Squaw Creek meanders quietly through Ames, Iowa, often with so little flow that you couldn’t launch a toy boat from its shores. And then there are the summers when Squaw Creek has barreled through campus, dumping as much as 14 feet of water into Hilton Coliseum and flooding the surrounding land.
Kristie Franz is working to understand how water moves over land and through stream channels to shed light on flooding. Franz is associate professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and professor in charge of Iowa State’s meteorology program. Here in Squaw Creek, Franz measures the river discharge – its rate of flow through a section of the stream channel. She’s interested in discharge because it tells a story about how water travels in a watershed. The discharge data helps her and her research team build models of this behavior.
“In this area, flooding is economically very costly,” she says. “It can shut down the city. Our modeling efforts are geared toward improving our ability to predict floods – to get people out of the way and protect buildings and businesses.”
Water has always played a big role in Franz’s life. A river was a prominent feature of her Wisconsin hometown, and the citizens hold an annual Pure Water Days Festival. Franz holds degrees in geology, hydrology and water resources, and civil engineering.She’s been on the faculty at Iowa State since 2006.