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University of Iowa News Release

July 24, 2006

Engineers Use $1.3 Million NASA Grant To Improve Water Studies

University of Iowa engineers, in collaboration with Iowa State University researchers, will participate in a five-year, $1.3 million NASA grant to evaluate remote sensing techniques for estimating soil moisture and having the potential to help scientists better predict global water and energy cycles.

The project is directed by principal investigator Brian Hornbuckle, ISU assistant professor in the Departments of Agronomy, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, while Amy Kaleita, assistant professor in the ISU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, is a co-principal investigator. The UI will serve as a subcontractor for about $700,000 of the project. (A companion ISU story on the project may be found at: The link will be active after 2 p.m. Monday, July 24.)

Co-principal investigator Witold F. Krajewski, UI professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering, Rose & Joseph Summers Chair in Water Resources Engineering and research engineer at IIHR--Hydroscience & Engineering, together with his ISU and UI colleagues will establish a prototype remote sensing observatory just south of Ames, Iowa.

The data collected at the observatory will be used to evaluate remote sensing devices, such as passive microwave radiometers used to measure soil moisture. Krajewski (pronounced "cray-EFF-ski"); William Eichinger, professor of civil and environmental engineering and IIHR research engineer; and Anton Kruger, IIHR research engineer, will also collaborate with colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service's National Soil Tilth Laboratory (NSTL).

"Validation is a necessary step before remote sensing can effectively contribute to further scientific developments in hydrology, and before space-based instruments can enhance our capability to predict global water and energy cycles," Krajewski says.

"The main objective is to develop a small (about one-half-square mile) prototype experimental validation site. The site will have in-place and remote sensors to record water cycle data and other information over long periods of time. Initially, we will focus on validating remotely sensed observations of soil moisture, with precipitation and evaporation to follow. We intend the site to be a community resource, and we will offer data to other researchers through wireless technologies and a Web site," he says.

Krajewski and his UI colleagues are internationally known for microwave, visible light and infrared remote sensing techniques. The researchers also operate Doppler radar, microwave radiometer and lidar (laser radar) instruments that remotely observe key components of the water cycle: precipitation, soil moisture and evapotranspiration.

In 2005, Krajewski received a three-year, $413,000 NSF grant to test a general theory on how flooding depends on spatial patterns of rainfall, topography, and vegetation in the Whitewater Basin of Kansas. The research is aimed at improving the prediction of floods for basins that lack observational infrastructure.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,