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  • Writer's pictureRyan Pollyea

Hands-On, Minds-On Groundwater Flow

This morning, I had an opportunity to discuss groundwater resources with VT students taking the Water Supply & Sanitation in Developing Countries course that is taught by Dr. Leigh-Anne Krometis in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. This course is a wide-ranging exposition in the challenges facing global water supplies. Since groundwater accounts for most of the accessible fresh water worldwide, students in this class must understand the foundational concepts of groundwater flow. One of the primary challenges in teaching about groundwater flow is that the processes occur underground, which makes them impossible to see. This hampers students' ability to develop an intuition for the foundational concepts, such as hydraulic gradients and hydraulic conductivity. To overcome this barrier, the Department of Geosciences maintains a set of table-top aquifer tank models that facilitate hands-on demonstrations, and allow student to see groundwater flow using dye tracers in geologic materials with different hydraulic conductivity. We combined these aquifer tank models with a traditional lecture format to give the students a hands-on demonstration about groundwater flow processes. The demonstration was made possible by Gary Glesener, who designed the interactive components of the aquifer tank models as part of his Modeling and Educational Demonstrations Laboratory. Gary and I had a great time with Dr. Krometis and her students, and we look forward to running this demo again next year.

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