Friday, December 12, 2014

WyCEHG heads to San Francisco for annual science meeting

On Monday, December 15th-19th, Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) faculty and students will join more than 24,000 geophysical professionals at the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting. The event, which has been running for 46 years and is the largest of its kind in the world, will be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

The meeting will feature over 14,000 poster presentations, in addition to more than 7,000 oral presentations from faculty, students and scientists around the country.

"Some of the biggest names in the hard sciences will be there,"says WyCEHG scientist and facilities manager Elizabeth Traver, who helped organize WyCEHG participants. "It's an incredible place for students and faculty to connect and network with people whose work they've followed."

Twenty WyCEHG students and faculty are presenting their research at the event. Posters and talks cover a wide range of topics related to surface hydrology, critical zones, bark beetle impact and more.

And participation at the conference isn't only limited to those who make it to San Francisco. This year, AGU is offering live internet streams of presentations, and ePosters. For more information on how to stream events, visit the AGU website.

"If you're a young scientist, this a great opportunity to see what's out there," says Traver. "It's just a really motivating conference. It's fascinating, interesting and groundbreaking."

By Manasseh Franklin

Friday, December 5, 2014

WyCEHG Scientist uses geophysics to construct climate history

From a young age, Dr. Bryan Shuman was drawn to understanding the way the natural world works. That fascination took him from his native northeast to Colorado College for undergrad, Brown University for grad school, the University of Oregon for a postdoc, the University of Minnesota for his first faculty position, and finally to UW.

Now, as an associate professor in Geology and Geophysics and director of the Roy Shlemon Center for Quaternary Studies, his desire to understand the natural world is as strong as ever.

“I’m really interested in how climate changes and effects water resources and ecosystems,” says Shuman, “and I use geologic evidence to look at how that’s occurred in the past.” 

He works within the timeframe of the past 15,000 years—since the last ice age—and has research sites in Wyoming, Colorado, and New England. In addition to using geologic evidence to understand climate processes, he also looks at climate’s impact on other systems. “I do a lot of work with fossil material to look at how forests in particular have responded. And I use lakes as giant precipitation gauges to reconstruct drought patterns in the past across many different parts of the continent.”

Bryan Shuman at Lewis Lake. Work focuses on
documenting and mapping changes in the levels of lakes
throughout North America over the past 15,000 years.
In order to conduct his research, Shuman employs less than tradition methods. “For me, the Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG) is a really exciting development because I am basically the only person in this field of paleoecology who uses geophysics,” he says. Geophysical tools, such as ground penetrating radar (GPR), help him to evaluate evidence of past climate change, and to look at the effects those changes have had on water supply and forests.

Shuman hopes to use his research not only for the academic purposes of reconstructing a climate history, but also to inform the public on the ways a shifting climate could effect the water resources and ecosystems of the future.

“One reason this research is important is that it’s providing water managers with examples of how systems have changed before. These are not climate model speculations about what might change, but actual examples of ways in which our water resources have been impacted.”

In addition to his research, Shuman also teaches
classes on climate.
“People are often surprised to realize that there were times when the Platte River—which we are totally dependent on for water and also energy—was dry for thousands of years,” Shuman says, and it wasn’t so long ago that the river was in that state. “The fact that we could change the climate and move into a situation that’s much drier than we are currently used to is not just an idea, it’s happened before.”

While his research can’t necessarily predict the future of the climate, it can show that there are meaningful impacts that climate change can produce. And it’s that deeper understanding of Earth’s history that really drives Shuman’s scientific interests.

“My favorite thing about [this research] is recognizing that the earth has been different in the past but that out there hidden in the landscape are all these clues as to how things have been before. I find it really amazing that I can go to a lake here in Wyoming, dig some material out of the ground and put together part of the story. Then I could go to somewhere in New England and see another piece of that story.”

“When we pull samples out of the ground, they have information that tells us about the way the world works. That’s very cool.”

By Manasseh Franklin

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