Hydrosphere Group Research

            Since 2009, we have hired Zunli Lu (aqueous geochemist), which elevated the number of faculty within the subdiscipline such that water resources is now considered its own thematic discipline within the department.  The water program is now supported by participation of Don Siegel, Chris Scholz, Laura Lautz, and Zunli Lu.  A number of faculty in the “water” group support multiple groups in the department (e.g. Chris Scholz and Zunli Lu also support the paleoclimate group).  Greg Hoke (tectonic geomorphologist) was hired in 2008 and his research has expanded to include themes under water resources as well.

            We continue to make concerted efforts to capitalize on the natural integration of hydrology across departments, colleges, and universities on the hill. Several initiatives are underway to strengthen integration of our water program with other related programs across Arts and Sciences, Syracuse University, and SUNY ESF. Our department has taken the lead role in developing an NSF IGERT (Interdisciplinary Graduate Education, Research, and Training) proposal to be submitted in July 2013. The IGERT proposal is to develop an integrated graduate training program centered on human interactions with the hydrosphere and effective public communication. This graduate program would integrate water science programs across Earth Sciences, Civil Engineering, Environmental Science (ESF), Environmental Engineering (ESF), and Chemistry (ESF). Faculty in the water group are actively involved in a NSF CZO (Critical Zone Observatory) proposal submitted in February 2013 to establish an observatory in the Onondaga Lake drainage basin. The CZO would provide a site with infrastructure in place to facilitate interdisciplinary research across Syracuse University and SUNY ESF (Earth Sciences, Civil Engineering, Geography, Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering).

            In addition to these interdisciplinary research initiatives that extend beyond our department, we have taken steps at the department level to bolster the quality of the water program. We have added three affiliated and adjunct faculty in the area of water resources (Philippe Vidon, SUNY ESF; Charles Driscoll, SU Engineering; Peng Gao, SU Geography). We have also initiated a collaborative research project to characterize shallow groundwater quality in Southern NYS prior to the onset of hydraulic fracturing and to establish geochemical fingerprinting tools to identify contamination resulting from flowback fluids. This project was recently recommended for funding by NSF and includes participation from Siegel, Hoke, Lu, and Lautz.

            Our department has taken an active role in the ongoing Clean Water Initiative, originating from the Dean and Provost’s Office.  Lautz and Siegel served on a search committee for an external senior hire to support that initiative.  Lautz has continued to work with Charley Driscoll from SU Engineering to facilitate the continued development of that initiative.  Recently, the Provost allocated a sizable budget to support variety of activities in support of the Water Initiative, including admitting PhD students in Engineering and Earth Sciences as “water fellows” using the University Fellowship model, the initiation of a high-profile seminar series to be paired with a reading seminar for water fellows and other interested students, and development of a program web page.  We anticipate the Water Initiative will continue to grow, with potential for development of new graduate programs and faculty development across LC Smith and Arts & Sciences.

            We have added facilities and equipment to support water-related research. Lautz acquired an ion chromatograph (for major ions in water) and a variety of field hydrology equipment as part of her start-up package. Lu acquired an ICP-MS (for analyzing elemental concentrations in water) as part of his start-up package. Lautz, Lu, and Hoke were awarded an Instrumentation and Facilities Grant from NSF to purchase a Picarro Liquid Water Isotope Analyzer. Scholz maintains a myriad of field equipment, including high-resolution seismic instruments, boats, winches, generators and more.