Spring semester 2016 is over! Grades were submitted Saturday night, and my research group was eager to get started with our summer research. Since I’m semi-participating in the #365scienceselfies project, I have some fun documentation of our adventures this week.
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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.
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.
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 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.
Congrats Darren and Aly. It is a pleasure to work with such passionate and dedicated students.
These are augers.
This is an augur.
The free dictionary defines augur as follows:
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·gured, au·gur·ing, au·gursv.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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leaving behind Ohio and the high waters from Sandy, I ventured south in early November for the Geological Society of America meeting in my former home of Charlotte, North Carolina. The meeting was busy and wonderful, and far too packed for me to hear as much science or talk to as many people as I would have wished. After the meeting was over, I stuck around Charlotte for a few days in order to do some field work with one of my graduate students. Our plan was to do a tracer injection in one of the headwater streams that form her field area. Such tracer injections are a bit finicky to schedule…if it’s raining or has recently rained, you can’t do them because the stream discharge won’t be steady over the several hours of the experiment. But Sandy had not dropped any rain on the Charlotte area and the weather was beautiful all during the conference. Nonetheless, my student assured me that there would be plenty of water in the stream, as it had been running well just two weeks prior. Perfect conditions, we thought.
So the afternoon before the experiment, we headed out to the study site to measure discharge and mark the places where we would be collecting samples. My student advised me to wear my hip waders, not knee boots, as she had over topped her boots last time she was in the field.
But…it turns we didn’t need the boots. At all.
Clearly, we could not add our tracer to the streamflow the next day. We were missing one crucial ingredient: streamflow.
One upside to the situation is that it was a very easy call to make. No hemming and hawing and making some sort of judgement about whether things were “good enough” to go for it. We simply couldn’t do the experiment.
It was also stunningly good conditions for walking the channel and looking at the location and conditions of the stream restoration structures and wood jams. And we spent the next day with our heads together working on much more solid plans for the eventual experiment. So, not a total loss.
But now we need to wait, for the right hydrological conditions, suitable ecology, and a time that works in our schedules. Field work is incredibly important for learning about the way that real, complex hydrologic systems work. And it can be incredibly fun. But it can also be filled with frustration…and waiting. In this case, for the “right conditions for a stream tracer injection.”
Over the summer, people asked me whether I was taking the summer off, and I had to explain to them that it wasn’t so much that I had a new job, as that I was simply moving my old job to a new place.* And that’s true in the sense that I am continuing to teach, do research, publish, write grants, review papers and grants, advise students, serve on committees and all those million other things professors do. But now that we are two weeks into the semester in the Department of Geology at Kent State University, I realize that it’s not entirely true, because there are a lot of new things about being in a new place.
My first time starting a professor job, I think I couldn’t truly appreciate and enjoy the “getting to know you” phase of the job, but this time I am trying to actually savor these moments of everything being new and shiny. And I thought I’d share them with you, so that any interested readers could see what it’s like to be a (more or less) newbie professor. Over the last two weeks, I’ve shared a few things on Twitter, but I thought I’d add a little more context here. I hope you enjoy it.
*I wrote and submitted paper, revised another one, spoke at a conference, and helped a student revise and defend his MS thesis while unemployed this summer. Also, I moved. Some “time off”!