Dye Trace Experiment using "Aerial" Imagery

Martin Helmke
West Chester University
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This exercise allows students monitor a dye plume in a stream using digital images collected by "remote aerial tramway".

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This exercise would be appropriate for an undergraduate- or graduate-level hydrogeology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This exercise is designed to stand on its own, and would serve as an excellent first introduction to contaminant transport concepts.

How the activity is situated in the course

I would conduct this exercise as a lab during the last third of a hydrogeology course, just as we begin discussing contaminant transport.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The goals of this exercise are to introduce students to the concepts of advection, dispersion, timesteps, boundary conditions, and breakthrough curves.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Higher-order thinking skills include:
1) converting from a spatial snapshot in time to how concentration changes at a specific point under transient conditions
2) developing conceptual models, explaining the basis for such models, testing models, then explaining why there were differences between the conceptual and observed
3) making connections between dye in a stream and the challenges of delineating contaminant plumes in groundwater

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This exercise allows students to quantify advection and dispersion of an environmentally-friendly dye as it floats down a local stream. Digital images of the resulting plume are captured using a "remote aerial tramway" setup by the instructor. Students develop a conceptual model of contaminant transport, test it, then quantify results using a variety of spatial and temporal methods. By the end of the exercise, students should have an appreciation for the complexity of contaminant transport, and appreciate the challenges hydrogeologists face as they monitor plumes in the subsurface.

Determining whether students have met the goals

If the students successfully answer the numerous questions of this exercise they will have met the goals for this exercise.

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