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Spring Break: tracer injection in Beaver Dam Creek

Spring Break: tracer injection in Beaver Dam Creek

Spring Break: tracer injection in Beaver Dam Creek

Some of our students are in the field this week, injecting Cl- and Br- into a restored reach and an unrestored reach in tributaries of Beaver Dam Creek. Our goal is to understand the role of wood jams versus restoration structures in promoting stream-hyporheic exchange.

In the photo are Alea, Xueying, and Mackenzie. Photo by Brittany. They’ve got it so capably handled they didn’t even need Sandra or I out there with them today, but I’m going tomorrow for an excuse to be in the field as much as anything.

Spring Break: tracer injection in Beaver Dam Creek

Some of our students are in the field this week, injecting Cl- and Br- into a restored reach and an unrestored reach in tributaries of Beaver Dam Creek. Our goal is to understand the role of wood jams versus restoration structures in promoting stream-hyporheic exchange.

In the photo are Alea, Xueying, and Mackenzie. Photo by Brittany. They’ve got it so capably handled they didn’t even need Sandra or I out there with them today, but I’m going tomorrow for an excuse to be in the field as much as anything.

Spring Break: tracer injection in Beaver Dam Creek

Some of our students are in the field this week, injecting Cl- and Br- into a restored reach and an unrestored reach in tributaries of Beaver Dam Creek. Our goal is to understand the role of wood jams versus restoration structures in promoting stream-hyporheic exchange.

In the photo are Alea, Xueying, and Mackenzie. Photo by Brittany. They’ve got it so capably handled they didn’t even need Sandra or I out there with them today, but I’m going tomorrow for an excuse to be in the field as much as anything.

Another Water REU at Virginia Tech

Dynamics of Water and Societal Systems

An Interdisciplinary Research Program at the Virginia Tech StREAM Lab

2012 NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

June 4 – August 10

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia


Application will be Reviewed Starting February 29th, 2012


Applications are invited from qualified and motivated undergraduate students (rising sophomores, juniors and seniors) from all U.S. colleges/universities to participate in a novel, interdisciplinary, 10-week summer research program at Virginia Tech centered within the university’s Stream Research, Education, and Management Laboratory (StREAM Lab). All REU fellows will serve within several interconnected group projects dealing with issues of water sustainability, ecosystem resilience, and environmental stewardship. As our REU fellows address their specific research questions, they will be mentored by interdisciplinary faculty groups, providing them with a rich and unique perspective on their specific target issues, as well as a more mature and holistic view of watershed management.

U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents are eligible to apply. Successful applicants may be current students in a number of relevant engineering, science, and social science undergraduate disciplines. The research program is funded through the National Science Foundation – Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) program. The 10-week internship will begin on June 03, 2012 (arrival day) at Virginia Tech and end on August 10, 2012 (departure day). The research internship includes a stipend of $4000, subsistence costs (dormitory and most of the meals) and round trip travel expenses (up to $500) per person to Virginia Tech. In addition, expenses will be covered for travel to a conference, most likely the American Ecological Engineering Society conference in Syracuse, NY (June 7-9).

For application materials and more information:

Application materials should be submitted via email to:


Research Activities: Although specific research questions will differ for each cohort of fellows, this REU will broadly focus on introducing students to the complex interactions between the natural Stroubles Creek watershed system and the upland anthropomorphic influences of the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech communities. Fellows will also be encouraged to develop critical thinking and communication skills through a series of “Society and Science” evening lectures and discussions designed to promote cross-disciplinary interactions and networking, and through the guided design of outreach activities intended to engage minority middle school students in summer science camps.

We will begin reviewing application submission on February 29, 2012. Successful applicants will be informed by March 19, 2012. Please contact Dr. W. Cully Hession (540-231-9480; or Dr. Leigh Anne Krometis (540-231-4372; for more information or with any questions. [NSF-Engineering Education and Centers #1156688]

Water Science and Engineering Research Experiences for Undergraduates at Virginia Tech and Florida

Undergraduates – Are you looking for a way to gain research experience and get an edge on grad school preparedness? Are you interested in water? Then check out these two opportunities to spend the summer studying water science and engineering.  I know a couple of faculty at Virgnia Tech, and I can highly recommend working with them. The program at Florida sounds good too. 


Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Application Deadline February 24, 2012

Applications are invited from qualified and motivated undergraduate
students (rising sophomores, juniors and seniors) from all U.S.
colleges/universities to participate in a 10-week (June 03-August 10,
2012) summer research in interdisciplinary water sciences and
engineering at Virginia Tech. We have already graduated 36 excellent
undergraduate researchers from our site during 2007, 2008, 2009, and
2011. Application materials, details of ten Research Mentors along
with possible research projects and other program activities are
posted on following website:

Example Projects:

Natural Attenuation of Contaminants in Groundwater
Hydrology and Hydraulics Impacts on Ecological Health of Surface Waters
Bacterial Contamination of Water Distribution and Plumbing Pipelines
Water Quality for Human Health and Aesthetics
Investigation of Occurrence and Fate of Organic Contaminants in a
Watershed Impacted by Urban Development
Hypolimnetic Oxygenation:  Coupling Bubble-Plume and Reservoir Models
Design and Application of a Real-Time Water Monitoring System
Water-Energy Nexus and Decentralized Water Infrastructure
Bioremediation of Oil Spills
Analysis of Patterns of Macroinvertebrate Density and Distribution
in Strouble’s Creek

Deadline for application submission is February 24, 2012. Successful
applicants will be informed by March 12, 2012. Please contact Dr.
Vinod K Lohani (phone: (540)231-9545; FAX: (540) 231-6903; for questions

The University of Florida invites applications for an interdisciplinary research program in water resources from undergraduate students in their sophomore, junior, and senior years, majoring in engineering or related fields in science and math. Selected students will conduct hands-on research projects for eight weeks, involving field/laboratory experiments, theory, and computer modeling. The students will be distributed across Florida during the program. This unique program combines research and extension experiences in water resources to help convey research results for better water management.
PROGRAM: June 11 – August 3, 2012. Includes all travel expenses, stipend, housing, and meals.
ELIGIBILITY: US citizens or permanent residents who are in their sophomore/junior/senior year of study. Students at non-research institutions and those who are underrepresented in engineering and science are particularly encouraged to apply.
CONTACT: Mr. Daniel Preston (
Deadline of receipt is February 1, 2012.
Application form and instructions available online at

Getting good stream temperature measurements without losing your probes

Tidbits temperature probeNote: I use stream temperature to understand groundwater-stream interactions and the response of streams to urbanization. Since ~2004, my stream temperature probe of choice has been the Tidbits temp probe, manufactured by Onset corporation. I like them because they are +/-0.2C and extremely durable, watertight, and reliable. Plus, I’ve had good customer service experiences with the manufacturer. What follows is my attempt to explain how I deploy them in the field, based on my cumulative experience and what I’ve learned from others. Please comment and add your own ideas and experiences, and I’ll amend the protocol as needed.

Getting ready for the field

  1. Obtain Tidbits temperature probes and the associated HoboWare Pro software. Read the documentation and learn how they work.
  2. Using the delayed start feature in Hoboware, set all of the temperature probes to start at the same time and at the same sampling interval. I like to set them to start evenly on the hour. It makes analysis easier later.
  3. You can’t change the calibration of the temperature probes within the software, and they should come pre-calibrated, but you should still check the calibration of your temperature probes relative to a certified thermometer and to each other. I recommend a 3 stage calibration check process, but you’ll want to do at least 2 temperatures that bracket the range of range conditions you expect to measure. You need to do each of these for a couple of hours, because while the response time in water is ~5 minutes, it is slower in air.
    • An ice bath (with stirring) or the refrigerator.
    • Room temperature, out of direct light, in a room with fairly stable temperatures for a couple of hours.
    • Depending on what temperature your streams are likely to be, you might want a temperature intermediate between the refrigerator and room temperature. (I’d love to hear your suggestions for an easy, good intermediate cool temperature.)
    • Or, if you are interested in summer headwater stream temperatures, you could use something like a consistenly shady area outside. I’ve also used my backpack, by putting all of the probes in the same container inside it, and then hiking around with them for several hours prior to installation.
  4. Download the Tidbits after the calibration check, and reset them for a simultaneous start on the day you’ll be deploying them in the field. I’ve used a 15 minute interval for projects where daily and seasonal fluctuations were of interest; but since we are now interested in storm response, I think we should set them to log at 5 minute intervals (in Celsius, please!).
  5. If there are extra tidbits available, I recommend deploying one in the air, in a shady area near the stream at each field site. I’ve hung them from a tree branch with fishing line, and a homebuilt radiation shield. My radiation shield was a gallon milk jug with the bottom cut off. The tidbit fit through the top opening, and then I screwed the top back on, so that the Tidbit hung freely within an area shaded on the top and sides by the milk jug.

Selecting your field site

There are several very important things to consider when selecting your probe site. You are probably going to have to compromise somewhere in this list at some of your sites, but this is what to strive for.

  1. It meets your scientific objectives (i.e., is positioned appropriately relative to a stormwater BMP, restoration structure, tributary junction, or other field sampling/equipment site.)
  2. The probe will be under flowing water under a wide range of flow conditions. Good places include the channel thalweg or a pool that will not go stagnant (e.g., below a rock outcrop or structure that directs all streamflow into the pool).
  3. The probe will out of direct sunlight at all times of day, as best as possible. Deep shade, an overhanging bank, or an incised reach is good. Peak water temperatures occur in the mid- to late-afternoon, so this is the most important time to check and make sure your site is out of the sun. Adding a cobble on top of your probe, without completely burying the probe in the streambed, is another good way to keep the sun off of it (and to make it less likely to be discovered or banged up during high flow). If you think sun exposure is likely to be a problem (or your data suggest that it is), you should take measurements of shading with a densiometer. Measuring shading won’t fix the problem, but at least you’ll be able to discuss it.
  4. The probe placement is as geomorphically consistent with other probes in the project as possible.
  5. The probe can be discretely and securely attach the probe to something very stable. I’ve almost always used streamside trees, but a post holding other equipment would work too.
  6. The probe should be located somewhere it is possible to bring it up onto the bank while still cabled, so that the Tidbit can be downloaded into the laptop without having to balance the laptop in the middle of the stream.

Deploying the probe

  1. Loop steel cable through the hole on the Tidbit, and crimp the loop shut with a hand swager (like this one). I have cabling, crimps, a swager, and a cable cutter available in my lab.
  2. Measure out an appropriate length of cable to reach the secure attachment site, loop around it, and cut and crimp the cable. I like to give the cable enough room so that it can lie flush with the stream bed and bank and let the probe be in the thalweg, under a rock, but I try not to give it too much slack to get caught on things or let the probe go banging down the stream if it gets dislodged. And, of course, I never make a loop around a tree very tight
  3. Put the probe in the stream. If possible, place a cobble on top of it so that water flows under the cobble and the probe doesn’t get smooshed into the streambed.
  4. Mark your field site with (1) GPS coordinates, (2) discrete flagging or a stake, (3) write down really good field notes describing the site and how you got there, and (4) take photos of everything (like the ones below). Write your field notes so that your advisor(s) can find the site 2 years from now without your help. (Thanks!)

Note: We have tried a variety of methods for securely attaching the Tidbits temperature probes to a fixed object. Rope gets abraded, degraded, and eventually breaks in high turbulence and velocity flows. High test fishing line broke as well during a high flow in a first order stream. We have settled on steel cable, thin enough to thread through the hole of the Tidbits and secured by crimping, as shown below. Recently, we discovered that several of the cables that had been deployed for ~2 years had rusted and broken and that we’d lost the temperature probes at some point since we’d last downloaded their data. I’ve now heard that some people are using plastic coated steel wire. Maybe we should consider that as an alternative to the unocated cable.

I still believe that the steel cabling is a good attachment method, but our experience reminds me of the importance of regularly checking on field equipment. Even if the temperature probe can collect a year’s worth of data before its memory fills up, I’d recommend downloading the data at least once every 3 months (in a non-flashy stream) and doing a thorough check of the cable integrity each time. In urban streams, I now recommend downloading table and checking cable integrity every 2 weeks. Data from a lost probe can never be recovered.


Attachment for temperature probe at Deep Creek site DC 12, during the fishing line-era of installation. The flagging was also labeled with a project and site identifier.

The Tidbits is under the triangular rock at the center of the photo.

The Tidbits is under the triangular rock at the center of the photo. You might be able to see the line extending to it. Good points about this site: A rock protector with good water flow under and around it and good shading. Bad points: Not a lot of flow depth here, but we were at the seep initiating this stream. We had an air temperature probe at this site as well, and the water temperature was always significantly muted relative to the air temperature fluctuations.

Thanks to Sarah Lewis for adding her wise comments to via email. She taught me a lot of this stuff in the first place!

Ralph McGee and Cameron Moore will graduate next week!

Major congratulations to two Watershed Hydrogeology Lab graduate students who have finished writing their MS theses and will defend them next week. Ralph McGee and Cameron Moore both started in our MS in Earth Science program in August 2009, and less than two years later they have each completed impressive MS projects on headwater streams in Redlair Forest of the North Carolina Piedmont.

Ralph McGee will present his research on “Hydrogeomorphic processes influencing ephemeral streams in forested watersheds of the southeastern Piedmont U.S.A.” on Thursday, May 12th at 10:00 am in McEniry Hall, room 111 on the UNC Charlotte campus.

The unofficial title for Ralph’s work is “Tiny Torrents Tell Tall Tales.” Watch the video below to see why.

Cameron Moore will present his research on “Surface/Groundwater Interactions and Sediment Characteristics of Headwater Streams in the Piedmont of North Carolina” on Friday, May 13th at 9:00 am in McEniry Hall, room 111 on the UNC Charlotte campus.

When Cameron started working on this project, I had thought that the story would focus on how fractured bedrock contributed to groundwater upwelling in the streams, but it turns out the small debris jams (like the one below) are the dominant driver of groundwater/stream interactions and spatial variability of channel morphology.

Debris jam in Deep Creek

Looking upstream at a debris jam in Deep Creek

Faculty, students, and the public are encouraged to attend the presentations and ask Ralph and Cameron any questions they may have.

Hydrologist + professor = Anne's answers to career profile questions

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

A few weeks ago, I was asked to answer some questions for a career profile section of a website aimed at students looking at college degree options. The website creators wanted to use me as their profile of a hydrologist, maybe because hydrology has been dubbed one of the “50 best careers for 2011” and “should have strong growth in the next decade.” As US News reported in December, “There were 8,100 hydrologist jobs in 2008, and the Labor Department projects that employment will grow more than 18 percent by 2018.”

I’ve included below my answers to the generic career profile questions I was asked, but I was unable to completely disentangle my scientific profession as a hydrologist from my career as a university professor. Hydrologists working in industry or government would have somewhat different takes on day-to-day work life than I do. Nonetheless, I hope my answers might be useful to students trying to decide “what to be when I grow up.”

What do you do, and why did you decide to pursue this career field?
I am an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. My research and teaching focus on water, so I am a hydrologist.

The sorts of research questions that fascinate me are: “What controls whether a rain drop ends up running over or through the soil into a stream channel within hours to weeks versus sinking down and becoming groundwater that spends years to centuries underground before maybe emerging in that same stream at a spring? How do the topography and geology of a landscape affect the sensitivity of streams and groundwater to floods, droughts, and climate change? How do human activities like urban development, stormwater management, and stream restoration affect floods, low flows, groundwater recharge, and water quality?”

My hometown is on the Mississippi River and its identity and economy is strongly tied to the river. In 1993, while in high school, I got to see the incredible dynamism of the river in action during a record-breaking flood. I was hooked, and decided to study geology in college. My first experiences with scientific research thrilled me – being the person to collect and analyze the data and answer a question that had never before been answered. In order to choose my own research projects in hydrology, I knew I needed a Ph.D.

What type of preparation did you do to get into this field, such as educational experience and work experience?

I have a BA degree in Earth and Planetary Science from The Johns Hopkins University, a MS degree in Water Resources Science from the University of Minnesota, and a PhD in Geology from Oregon State University. After my PhD, I spent time as a post-doctoral researcher before getting my job at UNC Charlotte.

All through school, I was involved with research. As an undergraduate, I did a summer “Research Experience for Undergraduates” at the Smithsonian and a senior thesis on soil water isotopes. Graduate degrees in the sciences are heavily research oriented, and both my MS and PhD projects involved lots of work in the field – wading in streams to measure the amount of flow and collecting stream water, snow, and rock samples. They also involved a lot of time in front of the computer trying to make sense of all of the data I had collected.

While I was in school, I had a couple of work experiences related to water policy and management, since those are also interests of mine. As an undergraduate I did an internship with an environmental organization in Washington, DC, and as a MS student I worked for a county planning department and for the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center. These sorts of experiences aren’t required for a hydrology professor, but, for me, they provide valuable context for my scientific research.

If your education was directly related to your career, what types of classes and projects did you have to do?

There are many different undergraduate majors possible for people interested in working with water. Among the most common are civil and environmental engineering, geology or earth science, and geography. There are only a handful of universities that offer undergraduate degrees in hydrology or watershed science, though graduate programs specifically related to interdisciplinary training in water resources science are increasing. As an undergraduate, I recommend getting a strong base in the fundamental courses and concepts in your major, and then adding water-related classes as you have time. If you don’t get a deep enough base in a traditional discipline, you may find that potential employers or graduate advisors don’t understand what skills and knowledge you have.

Regardless of your major, if you are interested in hydrology, take as much math, chemistry, and physics as you possibly can during your high school and undergraduate years. Those classes will give you critical background for your hydrology classes. By the time I was done with my PhD, I’d taken the equivalent of six semesters of math (calculus, differential equations, and beyond), two semesters of statistics, two semesters of physics, and three semesters of chemistry. I sometimes wish I’d taken more, and I definitely wish I’d taken a computer programming class. Another thing I I recommend for almost anyone interested in hydrology is a class (or more than one) in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is a powerful tool for anyone interested in understanding how natural resources are distributed across a landscape, and some employers may expect at least a little familiarity with GIS.

If you decide to go to graduate school, you may find the array of classes that you can choose from to be dizzying. Work carefully with your graduate advisor and your committee to select a set of classes that will serve your graduate research project *and* your future career plans well. There’s no one standard set of classes for people seeking graduate degrees in hydrology, but I took classes like “Forest and Wetland Hydrology”, “Hillslope Hydrology”, “Groundwater Hydraulics,” “Sediment Transport,” and “The Role of Fluids in Geological Processes.” I also took classes that wouldn’t appear to have anything to do with water, things like “Volcanology” and “Glacial Geology”. Those classes were helpful as I continued to increase my depth of knowledge in geology, and because they provide a supporting framework for understanding problems in hydrology. However, the most important part of graduate school is learning to do scientific research and to communicate it well. You’ll learn that outside the classroom through working with your advisor, your committee members and collaborators, and your fellow graduate students.

How did your education help you in your career?

My education through a Ph.D. was absolutely essential to enable me to become a university professor in hydrology. While there are some limited teaching-intensive positions that might not require a completed Ph.D., if your goal is to teach and do research at the university level, you must complete a Ph.D.

What was your career path like in this field? For example, did you begin in one position and advance through others to reach where you are now?

I am in my first position as a university professor. Before getting my job at UNC Charlotte, I had gained some valuable teaching experience as an instructor for an Oregon State University summer session class, and I spent about a year as a post-doctoral researcher expanding my research skills, but this position is the first one to call on all aspects of my training – and then some.

What types of skills is someone required to have to work in your position?

My job requires me to have both deep and broad knowledge of hydrology and related fields, but there are many other skills that are necessary to be a successful hydrologist and university professor. In no particular order, someone like me needs skills in:

  • Written communication – I need to be able to communicate to both technical and non-technical audiences. The written form is the primary way I share my research results with other scientists and secure funding to continue doing my work. I spend a lot of time reading and commenting on student writing, and I also have to write things like letters of recommendation.
  • Oral communication – My job involves speaking to large groups, creating an interactive classroom environment, and communicating one-on-one or in small groups with students and colleagues. Teaching is about 50% of my job and being a communicator and a good listener is vital to being a good teacher.
  • Quantitative, statistical, and computer usage– I spend lots of time in front of a computer analyzing data and doing spatial analysis in GIS. Of course, computing grades also requires low level quantitative skills. 😉
  • Creativity – As a PhD-level scientist, I get to pick the research projects on which I want to work. That means I get to dream them up, and then figure out how to make them feasible.
  • Outdoors – When I get out in the field, skills like map reading, water safety, wilderness survival, and being able to “read” the landscape and weather are essential to keeping my students and I safe and getting the data we want to collect. For some hydrologists, the necessary outdoor skills might include whitewater kayaking or rafting or operating motorboats or snowmobiles.
  • Lab skills – Although most of my data comes from the field, I also do some more traditional laboratory analyses. That means that I need to do things like pipette, clean glassware, and properly store chemicals.
  • Construction – This might sound odd, but I’ve learned to be handy with PVC, wood, metal cable and various other construction materials. My students and I are constantly designing and building our own apparatuses to measure things like peak water height and to safely secure them at our field sites.
  • Personnel and budget management – In some ways, being a researcher is a lot like being a small business owner. It is important for me to be a good mentor to my students, so they learn how to do research, write a scientific paper, and get their degrees. For each research project with which I’m involved, I have to carefully manage the budget so there’s enough money to do the work to completion.
  • Time management – There is absolutely never, ever enough time in the day to get through all of the things that I need to do for my job. Figuring out how to prioritize, work efficiently, and just let go of the things that can’t be done is probably one of the hardest challenges for a new assistant professor. Four years in, the time crunch hasn’t gone away, all I can say is that I’ve gotten inured to it.

What do you do on a typical work day?

Over the course of a typical work week, I spend 4-12 hours in the classroom teaching, 12-30 hours preparing for class and grading papers, 3-8 hours meeting with undergraduate and graduate students about classes or research, a couple of hours in faculty or committee meetings or meetings with research collaborators, several hours dealing with email accumulation, and an hour or two doing what is called “service”, which includes things like peer-reviewing papers or grant proposals and evaluating scholarship applications.

And all of that is before I get to my own research time for generating and analyzing data and writing papers and grant proposals. If I’m really lucky I get to go in the field by myself, with students, or with collaborators. Or I sneak into the lab and run some samples. I try to carve out at least a full workday per week for research time, and I wish I could do more. Summers and holidays give me a bit more room to spend time on research, but in order to keep research going smoothly, it’s imperative that I make time for it even during the busiest teaching periods.

You can probably see that it is very easy to work far more than 40 hours per week as an assistant professor. That’s why I listed time management skills as a requirement for my job.

Do you plan to advance to another position within your career field? If so, to what position and why?

The general progression for a university scientist is to spend about six years as assistant professor, before applying for tenure and a promotion. The next stage is associate professor, and after that you can go onto become a full professor. If you have an interest in and a knack for management, you can try to become the head of a department or even a dean.

As for me, for now, I’m focused on doing good quality research and teaching to prepare myself to apply for tenure in less than two years. I’m trying to mix writing up completed projects, with keeping on-going projects progressing steadily, and writing grants to support new research. That’s not going to change, even with tenure.

What type of person do you think is best suited for a job in your field?

In order to be successful in my career, you have to be highly self-motivated. Love of the outdoors, being thrilled by discovery and data, a passion for teaching, a fascination for your subject…all of these are necessary things too. But they are not sufficient unless you are motivated enough to keep working hard in the face of failure (experiments gone wrong or equipment breakage), rejection (lack of funding for a grant proposal or negative reviews on a paper), long hours (there’s lots of grading), bad weather (working in 100 degree heat or freezing weather), and no one looking over your shoulder (you are your own boss). What keeps me motivated in the face of all that? That’s where the love of the outdoors, the thrill of discovery, a passion for teaching, and a fascination for water come in to play. I’ve got the best job in the world. For me.

Do you have any advice for those who are looking to launch a career in your field?

To summarize: Pick something that fascinates you. Get involved with research projects early and often. Take lots of math. Learn your field deeply and broadly both in the classroom and outside it. Don’t neglect to develop important skills just because they are not taught in formal classes. Learn to manage your time well. Have a passion for what you do and let that be your motivation. And make sure to get outdoors and be around water as often as you can, because that’s what reminds you of the fascination and passion that motivated this career choice in the first place.

The Science of Streams in the City

Cross posted at Highly Allochthonous

Urban stream, Charlotte, NC (photo by A. Jefferson)

Urban stream, Charlotte, NC (photo by A. Jefferson)

It’s not as breathtakingly beautiful and soul-cleansing as crystal clear springs in forested mountains, but this is the present and future of many of the world’s streams, and the way that most people interact with their local stream and watershed, if they even think about it all. With over half of the world’s population now living in cities, and with streams serving simultaneously as water supply and wastewater disposal system for that population, there is an urgent need to understand how streams, groundwater, and ecosystems survive, adapt, or are extinguished by urban development. In a sense, urban watersheds are the future of hydrologic science, aqueous biogeochemistry, and stream ecology.

It took me moving to a rapidly-growing, sprawling southeastern city before I saw the light of urban hydrology, but the more time I spend looking at the waters around me, the more intriguing and applied questions I find myself asking. Do stormwater ponds serve as point sources of groundwater recharge? What happens to stream temperature with different styles of development and stormwater management? And what difference does that make for stream ecosystems? Does stream restoration change hyporheic exchange and surface water storage in an ecologically beneficial manner? Fortunately, not only has North Carolina piqued my interest in urban watersheds, but it has provided me with a set of like-minded colleagues and collaborators with whom I am developing new projects. This month the first two of those projects have begun to bear fruit, in the form of a new paper and a new research grant.

In an open-access paper published in the journal Water, my colleagues and I review the state of the science and identify the open questions in watershed hydrology and in-stream processes in the southern United States. We conclude that while we understand some hydrologic impacts of urbanization reasonably well, there’s a lot we don’t have a great handle on. For example, we call for more research on developing comprehensive water budgets for urban watersheds; evaluating the combined impacts of land-use and climate change; understanding how pre-urbanization land-use history affects stream response; integrating hydrologic connectivity with biogeochemical cycling; and developing a clearer understanding of the complex interactions between catchment and in-stream processes in urban systems. You can read the whole paper by O’Driscoll et al. (2010) in the open-access journal Water.

Along with colleagues Sara McMillan and Sandra Clinton at UNC Charlotte and Christina Tague at UCSB, I’ll be looking at the effects of stormwater management practices on urban headwater streams. We’re taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines hydrology, temperature, water quality, nutrient processing, and macroinvertebrate assemblages through field measurements and modeling. We’re interested in whether the flow and water quality benefits of stormwater management that are seen by comparing pond inflow and outflow actually translate into differences in ecosystem function in the receiving streams. And we’re looking for graduate students to come work with us and help us find the answers. If you are considering graduate school and are interested in hydrology, stream ecology, or biogeochemistry, check out the project description and application instructions here.

Diversity in the geosciences and the impact of social media

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

ResearchBlogging.orgOne year ago, Kim Hannula, Pat Campbell, Suzanne Franks, and I launched a survey about women geoscientists reading and writing in the blogosphere. We presented the results at the Geological Society of America meeting, and Kim wrote a great post summarizing and discussing our data. Then I took Kim’s post, polished it up with great wording and thinking suggestions from all of the co-authors and submitted it for publication. It went out to reviewers and a few months later, we were accepted for publication.

In the September issue of GSA Today, you can find our article on The Internet as a resource and support network for diverse geoscientists. We wrote the article with with the idea of reaching beyond the audience that already reads blogs (or attends education/diversity sessions at GSA), with the view that we might be able to open some eyes as to why time spent on-line reading and writing blogs and participating in Twitter might be a valuable thing for geoscientists to be doing. And, of course, we had some data to support our assertions.

GSA Today is an open-access journal, so everyone can and should go ahead and read the whole 2-page paper. But if you want a few highlights, here are some selections from the paper:

The online opportunities for mentoring, networking, and knowledge sharing may be particularly valuable for women and minority geoscientists. Virtual networks offer opportunities to provide support and reduce the professional isolation that can be felt in physical work environments where there are few colleagues of a similar gender, race, or ethnicity. …

Women reported professional and social benefits from reading blogs. We used a five-point scale (1: strongly agree; 3: neutral; 5: strongly disagree) to assess perceived benefits. Of the professional benefits, respondents were most positive about learning things outside their specialty (avg. 1.9), followed by learning within their specialty (avg. 2.3), learning about pedagogy (avg. 2.4), and learning about technology (avg. 2.5). Based on these responses, we conclude that these women blog readers perceive positive professional benefits from their online reading. This suggests that social and other online media could be strategically used to supplement the resources available to all geoscientists, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, geographic location, or employment status. …

Geoscience students perceived the strongest benefits from blog reading, while faculty most strongly agreed that blogs helped them find role models and normalize their experience by finding that many other faculty share their experiences and perspectives. Women in industry perceived less social benefit from blog reading than those in academia, but women in government were the most negative about their blog-reading experiences. In particular, their responses indicated that blog reading had not been helpful to them in finding role models. …

Blogs and other social media may provide a source of community and role models for women geoscientists and help in the recruitment and retention of women from undergraduate education to faculty or industry careers. Our survey results show that blogs are already providing valuable benefits to white, academic women geoscientists, but that existing social media networks could be doing a better job of supporting minority geoscientists and those outside academia. We believe that professional societies, employers, funding agencies, and individual geoscientists should recognize the potential value of social media for supporting a diverse geoscience community. To be effective, such recognition should be accompanied by policies that encourage geoscientists to actively participate in geoscience-related social media opportunities. …

As a white woman geoscientist in academia, I have definitely personally and professionally benefited from my blog reading and writing time. (I even have a publication to show for it!) But I would to love to hear more from minority and outside-of-academia geoscientists about what blogs, Twitter, and other internet-based forms of support could be doing to better support you. As you can see from the paragraph above, what we ended up advocating was that institutional support for blogging and blog-reading would help increase participation. We thought that, with increased participation, more minority and outside-of-academia geosciences voices would emerge, helping others find support, community, role models, and mentoring in voices similar to their own. Meanwhile those of us closer to the white/academic end of the spectrum could learn from all that a diverse geoscientist community has to offer.

One final note, I’m a newbie member of the Diversity in the Geosciences committee for the Geological Society of America. If you have ideas for how GSA could be doing a better job of promoting and supporting diversity off-line and/or on-line, please let me know.

Jefferson, A.J., Hannula, K.A., Campbell, P.B., & Franks, S.E. (2010). The Internet as a resource and support network for diverse geoscientists GSA Today, 20 (9), 59-61 : 10.1130/GSATG91GW.1

My fall 2010 schedule

I’ve got a light teaching schedule this semester, in compensation for a killer load last spring. I’m planning to do a fair amount of field and lab work on Thursdays and Fridays. Here’s where to find me the rest of the time…but you might want to click to embiggen to see all the details:
Dr Jefferson's fall 2010 schedule

Women geo-types on Twitter

This page is an archived version of the women geo-types list that I maintain on Twitter. Women geo-types lists the Twitter accounts of women who tweet about the geosciences or identify as geoscientists in their Twitter bios. The list was originally compiled using the AGU-maintained list of geo-space-ocean scientists on Twitter, which I supplemented with other women tweeting about the geosciences or identifying themselves as geoscientists. The list below was current as of 26 June 2010, but the list on Twitter itself is continually updated as I discover accounts for inclusion.

  • mineralphys. Mineral briefs from a UCLA professor
  • GeologyStudent. I’m a grad student studying geosciences
  • MTHellfire. geophysicist. ranchgirl. antiwar. slave to dogs. music wonk. realist. tweets are mine.
  • perrykid. M.S. student in contaminant hydrogeology, native New Mexican, easily distracted by bright shiny things.
  • stardiver. the geo-scientist as hero
  • highlyanne. Hydrologist, geomorphologist, hydrophillic geologist, whathaveyou.
  • sarahkendrew. postdoc astronomer
  • lunarkatz. Earth-scientist-turned-educator: Sharing Earth and space science with the universe … one child (or inquisitive adult) at a time …
  • mactavish. Love: Astronomy, all aspects of physical geography, and finding ways to be happy.
  • BraveBluewords. Oceanographer, writer, educator, advocate. Focus: oceans, climate change. Writing science and sci-fi. Love books, veggie gardening, yoga, & eating gluten-free!
  • martian1113. I am a Space Station Training Lead at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
  • kaylai. PhD student at Cambridge University. Experimental petrologist/volcanologist studying Mt. Erebus, Antarctica. Science writer for @TrekMovie
  • robinbell. Geek, Scholar, Advocate, Mom, Sailor
  • absolutspacegrl. Space Shuttle Mission Control worker bee until Shuttle goes away. Mechanical Engineer. Geek. Star Wars fangirl. Skeptic. My views are my own.
  • khoney. Marine biologist & interdisciplinary environmentalist. Originally from Maine, now NorCal. Stanford PhD Candidate. Work hard-play hard: sail,surf,ski,trek,travel
  • DrLucyRogers. Author of It’s ONLY Rocket Science – An Introduction in Plain English. Also Engineer, Astronomer and Freelance Science Writer.
  • naoshin. Doing my PhD in plasma physics and intl scientific and humanitarian outreach projects on the side.
  • thevolcanolady. Volcano Hunter,National Geographic Photographer/Explorer, Devoted Wife, If I was a drink I’d be a peppermint hot chocolate.
  • Ele_Willoughby. Marine geophysics Research Associate at the University of Toronto
  • geosteph. science educator, geologist, NASA geek, softball player, aunt, mom to Logan (dog) and Kinsey (cat)
  • sandrift. Planetary geologist, photo hobbyist (Flickr: sandrift)
  • Charlotte_Hird. Graphic Designer Geologist Astronomer Chook fancier Cook Bottlewasher
  • geokaren. amateur foodie, longtime geospatial geek – ok, not so geeky anymore but still a fan!
  • Gabrielse11. UCLA Space Physics grad student always up for adventure!
  • simX. Geologist, Wannabe Bigwig Mac App Programmer, ClickToFlash Developer (one of many)
  • missyleone. This is ponderous, man, really ponderous.
  • bethannbell. I’m a geochemistry PhD student studying the early era of Earth’s history.
  • Monkeyskunk. Figuring out where to go in life….perhaps an active volcano?
  • betsymason. Science editor for, geologist, beer snob, calm assertive pack leader.
  • weimang.
  • pehGU.
  • lizzieday. Geophysics PhD student
  • marssciencegrad. I’m a recent PhD in transition between grad school and the real world! I study Mars using visible and near-IR spectroscopy and will soon be working on MSL.
  • kennicosmith. Currently, a NASA scientist…
  • IntrplnetSarah. Lunar geologist
  • CatherineQ. Astrophysicist, over-thinker, autoimmune illness girl, lover of beautiful things in all forms. Kiwi in US. NASA supporter. Dogs rule.
  • h0mes1ice.
  • littlejillyyy. Happy.
  • MeaganMcGrath.
  • iescience. Freelance science writer and editor, non-practicing oceanographer, one-time Alvin diver, hiker, kayaker, crossword puzzler, candy eater
  • hfe.
  • Felsic. Geology student, mountain biker, nature lover, music enthusiast and micro blogger.
  • Geol_G_Arguello. Geóloga de profesión, loca por vocación
  • veronicaholton. I study geology at the College of Charleston.
  • Cannibal_Panda. Geology
  • amandacolosimo. Assistant Professor of Geosciences, Monroe Community College
  • BenderRobot. Oceanography graduate student. Aspiring scientific communicator. Fun times enthusiast. Lover of most things NJ.
  • leanne_erica. I enjoy reading and writing about rocks. Well.. I do most of the time.
  • AnjiSeth. Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
  • NerdyChristie. A marine scientist with an urge to write that turned into all kinds of things…
  • bgrassbluecrab.
  • lyndellmbade. Ecologist, Educator, Grad Student. Researching cownose ray migration, movement, & life history. Model. SCUBA diver. Traveler.
  • blueacoustic. Geology Ph.D. student. If you want to talk tv, I’m your girl (e.g., Buffy, Supernatural, True Blood, Office, Glee, 30 Rock, Greek, Dexter.. oh so many more)
  • MaureenMcCann8. Meteorologist at News 8 Austin; Weather Consultant; Grad Student at UT; Bar Crawl for Scoliosis Founder; Dedicated member of Red Sox Nation; Huey Lewis’ #1 Fan
  • geogjen.
  • sdbikegirl. I love Earth Sciences, Sun, Sand and Snow. Geospatial stuff, minerals and rocks. I am passionate about cycling.
  • SabeanPagan. All-round science nerd. Love to chat about anything and everything. Blog enquiries please contact me on
  • rockstarscience. Female graduate student in astrophysics, apprentice rocket scientist, rebel without a solution set.
  • lizzy_t. I love rocks and rock climbing, especially trad climbing. 1st yr geology grad student at stanford!
  • tigermouse88. Geologist, Germanist, Globetrotter, Musician, Translator.
  • tanyaofmars.
  • Epsigon. Geophysicist/Geodynamicist, Welsh-Londoner, sleepy, loves Vinyl Toys, graphic novels and diet coke
  • sharonkae. Hi! I write specfic, I sniff out earthquakes in the Rhineland. I garden. That’s it.
  • DelphineAby. Oceanographer and modeler in environment. Manager in Natural Risks
  • Julierific. Wife, Mom, Scientist, PhD Candidate, Avid Reader, NPR Junky, Runner, Gardener, GF Cook, Meteorologist, Environmentalist, Baseball Addict
  • kejames. Natural History Museum scientist—Beagle Project directrix (@beagleproject)—Darwin groupie—space geek—telemark skier—teapot agnostic. Tweets are mine all mine.
  • mtkr. Photographer, geophysicist, and NYC girl
  • christierowe.
  • ugrandite. hard rock geology prof currently at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
  • Chanitacr. Geology student
  • altmenn. Mix of Physics & Music, space based instruments, Earth’s atmosphere observations
  • delenn77. New mom, field geologist, failing optimist
  • snowflyzone. designer, strategist, awkwardness enthusiast, geologist, sneaker aficionado, map maker
  • GeoEntelechy. Geospatial research and development • GIS • I’m passionate about analysis, visualization, and interdisciplinary synergies. Opinions are my own. 
  • maitri. Spoken here: geoscience, tech geekery, new orleans, packer football, wisconsin, project gutenberg, 3.14 and pie
  • inadraw. Urban community environmental planner
  • hanhanbanans. I love animals, geology, GIS, mapping, my Mini Cooper, and geocaching.
  • HeidiHutner. Writer, Professor, Environmentalist
  • GemKeeper. Environmental geologist and mother of two young children.
  • KHayhoe. climate scientist living in a heathen land where no one puts any milk in their tea
  • mcmoots. Geo-interdisciplinary freak, environmental consultant, scavenger, pie fiend.
  • stressrelated. Structural geology professor, mountain enthusiast
  • DNAPL. Scientist, Associate Professor, working on tracking contaminants in the environment, forensic geoscience and general earth science
  • geogirldi. Mother, Geologist, and Music Fanatic. I am a rock, I work with and study rock, I listen to rock. But you can just say I rock.
  • cynthiabarnett. Senior writer, Florida Trend magazine. Water-beat geek. Author, Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.
  • aggieastronaut. PhD student in atmospheric science at Texas A&M, Aggie sports fan, Martian by trade, dating @JeffAMcGee, Pastafarian priestess
  • squawky. Planetary scientist at a small univ., teaching geology & astronomy, trying to do research, and keeping sane.
  • morphosaurus. Lecturer, palaeontologist, gardener, wife of the best man in the world, owned by a furious leopard gecko, and mother of none – EVER.
  • coconinoite. Woman geoscientist in the wetland arena living and working in the southwest, with 5-year-old child and SO.
  • Tuff_Cookie. I’m currently a grad student in a volcanology research group at SUNY Buffalo, studying lava dome collapses and pyroclastic flow formation.
  • Colo_kea. Comm. Editor, Geol. Soc. of America. Engaged to Bear. Goals: skydive, photog, blog ( kea icon ©
  • sfoxx. Geologist, meanderer, explorationist
  • geologyclare. Metamorphic geologist, geochronologist, postdoctoral researcher
  • spacegiraffe. UC Davis geology 4th year, rafting guide, interested in hydrogeology, fluvial geomorphology, remote sensing, arm waving at outcrops.
  • oystersgarter. Marine biologist and science blogger
  • NotanEster. Deaf nerd of many trades, but mainly Anthropology and Geology. Also moonlight as certified instructor of Cued Speech.
  • meagenpollock. Geologist, geochemist, basalt-lover, professor
  • Astro_chick.
  • mjvinas. Once veterinarian, now science writer. Expat. Work & tweet @theAGU but thoughts in here are my own. Interested in (surprise!) science and science communication.
  • geographile. I mostly retweet geography-related news and chat about geography.
  • mareserinitatis. Working on PhD in geophysics, also an electrical engineer, sci-fi nut, now with kids and cats!
  • WomenPlanetSci. Women make up half the bodies in the solar system — why not half the scientists?
  • DoodleMommy. Mother. Wife. Geologist. Doodler.
  • geobacka. Geology and astronomy nerd. B)
  • mihaela4021. I am passionate about three things: my family, science and the humanity. I twitter, therefore I am.
  • KatherineBaylor.
  • deepseadawn. Oregon State University GIS prof, cyclist, ocean mapper, geek, Lego maniac
  • mousereusch. Seismologist with interests in earth structure, climate and glaciology. Cyclist & huge tree-hugger.
  • loverivers. Focus on restoring the health of the Penobscot River … also writer, poet, photographer, and all-around nature lover.
  • BoreholeGroup. The Borehole Research Group conducts scientific research by lowering tools into oceanic boreholes.
  • JacquelynGill. PhD candidate studying paleoecology, climate change, and biogeography at UW Madison. Feminist, geek, bibliophile, foodie.
  • rivrchik. Biogeog and fluvial geomorph researcher, science blogger and retweeter of all things eco, bio, geo or fluvio
  • volcanojw. rocks, film, and fine tequila.
  • River_Restore. A NEW online hub for the river restoration community
  • Mary_H. I’m a geographer at Miami University.
  • RockDocWSU. I write the RockDoc syndicated newspaper column and am Director of Major Grant Development for the Agricultural Research Center at Washington State University.

Thanks to Chris Rowan for exporting and formatting this archival list.