Moos Family Speaker Series

The Critical Zone Part II (1)

The Critical Zone Part II: Soils are Sponges and Rivers have Livers

From parking lots, to construction sites, to farm fields and beyond, everything we do on land affects water. These land-water interactions occur in the critical zone and, depending on a variety of factors, can have wide-ranging results. Soils store and release water, nutrients, and pollutants. Rivers provide an opportunity for groundwater-surface water exchange and can act as a filter. View our spring webinar to learn more about these systems. Watch below!

Meet our Speakers

Genevieve Ali

Dr. Genevieve Ali is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at McGill University (Montreal, Canada). She studies surface and subsurface runoff processes, as well as water exchanges across the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum in forested and agricultural watersheds. The main thrust of her research is water, sediment, nutrient and biota connectivity in quasi-pristine and human-impacted landscapes. Dr. Ali is the former co-holder of a research chair in watershed systems. She also served as an invited expert to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board, and she is a recipient of the Young Scientist Award of the Canadian Geophysical Union. She earned her B.Sc. and Ph.D. in environmental geography from the University of Montreal.


Dr. Kamini Singha is a University Distinguished Professor and the Associate Dean of Earth and Society Programs at the Colorado School of Mines.  Her research interests are focused in hydrogeology and environmental geophysics. Dr. Singha is an award-winning teacher, a recipient of a U.S. National Science Foundation CAREER award and the Early Career Award from the Society of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics, a Geological Society of America Fellow, and a former Fulbright Scholar. She served as the U.S. National Groundwater Association's Darcy Lecturer in 2017 and was the AGU Witherspoon Lecturer in 2022. She earned her B.S. in geophysics from the University of Connecticut and her Ph.D., in hydrogeology, from Stanford University.

Thank you to our sponsors!


Board of Water and Soil Resources logo

Great Lakes

Metropolitan Council
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

River Keeper

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

If you would like to learn more about becoming a sponsor for the Moos Family Speaker Series, please contact Alex Van Loh at 

Our 2022-23 Moos Family Speaker Series: The Critical Zone

Through this year's two Moos Family Speaker Series events, we are framing our current work, especially our focus on soil health and hydrology, by amplifying the study of the Critical Zone (CZ) – the zone at Earth's land surface extending from the top of the vegetation canopy to the depths of groundwater. The critical zone supports terrestrial life through complex interactions between water, soil, rock, air, and life near Earth's surface, but humans have accelerated its erosion by 3 to nearly 10-fold in parts of Minnesota.

Earth's critical zone. Kumar, Praveen, Phong VV Le, AN Thanos Papanicolaou, Bruce L. Rhoads, Alison M. Anders, Andrew Stumpf, Christopher G. Wilson et al. "Critical transition in critical zone of intensively managed landscapes." Anthropocene 22 (2018): 10-19.
Earth's critical zone. Kumar, Praveen, Phong VV Le, AN Thanos Papanicolaou, Bruce L. Rhoads, Alison M. Anders, Andrew Stumpf, Christopher G. Wilson et al. "Critical transition in critical zone of intensively managed landscapes." Anthropocene 22 (2018): 10-19.

Fall 2022 Webinar: What is the Critical Zone?

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

This fall we featured two critical zone experts who provided a strong foundation of knowledge to help answer the questions, what is the critical zone and why is it so important? View a recording of the webinar below.

Dr. Alison Anders, Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign focuses on anthropogenic influences on landscape evolution. Her active areas of research include analysis of sediment sources and fluxes in agricultural landscapes in the Midwest where glacial geology and geomorphology form the template for the current state and future evolution of the CZ. She will highlight the importance of hot spots in the critical zone including the near surface, root zone and river corridors.

Dr. Pamela Sullivan, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Pamela is an ecohydrologist who focuses on how groundwater storage and quality is affected by land cover and land use. Her work in Kansas grasslands and montane wetlands expands our understanding of processes across different biomes.

Since 2010, Freshwater and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences have co-hosted a free stimulating lecture series on water and the environment. The lectures, known as the Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources, honor the late Malcolm Moos, president of the university from 1967 to 1974. The series brings together influential experts on a broad array of topics and pairs a nationally known speaker with a panel of regional experts. They present the latest research on timely and important issues through an accessible—and often entertaining—presentation.