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Utah project reaches halfway mark

February 27th, 2015 Posted in Opinion

Utah researchers this month passed the halfway point of a five year research effort dedicated to gathering information about Utah’s water resources.

iUtah is a collaborative project shared between Utah State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, along with other universities in the state, said Professor Douglas Jackson-Smith, one of the principal investigators on the project and a sociology professor at Utah State University.

Utah State University is the lead research institution for the project.

“The goal is to develop the science capabilities of Utah universities to address water issues,” Jackson-Smith said. “We are trying to figure out how population growth, climate change and land use change are going to affect water resources going into the future.”

Jackson-Smith said the project has been very successful in the first two and a half years.

Funding for iUtah has allowed observatory equipment to be placed along Logan River, as well as along two other watersheds in Utah. Researchers are studying the information from these observatories to see how water is affected as it flows through the city.

Jackson-Smith said that establishing relationships with other universities and researchers throughout the state has been very beneficial.

“We were highly motivated and we’ve got a great team,” he said.

Jackson-Smith said the iUtah project is focused on more than just research, and has made an effort helping to train undergraduate and high school students to work in scientific careers.

“I actually specifically decided to come to USU because of the iUtah program,” said Taya Carothers, a Utah State graduate student working on the project. 

A lot of the help from undergraduate and high school students has been with collecting survey information, along with some data collection, Jackson-Smith said.

Being a part of the project has been rewarding, said Jordan Risley, an undergraduate student at Utah State. “It’s actually going to help people and make a difference in the world.”

At the end of the five year project, iUtah’s goal is to be better at generating useful scientific information about water and improving collaboration with other researchers.

iUtah was made possible by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It is unlikely the project will receive more funding after the allotted five years, so researchers hope funding will come from the state in the future.

Jackson-Smith said the researchers want to show the state and local governments how valuable the iUtah program is.

“That story has to bubble up from the grassroots,” he said. “Cities have to start saying, ‘Hey guys, we think this is really important and you should support it’ and for that to happen we have to be valuable to the cities.”

More information about the project can be found at www.iutahepscor.org

Shelby Ruud, Kristen Steiner, Thomas Sorenson, Parker Atkinson and Ethan Trunnell contributed to this report.

-mdl

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