Ashley Cao ’23


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Title

Understanding Watershed Processes in Complex Terrain: Mountain Hydrology at Snodgrass Hillslope

Presentation Link

View Ashley's Presentation

Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

I studied the hydrology of Snodgrass Hillslope, a well-studied and representative headwater catchment for the Upper Colorado River Basin located within the East River Watershed. In the context of climate change, it is increasingly crucial that we understand the hydrologic processes of watersheds that feed major water sources like the Colorado River; this knowledge will help us address issues of drought in the Western United States. Through daily field work, I measured soil moisture, conducted infiltrometer tests, monitored tensiometer readings, and updated meteorological towers with new loggers. Additionally, I assisted in the installation of a weir plate onto an abandoned flume. I gained skills in vegetative identification, and improved my working-knowledge of GIS, GPS, Python, and ParFlow-CLM. I met with hydrologists studying the East River Watershed and had the opportunity to sit-in on their fieldwork, where I learned about stream gauging and water sampling. I am pursuing an extension of this research for both my senior thesis and the American Geophsyical Union. My thesis will combine this summer field data with hydrologic modeling skills to examine the effects of different climate change scenarios on the vegetative makeup of the Snodgrass Hillslope, and thereby predict potential changes to water availability downstream.

Internship Year


Project Category

Water and the Environment


Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University - Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Gothic, Colorado


Reed Maxwell, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute; Jackson Swilley, Ph.D. candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering