Water Faculty Directory

UA Fayetteville Faculty

Matthew D. Covington

Matthew D. Covington

Assistant Professor

J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences


Phone: 479-575-3876

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Dr. Covington entered the University of Arkansas as an undergraduate with broad interests; he exited four years laterwith undergraduate degrees in both physics and philosophy.  After that, he pursued a Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysicsat the University of California – Santa Cruz, working on models of processes that occur during galaxy mergers. However, during his undergraduate and graduate years, Covington lived a second life as an expedition caver, exploringand mapping in some of the deepest caves in the world.  These expeditions took him to Mexico, Peru, Sumatra, Alaska,China, Slovenia, Croatia, and other far- flung places.  In the final year of his Ph.D., Covington's career took a dramaticshift as he decided to pursue research in geoscience, combining his passion for caves with his skill set in mathematicalmodeling.  Upon completion of his Ph.D. in physics, Covington began his first postdoc studying karst hydrology at theUniversity of Minnesota supported by an NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship.  Then he spend two years as anNSF International Research Fellow working at the Karst Research Institute in Postojna, Slovenia.  Starting in fall of2012, Covington returned to the University of Arkansas as an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences.

Dr. Covington's primary area of research interest lies along the intersection of hydrogeology and geomorphology, witha particular focus on karst aquifers and landforms. Much of Dr. Covington's recent work studies the variations in waterquality and quantity at karst springs and in cave streams. This work has employed simple physically basedmathematical models to try to understand the relationship between the variations at a given spring and the internalstructure of the aquifer. Further work attempts to incorporate such variations into models of cave formation(speleogenesis). Ultimately, this helps us to better understand how caves and karst landforms are created and evolveover time in response to tectonic and climatic forces. Some of these advances also help us to better characterize,manage, and model karst aquifers, which are often both fragile and difficult to predict. In addition to studying karst,Covington researches the dynamics of glacial caves, which form inside the ice of glaciers and are a key ingredient topredicting the response of Greenland's ice sheet to climate change. A common thread that runs through much of hiswork is an effort to construct physically based mathematical models of hydrological and geomorphological processesusing a combination of theory and field data.

  • Ph.D., Physics, University of California - Santa Cruz
  • B.S., Physics (summa cum laude), University of Arkansas
  • B.A., Philosophy(summa cum laude), University of Arkansas

Covington, M.D., Prelovšek, M., and Gabrovšek, F., "Influence of CO2 dynamics on the longitudinal variation ofincision rates in soluble bedrock channels: potential feedback mechanisms," in review, Geomorphology.

Luhmann, A.J., Covington, M.D., Alexander, S.C., Chai, S.Y., Schwartz, B.F., Groten, B.S., and Alexander, E.C.Jr.,"Comparing conservative and nonconservative tracers in karst and using them to estimate flow path geometry," Journal of Hydrology, 448-449, 201-211, doi:10.1016/j.hydrol.2012.04.044.

Covington, M.D., Luhmann, A.J., Wicks, C.M., and M. Saar, "Process length scales and longitudinal damping in karst conduits," 2012, Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 117, F01025, doi:10.1029/2011JF002212.

Covington, M.D., Banwell, A.J., Gulley, J., Saar, M.O., Willis, I., and Wicks, C.M., "Quantifying the effects of glacier conduit geometry and recharge on proglacial hydrograph form," 2012, Journal of Hydrology, 414-415, 59-71,doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.10.027.

Covington, M.D., Luhmann, A.J., Gabrovšek, F., Saar, M.O., and Wicks, C.M., "Mechanisms of heat exchange between water and rock in karst conduits," 2011, Water Resources Research, 47, W10514,doi:10.1029/2011WR010683,

Luhmann, A., Covington, M., Peters, A., Alexander, S., Cale, A., Green, J., and Alexander, E., "Classification of Thermal Patterns at Karst Springs and Cave Streams," 2011, Ground Water, 49, 3, 324-335, DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2010.00737.x

Covington, M.D., Wicks, C.M., and Saar, M.O., "A Dimensionless Number Describing the Effects of Recharge and Geometry on Discharge from Simple Karstic Aquifers," 2009, Water Resources Research, 45, W11410,doi:10.1029/2009WR008004.

Public lectures on cave science and exploration

Covington, M.D. (2009). Arduous exploration in one of the world's deepest cave systems. Outdoor Adventure Expo,Minneapolis, November 2009.

Covington, M.D. and M. Minton (2007). The 2007 Huautla Expedition: Connecting Rio Iglesia to Sistema Huautla,National Speleological Society Convention.

Covington, M.D. (2007). High and Low Places in Lechuguilla Cave. Stanford Alpine Club.

Covington, M.D. (2005). Caving at High Altitude in the Peruvian Andes. National Speleological Society Convention

Covington, M.D. and Lane, J. (2001). Gunung Ngalu Seribu, Sumatra: Mountain of 1000 Caves. NationalSpeleological Society Convention.

NSF International Research Fellowship (2010 – 2012)

NSF Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship (2008 – 2009)

National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section Exploration Award (2009)

(awarded to U.S. Deep Caving Team for exploration in Cueva J2)

University of Arkansas's 2002 Phi Beta Kappa Distinguished Scholar