An Accomplishment-Based Request for Renewal of the Susquehanna-Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHO)

Project: Research project

Project Details


An Accomplishment-Based Request for Renewal of the Susquehanna - Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHO)

With funding from the NSF Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) program, CZO workers led by PI Susan Brantley and coInvestigator Chris Duffy (Pennsylvania State University) will focus on cross-disciplinary synthesis, data sharing, and outreach at the Susquehanna Shale Hills CZO. Established originally in the 1970s as a site to study water flow in forested catchments, the 8-hectare Shale Hills watershed was expanded in 2007 as a CZO to understand broader questions targeting the interplay of water, energy, atmospheric gases, biota, soils, and the land surface. In addition to the small Shale Hills catchment, the CZO includes a suite of satellite sites that overly the same bedrock type (shale) but which are situated in different climate regimes. One additional satellite site is located on organic-rich Marcellus shale. These satellites allow researchers to understand how climate and organic content control water flow and soil formation while working with minority-and undergrad-serving institutions. CZO researchers are investigating i) new methodologies to model the age and chemistry of water as it moves from the atmosphere to groundwater; ii) new techniques to synthesize measurements of soil moisture for incorporation into land-atmosphere models; iii) observations that constrain water, energy, and solute fluxes related to trees; iv) models that quantify how soil grows on shale; v) new uses of isotopes to measure soil formation; and vi) observations concerning how variables describing characteristics at depth such as the fracture distribution in bedrock combine with features at Earth's surface such as the sunniness of hillslopes to control the evolution of soils and hillslopes over time. Datasets of isotopes, chemistry, soil moisture, CO2 and energy flux, LiDAR, sapflux, and other observables collected at high spatial and temporal resolution are published online. Outreach activities include community education about natural gas development on shale and K-12 educational opportunities.

Effective start/end date9/1/128/31/14


  • National Science Foundation: $1,173,108.00


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