Wednesday, May 27, 2015

IAGLR Conference Report

I am at the IAGLR meeting in Burlington, Vermont. Yesterday, Neil made a presentation about his Lake Taihu model and on Friday I will talk about my Anabaena - nitrogen interaction model. Sahar is also here, learning about cyanobacteria in the Great Lakes for her neutral evolution model. As expected, there is a lot of talk about Lake Erie at this meeting. The lake is experiencing severe cyanobacteria blooms, which led to the shutdown of Toledo’s drinking water supply last summer. As a civil engineer, I think of this as an engineered system failing (of course the lake is natural, but we have “engineered” what we put into it). This happens in our field, a prominent example is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which dramatically collapsed the same year it opened. Following that failure, the structural engineering community figured out what they did wrong and changed how they design bridges. The environmental engineering community needs to engage in a similar effort now. Meeting web site:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, Streeter and Phelps Equation

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the famous Streeter and Phelps water quality model. Unfortunately, despite incredible progress in the biological sciences, the biology in our operational water quality models has not changed much since then. In a vision paper, which just came out in ES&T (see link below), I critique the state of biology in our water quality models, and argue for updating it. I am happy that ES&T agreed to publish this paper and hope it will lead to some discussion about this important topic.
Link to paper: