Rathburn studies river flows and watershed response to sediment disturbances, for example, by flooding after wildfires, to predict recovery from such changes.
Rathburn is affiliated with several professional organizations, including the Geological Society of America, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geophysical Union and the Association of Women Geoscientists. She serves as associate editor for Water Resources Research (2018-present); and on the review board for Environmental Management.
Rathburn received a Geological Society of America Fellowship in 2019, and the Gladys W. Cole Memorial Research Award, from the society in 2016. Among other recognitions, she was named the Warner College of Natural Resources Distinguished Teacher/Advisor in 2008.
Rathburn received her B.S. in earth resources from CSU in 1985. She earned her M.S. in geosciences from the University of Arizona in 1989 and her Ph.D. in earth resources from CSU in 2001.