Dr. Rebecca T. Barnes

Associate Professor

The Environmental Studies Program

14 E Cache La Poudre, Colorado Springs, CO 80903 | Tutt Science Center, Room 130F| rbarnes[at] | Twitter: @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.

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


Michelle Wolford, CC ’21 (EV) is interested in understanding how severe fire shifts the stream microbiome and how changes in the microbial community impact the transport & processing of organic matter.


Lab Alumni


Carly Bonwell, CC ’20 (EV) when not partaking in Greenland ice, examined stream metabolism and DOM bioavailability in streams draining burned and unburned landscapes. She examined connectivity of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems via the use of stable isotopes.


Cheristy Jones, CC ’20 (EV) characterized the microbiome (w/ Mike Wilkins, CSU) along with the bioavailability of SOM across hillslope soils in burned and unburned landscapes. She linked microbial community differences, isotopic shifts, and SOM bioavailability to landscape history in her thesis.


Marguerite Spaethling, CC ’20 (EV) worked 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.


Fiona Cerf, CC ’18 (EV). Fiona worked to better understand how atmospheric N deposition to alpine ecosystems is changing over time.



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 works with Environment America in Denver.


Kelsey Maxwell, CC ’18 (EV). Kelsey was part of Team Fire in summer 2017 and worked to understand how severe fire effects the lateral export of dissolved organic matter in montane ecosystems in CO. Kelsey works with Environment America in Denver.



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.



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.




Ross 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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