Research

My research group is interested in understanding how physical hydrologic processes influence water quality and movement through watersheds. We study how water moves through paired surface water and groundwater systems, heat tracing in hydrologic systems, and interactions between the energy and water cycles. We work on several specific interdisciplinary research projects, within which we used field experiments coupled with computer modeling experiments.

Examples of Current Research Projects:

Groundwater-surface water interactions in tropical alpine catchments and their influence on sources and stability of water supply during glacial recession (National Science Foundation, Co-PIs: Bryan Mark, Ohio State University; Jeff McKenzie, McGill University)Peru 241
Alpine watersheds and the ice and snow they contain are one of the most important sources of fresh water in the world, and mountain regions that are dominated by glaciers are especially sensitive to climate change. Melting glaciers in the semi-arid tropics currently provide a large component of annual runoff and buffer highly seasonal precipitation regimes, but ongoing glacier recession is predicted to make alpine runoff smaller in volume and more temporally variable, stressing water resources. Previous research suggests that groundwater aquifers in proglacial catchments are an important storage reservoir during dry seasons, and will likely play a dominant role in streamflow generation under future non-glacierized conditions. Despite their importance, little is known about fundamental hydrogeologic processes governing the interaction of surface water and groundwater in proglacial catchments. We are studying the interactions between surface water and groundwater reservoirs in proglacial meadow landforms in the Andes of Peru, estimate their storage volumes, and quantify contributions to streamflow.

Project SWIFT: Shale-Water Interaction Forensic Tools, RAPID: Developing sensitive tests for detecting contamination associated with shale bed methane production in the Appalachian Basin (National Science Foundation, Syracuse University, Syracuse Center of Excellence; Co-PIs: Greg Hoke, Zunli Lu, Don Siegel)Christian_SyrUniv_SWIFTsampling
Maintaining access to abundant clean water, while also meeting our increasing demand for cleaner energy is a major societal challenge. The largest natural gas play in the United States, the Marcellus Shale, is tapped using a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. In contrast to the recent shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, New York State has been under a hydrofracking moratorium, and now ban. There is an opportunity to complete a thorough, large-scale, unbiased assessment of water quality pre-hydrofracking, to facilitate detection of water quality impairment post-hydrofracking. We are conducting a large-scale water quality program to disseminate science-based information about hydraulic fracturing to stakeholders, while also involving them in the development of a publically-available water quality database and a geochemical fingerprinting tool specifically developed for identifying potential water quality impairment due to hydraulic fracturing.  We are developing a geochemical fingerprinting tool to  identify contamination of surface water and groundwater due to activities related to energy production via hydraulic fracturing.  We are involving local residents of communities underlain by the Marcellus Shale in a large-scale, unbiased sampling of the region’s surface and groundwater quality.

Impacts of In-stream Restoration on Hydrological, Chemical and Biological Heterogeneity in the Hyporheic Zone (National Science Foundation, Co-PIs: Ted Endreny and Kathy McGrath, SUNY ESF)Ninemile_Marcellus 035
Billions of dollars are spent annually on stream restoration, but assessments of restoration impacts on in-channel ecosystems are rare, and investigations into hyporheic impacts are practically absent. The complex interactions of surface and subsurface flow in the hyporheic zone associated with restoration structures may play an important role in the ecological recovery of these projects, particularly with respect to water quality and aquatic habitat. The overall objectives of this project are to assess: (1) the degree to which in-stream restoration projects mimic natural bedform processes by inducing rapid hyporheic interaction, and (2) the resultant impacts on heterogeneity of associated physical, chemical, thermal and biological patterns in streambeds.

Recent Projects, some in wrap-up stages:

CAREER: Integrating Research and Education to Advance the Use of Heat as a Tracer of Surface-Ground Water Interaction at Multiple Spatial and Temporal Scales (National Science Foundation)
The major objective of this proposal is to integrate research and teaching to advance the application of heat transport theory to characterize water flux between streams and groundwater and to relate those fluxes to changes in water quality over a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

The Impact of Changing Climate on Winter Nitrogen Export from a Forested Watershed of the Adirondack Mountains (USDA McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program)
The overall objective of this study is to understand how climatic and hydrological factors interact to influence nitrate dynamics in forested watersheds during the winter season and how changes in winter climate impact rates of nitrate export in streams.

Water Flux and Nitrogen Cycling in the Hyporheic Zones of a Semi-Arid Watershed: Hydrologic and Geomorphic Driving Forces in a Transitional Climate (National Science Foundation)
The study includes field experiments and numerical hydrologic models designed to identify and quantify hyporheic pathways and fluxes of water and dissolved solutes across the surface-groundwater interface and the causes of hyporheic flux variability. We are testing whether in-stream flow obstructions, particularly small beaver dams, enhance extent of the hyporheic zone along semi-arid streams compared to the effects of other geomorphic and hydrologic controls.