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ISU's Sarah Godsey receives prestigious NSF Award, that includes $500,000 for study

February 15, 2017

photo is of Sarah Godsey, an ISU geosciences assistant professor, and student Dylan Refaey working in the field near Pocatello on a recent study.
Sarah Godsey, an ISU geosciences assistant professor, and student Dylan Refaey working in the field near Pocatello on a recent study.

POCATELLO – Idaho State University geosciences Assistant Professor Sarah Godsey has received one of the “most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty” awarded by the National Science Foundation. Her award includes more than $500,000 to study streams and stream channels for five years.

The award is part of the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER). According the NSF, the award is given to faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”

“I was really excited to receive this award,” Godsey said. “It’s a testament to the great students and colleagues that I’ve had the chance to work with here at ISU so far. Over the next few years, we’ll work to provide cutting-edge insight into how western streams wet up and dry out.”

This is the only CAREER award at ISU in the past decade and one of a few ever awarded to an ISU faculty member. This award acknowledges Godsey’s leadership in integrating education and research.

The title of Godsey’s CAREER award is “Active Learning Across Interfaces: Controls on Flow Intermittency and Water Age in Temporary Streams.”

More than one-third of the U.S. population relies on temporary streams, those that don’t always have water flowing through them, for their water supply. Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Environmental Protection Agency have noted the importance of understanding these streams to ensure fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters throughout the country. Surprisingly, scientists can’t exactly predict where and when streams will run dry and how flows vary from year to year.  

Sarah Godsey headshot“This project will address that gap by mapping where streams are flowing, and linking these maps to expected controls including rainfall, snowmelt, plant water use, and below-ground characteristics,” Godsey said. “We will collect water samples to test whether these different controls on flow affect water quality. These samples will also indicate how long ago the stream water fell as rain or snow, which may affect how often a stream dries up. In addition, the project will train a diverse group of students from elementary school through graduate school in cutting-edge temporary stream science.“

The project will also develop new courses to train college students in environmental field methods and to engage river guides in sharing temporary stream science with whitewater enthusiasts. The project will also team with watershed managers to develop cheaper and better scientific insight into the temporary streams they manage.

The project will focus on sites throughout the western United States, including in the Pocatello area, the Frank Church Wilderness, and the Owyhee Range, as well as in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and Coast Range. The sites were chosen because initial data shows that they may dry out for different reasons, and because other scientists are also working there or watershed managers have asked for better science.

Five to 12 ISU students will be involved in the study, with project funds available to support their research efforts. Additionally, another 10 or more university-level students will participate in an intensive field methods course each summer. Finally, later in the project, hundreds of Idaho elementary school students who visit McCall Outdoor Science School will also learn about streams that run dry. 

Godsey will give a public talk at the Snake River Fly Shop on Main Street in Old Town Pocatello this Thursday, Feb 16, at 5:30 p.m., for the Science Brews series hosted by the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust. Anyone interested in learning more about her new award is welcome to attend.