New Waves July 2010

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

Texas A&M professors receive NSF grant to enhance undergraduate research

For the next three years, undergraduates from universities in Texas and across the nation will investigate the water cycle in a Costa Rican cloud forest with a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded to two Texas A&M University professors.

The grant awarded to Chris Houser, a professor in the Department of Geography, and to Anthony Cahill, a professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, enables students primarily from non-research colleges and universities to conduct original research and work with a contingent of Texas A&M professors from across the disciplines. Called an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), the program is a national priority for the NSF.

“The program will give students the opportunity to develop essential skills in designing, carrying out and delivering the results of their original research,” Houser said.

Based at Texas A&M’s Soltis Center for Research and Education near San Isidro in central Costa Rica, students will work on field and laboratory research guided by faculty mentors from departments across campus.

The students will investigate mechanisms that lead to climate change, the transfer of water and energy through the forest canopy, the changes of the flow of water within the ecosystem and the cycling of carbon and water through biological processes.

Although scientists know that cloud forest vegetation plays an important role in absorbing water from clouds, the amount of moisture absorbed and its impact on the rest of the water cycle is less understood. This 250-acre site allows the students to research the effects that changes in climate and land use have on the water cycle. The students will investigate some areas untouched by humans and other sites that have been logged or completely cleared. Because the cloud forests exist near the tops of the Costa Rican watersheds, an understanding of the role of vegetation in these forests would help predict the availability of water downstream where most people live.

Read the full TAMU News story here.

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