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II H R — H y d r o s c i e n c e & E n g i n e e r i n g

winter 2018 – 19

We A re I I HR

cont e nts


From the Director


Lab Notes


Armoring Up

10 CFD Hero 12 Transformers 14 Nick of Time 16 The Meandering Life 18 The Politics of Water 20 Building a Smaller More Connected World 24 Profiles 32 Fiscal Year in Review 33 Parting Shot

Follow IIHR, the Iowa Flood Center, and the Iowa Geological Survey on social media. Director of Development and Communications Carmen Langel Editor/Writer Jacqueline Hartling Stolze Contributing Writers David Gooblar, Mikael Mulugeta Design Benson & Hepker Design Photographers Aneta Goska and David Herwaldt On the Cover The people of IIHR, and the passion and dedication they bring to their work, provide what Director Gabriele Villarini calls the “secret sauce” that makes IIHR a remarkable place.

From both my parents, I learned

how things should be done. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. You’ve got to work for it. You put in the effort. You don’t cut corners or procrastinate.

You get the job done.

f rom t h e d i r e c tor

Pull and Push W

hen I leave work at night, I consciously shut one door and open another. As soon as I step through that open door, I am in another world — a world comprised by my wife Amie and my two daughters, Eleonora and Camilla. I make a conscious decision to be present for my family, and quite honestly, the girls make it impossible for me to do anything else. They jump on me with hugs and kisses — the human jungle gym is home! They want me to play right away. Even if I’m not up for it in that moment, I basically have no choice. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The girls don’t worry about whether I had a good day or a bad day. It makes no difference to them, and that’s awesome. It takes me out of the work mindset that dominates my days so I can be present for my family. I can’t be husband and father remotely, nor would I want to. It’s a balance — the balance between IIHR and my own family. When I’m at work, I’m at work — no distractions. I focus on getting the job done. And likewise, when I’m home, I’m home. I concentrate on being there for my family. I compartmentalize.

I learned this lesson from my father. He worked hard at the construction company he owned. The responsibility of providing not only for his own family, but also for the people who worked for him, was a tall order. During the week, he was always at work, from early in the morning to late in the day. At times, we sat down to dinner without him. From both my parents, I learned how things should be done. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. You’ve got to work for it. You put in the effort. You don’t cut corners or procrastinate. You get the job done. My father didn’t have the flexibility I do. I can to some extent shape my schedule, and that’s something he couldn’t do. I never lacked for his love and affection, but when it comes to the time spent with the people we love and care about, we always want more, right? At the end of the day, I love to snuggle up with my girls for a bedtime story. I want every extra minute I can get with them. My father set the precedent: You make sure the people you care about are provided for, at home and at work. It is this philosophy that drives me as director of IIHR. At work, IIHR comes first. There is nothing else. That is my

priority. I took this position with joy and enthusiasm, but also with a great sense of responsibility because I recognize the impact of the decisions I make as director. I’m still in the early days of my directorship at IIHR. It’s a big legacy. My goal is to make sure everybody — at home, and at IIHR — is in a good place with what they need to succeed. I hope you enjoy this issue of IIHR Currents! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and comments (gabriele-villarini@uiowa. edu, 319-384-0596). And please be sure to check out the information about IIHR’s centennial on the inside back cover — we hope to see you in August 2020!

Gabriele Villarini Director, iihr — Hydroscience & Engineering Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

W i nter 201 8 –1 9 • 1

A Water-Quality Adventure


he flat-bottomed boat Matt Meulemans cut the engine, roared up the river of watery and forward motion abruptly mud under an endless July sky, stopped. The cattle turned and piloted by two young men — not craned their necks to check out Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer — the invaders. rather, two IIHR students. They “They looked just as startled had enjoyed a peaceful day so as we were,” Meulemans says. far — the water was flowing He and two undergraduates, high, keeping most of the Collins Marine and Ben obstacles underwater. Lunch was Bergquist, spent hundreds of a memory, and the afternoon hours navigating the Iowa promised a long float upriver. and Cedar rivers last summer, That changed when they came carrying out a plan devised around a bend to see about 30 by IIHR researchers Larry cattle swimming across the stiff Weber, Chris Jones, and Keith current. IIHR graduate student Schilling. They designed a pumping system that brought water to two water-quality sensors mounted on the 14foot jon boat equipped with a “When they heard that 25-horsepower jet drive engine. we were testing nitrate The sensors continuously concentrations, one man measured nitrate concentration, said, ‘Good! You could temperature, dissolved oxygen, grow corn in this pH, and conductivity as the river!’” boat moved up the river. Matt Meulemans, IIHR “Without doing anything but graduate student driving and turning the system on when we started, we were able to collect water-quality data as we drove,” Meulemans says. 2 • IIHR Curren ts

The team traveled the entire Iowa River four times, from Wapello near the convergence of the Iowa and Mississippi rivers north to Eldora where the river became too small to navigate — roughly 270 miles and about 15,000 data points. For the four trips up the Cedar River, they collected data from Columbus Junction north to the Iowa-Minnesota border. IIHR’s Nathan Young supervised the students’ day-today operations. The goal was to develop insights on the sources of nitrogen in the rivers, especially in areas not monitored by IIHR’s water-quality sensor network. Meulemans says one of their most significant findings was that the Iowa and Cedar rivers were not fully mixed by the time they flow through Wapello, 14 miles downstream from the confluence. This could be biasing a U.S. Geological Survey nitrate sensor on the west side of the river in Wapello toward the Iowa River’s nitrate concentration, even though the Cedar River contributes more water. Besides the herd of cattle, Meulemans and his team saw plenty of wildlife, including deer, raccoons, beavers, muskrats, and groundhogs. Humans, too, were interested in the project. Meulemans recalls two fishermen near Janesville who came over to find out what the students were up to. “When they heard that we were testing nitrate concentrations, one man said, ‘Good! You could grow corn in this river!’ “I’m not sure why, but that quote seemed to stick in my head the rest of the summer,” Meulemans says.

lab notes

Mussel Blitz On August 25, IIHR’s Mikael Mulugeta was among the volunteers who turned out for the annual “Mussel Blitz” to inventory and map the distribution of mussels in the Iowa River from the Coralville Dam to Hills. Sponsored by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the event drew more than 50 biologists, students, county naturalists, and volunteers to collect 22 species of freshwater mussels during the three-day event. Volunteers “pollywogged” (a technique that involves crawling along the stream bed and probing the bottom with gloved hands) for live mussels, which they then counted, measured, and returned to the river. Mussels are a good indicator of the health of the river. “The whole river ecosystem runs better with native mussels living in it,” said IDNR Fisheries Biologist Scott Gritters, who organized the event. W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 3

SIIHR Goes to Madison


he Students of IIHR (SIIHR) traveled to the University of Wisconsin-Madison on August 9–10 as part of a group that also included students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The IIHR students each presented what was dubbed a “lightning talk,” describing his or her research. Prof. Chin Wu’s lightning talk, the final one of the afternoon, focused on the event itself. His enthusiasm embodied the overall enthusiasm of the Wisconsin group. The afternoon included a tour of the University’s Makerspace, where students design and manufacture engineering projects, and the Discovery Building, which houses collaborative spaces. A poster session was followed by kayaking and socializing, enhanced by delightful weather on the idyllic lakefront. “I was most impressed by the excitement and planning of our hosts, the students and professors of the Water Resources group,” says IIHR student Andrew Arnold. “Their connection to their research, department, and peers ran deep, as was evident through the event and through conversation, and they presented their research with a sense of great pride. It was honestly inspiring.”

4 • IIHR Currents

lab notes


Volpi Wins Dissertation Award


fter more than four years at IIHR, Silvia Volpi capped her time at Iowa by winning the Graduate Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award. The UI Graduate College does not present the award every year, only to recognize “exceptionally meritorious scholarship.” Volpi, who earned a PhD in mechanical engineering, studied ship hydrodynamics with a focus on modeling. She finished her dissertation, “High-Fidelity Multidisciplinary Design Optimization of a 3D Composite Material Hydrofoil,” in spring 2018. Her advisor, Fred Stern, thought highly of her work and nominated it to the Graduate College for award consideration. Volpi’s thesis aimed to develop a more affordable method to design hydrofoils, a lifting surface that operates in water. Researchers typically use computer simulations to design the hydrofoil, which is extremely expensive. Volpi developed a mathematical framework using analytical models to make computer simulations more affordable. The Graduate College noted that her thesis made a substantial contribution to the field and selected it for its exceptional academic merit. Born in Italy, Volpi came to the United States and IIHR in 2013 as a visiting scholar and began her doctoral studies in January 2014. Currently, she is a research and development engineer at the Bridgestone European Technical Center in Rome, where she works in heavy-duty tire development.

“We have to be precise because our reputation depends on it.” — IIHR’s Fred Stern, Iowa Now “It’s not normal.” — Iowa City Press-Citizen on extreme fall rainfall “Arguably the most valuable thing lawmakers did in the wake of the statewide 2008 floods was create the Iowa Flood Center.” — Aimee Breaux, Iowa City Press-Citizen “If we can show that this is something worth doing, maybe other people will jump on board.” — IIHR student Michael Krasowski, on the campus river clean-up IIHR helped organize, Daily Iowan “Your words need to grab them in the gut. And you do that by telling stories.” — IIHR’s Connie Mutel on communicating climate change, Iowa Alumni Magazine “Wow ... It’s like I time traveled into the future.” — tweet from @FrozenBike, on learning about IFIS flood inundation maps “We need to hang out more. And we’re looking at you too @IIHRUIowa. #hydrohomies” — tweet from St. Anthony Falls Lab “I definitely learned about all the work the flood center does. I think it’s really cool!” — Landon Marr, fifth grade student from New Hampton, on what he learned at Inspire Day at the Norman Borlaug Farm “No offense to the Alabama football team, but when it comes to hydrology, we here at the University of Iowa are much stronger.” — Witold Krajewski, director of the Iowa Flood Center, KGAN-TV news interview on the siting of the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 5

6 • IIHR Currents

l ab es Iowa River atnot Dusk P hoto by U I photog r aph e r Justin Torner

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 7

Armoring Up:

Women in Engineering The University Iowa is a place where women students can excel without constantly being on guard, IIHR’s Keri Hornbuckle says. That’s not the case everywhere, though, and we could always do better.

by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze


IHR’s Keri Hornbuckle was a new PhD student in environmental engineering at the University of Minnesota when a professor walked into the lab. “How are you girls doing today?” he asked. Hornbuckle wasn’t about to let that go by. “I said, ‘I’m not a girl! I’m 23 years old and I’m a woman!’ “I was a feminist in a very loud way,” she says. “I had my rules — don’t call me a girl, don’t compliment the way I look, don’t carry my stuff.” Hornbuckle says she even had to train her graduate advisor. “He was very kind, but I didn’t want chivalrous help with my fieldwork,” she says. “I had to tell him how I wanted to be treated. “I had to be really armored.”

difference will get them through any difficulties — what Hornbuckle calls the distractions. “You focus on your work,” Hornbuckle says. “You correctly evaluate what it takes to be good at what you do, and you ignore the stuff that doesn’t help you along the way.” Women can certainly do that, she says. But it’s an unnecessary barrier. She found a welcoming home in the field of environmental engineering and later at the University of Iowa, but that’s still not true everywhere, in all areas of engineering. “It annoys me a great deal,” Hornbuckle says.

The Iowa Way Today Hornbuckle is a tenured professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as an IIHR research An Unwelcoming Environment engineer. She has served as associate dean and For women, donning mental and emotional as department chair. She holds the Donald armor to study engineering was necessary, E. Bently Professorship in Engineering. Now Hornbuckle says. “That fear was real. It was she also leads a major research center — the appropriate — because it was scary.” Iowa Superfund Research Program, with 17 It’s not the math and science that’s the barrier to women in engineering, Hornbuckle says. It’s scientists and engineers from five colleges and two universities, all studying polychlorinated the unwelcoming environment — even today. biphenyls, or PCBs. “Women who just love math and science “I have a ton of privilege, so I don’t feel — and I’m one of them — need to have that armor,” Hornbuckle says. When they walk into unwelcome anywhere,” Hornbuckle says. “Yet, when you asked me to remember these things, I their first engineering class, women have to know that their passion to learn and to make a think, yeah, that’s what happened when I was 23.” 8 • IIHR Currents

The University of Iowa College of Engineering is more accepting of all students, Hornbuckle says. “When I came here, it shocked me how supportive an environment the University of Iowa is,” Hornbuckle says. Iowa is a place where women students can excel without constantly being on guard, Hornbuckle says. Of course, she adds, we could always do better. Recognizing that women do often feel unwelcome in engineering programs would be a good first step, Hornbuckle says. Then act to make a change. Continuing on as we always have does nothing to fix the problem. “Making it a more welcoming environment means we have to accept women’s views and make changes accordingly, even though we may not have experienced that ourselves,” Hornbuckle says.

studies, where she developed the idea that PCBs were volatile chemicals that can evaporate much as water does. This discovery made it clear that PCBs can travel through the air. Hornbuckle left PCBs behind and focused on other environmental issues for 10 years. But when the Superfund project got underway, she found herself coming full circle back to PCBs. Hornbuckle and her team are interested in what PCBs mean for human health. In the last few years, they have uncovered the disturbing extent of PCB exposure in schools — a significant source of exposure to children. “PCBs are toxic to people who are growing — they’re endocrine disruptors. They’re neurotoxins. They affect the way the body metabolizes fat, and they’re human carcinogens.” Hornbuckle sees this discovery as a way to make a meaningful difference in the world. “It feels like we’re being useful,” she says. “We’re trying to help parents and schools get a grip on Get a Grip on the Science the science so that the problem can be solved Hornbuckle started out her professional while they proceed to do the important work of career as a dishwasher. Not plates and saucers, educating students,” she says. but test tubes and glassware for an environmental “Making a difference — that’s what’s always engineering lab. She worked her way up to been attractive to me about engineering,” analyzing soil samples for chemicals such as Hornbuckle says. PCBs. That experience carried her into graduate IIHR’s Keri Hornbuckle (front, center) with her team (front, l to r): Carina Zhang, Yanlin Li, Jess Ewald, Hornbuckle, Vingie Ng, and Rachel Marek; (middle, l to r): Andres Martinez, Ezaz Haque, Deb Williard, Connor Johnson, Christian Bako, Hui Wang, and Maeve Bittle; (back, l to r): Jacob Jahnke, Luke Lesnik, and Kong Saktrakulkla.

W i nter 201 8 –1 9 • 9

CFD Hero Marcela Politano may seem like an unlikely hero: soft-spoken and humble, she spends most of her time developing numerical models and performing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, modeling the flow of water in different scenarios.

by David Gooblar

1 0 • IIHR Currents


ind may get all of the headlines, but one of the unsung heroes of renewable energy in this country is hydropower. The basics of the technology are old — dam a river, then use the water’s pentup momentum to turn turbines connected to generators — hydropower plants produce 17% of the world’s power. It may not be as flashy as some newer technologies, but hydropower is still the leading source of renewable energy in the United States. At a time when environmental concerns are leading many countries to move away from power sources that emit greenhouse gases, hydropower is a great alternative: a minimally polluting, costeffective, and renewable alternative that will be available as long as rain continues to fall. Minimal pollution does not mean that hydropower has no impact on the environment, and to make sure that hydropower plants don’t significantly harm their ecosystems, the industry has turned to another unsung hero: IIHR Research Engineer Marcela Politano.

Politano and her team recommended was the installation of deflectors, simple structures that redirect the water and keep the gas bubbles from descending to the high-pressure depths. For other plants, the solution was as simple as changing the operation of the spillway gates. This work has allowed power plants in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to meet the strict environmental criteria set out by the U.S. Department of Energy. Politano will also soon begin a study for the Colider Dam in Brazil’s Mato Grasso region. The dam has a capacity of 300 MW — enough to provide electricity to 850,000 people. Politano will use her model to evaluate TDG generation in the dam and to help design spillway deflectors.

Useful Work Sometimes, particularly during the summer, the problem is temperature. The reservoirs (water held back by hydropower dams to generate electricity when needed) are often warmer near the surface than the rest of the river. For cold-water fish migrating to the Deadly Bubbles ocean, a too-warm reservoir can be fatal. Politano may seem like an unlikely hero: Power utilities again turned to IIHR, and soft-spoken and humble, she spends most of Politano, for CFD expertise to help figure out a her time developing numerical models and solution. According to Politano, some reservoirs performing computational fluid dynamics are colder near the bottom. By selectively (CFD) simulations, modeling the flow of water withdrawing deeper, cooler water, operators can in different scenarios. It’s quiet, often tedious control temperature in the river downstream. work, and Politano relies on her knowledge of “What they need to know is when to release it,” physics, mathematics, computer programming, Politano says. “If they release it too soon, then and chemical and environmental engineering. they won’t have sufficient water for later in the Her simulations have helped power utilities season. If they don’t release enough, it can be solve a surprisingly broad array of problems, lethal for the fish.” Politano’s simulations help minimizing the damage to local ecosystems power plants operate the dam optimally, so caused by this important source of energy. that they can keep the reservoirs cool enough to One common environmental issue at mitigate impacts on fish populations. hydropower dams is total dissolved gas, or Politano’s work in this area has been TDG. The water immediately downstream of remarkably successful, so much so that the a hydroelectric plant often entrains a lot of Chinese government has called on her to assess gas bubbles. When these bubbles go deep into and help mitigate environmental impacts of the water where there is higher pressure, the hydropower dams on the Yangtze River, site gas more easily dissolves in the water. This, of the Three Gorges dam, the world’s largest in turn, can injure or kill a lot of fish — they power station. It’s a project that will take her get a condition similar to the bends: gas three or four years to fulfill, and she probably bubbles in their internal tissue and in their won’t get any headlines for it, but it’s the sort bloodstream, blocking blood flow. Politano of practical work that drew Politano to IIHR developed a model to simulate how bubbles in the first place. From the start of her time at travel through the water and dissolve at depth, Iowa, “it was really challenging and exciting and how hydropower dam operations might to learn how you can apply all your theory to alter their path. For many plants, the solution something that is really useful.” W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 1 1


Amphibious Vehicle Cross When the response to your research is “Whoa, what is that?” things can get interesting. by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze


he first sunlight of the day was glinting off the waves as they lapped up on the shore. Professor Casey Harwood and his graduate student rolled up to the Coralville Reservoir boat access, sipping coffee and reviewing their plans for the morning. They climbed out of the truck to unload their cargo — a red vehicle about the size of a four-wheeler. Within minutes, a small crowd had gathered. Several pulled out phones to snap a photo. “Whoa, what is that thing?” one asked, eyes wide.

You Get What You Get An amphibious vehicle might seem like science fiction, but there is a serious research purpose behind this work. Interest is intense in the use of small amphibious vehicles like

1 2 • II HR Currents

this one for search and rescue, first responders, and surveyors. The Gibbs Quadski is essentially a fourwheeler that turns into a jet ski. Harwood, an IIHR researcher and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is studying small amphibious vehicles, focusing on what happens to small vessels in the violent, chaotic environment created by waves crashing on the beach. It’s difficult to study in the field because nature dictates the experimental conditions—you get what you get. The waves are hard to measure and reproduce. For small amphibious vehicles, crossing through this surf region is problematic. Harwood says his research could help keep people in these vehicles safe as they cross between land and ocean, through the chaotic and dangerous surf zone. “But to do that, we need better science to tell us what’s actually happening in this critical region near the beach.”

ses the Surf Zone Surf’s Up Harwood and his PhD student, Andrew Arnold, are studying how things move in breaking waves, the physics of the waves themselves, and how they behave near a beach — at several different scales. Because a natural beach environment is problematic, next summer Harwood and his team will be running further experiments with a model-scale Quadski at an artificial beach to be constructed at the IIHR Wave Basin, which can provide a more controlled research environment. Harwood’s study is part of an “ecosystem” of related research on the topic. His experiments will provide data for high-resolution computational modeling being conducted by IIHR’s Pablo Carrica. Hiroyuki Sugiyama in the UI Department of Mechanical Engineering is simulating the vehicle itself. Researchers at St. Anthony Falls Lab at the University of Minnesota will focus on wave prediction. These studies will begin to answer important questions about the physics of waves crashing on the beach and small amphibious vehicles. Harwood hopes the work will also be useful for coastal modeling

efforts on beach erosion, wave energy conversion, and efficient mathematical modeling of complex dynamic systems.

A Small World When Harwood walks into the Stanley Hydraulics Lab, it’s as if a celebrity had entered the building. People stop to greet his furry companion, Kala. She’s a rescue dog in training to be Harwood’s diabetes alert dog. Kala can scent high or low blood sugars and retrieve supplies should he become incapacitated. “She is very much a member of the family,” Harwood says. Harwood spent his childhood with his human family in a tiny fishing village in the Pacific Northwest, where he knew at an early age that he wanted to be an engineer. He went to the Webb Institute on Long Island, N.Y., for his undergraduate studies, which he calls a “one-room schoolhouse of higher education.” Harwood came to the University of Iowa after completing a PhD at the University of Michigan. He is excited to have found a position at Iowa in his chosen field, experimental naval hydrodynamics — but he doesn’t deny the irony of coming to Iowa to design ships. Still, he notes, Iowa is better equipped than most of the schools that dot the coasts. The IIHR Wave Basin is one of the newest facilities in the country for naval hydrodynamics research. Ship hydrodynamics in academia is a small community — almost everyone crosses paths at some point. Harwood’s adviser at the Webb Institute was a friend and colleague of Lou Landweber, IIHR’s beloved “father of ship hydrodynamics.” “They worked together in Washington, D.C.,” Harwood says. “It’s very much a small world situation.”

Upper left: Casey Harwood works with grad student Kyle Mosqueda in the institute’s towing tank. Lower left: Harwood with his diabetes alert dog, Kala. Right: Graduate student Andrew Arnold drives the Quadski at the Coralville Reservoir while Harwood and Tony Loeser look on from the boat.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 1 3

nick of time:

IIHR Resear Pesticides i Modern pesticides that are considered safe can undergo transformations in the environment, changing into something that can have higher impacts on vertebrates, including humans.

by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze


eliably clean, safe water flows out of the tap and into your glass. Americans barely give this a second thought. So when IIHR’s Greg LeFevre, David Cwiertny, and their research team discovered low levels of neonicotinoids (a popular insecticide) in Iowa City drinking water, it generated a lot of attention. LeFevre fielded interview requests from the BBC, the Washington Post, and many other media outlets.

What’s in the Water? Neonics, as they are popularly known, are among the most widely used pesticides in the world, with sales of more than $1 billion per year. The chemicals target specific receptors and enzymes in specific insects, making them more environmentally friendly than traditional pesticides because neonics have a lesser effect on fish and mammals. But there’s more to the neonic story. LeFevre, who is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa (UI), wants to understand what happens to chemicals such as neonics when they undergo transformational processes in the natural or built environment — for instance, when they are taken up and metabolized by plants, bacteria, or fungi, or when they undergo water treatment processes. 1 4 • IIHR Curren ts

rchers Find in Drinking Water These processes can alter the chemical structure so that the pesticides lose their insect specificity, LeFevre says. “If that happens, neonics can have higher impacts to vertebrates, which would include us.”

Since the initial study, LeFevre says, the UI water treatment plant has added a powderactivated carbon system to remove a different, unrelated pollutant. This relatively inexpensive method adds a finely ground carbon powder to the flowing water, which is later removed and discarded. With this step, the UI’s water is significantly improved with regard to neonics. “This is a good example of environmental regulations achieving multiple public health benefits,” LeFevre says.

Tapping the Technology LeFevre was part of a collaboration that began in 2016 with Cwiertny, Dana Kolpin and Michelle Hladik at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), IIHR grad students Kathryn Klarich and Nicholas Pflug, and others. A seed Harnessing Bacteria grant from the UI Center for Health Effects Neonics are just one example of manmade of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) chemicals that can be transformed in allowed them to initiate the work, which led the environment. LeFevre wants to fully to a large National Science Foundation grant in 2018. Neonics are water soluble — they can understand these transformations and their potential downstream environmental impacts. travel and slip past some traditional filtering It’s work that he calls addictive. “When you processes. The pesticides have been reported in U.S. rivers and streams, which often provide get into the details of it, it’s quite fun,” LeFevre says. For instance, he hopes to harness the drinking water. About 20 percent of Iowans power of biodegrading bacteria in new ways rely on surface water as a source of drinking that would be simple and affordable to deploy, water. The UI College of Public Health and such as a bead coated with a bacterial biofilm its Neonicotinoid Collaboratory are studying fine-tuned to jumpstart bioremediation, which neonics in Iowa groundwater wells. uses microorganisms to consume and break The IIHR study tested water samples from down environmental pollutants. the Iowa City drinking water treatment plant He particularly enjoys working with as well as the UI water plant in the seven weeks following spring planting season. Although the colleagues across the research spectrum. Teams of experts in different areas, including amounts of pesticide found in the water were chemistry, engineering, biotechnology, quite low (in the parts per trillion range, or about one drop in 20 Olympic-sized swimming toxicology, and more, can collaborate to find effective, workable solutions to complex pools), the EPA has not yet established a safe environmental problems, LeFevre says. level for neonics in drinking water. “We’re all on the same team here,” LeFevre The Iowa City water treatment plant uses a granular activated carbon filter that proved quite says. “You can’t point the finger at any one thing. You can’t say, well, it’s all agriculture. If effective, removing from 85–100 percent of the you don’t like that, put down your fork, right? insecticide. The UI plant, which at the time was using a conventional sand filter, removed between We all have to eat. So how can we do this in a manner that is going to make it possible for us 1–44 percent of neonics from the water. all to inhabit planet Earth together?”

Greg LeFevre examines a sample of water from the Iowa River, which was running high following fall flooding in Iowa.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 1 5

The Meandering Life Silvia Secchi says her career has been like a meandering river. “Rivers that meander are very healthy,” she says. “They’re a little slower, but that’s good.”

by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze


ired as only a new mom can be, Silvia Secchi walked into her boss’ office at Iowa State University and dropped into a chair, blowing out a big sigh. “Cathy, I come into the office to sleep,” she admitted to her postdoc supervisor Cathy Kling. Kling responded, “Well, is the chair comfy enough? Because otherwise I’ll get you another one.” Secchi laughs about this story now. “I was very lucky,” she says.

A Cog in the Machine You won’t hear Secchi telling other women to “lean in,” a bit of advice she calls trite. But she does believe in supporting other women — and men, too — whenever she gets the chance. She has built her career around long-term professional relationships. There’s a friendship, too, a camaraderie, that she values. Secchi says she is the happiest when working on a big team, especially with colleagues who are also friends. “I like to say that my favorite thing is just to be a cog in the machine,” Secchi says. Secchi’s career has meandered all the way from her childhood home on the Italian island of Sardinia to Iowa, where her current research focuses on the relationships among agriculture, water, and the environment. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Reading in the U.K. and a PhD in economics at Iowa State University. By no means has her journey been a straight shot from point A to point B. “It’s like a river,” Secchi says. “Rivers that 1 6 • IIHR Currents

meander are very healthy. You don’t want them to be straight. They’re a little slower, but that’s good.” Today, Secchi is an associate research engineer at IIHR, a member of the University of Iowa’s (UI) Water Sustainability Cluster (WSI), and an associate professor of geographical and sustainable sciences. Secchi says she never would have envisioned this career when she was an undergraduate studying economics in Milan, Italy. “It’s been very serendipitous. It’s taken me a long time to get here,” she says. When she thinks about being 50 and not yet a full professor, Secchi says she thinks, “Oh, crap! But then I think, no, not crap. I’m really happy. I love my job.” The River of Life Secchi particularly loves having the opportunity to extend her work beyond the traditional boundaries of her field. “When I introduce myself at conferences, I say that I was trained as a natural resources economist, but that I self-identify both as an economist and a geographer.” She has found a comfortable home in the UI Department of Geographical and Sustainable Sciences. Secchi even taught herself GIS (Geographical Information Systems), a useful tool for her research at the intersection of the human and the natural. Her work is largely place-based, and that place is Iowa. Even when she was on the faculty at Southern Illinois University, Secchi kept her Iowa-centered focus. She explores the consequences — positive or otherwise — of land management

practices and policies. Secchi has worked extensively on the environmental consequences of the ethanol mandate, and what more continuous corn production has meant for Iowa in terms of water quality, reduced conservation set-aside land, and changing farming practices. Secchi also studies flooding and invasive species. “It’s not just water quality, and it’s not just floodplain management,” she says. “Everything has to be seen within the larger system.” Teaching as Performance A crowd of more than 350 students is waiting in the lecture hall when Secchi walks to the podium carrying her black and white Secchi disk (at right, a tool for measuring water turbidity, invented by an Italian friar in the 19th century — no relation). In her bold black and white African-style dress, she commands every eye in the room. She has no qualms about teaching such a large class — in fact, she loves it. “It’s like a performance,” she says. “I’m very loud. I move. I’m firm. I ask questions. … I try to give the small class feeling in a big lecture.” Secchi team-teaches the course, Contemporary Environmental Issues, with WSI colleague Eric Tate. In a way, she says, teaching is an extension of the relationshipbuilding she relies on. “To some extent, teaching is a motherly job,” she says. “You make sure that no one gets left behind.”

“It’s not just

water quality, and it’s not just

floodplain management. Everything has to be seen within the

larger system.”

Silvia Secchi, IIHR associate research engineer

Troubled Water As a child on Sardinia, Secchi spent almost every summer day at the beach, in and out of the clear, sparkling water. Secchi loves standup paddleboarding, which she says offers a way to reconnect with her love of the water. “The challenge is that the water is not very clean in Iowa,” she says. “I go to Lake MacBride now, but it’s just not the same.” Secchi loves that Iowa City is a river town, and she appreciates watching the river change from day to day and observing the wildlife that calls the river home. “I think about the water a lot here,” she says, “but I don’t necessarily enjoy being in it.”

A Secchi disk is a tool for measuring water turbidity, invented by an Italian friar in the 19th century — no relation.

Silvia Secchi loves stand-up paddleboarding, but she wishes Iowa’s lakes and rivers were cleaner.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 1 7

The Politics of Water How does a political scientist end up studying water in China? Elise Pizzi says, “If you had told me when I started grad school that I would study China, I would not have believed you,” she says. “Or that I would study water. That’s not a political science thing.”

by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze


Elise Pizzi looks on as villagers in the Guizhou province of China transplant rice.

lise Pizzi’s research in rural China required her to travel to remote villages that don’t appear on any map. Sometimes she was able to take a bus or catch a ride. “I spent a lot of hours shadowing local officials, including to water buffalo fights, so I could get rides to the remote villages where they were going,” Pizzi says. Sometimes, though, she walked. Pizzi and her young Chinese guide hiked through the countryside, following a dirt path through China’s Guizhou Province, past rice paddies and lush tobacco fields. Pizzi and the young man talked to pass the time. They spoke about life in the rural Chinese hamlets and his experiences as the first university student from his village. By the end of the second day, Pizzi felt she had a friend as well as a research assistant. “Part of what was so fun about wandering around villages with him was that he didn’t really know how much he knew about village life and about his region until a foreigner who didn’t know anything (me!) showed up and started asking questions,” Pizzi says. “He had a relative in nearly every village we walked to and knew a lot more family and village history than he realized. “He was my favorite research assistant,” she says.

1 8 • IIHR Curren ts

Water, Water Everywhere … Funded by a Fulbright, Pizzi spent 10 months studying access to drinking water in China’s relatively water-rich but povertystricken southwest province. Although the area gets sufficient rainfall, many rural villages do not have good access to safe and reliable drinking water. Pizzi wanted to understand why some villages fared better than others when it came to water. Growing up in the increasingly dry American West, Pizzi says the value of water was something she was always aware of. In China, she discovered that villages with more migration — people leaving the village to find jobs in urban areas — had better access to water. Migration in China is often circular; people leave, but they also come back. Migrants gain urban experience and can advocate for better government services. Pizzi, who earned a PhD in political science at the University of Colorado-Boulder, came to the University of Iowa to join the Department of Political Science and the Water Sustainability Initiative (WSI), an interdisciplinary group of faculty members working together to develop strategies and solutions to the complex water issues facing the world.

She’s also interested in policy An Unplanned Journey “It turned out to be a really good fit,” Pizzi implementation. Even the best environmental policies may not be completely or consistently says. She appreciates the opportunities to implemented. Pizzi hopes to study the “middle interact with people outside her department stage between policy and outcomes.” and to develop interesting research She adds, “I think it’s very local and very partnerships. Pizzi arrived at Iowa in 2016 and is still adjusting to her new environment. context-specific.” Personal relationships She’s hoping to find her research “sweet spot” often play an important role, as do natural variations — it may not be feasible to with colleagues from the WSI, focusing on implement a policy in a particular place. the political aspects of water-related issues. “I think there’s a lot more going on than we Pizzi is still interested in China, and know,” Pizzi says. especially its rural southwest. The area has If you wonder how a political scientist many environmental problems, including came to study water in China, you’re not 400 years of deforestation. Farmers have alone, Pizzi says. “If you had told me when I been growing corn on steep slopes, leading started grad school that I would study China, to severe erosion. The Chinese government I would not have believed you,” she says. encourages people to change their farming “Or that I would study water. That’s not a practices and move out of areas prone to political science thing.” landslides. Pizzi is studying the effectiveness She laughs, adding, “This was not a of these Chinese government efforts and how planned journey.” land use practices affect poverty. “If you’re growing corn in places where you shouldn’t be growing corn, it’s hard to make a living,” Pizzi says. Pizzi is studying the effectiveness of these Chinese government efforts and how land use practices affect poverty.

“If you’re growing corn in places where you shouldn’t be growing corn, it’s hard to make a living,” Pizzi says.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 1 9

Building a Smaller, More Connected World Decades ago, V.C. Patel planted and cultivated a ‘little seed of an idea’ that has flourished and grown into a popular study abroad program. by Mikael Mulugeta


ightfall hung over the small town in Eastern Turkey, where shops and restaurants were beginning to close for the night. After a long day, the group of engineering students from the University of Iowa (UI) was tired and hungry. Led by their professor, V.C. Patel, they searched for a place to eat dinner. It was after 10 pm when they found a restaurant still open, but the menu selection was limited. Patel, a vegetarian, had several dishes to choose from, but the student next to him, a vegan, was not so lucky. The chefs talked things over and decided to bend the rules and prepare special food for the vegan student. Thirteen years later, Patel still remembers how he felt that night. The kindness of the restaurant staff — so accommodating and hospitable to the weary travelers — really touched him. Moments like these, the ones that made the world feel like a smaller, more connected place, are what Patel hoped for when he conceived the idea that

20 • IIHR Currents

would become the International Perspectives study abroad program.

A Little Seed of an Idea When Patel came to IIHR and the University of Iowa in 1971, he took note of how many IIHR faculty members served as international consultants, traveling and teaching courses worldwide. They had a wealth of experience on the application of water resource practices in a variety of circumstances. This sparked Patel’s idea to take a classroom abroad, immersing students in situations that would challenge them to adapt and think creatively. When Patel became the director of IIHR in 1994, he set out to make his dream of a water resources study abroad program a reality. He approached fellow IIHR researcher and hydraulic engineer Subhash Jain to discuss the potential for such a course in India, where Jain had received his education. They concluded that unless students could visit these locales in

person, they would not be able to appreciate all the social, historical, cultural, and political factors at play. To prepare for the course, Patel and Jain spent a week or two in the region they planned to visit to look at its water resource practices and projects. They observed how cultural and political factors affected water projects and what entered into their planning, design, management, and operation. They were particularly interested in the large dams being built in India and China. In India, Patel organized partnerships with local universities so students there could interact with and work alongside the Iowa students when they arrived.

The First Trip In 1998, the first International Perspectives class traveled to India. Led by Patel and Jain, they explored two regions. First, they visited the state of Gujarat in western India, where a large dam project was underway. The construction made an interesting case study for the students. Next, they traveled north to see operations at similar projects that had been completed. The Iowa students learned side by side with local Indian students, bonding with them in their short time together. “The emotional separation at the end of the week was something to behold,” says Patel. “People were crying … but the students were able to gain a lifelong experience.” Friends for Life The success of any course may be best measured by its students. Fifteen years after the first trip, Kathryn Langenfeld participated in the India Winterim study abroad program. Her comments echo some of the themes that emerged on the first trip — she particularly appreciated how the course packed a lot of learning experiences into a short time period and the close personal ties forged among the participants. “The program was an excellent way to explore a country, earn course credits, learn technical skills, and bond with faculty and other students all at once,” she says. During her trip, Langenfeld learned how to model groundwater, studied Indian history and culture, visited famous landmarks including the Taj Mahal, and toured an Indian university. Langenfeld, who earned a civil engineering BSE

Top three photos: Since 2011, IIHR faculty have organized and led a study abroad trip to India. Seen here, India Winterim group photos (at right, from top): 2011; 2012; and 2013. Right: IIHR’s Carmen Langel poses in front of the Pyramids on a study abroad trip to Egypt in 2008. Bottom: Course Director Marian Muste has led the program since 2001, with assistance from fellow IIHR researcher Allen Bradley.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 21

and mathematics BS at Iowa in 2016, is now an environmental engineering PhD student at the University of Michigan. She says the trip was one of her favorite courses as an undergrad.

This page: India Winterim trips through the years: (from top) a 2016 group photo; posing with a statue of Mahrishi Patanjali in 2016; two students at the Ganges River in 2016; at the Taj Mahal in 2018; and conducting fieldwork in 2018. Next page: Then-IIHR Director Larry Weber — sporting Hawkeye gear — looks right at home atop a camel on the trip to Egypt in 2008.

Program Growth Encouraged by this success, Patel reached out to IIHR alumni living abroad and working in hydraulic engineering to coordinate subsequent trips. Over the next few years, he organized courses in Japan and Taiwan (1999), China (2000), Eastern Europe (2001), Argentina (2003), and Turkey (2005). Students enrolled in the program came from various disciplines, not just hydraulic engineering and fluid mechanics. Students with backgrounds in economics, political science, and urban planning appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with engineers, bringing multiple perspectives to the experience. As the program evolved, more IIHR researchers signed on to lead trips. When the program went to Japan, IIHR Research Engineer Tatsuaki Nakato accompanied the students. Next, IIHR’s Marian Muste and Witold Krajewski organized a trip to Romania, Hungary, and Poland. Muste, who is from Romania, instructed the students in the first two countries, and Krajewski took over in his native Poland. As participation grew, Patel’s role diminished. He became more involved behind the scenes, setting up trips and connecting with alumni in Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan, and Egypt, as well as with local institutions and faculty, to replicate the original experience in India. After laying the foundation for the next few trips, he stepped back and let others at IIHR take charge. In 2004, after 10 years as director of IIHR, Patel stepped down. New Directions In 2001, Muste took over as director of International Perspectives, marking a period of change for the program. After coordinating trips to Eastern Europe, Argentina, Turkey, Egypt, China, and U.K.-The Netherlands, Muste merged the course with an existing study abroad program on campus, the India Winterim, created in 2007 by the UI Department of Geography. Since 2011, IIHR has been coordinating a new India Winterim track on water resources

22 • IIHR Currents

that returns to one location in India each year to work on water projects with the Sehgal Foundation, a local NGO that focuses on empowering rural communities. The course, Water Poverty in Rural India, takes place in late December and early January. “Iowa students and faculty support the Sehgal Foundation on a long-term water project,” Muste says. “When we leave, they continue to make progress on these projects. Then we do research and put forward proposals based on our findings.” IIHR’s Allen Bradley, whose involvement in the IIHR study abroad program began in 2004, is the regular course instructor for the Water Poverty in Rural India course. He’s been involved in three project-based courses in India. “By partnering with the India Winterim study abroad program, IIHR’s course can offer students from across campus a hands-on experience in water sustainability,” Bradley says. Patel says he couldn’t be happier with how Muste, Bradley, and others have changed the program and kept participants engaged. “I am really grateful to Marian Muste and Allen Bradley for taking over and making this their own,” says Patel. “The courses have changed to do more in-depth studies of various problems and have provided a consistent experience for the students.”

A Lasting Legacy Greg Geimer was one of those students. In December 2017, he traveled to a village two hours outside of New Delhi as part of the India Winterim. The course lasted three weeks and focused on helping locals resolve a freshwater crisis. Villagers were struggling to adjust to saltier water caused by overuse of limited fresh groundwater supplies. One of the proposed solutions was rainwater harvesting, so Geimer and his group worked to quantify how much water had been captured and how worthwhile the practice had been so far. Geimer, who completed a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 2018, says his time in India gave him some much needed field experience. “I mostly do computer modeling at IIHR, so having to deal with logistical problems in the field gave me some good experience with outside-the-box problem-solving and making do with what was available,” says Geimer. Twenty years after it was established, International Perspectives is celebrating 15 trips around the world. Patel calls the anniversary a joyous milestone; he’s delighted that the little seed of an idea he had more than 40 years ago has flourished. And if Muste has anything to say about it, the tradition will live on for a long time. “The program is a great experience for students, so we plan on going for the foreseeable future.”

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 23

student voices

Are engineers born, or made? We asked five IIHR students to tell us what they wanted to be when they were 10 years old.

Andrew Arnold, Monterey, Calif.

Research Area: Experimental hydrodynamics

“I was once a waist-high know-it-all who would inform peers that ‘everything is math.’ My evidence was sparse and typically related to basketball free throws. As a researcher, I enjoy hypothesizing and testing physical explanations for unexpected experimental results. Thankfully I’ve outgrown the sass and not the wonder of my salad days.”

Stephanie Houser, Buffalo, N.Y.

Research Area: Modeling exposure pathways and pathogen flows in peri-urban communities in Kenya, Ghana, and Haiti

“When I was 10, I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer. … I thought I would spend my life living in Africa or Asia, providing clean water for people in low income countries. Now I plan to focus on what I can do to improve water and sanitation access from a policy and government standpoint. My training has shown me different pathways that may be more effective to achieve my goals. I am extremely excited to say that the research I’m doing here at Iowa is in line with this passion.”

24 • IIHR Currents

student voices

Navid Jadidoleslam, Tabriz, Iran

Research Area: Application of satellite remote sensing in flood forecasting

“When I was a child, I loved to build earthfilled dams and waterways in our backyard with my friends. Those small dams and dambreak experiments were a sign of a bigger dream of mine and the answer to adults’ questions of what I want to become — a civil engineer playing with water!”

Munsung Keem, Busan, South Korea

Research Area: Improving the accuracy of remote-sensing rainfall products, such as weather radars

“When I was a teenager, my grandparents’ house was damaged by typhoons several times. While trying to restore the damage with my father, I thought that if we could have predicted such severe weather events, we would have been better prepared for the typhoons. Now, I am working on radar rainfall estimation, which serves as the main input source for weather forecasting systems. I hope that my research can help the public, like my grandparents, protect themselves from the severe weather.”

Maral Razmand, Tehran, Iran

Research Area: Development of computational watershed models for the Iowa Watershed Approach

“I am and always was in love with nature and animals. When I was 10, I wanted to rescue donkeys, so they wouldn’t have to carry heavy packs. I guess since I was a kid, I just wanted everything to be fair. Working on watershed modeling to prevent flooding in smaller and more vulnerable communities is one of the many ways to make a better life for everyone.” W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 25

a l u m n i P r o f i l e : NURAY DENLI TO K YAY

Standing Strong in a Man’s World by David Gooblar


Nuray Denli Tokyay (left) was the first woman to complete a PhD at IIHR. She is pictured here with her daughter, Talia Ekin Tokyay, who also graduated from the hydraulics program at IIHR.

her education; she had to prove rowing up in Turkey, herself over and over again. Nuray Denli Tokyay had And yet, so many of Denlialways been a good student. Her Tokyay’s memories of Iowa are excellent grades in math and science in high school had paved positive, and she has much praise in particular for Lou Landweber, the way for her acceptance her mentor, and IIHR Director to the Middle East Technical John F. Kennedy. Denli-Tokyay University (METU) in Ankara, remembers that when she was a Turkey. She received a BSc, with PhD student, there was only one honors, in civil engineering restroom for women at IIHR — in 1973, and soon after began on the fourth floor, where the working as a teaching and secretaries worked. That room research assistant in METU’s was locked at 5 pm every day, hydraulics lab. So when, in and so whenever Denli-Tokyay her first year as a graduate worked late — which was often student at the University of — she had to walk across the Iowa’s IIHR — Hydroscience bridge to another building to & Engineering (IIHR), she saw use the bathroom. When she an A+ at the top of her Fluid Mechanics homework, it was no mentioned this to Kennedy, he was immediately apologetic — surprise. What was surprising he had had no idea — and before was the note from the professor underneath the grade: “Very nice long one of the men’s restrooms was renovated to serve as a work. Did you do it yourself?” ladies’ room. As the first woman to Today, Denli-Tokyay can complete a PhD at IIHR, Denlilook back on a long and Tokyay had to work twice as hard as everyone else. For every successful career as a civil professor and student impressed engineer. She recently retired as professor at METU, having by her work ethic and talent, returned to her alma mater another one doubted that she in Turkey in 1979. She has could stand on her own in a authored more than 40 man’s world. She remembers research papers, primarily in one professor who gave her a the fields of fluid mechanics B for the semester, even though she had gotten perfect scores on and open-channel hydraulics. all of her exams and homework. She mentored countless The reason? When the instructor students over the course of her career, taking particular had explained something pride in helping many women incorrectly in class, Denlibecome engineers. When she Tokyay had displayed the gall returned to Iowa City in 2003, to correct him. Such instances followed Denli-Tokyay through some 25 years after she left,

26 • IIHR Curren ts

it was to help her daughter, Talia Ekin Tokyay, settle in as she began her own master’s and PhD program at IIHR. It was a happy homecoming. Among the many friends and colleagues Nuray visited with on the trip was a former IIHR staff member named Helen, who said she had talked about Nuray so often over the years that Helen’s own daughter, inspired, had grown up to be a civil engineer as well.

Talia’s Choice When it came time for Talia Ekin Tokyay to apply to graduate school, she was torn between a geotechnical engineering program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the hydraulics program at IIHR. According to her mother, IIHR alumna Nuray Denli Tokyay, it wasn’t much of a choice at all. After her mother’s push and a positive application experience, Talia began her studies at IIHR in 2003. Receiving a MSc in 2005 and a PhD in 2010, Talia specializes in the use of numerical models to study highly turbulent flows, such as gravity currents and wind, and how they interact with various structures. When Talia was living and studying in Iowa City, she was very much aware of her mother’s footsteps as a pioneer in the field. She looked up old newsletters in the IIHR archives to find articles about her mom. One newsletter trumpeted Nuray’s accomplishment as the first woman PhD in the program. “That made me so proud,” Talia says. She knows very well all that her mother had to fight against to attain that achievement. In the 2000s, she says, “I didn’t need to convince people about my capabilities just because I am a woman. I am sure there are still people who have similar ideas as my mom was exposed to in the 1970s, but they are voicing them far less.” If you ask Nuray, however, her daughter’s achievements are just as much a source of pride. When Talia first arrived in Iowa, Nuray says, “she was Nuray’s daughter. Now, I am Talia’s mother.”

So many of Denli-Tokyay’s memories

of Iowa are positive, and she has much praise in particular for Lou Landweber, her mentor, and IIHR Director John F. Kennedy.

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 27

st u d e n t P r o f i l e : da n i e l l e t h o m as

Something in the Water by Mikael Mulugeta


t’s taken a little time, but Danielle Thomas has carved out a niche for herself in Iowa City. Coming from sunny California to pursue a PhD in civil and environmental engineering, Thomas had no previous ties to Iowa City when she arrived. She figured the easiest way to make herself feel at home was to stay true to herself, and for Thomas that meant getting as involved in the community as possible. She began by volunteering every Saturday with Table to Table, a food rescue organization that keeps food from going to waste by

28 • IIHR Curren ts

collecting and distributing it to hungry and at-risk populations. Then she set her sights on student government and now serves as the diversity chair for Graduate Professional Student Government. Thomas sees the organization, which represents the interests of Iowa’s graduate and professional students, as an important place to share opinions honestly, address unmet needs, and advocate for positive change across the university. She is also an avid baker who loves brightening the days of her friends with homemade pastries. Now a fixture in the community, it is hard to imagine the spaces Thomas frequents without her. So how did Thomas end up at Iowa? Growing up in Corona, Calif., Thomas remembers gravitating toward math and science early on. Her high school physics teacher noticed her inclination toward math and suggested she pursue engineering. At the University of Southern California, Thomas found her passion for environmental and civil engineering and earned a BS in civil engineering. IIHR contacted her during her senior year, and after hearing about the Sustainable Water Development program from David Cwiertny, the director of the SWD, she began to consider the University of Iowa.

“The program was so innovative, so original, and aligned with what I wanted to do across the board,” she says. “And then I spoke to Gabriele [Villarini] over the phone for an hour. The more I learned about the university and the history of IIHR, I thought, how could I not come here?” Under the guidance of Iowa Flood Center Director Witold Krajewski, Thomas’ research focuses on improving how we predict floods, by including the way water flows in the mix. Currently, researchers rely on statistical distribution to predict floods. A key problem with this method is that most weather stations have insufficient historical flood data. Thomas’ approach seeks to pair statistical distributions with predictive models, and to use instantaneous peaks rather than daily means to predict floods. After graduation, Thomas hopes to work in water resources for a global civil and environmental engineering consulting firm or a federal agency related to water resources. If she decides on federal work, she hopes to work on projects related to natural disasters because their impacts are so widely felt. “Everyone is affected by water,” says Thomas. “Hopefully, our work can help improve things for people in the future.”

s t a f f P r o f i l e : B r e a n n a Sh e a

Iowa Roots Go Deep by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze


he little girl grabbed the old man’s hand and tugged, laughing. “C’mon, Grandpa! Let’s go fishing!” His eyes crinkled under the brim of his Kent feed hat as he smiled down at her. Hand in hand, they followed a well-worn path from the farmhouse to the pond, lugging a couple of milk jugs full of frog bait — his favorite mode of fishing.

Happy Together

They were on familiar territory, these two. As a child, Breanna Shea spent a lot of time on her grandparents’ Johnson County farm, fishing in the pond or Old Man’s Creek. They even played school — she was the teacher, and he was the disobedient student who nodded off for a nap during class. Today, Shea is using her degree in animal ecology, with a focus on the interpretation of natural resources, in her work as communication specialist for the Iowa Flood Center (IFC). In many ways, she teaches every day through her outreach to the public — including K12 students — about the work and resources of the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa. It’s appropriate, Shea says, that her work is rooted in Iowa soil. She feels a deep connection to this place, these people. Shea continues on page 30 W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 29

s t a f f P r o f i l e : B r e a n n a Sh e a

Witold Krajewski is known (IWA) meetings. She enjoys the for his high standards. “That’s relaxed interactions with other “I grew up here. I stayed here,” members of the IWA team — definitely pushed me and helps Shea says. “I think it’s that me to do good work,” Shea after traveling thousands of connection I have to Iowa from miles together to all corners of says. It takes time and hard my childhood.” work to gain Krajewski’s trust, the state, little if any formality Her grandpa passed away Shea says, but the effort is well remains between them. when she was in college at worth it. Food is more than just Iowa State University, but “He has high expectations fuel on these trips — it’s an her grandma still lives on for everybody he works with,” obsession. IWA leader Larry the farm, not far from Shea’s Shea says, “but he also has Weber has been known to stop mom and dad. Leaving Iowa for ice cream three times in one really high expectations for is unimaginable, Shea says, himself.” day. He also appreciates dive because she’d be leaving her She knew she had earned restaurants and greasy burgers family and the place she calls — no healthy eaters need apply. Krajewski’s trust after one home. occasion when he was getting “If you don’t eat poorly on “I didn’t want to go anywhere these trips, you are shunned,” ready for a television interview. else,” Shea says. They were discussing the details Shea says. “You’ll have to eat in the corner by yourself. Don’t in Krajewski’s fifth floor office in Stanley Hydraulics Lab. Shea order salad when you’re on Don’t Order Salad! trips with Larry!” turned to leave, but he stopped These days, Shea and her her. “Wait,” he said, “I have to The IWA work is especially husband Andy have expanded ask you something!” He pulled rewarding, Shea says. The the family circle. Their son, two ties out of his bag. “Which five-year project aims to Oscar, was born in May 2018. one should I wear?” produce flood mitigation They love spending time But Shea never forgets and water-quality benefits together, especially outdoors — the serious purpose that statewide by joining forces gardening and walking the dogs, with volunteer landowners and underlies her work at the IFC and when Oscar gets a little — to improve Iowa’s flood other stakeholders to build older, biking. preparedness and resiliency, and conservation projects such as Becoming a parent herself has farm ponds in the upper reaches to reduce future flooding. She only increased Shea’s focus on hopes her work will help leave of the watershed. Shea believes family. the state a better place for Oscar. the IWA is providing a positive Working at the IFC is like “I want him to be proud to call vision for Iowa to address family, too, Shea says. “That Iowa home, no matter where he water-related challenges in a makes the job fun.” lives,” she says. collaborative fashion. As part of her work, Shea If he’s anything like his mom, The expectations for Shea’s travels the state to attend job are steep, but it’s a challenge Iowa is exactly where he’ll want Iowa Watershed Approach to be. she relishes. IFC Director Shea continues from page 29

[Shea] hopes her work will help leave the state a better place for Oscar.

“I want him to be proud to call iowa home, no matter where he lives,” she says.

30 • IIHR Currents

advisory board

Advisory Board Members Scott C. Hagen (2014–18) Louisiana State University Thad Michael (2016–20) U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Pedro Restrepo (2016–20) National Weather Service/NOAA (Retired) Brennan Smith (2015–19) Oak Ridge National Laboratory Martin Teal (2018–22) WEST Consultants Inc. Lawrence Tarasek (2018–22) Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Peter Vikesland (2018–22) Virginia Tech University Jinn-Chuang Yang (2014–18) National Chiao Tung University

Ex Officio Members: Alec Scranton Dean, UI College of Engineering Gabriele Villarini Director, IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering The 2018 meeting of the IIHR Advisory Board (l to r): Scott Hagen, Martin Teal, Peter Vikesland, Pedro Restrepo, Thad Michael, Carmen Langel, Gabriele Villarini, Teresa Gaffey, Brennan Smith, Jinn-Chuang Yang, and Troy Lyons.

Carmen Langel Director of Development and Communications, IIHR

Our Mission To be a leader in fluids-related fundamental and applied research; to provide interdisciplinary education for future leaders in science and engineering; and to advance knowledge in support of sustainable natural and engineered systems.

Our Vision To be an international leader among academic institutions in hydroscience and engineering research recognized for integrating laboratory, field- and simulation-based experimentation, and participatory interdisciplinary education. W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 3 1

F inancia l R e po r t

Fiscal Year in Review IIHR continues to enjoy a position of fiscal strength. The institute’s traditionally high level of scholarly productivity and funding demonstrates IIHR’s ability to nurture and support a variety of fluids-related research activities, funded by a wide range of sponsors. However, to rest on one’s laurels is to stop growing and moving forward. IIHR plans to further develop its established strengths to support new research directions and initiatives. With IIHR Director Gabriele Villarini now officially installed, IIHR is pursuing an enhanced set of goals and priorities. Those that are particularly relevant to IIHR’s financial status include the following: (1) strengthen IIHR’s fee-for-service work in several areas, including Engineering Services (shop) and the Iowa Geological Survey; (2) become more proactive in seeking relevant grant and contract opportunities; (3) further develop interdisciplinary collaborations to enhance research grant proposals in an increasingly competitive funding environment; (4) expand IIHR’s presence with regard to federal agencies, as well as with the private and commercial sectors; and (5) increase the diversity in our research program. These efforts are in their inaugural stages. We look forward to updating you on the success of our efforts in the coming years! 32 • IIHR Currents

external funding by sponsor fy 18 DOT, USDA, other Fed — $3,891,545/25% DOE/Nasa — $309,789/2% Iowa State, other Govt — $2,218,270/14% Corporations — $493,203/3% NIH — $1,387,940/9% State Appropriation (IFC) — $1,171,222/7% NSF — $1,411,822/9% Army, Navy, Air Force — $4,155,911/26% Non-Profit — $823,830/5%

fiscal year



25 m 20 m 15 m 10 m 5m 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

pa r ting shot

You’re Invited! To the most astounding party the Iowa River has ever seen, all in honor of IIHR’s Centennial, in August 2020!

Please join us for one or all of these special events: • IIHR’s Gala Birthday Party — stay tuned for details, dates, alumni events, etc. • The Big Splash — a spectacular celebration of — and on — the Iowa River, the weekend of August 15–16, 2020 • International Conference on Flood Management — to be held on the University of Iowa campus, August 17—19. More information is available at: https://icfm2020.org

We hope to see you in August 2020!

Proudly presented by: Hancher, the University of Iowa, IIHR, and the College of Engineering

W i nte r 201 8 –1 9 • 3 3

iihr Currents is published annually by IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering The University of Iowa 100 C. Maxwell Stanley Hydraulics Laboratory Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1585 319-335-5237 www.iihr.uiowa.edu The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, ia 52242-1316, 319-3350705 (voice), 319-335-0697 (tdd ), diversity@uiowa.edu.

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IIHR Currents 2019  

IIHR Currents 2019