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Daniel Smith

BSE Ph.D. Student
  • Davenport Leadership Scholar

Ph.D., Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2022 Expected

B.S., Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, 2017

June 2018 – August 2018, Academic Mentor, Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, Virginia Tech

May 2017 – Present, Graduate Research Assistant, Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech

February 2017 – May 2018, Environmental Educator, Saturday Environmental Academy, Washington, D.C.

May 2015 – August 2015, Undergraduate Research Assistant, New Mexico State University, New Mexico

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2019
  • Virginia Tech Interfaces of Global Change, Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program, 2019
  • Cunningham Doctoral Scholarship, 2017
  • Davenport Leadership Scholarship, 2017

Plants help shape how streams look and change overtime. As plants mature, their roots grow and dig deep into the streambank soil, entangling the soil in a web of fibers. The physical entanglement, or binding, of soil has been thought to be the main mechanism in protecting soil from erosion by water. However, roots physically binding soil may not tell the complete story. Plant roots are living fibers that can, through their interaction with soil microorganisms, release sticky substances into the soil environment. This is a biological mechanism that can cause soil particles to stick to the surface of root fibers, making them harder to move by water. On a streambank, roots facing the stream channel slowdown water near the bank. This is a hydraulic mechanism employed by plant roots, with slower water leading to less erosion of streambank soils. All three root mechanisms (physical, biological, and hydraulic) play a role in protecting streambank soils from water erosion. To further our understanding of how plant roots protect streambank soils from erosion, the relative contributions of these mechanisms must be explored

Reviewed Journals

Muerdter, C. P., Smith, D. J. and Davis, A. P. (2019) Impact of vegetation selection on nitrogen and phosphorus processing in bioretention containers. Water Environ Res. doi:10.1002/wer.1195

Oral Presentations

Smith, D., and T. Thompson. (2019) Do Roots Bind Soil? Comparing the Physical and Biological Role of Roots in Streambank Erosion Resistance. AEES Annual Meeting. Asheville, North Carolina.

Smith D., A. Pinon, S. Bawazir. (2016) Sustaining Southwest Native Riparian Vegetation Using Clinoptilolite Zeolite with Minimum Irrigation. Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting. Corpus Christi, Texas.

Smith, D., C. Muerdter, A. Davis. (2015) Phosphorus Uptake by Three Maryland Plant Species in Bioretention, a Pot Study. Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Research Symposium. College Park, Maryland

Poster Presentations

Smith, D., and T. Thompson. (2018) Do Roots Bind Soil? Comparing the Physical and Biological Role of Roots in Streambank Erosion Resistance. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. Washington, D.C