Water Management in the Florida Heat – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Water Management in the Florida Heat

This summer, Hobart senior Tyler Cheney seized a rare opportunity to combine his two fields of study, physics and environmental studies. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Cheney traveled to the University of Florida campus at Gainesville to participate in its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, studying water management. Cheney worked in remote sensing, using a tool called a radiometer to improve satellite imaging for detecting soil moisture. Under the guidance of Research Mentor Jasmeet Judge, Cheney and seven other students spent the majority of their time in the field, analyzing data on soil water, energy fluxes, and crop growth in order to create and improve hydrology models.

“Two days a week I would wake up at 7 a.m. to go to the field and beat the Florida heat. A typical day in the field was spent taking vegetation samples, collecting soil data, and calibrating the radiometer. I would then return to campus by 1 p.m. and work in the remote sensing lab for a couple of hours,” explains Cheney, a physics major and environmental studies minor. His group also took a one-day field trip to the Everglades to learn about Florida’s water management.

Cheney’s extensive use of the Matlab data program in his HWS physics classes made him a strong candidate for the REU program, to which Associate Professor of Geoscience Tara Curtin suggested he apply.

“I encourage students to conduct research over the summer because it allows them to enhance their knowledge of the field,” Curtin says. “In addition, working closely with faculty and peers, students like Tyler can experience what it means to be part of a broader intellectual community engaged in research.”

Since returning to the Colleges, Cheney has been busy assessing the crop models that he developed in Florida and comparing these methodologies to other methods of crop analysis. He is currently working on a paper detailing the work he did this summer, and was recently accepted to attend the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference in San Francisco. Curtin is pleased that Tyler has the opportunity to present his research in December. “More than 16,000 geoscientists will convene from around the world to hear about the latest issues in the earth sciences,” she says.

Cheney is planning to go on to graduate school for environmental/civil engineering, where he could utilize the research techniques and scientific processes that he honed this summer.

“The summer experience was good from the standpoint that it incorporated both physics and environmental science,” says Cheney. “I would recommend the program to environmental studies majors who are interested in water management. Florida has a unique water system and the University of Florida is at the forefront of water management.”