Professor to study flooding in southern W.Va.
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011 23:09
Nicolas Zegre, assistant professor of Forest Hydrology in the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources at West Virginia University, has received a national award to study the effects of flooding in southern West Virginia.
The 2011 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award has been given to Zegre by Oak Ridge Associated Universities to fund a series of tests on a watershed in the southern coal river basin of West Virginia.
ORAU provides researchers with awards to aid in conducting successful research to provide a better understanding of frequently flooded areas.
Zegre's research intends to provide insight into why regions in southern West Virginia frequently flood.
The National Research Center for Coal and Energy paired with the WVU Office of Research and Economic Development to match the funds distributed by ORAU, doubling the total award provided to aid Zegre's research.
"It's very exciting about his story with his flooding research, and that he is an alumnus from WVU," said Trina Wafle, associate director of NRCCE. "He carries his passion into his personal life as well. A terrific educator and a terrific person."
The results of the flooding research will help understand the mechanisms involved in flood generations.
"These landscapes have always been flooding, but we're trying to understand if we've exacerbated the problem through our interactions," Zegre said.
The research is being conducted in a small watershed, a line that separates drainage basins that are next to each other, usually occurring in mountainous regions.
"By using what are called stable isotopes and measuring the stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen in the rainwater, and then measuring the isotopes in the stream water, we can understand the timing and concentration of the rainfall to create a flood response," Zegre said.
By tracking the isotopes through the hydrologic cycle, the research in a sense "fingerprints" the rainfall.
Each rainfall has a unique hydrologic signature. By characterizing the isotopic signature of a particular rain event, researchers can understand how long it takes rainwater to move through the watershed.
"It's interesting because it really hasn't been applied to these watersheds. It has only been used in very controlled experiments," Zegre said.
Initially, the study was only to be conducted for a year. Now, due to the matching funds, the study will take place over two years.
Zegre said he is also in the process of writing more proposals to be able to extend the project.
"The University has been incredibly supportive of this research and making this happen," Zegre said.