Undergraduate and graduate student presentations from the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, 2021 Online University Research Symposium, Illinois State University
The Green New Deal As Covid-19 Relief
The COVID-19 pandemic has created or exacerbated concerns relating to unemployment, healthcare, and systemic inequities in the U.S. This comes at the same time as immense threats to human and environmental health posed by climate change. This poster outlines how it is possible and why it is necessary to address these intersecting crises simultaneously through a Green New Deal that implements solutions to the environmental crisis along with a myriad of other crises facing the U.S. Our nation needs a program to eliminate health disparities drawn out by the pandemic as well as to resolve high unemployment levels and remediate the deep inequalities seen in both the healthcare and employment systems. People of color and low-income individuals have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Higher rates of pre-existing health conditions among people of color coupled with COVID-19 have led to greater fatality rates within these groups (Villarosa, 2020). Further, Black and Latinx people as well as lowincome individuals are experiencing some of the worst unemployment rates during the pandemic (Parker et al., 2020). These systemic inequities do not begin and end with COVID-19. Any plan that seeks to move the U.S. out of the pandemic without also addressing underlying inequities will fail to prepare the country for future global crises. It is all the more pertinent to consider the nation’s approach to the pandemic when it is considered in conjunction with climate change. Scientists advise that we must cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to prevent massive losses in global ecosystems, plant and animal species, and human life (Klein, 2019, pp. 23-24). The Green New Deal presents a way to simultaneously address the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate change crisis. By developing legislation that addresses climate change, creates good quality jobs, provides universal health care, and remedies the systemic inequalities that have compounded the effects of COVID-19, the U.S. can come out of the pandemic having built a more sustainable and equitable world.
Natural Nitrate Removal In Shallow Subsurface Stream Flows
As agricultural growth increases across the planet, more anthropogenic nitrate from fertilizers and sewage effluent is contributed to the aquatic system, exacerbating both ecosystem- and human-health issues. Nitrate is naturally processed and removed within the environment, and those processes have been observed in a segment of substrata and porewater below streams called the hyporheic zone (HZ). The interaction of stream water with groundwater can promote denitrification; however, the rate of nitrate reduction within the HZ is unknown. This study determined the extent of surface water-groundwater interactions in a HZ and assessed the nitrate reduction in this zone via monthly sampling of three wells inserted along the length of T3, a stream located in the agriculturally dominated, Central Illinois landscape. Samples were taken from 10, 20, 30, and 50 cm below the streambed, the stream, and a groundwater well from spring to fall of one year to assess the full mixing patterns and nitrate contributions of the landscape to the stream system. The chemical composition of the stream water, groundwater, and HZ waters were analyzed using an Ion Chromatograph and applied in a mixing-model. Results show that stream water and groundwater contribute proportionally inverting amounts to water flow through the depth of the HZ. The conservative ion chloride is a chemical indicator of mixing in waters, and in the studied HZ, chloride concentrations were 48.8% higher in surface water than groundwater, and a gradient of change between these two endmembers was observed along depth throughout the HZ. Reducing nitrate levels along depth can be positively correlated to this gradient of mixing in the HZ. This relationship supports that the mixing of surface water and groundwater that occurs along the depth of the HZ dilutes the surface water and removes its excess nitrate. A better understanding of how different water sources contribute to the HZ and how that water flows through this zone will better equip regulators and remediators to use streams and their hyporheic zones to remove excess nitrate from agricultural runoff, contributing to healthier ecosystems and drinking water.
Microplastic Concentrations in a Central Illinois Urban Stream
Microplastics have become an increasingly pervasive problem in many aquatic ecosystems. To date, most microplastic research has focused on marine systems as well as larger lakes and rivers. Studies conducted in the Chicago, Seine, and Danube Rivers found the mean microplastic concentrations to be: 1.94 microplastics per m3 , 30 microplastics per m3 , and 0.32 microplastics per m3 , respectively. We investigated the microplastic concentrations and types in a small urban stream and its tributaries in Bloomington, Illinois. We also considered the relationship between watershed characteristics, such as the size of watersheds, and microplastic concentrations. The area of watersheds in this study ranged from 3.6 km2 to 96.2 km2 . GIS methods were used to determine other characteristics such as the percentage of impervious surfaces in the watersheds. Samples were collected in the fall and winter to see if seasonality affects microplastic content. Grab samples were collected from Sugar Creek and respective tributaries. The samples were processed following a standardized method created by the NOAA. We discovered that microplastic concentrations in a small urban stream can be orders of magnitude greater than those found in larger rivers. Land use and seasonality is expected to influence the types and concentrations of microplastics. Our results indicate that urban landscapes may be major contributors of microplastics in freshwater environments.
Terra Nullius Or Terra Incognita? Documenting Land Use Practices In South Kensington, Philadephia
Greenspaces offer many environmental and social benefits for urban residents. The benefits that urban greenspaces provide improve neighborhood quality of life, and environmental justice concerns arise when they are distributed unevenly across a city’s urban fabric. In this study we analyze the distribution of formal and informal greenspaces (IGS) across the Olde and South Kensington neighborhoods of Philadelphia using high resolution aerial imagery. By using widely accessible tools like Google Earth Pro, we hope to provide a method replicable for community groups and others interested in documenting urban environmental conditions in their neighborhoods. IGS offer increased greenspace access, improving neighborhood quality of life. We documented 351 greenspaces, 69% of which are informal. Replicating this study’s methods for data acquisition on the distribution of greenspaces within the communities of Philadelphia, offers the opportunity to address environmental injustices within the city.
Effects Of Thermal Variability On Flow Dynamics In The Hyporheic Zone
Heat is a naturally occurring and cost-effective tracer to study groundwater flow to, from, and throughout the subsurface. Heat has been used extensively to identify gaining and losing portions of streams and for the quantification groundwater discharge. Connecting ground and surface reservoirs is an area known as the hyporheic zone (HZ) where waters from either source interact. The flux of water throughout the HZ is controlled by stream bedforms, sinuosity, surface water velocity, local water table, seasonality, and sediment hydraulic conductivity. The HZ is known to fluctuate in size seasonally where it is slightly smaller in the winter and larger in the summer. Hydraulic conductivity has been defined as being dependent on both the viscosity and density of water, and it is well established that temperature influences both variables. In most studies, these changes have been neglected because of the little effect viscosity and density has on hydraulic conductivity. However, these variations are important to understand because an increase in hydraulic conductivity will result in an increase in groundwater velocity, which has implications relating to residence time and therefore subsurface nutrient processing. To better understand how water temperature effects flow dynamics in the HZ, multiple two-dimensional models will be created using the free USGS software VS2DHI to determine hydraulic conductivity under both hot and cold thermal conditions. Data were collected from a series of varying temperature hydrologic flume trials where the effects of hyporheic flow altering variables like sinuosity, surface water velocity and volume, and bed-forms were able to be reduced to a minimum. Stream substrate was a homogenous, fine-grained sand to reduce complexity and analyze only the changes resulting from thermal conditions. We expect that hydraulic conductivity in the HZ will be greater under warm conditions and lower under cool conditions, which will govern flow dynamics. Understanding these changes could help prepare us for future urban expansion, climate change, and other changes that could modify surface and ground water temperatures.
Utilizing A Tracer Test To Calculate The Transport And Fate Of Nitrate Within A Saturated Buffer Zone
The Upper Mississippi basin, which includes Illinois, has some of the best fertile soils and experiences intensive agricultural practices. This has led to the excessive export of nitrates (NO3 - ) from the agricultural fields into surface and subsurface waters. Excess nitrate in water bodies contributes to eutrophication, development of hypoxic zones and development of algal blooms. To reduce this excess nitrate exportation, methods known as Best Management Practices were employed. One of these methods which exhibited success in lowering the NO3 - is the diversion of tile drained waters from the agricultural fields into a saturated buffer zone before it enters the stream. Previous works have shown a reduction in the NO3 - content in the SBZ but the extent to which this removal occurs cannot be quantified without knowing the residence time of the reintroduced tile-waters into the SBZ. This study seeks to use NaBras tracer to determine the residence time of the tile waters in the SBZ at T3 site in Normal, Illinois and determine the amount of reduction or dilution of the NO3 - in the SBZ using a mixing model. Knowing this will help quantify the benefits of redirecting tile waters into SBZ as a method of reducing NO3 - from agricultural tile-drained waters.
Total Suspended Sediment And Phosphorus Transport In Response To Storm Events In An Agriculturally Dominated Watershed
Increased sediment introduction and transport in streams negatively impact water quality. Deleterious effects include reservoir filling, water pollution and ecological impairment. Sediment introduction and transport typically takes place during storm events. Phosphorus introduction, generally from loss of agricultural runoff and soil erosion also typically takes place during storm events. When phosphorus is applied for agricultural uses it is preferentially retained by smaller sediments. During storm events, these phosphorus rich sediments are more likely to enter the stream system. A small number of large storms can account for a large percentage of sediment and total phosphorus (TP) introduction, leading to elevated levels in waterways. Increased phosphorus introduction into waterways is a main driver of algal blooms and hypoxic conditions such as the dead zone that forms in Lake Erie. The goal of this study is to determine if turbidity (NTU), total suspended sediments (TSS) and TP exhibit similar transport behaviors in an agricultural watershed. Three years of data are available at the Six Mile Creek watershed located in McLean County Illinois. Analysis of TSS, NTU, and TP data show that both TSS and NTU display a correlation ranging from moderately to strongly positive with TP and an R-value ranging from 0.569 to 0.832. When broken down by phase TSS and particulate phosphorus (PP) and NTU and PP display a moderately positive correlation with an R-value of .606 and .718, respectively. However, TSS and dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) and NTU and DRP display a correlation ranging from weakly positive to moderately positive with an R value of .472 and .781, respectively. Ongoing hysteresis analysis is being conducted to elucidate the similarities in transport mechanisms between TSS, NTU and TP. Evaluation of hysteresis patterns allows for further breakdown on an annual, seasonal, or event-based scale. Farmers and agricultural managers may be able to better develop sustainable land management practices if there is a consideration of the correlations between NTU, TSS and TP. This could ultimately mitigate the excessive amount of TSS, and TP introduced into surface waters.
Multi-Year Analysis Of Groundwater Temperature Fluctuations
Groundwater temperature (GWT) plays a significant role in biological, geochemical, and physical processes, influencing water quality. While GWT is known to be controlled through surface/subsurface water and energy fluctuations, the rate and extent of which this occurs remains poorly understood due to variation from depth, lithology, climate, and seasonality. Air temperature (AT) is noted as the primary control for shallow GWT (>10 m); however, precipitation and tile drainage have been inferred to exhibit influence. The goal of this study is to understand how GWT might differ horizontally and vertically across a tile drained field. GWT was measured from nine wells at the T3 study site, north of Normal, Illinois, on a bi-weekly basis from June 2015 to August 2019. GWT (°C) and water elevation (m) was measured at depths 1.5, 2.3, 3.0-, and 4.6-meters depth from wells 2-12 and at 2.3-meters depth at wells 13,14, and 15. AT was measured on 15-minute intervals between June 2016 to March 2019, while precipitation measurements (cm) were obtained from Bloomington Airport using WeatherUnderground.com. Initial results display that horizontally, there is little difference between wells 2-15 further supported by ANOVA analysis, showing no variation. However, vertically, between the four depths, there is a noticeable muted response of GWT as depth increases, also supported by ANOVA analysis showing variation between 1.5 and 2.3-meters and 3.0 and 4.6-meters depth.