TWRI grant recipient studies the effects of brush removal on cave hydrology
Graduate student Corinne Wong, now earning her masters at the University of Texas in geological sciences, recently worked with her advising professor Dr. Jay Banner on evaluating the effects of brush removal on groundwater recharge of a karst aquifer, specifically in cave hydrology.
Wong is a recipient of a 2007-08 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant. With the $5,000 grant, Wong said she was able to investigate relative amounts of recharge infiltrating water into a cave by evaluating changes in cave drip and drip water chemistry before and after brush is removed from the surface directly above a cave. Wong expected that groundwater recharge would increase with the removal of brush, but found instead there was not a noticeable change in recharge to the cave.
According to Wong's final scientific report on the project, she chose her research topic because the question of how effective brush management practices are at increasing water availability is still being asked.
Wong's report claims that although many studies have been done on the before and after effects of brush removal, none have done so using a cave setting. When asked what sparked her interest in cave hydrology, Wong said, "I was aware of the controversy surrounding the issue of brush clearing and recharge, and I wanted to use a new method to address the question of whether or not brush clearing increased recharge."
Her research targets land management practices of private and government agencies, including the City of Austin, which aim to improve water quality and quantity through brush removal. Wong hopes that her research will suggest to rangeland management that costly brush removal projects do little to enhance groundwater recharge.
After Wong completes her masters, she plans to continue her education for a doctorate and eventually become a professor or research scientist.
Research conducted by Wong was funded by TWRI through the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the National Institutes for Water Research annual research program. TWRI is the designated institute for water resources research in Texas.