As undergrads, we often wonder how people got to be where they are, but for Vic Adamowicz the answer is simple, “Researching in Panama is a nice winter activity when you live in Canada”. In all actuality though, he was intrigued when he learned that the water levels in the Panama Canal can get so low during the dry seasons that shipping freights often have to repackage their ships, to redistribute the weight, and many times the canal puts a limit on how many ships can be sent through daily. Vic Adamowicz is trying to find a way to work with local landowners to see if they would be willing to plant trees that would hold more water in the dry season, but first, he and his team have to figure out if the benefits would outweigh the costs.
The tactic that he is utilizing is formally called the Sponge Effect. The simple explanation of how it works is that water is soaked up by the spongy pores of the earth during the rainy season and then slowly released during the dry season. To figure out if this would actually work, Adamowicz has partnered with a Hydrologist to guide him in his studies. They have decided to focus the study on hydrological benefits, land use costs, hydrology, extent of the market, water management options, alternative investments, and have decided to not account for carbon or biodiversity of water quality. Through all of this, they have discovered that green infrastructure might not win in the Panama Canal.
To learn more about this topic, look for articles on the Panama Canal and the research put out by Vic Adamowicz. Also, do not forget to visit the website (www.apec.umn.edu) to find out when the next seminar is so that you can learn about these topics first hand.