Emily Elliott



Emily Elliott
502 SRCC
4107 O'Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260



As a Professor in the Department of Geology & Environmental Science, Dr. Elliott’s research group examines the tight coupling between human activities and reactive nitrogen distributions in atmosphere, terrestrial and aquatic systems across spatial scales using stable isotope biogeochemistry.  Her research group has advanced knowledge by developing and applying novel stable isotope techniques to challenging questions regarding the impact of human activities on reactive nitrogen distributions and dynamics.  Her research approach is multi-faceted and transdisciplinary, pulling from the fields of biogeochemistry, isotope geochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, hydrology, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, and geography. 


Dr. Emily Elliott is Director and co-founder of the Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach that bridges efforts in water research, governance, and action at the University of Pittsburgh.   She is trained as a Science Ambassador through the National Academies of Sciences “Science & Engineering Ambassador Program” and the 2018 recipient of the American Geophysical Union’s Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring.   She is passionate about the importance of interdisciplinary geosciences for addressing sustainability challenges, advancing diversity and inclusion in the geosciences, community-engaged research, and science communication.   

  • Research
  • Publications
  • Laboratory Members
  • Teaching

Our Research in the Elliott Laboratory group examines the tight coupling between human activities and reactive nitrogen distributions in atmospheric, terrestrial and hydrologic systems at multiple spatial scales using stable isotope biogeochemistry. These coupled relationships are investigated in agricultural, energy production, transportation, and human-built environments to determine how best to manage inputs of reactive nitrogen to protect water quality, air quality, ecosystem and human health.  

Research Areas

Elliott, EM, *Yu Z, Cole AS, *Coughlin JG.  2019.  Isotopic advances in understanding reactive nitrogen deposition and atmospheric processing.  Science of the Total Environment.  Special Issue on Reactive Nitrogen Deposition.  662:393-403.   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.177

*Rose, LA, *Yu, Z, Bain, DJ, Elliott, EM.   2019.  High Resolution, Extreme Isotopic Variability of Precipitation Nitrate.  Atmospheric Environment.  207:63-74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2019.03.012. 

*Yu, Z. and Elliott, EM.  2018.  Probing soil nitrification and nitrate consumption using Δ17O of soil nitrate.  Soil biology & biochemistry.  127(187-199).   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.09.029  

*Yu, Z and Ellliott EM.  2017.  A novel method for nitrogen isotopic analysis of soil-emitted nitric oxide (NO).  Published online May 3, 2017. Environmental Science & Technology.  DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b00592.

*Coughlin, JG, Rose, LA, Bain, DJ, Elliott, EM.  2017.  The Influence of Marcellus Shale Extraction Emissions on Regionally Monitored Dry Reactive Nitrogen Deposition. Published online:  February 24, 2017. Environmental Science & Technology.  DOI:10.1021/acs.est.6b05933. 

*Coughlin, JG, Yu, Z, Elliott, EM. 2017.  The Determination of Efficacy for Passive NO2 Sampler Collection of δ15N-NO2 under Varying Simulated Environmental Conditions.  Published online:  April 20, 2017. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. DOI:10.1002/rcm.7885

*Felix, JD, Elliott, EM, Gay, DA.  2017.  Spatial and temporal patterns of nitrogen isotopic composition of ammonia at U.S. ammonia monitoring network sites.  Available online, Atmospheric Environment. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.11.039

Rose L, Elliott, EM, Adams, MB.  2015.  Triple nitrate isotopes indicate differing nitrate source contributions to streams across a nitrogen saturation gradient.  Ecosystems.  DOI: 10.1007/s10021-015-9891-8

Rose, L, Sebestyen, S, Elliott EM, Koba, K.  2015.  Drivers of Atmospheric Nitrate Processing in Forested Catchments.  Review Article.  Water Resources Research.  51(2):1333-1352.

Felix, JD, Elliott, EM, Avery, GB., Kieber, R, Mead, R, Willey J, Mullaugh, K.  2015.  Isotopic composition of nitrate in sequential Hurricane Irene precipitation samples:  Implications for changing NOx sources.  Short Communication.  Atmospheric Environment.  106: 191-195.

Divers MT, Elliott, EM, Bain, DJ.  2014.  Quantification of Nitrate Sources to an Urban Stream Using Dual Nitrate Isotopes.  Environmental Science & Technology.  48(18):  10,580-10,587. 

Felix JD, Elliott EM, Gish T, Magrihang R, Clougherty J, Cambal, L.  2014.  Examining the transport of ammonia emissions across landscapes using nitrogen isotope ratios.  Atmospheric Environment. 95:563-570.

Felix, JD and Elliott, EM.  2014.  The isotopic composition of passively collected nitrogen dioxide emissions:  Vehicle, soil and livestock source signatures.  Atmospheric Environment.  92:359-366. 

McGuire, KJ, Sebestyen, SD, Ohte, N, Elliott, EM, Gomi, T, Green, MG, McGlynn, ML, Tokuchim, N.  2014.  Merging perspectives in the catchment sciences: the US-Japan Joint Seminar on catchment hydrology and forest biogeochemistry.  Hydrological Processes. 28(5):2878-2880.

Felix, JD, Elliott EM, Gish T, McConnell L, Shaw, S.  2013.  Characterizing the isotopic composition of atmospheric ammonia emission sources using passive samplers and a combined oxidation-bacterial denitrifier isotope ratio mass spectrometer method.  Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.  27(20), 2239-2246. 

Hastings, MG, Casciotti KL, Elliott, EM.  2013.  Stable Isotopes as Tracers of Anthropogenic Nitrogen Sources, Deposition, and Impacts.  Elements:  An International Magazine of Mineralogy, Geochemistry, and Petrology.  9: 339-344.  

Redling, KM, Elliott, EM, Bain, DJ, Sherwell, J.  2013.  Highway contributions to reactive nitrogen deposition:  Tracing the fate of vehicular NOx using stable isotopes and plant biomonitors.  Biogeochemistry. 10.1007/s10533-013-9857-x. 

Felix, JD and Elliott, EM.  2013.  The agricultural history of human-nitrogen interactions as recorded in ice core d15N-NO3.  Geophysical Research Letters.  40, 1–5, doi:10.1002/grl.50209, 2013.  

Divers MT, Elliott, EM, Bain, DJ.  2013.  Constraining nitrogen inputs to urban streams from leaking sewer infrastructure using inverse modeling:  Implications for DIN retention in urban environments.  Environmental Science & Technology.  47: 1816-1823.  DOI: 10.1021/es304331m.  

Felix, JD, Elliott, EM, Shaw, SL.  2012.  The isotopic composition of coal-fired power plant NOx:  The influence of emission controls and implications for global emission inventories.  Environmental Science & Technology.  46 (6):  3528–3535.  

Kaushal, SS, Groffman, PM, Band, LE, Elliott, EM, Shields, CA, Kendall, C.  2011.  Tracking nonpoint source nitrogen pollution in human-impacted watersheds.  Environmental Science & Technology.  45(9): 8225-8232.  


Full list of publications

GEOL 1904 Directed Reading:  Ecosystem Ecology: 
This course explores the complex interactions of Earth’s atmospheric, water, and life systems that determine the chemical characteristics of the environment.  The course examines the distribution, cycling, and transport of chemical compounds in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and terrestrial environment on local and global scales.  Energy sources, production, and impacts to Earth's geochemistry are also explored.  .  

GEOL 3953 Watershed Hydrology and Biogeochemistry:
Understanding the science of watersheds is critical to improving water and ecosystem quality. This course will examine surface water  hydrology, biogeochemistry, and management of watersheds from an interdisciplinary perspective with a focus on how elemental fluxes are exchanged through atmospheric-terrestrial-aquatic interactions.  Taught in alternating years, cross-listed for graduate and undergraduate enrollment.

GEOL 2525 Stable Isotope Geochemistry:
This course provides an introduction to stable isotope systematics of light elements (hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur), principles of mass spectrometry, and applications for environmental systems.  Taught in alternating years, cross-listed for graduate and undergraduate enrollment.

GEOL 3956 Topics in Nitrogen Biogeochemistry:
A graduate seminar for those interested in nitrogen dynamics and biogeochemistry, and isotopic techniques for understanding human impacts to nitrogen cycling.  The format of the course will vary each semester dependent on interests of those enrolled in the course and current research directions.  The course will generally include critical reading and discussion of journal articles, presentation of laboratory and field results, and manuscript preparation.  Offered every semester.