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Building a climate, soil, and water monitoring infrastructure to improve water-resource planning and STEM education in Daviess, Dubois, and Greene Counties

Issue

Increasing local food production in the Indiana Uplands region requires advanced technologies that many small producers cannot access or even find available; consequently, there is a need for Indiana University to foster technological advancements within these communities. Weather and soil monitoring equipment are often too expensive for small growers, and a state-funded weather and environmental network such as those in Oklahoma (http://mesonet.org/), Kentucky (http://www.kymesonet.org/), and Illinois (https://www.isws.illinois.edu/warm/weather/) has not yet been established in Indiana. Discussions with Greene County residents indicate that expanded STEM education is needed. In addition to the need for integrating environmental monitoring and data into classrooms, rural and small school districts face significant challenges in developing computer science curricula.

Objective

The primary objective for this project is to create an environmental monitoring and data infrastructure that will support improved decision-making for farmers and communities while also serving as an innovative platform for improving STEM education in the Uplands region. The following project tasks provide the framework for achieving this goal during the 2-year project period.

Contact: Shawn Naylor (snaylor@indiana.edu)



Central Indiana Water Study Hydrologic Monitoring

Issue

The primary goal of the Central Indiana Water Study is to provide a better understanding of the supply and demand of water resources in the Central Indiana region.

Objective

Water resource planning requires data related to long-term trends in watershed and aquifer water-budget parameters including precipitation, evapotranspiration (ET, combined loss of water from land surface owing to evaporation and plant transpiration), and groundwater-level fluctuations during both dry and wet periods. The IWBN quantifies these parameters to support data-driven water-resource planning that considers the range of historic hydrologic conditions and regional trends that may arise from a changing climate.

Contact: Shawn Naylor (snaylor@indiana.edu)



Characterizing aquifer geometrics in Northern IN using geophysical techniques to profile the buried bedrock surface

Issue

Groundwater resource assessments in glaciated regions require buried bedrock elevation data to provide information related to aquifer geometry and to determine water-resource availability. In northern Indiana such assessments are needed because expanded irrigation is increasing groundwater withdrawals in the region. Furthermore, naturally occurring contaminants have become an emerging issue, based on recent groundwater sampling data. An improved understanding of bedrock valley morphology is also warranted by these concerns because rock-water interactions at the sediment/bedrock interface often control the geochemical characteristics of groundwater, highlighting the need to better constrain the hydrogeologic conditions at the base of glacial aquifers.

Objective

To improve the density of data related to bedrock depth below the St. Joseph Aquifer System in northeastern St. Joseph and northwestern Elkhart County, we will employ newly developed passive seismic methods. The data will facilitate mapping at an improved resolution the base of the aquifer, where it coincides with the bedrock surface. The methods developed can be applied to valley-fill aquifers in the rest of the state. The enhanced bedrock topography data will also provide hydrologists and health department officials with better tools to investigate the geologic constraints on naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater in deep wells.

Contact: Shawn Naylor (snaylor@indiana.edu)



Critical zone karst observatory

Issue

While Indiana University was an early leader in North American karst research in the 1940s through 1970s, only sporadic and limited studies have occurred since the 1980s, primarily driven by specific development or regulatory concerns (e.g., I-69 and SR-37 expansion). The Indiana Geological and Water Survey (under the lead of Dr. Lee Florea, the Assistant Director for Research and a Licensed Professional Geologist) will undertake a sequence of five parallel investigations over two years to broaden our understanding of karst hydrogeology in the SWCI area.

Objective

1) Designing and implementing an online registry and inventory system for dye traces that will update IndianaMap and provide notifications to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and emergency management professionals in the location where such traces occur. a. This project mimics the implementation by the Kentucky Division of Water that provides a record of all dye traces conducted in the state. Information from these dye traces are incorporated into statewide maps that help state agencies create and implement development and construction plans. b. Indiana citizens benefit from this project by having a source of information for active, and justified, projects that define groundwater flow. c. Emergency professionals benefit from this project by having an actively updated source of information to distribute in advance of planned tracing activities or answer questions or concerns from citizens. 2) Soliciting existing dye trace data in state/federal agencies, universities, and consulting firms to enhance the presently existing layer in IndianaMap. a. Decades of dye-trace data are presently scattered among environmental consultants, cave enthusiasts, and state agencies. This project will create and authoritative repository and source for these data. b. This effort enhances existing layers in IndianaMap (http://maps.indiana.edu) by collecting all dye trace data in a free public-accessible and searchable site. 3) Conducting a sequence of dye traces in Harrison/Crawford Counties in collaboration with private landowners, tourist caves, state/federal agencies, and municipalities to better outline the boundaries of groundwater basins. a. This project was specifically requested by Mr. Rand Heazlitt, manager of the Town of Corydon and a co-investor of Indiana Caverns. b. Additional dye tracing will help guide exploration and define the limits of the landscape that contributes water to Indiana Caverns. c. Targeted tracing will also help illustrate the direction and speed of groundwater flow, which can help Mr. Heazlitt leverage state funding to expand the sanitation system of the Town of Corydon in response to increased housing development. 4) Installing a set of field-based geochemical and water-level monitoring instrumentation in caves, wells, and springs of the Blueppring and Lost River karst basins of Lawrence and Orange Counties to provide insight into changes in water chemistry and discharge across the karst basins and during individual storms. a. One outcome of this project is an increased understanding of how the landscape responds to rainfall, which have caused considerable flooding and are projected to become greater in intensity with climate change. b. Data from some sites in this project will be made available online for the public and to visitors of Bluespring Cavern in real time on a website that can be live streamed in the visitor center. 5) Collecting water samples at six (6) locations in the Lost River karst basin that, when combined with the data in project 4, provide unique and valuable insight into the transport of carbon, nutrients, and sediments in an agriculturally intensive landscape. a. The data from projects 4 and 5 will be used to create a comprehensive view of the rate of nutrient and sediment loss from these karst basins. b. Such results are vitally important to better refining the role of karst landscapes in the global carbon cycle. c. Results from this study will provide one node of data that can help model water quality changes in the Mississippi River watershed and better predict the ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico caused by excess nutrients.

Contact: Tracy Branam (tbranam@indiana.edu)



Expanding the Indiana Geological and Water Survey’s contribution to the NGWMN

Issue

According to the Indiana Active Water Level Network maintained by the USGS (http://groundwaterwatch.usgs.gov/StateMap.asp?sa=IN&sc=18), there are 51 wells in Indiana where trend/backbone monitoring is being conducted. The work proposed herein seeks to increase the number of high-frequency trend monitoring sites by adding 11 additional wells to the NGWMN in Indiana. Furthermore, most of the proposed sites include micrometeorological and vadose-zone soil-moisture monitoring components that strengthen the value of such sites from a trend-identification perspective.

Objective

Groundwater-elevation data are collected primarily to determine how groundwater levels are changing over time. The data from sites with continuous/high-frequency water-level records are also used to assess groundwater-recharge dynamics for various hydrogeologic settings.

Contact: Shawn Naylor (snaylor@indiana.edu)



FY2019 USGS NGGDPP Grant: IGWS FAIR Data Initiative 2019 – Geochemistry and Critical Minerals

Issue

The Survey’s temporary move to new buildings while our home location undergoes renovation provided us with an opportunity to shine light into forgotten corners, centralize collection spaces, and motivate ourselves to reevaluate our collections and their current storage methods prior to our return to the IU campus. Available space is ever at a premium, and the pinch felt when lacking it is sharper for collections that expect continued growth. As the state’s sole repository of geologic materials, the IGWS is such a collection. However, through regular reassessment, organization, item-level cataloging, rehousing, and compilation of metadata, the IGWS will not only maintain, and in some cases reestablish, accessibility and discoverability of these resources, we will exert more control over the efficient use of our collections storage spaces.

Objective

Priority 1 - Evaluating and updating 114 existing metadata records in the National Digital Catalog (NDC); - Inventory and cataloging of 25 boxes of rediscovered geochemical specimens; - Processing sample metadata for International Geological Sample Number (IGSN) registration and ingestion into NDC; Priority 2 - Inventory, cataloging, and digitizing 204 linear feet of industrial minerals records - Inventory, rehouse, and compile condition reports for 7,500 geochemical specimens; - Processing sample metadata for International Geological Sample Number (IGSN) registration and ingestion into NDC; - Creating collection inventory metadata for ingestion in the NDC; Priority 3 - Identifying and providing digital access to publicly available drill core data and information for priority areas with the potential for hosting critical mineral resources; - Describing the relevant mineral information for mineral deposits and occurrences that host critical minerals; - Providing geospatial representation(s) of areas that delineate prospective areas or geologic belts with the potential for hosting critical mineral resources together with supporting datasets; and - Describing critical minerals assets to increase use and understanding, including creating metadata records for submission to the NDC.

Contact: Tracy Branam (tbranam@indiana.edu)



FY2020 USGS NGGDPP Grant: CARST: Collective Access & Resource Space Tandem for Simultaneous Management of Physical Sample Collections and Digital Assets

Issue

Objective

Contact: Tracy Branam (tbranam@indiana.edu)



Geomorphology, Stratigraphy and Chronology of the Flatwoods area, south-central Indiana

Issue

The geomorphic history, deep stratigraphy, and chronology of events in the Flatwoods area is needed to understand the history of Illinois Episode glaciation. This is important in south-central Indiana, because ice-marginal sediments host aquifers in areas otherwise dominated by bedrock where aquifer potential is low. This project also improves our understanding of the dynamics of the Illinoian Epsiode ice sheet and the paleoclimate associated with an ice sheet advance which reached further south than the most recent Wisconsin Episode glaciation.

Objective

The objectives of this study are to compile existing stratigraphic, mineralogic, and geophysical data and couple this with new data collection (passive seismic, deep coring, and geochronology) in order to reconstruct the Quaternary geologic history of the Flatwoods area.

Contact: Shawn Naylor (snaylor@indiana.edu)



Locating and characterizing important springs of the Indiana Uplands

Issue

In southwest central Indiana (SWCI), springs where groundwater emerges have been historically important to communities as a source of drinking water and a resource for livestock, agriculture, and commercial enterprises. On this region’s karst landscape, riddled with sinkholes and caves and where surface water is scarce, springs became a community gathering spot. And owing to their underlying geology, certain mineralized springs arose as valuable economic resources, supporting the spa industry that peaked in the early 1900s. Because available water remains a chief limiting factor for the economic and human development in the SWCI region, it is important for us to understand the distribution and water quality in springs and how time has affected the quantity and quality of their water.

Objective

Scour publication archives for historical spring data dating back to 1901; visit 100 springs to sample water quality and compare these results to available historical data; use these data to develop and make available a geospatial database of springs; and develop a crowdsourcing geospatial tool to acquire information on springs and engage residents in communities throughout SWCI.

Contact: Tracy Branam (tbranam@indiana.edu)



POTENTIAL FOR CRITICAL MINERALS IN COAL MINING PRODUCTS, BYPRODUCTS, AND REJECTS, WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON RARE EARTH ELEMENTS (REE)

Issue

Critical raw materials are driving some of the biggest advancements in technology and energy efficiency in the world today, and the demand for them is growing rapidly. For example, the demand for rare earth elements (REE) and yttrium (Y) has grown because they have wide applications in defense (jet engines), energy (land-based turbines, fuel cells), telecommunication and elec-tronics (hard disk drives, flat-panel displays), transportation (automotive components), and other fields (chemical catalysts, medical applications).However, as demand grows, these resources have become scarce and expensive as their availability from conventional ores is exhausted. In the last 10 years, the importance of REE has been universally recognized also because of changes in supply and demand. A limited number of sources have a monopoly on the supply of these rare earth metals. For example, China now controls approximately 85 percent of world REE production. The United States imports more than 20,000 tons of REE a year, of which more than 90 percent comes from China. These factors have initiated a global “treasure hunt” that has bolstered explo-ration for new sources, particularly for REE.

Objective

The overall objective of this project is to develop methodologies to identify potential targets for REE recov-ery from the coal value chain. To address this main objective, the more specific goals of this project are to: 1) Determine REE content in Indiana coals and identify coal beds that have highest REE concentrations. Although REE will be the critical elements of particular interest in this project, other elements such as aluminum, phosphorous, uranium, titanium, manganese, gallium, germanium, cobalt, and others will also be examined. These elements are included for bolstering our predictive tools such as principal component analysis, which will allow future explorations for REE to use less expensive methods to locate potential REE resources. 2) Evaluate the distribution of REE in various fractions generated by coal preparation plants: coarse re-fuse, fines, clean coal. The coarse refuse will be of special interest because REE concentrate in min-eral fractions. We expect that coarse refuse from coals having high REE contents as established in point 1 could be targets for REE recovery. 3) Investigate REE concentration in pulverized rejects from power plants and fly ash and bottom ash generated from Indiana coals. Because, as mentioned above, REE are dominantly associated with mineral fractions, they are concentrated in the mineral and glass phases of coal ashes. Special effort will be put into obtaining coal ash from the coals of increased REE concentrations, as established in point 1; 4) Assess REE potential in acid-mine drainage (AMD). AMD contains REEs in dissolved form, making them less expensive to process although concentrations are much lower than in raw coal material or coal combustion concentrates. Preliminary data suggest a strong correlation of REEs to aluminum and magnesium in AMD, indicative of a noncoal detrital clay association, which becomes soluble under acidic conditions. 5) Based on 1–4, identify set of geological/chemical attributes that can be used as proxies for “sweet spots” for REE. We will use selected statistical methods, for example, principal component analysis (PCA) to identify associations of REE with other elements, coal properties, geographic location, etc. These attributes will be used as a predictive tool for elevated occurrences of REE and ultimately will help to delineate best targets for future recovery.

Contact: Tracy Branam (tbranam@indiana.edu)