Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Research update

I'm so happy today (^-^). After few days struggling with pumping sludge to the system, I can handle the system well this morning. Last few days and even today early morning, I was having "fun" (T.T)  with cleaning the mess when the sludge split over the floor. I was so used to deal with that kind of mess when I was at USF but still, I felt so embarrassed here whenever the sludge was all over the floor. Anyway, everything is under control now :) hopefully, after temperature control added (this afternoon), the system will be good to run the gypsum leachate. Finger crossed :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Trip to get vegetative walls

This morning I went to go pick up my vegetative walls!  It was about a 45 minute journey to Leersum which is located outside of Utretch.  The country side is much different in the middle of the country.  The terrain had more hills and there were more wooded areas.  Near the facility there were even hiking trails.  It seems like a perfect place to have a plant nursery it was absolutely beautiful out there.

The panels were not exactly what I was expecting.  They are fairly large and can hold 40 plant plugs.  We picked up panels in different stages of use.  There are two panels with plants, two with only soil, and one with a different media.  One of the panels with soil is going to be emptied out and filled with an expanded clay medium. 

Now I need to get them set up for testing.  I have to figure out how to get them raised slightly off the ground and find a pump for them.  So…of to the lab!
 This is what a bunch of panels look like together.

The panels on one of the buildings at Mobilane.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Travel to Zeeland

An exhibit within the Watersnoodmuseum
Our first adventure on the final day of our week-long series of excursions was a tour of the famous Watersnoodmuseum (Flood Water Museum). Focusing on the Flood of 1953, this museum depicts the impact of this flood on lives and mentalities. Prior to this flood, the priority of fortifying dikes and barriers fell second to other national interests. Four days before the Flood, the nation decided to strengthen its defenses, but they were too late. February 1st, most of Zeeland, West Brabant, and The South Holland Islands fell victim to a flood which claimed over 1800 lives. This was the direct predecessor of the Delta Works, a national movement to stop this type of disaster from ever happening again.

In 1986, Queen Beatrix announced the close of the Delta Works program by stating, "The flood barrier is closed (referencing the Oosterscheldekerin). The Delta Works are completed. Zealand is safe." The nine kilometer long Oosterscheldekerin (Oostershelde Barrier) was the largest of the Delta Works Projects, and landed among the top ten engineering marvels in the world. It consists of a series of movable gates that can stop rising water from causing a flood. The environmental impacts of this project are quite serious, yet Dutch lives in the area are now safe from rising floodwaters.

The events this week have collectively shown us the strong Dutch effort to protect themselves from the ever-present threat of flooding. It has been a very exciting adventure, and a distinct change of perspective for me. I would like to personally thank Mr. Stan Bronson, representing the Florida Earth Foundation, Dr. Garth Redfield, Chief Scientist of the South Florida Water Management District, and UNESCO-IHE's Hydroinformatics program  for engaging us in such a fantastic experience. I hope that this program will provide a similar experience for future attendees!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Modern Marvels

Today was the last day of our weeklong tour of the Netherlands put together by the Florida Earth Foundation.  It was also (in my opinion) the best day.  It isn't that Kinderdijk, Futureland, or Maeslantkering weren't great (they were!)...

Double windmill

The future Futureland! (well, Massvlakte 2)

Everyone under one arm of the Maeslantkering

...I just found today's trip to Zeeland to be the most interactive - in terms of Dutch history, mentality, and technology.

Today we visited the Flood Disaster Museum (watersnood Museum) and the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier (or Oosterscheldekering). Both are located in Zeeland, in southern Holland.

The storm surge barrier is part of the Delta works project that was implemented after the great flood of 1953. The barrier crosses the eastern Schelde River. It stretches about 9 kilometers and consists of 62 steel doors that open to allow movement of the tides, but close if a storm surge is iminent. Basically, it's huge.

The main goal of the Delta works was to close off the Netherlands from the sea in order to ensure another great flood would never happen. Unfortunately, completely blocking the North Sea has negative effects on the coastal and marine environment. Although not perfect, the storm surge barrier took this issue into account and implemented the system of steel doors to allow water to flow through the barrier. The area available for flow is now only 20% of what it naturally was before construction of the barrier, and as a result, the water flows faster through the gates.

Throughout the week I learned about the change in Dutch thought about flooding defense. The many dikes seen throughout the country represent the original thinking of keeping water out at any cost; flood defense was about closing the country off from the sea, despite the sea being an important part of life and the economy. The Maeslantkering shows how the Dutch realize the importance of protecting the economy. Closing the Maeslantkering means loss of shipping revenue into the port of Rotterdam, and thus it is a moveable structure to allow the free flow of ships when not in use. The open aspect of the Oosterscheldeing, however, is based on an environmental concern. The estuary is a mix of salt and fresh water. Closing the estuary would prevent the mixing from occuring. With the open design, nearby shellfish farms still thrive.  These projects show the slow, but sure change in the Dutch mentality.
* * * * *
I have greatly enjoyed visiting the many sites in the Netherlands over the past week, and I thank the Florida Earth Foundation (with Stan Bronson) and the IHE's hydroinformatics program for the effort they put into this experience to make it truly memorable.


Windmills, Barriers, and the Future

The Windmills of Kinderdijk
Early this morning, our group traveled to Kinderdijk - boasting original, working windmills! The beauty of these structures is only exceeded by their usefulness in the transport of water. We learned today that these windmills work in groups to raise water 1 meter at a time until sea level is reached. Although Archimedes Screws are used today, the windmills represent a lifelong battle against the ever present threat of flooding.

Futureland Construction

Futureland rivals even the Palm Islands in Dubai in terms of its total artificial land area. It is quite a sight to see, as it is nearing completion. The Port of Rotterdam is growing as one of the world's largest ports, and this project will open more doors for its continued success!

The largest moving object in the world lies in Rotterdam! Serving as an ever-present shield against rising waters, Maeslantkering is a moving barrier that can stop the flow of the Nieuwe Waterweg (new waterway) when it becomes a threat to downstream locations. Many other gates will shut, protecting tributaries of the main river, but this is the first line of defense against storm surges, excess precipitation, etc. Costing 450 million euro (in 1991 value euros), this barrier was very exciting to see and hopefully will never have to be used again!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Cat and the Cradle

Since much of the Netherlands is below sea level, canals were dug to retain excess water and reduce flooding. When some of the drained land started settling, they decided to build windmills to pump water to a level between the soil and river.

 Windmills at Kinderdijk

The name Kinderdijk or Children's Dike comes from a story taking place during the flood of 1421. Supposedly, days after a flood began someone saw a cradle floating in the flood with a cat rocking it back and forth, trying to keep it balanced. Someone fished the cradle out near the dike and found a sleeping baby inside. This tale is commonly known as "The Cat and the Cradle." 



Today we traveled all over and saw some really cool stuff.  But I really think my favorite part of our travels today were the windmills at Kinderdijk.  It is awesome that the Dutch have preserved these old windmills so that people from all over the world can see them and see what it would’ve been like to live in one (very cramped sleeping spaces considering the Dutch are supposed to be so tall).  Since Kinderdijk is a World Heritage Site it will continue to be preserved for generations to come. 

The windmills used to be critical in keeping the Netherlands high and dry (or low and dry).  They enabled the Dutch to lift water over the dikes and out to sea keeping the mainland protected from flooding.  But there was a catch; one windmill can only lift the water 1 meter.  That’s why they had to build so many, each one in succession to get the water up and out.  Sadly they don’t use windmills anymore instead they used Archimedes screws to move water.  Using this technique they can move more water faster which definitely makes the difference keeping peoples's homes and businesses safe.

Some of the windmills at Kinderdijk.

 View from one of the wonderful windmill's windows.

The Archimedes screws they use today.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Striking Similarities, Distinct Differences, and Engaging Experiences

The past two days have proven to be quite an eye-opener for all who are interested in the management of water, either in the USA or in the Netherlands. Dr. Garth Redfield, Chief Scientist at the South Florida Water Management District, and Mr. Stan Bronson, Executive Director of the Florida Earth Foundation, have led us through lecture and travel to understand the complexity of water management in the Netherlands, including how it compares to that of the USA - specifically Florida. Living in the sunshine state my entire life, I have not been exposed to the process by which water is regulated within my home state. Receiving quite a wake up call these past two days, I have been excited to learn more about how this craft is accomplished amidst such difficult problems.

The first day's lectures at UNESCO-IHE focused on the fundamental responsibilities of the South Florida Water Management District. Following the discussion, we visited Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. This organization is made up of engineers, lawyers, and general administrators who have a voice in EU directives and are also charged with implementing these directives. Directives, as I understood them, are mandates made by the EU that must be adopted into each individual country as national law. In the process of learning how this organization works, we were able to absorb a general idea of how the EU works regarding its environmental directives, a very valuable lesson.

A channel outside Rijkswaterstaat (A final example of sound water management!)

Tuesday's lectures included progress and setbacks regarding restorations of the Kissimmee River, the Everglades, and Okeechobee Lake. I found these talks to be extremely interesting! It's surprising how the general public is not more aware of the problems that Florida faces! Following the lectures, we traveled to Deltares, an internationally known research facility specializing in flood research. This organization is contracted out by the Netherlands government, other EU governments, and private entities to research certain topics using computer modeling and/or physical modeling. Deltares' physical modeling facility is a massive roofed warehouse where working models are built, usually to a 1:40 scale. After the model is built, wave creation machines exert scaled conditions on the model. The maximum wave-height simulation would mimic a category 13 hurricane (on the current scale of 1-6).

Deltares Building

Deltares Physical Simulation Area

These two days have been very exciting and beneficial to our understanding of water management, both in the Netherlands and in the USA. We still have two days left of travel, and we are all excited for what is in store!

Rijkswaterstaat and Den Haag

The second week at IHE started with the lectures given by Mr. Stan Bronson (the executive director of Florida Earth Foundation) and Dr. .Garth Redfield about Florida water management, natural preservation,  flood history in south florida, and effect of climate change (sorry >) I  can't remember all of them) . It's really interesting for me to learn about the way they preserve the natural environment while dealing with the pollution issues coming from industrial sector such as sugar cane factories. 
Lunch at IHE. Anton always has a big meal for lunch (super huge meal for dinner), that's why he's so tall
After the morning lectures, we had lunch at IHE. At IHE, they have a cafeteria which is open from 12.05 pm till 1.30 pm every week day. So people at IHE can buy their lunch withreasonable prices,around 5 euro/1 meal which includes sandwich, salad and soup (normally chicken or beef) or a dish of fish (meat), fries and vegetables. The menu changes a little bit each day. According to my colleges, the food here is pretty good. However, because of global economic downturn ( >) ), I still pack my own lunch every day (except today, because I thought we would have a lunch reception, poor me T.T). Lunch at IHE is pretty fun for us, we can sit down together, chat and ask each other about how they do in the lab in the morning or plan for doing something fun in the evening or weekend, etc.
Then in the afternoon, we had  the first field trip to Rijkswaterstaat at Den Haag where we had very interesting presentation and talks about water management and water management policy in Netherlands and EU countries. (the photos and interview with people at Rijkswaterstaat will come later).
Security check at Province of Holland Zuid where Rijkswaterstaat is located
After the talks at Rijkswaterstaat, we had some fun time walking around Den Haag city. Here are some pictures . More will come nex time because I have to go to check on my laundry :D. See you next time...Dag and Tot ziens :)


Probability - A Reflection from Today's Lectures

Flood defense projects are built with a safety buffer based on past probabilities. Past flooding averages are used to determine the probability of having flooding events of various strengths. A 1 in 10 year flood occurs more often and is lower in strength than a flood that is said to occur 1 in 1000 years. Both numbers, though, represent a probability and do not actually say that only one of each type of flood will happen in the time frame.

I remember in my Water Resources class doing exercises to find the rain events associated with 1 in 10 or 1 in 100 year events, as these are the common time frames used for US design. However, in today's presentation at Deltares (the Dutch institute for national and international water, soil, and subsurface issues), Nathalie Asselman showed maps of the Netherlands using up to a 1 in 10,000 year flood probability. At first glance, that looks like any structure using that design parameter will have a slim chance of failure.

This is, and is not, entirely true.

The Dutch accept that climate change is occuring and know that they must do something to protect their land and people. Also, climate change is causing probability calculations based on historical data to be obsolete. As I learned today:

Probability is dead*.
*Disclaimer: This does not mean everyone can skip Statistics from now on...

This statement really means that we can no longer trust the historical record to predict a future of extremes. It looks like for now, the Dutch are using extreme design factors (like the 1 in 10,000 year flood) to try and prepare. In the meantime, they are also collecting new data to better examine what the future might hold. Although still a guess, it will be a more defined guess... and the safety factors built-in will ensure that the Netherlands will be prepared for, but not immune to, climate change.

(...some fun pictures/videos to come later.)


Monday, May 23, 2011

Fabulous Finds

 I found lady gaga resting in the corner.
I've been practicing taking pictures while riding my bike. I caught some graffiti artists in action.

Water, Water Everywhere

Today was filled with lectures related to water, or more specifically, water management. Water management in south Florida. Water management in the Netherlands.

The information was a lot to take in, but there was a lot of good details in the presentation. It sounds like the Netherlands has a generally good relationship among different government organization. Not that everyone gets along perfectly, but it sounds more harmonious than the relationships of similar organizations in the United States... and the Netherlands seems to get more done with regards to water management.

The presentations also mentioned that per capita water usage in the Netherlands is about a third of that in the United States. One idea to decrease American water usage is through a tiered water billing system, where water gets progressively more expensive as you use more. The speakers argued that these financial consequences generally don't work unless they are very high (since the water bill makes up a miniscule percent of the average household expenses), but then why do so many people complain about small billing hikes? It makes me think that the perception of an increased billing amount is higher than the actual effect, if the earlier comments are correct. I do, however, also acknowledge that in the US there are lower income households that feel larger impacts from rate increases, but what stops us from raising the price of water exponentially for volumes used past an acceptable household value?

I have a few ideas, but just throwing the thought out there.

So the overall question is: How do we extend the water supply?

Maybe tiny sinks are the answer...

The price for a long history

Wildlife is decidedly absent from the Netherlands.  Walking around the most common wildlife species you see are pigeons.  Sure there are three types of pigeons and two types of doves but they aren't very interesting (to me at least).  Different types of waterfowl are also common some ducks, geese, and I've seen a plover.  I have also seen Magpies (which I found really exciting) but I haven't gotten a good picture of one yet.  What I find very odd is a lack of squirrels.  Even in the most metropolitan areas in the US you find grey squirrels.  It's like there are no rodents here at all but really the problem is that most of the wildlife has gone extinct.

During our visit to Rijkswaterstaat today we were told that any natural habitat that you find in the Netherlands has basically been created or modified by the Dutch.  I suppose that is what happens when you've been living in a small country.  And a country that requires such intense engineering projects simply to provide enough dry land for the human population.  Little room is left for wildlife.  Luckily from what we heard today the Dutch are working to preserve some land for wildlife even if it is man made habitat.

Eurasian Coot

Geese, Mallard Ducks, Pigeons, etc.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dutch Connections

Reading up on Dutch history.  Apparently it was the people from the north of the country that first began to make “recognizable changes” to the land for flood protection.  The earliest flood protection system was made up of mounds known as terpen in Friesland.  I’ll have to familiarize myself with Frysk, or West Frisian (the language of Friesland), before undertaking a trip to Dokkum where many of my ancestors emigrated from and came to America.  It seems that my water and engineering interest is in my blood.  In a way I’m working on the same main problem they were – flood vulnerability.

Town of Dokkum (an ancient city of Friesland) in a sea of agriculture

An Evening of New Foods and Good Company

Saturday afternoon proved warm enough to spend some time outdoors! We found a several nice parks complete with biking trails, walking trails, gardens, greenhouses, peacocks, strange trees, and picnic areas (which we will soon be utilizing). It was a very nice trek, and we will be sure to find more parks and trails!

Our first Saturday evening in Delft proved to be an interesting adventure. The first lesson we learned is that there is no such thing as 'traditional Dutch food.' If there is, it is hidden. International food is the most prevalent here in Delft, and was our choice last night for a late dinner. Egyptian food is not a cuisine that I have ever tried, yet it proved to be some of the best food I've ever eaten. Hints of familiar spices coupled with new combinations formed a very tasty plate!

Our second noted lesson was that the nightlife is very strong in Delft, and they occupy every corner of the whole city. Everyone dresses nicely and spends time out front of pubs and bars just talking and laughing. Each and every table in Delft is jammed full of people, straining our search for food. In the future, we'll either have to go much earlier or cook ourselves. Either way, it was quite a scene!

There is so much we have yet to explore, and I can't wait for research to start! I am reading past experiments in preparation for my research to begin, and I still have more to read. I was able to read outside for 6 minutes before clouds and a bit of rain decided to appear and drive me back inside. In the following hours, I have experienced 3 seasons: sunny and warm, cloudy/rainy and cold, sunny/windy/cold, and I have no idea what the rest of Sunday will present weather-wise. Either way, there is work to be done! And I imagine that I will at one point  relieve some stress in the ping-pong-room!

More soon!


Leg Room

I've noticed that my toes don't hang over the beds here.  Perhaps it has to do with the need for beds that can accomodate the very tall population.

Hooray for long beds!

"Publix" and " Target " at Delft ( hardware store for bonus)

Anton,Suzie and Mari were so happy to shop at Alberthejn (a publix alike store)

Hema- a Target alike store
Lenta- a hardware store where you can find any accessories for your bike with reasonable prices


Today was our first Saturday (Zaterdag) in Delft, and that meant a day to sleep in and explore. Being Saturday, there was a market held in town that looked much busier than Thursday’s market. Mari, Suzie, and I went in search of some Dutch street food and found Kibbeling. Kibbeling is a snack of fried fish pieces, and apparently referred to as a Dutch “fast food.” It came with a sweet garlic sauce and was delicious.

Later in the day the group wanted to visit the local parks by fietsen. The parks were small, but full of various flora. Apparently the parks are where the younger people like to hang out. I really enjoy the ease of biking around Delft with the bike paths and relatively flat land. The saddle bags are also a great help for carrying around a day’s worth of shopping. It makes me wish the Tampa Bay area had something similar. The elevation is similar to the Netherlands, but the car traffic is not. Despite that I’m aiming to make use of my bike more at home (especially with my fancy new 8 EUR saddlebags).

Over the canal and through the woods
Which way?
All that biking works up an appetite, so the group headed into town for a late-night meal. After circling the area a few times, we found a great Egyptian place and I think Anh wanted to win his meal’s money back from a game machine in the corner…

How do you know when you win?

Research at Unesco-IHE

So we’ve been at Unesco-IHE for one week.  We had a lab training, group meeting with professors and lab mentors. The lab system in Unesco IHE is quite different from that in USF. Here at IHE, they have very friendly, nice group of lab staffs and analysts who always try to help and assist you to run the analytical instruments, prepare the chemical or lab stuffs  and even make the standards for you which is awesome. So you can focus 100% of your mind on your experiment, you don’t have to worry or spend time to fix a broken instruments or look for lab stuffs to order.  You never can expect that in USF where you have to do everything by yourself, except we also have a nice group of staffs who always assist us on ordering lab stuffs.
Pimluck, a PhD student in Dr. Lens's group and me in front of Pimluck's system for gypsum leachate treatment

Anyway, I had a first meeting with Pimluck, a PhD student in Dr. Lens's research group, to talk about the project we will work on this summer which is about gypsum leachate treatment. Pimluck was very nice to discuss with me about the project, show me the system she’s working on. I also had chances to test the AnMBR system which Ana built up last year. The system ran just fine but we might have to do some modification work that we think it might help to improve the efficiency of the system for gypsum leachate treatment. I believe we will have some good results by the end of this summer and I'm really longing for that.


How the Dutch keep their figures

A spinning marathon....one of several crazy Dutch things found on the plaza on weekends.


Human Hamsters

I joked around with Kristen that she should travel in a bubble due to her allergies. Apparently, Delft has her cure.


Late night eats!

We were told upon arriving that stores and restaurants aren't open as late here and that things typical close early but I don't think that really sunk in until tonight.  After a bit of exploring via bike we headed into the town center to find some food sometime around 10pm.  Strolling through the streets we found our options were quite limited.  Many restaurants were either closed, closing up or, seemed only to be serving drinks.  Happily we came upon one place that seemed open and relatively inexpensive.  With a bit of help deciphering the menu we placed our orders and watched as our food was prepared.  It was all absolutely delicious.

Trying to figure out where we were going.  

 Kristen and Caryssa enjoying their meals.

Anh eating his delicious ribs.


Biking Chronicles

Tonight we ventured out to some bike parks.
Yes my bike has  speedometer.
 Since there are canals everywhere, we are always encountering cool bridges.
We found some peaceful areas at the park.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let's go to the market!

This morning I ventured into the center of Delft to capture a little bit of the Saturday market, which offers pretty much everything and anything you can think of from bicycles to antiques to fresh-cut flowers to produce. The market occurs every Thursday and Saturday and is really a must when visiting Delft, even if you aren't in the market for anything. 

 Take a look at these two inadvertently playing "mirror". 

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