Massive data project will map Indiana's changing waterways
Indiana’s rivers are being mapped out like never before.
Venkatesh Merwade, professor of civil engineering, is leading a research effort to compile flood models for the state of Indiana. The goal of this work is to create a platform for mining information from these models for constructing river geometry and support river morphology studies.
“It’s not easy to find river geometry or bathymetry information and it is very expensive to obtain,” Merwade said. “This is something I have been working on for about 15 years now, but we’ve really been pushing forward with it this past year.”
Merwade added that he believes this new platform will lead to even greater research efforts in the future and serve as an invaluable tool for river studies.
“Once this is complete, there will a platform for river morphology data for all 92 counties in Indiana available online,” Merwade said. “We hope this will serve as a resource for future river studies and allow others to better learn about Indiana’s rivers, how they are changing over time, and how that influences water and sediment delivery.”
Merwade’s team began work by downloading flood models from Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Indiana Hydrology and Hydraulics Model Library. Tasked with downloading and testing the near 15,000 river flow and modeling files was civil engineering undergraduate Eli Weitzner.
“I know it sounds like a really intimidating job, but I actually thought it was a lot of fun,” Weitzner said. “I really like patterns, so it was pretty enjoyable to see all the data come together into something like this.”
Weitzner added that in addition to his enjoyment of the research, he also found the experience aided him tremendously in his studies.
“You get a greater sense of how to organize your time and you get to see what you’ve been studying applied in a real-world setting,” he said. “And I’m happy that Purdue allows undergrads to participate in things like this. It’s pretty great that you can approach a professor and ask to assist in research and there’s actually a good chance they’ll at least interview you for a spot.”
Merwade’s research is funded through the National Science Foundation. It began in August 2020 and is part of a three-year project.