Brandi Klingerman | December 20, 2016
Although it may seem simple to calculate, snowfall cannot be well measured by simply placing a yardstick in the ground. In actuality, snow measurement is much more complicated and oftentimes the most accurate snow measurement devices are costly. However, two Notre Dame graduate students are working to improve the snow measurement process in an effective and affordable manner.
Bethany Blakely – a fourth year biological sciences graduate student studying under both Jason McLachlan, associate professor of biological sciences, and Adrian Rocha, assistant professor of biological sciences – and Salvatore Curasi – a second year biological sciences graduate student also studying under Rocha – have created a model that captures the effects that wind, temperature, and vegetation have on snow and how these factors impact the measurement of snowfall over space and time. The research includes the use of temperature sensors developed by Curasi as an undergraduate student to gather the necessary data.
When discussing the use of the sensors, Curasi said, “Conventional snow measurement devices cannot capture the impact different factors have on snowfall, especially over different areas or varying lengths of time. To account for this, we will collect data from the temperature sensors as well as other elements to help us measure snowfall in a way that includes space and time.”
To conduct their research, Blakely and Curasi will utilize the Environmental Change Initiative’s (ECI) Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF). The facility is based in South Bend, Indiana’s St. Joseph County Park and consists of replicated watersheds, shallow groundwater wells, and several acres for terrestrial research. By using ND-LEEF’s forested and grassier areas, the students will be able to gather snowfall data on a variety of vegetation types.