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Friday, 13 January 2012 14:13

Iowa Flood Center expands stream sensor network in Iowa


The Iowa Flood Center, based at the University of Iowa, has taken advantage of the state's unusually mild start to winter by continuing to install a second batch of 50 electronic stream stage sensors across Iowa. Now fully installed, the new instruments bring to 100 the number of affordable stream sensors purchased by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and installed on the downstream side of bridges by the Iowa Flood Center.


Developed in part by students at the center, the sensors use sonar to measure the distance to the water’s surface and send reports every 15 minutes to a database at the center’s UI headquarters so that Iowans have access to real-time monitoring of water levels in Iowa’s rivers and streams. A river and stream-level map of the data is available on the center's website (http://ut.iihr.uiowa.edu/ifis/#).


Flood center researchers say that Iowa, with its thousands of bridges, could benefit from an even wider network of information if more sensors were put into wider use. Such a system would enhance safety in the state by improving the ability to monitor stream levels and predict flooding, and by improving public preparedness.


In addition to developing a system of flood sensors and maps, the Iowa Flood Center plans to build a network to detect and record soil moisture content -- another factor involved in flooding.



Looking to the future, staff from the nearly three-year-old Iowa Flood Center are preparing a new proposal to the National Science Foundation to establish a $25 million National Flood Center. The UI’s experience with the Iowa Flood Center will make the proposal especially competitive. If funded, this new center will help establish Iowa as a national leader in flood-related research and education.


Newborn screening is the healthy first step for Iowa babies


A few drops of blood collected shortly after birth can mean the difference between a healthy future and a lifelong battle with chronic, debilitating conditions.  The State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa helps to make that difference for the approximately 40,000 babies born each year in the state.


Each year, 40 or more Iowa babies are identified with a congenital condition that, if left undetected and untreated, could result in irreversible neurological delays, coma or death.  Instead, they have the healthiest start possible in life.  How does this happen?

Shortly after the birth, six tiny drops of blood are collected from the baby’s heel.  From those few drops, the Hygienic Laboratory identifies more than 30 different conditions, including PKU and cystic fibrosis.


It’s all part of the Iowa Neonatal and Metabolic Screen Program that helps give babies the best possible start in life.


Like most things with newborns, time is of the essence.  The tiny drops of blood collected at birth must reach the Hygienic Lab’s Ankeny facility within 24 hours of to ensure the highest degree of accuracy.  A statewide courier system picks up the samples and delivers them to the laboratory, which conducts testing around the clock.

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