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College of Arts & Sciences
School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment


Hydro Lab

The Hydro Lab will study transient, variable-density fluid flow in almost any setting, from brine migration in the Alberta Basin to coastal ecohydrology. Check the projects below and please contact Dr. Wilson if you are interested in joining the lab!

 Hydro Lab Research          Hydro Lab People          Wilson Faculty Page

  Fluid and Chemical Fluxes across the Seafloor: Radium isotope activities in the Atlantic Ocean suggest that brackish and saline porewaters discharge to the ocean in volumes that exceed river discharge – but there is very little evidence to support such large fluxes near the coastline, where the vast majority of studies have focused. It is much easier to explain the Ra isotopes if saline groundwater discharges across the broad continental shelf (Moore 2010). In collaboration with Drs. Scott White and Billy Moore, we have installed a new well field 5-20 km offshore of Isle of Palms, SC, to quantify fluid and chemical fluxes across the seafloor. Camaron George is handling the (soon to be copious) monitoring data!
  Hydrogeology, Ecology and Radium Tracers in a Salt Marsh Island: How could drought affect a salt marsh on an island that is flooded by the tide twice a day? Andrea Hughes is working on a salt marsh island in North Inlet, SC, that was affected by salt marsh dieback during the 2001-2002 drought. It turns out that more rainfall infiltrates the marsh than you would think, and dieback at this site was probably caused by a rapid increase in salinity during the drought (Hughes et al., 2012). This island is also an excellent place to investigate controls on Ra activities in coastal groundwater. Work at this island shows that groundwater flow can strongly influence Ra activities in porewaters (Hughes et al., submitted).
Hydrogeology of a Barrier Island: Cabretta Island is a Holocene barrier island with a salt marsh, freshwater upland, and beach, and we've learned a lot at this site. Groundwater studies of Cabretta Beach led to questions about how common “upper saline plumes” are in different types of beaches (Evans et al. submitted). Work in the salt marsh on the landward side of the island shows that storm surge can drive significant volumes of creek water into salt marsh systems (Wilson et al. 2011). Groundwater exchange between the marsh and the estuary is strongly dependent on tidal amplitude and seasonal variations in mean water level (Wilson et al., submitted). Spatial variations in groundwater flow patterns within the marsh also coincide with ecological zonation (Wilson et al. in press).
  Crabhaul Creek Basin: Bob Gardner’s Transect D crosses the Crabhaul Creek Basin, which lies between a large upland and a narrow relict beach ridge. Brad Peurifoy used electrical resistivity to determine the distribution of salinity below the marsh, and he is currently investigating the causes of seasonal variations in salinity below the marsh. In a new project with the South Carolina Geological Survey, Tyler Evans is using deep resistivity and newly-installed wells to map the freshwater-saltwater interface below North Inlet.
  Heat Flow Below the Seafloor: Heat is an inexpensive tracer for fluid flow below the seafloor. We have developed MATLAB scripts that “invert” a thermal record to determine long-term vertical flow rates and estimate the depth and timing of benthic flushing. In collaboration with Bill Savidge of SkIO, undergraduate Gwendolyn Woodward ran the model using data from shallow (<12 cm) thermal observations. Now Alexa Breeland is updating the code (a lot!) and will work with temperature data from deeper wells (Moore et al., 2002; Moore and Wilson, 2005). Figure from Moore and Wilson (2005), prior to the development of the new code.
  Long-Term Solute Transport in Sedimentary Basins: How fast do fluids migrate in sedimentary basins? This affects water-rock interactions, petroleum reservoir quality and CO2 sequestration – and it may affect the geochemistry of the world’s oceans (Wilson, 2003). Students Ipsita Gupta and Melissa Thornton have asked questions on topics ranging from the permeability of thick, regional evaporite beds (small but finite) to the origin and age of brines in the Alberta Basin (up to 200 Ma, see figure).