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Our newest doctorate: Will Pluer!

Will and his bioreactor work join the elite Soil & Water alumni network after a successful defense this week. He's certainly left his mark with generous and patient lab training, continuous undergraduate mentorship, and endless NC State pride. He's certainly off to great things, and we'll miss having him around!

Congratulations, Will!

May 3, 2018

Hooray for successful A's!

Congratulations to Erin Menzies Pluer and Daniela Rosero for passing their A exams! Erin is continuing work on a social science chapter of her dissertation about the pathways of water- & nutrient-related knowledge between farmers and academics, as well as starting greenhouse experiments related to woodchips as mechanisms for soil restoration. Daniela is continuing work to determine scientifically and managerially relevant environmental flows for streams in Ecuador.

Bravo to both of them!

April & May 2018

Chelsea Morris's PhD dissertation

With a broad-ranging and well attended "Ode to Nitrogen", Chelsea successfully defended her dissertation. She's off to a new job in Seattle working for Washington State on questions of agricultural nutrient pollution.

Congratulations, Chelsea!

April 26, 2018

Congratulations to Tanya Petach

Tanya successfully defended her masters thesis to her committee, with a full house in attendance for her public talk on the impacts of wildfire ash on drinking water treatment concerns. She's leaving us to continue on with PhD studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and we wish her all the best!

Three cheers for Tanya, M.S.!

April 11, 2018

Larry Geohring´s last lecture

Our congratulations to Larry on giving his last lecture today and our tremendous gratitude for his years of teaching!

Congratulations, Larry!

November 28, 2017

Congrats to Grace Bulltail

Grace successfully defended her dissertation this September.

Congratulations Grace!

September 2017

Congrats to James Knigton

James was awarded the AGU Hydrology Section's Horton Research Grant to continue his work on isotope tracers in the unsaturated zone.

Congratulations James!

Congrats to Dr. Sheila Saia!

The newest member of the SWL Doctorate Club, Sheila Saia, defended her dissertation on phosphorus cycling this May. She's off to work at the US Forest Service in North Carolina. Congratulations Sheila! We'll miss you!

Spring Rains Could Mean No Lasting Impact from Last Summer's Drought

Soil & Water Lab professor Todd Walter visited Depauville, NY to talk about the 2016 summer drought, one of the worst in decades. See Todd speak with Spectrum News of Central NY.

Congratulations Katy and James!

Soil & Water Lab members Katy Hofmeister and James Knighton were awarded grants for their research this spring. Katy received the Marian P. and David M. Gates Graduate Student Endowment Fund for her research on surface runoff at the University of Michigan Biological Station. James was awarded funding to engage the Ithaca community in flooding risks and climate change. Congrats!

Congratulations Dr. Allison Truhlar!

Soil & Water Lab member Allison Truhlar successfully defended her dissertation this April morning. We're excited about her work on manure pathogens in agricultural fields and research into improving online teaching methods. Hip hip hooray!

Spring Seminar on Glyphosate-based Herbicides Impacts

This semester we will hold a research-based multi- disciplinary seminar on reassessing the potential transport and impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides (such as the familiar product, Roundup) and their primary degradation product, AMPA. Due to the development and predominance of transgenic glyphosate-tolerant crops such as corn and soybeans, the use of glyphosate has increased markedly in recent years, and it is now one of the most heavily-used active ingredients. Its direct toxicity is very low, and post-application immobilization and degradation are rapid. However, recent research has found widespread − albeit low- level − detections in the environment in agricultural areas, while others suggest the potential for non- target adverse impact pathways. We look forward to an open discussion from many disciplinary perspectives.

SWL Seminar Series

Spring Biogeochemistry Seminar Announced

Biogeochemistry seminars at Cornell will commence on Friday January 27. Join us for seminar and refreshments afterwards. Organized by the Biogeochemistry, Environmental Science and Sustainability Graduate Student Association.

Biogeochemistry Seminar Series

Soil & Water Lab Alumni Featured on National Public Radio

Dr. Helen Dahlke and her research at University of California Davis was featured in a National Public Radio story on the program All Things Considered. Listen in!

Congratulations Grace & Natalie, our new PhD Candidates. Farewell to Christian!

December was a big month for the SWL. Two graduate students defended their dissertation proposals and rose the PhD Candidate status. Grace Bulltail will be continuing her water quality research in South Dakota, while Natalie Morse will pursue urban biogeochemistry locally.

Alumni and Post-doc researcher Christian Guzman accepted a position to work with Dr. Jan Bol at Washington State University. We're sad to see him go, but relish in knowing that his humor will be enjoyed by our WSU colleagues.

Todd Speaks with Jefferson County Farmers About Groundwater

Listen to clips from Todd's presentation this past week on the continuing drought conditions in Central New York State. It could be several years before groundwater levels return to normal.

Congratulations to our newly minted Doctor, Assefa Zegeye!

Assefa defended his dissertation on gully erosion in the humid Ethiopian Highlands this month (August 2016). We're so proud!

Central NYS is Drying Out – When Can We Expect Relief?

Dr. Todd Walter, director of NYS Water Resources Institute, and PhD Student James Knighton provide an update on the Central NY Drought. Read the one-page update here.

Central New York State Drought Questions Answered

The lack of winter snowfall wouldn't have eased the pain of this summer's drought, says analysis by Dr. Todd Walter, director of NYS Water Resources Institute, and PhD Student James Knighton. Read the one-page report here. Get answers to questions on low flows, recovering from the drought, and the connection to climate change.

Dry Summer Causes High Iron Levels in Ithaca Tap Water

From Time Warner Cable News, an interview with Erik Whitney of Ithaca's Department of Public Works and Dr. Todd Walter, Director of NY Water Resources Institute and Cornell Professor: "Pulling in water from Bolton Point [Cayuga Lake] is something the city might resort to if rainfall levels do not increase soon. In the meantime, the city's water department continues to flush the water mains through fire hydrants, with a big reduction in complaints."

Watch the story here.

Congratulations Cedric and Erin!

Congratulations to Soil & Water Lab Graduate Researchers Cedric Mason and Erin Menzies. In June, Cedric defended his PhD dissertation. Erin presented her Master's Thesis. We're proud of your accomplishments!

Congratulations Sarah!

Congratulations to Soil & Water Lab Undergraduate Researcher and BEE Senior Sarah Nadeau, who has been selected to receive the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. Sarah has worked in our lab on several projects concerning road salt impacts on the environment and landscape patterns of denitrification genes.

Congratulations to Sheila and Bahar!

Soil & Water Lab PhD Candidate Sheila Saia and Bahar Hassanpoor were recently honored at for the excellent posters at Cornell Biological & Environmental Engineering Department's Student Research Symposium. Sheila took 1st prize with her poster on "Factors influencing phosphorous cycling in biogeochemical 'hot spots'." Bahar won 3rd prize with her work on "Field performance of denitrifying bioreactors in three different landscapes in the Northeastern United States." Congratulations to both!

Sheila Saia and Todd Walter

New publication on greenhouse gas emissions in stormwater detention basins

Soil & Water Lab PhD Candidate Lauren McPhillips has recently published a paper on nitrous oxide and methane emissions in stormwater detention basins. Lauren found that moisture and organic content in basin soils drove the gas emissions. The wetter basins produced more methane, but denitrified at greater rates than the drier basins.

Read the full paper here.

McPhillips, Lauren; Walter, Todd. Hydrologic conditions drive denitrification and greenhouse gas emissions in stormwater detention basins. Ecological Engineering. 2015. V85, p67-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2015.10.018

Stormwater Basin Sampling Design

Arresting gullies video

Our alumnus and colleague Seifu Admassu Tilahun produced a video on Youtube about the dangerous trend of increasion soil erosion in Ethiopia. The message on this documentary video is to direct attention and encourage action on gullies that are rapidly expanding uphill slope, devastating valuable farmland and reducing the storage capacity of reservoirs in the highland. This video is the outcome of the PEER Science research project funded by USAID to Bahir Dar University.

The spoken language in the video is Amharic, with English subtitles. Abstract:

የዚህ ዶክመንተሪ ፊልም መልእክት የእርሻ መሬቶችን እየዋጠ፣ ግድቦቻችን በደለል እየሞላና ወደ ተራሮች እየተስፋፋ ያለውን ቦረቦር ለማገገም ትኩረት በመስጠት ሲሆን ዶክመንተሪ ፊልም የተዘጋጀው በአሜሪካ የእርዳታ ድርጅት የገንዘብ ድጋፍ የባህርዳር ዩኒቨርስቲ ፒር ሳይንስ የምርምር ፕሮጀክት ውጤት ነው፡፡

Fall 2015 Soil and Water Laboratory Seminar Schedule Announced

Our weekly Monday seminar is back for the Fall semester. Join us from 3:30-4:30 in Room 205 of Riley Robb. Invited speakers this semester include Maricke van Leeuwen of Wageningen University, Dr. Clifford Voss, Dr. John Albertson, Dr. Deb Jaisi, and Olivlier Dangles. For the full schedule click here (pdf).

Engineering needs culture

Don't miss the new video produced by Cayenna Ponchione and our Gail Holst-Warhaft. More.

Congratulations to Pete Marchetto!

SWL Graduate and Post Doc Pete Marchetto recently accepted an offer from University of Minnesota's Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering department to become Assistant Professor (tenure track) in robotics, sensors, and advanced manufacturing. Pete, we're so proud and excited for you!

Cook Out Season Has Begun!

The Soil & Water Lab took a break from our usual work and celebrated the new field season and summer visitors with a cookout. What a mighty fine crew!

Cook Out with SWL members and food

Congratulations to Cedric Mason on Completing His A-Exam!

Cedric's research is on greenhouse gas emission from bioenergy crops. Congrats Cedric!

Congratulations to Will Pluer on Defending his Master's Thesis

Will's research is on denitrifying bioreactors. Congrats Will!

New Publication on Denitrification in Stream Riparian Areas

Soil & Water Lab PhD Candidate Lauren McPhillips has recently published a paper from her Master's degree research on denitrification in stream riparian areas. Lauren found that denitrification was controlled by groundwater flow rates through the riparian zone. Though denitrification rates were very high, Lauren also found that other important ecosystem processes are contributing to transformation or removal of excess nitrate in groundwater, including a microbial process called dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA).

Read the full paper here.

McPhillips, Lauren; Groffman, Peter; Goodale, Christine; Walter, Todd. Hydrologic and Biogeochemical Drivers of Riparian Denitrification in an Agricultural Watershed. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2015. V226 Issue 6. DOI: 10.1007/s11270-015-2434-2

Sheila Saia wins Third Place at Penn State's 18th Annual ECMSS

PhD candidate Sheila Saia was awarded third place in the poster competition at Penn State's Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology Student Symposium (ECMSS) for her poster titled "Does phosphorus cycling in stream biofilms mimic that of polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) in wastewater treatment plants?"

Congratulations Sheila!

Does phosphorus cycling in stream biofilms mimic that of PAOs in WWTP?

New Research Article on the Impact of Conservation Practices on Runoff and Soil Loss in Ethiopian Highlands

Soil & Water Lab professor Tammo Steenhuis together with Bahir Dar University PhD Candidate Dessalegn C. Dagnewand and Cornell PhD Candidates Christian Guzman, Assefa Zegeye, and Tigist Tebebu published results from a four year project monitoring the impact of conservation terraces with infiltration furrows on stream sediment concentrations and runoff volume in the Debre Mawi Watershed in Ethiopia. Runoff volume decreased, but sediment loading decreased only marginally during the main rainy season. In flat bottom lands where monsoon rains saturated the soils seasonally, the conservation furrows initiated gully formation.

Read the full paper here.

Dagnew, D. C., Guzman, C. D., Zegeye, A. D., Tibebu, T. Y., Getaneh, M., Abate, S., ... & Steenhuis, T. S. Impact of conservation practices on runoff and soil loss in the sub-humid Ethiopian Highlands: The Debre Mawi watershed. Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics. 2015. v63. DOI: 10.1515/johh-2015-0021

More Reasons to Celebrate this Spring

Congratulations to Pete Marchetto and Allison Truhlar. Pete successfully defended his doctoral dissertation this April. Allison was honored as an Outstanding Teaching Assistant by Cornell College of Agricultural & Life Sciences. Congrats to both!

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Awarded to Soil & Water Lab Members

Congratulations Katy Hoffmeister and Natalie Morse in their successful bid for a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Katy was awarded a full scholarship. Natalie won honorable mention. Congratulations!

Winter and spring runoff salt concentrations are on par with ocean salinity

Recent research on our Cornell Campus by Soil & Water Lab member Lauren McPhillips was recently covered in the Cornell Chronicle. Lauren and undergraduate researchers found salt residue lasts all year long in the soils contained in storm-water retention basins and that the high salinity levels appear to be changing the composition of soil microbes. To read more about this work, visit our research page on road salt impacts.

Christian Guzman to Lead Doctoral Candidates at Cornell Graduation this May

Our very own Christian Guzman is being honored by the University and asked to lead fellow graduates as Degree Marshal. We're proud of you Christian! Congratulations on this honor and finishing your degree. Check out Christian's research on erosion processes in Ethiopia and his new work in the Cauca Valley with the Soils Research Group in the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

New Research Article on Guiding Best Management Practice Planning with Process-Based Modeling

Soil and Water Lab Researchers Sheila Saia, Tammo Steehuis, and lab alumni Jan Boll and Zach Easton recently published their efforts in modeling best management practices and assessing their effectiveness in predicting the fate and transport of pesticide pollution in agricultural watersheds. The Hydrologic Characterization Tool (HCT) is a web-based version of the Water Erosion Prediction Project. The research article concerns the use of this tool in at three Conservation Effects Assessment Project watersheds: Paradise Creek Watershed in Idaho, Walnut Creek Watershed in Iowa, and Goodwater Creek Experimental Watershed in Missouri. Read the full article here.

Simulated Monthly Distribution of Major Flow Paths and Erosion for the Walnut Creek Watershed.- Figure from Brooks et al., 2015. doi:10.1111/1752-1688.12296

Brooks, ES; Saia, SM; Boll, J; Wetzel, L; Easton, ZM; Steenhuis, TS. 2015. "Assessing BMP Effectiveness and Guiding BMP Planning Using Process-Based Modeling." Journal of the American Water Resources Association. DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12296

Congratulations to Katy Hofmeister on Defending her Master's Thesis

Katy's research is on soil moisture distribution across landscapes. Congrats Katy!

Congratulations to SWL Colleague Vania Pereira on Her Post Doctoral position and the Birth of Her First Baby!

SWL labmember Vania Pereira recently got in touch to share news about her new position and the new addition to her family. Vania began her post-doc positon at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas and is conducting research on modeling precipitation mechanisms that can be used as inputs to sugarcane production forecast models. Her daughter Natalia is now two years old. Congratulations Vania!

Congratulations to Chaozi Wang on Passing Her A-Exam!

Chaozi's research is on biochar's effect on erosion and pathogens in soils. Read her Journal of Hydrology article from her MS research here

New Research on the Effects of Manure Management on E. coli Abundance in Tile Drainage Water

Soil and Water Lab ResearchersAllison Truhlar and Anthony Salvucci recently published their findings on how Escherichia coli abundance in drainage water can be reduced by manure management practices. Read the full article here

E.coli in Tile Drainage Water of Manured Fields
Effects of manure-application practices on curli production by Escherichia coli transported through soil- Figure from Truhlar et al., 2015. doi:10.1021/es5053039

Truhlar, Allison, et al. 2015. "Effects of manure-application practices on curli production by Escherichia coli transported through soil." Environmental science & technology.

Sign Up for Course on Bioenergy Production on Marginal Lands

Registration is open for our seminar class on bioenergy production in the Northeast. Check out the 2015 schedule here.

Research Summary: Improving Nearshore Bathymetric Surveys Using Satellite Images

Group alumnus Essayas Ayana developed and validated a simple technique that improves nearshore bathymetric surveys over Lake Tana, Ethiopia using freely available and easily downloadable remote sensing data. The methodology can be applied where traditional bathymetric surveys cannot reach shores due to operational limitation.

Read about this in an article by Essayas K. Ayana and Jonathan R.B. Fisher.

Denitrification Models for Agricultural Catchments in NY State

Former lab member Janet Barclay, now a PhD Student at University of Connecticut, recently published her work in the Soil and Water Lab on denitrification in agricultural watersheds. Her coupled hydrologic-denitrification model predicts denitrification rates across a watershed. The model was calibrated using in-situ denitrification measurements made by Todd Andersen.

Average Annual Denitification Rate
Average Annual Denitification Rate. Figure from Barclay et al., 2015. doi:10.1016/j.swaqe.2014.12.007

Janet used her model to infer changes to the denitrification rate under three future climate scenarios. According to model results, temperature is likely to be a stronger driver of change than precipitation to the annual denitrification rate.

Denitification Rate under a Changing Climate
Denitification Rate under a Changing Climate. Figure from Barclay et al., 2015. doi:10.1016/j.swaqe.2014.12.006

Read the full article here and here.

J.R. Barclay, T.R. Anderson, J.A. Archibald, M. Todd Walter, Modeling Denitrification in an Agricultural Catchment in Central New York, (2015), doi:10.1016/j.swaqe.2014.12.007
J.R. Barclay, M. Todd Walter, Modeling Denitrification in a Changing Climate, (2015), doi:10.1016/j.swaqe.2014.12.006

New Publication on Denitrification Rate and Soil Topographic Index Relationship

The doctoral work of Soil and Water Lab Alumni Todd Anderson was accepted for publication to the Journal of Hydrology. This fascinating research was the result of diligent in-situ denitrification measurements made by Todd in 2009-2010 in New York State. To read the full article see: doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.12.043

DN-STI Relationship
Denitrification-Soil Topographic Index rate relationship determined by linear regression. Figure from Anderson et al., 2014. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.12.043

Todd R. Anderson, Peter M. Groffman, M. Todd Walter. 2014. "Using a soil topographic index to distribute denitrification fluxes across a northeastern headwater catchment", Journal of Hydrology, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.12.043.

The Soil & Water Lab Goes to AGU 2014!

Several members of our research group will be presenting at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting December 15-19. Download the list of oral and poster presetnations we'll be giving here. Hope to see you in San Francisco!

First Paper Published from New Mountain Ecosystem Citizen Science Project

A new research project, led by the Imperial College of London and funded by the Ecosystems for Poverty Alleviation program has published their first findings on citizen science in mountain regions. The project works with residents of communities in four mountainous regions- the Andes in central Peru, the Ethiopian highlands around Lake Tana, the Central Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, and the Kaligandaki watershed in Northern Nepal- to collect and analyze data on the health of ecosystem services.

Read the full news summary courtesy of the Imperial College of London or the newly published peer-reviewed article. Find updates on the work at their project website.

Art, Science, and the Thirsty World: An interdisciplinary dialogue on creative responses to the global water crisis

An exciting event is taking place at Cornell on the 7th and 8th of November involving graduate students from Oxford and Cornell who have spent the last 6 months working on collaborative projects. The projects, all related to water, will be presented in the form of musical compositions, dance pieces, visual and oral presentations, in concert at Barnes Hall on the 7th and a conference the following day in B20 Lincoln Hall. Lunch is provided.

See the program for details.

New Book on Water Scarcity, Security & Democracy

Soil & Water Lab Professors Tammo Steenhuis and Gail Holst-Warhaft along with journalist Francesca de Chatel, recently edited a book on transdisciplinary water work in the Mediterranean. An excerpt from the forward highlights the water resource challenges of this region and the editors' hopeful perspective on sustainable solutions:

The Mediterranean is among the most arid regions in the world. Hosting more than 50 percent of the world's 'water poor' population, or around 180 million of the region's 460 million inhabitants, the Mediterranean holds only 3 percent of the world's freshwater resources. To meet water scarcity problems, Mediterranean peoples have throughout history transformed this challenge into a driver for innovation and social organization. Hopefully their capacity for adaptation and their creative imagination will allow them to address the growing challenges, also in the future.
The Mediterranean is endowed with natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and fertility. It hosts a fast-growing and young (on the southern and eastern shores) population, which has over recent decades adopted unsustainable consumption patterns. The region experiences high anthropogenic pressures from rapid urbanization, tourism, industrial and agricultural development among others, while climate variability and change, in addition to desertification, pollution and loss of biodiversity, form growing threats. Furthermore, the Mediterranean region as a whole currently faces a deep socio-political and economic crisis.
Mediterranean societies strive to ensure sustained economic growth, human security and political stability. In order for this to succeed, the integrated management of water, energy, food and environment has to become a priority issue for governments, societies and business.

The full book, Water Scarcity, Security and Democracy: a Mediterranean Mosaic, can be downloaded for free here. This project was supported by the Global Water Partnership Mediterranean, Cornell University and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Studying Sediment Transport in a Reforested Cauca Valley

As part of the NSF GROW/USAID Research and Innovation Fellowship program, Christian Guzman is working on developing a watershed hydrology sediment transport study in several watersheds of the Cauca Valley under the guidance and mentorship of researchers from the Soils Research Group in the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). This anticipated partnership will build on the collaboration between Ecoaguas syngenta, Asobolo, and Asofrayle (water use associations in Rio Bolo and Rio Frayle) and the Nature Conservancy in their efforts to monitor the positive changes gained from implementation of conservation programs, including reforestation and enclosure.

Beautiful view of Colombia study site .

The directors and engineers of Asofrayle and Asobolo hosted a trip to several micro-watersheds to demonstrate the programs that have been set in place and for the purpose of selecting pilot watersheds for assessing the conservation impacts. Christian's work anticipates furthering understanding of the erosion and nutrient depletion processes by small and large scale hydrological mechanisms.

Investigating Water Quality Basin Function in a Green Infrastructure Bioswale

Lauren McPhillips and undergraduate assistants were busy measuring and monitoring the effectiveness of a stormwater green infrastructure project on Cornell Campus this summer. A collaboration with colleagues from the Landscape Architecture Department led to some interesting findings about stormwater basin function. The bioswale at the Cornell Plantations Nevins Center collects and filters water from a small parking lot and grassed field, reducing annual stormwater runoff from the site by 31%. Bioswales are often prescribed for reducing nutrient loading, however Lauren's monitoring found the basins to be a net source of dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus. Old topsoil and enriched mulch are suspected as sources of nutrient leaching. The bioswale performed well in reducing metals in runoff. To read more on the work and methodology check out the report on the Landscape Architecture Foundation's website, a major supporter of the project.

Lauren McPhillps reaches for water samples at Cornell Plantations .

Predicting Saturation-Excess Runoff in the Northeast

Newly-minted Doctor Josephine Archibald published a new paper on the model behind an online decision support tool for limiting nonpoint source pollution in the Northeastern US. The model predicts variable source areas in agricultural watersheds without calibration. With prior climate data and future rainfall predictions, the parsimonious model delineates areas of the watershed likely to saturate. A simple, regionally parameterized model for predicting nonpoint source areas in the northeastern US, was published in the Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies with current and former lab members Brian Buchanan, Dan Fuka, Christine Georgakakos, Steve Lyon, and Todd Walter.

Schematic of the lumped water budget model. Figure provided by Josephine Archibald.

S&W lab explores streams with 4-H

Sheila Saia held a short course for high school students to learn about hydrology and ecology as part of New York's 4-H Career Explorations Conference in early July.

Groundwater is safe in potential NY fracking area

A recent publication from Lauren McPhillips, S&W Lab Alumnus Anne Elise Creamer, postdoctoral researcher Brian Rahm and Professor Todd Walter investigated methane concentrations in drinking water wells in Chenango County. Methane concentrations in water wells near conventional natural gas wells was found to fall within federal guidelines. The dissolved methane distribution in the county is driven by hydrogeology and geochemistry.

For more about the study, read the recent publication in Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies and news coverage from The Cornell Chronicle.

Water Advocate Award Goes to Soil & Water Lab Member Breann Libermann

Congratulations to Breann on her award for outstanding service in the protection of clean water. She is the 2013-14 recipient of this award.

Sheila Saia Awarded EPA Fellowship

Spring has been exciting in the Soil & Water Lab. Our own Sheila Saia has been granted an EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship for her PhD work on phosphorus accumulating organisms. Congratulations Sheila on your long-awaited award!

Breann Liebermann Receives N.G. Kaul Memorial Scholarship

This month Soil and Water Lab member Breann Libermann was awarded the N.G. Kaul Memorial Scholarship. This honor is given to a graduate or doctoral student studying civil or environmental engineering with a commitment to government service. Breann is pursuing a Masters of Engineering degree. Congratulations Breann!

Professors Todd and Michael Walter Chosen as "Beloved Faculty"

The students spoke and chose two of our own as beloved faculty. See more professors in the recent issue of periodiCALS, the magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Run SWAT on Any Operating System Using R

Soil Water Alumni Dan Fuka and Zach Easton (Virginia Tech) along with Professors Todd Walter and Tammo Steenhuis have released a technical note in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association on their SWATmodel package, freely available through the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN). This R package allows users to run SWAT from any where in the world under most operating systems.

Report Published on the State of Water Quality Models for Use in Animal Agriculture Management

A new report coordinated by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions with experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Duke and Cornell universities, and the University of California, Davis, reviews modeling methods and tools for quantifying pollutant reductions resulting from animal management that could be adapted for use in water quality trading programs. Chelsea Morris and Todd Walter from the Soil and Water Lab contributed to the report.

The report:
  • Explains the Clean Water Act underpinnings of water quality trading programs and how animal operations fit into them.
  • Reviews models of animal production of nutrient waste, surface water transport, and the transport and transformation of pollutants in watersheds.
  • Describes how direct measurement and monitoring of nutrient levels can increasingly improve quantification.
  • Presents ideas on how to improve models' accuracy and usability. The report reflects insights from three supplemental papers focused on livestock management, nutrient loads, and water quality on central and western rangelands.

Download the full report from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

New Publications in JAWRA and Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment

Two new publications from the Soil & Water Lab:

Archibald, Josephine A. and M. Todd Walter, 2014. Do Energy-Based PET Models Require More Input Data than Temperature-Based Models? — An Evaluation at Four Humid FluxNet Sites. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 50(2): 497-508. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12137
Anderson,Todd R., Christine L. Goodale, Peter M. Groffman, M. Todd Walter, 2014. Assessing denitrification from seasonally saturated soils in an agricultural landscape: A farm-scale mass-balance approach, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 189: 60-69. ISSN 0167-8809, DOI:10.1016/j.agee.2014.03.026

Erin Menzies Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Congratulations Erin Menzies! Erin was awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. Rock on!

Sustainable Energy Production on Marginal Lands

The Bioenergy seminar announces speakers for the last half of the semester. Check out the flyer here. This seminar meets on Wednesdays at 2:30pm in Riley Rob Hall, Room 105.

Erin Menzies Awarded Fellowship to Study in Italy

Soil & Water Lab member Erin Menzies was awarded a Summer Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship to study intermediate Italian. The fellowship is awarded by the Mario Einaudi Center for international studies and provides students with the opportunity to study less commonly taught languages. Erin will be taking a 6 week intensive language learning program in Bologna, Italy during the 2014 summer months. Congratulations Erin!

Image courtesy of Erin Menzies

Recent Publications from the Bioengergy Group

The Bioenergy Research Team published their most recent findings in BioEnergy Research and Progressive Forage Grower. Here is an abstract of their first paper:

Growing bioenergy feedstocks can provide a long-term sustainable production system for marginal land resources and is essential for minimizing food vs. fuel competition for prime croplands. However, the term “marginal” is too often used in research reports without being defined. We here suggest that clearly specifying the biophysical factors and agroeconomic context contributing to marginality will greatly enhance the utility and comparability of published research.

Current and Former Soil & Water Lab Members at AGU

Image courtesy of Alum Veronica Morales

A day out in the field

Check out this Cornell Chronicle video showcasing our research climate impacts of bioenergy crop growth in marginal lands.

Congratuations to Soil & Water Lab Member Asha Sharma!

Asha has been selected to participate in the 2014 National Academies Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. She will be spending the Spring semester in Washington DC honing her skills in science policy development at the Executive Office within the Public and Global Policy Committee. In her assignment, she will participate in research activities, briefings, and drafting summary papers. Best of luck Asha!

S&W Labmember Sheila Saia Writes about Soil Health

Soils are a living, breathing community, deserving of care and attention, argues our own Sheila Saia in the Auburn newspaper The Citizen last week (4 Oct 2013). Check out the full column here!

Bioenergy Research in the News

AgProfessional Weekly recently wrote about S&W Lab research on nitrous oxide emissions from switchgrass grown on marginal lands. Read the short summary here. Check out more about the ongoing research here.

Fall 2013 Soil and Water Laboratory Seminar Schedule Announced

Our weekly Monday seminar is back for the Fall semester. Join us from 3:30-4:30 in Room 205 of Riley Robb. Invited speakers this semester include Drs. Christina Tague, Patrick Reed, Michel Louge, Christine Shoemaker, and Susan Riha. For the full schedule click here (pdf).

Cornell Bioenergy Researchers Present at Perennial Biofeedstock Energy Tour

Our own Brian Richards, senior research associate, shared his research on environmental impacts of using marginal lands for bioenergy production. Other Cornell researchers from horticulture and plant pathology provided field presentations on the future of bioenergy crops in New York State.

Read more about our bioenergy research.
Read the Cornell Chronicle's coverage of the field day.

Call for Applications for the PhD Program in Integrated Water Management at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia

Conducted in cooperation with Cornell University, The School of Civil and Water Resources Engineering (SCWRE) at the Institute of Technology of Bahir Dar University is pleased to announce a 2nd round admission for PhD program in Integrated Water Management. The degree will be conferred by BDU. Interested applicants are directed towards this informational flyer and application.

Soil and Water Lab Alumni Returns for Special Summer Seminar

Watershed Hydrology for Kindergarteners

This June Soil and Water Lab members visited Ithaca's Belle Sherman Elementary School to share their love of water with the next generation of hydrologists.

Cross-scales Biogeochemistry IGERT wins Award in Recent Video and Poster Competition

Soil & Water Lab members Janet Barclay and Lauren McPhillips shared their research for the IGERT in Cross-Scale Biogeochemistry and Climate in a recent national video and poster competition hosted by NSF. Their video won the Judges' Choice award this year. Congratulations! Check out their full poster and video here!

Lauren McPhillips awarded N.G. Kaul Memorial Scholarship

Lauren has been awarded the 2013 N.G. Kaul Memorial Scholarship given by the NY Water Environment Association. This award presented to graduate and doctor students in environmental and civil engineering encourages young scientists to continue water quality research in honor of the late N.G. Kaul, an engineer with a distingushed career in public service at the NY State DEC and US EPA. Congratulations Lauren!

Look for Tammo and S&W Lab Alumni at International Conference on Scientific advances in the Eastern Nile Basin

Tammo, Seifu Tilahun, Essayas Kaba and Abeyou Wale are presenting at the New Nile Perspectives: Scientific Advances in the Eastern Nile Basin conference this week (6-8 May 2013) in Khartoum, Sudan. The objectives of the conference are to disseminate and discuss results of state of the art research on of state of the art research on the Eastern Nile and to form new alliances for future Nile research around five themes:

  1. New Nile projects and politics
  2. New Nile hydrology, morphology and climate change;
  3. New Nile land and water use and livelyhoods
  4. New Nile economics and optimization, and finally
  5. New Nile futures - institutionalizing interdependencies

Professor Holst-Warhaft to Present Research at University of Oxford Multidisciplinary Event

Hot Fires, Cool Soils: New Report on Research from S&W Lab Postdoc Cathelijne Stoof

Cathelijne's exciting doctoral research on the effects of wildfires on soil temperatures is to be published in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters. While it is well known that wildfires leave the soil charred and barren, Cathelijne's study in Portugal found that with denser vegetation the underlying soil was suprisingly cooler.

Read the full AGU press release and check out a video of the experimental burning.

More awards for Soil and Water Lab Members!

This week has been an exciting one. Congratulations are in order for our very own Asha Sharma, Christine Georgakakos, Sheila Saia and Anne Elise Creamer.

Asha was awarded the "Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering" this month.

Christine was chosen to receive funding for undergraduate research from Cornell's Engineering Learning Initiatives Undergraduate Research Grant.

Sheila was selected to receive Cornell's Land Grant Fellowship to pursue public engagement and fulfill Cornell's land grant mission.

Anne Elise Creamer will be honored with the 2013 Richard A. Church ’64 Senior Service Award. The award from the CALS Alumni Association is in recognition of her service to the college beyond undergraduate academic requirements.

Congratulations Asha, Christine, Sheila and Anne Elise!

Assefa Zegeye selected as a Fellow for the Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program

Assefa was selected to receive the prestigious Borlaug LEAP fellowship given by the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program. This fellowship will fund his work on rehabilitation of gully erosion in the Ethiopian highlands. Congratulations Assefa!

Janet Barclay awarded prize for poster on denitrification mapping

Janet swept the competition away with a winning poster at the Cornell Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Interdisciplinary Climate Change Forum. Her poster titled "Utilizing Hydrologic and Biogeochemical Observations to Model the Impact of Climate Change on Denitrification Rates Across an Agricultural Watershed in Central New York" is part of her Master's research in hydrologic modeling. Project collaborators include Todd R. Anderson, Josephine Archibald, and M. Todd Walter. Congratulations!

Congratulations to Chaozi Wang

Chaozi passed her Master's exam with flying colors this March. Look for her work on the Rose erosion model in an upcoming publication. Congratulations Chaozi- on to the PhD!

Anne Elise Creamer wins multiple prizes for poster

Undergraduate researcher Anne Elise took home first place in the undergraduate poster competition at the National IBE Conference and third at Cornell's BioExpo research symposium. Her poster is titled "Baseline Evaluation of Groundwater Quality in Central NY in the Face of Shale Gas Development."

S&W Lab Alumni accepts position at University of California Davis

Helen Dahlke was offered a position as an Assistant Professor in Integrated Hydrological Sciences and the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis. Congratulations Helen!

Christian Guzman awarded CUAHSI Pathfinder Fellowship

Congratulations to lab member and PhD candidate Christian Guzman. He was awarded a graduate student fellowship to support multi-site research in hydrology.

More on the 2012 Pathfinder Fellowship.

Brutsaert and Parlange Symposium materials now available

This international symposium in May presented a broad overview of the state-of-the-art in hydrologic discovery in honor of two legendary leaders of this process – Wilfried H. Brutsaert and Jean-Yves Parlange – upon the occasion of their retirements at Cornell University. Presentations, posters, and a photo album are now available for download from eCommons @ Cornell.

Erik Rasmussen awarded Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholoarship

Congratulations to undergraduate researcher Erik on being selected for the prestigious Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars (RCPRS) program. Great work Erik!

Soil and Water Lab Rainmaker Dedication Ceremony

Soil and Water alumnus Marc Andreini visited Cornell last month for a belated dedication ceremony of a famous laboratory instrument.

In the late 1980s Marc designed and fabricated the lab's first rainmaker. This gorgeous machine has been in use for over two decades and has been well loved by many graduate and undergraduate students. At the ceremony, attended by BEE socialites, Marc was honored for his contribution to science and ask to sign his name to the rainmaker's frame.

The Soil and Water Lab will be offering guided tours and demonstrations to the public.

Recent Achievements

Spring has been a busy time this year, with some students moving on to new adventures and others getting recognized with prestigious awards:
  • Todd Anderson: Received a post-doc position at the University of Idaho.
  • Amy Collick: Received a post-doc position at Penn State with the USDA-ARS.
  • Angela Rigden (BEE Senior): Received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and will be pursuing her PhD at Boston University.
  • Rachel Perlman (BEE Senior): Received the Merrill Presidential Scholarship.
  • Kyle Delwiche: Accepted into a PhD program in environmental engineering at M.I.T.

Congratulations to the following May 2012 graduate degree recipients from our group: Kyle Delwiche (MS), Chris Guerrero (MEng), Xiaoya Cheng (MS), Rachel Dunn (PhD), and Luis Caballero (PhD) (picture below of Luis at right, his mom at left sharing a hug with Cornell President David Skorton).

Soil and Water Lab hosts Lauren Hodge, a Young Scientist from Pennsylvania

14 year old Lauren Hodge from York, Pennsylvania spent three days in November conducting her own original research in the Soil and Water Lab. Lauren's project focused on using pumpkin waste material to treat water for heavy metal contamination. She contacted Professor Walter about using the Soil and Water Lab facilities to do her work, and while here worked with graduate student Kyle Delwiche. Lauren won the Google Scholar's competition last year, and hopes that this will be another winning project. We wish her all the best! More info here: Cornell Sun article.

Rebecca Marjerison Wins 2nd Place in NABEC Graduate Student Poster Session

On July 25th, Rebecca Marjerison attended the Northeast Agricultural and Biological Engineering Conference where she presented a poster entitled Managing Phosphorus in Agriculture at the Field Scale. Rebecca's poster tied for 2nd place in the Graduate Student Poster Contest. Her poster and presentation were judged based on the poster content and display, as well as her oral presentation of the material - clearly she impressed the judges!

Tammo at lunch in Ethiopia


Dr. Steenhuis, esteemed professor of the Soil and Water Lab, was selected to receive the American Geophysical Union's 2011 International Award. The International Award is given once annually to an individual or group to "recognize an individual scientist or a small team for making an outstanding contribution to furthering the Earth and space sciences and using science for the benefit of society in less favored nations" ( AGU Website ).

Dr. Steenhuis is awarded this honor in light of his ceaseless efforts to improve our fundamental understanding of water resources issues, especially in developing countries or parts of the world facing critical water crises. Unique to Dr. Steenhuis’ accomplishments are his continuous efforts to build educational and research capabilities within countries and regions where such resources are scarce and difficult to accrue. Thus, not only has he improved our understanding of hydrological processes central to water resources protection in many parts of the developing world, he has also been largely instrumental in enabling scientists and engineers in these areas to more effectively continue to improve our knowledge of these systems.

For more information about Dr. Steenhuis's contributions to science and society, please see the AGU Award Nomination Letter written on his behalf.

New Faces

Cathelijne Stoof will be joining the soil and water lab in August, 2011 as a post doctoral researcher. Cathelijne recently completed her PhD in Wageningen, Netherlands.

Casey Garland was awarded an internship from the Council of Women World Leaders.

Great work Casey Garland.

Steve Shaw pondering the imponderableSteve Shaw got an Assistant Professorship!

Steve Shaw, shown here doing his best thinking pose, was a postdoctoral researcher in the Soil and Water Lab. Recently Steve got a job as an assistant professor in Hydrologic Engineering at SUNY School for Environmental Science and Forestry. Congratulations Steve! We wish you all the best as you set out on your career.

Gemma during her work in MaliCongratulations to Gemma Kite!

Gemma recently completed her Masters in Engineering which she did in conjunction with Peace Corps service in Mali, Africa. Her Masters project included training Malian villagers in proper pesticide handling procedures, as well as testing the efficacy of natural pesticides that can be made from ingredients available in the Malian countryside. Having enjoyed her international work so much, Gemma has accepted a Project Manager position in Sierra Leon with a French NGO, InterAide. She will be managing a water and sanitation project in rural Sierra Leone, using the skills she developed as a Peace Corp volunteer to bring clean water and sanitation control to villages.

The 2010-2011 year has been a great year for the Soil and Water Lab. Several of our graduate students and our undergraduate researchers have won national awards and fellowships. We have also had multiple people successfully defend and earn their PhDs, and several researchers move on to tenure-track faculty positions. See below for details:

  • In the fall semester of 2010 two of our labmates successfully finished their PhD's. Congratulations to Veronica Morales and Ekrem Cakmak!

  • Zach Easton was offered a tenure-track research position at Virginia Tech University. We will miss him in our lab but wish him well in his new position!
  • Allison Truhlar, a undergraduate researcher in our lab, was awarded a highly competitive scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.
  • Angela Ridgen was granted an Engineering Learning Initiative Grant.
  • Patrick Nadeau, an undergraduate researcher in our lab, was conferred an Academic Excellence Award in a Double Major.

International Conference on Preferential and Unstable Flow in Porous Media – From Water Infiltration to Gas Injection

The conference is held on Sunday, 29 March to Friday, 3 April 2009 in Monte Verità, Ascona, Switzerland. The conference will cover fundamentals of and approaches to preferential and unstable flow; relevant geometry of pores and fissures; water repellency/wettability; relationships with Darcy-Richards type flow; transport of colloids, bio-particles, DNAPL, and solutes; technical enhancement of flow and transport through surfactance and gas injection; evaporation; up-scaling and other applications of preferential and unstable flow to the hydrology of vadose zones, hillslopes and catchments. More information about the conference

Soil & Water Lab awarded USDA-CSREES honor

The Soil and Water Group has received the CSREES Partnership Award for Mission Integration. Our lab is recognized for outstanding achievements in mission integration. This involves implementation of a program or project which incorporates, in a meaningful way, full integration of research, education, and extension and exhibits an understanding of the complementary nature of these three functions.
The CSREES annually recognizes exemplary work from a team at a land-grant university or other cooperating institution or organization supported by CSREES. This program will allow recognition of outstanding contributions in support of the USDA mission as part of the strategic goals of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES).

Environmental Nanotechnology Movie features Soil & Water Lab Research

Researchers in the Soil and Water Lab are discovering how nano-scale tracers can uncover the sources of pollution in America's farm fields and waters. See the movie about how it works!