Kate Ballantine

Marjorie Fisher Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
Specialization: 
Restoration ecology, biogeochemistry, wetland ecology, ecosystem functions, water resources, soil microbial ecology

A key test of ecological knowledge is whether it can be successfully applied to create or restore ecosystems that have been damaged or destroyed. Kate Ballantine’s research uses restored ecosystems as an opportunity to learn about ecosystem processes and development. Specifically, it focuses on the long-term development and ecosystem functions of restored and created wetlands. The overarching goal of her research program is to understand how desirable and undesirable functions of restored wetlands develop and change over time, and how these functions are influenced by restoration methodology.Over half of the earth’s wetlands have been lost to agriculture and development. With these wetlands were lost the valuable ecosystem functions that wetlands perform, such as water purification, aquifer recharge, climate regulation, long-term carbon storage, flood abatement, recreation, and habitat provision. In response to both historic losses and the continuing threat of wetland destruction, numerous federal, state, and private agencies in the US and abroad have initiated wetland restoration programs.Ballantine and her students conduct basic and applied research to investigate how these restored wetlands develop and function, and what restoration methodologies may stimulate desirable (or undesirable!) ecosystem functions. Ongoing projects examine the effects of soil amendments (e.g., biochar, topsoil, straw) on vegetative communities, greenhouse gas fluxes, water quality parameters, microbial community structure, and soil cycling of nutrients via soil microbial processes. New projects investigate the mechanisms that underlie water quality and climate change functions and the influence of environmental variability on these functions. Ecosystem restoration is an interdisciplinary field, and Ballantine values her collaborations with students and professionals from a wide variety of expertise to work on restoration projects that inform both ecosystem science and restoration practice.Ballantine was recently awarded funding to start a restoration ecology program, and is excited see Mount Holyoke College become a center for restoration research and education. She teaches courses on environmental science, restoration ecology, and wetlands ecology and management. In her courses, students bridge the gap from being consumers of information to producers of information by taking on original real world projects with real world consequences. Students also examine where things such as water, food, and information come from before we encounter them, and where they go to after we use them. Ballantine’s instruction revolves around the art of question asking. In her classes, students not only learn to address questions about what they see in nature, but also what they observe in their homes, communities, and daily lives.

Recent Campus News

Jailene Rodriguez '20 began her Mount Holyoke career as a high school summer scholar with the Restoration Ecology Program.Jailene Rodriguez '20 began her Mount Holyoke career as a high school summer scholar with the Restoration Ecology Program.

From restoration ecology to cardiology

Future physician Jailene Rodriguez ’20 gained hands-on lab experience in high school via Mount Holyoke’s Restoration Ecology Summer Scholars Program.

The importance of teaching STEM to girls

Mount Holyoke's Kate Ballantine’s efforts creating summer opportunities for high school girls to learn STEM is featured in Teen Life magazine.  

 
This is a photo of Farah Rawas '17 standing in front of the Community Center construction site.

This MHC alum has a blueprint for success

Through its engineering and sustainability programs, Mount Holyoke has given Farah Rawas ’17 the resources she needs to help her community in Beirut.

MHC’s Ballantine helps restore wetlands

Kate Ballantine’s research on the development and functions of a restored wetlands helps to understand its effect on water quality and climate change.

Professor helping restore a local cranberry bog

Kate Ballantine’s research on environmental revival and ecosystems at a former cranberry bog in Plymouth investigates the effects of climate change.

Recent Mentions in the Media

Recent Grants

Contributing partner on a successful USDA National Resources Conservation Service award to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts supporting wetland restoration and associated research for "Cranberry Bog Conservation and Habitat Restoration."  The project is for 5 years. (May, 2020)

Kate Ballantine and Rachel Rubin (Environmental Studies) and Jason Andras (Biology) received a grant from the Restore America's Estuaries: Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants for their project " Bioreactors for Enhanced Nitrogen Removal in Coastal Cranberry Farms." The project is for two years and four months.

Recent Publications

Andras, J. P., Rodriguez-Reillo, W. G., Truchon, A., Blanchard, J. L., Pierce, E. A., & Ballantine, K. A. (2020). Rewilding the small stuff: The effect of ecological restoration on prokaryotic communities of peatland soils. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. doi:10.1093/femsec/fiaa144

Scott, B.*, Ballantine, K., Yarwood, S., Palmer, M., and Baldwin, A. (2020). The role of organic amendments in wetland restorations. Restoration Ecology, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.13179

Recent Honors

Invited speaker at the University of Connecticut where she presented her work on the long-term development and ecosystem functions of restored wetlands. (November, 2018)