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Thursday, September 5, 2019

KS-LSAMP Student Studies Groundwater Discharge across Kansas

Gonzalo Alcantar
    An intro-geology class “as well as the instructor’s enthusiasm for teaching the subject” led to Gonzalo Alcantar’s curiosity for “agriculture/farming and aquaponics/vertical farming.” Looking for an opportunity to do further research on the subject, the 2019 Pathways to STEM: Kansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KS-LSAMP) program at Kanas State University (KSU) presented a great opportunity to explore his interests. The KS-LSAMP program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF LSAMP) and "promotes recruitment and retention programs throughout Kansas in support of increasing the success of underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. "The summer portion of KS-LSAMP is called Research Immersion: Pathways to STEM (RiPS) and is an 8-week summer research program that "aims to introduce students to the process of research and assist in their academic and professional success." Gonzalo was one of three students in the KS-LSAMP program sponsored by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). His mentor was Dr. Matthew Kirk, Associate Professor of Geology at Kansas State University (KSU) and MAPS Soils Team leader.
Gonzalo Alcantar working in the Kirk Lab
Photo provided by Matt Kirk
     The title of Gonzalo’s research project is Variation in contribution of groundwater discharge to streams across the Kansas precipitation gradient. He said that he picked this particular topic because “I am interested in everything that goes into agriculture/farming and aquaponics/vertical farming, hence the water research.” Gonzalo explained his project as follows “Groundwater discharge affects the coupling between terrestrial and aquatic habitats and ultimately the biogeochemistry and water quality of streams. To better understand the contribution of groundwater discharge to streams in Kansas, this project tests the following hypotheses: (1) the proportion of groundwater discharge in streamflow decreases with distance east across the Kansas precipitation gradient and (2) the proportion of discharge has increased over the past 60 years. To test these hypotheses, we used the U.S. Geological Survey program PART to carry out hydrograph separation analysis on groundwater discharge data from seven gage stations located across the Kansas precipitation gradient. Our analysis uses stream baseflow as an estimate of groundwater discharge. We also examined precipitation data collected at Hays, Salina, and Topeka, Kansas. The results indicated that the amount of groundwater discharge and runoff both increase eastward across the precipitation gradient but the increase is greater for runoff. Therefore, the proportion of groundwater discharge in streamflow decreases slightly across the precipitation gradient. Over the past 60 years, the proportion of groundwater discharge in streamflow has increased in western Kansas but remained fairly stable in eastern Kansas. Potential reasons for the change in the contribution of groundwater discharge in western Kansas over time include changes in the rate of precipitation and land management changes. The average annual precipitation in western and eastern Kansas has remained largely stable suggesting land management changes could be responsible for variation in the proportion of groundwater discharge over time in western Kansas. These findings suggest that the potential influence of groundwater discharge on stream habitats is greatest in western Kansas. Future research will evaluate the biogeochemical impact of spatial and temporal variation in groundwater discharge in Kansas.” Gonzalo presented his research at the RiPS Summer Program Final Poster Session on July 24, 2019.
Gonzalo Alcantar presenting his research at
the RiPs Summer Program Final
Poster Session
     When asked what his favorite part of his KS-LSAMP experience was, Gonzalo responded, “My favorite part of LSAMP was being able to get some research experience as well as gain better connections with a K-State faculty member.” He continued, “I learned an abundant amount of information about not only my research but also other graduate students’ research in which I was able to help with over the summer. I learned how to work in a lab environment and how to better communicate with my mentor as well as understand my responsibilities and role in a lab.”
     Gonzalo is from Garden City KS and is currently a sophomore at KSU studying Industrial Engineering. He is involved with the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), the Hispanic and Latino Organization (HALO), and the Multicultural Business Student Association (MBSA) on-campus student organizations. In addition, he is a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Dr. Bailey Sullivan, a Residential Learning Assistant for a Cat Community, a Building Operations Assistant for the K-State Student Union and a Berney Family Welcome Center Ambassador. As for his future plans, Gonzalo wants to pursue a master’s degree in industrial engineering. But for now, he hopes to work closely with his professors during his sophomore year.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for KS-LAMP is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.