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Geosicences Professor Qifei Niu awarded NSF CAREER Award!

Please join us in congratulating Qifei Niu on his very prestigious, recent award from NSF: CAREER: Integrating geophysical data and hydrologic modeling to quantify subsurface water storage along elevation gradients in mountainous terrains

Read more about the award here, or below:

Abstract: Many areas in the western United States are experiencing a warming climate and more frequent extreme weather conditions such as drought. These changing weather patterns could affect how much of the precipitation flows into streams (becoming stream water) and seeps into the subsurface (becoming soil water and/or groundwater) in mountainous areas. To better manage future water resources, it is critical to understand how a watershed responds to climate change regarding the partitioning of precipitation into stream water, soil water, and groundwater. This project will focus on quantifying various water storages and fluxes at different elevations in a semi-arid watershed in the western United States. Both field tests and computational simulations will be performed. The collected scientific data and developed computational models in this project will contribute to an improved understanding of how the water resources in the mountains respond to climate change. In addition, this project will also encompass significant educational activities, including offering geoscientific field skill training to financially disadvantaged/nontraditional students and providing research experiences to undergraduates on water resources-related issues.

This project focuses on how the subsurface water storage buffers the hydrologic process along the elevation gradient in mountainous watersheds. The knowledge gained will help stakeholders effectively manage future water resources in mountainous areas, especially in a warming climate. Following the data-model fusion principle, the project will integrate geophysical data into hydrologic modeling to achieve an improved quantification of various water fluxes and storages in catchments at different elevations in an experimental watershed in southern Idaho. In the field, seismic refraction tests and electrical resistivity monitoring will be performed to characterize the complex subsurface structural heterogeneity and to estimate subsurface water storage dynamics. These field geophysical data will be incorporated into integrated hydrologic modeling to reveal the potential buffering role of subsurface water storage in watershed functions. The educational goal of this project is to promote inclusivity in geoscientific field skills training. A commuter field camp will be offered to accommodate local students and students with personal and financial barriers. A vertically integrated project program will be developed to broaden the participation of undergraduates in water resources-related research at Boise State University. This project will also provide a graduate intern position for students to learn state-of-the-art geophysical techniques and their applications in hydrologic sciences.

This award is co-funded by the Hydrologic Sciences program and Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.