University of South Carolina’s Alicia Wilson to discuss subseafloor hydrogeology discovery

Feb. 1 lecture is part of URI’s Biological and Environmental Sciences Colloquium

KINGSTON, R.I. – Jan. 27, 2023 – The University of Rhode Island’s Biological and Environmental Sciences Colloquium will host Alicia Wilson, professor of hydrogeology and director of the School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of South Carolina, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. in Potter Hall at the Kingston Free Library, 2605 Kingstown Road.

Wilson’s visit to URI is part of a national tour of the Henry Darcy Groundwater Lecture Series in Groundwater Science, presented by the Groundwater Foundation. The lecture is free and open to the public. It will also be streamed on Zoom. URI geosciences professors Chris Russoniello and Dawn Cardace organized Wilson’s visit.

Wilson’s lecture, “Subseafloor Hydrogeology: Moving Beyond Watersheds,” will explore how the field of submarine groundwater discharge was launched in the 1990s by the remarkable discovery – through naturally occurring isotopic tracers – that saline groundwater was discharging to the South Atlantic Bight in very large volumes. Further studies have found that saline groundwater discharges to the Atlantic Ocean in volumes that rival river discharges, and the volume of nutrients in the saline discharges also exceeds river discharges.

“Hydrogeology is the study of water moving through the ground. Almost all hydrogeologists focus on terrestrial groundwater – water stored in aquifers beneath the land. Watersheds are areas that drain to one point through such flowpaths as rivers and groundwater and are core to a hydrologist’s understanding of water flowing from the land to the sea. They inherently exist only on land, and do not exist in the ocean,” said Russoniello.

“Alicia’s work looks at water that is in the sediments beneath the ocean. Water is stored in and flows through these sands, clays and gravels that can be up to kilometers in thickness,” he added. “Her talk will show how water flowing through these sediments can carry solutes from the land to the sea, and how these flowpaths are impacted by the ocean, changing sea levels, and what happens on land.” 

A fellow of the Geological Society of America, Wilson specializes in coastal hydrogeology with a focus on coastal ecohydrology and submarine groundwater exchange. She is chair of the society’s Hydrogeology Division. Wilson holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, a master’s degree from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.