The Challenge of the Simple Within the Complexity of Hydrology
John Steven Selker
Dept of Biological & Ecological Engineering
Oregon State University, US
Nature follows very simple rules: conservation of energy, momentum, while finding the path of maximum entropy. I explore the challenge of keeping an eye on simplicity when faced with the unfathomable complexity of hydrological processes as they occur in the complex of geology, climate, and human culture. First, I will consider the melting of snow, and what we have missed there, perhaps by the complexity of phase change and atmospheric processes. Next I will consider evaporation from deep aquifers, wherein this extraordinarily complex problem if viewed through the lens of geology and climate, becomes a quite simple and general result when viewed from the process perspective. Finally, I will consider how we measure the dynamics of ecosystems. Here, the problem is somewhat inverted, in that the complexities of working in an aggressive natural setting demand simple solutions. Yet, to achieve system simplicity is perhaps the most demanding of all engineering undertakings. I will review the development paths for several recent innovations in environmental sensing and the lessons gained in bringing these to the community.
John Selker is an OSU Distinguished Professor of Biological and Ecological Engineering (College of Agricultural Sciences, 31 years) and co-Director of both The Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring Programs (CTEMPs.org) and the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO.org), and PI of the Openly Published Environmental Sensing Laboratory (currently employing 40 undergraduates - Open-Sensing.org). Selker has worked in >20 countries across 5 continents. Focus areas include environmental instrumentation, groundwater processes, and ecohydrology. Selker has published >230 peer-reviewed articles, is the president of the AGU Hydrology Section (7,000 members), and a raft of other things only academics worry about. He loves making things, like new environmental sensing systems and wooden bowls.