Monday May 9, 2022

The Colorado Sun

On a cloudy morning in April, not far from the summit of Cameron Pass, Megan Sears drops a pair of snowshoes onto the shoulder of Highway 14, 60 miles west of Fort Collins 

Sears, a graduate student studying watershed science at Colorado State University, cinches the binding straps tight onto her snow boots. She tucks a scientific instrument that looks something like a giant telescope made of clear plastic under her shoulder and starts walking up a snowy hill into what remains of the forest burned nearly two years ago by the largest wildlife in Colorado history.

In a state where every drop of water matters, Sears and another grad student, Mikaela Richardson, are out collecting data that will help answer an important question that’s gaining more attention from the scientific community: If massive wildfires continue to spread across the West, particularly at higher altitudes where snowpack is more plentiful and critical, what effect will that have on the region’s water supply? “How is this fire and the impact from it changing the hydrologic regime of this area?” Sears says as she treks through the snow. “And what does that mean for, you know, the Poudre River?”

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