Open student projects I offer exciting master and semester projects for EPFL students or any motivated student. Topics include experimental and computational hydrology and hydrochemistry. Below you’ll find a list of current projects, most of them can be adapted to fit the student interest or commitment. Do not hesitate to contact me!
Predicting stream network expansion and contraction Context: The channels of headwater streams can fall dry during extended periods without precipitation, whereas discharge can rapidly emerge during rainfall. The short-term activation and deactivation of water flow is thus tightly linked to the distribution of nutrients, sediments and biota within the channel network. In the TempAqua, we study the dynamic behavior of Swiss headwater streams: we conduct mapping campaigns at high spatial resolution, using a newly-developed smartphone app, and we install multiple flow sensors throughout the channel network to monitor streamflow occurrence at high temporal resolution. In order to link these mapping data to other, high-resolution measurements (streamflow, water quality), we need high-resolution time series of stream network dynamics. Objective: You will develop a statistical model to generate continuous time series of the actively flowing stream network length. You will use the spatially-explicit mapping data, the temporally-explicit sensor measurements, and hydro-climatic data from our field sites in Switzerland (see for example Goulsbra et al., 2014). In addition, you will create maps that illustrate where and when the channel network is dry, wet or flowing before, during and after rainfall events. Info: All data are available for three small headwater catchments in the Alp basin. Additional mapping campaigns in the Haute-Mentue basin near Lausanne could be carried out during the first part of the project. If this project is carried out as a MSc thesis, additional modelling exercises should be performed (following Kaplan et al., 2020).
Understanding hydro-biogeochemical processes in a steep mountain catchment Context: The temporal fluctuations of different solutes in precipitation and stream water provide information about flow pathways and reaction processes in catchments. When variations in solute concentrations are compared against hydroclimatic and biogeochemical properties, we can better understand how the catchment stores, filters and releases water and solutes. This knowledge builds the foundation to predict flood and drought events, to design flood protection and to sustainably manage freshwater resources. Objective: You will analyze the hysteresis patterns of one or more different solutes in the streamwater of the pre-Alpine Erlenbach catchment. Hysteresis is a nonlinear loop-like behavior that is often observed between solute concentrations and river streamflow during rainfall events. Changes in the direction or the shape of the hysteresis loop from one rainfall event to the next can be indicative of changes in water sources, transport pathways, or biogeochemical processes. You will use Principal Component Analysis and other statistical methods to identify these processes. Info: All data will be provided, such as high-frequency solute measurements from the “lab in the field” in the Erlenbach research catchment (von Freyberg et al, 2017). You can use a Matlab script for the determination of hysteresis indices (Zuecco et al., 2015). Group projects are possible in which students investigate individual solutes or solute groups (e.g., DOC/TOC, nitrate, chloride, sulphate, calcium, trace metals).
What controls soil water chemistry in a steep mountain catchment? Context: Soil water can be an important source of streamwater. In order to quantify the contribution of soil water to streamflow, we use solute and stable water isotopes as environmental tracers in endmember mixing models. In streamwater, these environmental tracers can easily be measured through grab sampling. In soils, however, the tracer concentrations are likely to vary considerably across space due to changes in vegetation cover and soil mineral composition. It is further hypothesized that water in shallow soils is chemically more variable than water in deeper soils where mixing with older water results in a more homogeneous composition. Thus, in order to apply endmember mixing models in hydrological studies, we need to quantify the spatial heterogeneity of soil water chemistry in the catchment. Objectives: You will determine the spatial and temporal variability in soil water chemistry in the 0.7km2 Erlenbach research catchment (near Einsiedeln). For this, you will sample soil water at different depths and at multiple locations (different vegetation cover, topography, soil types). In addition, you will sample ground water as a proxy for very deep soil water. You will conduct at least 3 sampling campaigns to also capture the temporal variability of soil water chemistry. Solute and isotope concentrations in water samples will be measured in our laboratory. You will create maps and perform statistical analyses to describe the spatial and temporal variability of soil water composition. Finally, you will identify drivers of soil water variability e.g., vegetation cover, topography, soil type) and you will develop guidelines on how to sample soil water in the future to best capture its chemical variability.
Courses I have taught in the past:
Mountain Forest Hydrology (ETH Zurich, Msc level, 3 hrs, 1 course/year) This course presents a process-based view of the hydrology, biogeochemistry, and geomorphology of mountain streams. Students learn how to integrate process knowledge, data, and models to understand how landscapes regulate the fluxes of water, sediment, nutrients, and pollutants in streams, and to anticipate how streams will respond to changes in land use, atmospheric deposition, and climate.
PhD Summer School "Catchment Transport Processes" (ETH Zurich, 2-7 July 2017, Einsiedeln, Switzerland) Lecturer for a workshop on hydrograph separation with natural tracers, co-organizer for a 1-day field trip
Practical Training in Biogeochemistry (ETH Zurich, Bsc level, 4hrs, spring semesters 2011, 2012, 2013) Experimental methods in hydrogeology and hydrology; experiments and data collection in the lab and the field; interpretation and presentation of hydrological and chemical data; 5-10 students
Physical Practicum - Geotechnology (hydrogeological experiments) (Technical University Berlin, Bsc level, 4hrs, summer semesters 2008, 2009) Theoretical background on groundwater hydraulics; tracer experiments; protocolls with interpretation and presentation of the results; 5 groups of 6-8 students