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Anne’s top papers of 2016 + 3 she co-wrote

Yesterday, I posted an epic analysis of my scientific reading habits in 2016, but I didn’t tell you about the papers I read last year that made my heart sing. And I didn’t take much time to brag about my own contributions to the scientific literature. So I’m going to rectify that omission today.

My top 3 papers of 2016 are (in no particular order):

Of rocks and social justice. (unsigned editorial) Nature Geoscience 9, 797 (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2836

The whole thing is absolutely worth reading (and it’s not behind a paywall) but here’s where it really starts to hit home:

Two main challenges stand in the way of achieving a diverse geoscience workforce representative of society: we need to attract more people who have not been wearing checkered shirts, walking boots and rucksacks since secondary school, and we need to retain them.

Waters, C. N., Zalasiewicz, J., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A. D., Poirier, C., Ga?uszka, A., … & Jeandel, C. (2016). The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science, 351(6269), aad2622.

Want an up-to-date, data-rich, and condensed summary of why many scientists think it is time for a new geologic epoch? This is the paper to read.

Wu, Q., Zhao, Z., Liu, L., Granger, D. E., Wang, H., Cohen, D. J., … & Zhang, J. (2016). Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty. Science, 353(6299), 579-582.

I am a sucker for a good mega-paleo-flood story, and this one ticks all of the right boxes. An earthquake generates a landslide, which dams a river, and then fails, resulting in one of the largest floods of the last 10,000 years and alters the course of Chinese history. Geology, archaeology, and history combine in this compelling story.

Plus, a bonus paper, that was definitely one of the best papers I read in 2016.

Shields, C., and C. Tague (2015), Ecohydrology in semiarid urban ecosystems: Modeling the relationship between connected impervious area and ecosystem productivity, Water Resour. Res., 51, 302–319, doi:10.1002/2014WR016108.

I’m cheating a little bit here, because this paper came out in 2015. But I read this paper in 2015, and then I read it twice more in 2016. That’s how much I like it. Why? Because it’s a really nice illustration of how physically-based models can reveal the complex and unexpected ways that ecosystems and watersheds respond to urban environments. In a semi-arid environment, deep rooted vegetation can take advantage of the bonus water that gets delivered from rooftop downspouts that drain out onto the land. The additional water use boosts net primary productivity, potentially enough to offset the loss of productivity that occurred when parts of the landscape were paved and built upon. But while deep rooted vegetation, native to the semi-arid landscape, can take advantage of the bonus water, grass can’t. It’s a cool story, with implications for the way we develop and manage urban landscapes – and the way we model them. (This paper is open access as of January 1, 2017!)

I was thrilled to be able to contribute to 3 papers in 2016. 

Turner, V.K., Jarden, K.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Resident perspectives on green infrastructure in an experimental suburban stormwater management programCities and the Environment, 9(1): art. 4.

In 2015, my team published a paper showing how the installation of bioretention cells, rain gardens, and rain barrels on a residential street in the Cleveland area substantially decreased stormwater runoff. This paper represents the other side of the story – the side that is, just as important (if not more so) – how the people on the street responded to the addition of this green infrastructure. In short, getting residents on board with stormwater management is a big challenge that we’re going to face as we scale-up from demonstration projects to widespread deployment of these technologies. (This paper is open access and free to all.)

Bell, C.D., McMillan, S.K., Clinton, S.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Hydrologic response to stormwater control measures in urban watershedsJournal of Hydrology. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.08.049.

Bell, C.D., McMillan, S.K., Clinton, S.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Characterizing the Effects of Stormwater Mitigation on Nutrient Export and Stream ConcentrationsEnvironmental Management. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0801-4

I’m thrilled that first author Colin Bell completed his doctorate in 2016 and got two papers out to boot. These papers are the culmination of 5 years of research in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the Journal of Hydrology, we try to disentangle the effects of stormwater management from the overall signal of urbanization across 16 watersheds. It turns out that for the level of stormwater management we see in the real world, it’s not enough to counter-act the effects of impervious surfaces (pavement and rooftops) as a driver of the hydrologic behavior of urban streams. In Environmental Management, we aim to understand the influence of stormwater ponds and wetlands on water quality in the receiving streams. This turns out to be quite tricky, because the placement of stormwater management structures spatially correlates with changes in land use, but based on differences in concentration between stormwater structure outflow and the stream, we show that it should be possible. This echoes the findings from our 2015 paper using water isotopes to understand stormwater management influences at one of the same sites. Colin will have another paper or two coming out of his modeling work in the next year or so, and we’re still analyzing more data from this project, so keep your eyes out for more work along these lines.

Teaching graduate seminars is good for an academic’s reading habits (Anne’s 2016 #365papers in review)

1. Introduction

As a scientist, one of my big challenges is to keep on top of the vast and ever-growing body of scientific knowledge about my research and teaching subjects. I’m not the only one who apparently struggles with this task, or wishes she could do more. on January 1st, 2015, Jacquelyn Gill proposed the #365papers idea, which challenged us up the ante on our reading habits. I choose to interpret the 365 part not as a mandate to read a paper every day, or 365 papers in a year, but simply to record what I’ve read over the course of a year. I tweeted each paper I read, faithfully using the #365papers hashtag, and at the end of 2015, I looked back on what I’d read and did some fairly simple analyses. However, 2015 was an exceptional year for me personally because of the birth of my son, and I wasn’t sure how my results would look in a more “normal” year. Hence, like a good scientist, I decided to collect some more data. I hypothesized that I would read and review more papers when back at work full-time, but I thought that there was some potential that my 2 courses per semester teaching load would decrease my reading during the climax of each term.

2. Methods

Based on what a pain-in-the-neck it was to compile all of the metrics that I wanted to analyze at the end of 2015, I decided to alter my methods from the previous experiment. I created a Google spreadsheet to track my reading, including date read, journal, open access, gender and nationality of first author, and more. I began the year by tweeting and storifying the papers I read, as in 2015, but I abandoned the storify mid-year and ended up being a bit haphazard with the tweeting. I only counted papers that I read fully through the results and discussion sections, so there are quite a few papers that I read large chunks of but didn’t make the list because I didn’t finish. I also counted textbook chapters, government publications, and defense-ready dissertation chapters that I read fully, as well as papers and proposals that I reviewed. I didn’t count the many many pages of student writing for class or thesis proposals or the hundreds of great articles I read from Internet publications, magazines or newspapers. I also didn’t count “popular science” or other fiction and non-fiction books I read.

3. Results and Discussion

The data from 2016 support my hypothesis that having an infant depresses my reading rate, but the effects of my teaching load are the most unexpected result of this year’s analysis. In 2016, my list contained 132 items, which is a 70% increase over the 78 items I read in 2015.

3.1 What types of things did I read?

  • 95 journal articles, including 3 that I co-authored that appeared in press in 2016
  • 16 grant proposals as a reviewer
  • 9 manuscripts as a reviewer
  • 4 academic book chapters
  • 4 dissertation chapters
  • 2 government publications
  • 2 GSA special publications

In every category, I read more than in 2015. I read 169% of the number of journal articles I read the previous year. I more than tripled the number of manuscript reviews I did, but this gibes pretty well with my long-term rate of reviewing. In 2015, I had liberally turned down review requests while on maternity leave. Even though I reviewed more in 2016, the ratio of published articles to reviews increased from 3.3 to 3.8 articles per review. This is good, because one of the things I had worried about in 2015 was that my reviewer service (particularly for proposals) was taking away from keeping up with the published literature.

3.2 When did i read?

Graph showing day of year on x axis and % of papers read on the y-axis. Data are reasonably linear.

Figure 1. Cumulative distribution function of my reading in 2016. Spring semester ended around day 135, and fall semester began around day 240. (This graph may be the nerdiest thing I have ever done. I am so proud of myself.)

I passed my 50% mark on June 21st, so I read at a ever so slightly greater rate in the first half of the year than the second. But my biggest reading gap also occurred early in the year, after which I made up for it in a hurry. I honestly can’t quite remember what was going on there.

I had hypothesized that teaching would depress my reading rate, but in fact the opposite phenomenon is observed, as my least literary months were during the summer. I think part of the explanation is that I was teaching a graduate level class each semester, and in these classes I like to focus a lot on getting the students engaged with the primary literature. The end result of that is that I read a lot too. More on that effect in a bit.

Comparison of 2016 to 2015 is provocative. As in 2015, I traveled a lot in June, so that was a good reason for my reading rate to be low. In 2015, I’d suggested that my reading rate went down in the summer because of a more mobile baby, but it appears to be a broader pattern. Maybe something about working for 3 months for free was a disincentive to doubling-down on the reading?

Line graph of reading rate per month for 2 years.

Figure 2. In order to compare 2016 data to 2015, I aggregated my reading into monthly bins.

 

3.3 Why did I read what I did?

New for 2016, I kept track of why I read each paper. Things tagged “general” are those that I read to keep up with a field, while things tagged “research” were those I read in pursuit of a particular paper or proposal. (Or at least that was the intent, I’m not 100% sure I remembered that distinction each and every time.)

Pie graph showing a big blue slice for teaching (48%), ~1/4 each for general and research, and tiny slivers for public engagement and service.

Figure 3. The primary reason I read each paper in 2016. Yes, I know pie graphs are bad, but I like how colorful it is.

I’m really surprised by what a big chunk of my reading budget was occupied by papers read for teaching in 2016. I knew this fall that the only way I was reliably getting reading done was for class, but I didn’t expect it to be nearly half of my total reading this year.

This may go a long way to explaining why my reading rates were higher during the academic year when I was teaching than not. Maybe I’m actually a slacker about reading for research? But it is also important to note that this excludes all forms of reviews and dissertation chapters, which were 22% of my total reading load this year. So maybe I just need a different pie graph next year that factors those reviews and chapters in.

3.4 Who wrote the things I read?

I read 31 articles with women first authors in 2016, and 71 articles with men first authors. (This count excludes the reviews, dissertation chapters and an unsigned editorial.)  That gives me a rate of 30%, which is almost identical to what I reported in 2015. As I said then, this rate “is actually better than the 20% of US earth science faculty positions filled by women, though lower than the 40+% of geoscience PhDs awarded to women.” Of the 102 items where I can reveal authorship, 93 unique author names appeared, so I didn’t tend to read the oeuvre of any particular scientist this year. (Or if I did, that scientist doesn’t always publish as first author.) My rate of unique first authors was similar for women and men.

I also analyzed the country of affiliation for the first authors I read, and the results surprised me. 79% of the articles I read had a US first author, and the only other countries from which I read more than a couple of first-authored papers were Canada, the UK, and Australia. In some ways, I can see, given my area of research, why there would be a US bias in my reading habits, as I need to particularly pay attention to things that inform my understanding of my field research areas, but I didn’t expect the bias to be that substantial. I might make more of a concerted effort this next year to read papers coming out of Europe and non-Western countries, because there’s a lot to be learned outside of the US bubble. (I didn’t record nationality in 2015.)

3.5 How did I get access to the things I read?

18% of the published articles I read were open access (available through the publisher website). That’s lower than what I reported at the end of 2015, but I also discussed how holding a baby and reading on an iPad made me favor open access articles that year. In general, I think open access publishing is clearly the dominant direction that scientific publishing is moving over the next decade, so I’d be surprised if 18% weren’t a decadal minimum for me. I suspect that the number of articles I read in one particular paywalled journal is what is depressing my rate for 2016.

While officially open access articles are still very much a minority of my reading diet, 45% of the articles I read were freely available on the web in some form, either via the publisher, or on an author website, ResearchGate, or “in the wild” via someone’s existing upload (not counting SciHub), often as part of a course webpage. Of those routes to access, those “in the wild” uploads were the ones I most commonly found, though my sense is that ResearchGate is becoming a major player in the sharing of scientific papers.

I’m also happy that one of the three papers I coauthored this year is available from the open access journal that published it. Want to know what homeowners thought about a project to install rain gardens and bioretention cells into their neighborhood? You can read about what we found in Cities and the Environment with no paywall to stand in your way.  I’d like to move to a far higher percentage of open access publishing over the next few years.

3.6 When were the papers written?

Figure 3. Date of publication of papers read in 2016. Note that the very last paper I read in 2016 had a 2017 publication date to it. The oldest paper I read was published in 1953.

Figure 4. Date of publication of papers read in 2016. Note that the very last paper I read in 2016 had a 2017 publication date to it. The oldest paper I read was published in 1953.

 

The results for 2016 are pretty consistent with 2015, and as I said at the time, they are about what I expect to see for someone “keeping up with the field.” I read the most papers that were published in 2016, and the half life of my reading habits is 2 years (so 50% of the publications I read were published in 2014 or thereafter). That’s the same median publication date I reported for 2015, but, interestingly the weighted average of my reading actually moved backwards in time. In 2016, the weighted average publication date was 2006, which is 4 years older than it was in 2015. This is a function of the heavier tale on my distribution as I revisited classic papers for teaching purposes.

3.7 What were the top 5 journals I read?

  1.  Science (19 articles)
  2. Geomorphology (7 articles)
  3. Nature (6 articles)
  4. Water Resources Research (5 articles)
  5. (tie) Freshwater Science and GSA Bulletin (4 articles)

As the year progressed, I had the sneaking suspicion that I was reading a lot more Science than usual, but the results blow me away.  (Science didn’t even make my top 5 list in 2015.) There are a few factors at work here. First, I joined AAAS, so I could go straight from the e-Table of Contents to a digital version of the journal without the hassle of logging in through my university. Thus, there was a lower barrier to reading articles than in the past. Second, I worked on a proposal focused on science education and discovered that Science has published some pretty heavy hitting articles in that field. Third, since I was teaching Fluvial Geomorphology fall semester and we were reading and discussing multiple articles every week, I was revisiting some heavy hitting papers that had been published in the journal over the last few decades. The elevation of Geomorphology and Nature in the standings this year also is an effect of teaching Fluvial Geomorphology I think. Freshwater Science got a boost from a really nice special issue focused on urban ecosystems early in 2016. Water Resources Research is the only hold-over from 2015 to 2016 on my list. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

3.8 How many journals did I read from in 2016?

49.

Boom.

49. If you were giving me the side-eye for reading only 5 articles from Water Resources Research last year (and fewer than that from other major hydrology journals), please pause and reflect that the number of journals that I read from is more than 50% of the number of papers I read. Working on urban aquatic systems and fluvial geomorphology forces me to read broadly, because I am staying abreast of new knowledge hydrology, engineering, ecology, planning, geography and more. Also, this total doesn’t count the manuscript reviews I did, which were for journals much more in line with my hydrological and geomorphological expertise.

3.9 Where did I find all those articles?

New for 2016, I also kept track of where the articles I read first attracted my gaze. 19% of them were tagged “already known”, which are mostly things I was revisiting for teaching purposes and sometimes for research. 17% came to my attention via e-tables of contents, and 9% were identified as part of my backlog from 2015 and prior. In terms of search, my most common search tool was Google Scholar, generating 17% of my reads, and I really didn’t read much I found on Web of Science or other search tools. My preference for Google Scholar has a lot to do with how easy it is to use without having to log in through our library website, even though I really like some of the snazzy tools that Web of Science provides. Other ways I found papers included Twitter (4), colleagues, students, author websites, other people’s syllabi (teaching papers!), and conference talks. And of course a reviewer suggested a paper that my previous reading had missed. Thanks, reviewer!

3.10 What did I read about?

Every article I read I tagged with a primary topic and an optional secondary topic. The topics were chosen from a semi-controlled vocabulary (i.e., I tried to be consistent but wasn’t always). Once again, the data show the clear influence of my Fluvial Geomorphology teaching on my reading in 2016, with a probable secondary effect of my Urban Hydrology teaching, although that’s more difficult to disentangle from my research reading.

Based on primary topic alone, I read:

  • geomorphology (45)
  • urban hydrology (30)
  • science education (7)
  • hydrology (other than urban) (6)
  • diversity/women in science (5)
  • climate science and climate change (3)
  • public engagement and science communication (3)
  • water quality (2)
  • geology/tectonics (1)
  • social science (1)

If you add in the secondary topics (where only about half of papers had were tagged as having one), climate science and climate change jumps into the 3rd position, which makes a lot of sense as I’d be inclined to read articles that talked about the effects of climate on urban aquatic systems and geomorphic processes. Water quality jumps up to tied with science education, and ecology enters the rankings at that same spot as well. Here again, I think we’re seeing a synergy of hydrology and geomorphology and their interactions with other fields of research. In addition to ecology, a few other topics showed up only as a secondary topic. These included policy, land use, archaeology, modeling, and human impacts, and all of these are certainly cognate topics to my research.

4. Conclusions

The most surprising conclusion of this year’s study was the dramatic effect of teaching on my reading. I am teaching much less in 2017 than I did in 2016 (and I don’t expect an infant to be the reason), so I am profoundly curious what my reading rates, reasons, and patterns will look like over the next year. If I ever finish this blog post, I’ve already got two papers queued up to read (thanks, Twitter!).

I’d like to do a better job in the next year of paying attention to multiple dimensions of diversity in my reading, at least in a qualitative sense. I don’t know what percent of women first-authored papers exist in the geosciences, though a cross-disciplinary analysis found 0.42 papers by women authors for every 1 paper by men for US-based authors, suggesting my 30% is pretty much what you’d expect. There’s also some fascinating work on gender bias in the publication process at AGU journals, in terms of submission, acceptance, and reviewing, that was presented at GSA in 2016 and should be out in article form this year. But gender is the easy diversity axis to pick at, along with nationality of author affiliation (which I noted above that I’m not doing well at), and there are also issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality, affiliation type, professional rank and more that may be subtly affecting what I and others read. Collecting data on these intersecting axes is difficult, and I try to read the science I do because of the subject matter not the author, but I need to be aware of how subconscious bias may be leading me to favor some papers over others.

Finally, a much less surprising conclusion is that given a data set, even of dubious scientific value, the scientific mind will not be able to resist the temptation to dive in, analyze the heck out of it, and then share the results with the world. While my data over 2 or 3 or 10 years will never rise above the level of anecdata, imagine if many scientists started carefully tracking their reading habits. What a valuable dataset that would be, adding an incredible richness to our understanding of how scientific knowledge propagates. If you saw the #365papers hashtag pop up on Twitter or elsewhere on January 1 and thought that you couldn’t possibly reach that goal, so why try, I encourage you to take a different tack and use the concept as a vehicle for reflection through an academic version of life-logging. Or maybe we could even call it research.

5. Acknowledgements

Thanks as ever to Jacquelyn Gill for getting this whole thing started and for being a role model for an engaged academic in so many ways. Thanks to Meghan Duffy and Josh Drew for nerding out about your own stats, and much gratitude to all the #365papers participants in 2015-2017 for solidarity, tweeting your reading to keep me inspired, and for important conversations about work life balance. Finally, a special debt of gratitude to my family for putting up with me and all my nerdery.

Watershed Hydrology Trip to Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory

Kent State University Department of Geology’s Watershed Hydrology class visited the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory on April 5-6, 2014. Penn State post-doc Pamela Sullivan gave them a tour of the watershed and its instrumentation, with a focus on how the measurements could contribute to understanding how hydrology drives landscape evolution on shales. The students were introduced to the challenges of hydrologic field work as they attempted to produce a continuous flow of water from a 75′ foot deep well on the watershed’s ridgeline. On Sunday, the students learned and practice water quality sampling protocols and collected water samples from streams and shallow wells in the CZO watershed and in watersheds with differing geology.Temperature, pH, specific conductance, and DO were measured in the field, and ions, cations, and stable isotopes will be measured in laboratories at Penn State and Kent State. The students will discuss these data in class over the next several weeks as they integrate their understanding of how geology and topography control hydrologic flowpaths, streamflow generation mechanisms, and water quality.

students, sign, forest in background

Kent State watershed hydrologists in front of the CZO sign. Photo by Pam Sullivan, April 2014.

Three people, one ISCO.

Pam Sullivan explains how an ISCO water sampler works.

3 students, tubing, filter, bottle.

Collecting a water sample from a well at the SSH CZO.

Kimm with a pipe wrench.

Kimm Jarden and Sebastian Dirringer are put to work cleaning a water retrieval system for one of the deeper wells in the CZO.

Students write in notebooks in a forest near a PVC well.

Recording data on the YSI from one of the shallow wells at the CZO.

The class stayed on the shores of Lake Perez, which has been drained for the last few years to enable repairs on the dam. The lake has just begun refilling, but while empty it has created some interesting research opportunities.

Students in front of a sign for Lake Perez.

Kent State students enjoyed seeing a mostly empty reservoir. It’s neat to be able to see a dam, spillway, and what the reservoir bottom looks like without any water.

Person, grass, tall wells.

Pam Sullivan describes the well field at Katie Creek. This area will soon be inundated by the refilling of Lake Perez. Some wells are being raised up, so that Penn State scientists can assess the effects of the reservoir refilling on local groundwater dynamics.

Kent State students at work collecting water samples at the Katie Creek well field.

Kent State students at work collecting water samples at the Katie Creek well field.

Krista Booth collects a water sample from Lake Perez, which integrates all of the other watersheds we sampled.

Krista Booth collects a water sample from Lake Perez, which integrates all of the other watersheds we sampled.

I’ll try to add some more beauty shots of the CZO watershed at some point, but I wanted to be able to show our class in action in the field.

Congratulations to Darren and Aly!

DarrenCongratulations to Darren Reilly who did a wonderful job defending his MS thesis on Tuesday. Darren’s thesis focused on the identification of groundwater pollution and its sources in rural northeastern Pennsylvania residential water wells. Darren will be preparing his thesis for publication in a journal and is looking for a job in the energy or environmental sectors. Check him out on LinkedIn.

Congratulations also to Alison Reynolds who won first place in the Kent State Undergraduate Research Symposium, Geology/Geography category for her poster on “Sensitivity of precipitation isotope meteoric water lines and seasonal signals to sampling frequency and location.” Aly is a junior this year, and will be continuing to be a valuable member of our research group this summer and next year before heading somewhere fabulous for graduate school.
Aly-poster

Congrats Darren and Aly. It is a pleasure to work with such passionate and dedicated students.

Augers v. Augurs

These are augers.

Black and white photo of screw auger, barrel auger, sampling tube, mud auger, and peat sampler.

NRCS photo of soil augers. Click image for source.

 

This is an augur.

Drawing of robed figure holding curved stick.

A Roman augur. Image from Wikipedia. Click image for source.

 

The free dictionary defines augur as follows:

n.

1. One of a group of ancient Roman religious officials who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens.

2. A seer or prophet; a soothsayer.
v. au·guredau·gur·ingau·gurs
v.tr.

1. To predict, especially from signs or omens; foretell. See Synonyms at foretell.
2. To serve as an omen of; betoken: trends that augur change in society.

v.intr.

1. To make predictions from signs or omens.
2. To be a sign or omen: A smooth dress rehearsal augured well for the play.

 

More often that not, my students I are talking about augering not auguring. Though one could argue that when we make hypotheses, we are in fact auguring. I think however, we should avoid using that word in our writing.

Prof Trelawney and crystal ball from Harry Potter

“I augur that our sites will be quite extensively augered to determine the soil characteristics.”

REU at Kent State – Come work on aquatic-terrestrial linkages in urban ecosystems

Kent State and Holden Arboretum are hosting a summer REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) focused on aquatic-terrestrial linkages in urban impacted ecosystems. Lots of great faculty in geology, biological sciences and other departments are participating, and I would be thrilled to mentor a student through the program. The program will run from June 1st to August 8th, 2014, and applications are due February 17th.

Kent State University and The Holden Arboretum invite applicants for a 10-week summer research training program. Students enrolled in this program will conduct mentored research into the importance of terrestrial-aquatic linkages in the ecology of urban-impacted ecosystems. This research will be designed to examine how human activities such as urbanization, industry, farming, mining, and recreational activities affect the way terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems interact. Projects might compare sites with and without urban impact to examine: nutrient cycling in soils and streams, microbial community composition in forest soils and stream sediments, plant-soil interactions, how shredders modify terrestrial leaf litter input to stream ecosystems, the effects of terrestrial pollutants on aquatic microbial community structure and function, how terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles are affected by human activities such as acid precipitation and land-use change. Along with learning about hypothesis generation, project design, and ethics in research, students will receive additional training archiving data in a geospatial database and will participate in weekly seminars.

To find out more about the program, look at all of the possible mentors and cool projects, and begin the application process, check out the website here.

Anne is wading into streams and science education

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the lovely Bethany Brookshire for her Eureka!Lab blog at Student Science, part of Society for Science and the Public. You can check out the interview on Eureka!Lab or scroll down to watch the video.

I loved doing the interview, for three reasons. First, I like talking about my science (what scientist doesn’t?). Second, Bethany is a friend and a blossoming science writer. But most importantly, Society for Science and the Public (SSP) is a great organization working to foster “understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement: to inform, educate, and inspire.” They are the publishers of Science News and Science News for Students, and they organize the premiere scientific competitions for middle school and high schools. These competitions are what got me engaged with science and encouraged to pursue a scientific career. So I’m always happy to help SSP in any way I can.

The video interview below is aimed at communicating to middle school students about what I do as a professor and hydrologic scientist. After a somewhat awkward start, I hope I did a good job of sharing the excitement and challenges of what I do in a fairly non technical way.

Head over to Eureka!Lab to see a transcript of our conversation.

Collecting Data on the Cuyahoga River in Kent

Next week my Urban Hydrology class embarks on their first project: exploring the potential water quality changes in the Cuyahoga River as it flows through the City of Kent, which is really the first good-sized town on its path to Lake Erie.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll be doing, and you can click through to the attached document to get more details.

Beginning February 5th, we’ll be collecting near-daily water quality measurements of Cuyahoga River water as it flows through Kent. Using the data we collect, we’ll attempt to answer the following questions:
• How does water quality change as the river flows through an urban area?
• How does water quality vary with respect to discharge in the Cuyahoga River?

Each student will sign up for one weekday on the class calendar. On the assigned day, that student will be responsible for taking a suite of measurements at 2-4 locations. The measurements we will take are (1) turbidity, (2) specific conductance, and (3) temperature and we will also collect water samples for later analysis on the Picarro water isotope analyzer. Each student will be required to take one set of measurements at the base of the steps just upstream of Main Street and one set of measurements at the beach just downstream of Summit Street. Students with access to cars are also encouraged to take measurements at the River Bend Road boat launch (at Kent’s upstream end) and at the Middlebury Road boat launch (at Kent’s downstream end). Details of each measurement technique and each site are [in the linked document].

Trail and stairs going down to river. Patches of snow and ice in the scene.

River access just upstream of the Main Street bridge in Kent. This is one of the spots we’ll be using to sample the river.

Anne’s November Navigations

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

I’m not joining the exodus of geoscientists to AGU this week; I’m still recovering from November.

I’m not sure whether I spent more time in Ohio or outside of it last month. The month started with the rain and runoff from our brush with Superstorm Sandy, but by November 2nd I had a car packed full of conference and research gear and was heading south to North Carolina. The drive south was a great chance to watch all sorts of geology go by at interstate speeds. I started out in the glaciated Appalachian Plateau, drove south of the glacial limit, crossed the Ohio River, and was soon in the heart of the Appalachians and West Virginia‘s coal mining country. On Interstate 77, the border between West Virginia and Virginia seems to mark the dramatic transition the Valley and Ridge Province, then it is up on to the Blue Ridge and finally down the Blue Ridge Escarpment and into the Piedmont and North Carolina, finally arriving in Charlotte after eight hours of driving. Climatically, I left the cold and damp, drove through the snow left behind by Sandy, and ended up in the warm, sunny, and very dry south.

The Geological Society of America meeting was a busy time. I convened two sessions, helped lead a field trip and had more meetings for committees and with colleagues than I care to remember. But it was a great time to hear about exactly the sorts of science that I find most interesting and to get out in the field with 50 friends and colleagues to talk about new ideas in geomorphology.

  • Geomorphology of the Anthropocene: The Surficial Legacy of Past and Present Human Activities. We had an amazing slate of speakers that packed the room, fantastic poster presenters that drew a crowd, and we were able to announce that we will be editing a special issue of the new journal Anthropocene with papers from the session. Then the journal’s publisher threw us a special reception.
  • Hydrology of Urban Groundwater, Streams, and Watersheds. This session featured another roster of incredible speakers and a kick-ass set of posters featuring many of my students and colleagues from UNC Charlotte.
  • Kirk Bryan Field Trip: Piedmont Potpourris: New Perspectives on An Old Landscape (and Some of its Younger Parts. The annual syn-meeting field trip of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology division always features good scenery and intense but friendly discussions. This year we looked at an old mill dam site in an urban stream and channel heads and terrace soils near the Catawba River, and then we climbed a monadnock to talk about Blue Ridge escarpment retreat and the long term evolution of landscapes. Plus, we had a delicious lunch of NC barbecue on our able and charismatic field trip leader’s front lawn.

Missy Eppes atop a red soil pit.

Field trip leader Missy Eppes atop a typically red soil profile, on a terrace above the Catawba River.


50 geomorphologists on the front steps

An enthusiastic and well fed group of geomorphologists and Quaternary geologists on a delightful November day.


Geomorphologists on a rock listening to Ryan McKeon

On top of Crowders Mountain, learning from Ryan McKeon.

After the meeting was over, I stuck around Charlotte for a few days, with plans to do a tracer injection in one of my local field sites. As I’ve already shown you, that didn’t work out so well. So I headed back north.

Back in Ohio, I did some exploring of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which was timely given that I am just about to submit a proposal to do work in the headwater streams in and around the park. I also spent a wonderful day with someone from the Ohio EPA, looking at dam removal and stream restoration sites in the region.

Stream with sediment and trees

Headwater stream near Brandywine Creek, CVNP, November 2012.

My fun explorations of Ohio streams were tempered with sadness though. Just before Thanksgiving, my sweet, 14-year old canine companion, Cleo passed away. She was my longest running and most faithful field assistant, and I’ll miss her forever.

Dog meets spring

Cleo, in ~2005, at one of my PhD field sites.

But then it was off to Baltimore to visit with Claire Welty and the folks at the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education, who do some of the coolest urban hydrology work around. They also host the Baltimore Ecosystem Study field site.

Sign on door reads "Baltimore Ecosystem Study"

That was just the warm-up for the real reason for my trip, giving a seminar in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University. My talk was on “drainage network evolution is driven by coupled changes in landscape properties and hydrologic response,” in which I attempted to integrate the Oregon Cascades, North Carolina Piedmont, and urban landscapes. It was a thrill and an honor to give a Reds Wolman seminar at JHU, which is my undergraduate alma mater, and the experience was made even more memorable by a morning spent exploring stream restoration sites with Profs. Peter Wilcock and Ciaran Harman. We saw some sites that made some sense, and some that were a bit…non-sensical? I will come out and say it, I’m not a fan of what happened to the little granite pegmatite knickpoint where I went as an undergraduate to try to pretend I wasn’t really in the city. But a bit farther upstream, I could see the value in installing some nice structures that stabilized banks and increased accessibility to the stream in a park popular with joggers and dog-walkers.

JHU profs Wilcock and Harman discuss the restoration of Baltimore's Stony Run

JHU profs Wilcock and Harman discuss the restoration of Baltimore’s Stony Run

And that pretty much brought me to the end of November. I’m looking forward to no travel in December, at least until the end of the month. But that doesn’t mean I won’t stay busy.