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Using heat to trace groundwater pollution

Laura Lautz, assistant professor of Earth Sciences in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences, samples pore water from the streambed around a restoration structure with graduate students Ken Hubbard (left) and Lisa Kurian (center)

Laura Lautz, assistant professor of Earth Sciences in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences, samples pore water from the streambed around a restoration structure with graduate students Ken Hubbard (left) and Lisa Kurian (center)

April 14, 2011

Cutting-edge technology used in research

Laura Lautz, a hydrologist and assistant professor of Earth Sciences in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, uses cutting-edge technology to gather data on how waste bed effluent and other contaminants move back and forth between subsurface groundwater and streams.

By laying fiber optic cable—as much as a kilometer in length—along a stream channel, Lautz and her team can instantaneously measure small but significant temperature changes to pinpoint sources of groundwater inflow and potential pollution. That’s the applied aspect of the research. But the National Science Foundation (NSF) put up more than $500,000 to fund her work using heat as a tracer for ground and surface water interaction because it is solid, basic science with many potential applications. The technique is so new only a few research groups in the country are currently using it. Read more...