Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those impacted by the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Iowans remember the 2008 floods that wreaked havoc across our state. Through the chaos, we came together and built back a more resilient Iowa.
Iowa Flood Center experts reflect on the extreme flooding in Texas:
IFC Director Witold Krajewski compares Harvey flooding scenarios to Des Moines. View his interview with ABC Channel 5.
IFC Associate Director Nathan Young compares Iowa’s 2008 flood experience with that of the flooding in Texas. View his interview with KWWL-TV.
IFC Director Witold Krajewski describes the flooding in Texas as it relates to the 2008 catastrophic flood event in Iowa. View his interview with KFXA/KGAN-TV.
IFC climate research expert Gabriele Villarini offers some perspective on the flooding in Houston,Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey. View the interview with KCRG-TV.
By Mikael Mulugeta
Gabriele Villarini, associate director of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, has won the 2017 Water Young Investigator Award.
The award recognizes Villarini, a UI associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, for the excellence of his research in water science. Villarini’s work has played an integral role in changing the way the scientific community uses and validates remote-sensing products, examining aspects of time series of floods and extreme rainfall, and for introducing useful concepts and applications of scaling properties of hydrological fields.
“This is the first year this award has existed, and I am very excited to be the first one selected to receive it,” says Villarini. “I want to thank the selection committee and my nominator, Professor Witold Krajewski.”
The Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), an academic open-access publisher headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, presents the Water Young Investigator Award to a researcher in recognition of her/his significant contribution to the advancement of the fields of water science, technology, management and governance. To be considered for the award, researchers must be under the age of 40 or 10 years or fewer removed from receiving their PhD.
By Shianne Gruss,
At a recent University of Iowa STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workshop, several middle and high school teachers from across the state addressed this question, as well as how to encourage their students to begin asking the same thing.
The workshop, titled “Hot Topic: Climate & Iowa,” was developed in part by IIHR Assistant Researcher Engineer Gabriele Villarini to fulfill the broader impacts component of his 2014 NSF Career Award. “My personal interest when it comes to science is science with a purpose,” says Villarini, who is also an assistant professor in the UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I try to answer the questions ‘who cares?’ and ‘who can benefit from it?’ We can do all this great science, but at the end of the day if it remains in published papers, the impacts are limited.”
While Villarini possessed historical data for Iowa precipitation, discharge, and temperature, what he lacked was the know-how to turn those data points into relevant lesson plans. Fortunately, Ted Neal, clinical instructor of science education in the UI College of Education, has been teaching pre-educators, educators, and K-12 students the importance of STEM learning for years. “Gabriele and I figured out what each of us could bring to the table, then we merged that stuff together,” says Neal.
That “stuff” included 50 plus years of Iowa climate data at more than 60 locations, lessons on mapping floodplains, and coding basics using “R,” a statistical computing software. “The key objective was to discuss the issue of climate in Iowa and also to provide the teachers with tools, so that they would be able to tackle this issue themselves,” says Villarini.
Cindy Hilsabeck, a 6-8 science teacher at Starmont Middle School in Arlington, particularly enjoyed Neal’s 3D-mapping of flood plains. “We have some flooding issues in one of the towns near our school, and I’m hoping to attempt this project—perhaps with Ted’s help!” she added.
Like many of the participating teachers across Iowa, Hilsabeck recently picked up teaching earth science because of budget cuts and expanding education requirements. She says the workshop provided her with training on major concepts. “I try to keep applications relevant to the students, and Iowa climate is truly relevant to them!”
Climate is just one of the required subjects included in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which could very well replace the Iowa Core in upcoming years. The Iowa Board of Education is expected to discuss the adoption of NGSS at its next meeting, scheduled for June 11–12. The proposal will then continue to the Iowa Legislature.
“One of the things we wanted to make sure was that what we were proposing was directly relevant to these new standards for teaching science in schools,” says Villarini. The standards include four topics: Physical Sciences; Life Sciences; Earth and Space Sciences; and Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science. As part of the NGSS, teachers are required to develop lessons that address a question through scientific investigation.
Both Villarini and Neal stressed the importance of teachers and students addressing climate change in the classroom.
“Climate change is a hotly debated topic,” says Villarini. He explains that by experiencing data first-hand, rather than purely reading scientific articles, a person can make a more informed decision about such a highly contested subject.
According to data compiled by the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council, the changing climate has affected the state in a number of ways. Iowa has already experienced many changes, ranging from more precipitation, which has led to extreme flooding events, to higher temperatures and humidity; from agricultural challenges, such as increased soil erosion and runoff, to changes in animal migration patterns; and finally from the public health effects of air pollution to those of a warmer climate.
Neal believes these changes, and general attitudes toward them, are actually overwhelming students these days. “Kids actually get bogged down,” he says. “They just throw their hands up and say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it; it’s too big for me.’ But there are things we can do about it. And that’s where I think we need to go with this to get kids interested. We need to be letting kids look at the real data and make a decision based on science and data, not based on politics or religion or my mom said that climate change isn’t happening, because that’s not going to move our kids forward.”
There are plans underway to repeat the workshop, “Hot Topic: Climate & Iowa,” later this year and in 2016 at other locations around the state.
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