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Student Research Projects

Our students are engaged:

Sustainability of Ground Water in Dayton, Ohio

Amber Johnson is a senior undergraduate student in the department of geology working under research advisor Dr. Zelalem Bedaso. She worked on a summer 2016 water isotope project entitled “Assessing the impact of climate change on the sustainability of groundwater resource in the Dayton region – an interdisciplinary approach” with funding from the Hanley Sustainability Institute (HSI).

The purpose of the project was to use a multi-disciplinary approach to understand seasonality in the isotopic composition of precipitation and estimate seasonal contribution of precipitation for groundwater recharge and determine the future sustainability of groundwater in the Miami Valley. The project was a co-effort with Dr. Shuang-Ye Wu and her undergraduate research student, Colin McTighe. Dr. Wu and her student worked on the climate-modeling component of the project to understand and predict future groundwater resource conditions under the unprecedented climate change our planet is facing today.

In addition the ongoing, three year precipitation collection on the roof of Fitz Hall on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, water samples were collected throughout the Miami Valley for isotopic study. In June, 2016, surface water was collected from streams that feed into the Great Miami and Mad Rivers, and with the help of Duncan Upp, supervisor of the Miami and Mad River well fields, more than 25 groundwater samples were collected. In July 2016, additional groundwater samples were collected from four monitoring wells with the help of Mike Ekberg, Manager of water monitoring, and Zach Smith from the Miami Conservancy District (MDC).

The water samples were sent to the University of Utha stable isotope facility for isotopic analysis. The isotopic ratios of hydrogen and oxygen were shown to be seasonally distinct, and using mass balance, the summer and winter recharge contribution to Dayton groundwater were calculated. Determining this contribution is important because it can be implemented for decision-making and water resource planning.

If the contribution of each season to groundwater recharge can be determined, plans can be made for a situation where a source of precipitation is cut off, or during a season with low precipitation. Using this prediction, water resources may be properly allocated in the most sustainable way for each season.

Future studies hope to implement the model and the lessons learned in the Miami Valley to help regions affected by drought, such as California, or arid regions with irregular precipitation patterns, such as Ethiopia.

Pictured Above: Amber and Dr. Bedaso taking a groundwater sample from a Miami Conservancy District Monitoring Well.


Department of Geology

Science Center
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2364