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 subsurface environments. 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 and environmental 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

December 2022:

November 2022:

October 2022:

  • Vy Le successfully passed her PhD qualification exam

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:

  • Collin Sutton passed his PhD qualification exam
  • 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

AGU Fall Meeting, December 2022: Chicago

Group members presented work on PFAS in the vadose zone, bacteria transport in porous media, permeability inversion using deep learning methods, and fines migration in fractured rocks.

Society of Core Analysts: Austin, Texas

Collin Sutton and Zitong Huang wrote and presented conference papers related to fines migration and permeability inversion methods, respectively.

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

Upcoming conferences

Wisconsin Chapter of the American Water Resources Association (Wisconsin Dells, WI)

Interpore 15th Annual Conference on Porous Media (Edinburgh, Scotland)

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2023 (San Francisco, CA)