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Note from the Executive Director...

Welcome to our latest edition of NEWSTide. As universities swing back into face-to-face classes this fall, we are excited at the opportunities before our students and faculty to collaborate on pressing water issues. I wish everyone a great fall that is safe and fulfilling.

With thanks,
UA Engineering Faculty Receives Fulbright Award
Dr. Leigh Terry, Alabama Water Institute Faculty Fellow and assistant professor in The University of Alabama’s College of Engineering, was recently awarded a Fulbright Specialist Award to travel to Barranquilla, Columbia, and share her knowledge through environmental science educational and training activities.

Terry will travel to the Universidad del Norte in November to collaborate and work with the faculty on research and teaching projects related to water quality. The award will be used to address critical water quality issues facing the U.S. and Colombia and provide the opportunity to conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Read more about Terry’s Fulbright award

Bareford named national Sea Grant Water Resources Lead

Dr. Karen Bareford, of the Alabama Water Institute and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, has been named as the Sea Grant Water Resources Lead. She will provide leadership and ongoing engagement within the Sea Grant network, as well as engage with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and external partners and stakeholders.

In a new two-year project that will develop a roadmap for Sea Grant water resources initiatives and improve communication and coordination on water resources efforts, Bareford will work with Sea Grant programs to vet them through dialogue and workshops with key partners.

Read more Bareford’s new role with Sea Grant
UA Researchers Studying Storm-driven Groundwater from Barrier Islands
Waters around barrier islands can see an increase in groundwater and nutrients after heavy rains, greatly affecting coastal water quality and causing problems for residents and the tourism industry. Researchers from The University of Alabama recently published a paper detailing how those storm events affect the marine ecosystem around those islands.

Expanding these studies and public knowledge will allow residents and visitors to become more aware of how sensitive barrier islands are to precipitation and how nutrients transported by groundwater can impact the local economy.

Read more about the barrier island study
UA Researchers Studying Nitrogen Removal Through Roadside Ditches
The main purpose of roadside ditches is to provide a path for stormwater to escape, but one University of Alabama researcher’s curiosity discovered a relatively unknown benefit: the removal of nitrogen.

Too much nitrogen can act as a pollutant that can create or sustain harmful algal blooms and dead zones in coastal waters. Those can reduce oxygen levels which kill marine life and cause irritation in human respiratory systems.

Dr. Corianne Tatariw’s daily commute from Mobile, Alabama, to Dauphin Island was filled with miles and miles of ditches filled with vegetation. They reminded her of natural ecosystems that help lessen the load of nitrogen into coastal waters.

Read more Tatariw’s research into ditches and their benefits
AWI Spotlight: Dr. Ryan Johnson
The Alabama Water Institute recently welcomed Dr. Ryan Johnson as a postdoctoral researcher. Johnson earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Utah. His dissertation research took advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve snowpack-dependent urban water systems’ resilience, reliability and vulnerability in a changing climate.

Johnson joined AWI because he sees The University of Alabama establishing itself as a national leader in water research. The University is strengthening its ties to federal partners, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the U.S. Geological Survey, in order to advance national water security, forecasting, quality and management.

Read more about Johnson and his research at AWI
U.S. Water News
Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ larger than expected
Earlier in the summer, NOAA predicted that this year’s “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico would be near normal, covering about 4,880 square miles. However, in August the agency said model results underestimated the Gulf’s hypoxic zone, an area where there’s too little oxygen for marine life to survive, is approximately 6,334 square miles.
The larger dead zone means more than 4 million acres of habitat in the Gulf is unavailable for fish and other marine species this summer, officials said.

Read more about the Gulf’s dead zone
FEMA: Rebuilt homes must be elevated above flood levels
A new policy from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is mandating that homes rebuilt with the agency’s mitigation grants must be elevated at least 2 feet above expected floodwater levels.

FEMA wants to ensure that flood-damaged homes it pays to rebuild are protected from flooding caused by rising sea levels and slower-moving storms. The agency said its policy will improve the resilience of rebuilt structures and make flood-prone communities less vulnerable.

Read more about rebuilt home requirements
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