NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU):

"The Value of Snow": Summer Research Experiences in Drought Resiliency and Natural Resources Issues in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin Region

Deadline March 16, 2015

REU Flier (PDF download)
Mentor Profiles (PDF download)
Research Project Overviews (PDF download)
2015 REU Application (PDF download) OR (Word file download)

Research Project Overviews:

Remote Sensing: Snow Cover Dynamics in the Great Basin
Our research opportunity links newly available remote sensing datasets to existing observational and GIS data in mountain systems of the Great Basin. Specifically, an REU student would work with Professor Albright and a post-doc, graduate students, and other collaborators to explore the influence of topography/topoclimates on snow cover characteristics. This may also address questions about relationships between snow cover dynamics and biodiversity (e.g. American Pika). Specific activities anticipated for the REU student include: participation in field data collection in and around Great Basin National Park, processing of environmental time series and GIS data, processing of remotely sensed data products, and visualization, analysis, and presentation of results. (Tom Albright, Geography, Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology)

Rephotography: Changing Landscapes in the Tahoe Basin
Rephotography of historical views of Lake Tahoe, including the Angora Fire Region:  A continuing visual analysis of historical views of Lake Tahoe including the 1916 Shoreline Survey, architecture and landscapes of the Tahoe Basin, and the 2007 fire area near South Lake Tahoe.  This project involves archive research, a dedicated focus on rephotography, and both historical and contemporary image management.   (Peter Goin, Department of Art).  

Snowmelt Modeling: Regional Warming in Great Basin National Park
Regional warming is expected to snowmelt earlier, increase melt rates, and extend the summer growing season, which has important consequences for water resources and ecological health.  In this study, a student researcher will use a transect of observation stations, the Nevada Climate-Ecohydrological Assessment Network (NEVCAN) near Great Basin National Park, to ask the research question, “Under what conditions do trees maximize/minimize snow water for transpiration?”. The project will consist of three objectives: 1. Synthesize environmental observations, 2. Identify snowmelt and transpiration events, and 3. Perform simple physical modeling of the system.  Students will gain a wide range of skills, including working with environmental sensor data, field trips, and data analysis and modeling experience (Adrian Harpold, Natural Resources and Environmental Science).

Economic Impact of Drought
Students will become familiar with input-output analysis for estimating multiplier effects of changes in snow fall on the regional economy. Students will estimate the reduction in water supply from lack of rainfall and estimated reductions in agricultural activity from less irrigation activity. Students will learn how to take the impacts to the agricultural sector and estimate the region wide regional economic, employment, and household income impacts. (Tom Harris, Economics)

Geospatial Mapping Optimal Groundwater Recharge in a Snow-Fed Arid Land River System
This project theme will utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to investigate optimal groundwater recharge areas in the Truckee-Carson River Watersheds. The student will review literature published for the basins and utilize existing hydrogeological data to produce physical criteria in the basin. The student will formulate hypotheses as to where the most optimal areas exist. Optimal groundwater recharge will be based on physical criteria including but not limited to: 1) aquifer permeability 2) aquifer depth, 3) proximity to surface water body (e.g. river), and 4) water quality and contamination risk. (Greg Pohll, Hydrology, Desert Research Institute)

Water Balance and Data Analysis of Measured Streamflow in the Truckee River
This project theme will utilize principles of water balance to estimate water usage and losses on the Truckee River between USGS stream gauges.  Given the fixed amount of usage from the city of Reno, the student will formulate hypotheses to factors impacting water loss. The student will learn how to collect stream gauge data in the field, understand the method to download and analyze USGS stream gauge data, and become familiar with assumptions made in water balance calculations. (Seshadri Rajagopal, Desert Research Institute)

Shasta Reservoir Modeling For Juvenile Fish Migration
This project will work with computer modeling of in-reservoir conditions for juvenile fish passage with and without temperature curtains at Shasta Lake. The study is looking at one of the methods of trying to enhance fish populations in the California Bay-Delta system. (Laurel Saito, Hydrologic Sciences)

Agricultural Drought Management and Decision-Making
This project will explore agricultural producers’ decisions to manage for drought conditions. The student will assess current drought management strategies in place on the Truckee-Carson River System. The student will also review current research literature on related studies and assist with development of a survey of agricultural producers (water right holders) on the Truckee-Carson River System. (Loretta Singletary, University Cooperative Extension)

Water Resilience in a Changing Climate
This project will review and assess current research literature to examine trends for sustaining water supplies in a changing climate. The student will also review literature that examines the use of collaborative modeling and participatory research in water resource management and planning. The student will assist in creating a plan of work designed for testing iterative collaborative modeling processes with a Stakeholder Advisory Group to assess the adaptability of existing water management constructs to climate change. (Loretta Singletary, University Cooperative Extension)

Sage Grouse: Habitat Restoration in the Sierra Nevada
Research on effects of vegetation and habitat restoration projects on sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) habitat within Bi-State population management units. The Bi-State sage grouse are treated as a distinct population and were listed under the Endangered Species Act in September 2013 as a threatened species. The student will participate in data collection and evaluation of preliminary results on several restoration projects. (Lee Turner, Nevada Department of Wildlife & Lynn Zimmerman, Great Basin Institute)

Snow Melt and Nutrient Transport in the Sierra Nevada
Research on the impacts of spatial soil heterogeneity on nutrient transport in a Sierra Nevada forest ecosystem.  In this project we will focus on the spatial heterogeneity of soils and how it may affect nutrient movement through the soil into streams and surface waters. Since snowmelt is one of the main sources of water causing nutrient movement through the soil, changes in snowpack in response to climate change are likely to affect clarity of Lake Tahoe. It is however unclear how changes in snowpack may interact with soil heterogeneity. The REU student will have the opportunity to conduct field sampling and lab analyses to assess how soil properties can affect nutrient loss and retention and how these properties can vary over short distances. (Paul Verburg, Natural Resources and Environmental Science)

Ecological Investigations of Tree Limits in Nevada Mountain Ranges
REU students will conduct ecological field research in the rugged and picturesque mountain ranges of Nevada's Great Basin, as part of a broader study investigating how the distribution of tree species in arid landscapes is ultimately limited by environmental gradients, land use practices, and natural disturbances such as wildfire. Students will have opportunity to develop an independent research project and to gain experience with various ecological methods including tree-ring research (dendroecology), GIS and remote sensing analysis, and stable isotope analysis of water stress in trees. Students must be physically fit as there will be considerable hiking and fieldwork involved (Peter Weisberg, Natural Resources and Environmental Science).

Past Award Recipients and Posters



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SMA-1263352. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.