X-ray micro- computed tomography image of Bentheimer sandstone

Lab Overview

The Subsurface Hydrophysics Group is focused on gaining a fundamental mechanistic understanding of fluid, solute, and colloid transport processes in heterogeneous porous and fractured media. The image above highlights the complexity of the pore space (black regions) that fluids navigate as they flow through the subsurface. Our approach often leverages in situ imaging—such as X-ray computed tomography, positron emission tomography, or optical imaging—combined with analytical, numerical, and data science methods to describe transport processes in these complex geologic systems across time and length scales. Due to the fundamental nature of this approach, and the ubiquity of fluid transport in porous media, this work has important applications across a range of environmental and geological processes including contaminant migration in the vadose zone, heat recovery in geothermal energy systems, bacteria transport in the subsurface, and carbon dioxide transport and immobilization in geologic carbon storage projects.

We are currently recruiting graduate students for Fall 2023 who are interested in doing research on bacteria transport in porous media or PFAS fate and transport in the vadose zone.

Recent News

August 2022:

  • Visiting undergraduate student Liam Warren from Beloit College finished his Water@UW Summer Scholars project titled ‘Colloid-facilitated Heavy Metal Contaminant Transport – Role of Sorption and Colloid Composition‘.

July 2022:

  • Vy Le successfully completed and defended her MS thesis titled ‘Measurement of Bacterial Colloid Attachment and Unraveling the Effects of Heterogeneity and Salinity on Subsurface Bacteria Transport Using Positron Emission Tomography’. She will be continuing on for her PhD in the group starting this fall.

May 2022:

April 2022:

  • Our collaborative research on PFAS contamination in Rhinelander WI was featured on the local news in northern WI.

Recent Conferences and Presentations

Frontiers in Hydrology 2022: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Will Gnesda presented his recent work focused on quantifying multiscale PFAS transport in the vadose zone.

Emerging Contaminants in the Environment 2022: University of Illinois

Will Gnesda presented his recent lab and field work results focused on quantifying multiscale PFAS transport in the vadose zone.

AGU Fall Meeting, December 2021: New Orleans

Group members presented work on bacteria transport in porous media, spontaneous imbibition, permeability inversion using deep learning methods, and DEI work associated with UW-Madison URGE pods.

AGU Fall Meeting, December 2019: San Francisco

Presented: Pore network model predictions of Darcy-scale multiphase flow heterogeneity validated with high resolution experimental observations

Trondheim CCS Conference, June 2019: Trondheim, Norway

Presented: In Situ Quantification of Capillary Pressure During Spontaneous Imbibition in Carbon Storage Reservoirs

Interpore 11th Annual Meeting, May 2019: Valencia, Spain

Presented: Positron Emission Tomography in Water Resources and Subsurface Energy Resources Engineering Research