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My research is in the area of surface water hydrology at the disciplinary interface between hydrology and information technology.  I focus on advancing the capability for hydrologic prediction by developing models that take advantage of new information and process understanding enabled by new technology. I strive to advance understanding through research that integrates information from multiple sourcese and synthesizes modeling and numerical analysis with field observations and hydrologic information systems.  This is motivated by the problems faced by hydrologists being multi-faceted and the need to advance and tailor computing systems to the needs of hydrologists to pursue the general understanding needed to advance physically based hydrologic prediction. 

I lead the development of HydroShare (www.hydroshare.org), a hydrologic information system for sharing hydrologic data and models operated by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc.  HydroShare is a platform for users to share and publish data and models in a variety of flexible formats, and to make this information available in a citable, shareable and discoverable manner in support of transparent and reproducible science. Hydroshare also includes tools (web apps) that can act on content in HydroShare providing users with a gateway to computing and analysis.  I also work on terrain analysis for hydrology, terrain stability mapping and stream sediment inputs, geomorphology, stochastic and nonparametric statistical methods in hydrology, and snow hydrology. My group has developed and supports open source software packages implementing many of the research capabilities developed.  This includes the Terrain Analysis using Digital Elevation Models (TauDEM) package for derivation of hydrologic information from digital elevation models, and the Utah Energy Balance snowmelt model. 

My work includes the use of Geographic Information Systems to take advantage of spatially distributed information for hydrologic prediction.  I believe that models serve as a way to codify and make precise our understanding as well as apply this understanding to practical and management purposes. My general approach to research focuses on the following objectives:

  • Development of a sound physical understanding of the processes involved.
  • Incorporation of this physical understanding into concise parameterizations of the important processes.
  • Development of precise representations of the physical environment and information system tools for using this representation in numerical models.
  • Recognition of nonlinearity, physical feedbacks and interactions which lead to interesting behavior which needs to be understood.
  • Recognition of heterogeneity and spatial variability. The development of techniques (often statistical) to account for heterogeneity and spatial variability.

Current Projects

  • The Catena Foundation.  Future of the Colorado River, John C Schmidt, David Tarboton. 11/27/18-1/15/2020.
  • National Science Foundation award 1835569. Collaborative Research: Framework: Software: NSCI : Computational and data innovation implementing a national community hydrologic modeling framework for scientific discovery. Reed Maxwell (PI), Ilkay Altintas, Catherine Olschanowsky, Alejandro Flores, Laura Condon, Michelle Strout, Paul Constantine, David Tarboton, Jerad Bales. 10/1/2018-9/30/2022.
  • The Walton Family Foundation. Future of the Colorado River, John C Schmidt, Bethany Neilson, David Rosenberg, David Tarboton. 7/1/2018-6/30/2019.
  • National Science Foundation award 1664061. Collaborative Research, HydroShare: Cyberinfrastructure for Advancing Hydrologic Knowledge through Collaborative Integration of Data Science, Modeling and Analysis. David Tarboton, Dan Ames, Martyn Clark, Alva Couch, Jeffery S. Horsburgh, Ray Idaszak, Michael J. Stealey, Hong Yi, Shaowen Wang. 10/1/2017-9/30/2021.
  • National Science Foundation award 1639655. EarthCube Building Blocks: Collaborative Proposal: GeoTrust: Improving Sharing and Reproducibility of Geoscience Applications, Tanu Malik, Ian Foster, Scott Peckham, Jon Goodall, Asti Bhatt, Eunseo Choi, David Tarboton, 9/1/2016-8/31/2018.
  • National Science Foundation award 1725989. Collaborative Research: Improving Student Learning in Hydrology & Water Resources Engineering by Enabling the Development, Sharing and Interoperability of Active Learning Resources, Emad Habib, Khalid Elgazzar, Doug Williams, David Tarboton, Dan Ames, James Nelson, 9/1/2017-8/31/2021.
  • William Penn Foundation/Stroud Water Research Center. Wiki Watershed Web Toolkit for Advancing Water Quality Restoration in Delaware River Basin, David Tarboton, Jeff Horsburgh, 2/1/2017-1/31/2019.
  • NASA/Riverside Technology Inc., Advancing Water Supply Forecasts in the Colorado River Basin for Improved Decision Making, D. G. Tarboton, 3/18/2015-3/17/2019.

Completed Projects