Marianne Cowherd

  • Program Year: 1
  • Academic Institution: University of California, Berkeley
  • Field of Study: Ecosystem Sciences
  • Academic Advisor: Manuela Girotto
  • Practicum(s): Practicum Not Yet Completed
  • Degree(s):
    M.S. Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, 2020; B.S. Environmental Systems Engineering, Stanford University, 2019

Summary of Research

Snow is a virtual reservoir that stores water during the winter and releases it at the beginning of the agricultural growing season. The structure of forests in the places where snow falls has a large impact on what happens to snow -- does it sublimate to the atmosphere, get taken up by surrounding vegetation, infiltrate into the soil, or melt and run downstream to cities and agricultural regions in the spring? Large wildfires alter forest structure in the high mountains where snow falls.

However, we do not fundamentally understand how changes to forest structure alter snow depth, density, and melt timing. Vegetation, topography, and climate have entangled impacts on energy and mass balances, and existing prediction models of forest-snow dynamics cannot be generalized to include the impacts of disturbance. While satellite observations can complement models and ground measurements, they create additional challenges in data storage and efficient analysis, which require computational advances to address.

In my work, I use remote sensing observations, computational modeling, and field data to understand spatial and temporal patterns in snow depth and density in the context of wildfire disturbance.


Cowherd, M., Egan, G., Fringer, O., Monismith, S. Wave phase-decomposed velocity profile observations in a shallow estuary. Geophysical Research Letters (2021).

Egan, G.,Cowherd, M., Fringer, O., Monismith, S. Observations of near-bed shear stress in a shallow, wave- and current-driven flow. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (2019).


University of California Berkeley:
SURF SMART graduate mentor, 2021

Stanford University:
Departmental Honors, Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2019
Undergraduate Conference Grant, 2019
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, 2018