Water Resources and Environmental Geosciences Research Cluster

The multidisciplinary team of environmental researchers conducts fundamental studies on the characteristics and processes that shape near-surface geologic environments including aquifers, soils, wetlands, watersheds, glaciers, and the coastal margin. In addition, the group also addresses applied engineering and environmental management problems concerning the interactions between human society and these geologic systems.

Trinity River spillwayThe departmental strength in environmental geology is built by a multidisciplinary task force which studies problems in basic and applied science from hydrogeological, geomorphologic, geophysical, geochemical and biogeochemical perspectives. This task force studies flow and contaminant transport in aquitard-aquifer systems, vapor flow and transport in the subsurface, non-Darcian flow and its impact on non-Fickian transport in porous and fractured media, unconfined aquifer hydraulics and variably saturated flow, and horizontal well dynamics along with its applications for environmental remediation and water resources development. The task force also specializes in high alpine and arctic research that focus on streams, mass movement (landslides), rock glaciers, climate change and fens. It uses a variety of instruments such as GPS, GIS and ground penetrating radar (GPR) to investigate the internal structure of rock glaciers, glacial outwash terraces, and landslides in sites such as Colorado and Alaska. The task force is also specialized in organic biogeochemistry and the landscape ecology of terrestrial ecosystems, contaminant bioavailability by linking molecular sorption mechanisms to field-scale bioavailability, mineral surface reactivity and contaminant colloidal transport in surface waters, and risk assessment of arsenic and uranium-associated elements (such as U, Mo, V, and Se) released by uranium mining. The task force applies geophysical methods for studying the uppermost 30-100 m that is impacted by human activities. In addition, the task force develops innovative geophysical instrumentation and analysis techniques, primarily electromagnetic supplemented with resistivity, seismic, magnetics, and GPR, to study cliff stability, detect unexploded ordnance, and characterize fractured aquifers. The task force is also specialized in environmental education by designing innovative science teacher professional development programs, and integrating environmental education and research to form a synergistic, learning continuum.

Faculty members in the Water Resources and Environmental Geosciences

The group of environmental faculty have a diverse set of expertise, including geochemistry (Herbert), hydrogeology and near-surface geophysics (Everett, Zhan), geomorphology (Giardino), and engineering geology (Mathewson). In addition, a number of other faculty collaborate on environmental research projects including Tice, Grossman, Marcantonio, Raymond, and Sparks. The research interests of the primary investigators are described below briefly:

Dr. Hongbin Zhan - Mathematical modeling applied to understanding the fundamental processes controlling water flow in aquifers and aquitards. Dr. Hongbin Zhan's teaching and research interests cover various topics of subsurface hydrology. He and his students and colleagues have used rigorous physical reasoning, mathematical modeling, and carefully designed experiments to understand the fundamental processes of hydrological sciences and to apply the knowledge for better use of water resources. Current research activities include: groundwater flow and solute transport in aquitard-aquifer systems; stream-aquifer interaction; dynamics of horizontal wells and its applications in hydrosciences and environmental engineering; and non-Darcian flow and its impact on non-Fickian dispersion of solute transport.

Dr. Mark Everett - Application of geophysical methods for studying the uppermost 30—100 m beneath Earth's surface. This portion of Earth both affects and is impacted by various human activities such as building, excavating, tunneling, and storing or accidentally releasing hazardous materials. Many of the planet's mineral and groundwater are located in the uppermost subsurface layers. Near-surface geophysics research at Texas A&M has also found increasing applications in archaeological prospection. Current research activities include: development of finite element analysis and inversion techniques for controlled-source electromagnetics; AVO analysis and vector migration of ground-penetrating radar data; archaeological geophysics at historic sites; electromagnetic characterization of fractured rocks; resistivity imaging of unknown bridge foundations; and electromagnetic mapping of deformation structures for meteorite impact hazard assessment.

Dr. Rick Giardino - Addresses several fundamental questions related to the surface features of Earth: How did they develop? How long will they be here? How do they impact humans and our spread of our human-made structures across the surface of Earth? Of particular interest are glacial, periglacial, and mass-wasting processes that form and change arctic and alpine environments, the flow of water over the surface of Earth, as well as engineering geology. Active research projects include using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to investigate the internal structure of rock glaciers and to reconstruct water- flow pathways in rock glaciers. Geomorphology students at Texas A&M are mapping landslide parameters, investigating the water chemistry of alpine streams, studying the long-term impact of stream restoration in Texas, and investigating the impact of global warming on glaciers and alpine environments.

Dr. Bruce Herbert - Addresses fundamental questions related to the biogeochemical processes that control the bioavailability of contaminants and the fate of natural organic matter in soils and sediments. Dr. Herbert's research group is focused on the biogeochemical processes that mediate the interactions between human society and ecosystems, including the fate and bioavailability of contaminants, natural and human-induced perturbations of nutrient and organic carbon cycling, and human impacts on ecosystem functioning. As such, our research group studies the interface between biogeochemistry and several other fields, including geomicrobiology, geomorphology and landscape ecology.

Dr. Chris Mathewson – Engineering geology of near-surface environments. Dr. Mathewson's research group addresses a number of engineering geology problems including lignite and coal mining, urban/regional planning, geologic hazards and urban design, expansive soils, coastal and fluvial processes, and siting of engineering facilities.

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