Near-Surface Processes and Environmental Geoscience

Hydrogeology, physical and chemical hydrology, mathematical modeling. Research in hydrogeology and aqueous geochemistry deals with a large variety of issues. Large-scale groundwater flow, the estimation of fluid and solute fluxes and transport properties of rocks are investigated researchers in hydrogeology and environmental geosciences. The groundwater models are used in designing pumping schemes to withdraw contaminants from the subsurface.

Chris Craft

Janet Duey Professor in Rural Land Policy. Adjunct Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Wetland Restoration, Soil Science, Nutrient Cycling

Our research program uses constructed salt marshes as a model to (1) evaluate ecosystem development of created and restored wetlands and (2) identify and test indicators to assess the development of community structure and ecosystem processes following restoration. Part of this work, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, compares ecosystem development along a chronosequence of restored coastal marshes that range in age from one to thirty years old.

Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) in Georgia

Set at Sapelo Island and Altamaha River in Georgia, this study seeks to understand how freshwater pulsing and anthropogenic surface and groundwater withdrawals affect estuaries and associated wetlands and will involve the monitoring of physical and biological variables in the river system and in the island's marsh complex. The interaction between tidal flooding and freshwater discharge as it mediates soil organic matter accumulation by affecting nutrient inputs, primary production, and decomposition rates will be our focus of investigation.

Doug Edmonds

Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences.

My research focuses on the sedimentology, stratigraphy, and geomorphology of depositional sedimentary systems. Example projects and scales of interest range from: secondary circulation and turbulence to formation of reach-scale features such as levees, to whole system behavior of deltas and river belts. I use a combination of mathematical modeling, field observation, and occasionally experimentation to understand these systems. My research is generally directed toward understanding the coupled surficial and sedimentological evolution of these systems. Below is a list of research interests and a brief description of each. SedSystems website

Sally Letsinger

Research Hydrogeologist, Indiana Geological Survey. Hydrogeology, Geographic Information Systems, and Remote Sensing.

Research interests include watershed hydrology, especially in areas of complex terrain; geomorphologic and landform characteristics using terrain analysis techniques; modeling the land-surface energy balance for determination of the spatial distribution and timing of snowmelt runoff; GIS and remote sensing as tools for geospatial data analysis applied to geologic problems at all scales; using numerical methods to solve geologic and hydrogeologic problems; scientific visualization. CGDA website | Research website

Laura Wasylenki

Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences. Biogeochemistry of Metals.

I am a biogeochemist investigating metal chemistry in the Earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Specifically I examine stable isotope fractionation of transition and post–transition metals in order to develop new tools for tracing chemical reactions that involve metals.

My primary focus is on fundamental, experimental investigations of metal isotope fractionation mechanisms. In the past ten years multi–collector ICP mass spectrometry has led to the discovery that stable isotopes of most metals fractionate in a wide range of environments all over the Earth. The number of published metal isotope analyses is burgeoning rapidly, and the prospect of much new understanding of metal chemistry in nature is exciting. Few investigators, however, have yet attempted to elucidate the mechanisms that drive metal isotope fractionation. Without careful investigation of molecular–scale mechanisms and systematics of metal isotope effects, we cannot hope to interpret robustly the wealth of information available in nature. SesameLab website

Jeff White

Professor. Director, Integrated Program in the Environment. Adjunct Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Dr. Jeffrey R. White has been with SPEA since 1983. He is a biogeochemist and studies the effects of human activities on the functioning of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. He serves as director of the Integrated Program in the Environment.

White’s research group is currently working on funded research addressing a diversity of topics: climate change effects on greenhouse gas cycles in lakes, wetlands, and terrestrial soils of Arctic landscapes; plant and soil microbial community response to permafrost thaw; microbial control of reactive nitrogen emissions in agricultural soils; and bioreactor microbial community dynamics in an acid mine drainage treatment system. The tools used in these research projects include chemical mass balances, stable isotopes, and high-throughput environmental genomics.

Chen Zhu

Professor of Geological Sciences Geochemistry.

I study the chemistry of water and its reactions with minerals and rocks. Through these reactions, water acquires chemical constituents and isotopic signatures. The chemical and isotopic signatures are useful to map the movement of fluid flow and allow us to calculate the in situ rates of chemical reactions under geological conditions. On a global scale, these chemical reactions are a key component of the interactions between the Earth’s hydrosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. Many fundamental processes in Earth’s geological systems, such as chemical weathering, diagenesis, and the movement, distribution, and global cycling of chemical elements are related to these interactions.

How water reacts with minerals and rocks is not merely an intellectual curiosity. Many urgent environmental concerns are intimately related to these interactions. These include water quality, depleting water and mineral resources, remediating environmental pollution, and mitigating the global warming trend (e.g., geological carbon sequestration).

The Department maintains the instrumented Willow Creek Demonstration Watershed near the Geologic Field Station in Montana. It serves as a field laboratory for teaching and research.

Laboratories for detailed analyses of soils and unconsolidated sediments are available in the Department and Indiana Geological Survey. Available field equipment includes a Giddings soil corer, a truck-mounted auger for drilling unconsolidated materials, and portable gamma-ray and neutron logging devices. Instrumentation is available for field studies of wind, stream flow, and sediment transport. The Department also has a machine shop for construction of custom equipment and installations used for monitoring surficial processes.