Amy Townsend-Small

Amy Townsend-Small , PHD


Professor of Environmental Science

Geology-Physics Building


A&S Geology - 0013

Professional Summary

Service-driven researcher, teacher, and mentor in environmental science and policy. Together with my collaborators and students, I’ve published over 40 articles and raised over $2 million in research funding. My current research focuses on atmospheric methane emissions from the oil and gas supply chain and climate change feedbacks. I also work on community engaged research toward environmental justice and greenhouse gas emissions reductions together with my students.


B.A.: Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, New York, 1998 (Biology [Environmental Science] and English [Literature])

Ph.D.: The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX, 2006 (Marine Science)

Research and Practice Interests

My current research explores the sources and fluxes of methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas.  My group is investigating whether the transition from oil and coal to natural gas as an energy resource will result in increased emissions of methane, with research in Ohio, Texas, and Colorado, as well as whether climate warming and changing hydrology could enhance greenhouse gas emissions from lakes, with studies in Lake Erie and the Arctic.  My approach includes measurement of carbon and hydrogen stable isotopes as methane source indicators.  Click here for all of my publications.
Recent study on fracking in Eastern Ohio: My group recently conducted a time series study in the eastern Ohio shale gas extraction region investigating whether increased fracking activity would lead to elevated natural gas levels in groundwater.  Our results showed that levels of methane in groundwater did not change over the course of the study, and that groundwater in some areas has high levels of naturally occurring methane from soil or coal formations.  In general our work indicates that fracking does not always lead to groundwater contamination, but our data do not refute previous studies from Pennsylvania.  We argue that monitoring programs are essential to investigating the link between water contamination and energy extraction.  This project was funded by the Deer Creek Foundation and the David and Sara Weston Foundation, and is available for download at this link.  The study was recently published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.  Please email me if you would like a copy of the paper.

Research Support

Grant: #ARC 1107607 Investigators:Hinkel, Kenneth; Beck, Richard; Eisner, Wendy; Kim, Changjoo; Liu, Hongxing; Townsend-Small, Amy 09-15-2011 -08-31-2015 National Science Foundation Collaborative Research: Toward a Circumarctic Lakes Observation Network (CALON)--Multiscale Observations of Lacustrine Systems Role:PI $966,001.00 Active

Grant: #60025701 \ NA10OAR4170074 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 09-01-2012 -08-31-2013 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Does Hypoxia in Lake Erie Contribute to Atmospheric Methane Emissions? Role:PI $15,000.00 Active

Grant: #EAR-1229114 Investigators:Diefendorf, Aaron; Algeo, Thomas; Crowley, Brooke; Townsend-Small, Amy 09-15-2012 -08-31-2015 National Science Foundation Acquisition of Stable Isotope Instrumentation for Biogeochemistry Research and Teaching at the University of Cincinnati Role:PI $400,000.00 Active

Grant: #60049228 / NA14OAR4170067 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 02-01-2015 -01-31-2016 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Relative contributions of hypoxia and natural gas drilling to methane emissions from Lake Erie Role:PI $136,000.00 Active

Grant: #OBR 990 Investigators:Diefendorf, Aaron; Algeo, Thomas; Crowley, Brooke; Townsend-Small, Amy 07-01-2012 -06-30-2014 Ohio Board of Regents Acquisition of Stable Isotope Instrumentation for Biogeochemistry Research and Teaching at the University of Cincinnati Role:PI $85,714.00 Active

Grant: #GMGWO Investigators:Nash, David; Townsend-Small, Amy 01-14-2014 -01-13-2016 Duke Energy Year 1 DUKE funds for GMGWO Role:PI $125,000.00 Awarded Level:Industry

Grant: #EDF 2013 Campaign Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 08-01-2013 -07-31-2014 Environmental Defense Fund Collaborative Research: Flask-based measurements of stable isotopes of CH4 and hydrocarbon ratios to identify methane sources in the Barnett Shale Role:PI $35,000.00 Awarded Level:Private Non-Profit

Investigators:Amy Townsend-Small 09-01-2013 -12-31-2014 Deer Creek Foundation Environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing in Carroll County, Ohio Role:PI 20,000 Active Type:Grant

Grant: #SRS 010401 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 06-30-2016 -03-31-2017 Environment and Climate Change Canada In-kind support from Environment Canada Agreement Role:PI $.00 Active Level:Foreign Other

Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 05-01-2013 -08-01-2013 Faculty Development Council Teaching Hydrogeology, soils, and low-T geochemistry in the 21st century Role:PI $1605 Completed Type:Grant

Grant: #MCD 87112 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 08-20-2016 -08-19-2018 Miami Conservancy District Miami Conservancy District $10K for the GMGWO Role:PI $10,000.00 Active Level:State of Ohio

Grant: #BLM L17AC00015 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 04-01-2017 -03-31-2020 Bureau of Land Management Methane emissions from unconventional, conventional, and abandoned wells in the northern Appalachian basin of Ohio and West Virginia Role:PI $20,880.00 Active Level:Federal

Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 05-01-2013 -10-01-2013 Faculty Development Council Travel Grant for 10th Applied Isotope Geochemistry Conference Role:PI $2367 Completed Type:Grant

Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 05-01-2017 -04-30-2020 Bureau of Land Management/US Department of Interior Methane emissions from unconventional, conventional, and abandoned wells in the Northern Appalachian Basin Role:PI $100K Active

Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 12-15-2011 -03-01-2012 Faculty Development Council Remote Sensing of the Terrestrial Water Cycle: A Request for Funding to Attend a Workshop and Conference Role:PI $3,300 Completed Type:Grant

Grant: #R40312 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 09-01-2019 -08-31-2020 UC's Faculty Bridge Program bridge funding to support graduate student Role:PI $10,000.00 Active Level:Internal UC

Grant: #Contract - FRAPPE Study Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 02-01-2014 -02-15-2015 Regional Air Quality Council Ground and aircraft-based measurements of VOCs and stable isotopes of CH4 in the Colorado Front Range Role:PI $81,466.00 Awarded Level:Private Non-Profit

Grant: #NA23OAR4310291 Investigators:Townsend-Small, Amy 09-01-2023 -12-29-2026 Department of Commerce Hydrogen isotopes as tracers of urban and global methane sources Role:PI 522220.00 Awarded Level:Federal

Grant: #RISE-2422874 05-01-2024 -04-30-2025 National Science Foundation Conference Title: A conference connecting Earth and health scientists and students from across the Midwest Role:PI 93806.00 Active Level:Federal

Grant: #RISE-2422874 05-01-2024 -04-30-2025 National Science Foundation Conference Title: A conference connecting Earth and health scientists and students from across the Midwest Role:PI 93806.00 Active Level:Federal

Grant: #RISE-2422874 05-01-2024 -04-30-2025 National Science Foundation Conference Title: A conference connecting Earth and health scientists and students from across the Midwest Role:PI 93806.00 Active Level:Federal

Grant: #RISE-2422874 05-01-2024 -04-30-2025 National Science Foundation Conference Title: A conference connecting Earth and health scientists and students from across the Midwest Role:PI 93806.00 Active Level:Federal

Grant: #RISE-2422874 05-01-2024 -04-30-2025 National Science Foundation Conference Title: A conference connecting Earth and health scientists and students from across the Midwest Role:PI 93806.00 Active Level:Federal

Grant: #RISE-2422874 05-01-2024 -04-30-2025 National Science Foundation Conference Title: A conference connecting Earth and health scientists and students from across the Midwest Role:PI 93806.00 Active Level:Federal

Abbreviated Publications

Peer Reviewed Publications

*Botner EC, A Townsend-Small, DB Nash, X Xu, A Schimmelmann, and JH Miller.  2018.  Monitoring concentration and isotopic composition of methane in groundwater in the Utica Shale hydraulic fracturing region of Ohio.  Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 190:322, doi:10.1007/s10661-018-6696-1.

*Fries AE, A Townsend-Small, W Shuster, and LA Schifman.  2018.  Street-level emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from the wastewater collection system in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Environmental Pollution, 236: 247-256, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2018.01.076.

Alvarez RA, D Zavala-Araiza, DL Lyon, DT Allen, ZR Barkley, AR Brandt, KJ Davis, SC Herndon, DJ Jacob, A Karion, EA Kort, BK Lamb, T Lauvaux, JD Maasakkers, AJ Marchese, M Omara, SW Pacala, J Peischl, AL Robinson, PB Shepson, C Sweeney, A Townsend-Small, SC Wofsy, and SP Hamburg.  2018Assessment of methane emissions from the US oil and gas supply chain.  Science. doi:10.1126/science.aar7204.

Elder CD, X Xu, J Walker, JL Schnell, KM Hinkel, A Townsend-Small, CD Arp, JW Pohlman, BV Gaglioti, and CI Czimczik.  2018.  Greenhouse gas emissions from diverse Arctic Alaskan lakes are dominated by young carbon.  Nature Climate Change, 8: 166-171, doi:10:1038/s41558-017-0066-9.

A Townsend-Small, *F Akerstrom, CD Arp, and KM Hinkel.  2017.  Spatial and temporal variation in methane concentrations, fluxes, and sources in lakes in Arctic Alaska.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences, 122, doi:10:10.1002/2017JG004002.

Hinkel KM, C Arp, A Townsend-Small, and K Frey.  2017.  Can deep groundwater influx be detected from the geochemistry of thermokarst lakes in Arctic Alaska?  Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 28: 552-557,  doi:10.1002/ppp.1895.

*Kolbe SE, AI Miller, A Townsend-Small, TM Culley, and GN Cameron.  2016.  Impact of land-use history and forest trees on soil organic carbon and nitrogen stocks.  Soil Science Society of America Journal.  doi:10.2136/sssaj2015.12.0426.

*Marrero JE, A Townsend-Small, DR Lyon, T Tsai, S Meinardi, and DR Blake.  2016.  Estimating emissions of toxic hydrocarbons from natural gas production sites in the Barnett Shale region of northern Texas.  Environmental Science & Technology.  doi:10.1021/acs.est.6b02827.

Townsend-Small A, *EC Botner, KL Jimenez, JR Schroeder, NJ Blake, S Meinardi, DR Blake, BC Sive, D Bon, JH Crawford, G Pfister, and FM Flocke.  2016.  Using stable isotopes of hydrogen to quantify biogenic and thermogenic atmospheric methane sources: A case study from the Colorado Front Range.  Geophysical Research Letters, 43: 11462-11471, doi: 10.1002/2016GL071438.

Townsend-Small A, *DA Disbennett, *JM Fernandez, *RW Ransohoff, R Mackay, and R Bourbonniere.  2016.  Quantifying emissions of methane derived from anaerobic organic matter respiration and natural gas extraction in Lake Erie.  Limnology and Oceanography.  doi:10.1002/lno10273.

Townsend-Small A, TW Ferrara, DR Lyon, *AE Fries, and BK Lamb.  2016.  Emissions of coalbed and natural gas methane from abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States.  Geophysical Research Letters, 43: 2283-2290, doi:10.1002/2015GL067623.

*Schneider AG, A Townsend-Small, and D Rosso.  2015. Impact of direct greenhouse gas emissions on the carbon footprint of water reclamation processes employing nitrification-denitrification.  Science of the Total Environment, 505: 1166-1173, doi:10.1016/j/scitotenv.2014.10.060.

Howard T, T Ferrara, and A Townsend-Small.  2015.  Sensor transition failure in the high flow sampler: Implications for methane emission inventories of natural gas infrastructure.  Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.  doi: 10.1080/10962247.2015.1025925.

Lamb B, SL Edburg, TW Ferrara, T Howard, MR Harrison, CE Kolb, A Townsend-Small, W Dyck, A Possolo, and J Whetstone.  2015.  Direct measurements show decreasing methane emissions from natural gas local distribution systems in the United States.  Environmental Science & Technology, 49: 5161–5169, doi:10.1021/es505116p.

*Kolbe SE, A Townsend-Small, AI Miller, TM Culley, and DN Cameron.  2015.  Effects of invasive Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) on soil carbon and nitrogen stocks in forests in southwestern Ohio.  Invasive Plant Science and Management. In press.

Townsend-Small A, *JE Marrero, DR Lyon, IJ Simpson, S Meinardi, and DR Blake.  2015.  Integrating source apportionment tracers into a bottom-up inventory of methane emissions in the Barnett Shale hydraulic fracturing region.  Environmental Science & Technology. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b00057

Bardsley A, D Hammond, T von Bitner, N Beunning, and A Townsend-Small.  2015.  Shallow groundwater conveyance of geologically derived contaminants to urban creeks in southern California.  Environmental Science & Technology, 49: 9610-9619, doi:10.1021/acs.est.01006a.

*Longbottom TL, A Townsend-Small, LA Owen, and MK Murari.  2014.  Climatic and topographic controls on soil organic matter storage in the Indian Himalaya: Potential carbon cycle – climate change feedbacks.  Catena, doi:10.1016/j.catena.2014.03.002.

Townsend-Small A, MG Prokopenko, and WM Berelson.  2014.  Nitrous oxide cycling in the water column and sediments of the oxygen minimum zone, eastern subtropical North Pacific, southern California and northern Mexico (23 - 34º N).  Journal of Geophysical Research - Oceans, 119, 3158-3170, doi:10.1029/2013JC009580.

Beaulieu JJ, *RL Smolenski, CT Neitch, A Townsend-Small, and MS Elovitz.  2014.  High methane emissions from a mid-latitude reservoir draining an agricultural watershed.  Environmental Science & Technology.  doi:10.1021/es501871g.

Murari MM, LA Owen, JM Dortch, MW Caffee, C Dietsch, M Fuchs, WC Haneberg, MC Sharma, and A Townsend-Small.  2014.  Timing and climatic drivers for glaciation across monsoon-influenced regions of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen.  Quaternary Science Reviews, 88: 159-182, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.01.013.

McClelland JW, A Townsend-Small, RM Holmes, F Pan, M Stieglitz, M Khosh, and BJ Peterson.  2014.  River export of nutrients and organic matter from the North Slope of Alaska to the Beaufort Sea.  Water Resources Research, 50: 1823-1839, doi:10.1002/2013WR014722.

Beaulieu JJ, *RL Smolenski, CT Nietch, A Townsend-Small, MS Elovitz, and JP Schubauer-Berigan.  2014.  Denitrification alternates between a source and a sink of nitrous oxide in the hypolimnion of a thermally stratified reservoir.  Limnology and Oceanography, 59: 495-506, doi:10.4319/lo.2014.59.2.0495.

Townsend-Small A, DE Pataki, H Liu, Z Li, *Q Wu, and *B Thomas.  2013.  Increasing summer river discharge in southern California, USA, linked to urbanization.  Geophysical Research Letters, 40: 1-5, doi:10.1002/grl.50921.

Prokopenko MG, MB Hirst, L De Brabandere, JP Lawrence, WM Berelson, J Granger, BX Chang, S Dawson, EJ Crane III, B Thamdrup, A Townsend-Small, and DM Sigman.  2013.  Nitrogen losses in anoxic marine sediments driven by Thioploca-annamox bacterial consortia.  Nature, 500: 194-198, doi:10.1038/nature12365.

Townsend-Small A, SC Tyler, DE Pataki, X Xu, and LE Christensen.  2012.  Isotopic measurements of atmospheric methane in Los Angeles, California, USA: Influence of “fugitive” fossil fuel emissions.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, 117: D07308, doi:10.1029/2011JD016826.

Chong LS, MG Prokopenko, WM Berelson, A Townsend-Small, and J McManus.  2012.  Nitrogen cycling within suboxic and anoxic marine sediments from the continental margin of western North America.  Marine Chemistry, 128-129: 13-25, doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2011/10.007.

Prokopenko MG, DM Sigman, WM Berelson, DE Hammond, B Barnett, L Chong, and A Townsend-Small.  2011.  Denitrification in anoxic sediments supported by biological nitrate transport.  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 75: 7180-7199, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.09.023.

Townsend-Small A, DE Pataki, LY Tseng, CY Tsai, and D Rosso.  2011.  Nitrous oxide emissions from wastewater treatment and water reclamation plants in southern California.  Journal of Environmental Quality 40: 1542-1550, doi:10.2134/jeq2011.0059.

Townsend-Small A, DE Pataki, CI Czimczik, and SC Tyler.  2011. Nitrous oxide emissions and isotopic composition in urban and agricultural systems in southern California.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences 116: G01013, doi:10.1029/2010JG001494.

Townsend-Small A, BJ Peterson, RM Holmes, and JW McClelland.  2011.  Seasonal and hydrologic drivers of dissolved organic matter and nutrients in the upper Kuparuk River, Alaskan Arctic.  Biogeochemistry 103: 109-124, doi: 10.1007/s10533-010-9451-4.

Townsend-Small A, and CI Czimczik.  2010.  Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions in urban turf.  Geophysical Research Letters 37: L02707, doi:10.1029/2009GL041675 [Correction, L02707, doi:10.1029/2010GL042735].

Manizza M, MJ Follows, S Dutkiewicz, JW McClelland, D Menemenlis, CN Hill,  A Townsend-Small, and BJ Peterson.  2009.  Modeling transport, fate, and lifetime of riverine DOC in the Arctic Ocean.  Global Biogeochemical Cycles 23: doi:10.1029/2008GB003396.

Townsend-Small A, ME McClain, B Hall, CA Llerena, JL Noguera, and JA Brandes.  2008.  Suspended sediments and organic matter in mountain headwaters of the Amazon River: Results from a one-year time series study in the central Peruvian Andes.  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72: 732-740, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2007.11.020.

Mutchler TR, KH Dunton, A Townsend-Small, S Fredriksen and MK Rasser.  2007.   Isotopic and elemental indicators of nutrient sources and status of coastal habitats in the Caribbean Sea, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.  Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 74: 449-457.

Townsend-Small A, JL Noguera, ME McClain, and JA Brandes.  2007.  Radiocarbon and stable isotopic constraints on organic matter cycling in the Pachitea River Basin, Peruvian Andean Amazon.  Global Biogeochemical Cycles 21, GB2029, doi:10.1029/2006GB002835.

Townsend-Small A, M McCarthy, J Brandes, L Yang, L Zhang, and W Gardner.  2007.  Stable isotopic composition of nitrate in Lake Taihu, China, and major inflow rivers.   Hydrobiologia 581: 135-140.

Townsend-Small A, ME McClain, and JA Brandes.  2005.  Contributions of carbon and nitrogen from the Andes Mountains to the Amazon River: Evidence from an elevational gradient of soils, plants, and river material. Limnology and Oceanography 50 (2): 672-685.

Nisbet EG, RE Fisher, D Lowry, JL France, S Bakkaloglu, M Cain, M Coleman, *J Fernandez, G Forster, PT Griffiths, C Iverach, BFJ Kelly, PBR Nisbet-Jones, A Townsend-Small, A al-Shalaan, N Warwick, and G Zazzeri.  2020.  Methane mitigation: Emission reduction methodologies on the path to the Paris Agreement. Reviews of Geophysics, 58, e2019RG000675,

*Deighton JA, A Townsend-Small, SJ Sturmer, *J Hoschouer, and *LA Heldman.  2020.  Measurements show that marginal wells are a disproportionate source of methane relative to production.  Journal of Air and Waste Management Association 70:1030-1042.

*Fernandez JM, A Townsend-Small, A Zastepa, SB Watson, and JA Brandes.  2020Methane and nitrous oxide measured throughout Lake Erie indicate highest emissions from the eutrophic Western Basin.  Journal of Great Lakes Research

Honors and Awards

2005 -2006 University of Texas Continuing Fellowship

2005 -2006 P.E.O. Scholar Award for female doctoral candidates

2014 Science and Community Award, Ohio Environmental Council

2001 -2002 University of Texas Preemptive Recruitment Fellowship

2002 -2003 National Science Foundation GK-12 Graduate Student Fellowship

1998 Phi Beta Kappa

2013 Invited Speaker, McMicken Lecture Series, University of Cincinnati

2010 Invited Speaker, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

2013 Invited Speaker, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting

2012 Excellence in Faculty Research Award, Department of Geography

2011 Invited Speaker, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

2011 Invited Speaker, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

2012 Invited Speaker, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

2013 Invited Speaker, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

2014 Invited Speaker, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting


Journal of Environmental Quality (Associate Editor ) Type:Editorial Service Level:International

Post Graduate Training and Education

2006-2007 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Biogeochemistry and hydrology of Arctic rivers, The University of Texas at Austin, ,

2007-2010 Project Scientist, Carbon cycling and greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles, California, University of California, Irvine, ,

Professional Affiliation

American Geophysical Union

American Society of Limnology and Oceanography

Soil Science Society of America

Courses Taught

15-EVST-101 ENVIRON SCIENCE I Level:Undergraduate

15-GEOL-136 EARTH IN UPHEAVAL Level:Undergraduate

EVST/GEOL 2025: Hydrology and Biogeochemistry Level:Undergraduate

EVST/GEOL 6035: Carbon Cycling and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Faculty Development Activities

07-2011 -07-2011 The Cutting Edge: Successful strategies for teaching and research in the geosciences College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA Type:Workshop

NSF proposal writing seminar University of Cincinnati Type:Seminar

NSF CAREER proposal writing seminar Type:Seminar