Events & Media

Hydrologists Convene to Synthesize Different Approaches to Research

Associate Professor Naomi Tague spent the week of March 3-8 attending the second U.S.-Japan Joint Seminar on Catchment Hydrology and Forest Biogeochemistry, held at the Hawaii Imin International Conference Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was also an invited speaker at a session titled “Understanding Catchment Vulnerability and Resilience in the Face of Change.”

The purpose of the seminar is to identify and explore similarities and differences in catchment science research between the United States and Japan and synthesize work between them. For instance, interdisciplinary approaches are less common in Japan, but its monitoring technologies are sophisticated and novel. Japanese hydrologists have also created highly sophisticated instruments to make extremely precise measurements of discrete phenomena, but the resulting research tends to be descriptive, while US research is often aimed at integration and synthesis.

Naomi Tague (front row, center, in white skirt) joins fellow hydrologists for a tour of the water systems in the mountains behind Honolulu.
Photo courtesy of Kevin McGuire

“In my talk I was making the point that if we want to understand the vulnerability of water resources and forest ecosystems to climate change, we have to be able to both track how water moves through landscapes and understand plant physiology with respect to drought,” says Tague. “I was showing how current state-of-the-art models work and where improved measurements could help to improve them. A strength of hydrological research in Japan is that they take very intensive measurements, and our strength is synthesis and modeling. So they have the measurements and we have the models. They could benefit from our models, and our models could benefit from their intensive data.”

The previous U.S.-Japan seminar, titled “Forest Hydrology and Biogeochemistry,” was held twelve years ago, and since then much has changed in the catchment sciences, with integration of the two areas having developed significantly in both countries. In the U.S. the National Science Foundation has funded two major projects:” Emerging Topics in Biogeochemical Cycles” and “Critical Zone Observatories.” Professor Tague is a principal investigator in the latter.

A major thrust of this latest seminar was linking hydrology and biogeochemistry with an emphasis on climatic and environmental change.

“The time is ripe for a multi-perspective synthesis of the effects that climatic forcing, natural disturbance, and forest management have on the timing, duration, and magnitude of hydrological and biogeochemical processes,” the organizers said.