Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Collaboration and the CI-WATER Hydrologic Modeling Workshop

In science, collaboration takes a variety of forms through partnerships, information sharing and cooperative projects. The CI-WATER Hydrologic Modeling Workshop, held July 22-26 at the University of Wyoming (UW), tapped into all of these forms of collaboration, through the building of new partnerships, the utilization of collaboratively created modeling systems, and the application of new information into group projects.
“We had five students from JSU, one from Utah State University and three from here, at UW,” says Dr. Fred Ogden, the lead principal investigator for UW on the CI-WATER project, who facilitated the workshop.
CI-WATER is a collaborative grant between UW, Utah StateUniversity (USU), Brigham Young University (BYU) and University of Utah (UU). During the workshop, partnerships and friendship between the universities began to develop as participants learned how to use spatial hydrologic tools.
“The CI-WATER high performance computer model is still under development, so we decided to use GSSHA, which is the model I helped develop with the Army Corps of Engineers based in Vicksburg, Mississippi,” Dr. Ogden says.
GSSHA, the Gridded Surface Subsurface Hydrologic Analysis Model, is similar to the model CI-WATER is developing. Spatial hydrologic tools, like the GSSHA model, can be used to mitigate flooding and understand the impacts of changes in land use.
“We’re teaching them how to run a state of the art hydrologic model,” says Dr. Ogden.
Participants started out learning the model in small group projects.
“We started out with a little watershed,” says Sam Rhoads, a civil engineering major from JSU. “Then we added in residential land-use, industrial land-use and learned how to add different hydrologic structures so we could get a feel for everything to do with the model.”
After learning the basics of the tool, Dr. Ogden decided to introduce a bit of what he calls ‘reality’ to their projects by taking them out of the computer lab and into the field to use a rainfall simulator.
“Basically it can simulate rainfall on a plot of land,” says Sam. “From that, you can measure a lot more accurately than just taking numbers from a table. You can get actual data for the soil property, like the infiltration of the soil, the hydraulic conductivity and how the water is going to flow through the soil so you can use that in the model. That way, you get more accurate output.”
“I think the rain simulator was probably an eye opener,” says Dr. Ogden.
The field day definitely made an impression on one of the participants.
“I liked going to the field,” says Jeremiah Lewis, an industrial engineering major from JSU. Seeing water in action made a clearer connection between the workshop projects and reality.
For another participant, Ashlee Ingram, applying real data to the model and learning about the water aspect of civil engineering were invaluable.
“I like learning different aspects of civil engineering,” she says. “It is good to know different programs. It kind of puts you ahead of other people.”
For the participants in the workshop, knowing GSSHA may do just that.
“The Army Corps in Vicksburg, Mississippi are eager to interact with these students,” Dr. Ogden says. “They asked me to have the students contact them when they’re done because we’re training them on GSSHA and that’s a skill they are always looking for people to have.”
As the workshop came to a close, participants headed home not only with new skills in watershed modeling, but also with more insight into working on group projects and the value of collaboration in science.

By: Kali S. McCrackin

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