William McDowell

Phone: (603) 862-2249
Office: Natural Resources & the Environment, James Hall Rm 170, Durham, NH 03824

Research in the McDowell lab focuses on understanding controls on biogeochemical cycles in streams, forests, and watersheds. Specifically, we study long-term changes in the water quality of forested, suburban, and urban watersheds in both temperate and tropical watersheds. Our primary long-term study sites include the Lamprey River and other suburban watersheds in southern New Hampshire, the Luquillo Experimental Forest and urban sites in Puerto Rico, and forested watersheds in New England, the Czech Republic, and Siberia. Understanding the impact of people on water quality, especially impacts on the nitrogen cycle, is a long-term goal in many of our research projects. Primary funding comes from the National Science Foundation, the USGS, the USDA, and other Federal agencies.

Faculty Award Winner

Award Type:  Distinguished Professor
Year:  2017

Award Type:  Presidential Chair
Year:  2008


  • Ph.D., Ecology, Cornell University
  • B.A., Biological&Biomedical Sci.Rel., Amherst College

Courses Taught

  • NR 703: Watershed Water Quality Mgt
  • NR 803: Watershed Water Quality Mgt
  • NR 947: Issues in Ecosystem Ecology

Selected Publications

Santos, F., Wymore, A. S., Jackson, B. K., Sullivan, S. M. P., McDowell, W. H., & Berhe, A. A. (2019). Fire severity, time since fire, and site-level characteristics influence streamwater chemistry at baseflow conditions in catchments of the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Fire Ecology, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s42408-018-0022-8

McDowell, W. H., McDowell, W. G., Potter, J. D., & Ramírez, A. (2019). Nutrient export and elemental stoichiometry in an urban tropical river. Ecological Applications, 29(2), e01839. doi:10.1002/eap.1839

Coble, A. A., Koenig, L. E., Potter, J. D., Parham, L. M., & McDowell, W. H. (2019). Homogenization of dissolved organic matter within a river network occurs in the smallest headwaters. Biogeochemistry, 143(1), 85-104. doi:10.1007/s10533-019-00551-y

Farrell, K. J., Rosemond, A. D., Kominoski, J. S., Bonjour, S. M., Rüegg, J., Koenig, L. E., . . . McDowell, W. H. (2018). Variation in Detrital Resource Stoichiometry Signals Differential Carbon to Nutrient Limitation for Stream Consumers Across Biomes. Ecosystems, 21(8), 1676-1691. doi:10.1007/s10021-018-0247-z

Wang, G., Wang, J., Xia, X., Zhang, L., Zhang, S., McDowell, W. H., & Hou, L. (2018). Nitrogen removal rates in a frigid high-altitude river estimated by measuring dissolved N2 and N2O. Science of The Total Environment, 645, 318-328. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.090

Cole, J. J., Prairie, Y. T., Caraco, N. F., McDowell, W. H., Tranvik, L. J., Striegl, R. G., . . . Melack, J. (2007). Plumbing the Global Carbon Cycle: Integrating Inland Waters into the Terrestrial Carbon Budget. Ecosystems, 10(1), 172-185. doi:10.1007/s10021-006-9013-8

Downing, J. A., Prairie, Y. T., Cole, J. J., Duarte, C. M., Tranvik, L. J., Striegl, R. G., . . . Middelburg, J. J. (2006). The global abundance and size distribution of lakes, ponds, and impoundments. Limnology and Oceanography, 51(5), 2388-2397. doi:10.4319/lo.2006.51.5.2388

McClain, M. E., Boyer, E. W., Dent, C. L., Gergel, S. E., Grimm, N. B., Groffman, P. M., . . . Pinay, G. (2003). Biogeochemical Hot Spots and Hot Moments at the Interface of Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems. Ecosystems, 6(4), 301-312. doi:10.1007/s10021-003-0161-9

Peterson, B. J. (2001). Control of Nitrogen Export from Watersheds by Headwater Streams. Science, 292(5514), 86-90. doi:10.1126/science.1056874

Aber, J., McDowell, W., Nadelhoffer, K., Magill, A., Berntson, G., Kamakea, M., . . . Fernandez, I. (1998). Nitrogen Saturation in Temperate Forest Ecosystems. BioScience, 48(11), 921-934. doi:10.2307/1313296

Most Cited Publications