Jason S. Ulrich


M.S., University of Minnesota, Water Resources Science, 2006
B.S., University of Minnesota, Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, 2000

Phone: (651) 433-5953 ext. 27
Email: julrich@smm.org

Research Interests 

I am a hydrologist with an emphasis on streams and rivers in agricultural watersheds. My research is primarily concerned with the effects of climate and land-use change on hydrologic, hydraulic and erosional processes. I’m also interested in the interplay between these physical processes and the ecological health of riverine fish, invertebrate and turtle populations. My prior work experience had a heavy focus on computer and database programming; as a result, much of my research has been able to leverage the integration of complex watershed and river models with geographic information systems (GIS) and R statistical codes.  I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota.

The Role of Climate and Land Use Changes in Changing River Hydrology

My research with colleagues here at the Research Station the last several years has focused on exploring the differential effects of changes in climate and land use on river flow and erosion in agricultural watersheds. Increases in precipitation and the intensity of corn/soybean agriculture -- and associated tile drainage – have increased flows in most rivers in the southern half of Minnesota since the 1940s. These increased flows have resulted in increased channel erosion which contributes sediment and phosphorus to downstream lakes and rivers. Our research serves to understand trends in variables such as climate (total precipitation as well as intense rain events), land use, total flow, channel-forming flow, and channel widening, and to unravel the linkages between these variables.

LiDAR Analyses for Improved Agricultural BMP Planning

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a method of creating high resolution topographic data using aircraft that measure distance to the ground by pulsed laser light. The precision of the resulting digital elevation maps is approximately 1 meter enabling an unprecedented level of detail for understanding how water and pollutants flow across the landscape.  Increased availability of LiDAR data across the Midwest has resulted in new innovative GIS toolsets to utilize it.  As management plans are created to decrease non-point source pollution from agriculture at different watershed scales, the scale for implementation of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) remains at the field scale.  As such, the new LiDAR based approaches allow identification of both pollution sources (“hotspots”) and cost-effective BMP implementation opportunities at the field scale. My recent experience has included piloting new GIS toolsets such as the ACPF and PTMapp, and creating custom approaches by modifying these toolsets and integrating them with R codes and hydrologic models.

Quantifying the Benefits of Wetlands at Different Watershed Scales

My current research entails gaining an improved understanding of hydrologic and water quality functions of wetlands from the agricultural field scale to large watershed scale. Because much of the functioning of wetlands at different scales depends on their topological relationships with other up- and downstream wetlands, so-called “wetland complexes”, one of the key outcomes of this research will be new GIS methodologies to help better quantify these relationships and the resulting aggregate benefits of wetland complexes.

Representative Publications and Presentations

Ulrich, J.S. and S.P. Schottler. In Preparation. Investigation of Changes in the Frequency and Depth of Intense Rainfall Events in Minnesota from 1948-2015.

Ulrich, J.S. and S.P. Schottler. In Preparation. Investigation into the Linkage and Trends between Intense Rainfall Events and Channel-forming Flows in Minnesota Rivers.

Schottler, S.P., J.S. Ulrich, P. Belmont, R. Moore, J. Lauer, D.R. Engstrom, and J.E. Almendinger.   2014.  Twentieth century agricultural drainage creates more erosive rivers.  Hydrological Processes 28(4): 1951-1961.

Almendinger, J.E. and J.S. Ulrich.  In Review. Use of SWAT to Estimate Spatial Scaling of Phosphorus Export Coefficients and Load Reductions Due to Agricultural BMPs.  Journal of the American Water Resources Association.

Ulrich, J.S., J. Naber and M. Talbot. 2016. Modeling the Influences of Riverine Hydrology and Hydraulics
on Near-Channel At-Risk Turtle Nesting Habitat. Report to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, MN. Presented at 2016 Midwest Turtle Conservation Conference and 2016 Minnesota Water Resources Conference.

Ulrich, J.S. and P. Conrad. 2015. Cost-Effective Agricultural BMP Planning Using Precision Conservation Principles and Advanced GIS Tools: A Case Study in the Squaw Creek Watershed, Iowa. Presented at 2015 MN Water Resources Conference and 2015 Iowa Water Conference.

Almendinger, J.E., M.S. Murphy, and J.S. Ulrich. 2014. Use of SWAT to scale sediment delivery from field to watershed in an agricultural landscape with topographic depressions. Journal of Environmental Quality 43: 9-17.

Lenhart, C., Titov, M., Ulrich, J.S., Nieber, J. and B. Suppes.  2013.  The Role of Hydrologic Alteration and Riparian Vegetation Dynamics in Channel Evolution along the Lower Minnesota River. Transactions of the ASABE 56(2): 549-561.

Ulrich, J.S. and J. Magner.  Predicting Minnesota Fish IBI Scores: Implications for TMDL Stressor Identification.  Presented to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and at 2012 MN Water Resources Conference.

Nieber J., D. Mulla, C. Lenhart, J.S. Ulrich, and S. Wing. 2010. Ravine, Bluff, Streambank (RBS) Erosion Study for the Minnesota River Basin, University of Minnesota, Department Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering, and the Department of Soil, Water & Climate. Report to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Ulrich, J.S., and J.L. Nieber.  2008.  Streambank and bluff erosion modeling for the Knife River, Minnesota.  Presented at 2008 ASABE Annual International Meeting.  Paper Number 084478.

Ulrich, J.S., Singh, U., Wilson, B., Kocian, M. and B. Vondracek.  2006.  Analysis of Stream Health Indicators for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Assessment in Minnesota.  Presented at 2006 ASABE Annual International Meeting.  Paper Number 062331.

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