Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SIUC wins NSF grant to train watershed scientists

Several of our friends and collaborators at SIUC have been awarded $3.2 million by the NSF IGERT program to develop an elite watershed science and policy program. Nicholas Pinter is leading the effort, and our collaborators Matt Whiles, Lizette Chevalier, John Nicklow, Jim Garvey and others will be key players.

The program will recuit top notch PhD candidates. Though Southern Illinois is a wonderful place, it's not always easy to get the cream of the crop to come here. This program will do that. From today's SIUC news release:

Nicholas Pinter, professor of geology and principal investigator on the project, said the Watershed Science and Policy program also involves SIUC researchers from educational psychology, forestry, agricultural economics, microbiology, and fisheries. The team will work together to provide the doctoral students with a varied and diverse background on solving watershed and river basin issues.

“We are looking at training 18 to 20 national-caliber scientists,” Pinter said. “This doctorate fellowship program will train students as cutting-edge watershed scientists at SIUC, which is shaping itself as a center of excellence in this area of study.

“SIUC has wanted one of these IGERT grants for a long time and watersheds are an area of strength here at the University,” Pinter said. “Our faculty have been doing national and international work in this area for years and we thought this was our chance to land the grant. It was the right combination of people and the right timing…a very good fit.”

Plans call for three groups of students working as a team and conducting research toward earning their doctorate. Each group will work in a target river basin of key interest, including the Cache River, Atchafalaya River, Middle Mississippi River and the Tisza River in Europe. In addition to classes and seminars, students also will perform internships with various government agencies and other organizations and all will take at least one extended, two-week tour of a foreign country to observe watershed management practices there, Pinter said.
Photo is of my wife Kate on the middle Cache River, one of the study sites.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mad science at LRRD.

So much LRRD news to report, but I've been too busy to blog.

Some interesting work from this week: We're designing a small 2D flume. To do things like this. Here's a Google SketchUp excerpt.

And a photo of Jesse making inserts for the Emriver Em2 to simulate hydraulic structures.

I worked late last night on the motor/electronics for the flume, and needing a power resistor, tried a pencil, shortening it to get the value I needed. It worked wonderfully until it caught fire. Some of you will appreciate how proud I was to solve an electrical design problem with a simple pencil and start a lab fire in the process.

Jesse made some nice aluminum propellers for the system--they look just like the drawing.

We're hoping to finish the prototype flume in time to take a working version to the American Fisheries Society national meeting in Nashville next week.

Last photo is the pencil stub that gave its life for research, at about 15 amps.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Virtual Luna Leopold Project.

This site holds a rich compilation of pre-PDF works by Luna Leopold, one of the early luminaries of fluvial geomorphology. The site's a bit odd in that nobody takes credit for it, but it holds nearly 200 PDF files of his works.

I've always liked Leopold's writing style, and reading Sand County Almanac, written by his father Aldo, a true pioneer of ecological thinking, in a grad school soils class was something I'll never forget (see the "atom X" passage, and thanks, Gray Henderson, wherever you are.)

In scanning the PDF list I saw this one: A reverence for rivers. It's the text of a keynote speech given in 1977 (the year I graduated high school), and published in Geology. This short talk is an incredibly thoughtful and well-written treatment of water resources science, engineering, and management.

Leopold manages to weave stories of the Greek Herodotus and Persian reverence for rivers into an ongoing California drought and the rising conservation ethic of the day, and in his fashion, write beautifully about the statistics of risk and flood return intervals, engineering design, and the perils of letting raw economic forces control all use of natural resources:
The management of resources cannot be carried out successfully if it is looked upon as just another facet of economics, administration, and politics. Yet the latter view describes rather accurately our present approach to resource use (it can hardly be called management).
We haven't move forward much, have we? He finishes with this:
Man’s engineering capabilities are nearly limitless. Our economic views are too insensitive to be the only criteria for judging the health of the river organism. What is needed is a gentler basis for perceiving the effects of our engineering capabilities. This more humble view of our relation to the hydrologic system requires a modicum of reverence for rivers.
Luna died in 2006.