From University of California-Santa Cruz (US) : Women in STEM-Margaret Zimmer “Hydrologist Margaret Zimmer wins NSF CAREER Award”

From University of California-Santa Cruz (US)

June 16, 2021
Tim Stephens

Assistant Professor Margaret Zimmer studies the pathways water takes through landscapes.

Margaret Zimmer, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (US) to support her research on the role of Earth’s subsurface in regulating the water cycle.

Zimmer’s Watershed Hydrology lab studies the pathways water takes through landscapes, especially the poorly understood subsurface movements of water through soil and bedrock. When rainfall soaks into the ground, it can replenish soil water, recharge groundwater, generate stream flow, and be taken up by plant roots, ultimately returning to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration by plants. Zimmer’s group is interested in how the subsurface structure controls the partitioning of water into these different pathways.

“One of the big unknowns for predicting the effects of climate change on the water cycle is our poor understanding of how water is stored and moved in soil and bedrock,” she said. “Climate scientists are predicting more year-to-year variability in precipitation and more extreme weather events, and this has implications for the management of water resources.”

Zimmer’s field site at the UC Blue Oak Ranch Reserve on the west slope of Mt. Hamilton features an extensive array of hydrological instruments her team has installed to monitor water movement. The new grant will help accelerate the research at this site and enable the research group to dig deeper, both metaphorically and literally.

“Part of this funding will go toward drilling deep bore holes to allow us to peer into the subsurface and see its structure and how it regulates water movement and storage,” she said.

The grant will also support education and outreach efforts to attract students with diverse backgrounds, ideas, and experiences into the Earth sciences. The program will include developing environmental justice-themed hydrology modules for existing online high school and undergraduate courses that reach more than 500 students annually.

“Understanding subsurface hydrology is critical for developing effective water resource policies and addressing socioeconomic inequalities, and we need to broaden the diversity of people who are involved in this topic,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer will also partner with local water managers to address the uncertainty in their regional streamflow predictions. The field site forms the headwaters of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which serves water for about 2 million people in San Jose.

The CAREER Awards are NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The award provides $587,000 over five years to support Zimmer’s research, education, and outreach activities.

Zimmer earned her B.A. in environmental studies at Oberlin College (US), M.S. in Earth sciences at Syracuse University (US), and Ph.D. in Earth and ocean sciences at Duke University (US). She joined the UCSC faculty in 2018.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

UC Santa Cruz (US) Lick Observatory Since 1888 Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

UC Observatories Lick Automated Planet Finder fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA.

The UCO Lick C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft).
UC Santa Cruz (US) campus.

The University of California-Santa Cruz (US) , opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

UCO Lick Observatory’s 36-inch Great Refractor telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building.

Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
March 23, 2015
By Hilary Lebow

Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

“Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego (US) who led the development of the new instrument while at the U Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (CA).

Shelley Wright of UC San Diego with (US) NIROSETI, developed at U Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (CA) at the 1-meter Nickel Telescope at Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz

Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by University of California-Berkeley (US) researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake.

“The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

“We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

“This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

“Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

NIROSETI will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.