Week 1

IRES Prague [Zablon, Catherine, Jessica, Alisha]

The first week in Prague was very exciting! We arrived in Prague on Friday, May 26th around noon and were kindly picked up by Dr. Martin Sanda and driven to our dorms in Strahov and Sinkuleho. The first order of business after our arrival was to make sure our accommodations such as dorm rooms, internet, and transportation were in order. On Friday evening and the rest of the weekend, we explored the beautiful city of Prague using public transportation and walking more than 12 miles to hit several points of interest including the Charles Bridge, the Dancing Building, John Lennon’s wall, the awe inspiring medieval gothic churches, Old Town Prague, and Strahov Monastery to mention a few. 

On Monday the 29th of May (through the end of the week), Dr. Chittaranjan Ray joined us in Prague to give us review lectures into the fundamentals of soil physics and introductory lessons into unsaturated zone water flow and contaminant transport through the soil profile prior to our intended field trips. These lectures included the fundamental theories of soil physics such as Darcy’s Law and Richards Equation, transport mechanisms, measurement methods, field applications, and an insight into modeling through HYDRUS to provide a thorough introduction into the activities that will follow through the 2 month program.

While we were mastering soil physics, we still managed to find a little bit of time for more sightseeing and exploring restaurants in Prague. We celebrated Alisha’s 21st Birthday at a quaint Mexican Restaurant in Prague on Monday the 29th of May. On Tuesday, we were invited to our academic host’s (Dr. Michal Snehota) beautiful house for a welcoming party up in the hills of Prague. At the party, we were fortunate to meet Michal’s family, unsaturated zone flow research pioneers such as Dr. Milana Cislerova and Dr. Tom Vogel, as well as other upcoming scientists for interesting conversations and networking. 

On Wednesday the 30th of May, Dr. Martina Sobotkova gave us a tour of the laboratory and the unsaturated zone equipment and measurements we discussed earlier in Dr. Ray’s lecture. The tour covered several tensiometers, soil moisture sensors, infiltrometers, pressure chambers, and a conceptual automated multi-chamber infiltrometer that is currently in development at CTU. 

The following day, after Thursday June 1st morning lecture, we travelled a few kilometers away from Prague to the UCEEB facility to observe a state of the art facility that is still in progress. At UCEEB, our main objective was to look at the rain/roof gardens and bio-retention swales that CTU is studying to reduce storm sewer overload in urban areas. The study is equipped with soil moisture sensors, climate station including rain gage, light radiance, wind speed, temperature etc. The study intends to find the best soil material and composition and vegetation for efficient retention of rainwater to reduce flooding and sewer overload while simultaneously helping to reduce the heat island effect and beautify urban settings. At the UCEEB facility, we also visited with a scientist working on a functional (not theoretical) 3-D printer, moisture sensors to prevent molding in houses with wood structural frames, as well as tension sensors for an early warning of possible collapse of supporting frames in houses, stores, and even stadiums.

On Friday, June 2nd, all 4 students from the U.S universities and 2 students from CTU presented an overview of their current and/or previous research at approximately 15 minutes for each presentation including questions from the CTU water group. The presentations from the CTU students were very interesting, which were exploring the association between CT scanned soil pours with saturated hydraulic conductivity and using microwaves from phone signal receptors to estimate rainfall in urban settings where meteorological data is scarce and modeling outflow at specific urban gages. The U.S student presentations ranged from measuring solute compositions and charge balance, study of rock/mineral formation and laboratory preparation of mineral samples, land use change impact on recharge, and irrigation efficiency using remote sensing.

Following this action-packed week, we all left for weekend trips to Berlin, Germany (Zablon), Vienna, Austria (Alisha and Jessica), and Bratislava, Slovakia (Catie). We thoroughly enjoyed week 1 and look forward to the activities of the next 7 weeks!

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

Schonerunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Bratislava, Slovakia