Marijke Wijnen | April 10, 2017
Zach Hanson, a civil engineering graduate student, likes the days when he leaves the lab at Notre Dame, laces up his boots and drives ten minutes north to St. Patrick’s County Park to collect his newest batch of data on groundwater recharge from his 13 well array.
“It’s so nice to spend a day outside working. I get back in touch with the environment, which is the whole motivation behind my work.”
Often he’ll spot an eagle flying overhead. Near his well array live the first pair of bald eagles to nest successfully in St. Joseph County in recorded history.
This is Notre Dame’s Linked Environmental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF), a 29-acres property with two replicate watersheds, consisting of ponds, streams, and wetlands and acres of native grasses. The facility houses collaborative experiments that are bringing researchers together across disciplines to conduct critical climate and land-use change research. Professor Alan Hamlet believes this facility has a lot of potential to produce climate impact assessments and research strategies for successful adaptation.
Studies to date include testing the reliability of groundwater recharge models that are deployed for climate change research across the country, studying the transport of nutrients, yeast, pollen and eDNA in freshwater systems, testing the effectiveness of new low-cost snow sensors that could in the future be deployed for climate studies in the tundra, and many others.
Professor Diogo Bolster, Director of ND-LEEF, explains that the facility fills an important research niche by helping to close the field-lab dichotomy, “We do so many experiments in the lab and then people go and do measurements in the field. What you find time and time again is that the measurements you took in the lab don’t match the measurements you take in the field. You have a scaling issue.”