Case Study: The ICNet REU Freeze-Thaw Research Project

The Freeze-Thaw case study is an example research project for the ICNet research community. It documents the impact of climate change on freeze-thaw conditions in low-volume roads and provides comprehensive documentation on the methods used to conduct this research.

  1. Background
    1. Introduction
    2. About the Project
  2. Case Study Findings
    1.  Planning
      1. Project Overview: plan of action created to guide the project
      2. Project Scope of Work: outline of the planned actions and those taken by the team
    2. Methods and Practices
      1. Literature Review Synopsis: review of the peer-reviewed publications relevant to the project
      2. Outreach Synopsis: summary of the feedback received from climate scientists on methods and processes at a midway point in the project
      3. Outreach Presentation: presentation given to those who provided feedback (.pdf)
    3. Research Report: (coming soon) technical report of the study methods and results
    4. Moving Forward
      1. Future Research: list of questions and parameters that could not be covered by this project given the time frame but are of interest
      2. Lessons Learned: summary of feedback given by members of the team and those involved with the project on what was done well and what could have used improvement

 

Introduction

The ICNet was founded to bridge the gap between infrastructure and climate change research. To support this goal, the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project was conducted in order to: 1. better understand how future changes in temperature would impact freeze-thaw conditions in low-volume roads and 2. complete a relatively straight-forward study in order to document the methods used, serving as an example research project for the ICNet research community. The latter objective addresses the scarcity of information on how to conduct research at the interface of infrastructure and climate change.

To encourage infrastructure and climate change research, the ICNet developed a tiered research guide applicable to a broad range of audiences with varying levels of expertise, whether one is new to either topic or a researcher looking to conduct their own study. This case study document is as an integrated component and complementary piece to this product. It is an example of a completed research project that has been thoroughly documented from start to finish. The case study documents are intended to reflect, as reliably as possible, the details involved with conducting a study at the intersection of climate change and infrastructure. In addition to this case study, the ICNet Research Guide provides a generalized a framework that includes steps involved with infrastructure and climate change research, as well as some helpful resources.

About the project

The REU project was conducted by six graduate and undergraduate students from a number of universities who worked on the study under the supervision of five professionals from climate, engineering, research, and communications fields. The project was based at the University of New Hampshire and took place in under three months during the summer of 2015. File sharing systems and conference calls were used to maintain communication with off-site team members. Weekly meetings were held to discuss progress and tasks and to ensure that all team members were fully informed about all aspect of the project, even those with which they were not directly involved.

Team members were each assigned to focus on data processing and automation, output analysis, background research, and/or communications. These tasks included addressing the common challenges faced by civil engineers who wish to use the output from future climate models, as well as historical data on climate conditions. For example, the automation task aimed to demonstrate how to preprocess climate model output to format it as required for input to a problem-specific engineering model. It also demonstrated how to utilize output from numerous climate models and emission scenarios, which is a necessary practice to deal with uncertainty in future forecasting. These and other tasks and solutions are fully documented in the case study.

Over the course of the project, several levels of feedback and outreach presentations were conducted. Early on in the study, the team conducted a number of outreach meetings with climate scientists who had experience working with climate models. The results of these meetings are summarized here. Follow-up meetings and discussions with roadway infrastructure specialists yielded a significant amount of helpful feedback that was incorporated into the process and presentation of the results. Several iterations of a summary presentation were developed in order to share findings and receive further feedback. The research guide was developed concurrently to this study, and much of the guide is adapted from the best practices either discovered or implemented during the REU project. A meeting was held to discuss pilot studies with engineering and general researchers; pilot study versions of the guide were subsequently created. The content of the research guide and all of its components were reviewed by professionals from both the infrastructure and climate change fields. With the feedback gathered from these outreach and communications efforts, the REU project was able to continuously update and improve, striving to create the best model of work for this case study. The documents linked above describe the technical aspects of this case study.