Senior Earth Systems Science Major Immersed in Water Research

Senior Earth Systems Science Major Immersed in Water Research

UC Merced senior Dannique Aalbu grew up in Sacramento learning principles of sustainability and conservation from her entomologist father. The broad range of disciplines represented in her earth systems science majordrew her in after she t ransferredto UC Merced from community college. Now, she's found an extraordinary chance to explore a potential specialty in hydrologyand water resource management.

Aalbu is one of two students representing UC Merced in the Research Experiences for Undergraduatesprogram directed by Professor Benoit Dayratin Yosemite National Park.

"I definitely want to go to grad schooland pursue research," Aalbu said. "This program lets me experience it on a daily basis."

She's working with UC Merced researcher Fengjing Liu on questions about how groundwater and surface water supply may be affected by climate change. It's an important issue as populations - and demands on the water supply - increase in mountain communities.

"We need to improve our understanding of surface water and groundwater interactions in the mountains to help tackle the problem and provide water resources managers with information to improve the operation of water supplies for the region," Liu said.

Aalbu appreciates the chance to work on such big-picture questions - and the chance to learn the nitty-gritty details she'll need to continue to pursue answers.

"I've been learning a lot of different field techniques," she said. "Fengjing trusts me to go out and take samples on my own twice a week, which is a great experience. And I'm learning lab techniques in Merced, as well, analyzing isotopes."

Her REU experience will help her, not just in preparing for grad school and her planned career in water policy and resource management, but in the intense senior year she has planned at UC Merced.

"The coming semester is going to be crucial for me," she said. "I have all the base classes for my major scheduled , and I am hoping to really apply myself. I want to use all the stuff I've learned this summer and incorporate it into my classes."

The aim of the REU programis to make the biggest possible impact on the students who participate. Aalbu's determination to apply her experience to her present pursuits as well as her future goals is just the right approach.

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