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Engaging students in a "growing community of scientists"

Russell Croft Faculty Scholar Ciaran Harman, assistant professor, environmental health and engineering, and earth and planetary sciences
Posted October 20, 2017
Ciaran Harman works with students at his Landscape Hydrology lab to take weekly water samples. Ciaran Harman works with students at his Landscape Hydrology lab to take weekly water samples.

Still waters may run deep, but it's not the stillness that concerns Ciaran Harman. His Landscape Hydrology lab — part of the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, jointly housed by the Whiting School of Engineering and the Bloomberg School of Public Health — concentrates on what happens to water and contaminants as they move through the landscape, and how evolving structures affect that flow.

Funding provided by the Russell Croft Faculty Scholar award has enabled Harman to support undergraduate and graduate students who work in his forested study site about 16 miles north of the Homewood campus. There, the students collect water samples to estimate how long the water has spent underground. Using tools called amoozemeters, they precisely control and measure the rate at which water percolates through soil and rock. They've already discovered surprising substructures shaped like bowls underneath the ground. Now, they're working to find out why those occur.

"Understanding what's causing these unusual structures will help us better predict how long it will take for the benefits of improved agricultural practices to show up in the water quality entering streams and, ultimately, flowing into the Chesapeake Bay," Harman explains.

When one considers Harman's accomplishments — his research has already been incorporated into the Chesapeake Bay Program's watershed model, and he's recently received awards from the National Science Foundation and the American Geophysical Union Hydrology Section — it's easy to forget how early he is in his career. But his relative youth in the field gives him an extra appreciation for the opportunities that the Russell Croft Faculty Scholars award provides him to engage students in this research.

"I'm connecting Johns Hopkins students to a growing community of scientists around the world," Harman says. "The award affirms for me that Hopkins is committed to the fundamental science of the earth and environment and to understanding their impact on the health and well-being of people."

To learn more about the Croft Fellows or to make a gift to support Whiting School faculty, please contact Megan Howie, associate dean for external relations.