Discipline: Ecology, Environmental & Earth Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Research
Maruthi Sridhar Balaji Bhaskar - Texas Southern University
Co-Author(s): Jason Rosenzweig, Shishir Shishodia, Daniel Vrinceanu, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
A Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program was created and successfully implemented during the last five years in the Department of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences (EIS) in the College of Science Engineering and Technology (COEST) at Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston, TX. The objective of this program is to increase the students critical thinking, software and communication skills and make them proficient in collecting, analyzing and interpreting the geospatial and environmental science data in the STEM fields of study. The recent increase in frequency and intensity of the urban flooding events and repeated inundation of the Houston watersheds makes it important to monitor the water and soil chemical, microbial and cytotoxic characteristics in the Houston-Galveston region. The objectives of the study are to 1) to collect and analyze the nutrient, heavy metal, microbial and cytotoxic concentrations in the water and soil samples along the various urban watershed bayous, and 2) to monitor and map the land cover changes and contamination profiles of these watersheds using remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A total of 20 undergraduate students and 15 graduate students participated in the various activities of soil and water sample collection, and to comprehensively analyze the chemical, microbial and cytotoxic characteristics of the samples. The data was further statistically interpreted and spatial and temporal maps of the study area were created. Our analysis indicates that the nutrient, metal and microbial concentrations along the bayous spiked following the flooding events and the downstream of the bayous are often more contaminated compared to the upstream locations. Our satellite and GIS analysis reveal that the impervious surface increased and vegetative surface decreased during the last three decades contributing to more urban runoff. The analysis of the metal, nutrient, and microbial concentrations in water and soil samples will enable us to identify the hot-spots of contamination within these watersheds, which can be better managed, remediated and restored to preserve the health of these urban watershed ecosystems.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This research was primarily supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Texas Southern University (TSU) under the award numbers HRD-1400962 and HRD-1622993
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,
NSF Affiliation: HBCU-UP