On Wednesday, November 10, the WRRC hosted a Brown Bag webinar featuring presentations by student researchers who received funding in 2020 through the WRRC from the Water Resources Research Act, Section 104(b) grant program. Sarah E. Abney, PhD candidate in the UArizona Department of Environmental Science, shared her research on environmental microplastic contamination and the development of a filtering method to remove microplastics from our water supply. Abney shared fascinating information about the problem that microplastics pose: contamination of not only oceans and rivers, but also tap water. Microplastics come from not just plastic waste, but everything from clothes to cosmetics. Abney explained the process by which microplastics enter water systems and the food chain, ultimately ending up in humans. She discussed current methods for filtering wastewater to prepare it for human consumption and highlighted different methods of analyzing microplastics in water and their pitfalls. The result of Abney’s research is a new method of filtering out microplastics, which is low-cost and can filter high volumes of water.
Ammon F. Cadogan, who received his MS in Civil Engineering from UArizona, presented his research on the use of drones, or small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), to remotely measure flow discharge after floods in dangerous areas. Flood events are the most common natural disaster and understanding the maximum amount of water that could flow through a given channel in a flood event is crucial for mitigation planning. Cadogan explained how drones can be used to measure the velocity of the water on the surface, and then use that to determine the velocity of water throughout the channel. Cadogan seeds the water by blowing rice cereal onto the water's surface, using the drone flying above to film the movement. He can then use that video and complex calculations to determine the flow rate. Cadogan’s research shows that drones can be reliably used to measure flood flow discharge.