CUAHSI Biennial 2021 Recap





The 2021 Biennial Colloquium, titled Converging Ideas and Expanding Approaches in the Hydrologic Sciences, aimed to include a diversity of views, both cultural and scientific, and to holistically address the grand challenges posed by a rapidly developing world and changing hydroclimate. The Colloquium was held virtually during July 19 - 21, 2021.

Six sessions were held over three days, plus an asynchronous webinar held prior to the Colloquium. In addition to the pre-existing Eagleson and Wolman named lectures, this Colloquium featured the debut of the Florence Bascom Keynote Lecture. We reached a broad audience with more than 160 viewers from many parts of the world, the farthest being the UAE. Also included were pop-up sessions, a panel on the future of hydrologic education, and presentations from past CUAHSI grant awardees. All of these sessions focused not only on the highly varied kinds of hydrologic research, but also the diversity of researchers who came from a multitude of backgrounds and brought their unique perspectives. All seven sessions from this year’s 2021 Biennial can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

The symposium began with a pre-conference keynote lecture given by Dr. Jeffrey McDonnell, Professor of Hydrology and Associate Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan. His talk, titled Incorporating Perceptual Models into Hydrological Education, argued that our current approach to hydrological education often shies away from the use of perceptual models and instead focuses on what can be incorporated into current predictive model structures. Dr. McDonnell  makes a case for incorporating perceptual models into hydrological education, allowing students “to see” and understand the pressing discovery science that is needed beyond the equations.

The first day of the biennial began with a panel discussion on Hydrologic Education: Looking Ahead to the Next 20 Years, which included panelists representing a range of job sectors.. This engaging discussion brought up various points from the many perspectives of the panelists such as: how to introduce students,to modeling courses, bringing your students along in your thinking process, and the benefits of being physically together outside the classroom for experiential learning. Professor Guswa, in speaking about how the science of hydrology is integrated with economics, culture and social structures to achieve successful design, stated:

“…students can envision themselves as part of the solution and at the same time they highlight the importance of collaboration among hydrologists, planners, landscape architects, citizen groups and municipal leaders. Many students are surprised, and I find pleased, to learn that there is not one right engineering solution to water challenges, but that effective design relies as much on fitting with the socio-economic context as they do on the science of hydrology. And developing this career fit confidence, that is the sense that a career aligns with one’s identity and values is a way to increase the success and retention of everyone and thereby welcome more into the field of hydrology.” 

Then followed the Reds Wolman Keynote Lecture delivered by Dr. Fred Phillips, Professor Emeritus of Hydrology at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The Wolman Lecture is named after M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman (1924- 2010), who was a prominent and much-beloved fluvial geomorphologist who taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1958 until his death in 2010. Dr. Phillips’ lecture, on Plates and Pupfish: Linked Tectonic, Hydrological, and Biological Evolution of the Southern Great Basin Over 12 Million Years, considered  how aquatic species that can survive only minutes out of water colonize water bodies that are separated by many kilometers of hyperarid desert?

Day two began with an exciting and quick-paced set of virtual poster presentations delivered by researchers from across the United States and one from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, Iran. Topics ranged from improving vegetation drought response to the benefits of using Hydroshare and different certification types for hydrologists. Finally, Linda Lilienfeld spoke about our Let’s Talk About Water program, a grant program aimed to promote water and earth science education by using film and panel discussions to engage audiences and encourage critical thinking. Linda shared some inspiring thoughts on how to tap into current trends in short TikTok style video format to promote ideas and get everyone excited about the value of water.

The Florence Bascom Keynote Lecture was delivered by Dr. Nicole M. Gasparini, Associate Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University. The Bascom Lecture is named after Florence Bascom (1862-1945) who is considered America’s first woman geologist. Before Dr. Gasparini delivered her lecture on Floods, Fires, and Land Building: Tackling Transdisciplinary Hydrologic Problems with Novel Data, Models, and Mindsets, she connected her place in time within the science community to Florence Bascom and emphasized the vital importance of having diversity, equity and inclusion in this field of study. She stated –

“…we have to do better when it comes to inclusion in STEM. There’s really, just, no reason not to. Yes, it’s true our science will be better when we are more inclusive and more equitable. Our outcomes will be better. But really it’s the right thing to be inclusive.”

The final day of the colloquium began with a series of presentations from past CUAHSI grant awardees. CUAHSI has several grant programs including the Instrumentation Discovery Travel Grant, Pathfinder Fellowships and Voices of the Future, aimed to support learning of hydrologic instruments, doing site-specific collaborative field work and promoting forward thinking visions of future water science. The seven presentations showcased the range of research there is in hydrology and the varied subject matter. For example, Paula Buchanan, Tulane University, who was the recipient of a Let’s Talk About Water Challenge Grant, made a short film, Attack of the Evil Fatbergs!, about how to maintain healthy pipes in your home by disposing of grease properly, to lessen strain on water infrastructure.

The concluding session was the Peter S. Eagleson Keynote given by Dr. Heidi M. Nepf, the Donald and Martha Harleman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Eagleson Lecture is named after Peter S. Eagleson, a scientist who integrated ecology and hydrology and redefined hydrology from an ad hoc engineering specialty to a multidisciplinary, global environmental geoscience. Dr. Nepf’s lecture, How Vegetation Impacts Currents, Waves and Sediment Transport, summarized basic concepts in vegetation hydrodynamics and the impact on sediment transport, the interplay of vegetation diminishing currents and how vegetation-generated turbulence can enhance resuspension and sediment mobility.

CUAHSI would like to thank all the moderators, panelists and attendees who participated in this stimulating conference. We are glad to provide a platform for these important conversations and to enable the sharing of ideas as educators and innovators on ways to explore meeting challenges in different ways.