Sermet Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Research Grant Competition

Ames, Iowa – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to help graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Yusuf Sermet is one of the recipients, along with three other graduate students in Iowa. Each recipient will receive funding for various different research studies.

Sermet’s research predominately focuses on next-generation environmental knowledge generation and communication, as well as affordable water monitoring devices and applications.

Accuracy and reliability are two necessary components when it comes to the monitoring of our water resources. Current monitoring practices are accurate, however the cost to apply these systems on a large scale are restrictively expensive. This inspired Sermet to create a cost-friendly solution. Sermet’s research project created a water level measurement methodology that only relies on prevalent sensors, commonly found on smartphones. This allows for the camera-based embedded system to measure water levels, detect objects on the water surface (e.g. debris, boats, trees) and supply annotated data for hydrological processes, such as surface water modeling and streamflow estimation.

Get to know Yusuf Sermet, a PhD student at the University of Iowa.

Sermet first learned about the IWC when he participated in the annual Iowa Water Conference in 2016. He, along with his research group, took part in the student poster presentation and won second place that year. Sermet shared that, through this opportunity, he was able to learn from Iowa’s most prevalent researchers, professionals, stakeholders and peers in the field.

“Since then, I followed IWC’s activities and opportunities closely,” said Sermet. “With my advisor, who is the director of the Hydroinformatics Lab at the University of Iowa, Professor Ibrahim Demir, we felt that our research proposal on affordable stage sensors fit perfectly to IWC’s mission and vision, and will hopefully be useful to Iowans to prepare for future floods.”

Sermet grew up in Izmir, Turkey, where he received his undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering. After his junior year in his undergraduate studies, Sermet joined Professor Demir in the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa for a summer internship. He is currently working toward his PhD in electrical and computer engineering through the University of Iowa, where he is able to continue working as a researcher in this center. During his PhD, Sermet has been given the opportunity to work on creating artificial intelligence solutions for environmental and climate issues. When asked what his favorite part of the research process is, Sermet answered,

“What I like about the research process is the excitement of taking on new challenges, audaciously brainstorming ideas and innovating novel solutions.”

According to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the United States currently has 2.7 million streams and associated watersheds with poorly monitored network of only 8,300 sensors. Sermet stated that the federal and state governments in the United States use stage sensors can range in cost from $3,000-$30,000, with an additional expense of anywhere between $1,000-$10,000 in annual maintenance costs.

“These expensive sensor prices cause challenges for effective data coverage, which is crucial for natural disaster mitigation, water resource management and climate change,” Sermet said. “This data scarcity led us to come up with a novel approach that will allow the development of next-generation stream sensors within the cost range of $100-$400.”

When Sermet takes a break from his lab research work, he enjoys playing basketball, going to different concerts and movies and discovering new places. Sermet mentioned that most of these hobbies were put on pause due to COVID-19, so he has recently picked up the art of cooking. He likes to create Mediterranean dishes in particular.

The well-being of people and our communities inspired Sermet to complete his research proposal on affordable monitoring practices. Sermet shared that, over the last 40 years, water related natural hazards, such as floods and droughts, have killed more than 3,500 people in the United States and have caused over $350 billion in damage. Water resources support a plethora of daily-life necessities, including providing safe water for consumption, recreation, irrigation and power generation. Sermet explained that, because of the dire need for safe water, it is vital to have a reliable, water resource monitoring system in order to diminish the loss of life and property that water related disasters can create. It is his hope that with his completed research, this goal can become a reality.

Albright Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist, Iowa Water Center

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Ellen Albright has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. She and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

Albright Headshot
Ellen Albright, PhD Student at Iowa State University.

Albright’s proposed research focuses on internal phosphorus loading in shallow lakes, as well as management strategies to prevent and help mitigate harmful algal blooms. It is titled ‘Developing Methods to Measure Internal Phosphorus Loading in Iowa Lakes’.

“I’m interested in internal phosphorus loading, which is the release of phosphorus from lakebed sediments into the overlying water,” Albright says. Phosphorus is a limiting nutrient that can cause harmful algal blooms in lakes. Phosphorus stored at the bottom of lakes in sediment can be re-released into the water due to wind disturbance or fish stirring up the sediment.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research. Harmful algal blooms are a high-priority topic in the nation. Ms. Albright’s work will not only contribute to the body of knowledge on internal phosphorus loading, but will also contribute a new, scalable sampling method,” Miller says.

Albright says, “Internal phosphorus loading can maintain high nutrient levels in our lakes. And it’s not very well understood in the shallow lakes we have here in Iowa. It can also impact how effective watershed nutrient reduction strategies are at achieving water quality goals.”

Get to know Ellen Albright, PhD Student at Iowa State University

Albright grew up in a small town just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, called Cottage Grove. Her main area of research is limnology, or the study of inland waters such as lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

“My interest in limnology started during a summer undergrad position that I had with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I worked at a field station they run in northern Wisconsin called Trout Lake Station,” Albright says.

Albright and Field Work
Albright conducting field research.

She had a variety of positions there every summer of her undergraduate career. And while she was working there, she learned that she really enjoys research time and enjoys studying lakes.

“While I was there, I got excited about the process of collecting ecological data and knowing that data can help us make decisions and better manage freshwater resources. I think those are the experiences that really sparked the interests I have now,” Albright says.

Throughout and in between the field work days and lab work days, Albright is constantly working with other students, especially in the summertime.

Albright says, “I enjoy training our undergrad researchers for the different roles we have in our lab and encouraging them to pursue independent research projects. I find that mentoring is a really rewarding part of my job.”

In her free time, Albright enjoys getting outdoors. “It’s very relaxing for me. I like to go for walks, go birding, fishing, and get out on the water,” Albright says.


 For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/.


0Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.

Zhi Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Hui Zhi has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. She and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

Hu Zhi Headshot
Hui Zhi, PhD candidate at the University of Iowa.

Zhi’s proposed research encompasses sorption and biodegradation of pharmaceuticals in Iowa’s water. It is titled ‘Quantifying Differential Sorption and Biodegradation of Pharmaceuticals in a Wastewater Effluent-dominated Stream in Iowa’.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research. The fate and transport of pharmaceuticals in our water is of critical interest to both the state and region, and we look forward to sharing the results of Ms. Zhi’s work.”

“From this research, we’ll better understand the fate and transformation of pharmaceuticals in the surface water. It’s important we understand what’s in our drinking water, what’s in the treated wastewater, and what’s in the streams and rivers. And, how they change spatially and temporally,” Zhi says.

Get to Know Hui Zhi, PhD Candidate at the University of Iowa

Typically, Zhi wakes up around 6:30 A.M. and makes herself breakfast and a cup of black coffee. Once at her office, she checks emails and reads journal article updates.

One early morning in her office, Zhi received an email about the IWC’s grant competition and thought, “it would be a really great opportunity to apply for.” She spoke to her adviser about the competition and he encouraged her to write and submit a proposal.

“It caught my eye,” Zhi says of the grant competition email. Zhi’s research from this grant work will be a one-year study that employs both field and laboratory research approaches.

Zhi says, “I really enjoy working in the lab and look forward to getting the results.”

Hui Zhi Lab Work
Zhi conducting lab work at the University of Iowa.

Zhi grew up in China, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in an environmental science program at China Pharmaceutical University.

The environmental crisis in China influenced Zhi to continue school and to focus on environmental engineering. She decided to continue her studies here in the United States, where Zhi believes, “the best programs in the world for environmental engineering are at.”

She received her master’s degree at Cornell University and is now a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa. Her anticipated completion year is 2020.

With her research, Zhi hopes people will better understand the behaviors of pharmaceutical mixtures in the water and their associated ecological impacts.

She explains, “The results will be able to help the right people, whoever is responsible for our water policy regulations, set in place science-based water quality regulations for pharmaceuticals. Regulations not just for our drinking water, but also in the treated wastewater that is discharged into our environment. Hopefully then, we will have a cleaner water environment.”

Instead of just focusing solely on the quality of our drinking water, Zhi thinks knowing what’s going on in all our water systems, for example streams and rivers, is vital to a healthy environment.

Pharmaceuticals can have impacts on aquatic species, such as fish, living in the water. If pharmaceuticals are accumulating in fish and people are eating these fish, the accumulation of pharmaceuticals ends up in human bodies.

Therefore, not only are we drinking pharmaceuticals, but we are also eating fish that have been accumulating pharmaceuticals over time. “People need to know what’s happening in the streams nearby that they’re swimming in and also in the waters their fish are found because there are potential impacts on the human body that we don’t clearly know yet,” Zhi says.

To help prevent research burnout, Zhi enjoys exercising. “Whether it’s cardio, yoga, boxing, rock climbing, or swimming, I love it. All these different sports help relieve any pressure from research, and I have a lot of fun doing them,” Zhi says.


 For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/.


0Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.

Lawrence Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Nate Lawrence has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. He and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

nathaniellawrence
Nate Lawrence, graduate student at Iowa State University.

Lawrence’s proposed research encompasses nitrate contamination in agricultural systems. It is titled ‘Denitrification in Agricultural Depressions by Nitrate Isotope Analysis’.

“The question that this grant targets is ‘to what extent are low-lying areas in fields, which are common across the Midwest, functioning as intermittent wetlands which remove nitrate pollution from water and how much of the nitrate removed is reduced nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas,’” Lawrence says.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research.”

This grant will allow Lawrence to quantify how much denitrification removes nitrate before it flows to tile lines and ultimately surface waters. Lawrence’s theory is that low-lying areas in agriculture fields may remove nitrate before it ends up in the stream, acting as intermittent wetlands embedded in agriculture fields.

Miller says, “Landscape depressions are very evident with wet seasons, like we saw in fall 2018 and spring 2019, and research like Mr. Lawrence’s project is imperative for determining how we manage low-lying areas. The results could impact both water quality downstream as well as decision-making for in-field profitability.”

Get to Know Nate Lawrence, Graduate Student at Iowa State University

Lawrence is originally from a town in central Illinois called Monticello. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois, where his interest in research took off.

“My undergraduate research at the University of Illinois also focused on soil nutrient cycling, which led me to my current research questions,” Lawrence says.

His research focuses on climate change and water pollution because he feels, “They are defining scientific questions with potential to address major environmental problems.”

Nate Larwrence Field Work
Lawrence conducting field work at the Been field site, an ISU-owned research farm off South Dakota Avenue in Ames, Iowa.

This topic brought him to Iowa because, “The Midwest is responsible for a large percentage of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions. These emissions are coupled to processes that produce nitrate pollution in water. So, Iowa is a fruitful place to look into soil nitrogen processes,” he says.

Lawrence is looking forward to connecting his two areas of study, water and greenhouse gases. He says, “It’s an interesting research project because it combines two areas of my research and may help clarify the processes of both.”

Lawrence describes his research colleagues at Iowa State University as, “…an inviting community with cutting-edge research, collaboration, and professional opportunities.” The Department of Evolution and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University has helped Lawrence thrive in his area of study.

In his free time, Lawrence enjoys being outside in a non-research capacity. Gardening, fishing, and hunting are a few of his favorite outdoor activities.


For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit: https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/.


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Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.

 

 

The 2018 104(g) National Competitive Grants Program is now open

The 104(g) National Competitive Grants program is one of three grant programs administered annually by the Iowa Water Center in coordination with the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR).

Due Date: Preproposals are due February 15, 2018
Submit to: State Water Institute or Center (that is us – email to hbates@iastate.edu)
Award maximum and duration: 1-3 years, $250,000 maximum. 1:1 match. NO INDIRECT COSTS.
Scope: Proposals must focus on “water problems and issues of a regional or interstate nature.” Collaboration between organizations and agencies (particularly USGS) are highly encouraged; USGS partnerships receive extra weight in evaluation.

Request for Applications URL

2018 Priorities:

  • Evaluation of innovative approaches to water treatment, infrastructure design, retrofitting, maintenance, management and replacement.
  • Exploration and advancement of our understanding of changes in the quantity and quality of water resources in response to a changing climate, population shifts, and land use changes; including associated economic, environmental, social, and/or infrastructure costs.
  • Development of methods for better estimation of water supply, both surface and groundwater, including estimation of the physical and/or economic supply of water.
  • Development and evaluation of processes and governance mechanisms for integrated surface/ground water management.
  • Evaluation and assessment of the effects of water conservation practices, as well as adoption, penetration and permanence.

Other important information:

Send your preproposal (using Attachment A of the RFA) to the Iowa Water Center by February 15 at 4 p.m., and we send it on to the review committee. If the receipt on the email is past this time, we cannot forward your preproposal.

The previous application system (NIWR.net) will NOT be used in either the preproposal or full proposal submission process.

The preproposal does NOT require a full or detailed budget, only estimate totals (Iowa State University PIs, the preproposal does not require a Goldsheet).

Indirect costs (IDC) are not allowed in the federal portion of the budget, but you can (and should) claim the IDCs you would have gotten if they were allowed as matching funds (see Section VIII.E. of the RFA; let us know if you have questions).

We would be delighted to discuss potential projects as you write your preproposal.

Summer Update from the IWC Graduate Student Research Grant Program: Nathan Young

Post submitted by Nathan Young, a PhD student co-majoring in Geology and Environmental Science here at Iowa State University.

Over the past 30 years, computer simulations of groundwater flow have become a standard tool for investigating water quality and quantity issues across the globe. Because of a number of limitations, ranging from data availability to available computer power, these simulations (or “models”) contain a number of simplifying assumptions that prevent them from being perfect representations of the location being studied. For instance, if the subsurface was composed primarily of sand with some gravel mixed in, we may tell the model that the subsurface is only composed of sand to simplify the model and make it run faster. While these assumptions may be acceptable under most circumstances, several common assumptions made about the subsurface in Iowa may in fact impede our understanding of how water and nutrients are moving throughout the state. In Iowa’s till dominated watersheds, the subsurface is commonly treated as a fairly homogenous low-permeability material, while in reality, ultra-small-scale cracks (or fractures) present in this material provide pipe-like pathways through which water and nutrients can move very rapidly. These fractures are often omitted from models due to the massive amount of computer power required to include them in the type of watershed-scale investigations that would be conducted for the purposes of evaluating regional water quality.

In spring 2017, I was awarded funding in the Iowa Water Center Graduate Student Supplemental Research Competition for my project titled, “Simulation of Watershed-Scale Nitrate Transport in Fractured Till Using Upscaled Parameters Obtained from Till Core.” My research seeks to accomplish two goals: to develop a method to include fractures in watershed-scale models, and then to evaluate the extent to which these ultra-small-scale fractures enhance groundwater flow and nutrient transport at the watershed scale.

This past summer I have made significant progress on my project on a number of fronts. My laboratory experiments on a series of 16x16x16 cm sediment samples excavated from the Dakota Access Pipeline trenches are ongoing, but they are progressing forward. I am currently conducting flow experiments on the samples using groundwater spiked with a chemical tracer. These samples contain small-scale cracks, called fractures, which provide pathways for very rapid movement of fluid and tracer in what would otherwise be a largely impervious material. By measuring the flow rate of fluid coming out of the sample, as well as the concentration of tracer that this effluent contains, I can quantify to what degree these fractures are enhancing flow within the sample. Early results of this work show that as we move deeper in the subsurface, water moves through the samples more slowly (which is what we would expect to see) yet these flow rates are still higher than we would find if the samples did not contain fractures. Furthermore, tracer concentrations in the sample effluent indicate that the fractures are providing preferential pathways for the tracer to flow through, resulting in tracer exiting the sample much sooner than if it were unfractured. I have been fortunate to have the assistance of two undergraduates, Jay Karani ’19, and Kate Staebell ’17, in setting up these experiments and analyzing the resulting output. This work would have taken much longer without their help!

I have also been working to develop a set of new computational methods that will allow for the role that these fractures play in groundwater flow and solute transport to be included in watershed-scale computer models. Previously, accounting for groundwater flow in fractures was too computationally intensive to include in models larger than the size of a small field. Yet the early results of my work suggest that we may have found a method to circumvent this computational limitation by computing a new set of flow parameters using sophisticated, small-scale groundwater flow simulations and field data.  I presented some preliminary results of this work at the 2017 MODFLOW and More conference in Golden, Colorado, this past May, and was awarded 2nd place for graduate student presentations. A short paper on this work was also published in the conference proceedings. I am currently finalizing my results in preparation for a talk I will be giving at the Geological Society of America’s National meeting in Seattle later this month. I am also in the process of writing up the results for publication, and hope to have one of two manuscripts ready for submission by the end of the semester.

Finally, I was invited to visit Laval University in Quebec City, Canada this past August to work with Dr. René Therrien, a professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering who developed the groundwater model I am using in my research. With the help of Dr. Therrien and his research group, I was able to accomplish in two weeks what would have likely taken me three months on my own. I have already been invited back to work with them again in summer 2018. We are working together to write a grant proposal to secure funding for that visit. I am confident that continued work with my collaborators at Laval University will enable me to include more detail in my study area, Walnut Creek watershed, into the overall model of the watershed I am currently building.

Monitoring in the Black Hawk Lake Watershed

Black Hawk Lake is an important recreational resource in Iowa. Recently, the lake has had high levels of algae and turbidity. High levels of algae is problematic because it inhibits the natural function of aquatic ecosystems. Turbidity, or the suspension of particles within a water body, also has a negative impact on water quality. The cloudiness within water systems can affect light penetration and can also reduce the volume water systems can hold, and therefore, reduce the space that aquatic habitat can live in. With support from Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other funding sources, such as the Iowa Water Center, we are monitoring the water quality at three sites in the Black Hawk Lake watershed. This is with the goal of determining the effectiveness of strategies used to address the algae and turbidity problems.

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