Nicole Ward

Nicole Ward
  • Masters Student
  • University of Idaho
  • Water Resources


Erin Brooks

Thesis or Dissertation Citation: 

Ward, N. 2015. University of Idaho MS Thesis, pp. 1-132.

Research Focus: 

Improving agricultural nitrogen management through policy incentivized practices

Research Abstract: 

Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) incentivize precision fertilizer practices to address nitrogen loss issues, though their efficacy in the Palouse Region is unexplored. We used the CropSyst-Microbasin model to assess biophysical outcomes of precision fertilizer management. The model captures field-scale spatial and temporal differences in soil water retention and spatial variation in crop yield. We found a 21 kg reduction of N loss under precision management on a 10.9 hectare field. With improvements in crop growth algorithms under excess nutrient conditions, the model will be a useful tool for practical application. Precision practices are not common on the Palouse, thus, we also addressed barriers to adoption. We found that precision is profitable in the short term with assistance from NMPs and continues to be profitable after incentives cease. To overcome non-financial adoption barriers, NMPs should be reprioritized in relation to soil tillage programs, and should be supplemented with peer-to-peer outreach.


Nicole is a Master's student in the Water Resources program at the UI. She grew up in Southeastern Minnesota, spending her youth on many of Minnesota's lakes and rivers and helping on her dad's farm. She studied Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and spent a semester in Ecuador studying tropical ecology and conservation. After graduating from college, Nicole worked as an Aquatic Ecologist for the Minnesota DNR where she researched the most endangered group of organisms in the US: native freshwater mussels. Even though Nicole is very passionate about native mussel research, she came to Idaho to learn about water resource issues through a different lens. She is working with Dr. Erin Brooks examining water movement and nitrogen loss from Palouse agricultural fields as a part of the Site Specific Climate Friendly Farming project and in close collaboration with numerous REACCH researchers. Outside of school you can find Nicole tearing up whitewater on her canoe, camping, mountain biking, or rafting.

Publications and Presentations: 

Ward, N.K., Maureira, F., Stockle, C.O., Brooks, E.S., Painter, K.M., Yourek, M.A., Gasch, C.K. 2017. Simulating field-scale variability and precision management with a 3D hydrologic cropping systems model. Precision Agriculture-online, doi: 10.1007/s11119-017-951