Yu Zhang, an environmental engineering doctoral candidate, recently received a Geological Society of America (GSA) research grant to help fund his hydrological-morphodynamic modeling research on the Susquehanna Shale Hills.
Zhang, along with Christopher Duffy, professor of civil engineering, and Rudy Slingerland, professor of geosciences, are using the $1,100 grant to design and build a 3-D landscape evolution model of the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHCZO) in order to perform long-term simulations of sediment transport and monitor the landscape changes over time.
The Critical Zone Observatory, located in Penn State’s Stone Valley Forest, is a nationally funded observatory established in 2007. Their research promotes the understanding of how a forested, first-order catchment of shale bedrock evolves over time in a temperate climate.
The goal of this project is to study the possible causes of an asymmetric slope and thickness to the layer of rocky material covering bedrock on the north- and south-facing hill slopes at the Observatory and to analyze how the hill slope and thickness of the rocky material progresses toward a normal symmetrical state.
“The SSHCZO project has been observing and measuring many important data for hydrology, geochemistry, hydropedology, vegetation and others, but there is a lack of data on sediment load and parameters for sediment transport," Zhang said. "The GSA grant will be used to fill that gap.”
The researchers plan to measure the sediment load at the outlet and sediment concentration in stream at different rainfall events and seasons in order to gather basics such as the sediment size and bulk density.
Samples of different soil types will also be collected.
“I was very excited to receive the student grant,” Zhang said. “It is really encouraging because my research proposal has been recognized by the geological community.”
The primary role of the GSA research grants program is to provide partial support of doctoral thesis research in the geological sciences for graduate students enrolled in universities in the United States.