WRI Interns 2018

Cameron Afzal

Program: Masters of Engineering, Environmental and Water Resource Systems

Project: Impact of solar panel arrays on hydrology

The objective of my project was to determine the hydrological impacts of a solar farm on the surrounding landscape. The soil moisture and discharge output in the solar farm watershed will be compared to a similar agricultural field site without solar panels to determine how panels may impact site hydrology, e.g. by decreasing evapotranspiration, increasing runoff, etc. During the summer internship, I collected field measurements, analyzed the data, and built and calibrated a watershed model. Ultimately, the project will result in a report that informs the development of stormwater management plans for utility-scale solar development.

Erin Fenton

Program: Master of Regional Planning

Projects: Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) loans, Climate Smart Communities, and Climate Displacement Survey

CWSRF loans: New York State manages the nation's largest Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), but water quality outcomes achieved as a result of CWSRF-financed projects are not comprehensively monitored. This project examines publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities that have received a CWSRF loan and attempts to link these projects to measurable water quality outcomes. (ongoing)

Climate Smart Communities: Working in partnership with Syracuse University's Environmental Finance Center, I created a toolkit/best practices document for implementing inflow and infiltration correction and green infrastructure initiatives for small municipalities. The document is intended for municipalities that are participating in Climate Smart Communities, but has broad applications.

Climate Displacement Survey: Completed analysis and interpretation of results of a nationwide survey regarding climate displacement influences and perceptions. This work was completed in partnership with the Community and Regional Development Institute.

Erin Holbrook

Major: Environmental Engineering

Projects: Culvert modeling and Drought in NY - an online tool

Culvert modeling: My main objective for this project was to model flooding behavior of two culverts nested in the same watershed. WRI maintains a model that predicts watershed size and peak flows given the location of a culvert in the landscape. Currently, each culvert is modeled assuming no other culverts are contained in the watershed, but this is often not the case. I used ArcGIS and HEC-RAS software to model how two culverts nested in the same watershed would influence each other. Throughout the summer, I analyzed culvert and USGS gage location data in ArcGIS to determine target culverts. I then prepared the selected watershed data for transfer into HEC-RAS. Future work on the project will involve analysis through HEC-RAS, with the eventual outcome of developing a method for integrating the effects of multiple culverts within a watershed into the existing WRI model.

Drought in NY - an online tool: My main goal for this project was improving the computation speed and user interface of a NYS drought prediction application. For any USGS stream gage with sufficient data, users can run a simulation of the next thirty days of streamflow. This project allowed me to improve my R coding skills, especially with the ‘Shiny’ package, which allows for easy creation and deployment of web applications.

Anthony Montoya

Major: Environmental Science and Sustainability

Project: Riparian restoration

My main objective was to assess current riparian restoration practices in use throughout New York State, and identify ways to improve the monitoring of these projects. To achieve this goal, I interviewed restoration practitioners and conducted a literature review of existing work and protocols. Through my interviews, I learned that photography is most often used to monitor restoration projects and, as the main outcome of my summer research, I created a photo point monitoring guide to improve the replicability of this method.

Tyler O'Brien

Program: Masters of Engineering Management

Project: Asset management

The main objective of my project was to support the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s wastewater asset management pilot program for 10 municipalities in NY.  To achieve this objective, I first conducted a literature review using government websites and law databases. I compiled this information into a  an annotated bibliography detailing asset management practices in other states, relevant laws and regulations, and available financial tools and guidance documents. My primary deliverable from the summer was a survey which will be sent to the municipalities participating in the pilot program. The survey will assess a variety of aspects of wastewater asset management after the municipalities receive their wastewater asset management plans in fall 2018.

Zsofia Szegletes

Major: Biological Engineering

Project: Rapid fecal indicator detection at swimming beaches

My main objective was to test the validity of a portable, handheld qPCR device against current techniques used to measure fecal indicating bacteria. This device can determine the risk associated with swimming at a beach in under 2 hours compared to the 24 hours required by current techniques. This time efficiency could allow NYS beaches to be open more often! Much of my summer was spent taking water samples at 12 beaches around the state. In the coming semesters, these samples will be used to compare results from the qPCR device to cell culture techniques and the method used by park officials. 

Felix Yang

Major: Environmental Engineering

Project: FEMA buyout program in Binghamton, NY

Following repeated flood events, parcels of land at highest risk of inundation may be bought by local governments utilizing federal funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To prevent further economic loss, development on such parcels is then highly restricted. My main objective for this project was to determine how the municipalities of Binghamton and Vestal, NY utilize their FEMA buyout lots. I began my summer by researching the at-risk floodzones established by FEMA, reviewing the existing literature on the FEMA buyout process, and identifying buyout parcels in my study locations. I ended the summer with two site visits to the Binghamton area. Based on these site visits and my research, I outlined criteria to identify parcels of land that could benefit from development into high-utility green spaces.