Friday, December 20, 2013

ADHydro: Up and Running

For Bob Steinke and the rest of the CI-WATER researchers working on a sophisticated water model called ADHydro, their hard work and dedication has culminated into the completion of the model.

“We have the code running, with groundwater, surface water, infiltration and channels, rivers, and lakes,” says Bob Steinke, a software engineer at the University of Wyoming. “It’s running, it’s not crashing, and we get results out, but now we have to make sure those results are right.”

ADHydro is a new hydrology model that will allow researchers in the field to better understand water processes, including how fast water soaks through the soil, how fast water flows over land, and more.
Now that ADHydro is running, researchers will continue to work on the model and build on it, making it faster and more powerful.

“The next step is really performance improvement,” says Bob. “We’ve got a lot of ways that we can improve the performance just in the serial code itself, and then we want to parallelize it so that it can run on the supercomputer and run faster.”

For the whole team working on ADHydro, getting it up and running is a huge success, and something they’re proud of.

“We’re happy with our progress,” Bob says. 

By Robin Rasmussen

Friday, December 13, 2013

Undergraduate Research Fellowship Spotlight: Andrea Alvarez

Each semester, Wyoming EPSCoR selects and funds twenty or more Undergraduate Research Fellowships. These fellowships are excellent opportunities for students to gain quality experience in research, prepare for graduate programs, and obtain practical knowledge.

As a Petroleum Engineering student at the University ofWyoming, Andrea Alvarez was interested in the relationship between water with oil and gas extraction.

Andrea Alvarez
This interest led her to Dr. Ginger Paige, a professor in Ecosystem Science & Management at UW. As an EPSCoR Undergraduate Fellow, Andrea has the opportunity to study and conduct research under the direction of Ginger.

“I’m studying water quality analysis on the Wind River Indian Reservation,” says Andrea. “When people think of petroleum, they don’t really think of water, they think of oil and gas. But in reality, they’re very closely related.”

Although she’s conducting research in a field different from petroleum engineering, Andrea has enjoyed the challenge.

“The most challenging part is the fact that I don’t know much about water quality,” she says. “I came in from a totally different field. But it’s shown me my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working in a field that I don’t know.”

Throughout her time as a fellow, Andrea has learned a lot about water quality, but she’s also learned about herself and the world around her.

“Doing this really gave me a better idea of what grad school would be like,” Andrea says. “It showed me where I would be lacking and where I would have advantages. It kind of just broadened my horizons overall.”

For other students thinking about applying for fellowships, Andrea encourages others to give it a shot.

“Get out of your comfort zone,” she says. “Try everything once.”

By Robin Rasmussen 
Photo courtesy of Andrea Alvarez

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Educational Resources Available for Wyoming Teachers

Hydropoly, a board game included in the toolbox
Wyoming EPSCoR’s Track 2 grant, CI-WATER, has developed teaching toolboxes for teachers to check-out and use with their students.

“The toolboxes have tools in them that simulate water modeling and water resources,” says Beth Cable, the Education, Outreach and Diversity Coordinator for CI-WATER.

The teaching toolboxes come equipped with numerous lesson plans and educational resources necessary for carrying them out.

“The toolboxes provide ideas and opportunities for both indoor and outdoor classroom use,” says Beth. “And they certainly apply many different subjects, including math, science, English, art, creative writing, and more.”

Trying out different items in the toolbox
All of the lesson plans provided with the toolbox meet Wyoming teaching standards for grades K-12, and cover a variety of hands-on, interactive and inquiry-based experiments and activities.

 “Students can conduct experiments on water, they can do outdoor water sampling, they can do art and advocacy projects, there are water mediation role plays, they can play games,” says Beth. “They can really do a lot.”

Students benefit from learning from the toolboxes, by learning important concepts about water, science, and real world applications.

“I would cheer teachers on to use it because of the fact that it provides real life science,” says Beth. “It really allows students to interact with their teachers, scientists, the natural world, and each other.”

For more information about the teaching toolbox, contact Beth Cable at

By Robin Rasmussen
Photos courtesy of Beth Cable

Monday, November 25, 2013

PhD student Jorden Hayes and geophysical imaging

As a child, Jorden Hayes, a doctoral student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, enjoyed science and geology, but she did not realize the depth of her passion until she was an undergraduate studying Television Communications with the goal of becoming a meteorologist. Soon, she realized how much she enjoyed math and geology, and eventually switched her major to geophysics.

Today, Jorden’s passion has led her to WyCEHG at the University of Wyoming to pursue her PhD under the advisement of Dr. SteveHolbrook. Her research revolves around creating geophysical images of subsurface environments. Creating these images will help researchers estimate how much water is stored in the subsurface and help them better understand the processes happening underground.

Jorden Hayes
“These images help scientists interpret geological processes such as weathering, water storage, and flow,” says Jorden. “Understanding these processes is critical to improving water management and predicting how climate change will impact our future water resources.”

The first step to create a seismic image involves hitting a metal plate with a sledgehammer. The energy from this action is then sent into the earth and picked up by a line of geophones, which are instruments used to measure ground motion.

“That gives you seismic traces,” says Jorden. “The next step is to take it to the lab and do an initial analysis of the data. Finally, you take and model that data, which, in my case, involves using the Yellowstone Supercomputer.”

After data in the field is collected, the final data analysis and modeling can take up to weeks or months.

Jorden’s research is an integral part of WyCEHG and its mission.

“One of the goals of WyCEHG is to advance innovations in near-surface geophysical methodology,” she says. Jorden’s work will allow WyCEHG to better reach their goal of understanding subsurface environments.

Jorden has learned a lot about her chosen field through her experience with WyCEHG, but that isn’t all she’s gained.

“How to integrate science across disciplines would probably be the biggest thing I’ve gained,” she says. “The fact that I’ve been sitting down with hydrologists, ecologists, and people that study isotopes, I’ve learned a lot about how to interact, how to ask questions, and how to learn.”

Jorden enjoys her research, and views science in a way many non-scientists don’t.

 “Science is way more creative than some realize,” she says. “From designing experiments and surveys to making interpretations, creativity abounds. Also, scientific discovery is incredibility motivating and rewarding.”

For other students in STEM fields, Jorden offers helpful advice.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, never stop learning and get your hands dirty,” she says. “Start there and find people and mentors who are going to encourage you along the way.”

By Robin Rasmussen
Photo courtesy of Jorden Hayes

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Communicating About Water Essay Contest

Wyoming EPSCoR is hosting an essay contest for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Wyoming and Wyoming community colleges. This contest is through the Communicating About Water Program, which is intended to increase awareness and dialogue about water issues throughout the state.  EPSCoR has teamed up with the Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) and the Creative Writing MFA Program to invite students to join in the ever-growing discussion about water in the state of Wyoming. “This writing contest is intended to increase discussion and awareness about water issues among Wyoming students,” says Liz Nysson, project coordinator.
The contest will feature two categories, undergraduate and graduate non-fiction essay. Entries in the undergraduate division must be 500-2000 words, and entries in the graduate division must be 1000-5000 words.
The top prize in each category will be $500, publication in an anthology for all award winners and honorable mentions, and other honors, including a public reading.
Entries can range in a variety of topics related to water. EPSCoR encourages students to explore water issues in any way that is relevant to their lives, studies, or personal experiences.
The deadline for the essay contest is March 21st, 2014. Submissions can be sent to Submissions must be in the form of a word document with 12-point font and double-spaced. They must also include a cover page with the essay title, your name, year in school, W-number and contact information. For more information about the writing contest, please visit our website

By Robin Rasmussen

Friday, November 8, 2013

CI-WATER Project Insights: ADHydro

When it comes to water management, knowing how water moves and where it ends up is crucial. That’s why a team of CI-WATER researchers are working on a new model, called ADHydro.

ADHydro will be the most robust model of its kind, presenting high-resolution detail for a broad geographical area. It will enable researchers to more accurately measure how fast water soaks through the soil, how fast the water flows over land and more. With these calculations, researchers can determine where the water goes and how it gets there.

“ADHydro is physics-based, meaning that it simulates specific physical processes as opposed to a curve-fitting model that can be calibrated to match historical data, but doesn’t simulate specific physics processes,” says Dr. Robert Steinke, a software engineer on the interdisciplinary team developing the model.

“It’s important to CI-WATER because one of the goals of CI-WATER is to allow watershed managers in the field access to high performance computing resources,” says Robert.

The ADHydro model is set for initial deployment next year. The completed model will give researchers the tools they need to study water movement in the field, ultimately helping water managers better understand this essential resource. 

By Robin E. Rasmussen

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Students and staff to attend the AISES 2013 National Conference

Students from the University of Wyoming and Central Wyoming College, along with representatives from Wyoming EPSCoR and the Haub School of Environment andNatural Resources, will be attending the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) 2013 National Conference on October 31 through November 2 in Denver, Colorado.

The goal of AISES is to support and increase representation of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The 2013 conference is open to high school students, college undergraduates and graduate students, teachers, professionals, and corporate partners.

The national conference offers various workshops for participants to attend, including professional development workshops, educator development workshops, skill building workshops, and more.

“This conference is a great opportunity for students to learn more about professional opportunities in their field and create strong networks with other students and professionals,” says Lisa Abeyta, Director of Student Programs.

For more information about AISES and the 2013 National Conference, visit

By Robin Rasmussen

Friday, October 25, 2013

Undergraduate Research Fellowship Spotlight: Wil Chapple

Each semester, Wyoming EPSCoR selects and funds 20 or more Undergraduate Research Fellowships. These fellowships are excellent opportunities for students to gain quality experience in research, to prepare for graduate programs, and obtain practical knowledge. Throughout the next few weeks, our blog will be highlighting various students participating in the EPSCoR Undergraduate Research Fellowships program.

Wil Chapple
Wil Chapple, a senior in the Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management department is studying water and isotopes.

“I’m tracing water through the ecosystem in the Snowy Range,” says Wil. “And also, how the glacial history that helped shape the Snowies has affected the soils that similar ecosystems rely on.”

To trace the water, Wil is using various research methods to collect data.

“I’ve been collecting soil samples and taking isotope measures of the water in the Snowies,” says Wil. “I’m looking to see if there are similar isotopic signatures in certain depths of the soil.”

Wil has been working in the Stable Isotope Facility for three semesters. His faculty mentor is Dr. David Williams, a professor in the Departments of Botany and Ecosystem Science and Management and Team Lead in WyCEHG.

“I’m lucky to get a lot of support and help from Dave and fellow grad students,” says Wil. “I’m really thankful for that!”

Through his fellowship, Wil has gained many valuable experiences, but a few things stand out above the rest.

“I’ve gotten a glimpse into what graduate school would be like,” says Wil. “I’ve also learned what it takes to do good science. I’ve learned a lot of patience.”

By: Robin E. Rasmussen
Photo courtesy of Wil Chapple

Monday, October 14, 2013

Students from Wyoming attend SACNAS Conference in San Antonio, TX

On October 3rd, six students from the University of Wyoming and one student from Central Wyoming College had the opportunity to attend the 2013 SACNAS Conference in San Antonio, Texas. SACNAS, or Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists.
Students visiting the Tower of the Americas
At the conference, students were able to participate in a number of different workshops and presentations on topics including biological sciences, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and more. Students also heard from many fascinating keynote speakers, including Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio.
While in San Antonio, students visited famous sites throughout the city, including the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and the Tower of the Americas.
Students who attended SACNAS were inspired by the conference and took away plenty of information that will help them in their future.
“My favorite thing about the conference was the fact that there were so many relevant people to meet,” says Jesus Ramirez, a student in the Microbiology department. “So much ambition at one conference is truly amazing.”
            “My favorite part of the trip was meeting accomplished scientists that grew up on different reservations around the United States,” says Signa Mcadams, a student majoring in Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management.

            For more information about SACNAS, please visit

San Antonio Riverwalk

By Robin E. Rasmussen
Photos by Robin E. Rasmussen

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wyoming EPSCoR and WyCEHG Hold Water Interest Group Meeting in Laramie, WY

On Monday, October 7th, Wyoming EPSCoR and WyCEHG hosted the Water Interest Group Meeting in Laramie WY.
This meeting was an opportunity for citizens from around the state of Wyoming to learn more about WyCEHG, and to express their needs and desires about water research around the state to WyCEHG members.
Patrick Tyrrell from the Wyoming State Engineers Office
presents to WIG Meeting participants
Participants had the chance to hear from various individuals around the state, including Patrick Tyrrell, director of the Wyoming State Engineers Office, and Harry LaBonde, director of the Wyoming Water Development Office.
Breakout sessions were held to encourage participants to share ideas and provide WyCEHG feedback.
“From our point of view, this was a very successful meeting,” says Dr. Steve Holbrook of WyCEHG. “We are enthusiastic about the opportunities to work with everyone on issues that are important to water in Wyoming.”
            If you were unable to attend this meeting, be sure to watch the website for resources from the meeting to be posted by the end of the month at,

By Robin Rasmussen
Photos by Liz Nysson

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

WyCEHG uses Helicopter to Collect Important Data

Studying hydrology and geophysics in the state of Wyoming can be challenging due to the complex terrain. In spite of this, the WyCEHG team is getting creative and thinking of new ways to study what lies below the surface.

Last week, the SkyTEM team, from Aarhus University in Denmark, hit the sky in a helicopter to begin data collection for WyCEHG.

“The SkyTEM system measures two kinds of information - the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, and the electrical conductivity of the subsurface,” says Dr. Steve Holbrook.

This data will help WyCEHG researchers gain crucial knowledge about what the terrain looks like underground, including magnetization, fault structure, geological layering and more.

“All of this data will enable us to make much more informed decisions about which areas bear further, labor-intensive study using our ground-based instrumentation,” says Holbrook. 


Off to collect lots of useful data!

By Robin E. Rasmussen
Photos by Kali S. McCrackin

Monday, September 30, 2013

UW and CWC Students to Attend SACNAS Conference

On Wednesday, six students from the University of Wyoming and one student from Central Wyoming College will travel to San Antonio, Texas to attend the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) 2013 Conference.
Students will have the opportunity to listen to research presentations, network with other students and faculty members in their field, and visit over 300 exhibits covering research, graduate school, job opportunities and more.
“It’s an amazing conference with many networking opportunities and the opportunity to see what’s out there,” says Lisa Abeyta, Coordinator of Student Research Programs.
The goal of SACNAS and the 2013 Conference is to encourage students to work towards and achieve their goals of higher education and careers in STEM fields.

For more information about SACNAS and 2013 Conference, please visit

By Robin E. Rasmussen

Thursday, September 26, 2013

UW Student James St. Clair Gets a Chance to Study Abandoned Mines in Wyoming

As an intern at Lowham and Walsh, James St. Clair, a graduate student in the geology and geophysics department at the University of Wyoming, had the chance to visit and conduct research on abandoned land mines throughout the state of Wyoming.

James was responsible for analyzing and monitoring the safety of abandoned mines in Wyoming. This type of research is crucial to the state of Wyoming for several reasons.

“We want to know if these mines could possibly present some hazards in the future,” James says. “Whether those problems are related to groundwater, or future subsidence, or in some cases, they can actually open up at the surface. That’s dangerous, because people can get in there and it could collapse.”

James performed different tests at these sites to determine their safety and what was happening beneath the surface.

“I took electrical resistivity equipment up there and I made images of the underground mines trying to assess the hazards that they might present,” he says.

Because of the large number of abandoned mines in Wyoming, entities in the state have set up ways to study these mines.

“The Abandoned Land Mine Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has inventoried a substantial number of these land mines and prioritized them according to what’s there and how important it is that they get reclaimed,” James says. “My job was to go and visit several of these sites,” he says. “They had already been visited 10 years ago, so we wanted to see how they've changed since then.”

Most of the sites James visited were located in northeastern Wyoming. The location was James’ favorite part of his internship.

“I really liked getting to spend some time in Northeastern Wyoming,” he says. “It’s a really nice area.”

By Robin E. Rasmussen

Friday, September 20, 2013

Science: Becoming the Messenger Workshop a Huge Success

Dr. Scott Miller meets with workshop mentor Dan Agan to discuss his mock presentation
Last week, Wyoming EPSCoR and the National Science Foundation hosted the “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop. The workshop taught participants valuable communication skills, including interview techniques, social media tools, and presentation tips.
The workshop emphasized the importance of effective communication across a wide variety of platforms, including Twitter, blogs, and presentations.
“No matter what we do, we want to know where communication comes from, how it is used, and how it lets us do what we value,” said Elizabeth Traver, SSHL Manager.
For the participants, learning how to better their communication skills was a major benefit.
“The workshop was fantastic,” said Dr. Steve Holbrook. “Even for those of us who might have thought we were already pretty good communicators.”

Members of the WyCEHG and CI-WATER teams prepare for their presentations
The workshop took place over two days at the Wildcatter Suites in War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming. During day one, participants received an intensive course in interview etiquette, what and what not to do during presentations, and the power of effective communication. The smaller group of participants in day two had the chance to use the skills they gained in day one to create and deliver mock presentations, practice interviews with journalists, and focus on developing strong communication foundations.

By Robin E. Rasmussen
Photos by Kali S. McCrackin

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Science: Becoming the Messenger" Workshop Happening September 11th and 12th

Tomorrow, September 11th, researchers, teachers, students, and other citizens from around the state of Wyoming will travel to Laramie for the National Science Foundation’s “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop.
This workshop is intended to help scientists learn how to effectively communicate their research to broad audiences.
Updates from the workshop will be posted to the Wyoming EPSCoR Facebook page and to the Wyoming EPSCoR Twitter feed. Please stay tuned to these social media sites for updates and more information!

For more information about this workshop, please visit our blog.

 By Robin Rasmussen

Research Experience for Undergraduates Leads Into Semester-Long Project

Sometimes, one positive experience is all it takes to decide on a future career path. For three students, the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Wyoming (UWY) was that experience.
The CI-WATER program, which ran through July and August, enticed Noll Roberts, a senior at UW, to contemplate a change of major. “My major is Molecular Biology, but now I’m switching to Mathematics,” he says.
This year’s REU focused on computer modeling, coding and hydrology.  For a month, Noll, Jingyu Li and Troy Axthelm collaborated on various aspects of modeling.
“Jingyu and I have been working on a project that’s been modeling the shade on a certain land plot,” says Troy, a senior at UW.
For Jingyu Li, a Laramie High School senior, the REU has given her a lot to think about.  “I’m not entirely sure what I want to do yet, but probably computer science and math,” she says.
Along with developing their coding and mathematical skills, the REU taught the importance of strong communication skills.
“I liked learning about how to interact with people in other departments," says Noll. "I think this REU was really good for that.”
While the REU has come the end, their work has not. Over the course of the next semester, Noll, Troy and Jingyu will receive upper division credit to continue their projects.
“We’re going to keep working on it so that it can work with the high performance computer and be efficient,” says Troy.

By Robin E. Rasmussen

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WiMSE begins second year at UW

As the fall semester at the University of Wyoming begins, WiMSE (Women in Math, Science and Engineering) gears up for its second year of supporting women majoring in the STEM fields. WiMSE began last year as a way to connect female undergraduate and graduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) following a survey that found women majoring in these fields at UW often lacked a sense of community. This year, WiMSE began with a luncheon focused on research. Four researchers from across campus shared their perspectives on the importance of participating in research as student as well as ideas and advice for doing so.
Across the board, the panelists said that research during an undergraduate career opens up possibilities for the future because it offers opportunities for preparation, discerning likes and dislikes in a field and gaining valuable experience.
“Don’t worry about messing up,” said Dr. Danny Dale, professor and current Head of the Physics and Astronomy Department. “Enjoy the struggle. That is where learning happens.”
Dr. Sarah Konrad, a glaciologist and currently the Associate Project Director at EPSCoR, agreed. “Don’t quit on something until you stop getting better,” she said. “Think about your goal for working on a project before you begin one.”
Dr. Andy Hansen, Associate Provost and professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Henry “Chip” Kobulnicky, professor in Physics and Astronomy, also participated on the panel.  
A complete schedule of this year’s WiMSE events can be found at: WiMSE is supported by the UW Women’s Center, the NASA Space Grant, Wyoming EPSCoR, the School of Energy Resources/Science Posse, INBRE, Engineering and SEO.

By Kali S. McCrackin

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The science behind the Olympics

Dr. Sarah Konrad talks with NBC Producer Kaleb Medders

When it comes to the Olympics, images of star athletes, fierce competition and epic wins come to mind, but what about science? While it may be the last thing most people think about, science is deeply embedded in the Games. It explains how the half-pipe works, how an ice skate skims across the ice and why some snow conditions are faster than others
 As the 2014 Olympic winter games in Sochi, Russia draw near, NBC is gearing up to not only talk about the athletes, but also to explore the science behind the Games. On Tuesday, August 27, an NBC film crew visited Laramie, Wyoming to talk with Olympian Sarah Konrad, Wyoming EPSCoR’s Associate Project Director. Konrad competed in Biathlon and Cross-Country skiing in the 2006 Turin, Italy and is currently the chair of the US Olympic Committee’s Athletic Advisory Council. Athletics, however, isn’t Konrad’s only area of expertise. She is also a scientist, with a doctorate in geology and a specialization in glaciology. Her knowledge of glaciology helps her understand the snow conditions and what to expect when she begins a race.
NBC interviewed Konrad about her experience in the Olympics and racing, but also about snow, how it is formed, what factors influence it and how artificial snow is made. This interview will be part of an NBC Learn series about the Olympics and science, which will be available online to the public before the Olympics begin. More science videos can be found on the NBC Learn website

By Kali S. McCrackin
Photo by Kali S. McCrackin

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Science: Becoming the Messenger" workshop to be hosted at the University of Wyoming

Turning complicated research into information a broad audience can understand is nothing short of a challenge. Research can contain scientific terminology and complex processes second nature to a scientist, but convoluted to someone outside that scientific field.
To address the difficulty of presenting research to a broad audience, the National Science Foundation will host a workshop called “Science: Becoming the Messenger” on September 11th and 12th at the University of Wyoming. The workshop will feature presentations on social media, video, interviews, and more. The goal of this workshop is to help scientists develop the skills necessary for communicating one’s research to a general audience.
According to the National Science Foundation website, day one of the workshop “equips attendees with the fundamental skills needed to plan, create, and execute effective communications,” and day two “focuses on applying the skills and knowledge gained on day one.”
The workshop will take place at the University of Wyoming in the Wildcatter Suites and is open to UW faculty, researchers, students across the state of Wyoming, and scientific partners. Although the workshop is free, participants must register online through the National Science Foundation.
If you have any questions regarding this workshop, please contact Beth Cable at (307) 766-3544 or  
By Robin E. Rasmussen