Eye on EESI Research

Brandon Forsythe (photo)

April 2016

On any given day, you might find Brandon Forsythe trekking through the woods, wading in a babbling stream or paddling out on a lake.

It might sound like a peaceful vacation, but for Brandon it's another day in the office.

Brandon, an EESI research assistant, is responsible for maintaining the many instruments, gages and sensors out in the field that make up Penn State's Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory.

It's no small task. There are hundreds of pieces of equipment in the CZO, located in Penn State's Stone Valley Forest. The technology measures everything from metrological and atmospheric parameters all the way down to measurements deep under the soil.

There's a lot of equipment, and even more data being collected, aimed at better our understanding of the "critical zone," the thin outer layer of Earth that sustains life. The interdisciplinary work looks at the impact of water as it move from the canopy of trees through the top layer of the earth into the bedrock below, including the chemistry of those interactions.

It's the collaborative nature of the project that drew Brandon to Penn State.

"I like the interdisciplinary approach of this position," he said. "That was one of my biggest draws. There's a lot more involvement, lots of opportunities to learn."

Brandon received his degree from Alaska Pacific University and worked for the US Geological Survey in Alaska conducting stream gaging and water quality sampling projects in that state. He later worked for the USGS in Pennsylvania before coming to Penn State.