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Testing the Water

Virginia Smith, PhD, is looking to the past to determine how river systems respond to major environmental changes.

 

Toadstool Geological Park in Sioux County, NE
Toadstool Geological Park in Sioux County, Neb. is one of the sites where Prof. Smith will do her research.

How do river systems respond to major environmental changes? 

To help answer that question, Virginia Smith, PhD, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is looking to the past— specifically about 35 million years ago. 

Along with researchers from the University of Connecticut and Temple University, she’s leveraging fossils and rocks from an ancient river network in western Nebraska and South Dakota to quantify how changes in precipitation, vegetation and temperature in the past affected river discharge and flood magnitude.