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December 4, 2017

Researcher and Team Contribute to Restoration Efforts

iUTAH Education, Outreach and Diversity Director Mark Brunson, professor in the Department of Environment & Society at Utah State University, is contributing to restoration efforts by the Shoshone Nation on the site of the Bear River Massacre near Preston ID.


An excerpt from the Herald Journal writer Sean Dolan said “When Darren Parry was a child, his grandmother took him to the site of the Bear River Massacre. He didn’t quite understand why she always had a tear in her eye she when pointed out where the lodges used to be. As he has grown older and taken on leadership roles in the Northwestern Band of The Shoshone Nation, he now understands how important it is to honor a request she made before passing away five years ago.


Brunson and his team, "after consulting with Parry, [will be} preparing a description of what that restoration might look like. One of the main challenges will be removing the invasive Russian olive trees, which Utah classifies as noxious weeds. Then, Parry and Brunson hope to plant native grasses, shrubs and trees. Part of the process is gathering information on what the land used to look like and what plants are indigenous to that area.


"During his research, Brunson said he came across a map drawn by a soldier led by Col. Patrick Connor that included several willow thickets around the Bear River. Willows are no longer found in that area, which Brunson said could be due to the river shifting and cattle grazing. Parry said willows were vital to the Shoshone people. ‘They used the willows as protection from the weather, and they made things out of it,’ he said. The willows were just one aspect that made that valley an ideal winter camp. Parry said the largest natural spring in the county is nearby, and there are several natural hot springs around the river.”


Brunson said that a team, including Molly Cannon, director of the Museum of Anthropology, Eugene Schupp, professor in the Department of Wildland Resources, and Matt Munson, an undergrad researcher, all from USU, are conducting assessments and preparing a proposal to develop a restoration plan.


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Mark Brunson, iUTAH Education, Outreach and Diversity director speaking to the Native American STEM Mentorship program held on USU’s Logan campus, June 2016



November 28, 2017

In the Balance: Communication Flow

iUTAH and Utah State University researchers Bethany Neilson, an associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments, and graduate student Julie Kelso were included in USU’s Winter 2017 alumni magazine. The article “In the Balance” features Neilson, Kelso, and other scientists, each grappling with how to adjust and mitigate water solutions for the future.


An excerpt from the story by John DeVilbiss tells of Julie’s journey from water researcher to water communicator this way. “After years of monitoring water quality on the rivers of Logan, Provo, Red Butte, and Jordan, Kelso says she now finds herself trying to communicate it to others in a meaningful way. It has been both eye opening and a bit maddening. ‘I think that’s where I get frustrated with research because, at the end of the day, it may not matter how much research you do, or answer scientific questions, if people’s values fundamentally are driving the policy-making decisions.’ So how do you communicate research to influence public values and subsequently public policy? It is a new frontier for Kelso. She is already honing her communication skills as a science reporter for Utah Public Radio. Anything to help start the conversation and bring people together. She is convinced that collaboration across universities and communities is essential if we hope to manage water more wisely.


"She thinks the biggest impact of her research with iUTAH was the way so many people came together to look at the question of water sustainability for Utah’s future. It was not just research and social scientists; they managed to get people of all labels across the state, in all different disciplines, and not just involving USU, but all three primary research institutions in the state. ‘We’re trying to get away from scientists in ivy towers working by themselves, which I think will be extremely hard to overcome,’ she says.”


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“In the Balance” features Bethany Neilson, Julie Kelso, and other scientists, each grappling with how to adjust and mitigate water solutions for the future. Credit: Donna Barry



November 20, 2017

iUTAH Project Represented at National EPSCoR Conference

More than 300 participants from around the country gathered in Missoula, MT for the 25th National Science Foundation EPSCoR National Conference, Nov. 5-8. EPSCoR stands for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The conference focused on “what makes EPSCoR unique within the NSF,” emphasizing inclusion & diversity, science & innovation, partnerships, and longitudinal sustainability.


Presenters from the iUTAH project included Andy Leidolf, assistant director and project administrator, and Ellen Eiriksson, education, outreach, and diversity coordinator, along with Caleb Buahin, iUTAH postdoctoral researcher at Utah State University, and Jordan Maxwell, graduate student at Brigham Young University. Jackie Grant, associate professor of biology at Southern Utah University, and Jeannine Huenemann, iUTAH communications specialist, also participated. Andy was part of a panel discussion on Team Science and Community Development, as well as leading a post-conference program administrator’s meeting, where he serves as an officer. Ellen, Caleb, and Jordan presented posters of their iUTAH work.


"This was a well-planned and well-executed conference,” said Leidolf.  “The two-and-a-half days were absolutely packed with interesting talks, panels, exercises, and social events, and there was a lot of opportunity for networking and co-creating with participants from other jurisdictions—it will be an effective catalysts for cross-jurisdictional activities long after the meeting.”


Ellen Eiriksson added that she “always appreciates the opportunity to network, share ideas with, and learn from colleagues in other EPSCoR jurisdictions, especially efforts going on in other states, and was glad to present on the iUTAH iFellows Program to the national EPSCoR community.”


EPSCoR is a federal program designed to improve the research capacity of eligible states or regions, making them nationally competitive for future grants. Currently, 25 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are eligible to compete in various NSF EPSCoR program opportunities. Learn more about NSF EPSCoR.


Utah became eligible as an EPSCoR state in 2009. The iUTAH EPSCoR project is a $24MM multi-institutional effort funded through this program, integrating research, training, education, and outreach for water science across the state. As a state, Utah has “graduated” from EPSCoR, having surpassed the NSF funding level for EPSCoR eligibility. This means that Utah cannot compete for future EPSCoR funding opportunities unless the state qualifies for EPSCoR eligibility again. 


In addition to executing a well-organized conference, the Montana NSF EPSCoR project will be making many of the conference presentations and support materials available on the conference website in the weeks to come.


Jordan Maxwell from BYU presenting his iUTAH research on forest fires and snow-water resources in Utah.


Poster on iUTAH’s undergraduate research program (iFellows) presented by Ellen Eiriksson.



November 20, 2017

Software Helps Scientists See How Nature is Connected

Caleb Buahin, a postdoctoral researcher with the iUTAH project at Utah State University, has developed a flexible software framework called HydroCouple that allows scientists to bring together models from different domains and scientific disciplines. This approach, called component-based modeling, allows for the communication and exchange of information during calculations. It allows scientists to test and refine hypotheses about how water systems behave by experimenting with different models using the same framework.


Caleb’s current work involves coupling together models that simulate the natural and built portions of urban water systems. By working with the City of Logan and using aquatic and climate data from iUTAH’s Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions (GAMUT) network, he is able to examine present and future water capacity related to the cities’ stormwater system. An example output from his work shows the interactions between the canal system and the engineered stormwater infrastructure.


By demonstrating how this framework can be useful for bringing together models and data for different aspects of Utah’s water system, Caleb is creating software tools and guidance that can help other researchers evaluate not just water systems but other natural resource systems. In so doing, scientists will be able to avoid the pitfalls of studying parts of a problem independently, without considering the important ways that different resources affect each other and our future.


HydroCouple allows scientists to bring together models from different domains and scientific disciplines


iUTAH postdoctoral researcher Caleb Buahin presenting HydroCouple software at the NSF EPSCoR Conference in Missoula MT



October 26, 2017

Saline Lakes in Dire Situation Worldwide

iUTAH researchers Sarah Null and Maura Hahnenberger, and others have contributed to an article on the “Decline of the world’s saline lakes” published online in the journal Nature Geoscience on October 23, 2017.


An announcement written by Tracy Jones for Utah State Today says that saline lakes, including Utah's Great Salt Lake, are shrinking. While the lake has risen and fallen in recent years, this particular decline represents a drop in water level, exposing more lake bed, and leading to an increase in dust. In addition to the lake’s importance to economy, wildlife, and recreation, the dust caused by this decline is hazardous to human health. Authors of the article, including scientists and water managers, say that additional water resources are needed to bring the lake back to a healthy state.


Wayne Wurtsbaugh, lead author and professor in the Department of Watershed Resources and the Ecology Center at Utah State University says that “the persistence of water diversions has decreased the lake's level about 11 feet and exposed a lot of lake bed. The state's plans to continue developing water in the basin will only worsen the problem."


"The state has had some success in water conservation for households, but since water for agriculture represents over 60% of water use, domestic conservation represents only a minor reduction," says Wurtsbaugh. "Reductions in water use from all sectors will be needed if we are to solve this problem."


Full study of the article is available below:
Decline of the world’s saline lakes
Authors: Wayne Wurtsbaugh, Sarah Null, Peter Wilcock and Frank Howe of Utah State University; Craig Miller of the Utah Division of Water Resources, Justin deRose of the U.S. Forest Service, Maura Hahnenberger of Salt Lake Community College, and Johnnie Moore of the University of Montana.


Press: EurekAlert! | Utah State Today | The New York Times | International Business Times | Salt Lake Tribune


Researchers explore the dried lake bed on the south shore of Great Salt Lake. Credit: Wayne Wurtsbaugh.



October 13, 2017

iUTAH at Salt Lake Co. Watershed Symposium

iUTAH is pleased to again be included in the 2017 line-up of featured speakers at the Salt Lake County Watershed Symposium. Lead researchers from the iUTAH project will present a series of five talks highlighting outcomes and impacts to Utah’s water science in the areas of biophysical systems, human and engineered systems, coupled human-natural systems, as well as cyberinfrastructure, and statewide education, outreach and diversity programs.


The 2017 Salt Lake County Watershed Symposium takes place on November 15-16, at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, West Valley City UT. Other iUTAH participants will be presenting research over the two-day event which brings together personnel from state, federal, tribal, and municipal governments; the private sector; the public; academia; environmental groups; and local watershed organizations. A complete listing of event schedule and directory can be found here.  iUTAH’s team talk is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 15 , from 3:10pm - 4:20pm.


Free and open to all, the Watershed Symposium encourages a comprehensive review of the current state of the Salt Lake County watershed, while creating a forum for sharing information among a broad array of stakeholders. Sessions bring individuals from a wide range of backgrounds together, including science, engineering, business, public policy, education, and community groups.


Register now!