Do Karst Springs Allow Us to See into Hidden Aquifers and Caves?
Geology & Environmental Geosciences
My sub-field of geology is karst hydrology. That means my students, colleagues, and I generally get to spend a lot of time in places with beautiful caves and springs and in windowless labs. In this presentation, I will focus on how we use data from springs, particularly water chemistry data, to interpret what we cannot see behind the spring opening. This “plumbing” is generally inaccessible to humans, but very important to predicting water quality and quantity available at karst springs.
Much of the work my students do is nearby in the Valley and Ridge province of Pennsylvania – close to places you may have visited like Millheim, Tyrone, and Spruce Creek. We use sensors with data loggers to collect large data sets when we aren’t at our field sites, but plenty of parameters still require actual water samples. Students who work with me get to build endurance and strength lugging power supplies and many sets of full sample bottles through the limestone terrain of central Pennsylvania. For those who prefer the computer lab, we also work to simulate contaminant flow at karst springs using some innovative methods like computed tomography (CT) scanning and 3D printing.
Herman, Ellen, "Do Karst Springs Allow Us to See into Hidden Aquifers and Caves?" (2019). Faculty Colloquium. 35.