result from frequent repeated burning for fuels reduction purposes and savannah creation in the East.

Defining biophysical attributes that can be used to identify the transition areas from perennial to intermittent stream channels, intermittent to ephemeral channels, and ephemeral channels to inactive swale positions.

Identifying bankfull flows in intermittent channels in small subwatersheds (< 100 ac) that have long streamflow records, and then identifying the recurrence interval associated with bankfull in these small stream systems.

Why This Research is Important

  • Sediment is the single most important stream and river pollutant nationwide and worldwide. While there is substantial literature documenting that roads, landings, and other areas of exposed soil are the primary sources of in-stream sediment in forests, there are essentially no studies that have quantified sediment delivery from the hillside to streams in undisturbed and managed forested watersheds. This is one of the most needed pieces of information for forest managers, because not all sediment eroded from a road will reach a stream, but ultimately sediment that reaches the stream is the portion of that is of most concern in terms of stream health. Furthermore, estimates of natural geologic erosion are being determined with this study, so increases from forest management activities can be put into perspective relative to background levels.
  • The need to employ BMPs in forestry operations is derived from direction in the Clean Water Act. Forestry has a silvicultural exception from formal permitting requirements as long as BMPs are employed. Additionally, the National Forest Management Act requires monitoring on National Forest lands to ensure that resource health is not negatively affected by management activities. However, the lack of consistent, repeatable monitoring approaches has made it difficult for both States and the Forest Service to document BMP implementation and effectiveness. The State-oriented and Forest Service monitoring protocols will allow better accountability to the public and more consistent feedback for adaptive management of natural resources.
  • During the last decade, there have been multiple catastrophic flood events in Eastern watersheds that also recently underwent a variety of management activities, including logging, roading, mining, and development. Communities in these watersheds have voiced concern that logging and mining have contributed to and exacerbated flooding. Typically, modeling has been used to determine the degree of flow augmentation of each, but many of these models were not developed for forests and/or they have not been validated for forested watersheds. Therefore, quantifying if/how and the degree to which stormflow hydrology is altered by forestry is extremely important.

Professional Organizations

  • American Water Resources Association

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Datasets

  • Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica. 2011. Fernow Experimental Forest stream chemistry. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
  • Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica. 2011. Fernow Experimental Forest precipitation chemistry. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
  • Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica. 2011. Fernow Experimental Forest daily streamflow. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
  • Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica. 2011. Fernow Experimental Forest daily precipitation. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
  • Edwards, Pamela J.; Wood, Frederica. 2011. Fernow Experimental Forest daily air temperature. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

National Research Highlights

Gravel application to a newly constructed forest road to protect the road surface from erosion, and woody material from the road right-of-way positions as a windrow on the fillslope (right side of photo) to trap any sediment transported off the road.

Comprehensive information about road best management practices effectiveness helps protect water quality on forest lands

Year: 2017

Sediment is the most common pollutant associated with forests, and roads are the most common sources of sediment in forests. Best management practices (BMPs) are designed to control erosion from roads and protect receiving water quality. To achieve those results, Forest Service scientists compiled a comprehensive synthesis that summarized the effectiveness of road BMPs for forest managers and land owners.

A simple depiction of the hydrologic cycle Robin L. Quinlivan. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Improving Watershed Management and Water Quality by Creating a More Informed Citizenry

Year: 2016

Primers about hydrology, watershed management, and soil erosion were written to provide scientific information in an easy to understand format for lay people, watershed groups, and educators. The journal-paper style of each paper provides a format that allows relatively comprehensive coverage of each subject. Previously, information about water resources for public use typically has been restricted to short fact sheets that lacked detail to fully explain even some of the most basic aspects of water resources.

Sampling tank-stored fracing fluids. Pam Edwards, Forest Service

Chloride Concentrations in Recovered Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Increase With Depth of Tank

Year: 2011

The hydraulic fracturing fluid used in natural gas extraction in the northeastern Appalachians raises concerns about safe disposal. Forest Service scientists are studying the chemistry of the recovered injected fluid, called flowback, which often contains high concentrations of chloride. They found that the concentrations increase with the depth of the storage tank and that results of laboratory analysis are more accurate than those from field test kits.

Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2019