Friday, November 21, 2014

WyCEHG postdoc uses hydrogeophysics to understand aquifers

For Mine Dogan, a geophysical engineer and postdoctoral research scientist with the Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology andGeophysics (WyCEHG), math and physics are the gateway to understanding the universe.
“I believe there is nothing in the universe that we cannot understand and/or model using math and physics,” she says. “Mastering these two fields gives one not only the knowledge but also analytical thinking and problem solving skills.”

Mine installs a pressure transducer at
a field site in Mississippi
She explains, “I like the way these two fields can expand people's mind and provide new perspectives. Geophysics is not simply a tool that you can hit some buttons and get what you need. It is a field of science which requires knowing the theories, limitations, pros, and cons of each method.”
Dogan, who grew up in Turkey, developed her interest in math and physics at an early age and that interest led her down a path of varied research projects. She received her bachelors and masters of science degrees in geophysical engineering from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey, and her PhD in hydrogeophysics from Michigan State University.

She has worked as a geophysical engineer in coal mines in western Turkey, and contributed to research projects related to archaeogeophysics and earthquake engineering. Currently, her focus is on hydrogeophysics, particularly in regards to aquifers.

“As a geophysicist, I want to contribute to this growing field by introducing innovative approaches to collect and interpret the geophysical data needed to map the spatial and temporal changes in soil, aquifers, and surrounding material,” she says.

Mine (right) measures snow density at the
No Name watershed in the Snowy Mountains
Her recently published paper, “Predicting flow and transport in highly heterogeneous alluvial aquifers,” provides a solution to a long-standing challenge of modeling flow and transport in highly heterogeneous alluvial aquifers. She and her colleagues coupled novel characterization tools and stochastic methods to provide the solution, which they hope will make a big impact in understanding contaminants in aquifers and developing effective remediation schemes.

Cutting edge hydrological research like this exemplifies Dogan's long-term goals of “contributing to the deterministic aspects of hydrology by developing novel ways to collect, process, and interpret geophysical data.” She hopes that in doing so, she can “collaboratively provide solutions to hydrogeology-, groundwater remediation- and pollution-related problems.”

Collaboration with other scientists is a key reason she landed at the University of Wyoming nearly a year ago as a post-doctoral researcher with WyCEHG. She sought an interdisciplinary environment that would allow her the opportunity to collaborate with scientists across disciplines.

Not only does her passion for math and physics motivate her to push limits with her research, so does the potential future impacts of that research.

Says Dogan, “Being able to provide knowledge which will likely effect the lives of next generations is the mostimportant and satisfying aspect of my work.”

For more on Dogan's work, visit, and watch this short film

By Manasseh Franklin

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wyoming teachers come together for watershed education training

Before the snow and chill hit Wyoming this week, 28 teachers from all over the state came together to discuss curriculum and learn about watershed education through the Teton Science School's Teacher Training called “Wyoming Water in the Classroom.” This year’s workshop was held in Fort Washakie, WY on the Wind River Indian Reservation from November 7th through the 9th.

On Friday evening, teachers gathered to explore water-science lesson plans with University of Wyoming graduate student, Megan Matthews, and  Dr. Joy Johnson from the UW's Science and Math Teaching Center.

On Saturday, teachers learned about the history of water on the Wind River Indian Reservation from members of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.  And, later in the morning until that evening, teachers had a field experience at Washakie Reservoir where Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) scientist and UWAssociate Professor, Ginger Paige and her team led trainings related to water flow, quality, and macro-organisms.

The weekend concluded on Sunday with follow-up planning, and allowed teachers to learn more about reserving and using educational resources.

To learn more about opportunities for teachers, please contact Liz Nysson at
Jagath Vithanage, graduate student at
the University of Wyoming, shows Wyoming teachers
how to measure stream flow.

By Liz Nysson

Friday, November 7, 2014

WWiSE Symposium a positive step for women in science

On Tuesday October 30th, a group of UW alumni, faculty and students gathered in the West Yellowstone Ballroom of the University of Wyoming Student Union for the first ever Wyoming Women in Science and Engineering (WWiSE) Symposium. The symposium featured four female UW graduates who shared their scientific research and personal insights as women working in science professions.
Presentation topics included hydrology, biogeochemical modeling, crustal flow of continents, and conservation planning. After presenting, the speakers joined EPSCoR Associate Director Sarah Konrad to discuss the under-representation of women in science and how to remedy it.

Elizabeth Meredith presents on applied hydrology research.
 “Data shows a glass ceiling in science: women and men participate at close to equal numbers at undergraduate level and below, and then there is significant reduction of the percentage of women at every level of employment after that including postdoc, assistant, associate and full professor,” says Konrad, who also helped organize the event. “The attrition continues to happen at every step of the way.”

The speakers—who are all mothers—agreed that the challenging of balancing work and family life is one of the largest contributors to that attrition.

“There needs to be better maternity leave for men and women,” said Kusim Nathani, a graduate from UW’s Program in Ecology and now Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas. She indicated that in general academia has the poorest maternity leave as compared with other science related jobs.

They also attributed common perceptions of what it takes to be successful in science as a problem for women in science professions.

“There’s a perception in research and academia that if you don’t work long hours, you aren’t serious,” said Elizabeth Meredith, who graduated from UW with a PhD in Geology and now works as a hydrogeologist with Montana Bureau of Mines. But having a family makes those long hours nearly impossible to maintain, and they are not necessarily a true indicator of a serious or successful scientist.

Each offered suggestions for recruiting more women into science fields, including targeting students as early as 5th grade, and working to provide an environment for young students that doesn’t hand them success, but encourages them to realize their full potential.
Speakers participate in a panel moderated by Sarah
Konrad (left). Panelists from left to right: Elizabeth Meredith,
Kusim Nathani, Elena Miranda and Hannah Griscom

“Self esteem is everything with young female students,” says Elena Miranda, also a PhD graduate from UW’s Geology and Geophysics Department, and now an Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at California State University. “Female faculty are role models and they need to have confidence in order to impart confidence on others.”

Hannah Griscom, who graduated from UW with a M.S. in Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management and currently works as a conservation planner with Arizona Game & Fish Department, agrees. “The role of my mentor [at UW] was integral to forming the self confidence that helped me to achieve.”

All in all, the WWiSE Symposium was a great success, and positive step forward for women in science. Says Konrad, “Gathering women scientists who have participated ‘in the trenches’ at all levels of their careers is an excellent opportunity to foster dialog and brainstorm methods to improve female representation in all levels of a scientific career.”

By Manasseh Franklin

Friday, October 31, 2014

On Halloween, a little science goes a long way

Halloween doesn’t need to be all about ghouls and goblins. In fact, it can be all about science. Here are 3 tricks to make this Halloween a science treat:

Put dry ice on center stage
            Dry ice is actually frozen carbon dioxide, which makes it an extra fun tool for special Halloween effects. As it melts, it immediately turns to CO2 vapor. Use this trick to make your jack o lantern ooze white smoke, or to carbonate a bowl of punch.
1)    Place a cup of warm water inside your jack o lantern. Using tongs or gloves, drop a piece of dry ice in the water and stand back as the vapor pours out of the pumpkin’s mouth.
2)    Drop a few pieces of dry ice into a bowl of punch. The punch will bubble and gurgle until the ice is gone, leaving behind a carbonated drink.

Photo courtesy of

Make your own lava lamp
            Supplies:         1 bottle vegetable oil
                                    Alka Seltzer
                                    A plastic or glass jar, with lid
Use the polar properties of oil and water to make a quick and easy lava lamp. Fill the jar ¼ full with water. Fill the rest with oil. Add a few drops of food coloring and then toss in half a tab of Alka Selzter. The colored water will form droplets as the Alka Seltzer pushes them into the vegetable oil. These droplets will bounce up and down in the oil while the Alka Seltzer works its magic.

Make your Jack o Lantern glow like a rainbow
            Supplies:         hand sanitizer
                                    Boric acid (or Borax, both available at hardware stores)
                                    1 carved pumpkin

Rub the hand sanitizer on the outside and inside of the carved pumpkin, and then dust with the boric acid or Borax.

Place the pumpkin on a fire-safe surface and then light it with a match. A rainbow of colors will dance across the pumpkin’s surface. Here’s why:

The alcohol in the hand sanitizer turns the flame blue. The boric acid makes it green. Sodium in the pumpkin flesh tints it yellow, and the hollowed out pumpkin glows orange. Wa-la! Rainbow flaming jack o lantern.

The flame will die out fast, thanks to the alcohol.

By Manasseh Franklin


Friday, October 24, 2014

Make a plan for midterm success

Midterms are a notoriously stressful time in students’ lives but it doesn’t need to be that way. A little bit of planning and prep can move your midterms from stress-fest to success. Here are 4 tips to make the test times just a little easier:

1)    Take a minute to strategize
Like any big endeavor in life, a little bit of planning for midterms goes a long way. It’s easy to look at your to-do list and want to bury your head in a pillow, but one small activity could change your whole outlook. Make a plan. A few weeks before exam time, outline what topics you will study when so that you don’t end up trying to cram everything in during that week when you have four major tests.

2)    Take heed of basic needs
Sure, you can’t study while you’re sleeping, but it’s much harder to study if you haven’t slept. As you make your plan, be sure to include time to rest, eat regular meals, and exercise. By taking care of your basic needs, you’ll give your brain the nourishment it needs to focus on that study guide in front of you.

3)    Grab a friend
The French essayist Joseph Joubert once said, “to teach is to learn twice over.” There is nothing quite like having to explain something to someone to illustrate how well you know or don’t know material. Find a fellow classmate and set up study sessions. Not only will it help you to relay and solidify information you know, but it may also help you clear up questions that are raised along the way.

4)    Small rewards go a long way
All work and no play is a tough rhythm to maintain, particularly while under pressure. Just spent an hour working on a tricky math problem? Reward yourself with a walk outside or phone chat with a friend. Rewards not only give you something to look forward to, but can also give your brain the break it needs to maintain optimal productivity.

By Manasseh Franklin

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rock drilling leads WyCEHG scientists to groundwater

Not far from the Blair-Wallis picnic area in Vedauwoo near Laramie,Wyoming, literal breakthroughs in science are underway. A drill rig standing several stories tall and manned by four men wearing hard hats is moving, slowly. The drill is cutting through granite and pulling out long cylindrical core samples that offer UW’s Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) researchers unlikely clues about ground water in Wyoming.
The drilling began on October 7th and will continue until four boreholes extending to depths of 262 feet are dug in the Blair-Wallis area. Once these core samples are gathered, the drill crew will move to the Red Buttes area south of Laramie. Researchers hope the Red Buttes area cores will extend to over 900 feet.
Drilling began on October 7th at Blair-Wallis.
Photo Credit: Brady Flinchum

"Understanding groundwater in mountain regions is crucial so that we can estimate how much water will be available for use downstream," says Brady Flinchum, a geophysics graduate student and WyCEHG member at UW. But groundwater can be a tough thing to measure, particularly in the Laramie Range.

“As it turns out, the granite rock type in the Laramie Range makes it extra difficult to quantify groundwater because groundwater flow is concentrated into small fracture zones,” says Flinchum. Information gathered from these boreholes will allow WyCEHG geophysicists to “measure the properties that control the groundwater flow and storage in the subsurface and to determine the source of groundwater. We will be extracting water samples from different depths and using geochemistry to see if the water in the subsurface is the same as the rain water or stream water.”

According to Dr. Steve Holbrook, this project is a hugely important for WyCEHG. “A primary focus of our work is using geophysical imaging methods to infer subsurface material properties, including hydrological properties like porosity and fracturing. With the geophysical methods we can cover a lot of ground quickly, but to have confidence in our interpretations, we need to have some ground-truth data to calibrate our geophysical images against. 

"The drill holes currently being drilled in the Laramie Range will give us that ground truth and enable us to extrapolate known subsurface properties over the larger landscape."

Granite core offers clues into groundwater movement
Photo credit: Brady Flinchum

Holbrook has been working on getting the project in place for two years. He credits the support and cooperation of colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service in getting it off the ground.

Flinchum agrees with Holbrook on the significance of the drilling. “Scientists using geochemistry can learn about the source of the deep ground water from our samples, which is all part of the story of how water travels from the high mountains to the oceans.”


By Manasseh Franklin

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

WyCEHG Collaboration leads to deeper understanding of water transport and storage

On September 30th, California-based hydrologist and geomorphologist Daniella Rempe spoke at a Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) meeting to share her study findings related to water storage and movement. Rempe, a University of California Berkeley PhD candidate in Department of Earth and Planetary Science, came to communicate her research but also to discuss the ways WyCEHG is helping to further that research.

“WyCEHG significantly impacts my research by providing me with the means to image the fresh bedrock-weathered bedrock boundary that defines the base of the ‘critical zone.’” says Rempe. She further describes the ‘critical zone’ as “a boundary that controls many processes that influence how water and weathered rock are distributed across a landscape.”

Daniella (Center) with Professor Steve Holbrook (Right) 
and Professor Bill Dietrich of UC Berkeley (Left) 
discussing hypotheses about the planned 
geophysical survey locations.  Photo Credit: Alex Bryk 
The WyCEHG and Rempe collaboration began this past summer when Dr. Steve Holbrook and a crew of WyCEHG members joined Rempe and researchers from UC Berkeley at the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory in the Angelo Coast Range Research in Mendocino County, California. The WyCEHG crew used a variety of imaging techniques to image the boundary between weathered and fresh bedrock under hillslopes studied by the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory researchers.

Rempe is excited about the future of her research now that her relationship with WyCEHG has been established. “Collaboration with WyCEHG researchers will allow us to collect key data needed to test and constrain models that describe the evolution of the critical zone under landscapes.”

 She’s also enthusiastic about the ways in which collaborative science can have a broader impact on society as a whole. “Advances in our understanding of the complex interactions between rock, soil, water, air and biota are expected to significantly impact how we view our changing planet and ultimately lead to better informed environmental policy decisions.”

In addition to presenting at the WyCEHG All-Hands meeting, Rempe met with WyCEHG faculty and students to discuss future collaborations, including drafting manuscripts with Steve Holbrook on the WyCEHG field work at the Eel River.

By Manasseh Franklin