Friday, November 11, 2016

Diving into Groundwater Research

This August, WyCEHG welcomed a new scientist onto their team, Dr. Kevin Befus. Dr. Befus works in the Civil and Architectural Engineering Department as a groundwater hydrologist.

Before coming to Laramie, Dr. Befus received his PhD from the University of Texas, Austin and went on to serve as a U. S. Geological Survey Mendenhall Research Fellow in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Dr. Befus's research is focused on how groundwater interacts with conditions at the Earth's surface.

"Groundwater is what I'm curious about. How does it affect everything else?" Dr. Befus said.

Groundwater acts as long term reservoir for water, but it does change over time. Dr. Befus is interested in how human uses are affecting the sustainability of the resource and how this in turn may affect system ecology, chemistry, and weathering of bedrock.

"Groundwater is a huge resource for producing food and our populations water. Over half of Laramie's water comes from groundwater. It acts as underground storage and a natural filtration system," Dr. Befus said.

Dr. Befus became interested in hydrology during college. After changing his major to geology, he went to Honduras to help install water systems. "It was a humanitarian extrapolation of what hydrology can do," Dr. Befus explained.

Dr. Befus also enjoys working in the field, and has experience working in Wyoming's natural habitat. As a graduate student he worked in the Bighorn mountains studying their geological background and structure.

"Research is a different way to enjoy nature. It's like hiking except you are learning more about nature in the process, there's an additional purpose behind it," Dr. Befus said.

As his research begins Dr. Befus is looking for graduate and PhD students to work as a part of his Water Hydrology Group.

"We will possibly have 3 students for the start of 2017. They'd work on projects ranging from mountain hydrology, and potentially groundwater connections to other surface water and reservoirs," Dr. Befus said.

This is the first time Dr. Befus has been a part of an engineering program. In the future he would like to be involved with the Engineers without Boarders program and would act as a faculty mentor.

"Engineering is the applied aspect of science. It's science that can lead to better problem solving and designing," Dr. Befus said.

While Dr. Befus thinks understanding nature itself is satisfying, he also emphasizes the importance of the application of science to local communities.  He looks forward to contributing to outreach efforts within the University community and on the Wind River Reservation.

"Communicating about science is important because it shows the value of science and how it can affect day to day life. It helps get people excited. Not everyone is going to be a water nerd like me," Dr. Befus said.

We are excited that Dr. Befus has joined the WYCHEG team and can't wait to see what he has to contribute.

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