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ERE professor Dr. Wendong Tao and his Ph.D. students Anayo Ukwuani and Jonathan Masih Das won their EPA People Planet Prosperity (P3) sustainability award in the challenge areas of materials, chemistry, and water. Their project, Developing a Vacuum Distillation – Acid Absorption System for Recovery of Ammonia from Dairy Manure. To appreciate the sustainability of this development, consider that dairy manure has high ammonia concentrations and contributes to air and water pollution. Dairy farms need cost-effective methods to upgrade their nutrient management plans. Our goal is to develop an innovative technology coupling vacuum distillation and acid absorption for sustainable recovery of ammonia from both anaerobically digested and undigested dairy manure. Ammonia in dairy manure can be distilled under a low vacuum at a temperature below the normal boiling point of water and absorbed in a sulfuric acid solution to produce ammonium sulfate as a value-added product.

Alexandria, Virginia — Student teams gather for the U.S. EPA P3 Competition at the National Sustainable Design Expo at Oronoco Bay Park.

Dr. Wendong Tao and his SUNY ESF students Anayo Ukwuani and Jonathan Masih Das gather for the U.S. EPA P3 Competition at the National Sustainable Design Expo at Oronoco Bay Park.

Alexandria, Virginia — Student teams gather for the U.S. EPA P3 Competition at the National Sustainable Design Expo at Oronoco Bay Park.

PhD student Anayo Ukwuani explains the pilot-scale vacuum distillation – acid absorption system for SUNY ESF ERE U.S. EPA P3 waste to energy invention.

Alexandria, Virginia — SUNY Albany wins a 2015 P3 Award during the P3 Awards Ceremony at Oronoco Bay Park.

SUNY ESF EREs Team wins a 2015 P3 Award during the P3 Awards Ceremony at Oronoco Bay Park. Left to right, Lek Kadeli (EPA acting assistant administrator for R&D), Team ERE’s Wendong Tao, Jonathan Masih Das, Anayo Ukwuani, and William Euille, Mayor of the City of Alexandria

The specific objectives were to 1) evaluate the effects of temperature, vacuum, and dissolved solids concentration on ammonia recovery; 2) design an ammonia distillation – acid absorption system to produce ammonium sulfate granules with dairy manure; 3) construct a pilot-scale vacuum distillation – acid absorption system and develop operational parameters; and 4) perform a farm-scale economic analysis of the developed technology across its life cycle.

Kudos to this team for achieving their challenges!


What follows are notes from Alex Caven, President of Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS), and Ted Endreny, their adviser:

Instead of relaxing during over spring break, five members of our ESS club (including Jen Gienau), traveling independent of ESF, but with an ESF ERE alumnus Stan Hovey, gathered in Haiti to implement sanitation and reforestation projects. The sanitation project was developed last year when ESS members embarked on an exploratory trip to Haiti, and the reforestation project has been in the works for decades thanks to the dedication of Stan Hovey. To prepare for the trip the ESF students learned of Haiti’s long history of political exploitation, and began to understand the underlying reasons of the country’s economic, social, and environmental challenges. In short, the country lacks adequate sanitation infrastructure, emergency facilities, and has experienced severe deforestation. To assist us at the interface of humanitarian engineering ESS has partnered with SOIL and Agronomy Institute, local organizations working to improve conditions in Haiti.

SOIL – Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods – is a non-profit founded in 2006, which provides waste to resource services by composting human waste composting for families and communities. ESS became involved when SOIL identified a problem that could benefit from an engineering solution. SOIL takes in many cubic yards of waste each month, allows this to compost for several months, and the final product then must be sieved to remove the remaining cover material and other unwanted particles. The sieving process has been a burden for the workers, requiring use of pitchforks to move the compost onto a screen and push it through by hand. ESS agreed to build a bike-powered compost sifter to improve their efficiency in the post-processing and sieving of compost. During the winter of 2015 ESS students came together to talk through design challenge, consider design alternatives, gather materials, build a prototype in Syracuse (in an unheated barn owned by ESF), and coordinate logistics between Syracuse and Haiti. One logistical obstacle to note – Haiti happens to be the only country in the world prohibiting the shipment of a bike.

Compost sifter frame as reconstructed in Haiti, with chain leading to rear wheel of bike.

Compost sifter frame as reconstructed in Haiti, with chain leading to rear wheel of bike.

In Haiti, the students reconnected with their shipped materials (sans bike), and met with the SOIL team to discuss the engineering design solution. Working together with SOIL staff, we built the compost sifter over the course of two six-hour sessions. This was completed at the SOIL office in Port-au-Prince and then loaded into the back of a pickup truck and driven into and through the city dump to reach the SOIL composting site. There, we connected the bike to the structure, worked through some issues with keeping the chain running smoothly, and gave it a first sifting test. Looking for a rider was easy – the SOIL workers at the compost site were eager to ride the bike. The final product will continue to be tweaked to better handle a range of size distributions.

The reforestation project was initiated by ERE photogrammetry specialist Stan Hovey, who spent some of his childhood in Haiti where his father was tasked with promoting reforestation and building an agronomy program. More recently Stan has taken up the reigns on his father’s projects and reached out to ESS for help. During the 2015 spring break ESS students participated in the building of two tree nurseries, and worked with Haitian agronomists from 6 different regions of the country to develop record-keeping, map-making, and technical skills. During this trip, ESS members approached a school outside of the city of Petit-Goave to start environmental clubs for budding scientists to promote environmental awareness. The agronomists, when the nursery trees are ready for planting, will recruit these environmental club members to help plant the trees. Stan has introduced advanced geographic information system (GIS) technologies to the tree nursery projects, and the ESS students helped agronomists to geotag nursery locations in the EpiCollect platform.

Coffee seedlings planted by ESF ESS students, Haitian agronomists, and Petit-Goave community members.

Coffee seedlings planted by ESF ESS students, Haitian agronomists, and Petit-Goave community members.

Jen Gienau teaches Haitian agronomists to geotag locations in EpiCollect and how to download the data into a central database and upload it to a GIS map.

Jen Gienau teaches Haitian agronomists to geotag locations in EpiCollect and how to download the data into a central database and upload it to a GIS map.

In addition to moving forward with these projects, ESS plans to engage in other efforts. Smart phones and computers are needed by the agronomists to help keep records and maintain communication across sites. Financial and material resources are needed for an innovative goat program which provides families with pregnant goats, along with nursery development, management, tree disbursement and planting to provide goat food and complete a nutrition cycle. Finally, electricity is needed by the mountain community of Bon-Bon, which has a high energy stream running nearby. There is the possibility ESS will build a pico- or micro-hydro system to provide Bon-Bon with year-round electricity.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our student Kaitlin McCann makes this connection here…

The article entitled Recent rates of sedimentation on irregularly flooded Boreal Baltic coastal wetlands: Responses to recent changes in sea level from the Journal of Geomorphology published on July 15, 2014 focuses on the hydrology and sedimentation of Boreal coastal wetlands on the coast of the Baltic Sea.  The specific issue arises from increases in sea level as a result of the movement of atmospheric pressure systems and fluctuating meteorological conditions (Ward et al., 2014).  As this article is a published scientific Journal article, in addition to my engineering education, I can say that the facts presented on this topic are very accurate.  The only information that I believe may have been missing from the article is the explanation of some of the terms used, such as glacial-isostatic adjustment.

I believe that the broader context areas impacted by this issue are mostly economic and environmental.  Flooding is a natural disaster that causes significant damage on coastlines, which can cause a huge economic burden in terms of disaster relief.  In this particular study, the focus is on wetlands and how increased sedimentation due to flooding is causing progradation of the wetlands.  This negatively affects the benefit that the environment receives from the function of these wetlands.  As my main source was a Journal article, I have found an article from the World Wildlife Fund regarding how the Baltic Sea is experiencing eutrophication as a result of increased nutrients loads (World Wildlife Fund).  This could be attributed to the progradation of the wetlands to the Baltic Sea after increased sedimentation.

Figure 1. Location of the Boreal coastal wetland study sites on the Baltic coastline.


Figure 2. This image from the World Wildlife Fund shows the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea in the summer of 2005.



Ward, R., Teasdale, P., Burnside, N., Joyce, C., & Sepp, K. (2014). Recent rates of sedimentation on irregularly flooded Boreal Baltic coastal wetlands: Responses to recent changes in sea level. Geomorphology, 217, 61-72. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from ScienceDirect.

World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). Threat of eutrophication to the Baltic Ecoregion. Retrieved March, 22, 2015, from


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Anna Poliski makes this connection by analyzing the growing demand for water supply in the country of India, specifically in the city of Chennai and what is being done to fill this demand.

The WRE news article, entitled “Quenching Chennai’s Thirst” was published in the journal Business Today on March 16th, 2014.  The article focuses on the hydraulic domain of water resource engineering specifically dealing with the distribution and quality of water. The article discusses the growing population in India and the need for a more stable water supply.  Most of the water in India is dependent upon the monsoon season to fill their reservoir, which can be an extremely unstable source.  The Indian government along with private companies decided to turn towards desalination due to the country’s vast coastline. Metro Water, the leading supplier of water to Chennai, now supplies up to 831 million liters of water per day to the city (Madhavan). Although the article seems to think that desalination is a viable and long-term solution to India’s ongoing water demand, it fails to discuss other issues in India’s water system. India’s limited reservoir storage and aging piped network infrastructure are also still current issues that reduce the efficiency of water supply (Srinivasan et al).

India is just one of the countries that is increasing in size at an alarmingly fast rate.  A growing population correlates directly to a larger demand in water supply. This is not only a global and economic issue, but an environmental issue as well. Desalination was once considered a nonconventional resource to supply potable water to several countries, but with advances in technology it is now highly plausible and affordable (Ghaffour et al). Finding a reliable, clean source of water that is both affordable and environmentally friendly will be the greatest challenge for both scientist and engineers for future generations to come.

Figure 1: Model developed by Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board



Ghaffour N, Missimer T, Amy G. Technical review and evaluation of the economics of water desalination: Current and future challenges for better water supply sustainability. Desalination[serial online]. January 15, 2013:309:197-207. Available from:Scopus, Ipswich, MA. Accessed Marh 12,2015

Madhavan N. Quenching Chennai’s Thirst. Business Today [serial online]. March 16, 2014;23(5):110-114. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 12, 2015.

Srinivasan, V., S. M. Gorelick, and L. Goulder (2010), A hydrologic-economic modeling approach for analysis of urban water supply dynamics in Chennai, India, Water Resour. Res., 46, W07540, doi:10.1029/2009WR008693.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kyle Magill-Jones makes this connection here about Syracuse’s aging water infrastructure and the potential to cause deadly sinkholes.

The article used for this blog is “Salina Street sinkhole may have been triggered by previous repairs nearby” written by Tim Knauss from on February 11, 2015. This WRE news relates to hydrology because it relates to the infiltration of water from the aging distribution system that is constantly requiring repairs to stop leaks or bursts. This news story talk about how the pipe broke previously and was fixed but due to the pipe leaking it caused a sinkhole when the when the car was parked on the area where the work was done. The accuracy of this story is correct based on my two sources stating the problems with Syracuse’s water infrastructure can cause sink holes. The article forgot to add how the addition of minerals such as salt, which can add to the effect of sinkholes and make them easier to form.

This problem has created huge societal problems because with these sinkholes becoming more popular it is making the public realize the severity of this problem. With people realizing this problem they are also realizing the extremely large cost that is associated with the solution. This issue has been a very popular issue brought up by local politicians because of the large amount of money that will be needed to fix the problem. “Miner’s Syracuse Billion plan focuses on water system, infrastructure improvements” goes through the process in which the mayor has put together an agenda you fix the water infrastructure if given the money from the state. With visually dangerous affects being broadcasted it causes the mayor to have to make changes and try to fix the problem with it being so dangerous.

Figure 1: car that sank into sinkhole



Cochran, Molly. “What Causes Sinkholes to Form?” AccuWeather. N.p., 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

“Miner’s Syracuse Billion Plan Focuses on Water System, Infrastructure Improvements.” Miner’s Syracuse Billion Plan Focuses on Water System, Infrastructure Improvements. N.p., 26 Nov. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

“Salt Industry in Syracuse, New York.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015., Tim Knauss |. “Salina Street Sinkhole May Have Been Triggered by Previous Repairs Nearby.” Salina Street Sinkhole May Have Been Triggered by Previous Repairs Nearby. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 Apr. 2015


Water Resources Engineering connects hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our Student Adam Scicchitano makes this connection here regarding the inherent uncertainty in making predictions and the real world consequences of ignoring uncertainty.

The article entitled “Who Decides?  Forecasts and Responsibilities in the 1997 Red River Flood” was reported in the Applied Behavioral Science Review in the 1999 (issue 7-2).  This paper relates to the Water Resources Engineering domain of hydrology, specifically predicting the occurrence and magnitude of floods.  The article, while not directly a current event, demonstrates what is at stake as predictions are made using hydrologic data, which is not only a current concern as spring approaches, but also something all in the WRE field should bear in mind in the future.  In summary, the article describes the Red River flood of 1997 in Grand Forks, ND. Flood evacuation decisions were made by policy makers based on a National Weather Service prediction of a 49’ river flood stage and a levee height of 51’.  What was not taken into account with this prediction was the margin of error, which would have been around 10%.  The river crested at 54’ leading to widespread devastation in Grand Fork ND on the order of $1-2 billion.  It was concluded in the aftermath of the flood that the NWS needed to better understand the uncertainty inherent in its forecasts; this information has value to decision makers. In this case misuse of a prediction lead to more damage than if there were no prediction at all.  Based on my engineering education, I believe that WRE facts presented in this article are sound.  I realize that whenever I take a measurement or produce or work with data, that that data has limitations and, especially with complex models, a slight difference in initial conditions can yield very different results.  The article did a good job at looking at what went wrong in this situation and how it might be fixed, but it failed to mention how these lessons could be translated to other predictions made using WRE data in similar situations.

Water is singularly important to everyone on earth, therefore water resources engineering by definition effects individuals, societies, economies, and environments around the planet.  As I write this I’m looking out my window at three-four feet of snow piled everywhere; this water storage will, hopefully, melt in a couple months and the stored water will then become storm water, ground water, and overland flow.  This article demonstrates how miscommunications with respect to hydrologic data can severely impact people’s lives.  Flooding takes more human lives than any other natural disaster Takeuchi (2002), therefore it is important that we as WRE professionals do the very best we can to help protect people.



Figure. 1 Downtown building destroyed by fire during the flood. Photo credit: Grand Fork Herald.


Figure. 2 “Sorlie bridge 1997”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


Wurbs, R.A., James, W.P. Water Resources Engineering. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2002.

Who Decides? Forecasts and Responsibilities in the 1997 Red River Flood. Roger A. Pielke, Jr. Applied Behavioral Science Review, 1999: 7(2), 83-101

Takeuchi, K. Floods and Society: a Never-Ending Evolutional Relation, in Flood Defence 2002, edited by B. Wu, Z. Wang, G. Wang, G. Huang, H. Fang and J. Huang, pp. 15-22, Science Press, New York Ltd, New York, 2002.


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Quinn Roesch makes this connection here…

The new article “Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa: Best Bet for Alien Life?” reports on the possibility of water, and life, on the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s many orbiting moons. It was published August 22, 2014 and summarizes numerous trips and data collected through satellite imagery that expose Europa as a possible water source.  This article presents an intriguing subject of looking further than Earth for natural resources.  It deals with the efforts in WRE associated with water pumps, distribution of water, conservation of water and sustainable usage. Previous space missions such as The Galileo spacecraft and images from NASA’s Hubble space telescope have decoded images that show the terrain of Europa to have water-slurry or melted ice and water vapor through erupting plumes (R. T. Pappalard et. Al). The internal structure of the moon is modeled to be an anhydrous rocky mantle; surrounding a metallic core. Around these layers is sought to be a thick layer of ice.  Beneath this ice it is believed there is water or subsurface lakes.  These subsurface lakes are thought to have greater volumes of water than contained in total on Earth.  The erupting water vapor geysers also indicate volcanic activity; which may provide vents aiding to bacterial life (Redd , 2014).  The subject of subsurface water and bacterial life is in fact directly correlated to WRE. The information provided in this article, and the journal article from 1999, show evidence of water on the surface of Europa. Although there may be resources available for human’s on this moon, as stated in the article, it will take multiple decades and life times of research and technology advances to tap into the water available for us on Europa.  This article presents to amazing features on Europa’s surface as set in stone fact; while in reality, all the discussion on subsurface lakes and water geysers are simply predictions and are not proven.

WRE implements designs, the application of equations, monitoring, modeling, and engineered solutions to hydraulic processes and challenges in order to improve the lives of humans.  The issues evaluated under the profession of WRE deal with economics, environmental, and societal focused situations.  This article presents a subject that encompasses all three sectors of human activity. As time goes on; resources available for human use are being depleted.  It is said that when I am the age of my parents; wars will be fought over water.  As we approach this era, it is important as engineers to develop ideas of how to solve the problem of finding water resources. Europa may be a viable choice in investigating for a source of fresh water and a moon compatible for the building blocks of human life (R.T. Pappalard et. al). Missions are collaborating with donors and funding corporations to begin further investigation of Europa’s surface.  As stated in the article, it is going to take decades and life times of research to demonstrate Europa as a potential answer to human’s problem of depleting resources through sample analysis and sublayer investigations (Redd, 2014).   Although there are technologies to desalinate sea water and water filtration apparatuses to recycle used water; another possible solution is looking further than earth for a source.  WRE will be applied in obtaining the water, transporting the water, and assuring the water if a viable resource for human consumption through various quality tests. This article is an eye opener to a world of opportunity our generation must begin turning to for answers; space.



Figure 1: Model representation of Europa’s internal structure


Figure 2: Size model representation of volume of water contained on Europa vs. Earth


Figure 3: Digital art representing a model of possible sub-surface lake



Redd, Nola T.. “Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa: Best Bet for Alien Life?” 22 August 2014. <;.

Pappalardo, R. T., et al. (1999), Does Europa have a subsurface ocean? Evaluation of the geological evidence, J. Geophys. Res., 104(E10), 24015–24055, doi:10.1029/1998JE000628.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Gardner makes this connection here…

The article titled “Why Are Scientists Trying to Make Fake Shark Skin?” was posted as an online article on the Smithsonian’s website on August 11, 2014. This article relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of water movement. In summary, the article is discussing the uses of synthetic shark skin which is a biomimicry example of shark denticles. The article expands into discussing previous applications like Speedo’s SharkSuits and other applications thanks to advances into 3-D printing and computer modeling. The article is indeed interesting while discussing the applications for synthetic shark skin. However the article does a poor job of explaining what makes shark denticles so successful in reducing drag. Through outside research, I was able to understand the denticle structure as well as how water moves over them. Denticles are flat and teeth-like and cover a shark’s body similar to scales on a fish (Figure 1). The shape and texture of the denticles vary over the shark’s body, matching the way water flows over the different parts (Dean). Denticles will actually disrupt how water flows over a shark’s body (Figure 2). Jaywant Arakeri in his work entitled “Fluid Mechanics of Fish Swimming” proves to be helpful in applying the Reynold’s number equation and explaining how different sized fish have different drag-reductions. Water resources engineering impacts our lives through many different means such as its influences on the global, economic, environmental, and societal scales. Every minute of every day, millions of people are relying on hydrologic and hydraulic systems for their needs. Synthetic shark skin can prove to be an essential element in our lives through its applications like anti-microbial door handles and swimsuits. Research is currently underway to work towards using synthetic shark skin as a defense against biofouling on ship hulls. Currently, anti-fouling paint is toxic and using shark skin would be an environmentally-friendly option (Thompson). The possibilities for advances in underwater robot design could also prove to be valuable for our future world. Using synthetic shark skin, these underwater robots could have more flexible bodies whose motions could resemble a real fish. Airplane wings might even be able to be designed to be more energy-efficient if synthetic shark skin can be utilized. And then in the biological spectrum, through research with denticles, scientist are learning even more in regards to the swimming forces of sharks and other fish. George Jeronimidis was even quoted in Thompson’s article saying it’s currently a rapidly growing field and that “we are just beginning to understand how integrated and functional the skin of marine creatures is.” Through advances in technologies, our world can learn how to perfect their synthetic shark skin and apply its many uses of anti-microbial and drag reduction to help each of us in our daily activities.



Figure 1: A close-up of a shark’s denticles showing their shape, arrangement, and proximity to one another.


Figure 2: Because of a shark’s denticles bristling and their alignment, water is able to smoothly flow over the shark’s surface instead of creating eddies and vortices that cause drag and friction.



Arakeri, Jaywant H. “Fluid Mechanics of Fish Swimming.” Resonance 14.1 (2009): 32-46. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. Dean, Brian, and Bharat Bhushan. “Shark-Skin Surfaces for Fluid-drag Reduction in Turbulent Flow: A Review.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 368.1929(2010): 4775-806. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

Saltarin, Alexander. “3D-printed Shark Skin Demonstrates How Denticles Boost Swimming Speed.” Tech Times RSS. Tech Times, 15 May 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2015. Schleck, Dave. “Speedo Suit Helps Athletes Swim Like Sharks.” Daily Press (Newport News, VA) (n.d.): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

Thompson, Helen. “Why Are Scientists Trying To Make Fake Shark Skin?” Smithsonian. Smithsonian, 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

Wen, Li, James C. Weaver, and George V. Lauder. “Biomimetic Shark Skin: Design, Fabrication, and Hydrodynamic Function.” The Company of Biologists Ltd 217 (2014): 1656-666. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.


Our ESF ERE department is prepared to welcome students trained in the Next Generation Science standards, which target proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Cutting edge engineering students need STEM proficiencies to best achieve their professional goals. Beginning with the discipline of science, engineers will use science as a toolkit, accessing it for existing knowledge and for knowledge building; paraphrasing the National Research Council (NRC), knowledge building is a process of extending, refining, and revising knowledge. To share more about how the NRC plans to train of our next generation scientists and engineers, I am Reblogging from www.NextGenScience.Org ….

The National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework describes a vision of what it means to be proficient in science; it rests on a view of science as both a body of knowledge and an evidence-based, model and theory building enterprise that continually extends, refines, and revises knowledge. It presents three dimensions that will be combined to form each standard:

Dimension 1: Practices

The practices describe behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world and the key set of engineering practices that engineers use as they design and build models and systems. The NRC uses the term practices instead of a term like “skills” to emphasize that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also knowledge that is specific to each practice. Part of the NRC’s intent is to better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires.

Although engineering design is similar to scientific inquiry, there are significant differences. For example, scientific inquiry involves the formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation, while engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design. Strengthening the engineering aspects of the Next Generation Science Standards will clarify for students the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the four STEM fields) to everyday life.

Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts

Crosscutting concepts have application across all domains of science. As such, they are a way of linking the different domains of science. They include: Patterns, similarity, and diversity; Cause and effect; Scale, proportion and quantity; Systems and system models; Energy and matter; Structure and function; Stability and change. The Framework emphasizes that these concepts need to be made explicit for students because they provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world.

Dimension 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary core ideas have the power to focus K–12 science curriculum, instruction and assessments on the most important aspects of science. To be considered core, the ideas should meet at least two of the following criteria and ideally all four:

  • Have broad importance across multiple  sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline;
  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge;
  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.

Disciplinary ideas are grouped in four domains: the physical sciences; the life sciences; the earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and applications of science.

Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Tom Arcuri makes this connection here…

On March 6, 2013 The New York Times reported the article, “Proposed Dam Presents Economic and Environmental Challenges in Alaska” on their online site. The news encompasses the WRE domain of Hydrology and Hydraulics, particularly related to dams and their impacts. This article goes into detail about the debate currently taking place in the state of Alaska over the installation of a hydroelectric dam on the Susitna River. The high price of power for Alaskans raises the debate over which energy production methods should be implicated in order to create the most beneficial outcome for the state, its residence, and its wildlife. This article implies that the choice between utilization of the state’s natural gas resources and construction of the dam on the Susitna will be a difficult one to make. Currently, the Alaskan Energy Authority is conducting and reviewing studies for the project and will soon ask for a license to build the dam from the Federal Energy Regulation Commission. Using the following research citations and my engineering education, my informed opinion on the accuracy of the WRE facts presented by The New York Times in this article are accurate. Levin and Tolimieri (2001) reinforced the adverse hydrologic impacts created by dams on salmonids and riverine ecosystems. Berkun (2010) puts hydroelectric potential in perspective in terms of water resources availability, as well as potential negative impacts and the importance of studying them. Based on critically thinking through the information provided by this article, I believe that it has missed the opportunity to use historically similar events to support each argument. Analyzing similar scenarios where hydropower was implicated over alternative methods could have provided insight on the rational for the dam and potential positive and negative outcomes that have already been seen. More consideration using case studies from previously constructed dams would aid in the decision of Alaska’s energy future.

The hydrologic and hydraulic applications of water resources engineering shape the economic, environmental, and social impacts of water on a local and global scale. The Susitna dam deals with all three of these WRE context areas. Environmental impacts, economic feasibility and return, and public of opinion and land use will all be impacted by the decision to construct the dam or not. Alteration to the natural river flow, blockage of upstream passage, warming water temperatures, and lack of sediment and nutrient flow will all affect the five species of pacific salmon that spawn in the Susitna. The reservoir created behind the dam will also lead to massive habitat loses for terrestrial animals and can create greenhouse gas emissions. Damming the river will create a large amount of clean power for Alaskans, but the initial investment is high, thus offsetting savings. The dam could also create recreational opportunities behind the reservoir, but alter fishing and recreation elsewhere. Public opinion also varies between those who support hydroelectric or natural gas and also those who believe which alternative is best to keep the land natural and pristine. Based on this article, the social and economic benefits of the Susitna dam will need to outweigh the adverse environmental impacts caused by the dam in order for it to be an option for energy production. The positives and negatives of hydroelectric power generation are reported by Von Sperling (2012), who explains how hydropower fits into today’s global energy needs. However, Von Sperling (2012) emphasizes that the benefits of hydropower should outweigh the environmental effects when considering implementation of each hydroelectric dam project. The cause-effect between construction of the Susitna dam and the environmental, social, and economic impacts is that hydroelectric power will provide a large amount of the energy needed in the state of Alaska while adverse environmental conditions are inevitable and potential irreversible.


Figure 1: An artist’s rendition of the proposed hydroelectric dam on the Susitna River. Studies are being conducted to determine the fate of the project based on the benefits and negative impacts.


Figure 2: Before and after pictures of Yosemite Nation Park’s Hetch Hetchy valley. The need for water in San Francisco called for construction of the reservoir and altered the Tuolumne River.




Berkun, M. Hydroelectric potential and environmental effects of multidam hydropower projects in Turkey. Energy for Sustainable Development. 2010; 14(4), 320–329. doi:10.1016/j.esd.2010.09.003

Levin, P. S., & Tolimieri, N. Differences in the impacts of dams on the dynamics of salmon populations. Animal Conservation. 2001; 4(4), 291–299. doi:10.1017/S1367943001001342

Von Sperling, E. Hydropower in Brazil: Overview of Positive and Negative Environmental Aspects. Energy Procedia. 2012; 18, 110–118. doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2012.05.023


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