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DuBois Professor's Work May Help Restore Drinking Water to South African School

Penn State DuBois Associate Professor of Mathematics and Geology Rick Brazier
3/18/2010 —

DuBois – Penn State DuBois Associate Professor of Mathematics and Geology Rick Brazier had the opportunity to work on several projects in South Africa during a recent sabbatical.  While he spent time training students in a field school, and monitoring seismic activity, some of his most profound work may have helped to save a local school.


Brazier's work has provided him with a broad base of experience in varied disciplines of Geology and Mathematics.  So, it was no surprise that he was called in to help indentify the reasons that the water supply at the Dayspring School in Magaliesburg, South Africa was dwindling.


"The school has its own water supply from wells on the property," noted Brazier. "During the past few decades these wells have been drying up, and without the water the school will have to close."  Brazier explained that closing the school would leave dozens of children from small farming communities with no way to get an education.


Brazier preformed a seismic survey of the property, while working with other researches to determine where the water was going.  They found that a number of Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees had been planted as wind breaks across the property around 30 years ago.  While the trees are found in Africa, they are not native to this part of the continent.  They are also known to be very thirsty.


"This invasive tree species uses up vast quantities of water," explained Brazier.  


This is the likeliest of explanations that Brazier and the rest of the team have found for the school's disappearing water supply.  An ongoing study is aimed at proving this idea, and bringing the water back to Dayspring School.


"The level of the water table is being modeled using Seismic and Electrical Resistivity methods. Over time the Blue Gum trees will be removed, and this project will continue to monitor the level of the water table to see if it can recharge," said Brazier. 

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