Matthew Kirby Awarded NSF Grant to Study California’s Precipitation History

Matthew Kirby Matthew Kirby, professor of geological sciences, was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for his project, Collaborative Research: The California Precipitation Dipole: Variability and Forcings Over the Past 3000 Years. Co-principal investigators on the $345,802 grant are: Joe Carlin, assistant professor of geological sciences; Reza Ramezan, assistant professor of mathematics; and Kevin Nichols, assistant professor of mathematics. Kirby is also collaborating with principal investigator Glen MacDonald at UCLA, who received $193,430 from the NSF. The project, to investigate California’s precipitation history, is in response to the state’s constant fresh water problem. This problem is intensified by the state’s complex water geography, frequently characterized by a North-South antiphased precipitation (ppt.) regime. Where California receives precipitation is as important as how much it receives.

The project will investigate the history of where and why it rains in the state over the past 3,000 years. Knowing this is critical to water management, water storage infrastructure and water conveyance from regions of excess to regions of deficit. As the United States’ largest state economy, the health of California is important to the health of the country.

To accomplish the proposal’s goal, the investigators will extract mud from three lakes. Like a history book, these tubes of mud record California’s ppt. history. They will study the mud’s physical, chemical and biological properties to infer a history of floods, droughts, vegetation change and fire activity. Training STEM underrepresented students is a key component of the study.