It is estimated that over seventy percent of the world’s freshwater sources are used for crop irrigation and in the United States over eighty percent of water use is for livestock and crops. These uses have depleted some local water systems and Dr. Tess Russo is helping not only to track these changes but help determine proper management plans to help water tables recover.
An assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University in the department of geosciences, her research interests include agricultural water management, managed aquifer recharge, and hydrogeology. Russo earned her doctorate in 2012 from the University of California at Santa Cruz and did two years of post-doctoral research at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
According to her website her research has three main components. The first is in developing methods to help measure the relative impact of humans and natural drivers on hydrologic systems. Secondly, to develop models of the systems to project future condition and to test management strategies. Thirdly, to use field observations and modeling to improve the understanding of fundamental physical processes.
Dr. Russo’s research goes on around the globe including in India, Africa, and the United States to help improve agricultural water management practices in order to protect water supplies from over-exploitation and contamination. In India the water table levels have been falling and new water management strategies are being tested including changing out the crops being grown. In Africa studies are being conducted in Kenya and Tanzania as their soil types are very different but there is concern in both areas of nitrate leaching due to increased use of fertilizers and she is using modeling to help determine if different fertilizer applications methods should be used in each setting. In the United States her research is looking at measuring the ground water levels for the past sixty years as well as the correlation between ground water levels and extraction rates and these levels in relation to local precipitation and long term climate cycles.
Since 2004 she has published eight papers, was a guest on the Podcast StarTalk and was featured in a story by Scientific American.
Written by Angela Goad