Michelle Hummel: Graduating Researcher of the Hydro Research Foundation

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of profiles provided by the Hydro Research Foundation that highlight potential future members of the hydroelectric power industry and their accomplishments.

The Hydro Research Foundation is actively supporting graduate students to conduct research related to conventional and pumped storage hydropower. These students are funded through the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program and industry partners through a two-year grant.

Michelle Hummel is a doctoral student studying environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her masters degree in environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and her bachelors degree in civil engineering from Case Western Reserve University. Hummel has worked as an intern with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and MWH Global, an international wet infrastructure and water engineering company.

She has also worked on research projects studying the impact of forest fires on mercury binding in soils and analyzing the distribution of worldwide regulatory standards for chlorophenol contamination in surface soils. As a student member of Engineers Without Borders, Hummel traveled to the Dominican Republic to assist community members in a rural village with the design and construction of a system to supply clean, safe water to their homes.

She is also a student member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Hummel has completed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and has received the designation of Engineer in Training. She is particularly interested in water resources engineering and in finding ways to balance multiple objectives in water management, including increasing water supply reliability, reducing flood risk, maximizing hydropower benefits, and enhancing ecosystem functionality to protect species and the environment.

Hummel completed her final research report for her award early June with the support of Dr. Slawomir Hermanowicz and has been working with, Dr. Michael Sale at the Low Impact Hydropower Institute and Dr. Paul Jacobson with the Electric Power Research Institute. The title of her report is, “Restoring Flow Regimens after Dam Construction and Operation: Evidence from Dynamic Systems Theory.” Her full report can be found here.

Excerpted from Hummel’s work:

Dams provide a variety of benefits to society, including hydropower generation, flood control, recreation, and water supply for municipal, industrial, and agricultural customers. However, constructing and operating dams for these purposes can negatively impact downstream ecosystems by altering natural flow regimes and interfering with the lifecycles of aquatic and riparian species. Increased concern from environmental interests has put pressure on dam operators to quantify the flow regime changes that have resulted from dam construction and to evaluate how future modifications to dam releases may impact river systems.

In this study, we present a method for analyzing the impact of dam operations by reconstructing system trajectories from hydrologic flow time series for different periods of dam operation (pre-dam, post-dam, and post-modification). We apply these methods to flow data from eight rivers in the US to determine the dimensionality of each operating period and to analyze trends based on the primary purpose of dam operation. Hydropower dams operated without flow restrictions exhibit high dimensional, stochastic behavior.

However, the system dimensionality is reduced to approximately three variables when ramping restrictions are implemented, or in cases where an afterbay is present to reregulate flows. This low dimensional behavior is more similar to natural flow regimes. For dams operated primarily for flood control or water supply, the flow regimes are typically low dimensional and more deterministic.

Hummel will be finishing her PhD in the coming years and looks forward to a career in Water Resources. To connect with Hummel or learn more about the Research Awards Program please email info@hydrofoundation.org or visit the website www.hydrofoundation.org


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