submitted by Earth Science Dept.

SOCORRO, N.M., Aug. 29, 2004 -- More than 100 universities from around the country met at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, on August 24 and 25, to consider the development of a network of hydrologic observatories around the country. John Wilson, co-chair of the conference and New Mexico Tech professor of hydrology, said that 24 observatory sites were discussed, from the Delaware River in the northeastern United States to the Sierra Nevada in the far west, and from Alaska's North Slope in the north to Florida's Suwannee River in the south. Universities from New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado proposed an observatory for the upper Rio Grande.

The conference was sponsored by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI). The group, with member universities from around the country including New Mexico Tech, University of New Mexico, and New Mexico State University, is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

“We hope to design hydrologic observatories that embrace the entire hydrologic cycle and recognize the connections between climate, vegetation, precipitation, groundwater, surface water, people, and wildlife,” said Richard Hooper, executive director for CUAHSI. “If we are successful, science can provide the kind of information society needs to make decisions about managing its water resources and the environmental impacts of those decisions.

“The scientists working at these sites will make an effective network,” said Hooper. “They will pose questions and try experiments that can be conducted at a number of observatories in very different settings. The learning possibilities are endless, and we are doing it in a way that will revolutionize environmental research.”

The observatories will revolutionize research because they will enable research to be conducted in a multidisciplinary framework, at a larger spatial scale, and over longer time periods than previously attempted, said Wilson, who is also Chair of CUAHSI's Board of Directors.

In a new development, human activity will also be included in the research. Traditionally, those studying systems without people, such as forests, and those studying engineering solutions for humans, such as groundwater pumping, have been done separately.

“We are trying to break down these barriers with the hydrologic observatories,” said Hooper. “If we are successful, science can provide the kind of information society needs to make decisions about managing its water resources and the environmental impacts of those decisions.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Earth Sciences Division, Geosciences Directorate of the National Science Foundation.

-NMT-