Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship recipient Scott Kronholm suggests long-term thinking and patience through his nitrate concentration research

Scott Kronholm’s fascination with the flow of water began with childhood days spent on the shores of his home on Lake Vermilion. There he had access to all nature had to offer, dirt, bugs, rocks and water. These days, in the final year of his doctoral studies with the Water Resources Science (WRS) program, Kronholm’s dissertation, “Spatial and Temporal Variability of Nitrate Concentration in diverse Agricultural Streams” also follows the path of water, this time as it transports nitrates.

As water flows, so do pollutants, sometimes flowing freely over a surface and directly into a water body, or perhaps soaking deep into the groundwater, not to resurface until 50 years or more in the future. Thus, measurable results from efforts to curb nitrate levels in water bodies may also not be seen for years. Kronholm wants to encourage patience when waiting for positive results. “Flow paths determine the length of time from fertilizer application to introduction of excess fertilizer into a stream bed,” says Kronholm, who hopes that his research will create realistic expectations within the farming community and regulatory agencies. High nitrate levels that were years in the making will take years to abate. Kronholm, who was recently awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, feels that farmers are often given a bad rap, when many farmers are trying BMPs voluntarily, often at their own expense. “Hopefully, my research will help scientists, legislators, famers and other stakeholders set realistic goals and expectations for reducing nitrate levels in our water.”

Kronholm is grateful to receive the fellowship, which will in part fund travel to conferences this upcoming year, and he had this to say about his experience in the WRS program, “I really liked the WRS graduate program; it offers a broad brush stroke of learning by showing you how your specific studies relate to everything else, biology, the physics of water, politics and policy. Sure, it’s complicated, but that’s my message, ‘don’t get discouraged if you have to wait for results.’”

Scott Kronholm and Erik SmithKronholm and Erik Smith collecting soil core samples 
in a corn field near Blairsburg, IA