I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a double major in Cultural Studies/Comparative Literature and Philosophy in 2004 and performed a five-year stint in the corporate world as a pharmaceutical representative. My fascination with soil, plants, and the conundrum of sustainable agriculture compelled me to switch career paths to complete an M.S. in Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin in 2012. During my M.S. work, I became captivated by biophysical interactions that drive fluxes of water and energy at the root-soil and stomata-atmosphere interfaces. Most recently in August 2017, I successfully defended my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Nelson Institute’s Environment and Resources Program. I have transitioned into a 2-year post-doctoral David H. Smith Conservation Research fellowship; my main advisor is Dr. Tracy Twine at the University of Minnesota, with co-advisors including Mike Fienen at the USGS, Christel Kern with the USFS, and Chris Kucharik at UW-Madison.
My doctoral research focused on how changes in land use, land cover, and climate driven transformations of water and energy within the Groundwater-Soil-Plant-Atmosphere-Continuum in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin. The sandy soils that are the namesake of this region comprise a shallow aquifer that strongly connects groundwater, surface water, and atmospheric water vapor. The Central Sands aquifer irrigates productive agroecosystems, while feeding regional lakes and rivers relied upon for generations of ecosystem services by the community. I used both field and modeling approaches to further understand how irrigation, residue management, and vegetation impact the water cycle in this climate hot spot.
On a parallel trajectory, I am developing skills and scholarship in scientific education. Specifically, I am interested in practical methods for fostering creativity and calculated risk-taking in the scientific classroom.
Nocco MA, GJ Kraft, SP Loheide II, CJ Kucharik. 2017. Drivers of potential recharge from irrigated agroecosystems in the Wisconsin Central Sands. Vadose Zone, First Look: doi: 10.2136/vzj2017.01.0008
Nocco MA, SE Rouse, NJ Balster. 2016. Vegetation type alters water and nitrogen budgets in a controlled, replicated experiment on residential-sized rain gardens planted with prairie, shrub, and turfgrass. Urban Ecosystems 19(4): 1665-1691. doi:10.1007/s11252-016-0568-7