Kevin McKeehan

  • Ph.D.

  • Email: mckeeha2@msu.edu
  • Geography Building
    673 Auditorium Rd.Room 15
    East Lansing, MI 48824
  • Areas of interest: Physical geography, aeolian geomorphology, soil geomorphology, pedology, prairie/grassland ecosystems, sand dune activation/stabilization, coastal processes, loess, geographic information systems (GIS), geostatistics, and remote sensing of aeolian environments.
Ph.D.

Research Synopsis:

My research focuses on aeolian environments, whether arid dune fields or coastal sand dunes.  These landforms and environments are sensitive to changes in climate and from human impacts.  Consequently, I hope to understand how these environments have evolved in the past and how they will change in the future.  Such research is not merely academic but could prove valuable as climates change globally.  For example, research has suggested that much of the sand dunes of the Kalahari in southern Africa, many of which are currently stabilized by vegetation, could become active by the year 2100 due to increased aridity.   Here in the United States, the Nebraska Sand Hills, the largest stabilized grassland dune field system in North America, has at times in the last 25,000 years been active during megadroughts, depositing dust downwind.  If such as an event were to occur in our future in response to a warming and drier Great Plains climate, the results might dwarf the 1930s event known as The Dust Bowl, which resulted in a collapse of agriculture, degraded air quality, mass human migration, and a decline in regional human health.  Here, too, in Michigan sand dunes are an important part of our landscape, and there is evidence that coastal Lake Michigan dunes have evolved in the last 25,000 years and continue to change.

 

My research aims to understand these aeolian landscapes, particularly on the Great Plains and in Michigan.  I want to understand the current status of dune fields in terms of pedogenic and geomorphic properties, how and why they changed in the past, and how and why they will change in the future.  I am also interested in the related questions as to why stable grassland sand dunes reactivate and why mobile dunes stabilize, how soil develops in dunes, how to measure surface roughness, and what human impacts affect these aeolian environments.  These are the research questions I am pursuing while at Michigan State University.