Examples of Ongoing Research Projects
Assessing the effectiveness of urban riparian floodplains to attenuate contaminant loads in urban stream networks (Collaborators: John Stella, Philippe Vidon, SUNY ESF)

Urbanization has led to wide-spread degradation of streams and their riparian zones, both in terms of habitat structure and ecosystem functions. Urban streams are often straightened, channelized, and armored; no longer have intact riparian floodplains; and receive direct discharge of storm water through road drains. The result is streams with greater inputs of contaminants and limited capacity for contaminant attenuation, with the greatest impact on headwater streams, which regulate stream water quality and solute export at the watershed scale. Restoring and preserving urban streams are increasingly common strategies to improve poor water quality. We are assessing how degraded and natural (or ‘reference’) reaches of urban streams process and transport urban contaminants, including road salt and nutrients. As a complementary goal, we are establishing a permanent outdoor laboratory at Meadowbrook Creek, in Syracuse, NY, to promote education and research on urban hydrology and water quality. To see current water quality and stage information along Meadowbrook Creek, check out our live streaming data!

Impacts of natural and analogue beaver dams on landscape resiliency (Collaborators: Christa Kelleher, Syracuse Univ; Philippe Vidon, SUNY ESF)

The Wyoming Chapter of TNC has installed Beaver Dam Analogues (BDA) to test the effects they have on controlling both in-stream hydrology and seasonally driven hydrologic events in semi-arid headwater streams. The BDAs were constructed as part of the land and water management plan for Red Canyon Ranch, a TNC property that is managed as a livestock ranch. We have done a hydrologic assessment of the impacts of BDAs on adjacent wetlands and floodplains.

Groundwater-surface water interactions in tropical alpine catchments and their influence on sources and stability of water supply during glacial recession (Collaborators: Bryan Mark, Ohio State University; Jeff McKenzie, McGill University)

Alpine watersheds and the ice and snow they contain are one of the most important sources of fresh water in the world, and mountain regions that are dominated by glaciers are especially sensitive to climate change. Melting glaciers in the semi-arid tropics currently provide a large component of annual runoff and buffer highly seasonal precipitation regimes, but ongoing glacier recession is predicted to make alpine runoff smaller in volume and more temporally variable, stressing water resources. Previous research suggests that groundwater aquifers in proglacial catchments are an important storage reservoir during dry seasons, and will likely play a dominant role in streamflow generation under future non-glacierized conditions. Despite their importance, little is known about fundamental hydrogeologic processes governing the interaction of surface water and groundwater in proglacial catchments. We are studying the interactions between surface water and groundwater reservoirs in proglacial meadow landforms in the Andes of Peru, estimate their storage volumes, and quantify contributions to streamflow.

Project SWIFT: Shale-Water Interaction Forensic Tools, RAPID: Developing sensitive tests for detecting contamination associated with shale bed methane production in the Appalachian Basin (Collaborators: Greg Hoke, Zunli Lu, Don Siegel)

The largest natural gas play in the United States, the Marcellus Shale, is tapped using a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. In contrast to the recent shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, New York State has been under a hydrofracking moratorium, and now ban. We are conducting a large-scale water quality program to disseminate science-based information about hydraulic fracturing to stakeholders, while also involving them in the development of a publicly-available water quality database and a geochemical fingerprinting tool specifically developed for identifying potential water quality impairment due to hydraulic fracturing. We are involving local residents of communities underlain by the Marcellus Shale in a large-scale, unbiased sampling of the region’s surface and groundwater quality.