UF is taking the lead role in developing a new project that will study water quality and ecosystem health in tsunami-affected areas of Japan. The project, Groundwater/Surface Water Exchange in Tsunami-Affected Areas in Japan – Ecological and Societal Significance, will be completed as part of the International Research Consortium and through the Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE), which hosts collaboration-driven trips to international research sites.
The scientific concept of the PIRE project was presented by Yevgenity Kontar, integrated sciences teacher. It was discussed and then accepted by the international community of geoscientists during the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) Conference in Singapore, Aug. 13 – 17.
Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) can significantly contribute pollutants to coastal areas, especially under the influence of tsunamis in areas like Japan, where populations are large, and the land is used for both agriculture and industry. Fluid, solute and energy transport including freshwater, nutrients, trace metals, bacteria and other pollutants, all use SGD as a pathway potentially leading to tsunami-affected areas. Most tsunami damage is caused by an increase in salinity in freshwater wells, creating an intrusion of salt water into the area’s freshwater supply. This can negatively impact water quality and ecosystem health.
“The idea of the PIRE project in Japan is based on the strong wish to help the Japanese people to recover from the March 11, 2011, tsunami disaster,” said Kontar.
This project will not only help Japan, but also give students hands-on research opportunities. Teams from three U.S. universities and seven international research institutions will collaborate to build on recent technical developments.
The teams will use samples from major international SGD programs in order to develop and apply the next generation of field sampling. With field sampling, laboratory tools and mathematical techniques, the groundwater-seawater interaction processes in tsunami-affected Northeastern coastal zones of Japan will be studied.
Students participating also will observe the spatial distribution of SGD in tsunami-affected areas and measure and search for the SGD driving forces at each site.
Participants will communicate the findings to the public and the local communities in Japan. Following the project, UF plans to use SGD expertise for student training in the U.S. and abroad under different national and international science and environmental programs.