Monday, October 24, 2016

Following the Flow

Better Understanding Water Processes in Wyoming 

Wyoming is a state that pays attention to water. As a semi-arid head water state, citizens and organizations need to know how much water we have, and where this water is going. With scientific research we can answer these questions. Working with WyCEHG, Associate Professor Ginger Paige has been able to conduct hydrology research that has been able to contribute to a better understanding of water processes across the state.

She became interested in hydrology after working with the Peace Corps for three years in Mali, located in West Africa. She worked on community development and technology to improve well construction and irrigation in the area.

She is currently working on two different research projects; one in the upper Wind River Basin watershed and another in the Crow Creek watershed.

"Wyoming is beautiful and I love the places where we work. I'd rather be doing the ground research than modeling. Measurements give you the chance to look at variability such as changing landscapes or changing soil," Paige said.

Through her research Paige has been able to quantify the return flow processes in the Wind River Basin using geophysics technology provided by WyCEHG. Her team has been looking at the partitioning of surface and subsurface water and mapping out the subsurface hydrologic pathways.

At the Crow Creek watershed site there is a focus on the partitioning of surface waters. The next step for these findings are putting it into a watershed modeling framework. This modeling demonstrates where the water is going; whether it returns to the stream, is transpired, or goes into deep percolation.

The results from this research will help inform water management decisions when looking at the tradeoffs between irrigation practices. 

"WyCEHG has given us new instrumentation and new ideas to expand our capability and allows us to work with partners across Wyoming," Paige said.

Communication with other stakeholders in Wyoming is an integral part of Paige's work. Part of the outreach that Paige has participated in includes Water Interest Group meetings.

"We will have three meetings over the five year grant. The first introduced WyCEHG and it's capacity, to water entities in the state and region, in terms of water resource questions, and the second highlighted the partnerships we've formed. The final meeting will be a summary of what we've been able to do and a pathway forward," Paige said.

WyCEHG also attends Wyoming's monthly water forums led by the state's engineer office to share information on their findings with other state agencies.

Paige has also worked with graduate students as a supervisor and project director.

"Graduate students are helping me with my research but also have their own research topics. For masters or PhD students its important that they have ownership for their own research and they tend to be allowed more freedom. We have shared goals, but we do want that ownership," Paige said.

The biggest piece of advice she has for students interested in science research is to find an area of research that they are passionate about.

"Find a piece that really interests you because science takes time. It's about asking the questions, finding the answers and taking the time to do field work or lab work," Paige said.

No comments:

Post a Comment