Dr. Rebecca T. Barnes

Associate Professor

The Environmental Studies Program

14 E Cache La Poudre, Colorado Springs, CO 80903



Tutt Science Center, Room 130F | 719.389.7466 | rbarnes[at] | @waterbarnes


I am a biogeochemist and ecosystem ecologist who is interested in understanding how aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems process and export nitrogen and carbon. I am particularly interested in understanding how disturbance (e.g. fire, nitrogen deposition, land use change, and warming) affects how ecosystems process these critical elements.


Google Scholar | Research Gate | ORCID | Curriculum Vitae

Team Smitten for Science

Due to COVID-19 all field and lab work scheduled for Summer 2020 was cancelled¬†ūüėĘ

Becca, Michelle, Cheristy, & Carly after a day of sensor installation, June 2019

Carly Bonwell, CC ’20 (EV) when not partaking in Greenland ice, is examining stream metabolism and DOM bioavailability in streams draining burned and unburned landscapes. She is conducting “bucket” incubations throughout the summer to characterize the relatively fast mineralization of DOM in streams (< 3 hrs).


Cheristy Jones, CC ’20 (EV) is characterizing the microbiome (with collaborator Mike Wilkins at CSU) along with the bioavailability of SOM across hillslope soils in burned and unburned landscapes. She hopes to link microbial community differences with SOM bioavailability and/or isotopic shifts.


Marguerite Spaethling, CC ’20 (EV) is working to understand the role of changing climate on forest recovery following severe fire across Colorado (with collaborator Kyle Whittinghill at Univ of Pittsburgh) using remotely sensed data.



Michelle Wolford, CC ’21 (EV) is interested in understanding how severe fire shifts carbon stocks and fluxes across landscapes. She is assisting us in the field and lab – from soil and water collection to the processing and analysis of samples.




Lab Alumni

Fiona Cerf, CC ’18 (EV).¬†Fiona worked to better understand how atmospheric N deposition to alpine ecosystems is changing over time.¬†¬†This summer Fiona will be leading rafting trips and contemplating her next adventure.



Asheton Gilbertson, CC ’18 (EV).¬†Asheton worked to understand how severe fire alters the nature of soil organic matter and the¬†characteristics of exported dissolved organic matter.¬†Asheton was awarded a PIFP Fellowship and will be moving to Denver this summer.



Kelsey Maxwell, CC ’18 (EV). Kelsey was part of Team Fire in summer 2017 and specifically worked to understand how severe fire effects the lateral export and in-stream processing of dissolved organic matter in montane ecosystems in CO.¬†Kelsey will be working with Environment America¬† in Denver this coming year.


Delaney Tight, CC ’18 (EV-Math).¬† Delaney built a biogeochemical model of the transient storage zones in these understudied coastal regions. After exploring the boundary waters (MN), Delaney will be back in CO for her PIFP Fellowship.




Patrick Jurney, CC ’17 (EV).¬†Patrick examined¬†the effects of the northward movement of Yellow Cedar on forest carbon cycling in Southeast Alaska.¬†Patrick is now working for the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) as a campus organizer in California.



Colleen Orr, CC ’17 (EV).¬† Colleen calculated the college’s first¬†Nitrogen Footprint. As part of her Senior Project, she also worked¬†in conjunction with the Office of Sustainability to calculate the N and C savings associated with planned and potential sustainability efforts on campus. You can read more about the college’s N footprint here.



BeaverCreek_060215 (3)

Kyra Wolf, a CC ’16 (EV). Kyra’s thesis focused on understanding how the bioavailability of soil C pool varies with fire history and ecosystem type.¬†In Fall 2017, Kyra starts¬†a PhD program with Phil Higuera at the University of Montana.



Kelsey Elwood, CC ’12 (EV). Kelsey worked¬†during summer 2015 on the fire & forest carbon cycling project. Kelsey is now working on her Masters at the University of Colorado.



Theo Fehsenfeld, CC ’16 (OBE).¬†Theo worked¬†during summer 2015 on the fire & forest carbon cycling project.




Maggie measuring tree height within the Painted Rocks watershed, June 2015

Maggie Kehlenbeck, CC ’16 (EV/Education).¬†Maggie worked¬†during summer 2015 on the fire & forest carbon cycling project.




Sam Bray, CC ’15 (EV).¬†Sam worked during from June 2014-Sept 2015 on¬†our N cycling in tidal freshwater zone project in Stanton, DE. Read Sam’s (summer 2014) account of his field work here.



lego-60036-arctic-base-camp-scientist-pilot-minifiguresRoss Sherman, CC ’15 (EV).¬†Ross collected stream chemistry data from watersheds draining burned (Waldo Canyon and Hayman fires) and unburned sites. Ross is now working for Environment America in Denver.


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