September 2021

Dr. Elad Levintal

Elad Levintal

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Dr. Levintal, Vaadia-BARD postdoctoral fellow, was nominated in 2020 postdoctoral scholar for outstanding research contributions to science for a singular scholarly work 

What got you interested in groundwater research and environmental hydrology?

Climate change and growing water demand impose rising threats to water security. One approach to mitigate these threats is to investigate new strategies for sustainable water management. The lab of Prof. Helen Dahlke at the University of California, Davis, does research on water resource-related processes and agro-environmental systems. Together with my knowledge of mechanisms responsible for gas exchange at the land-atmosphere boundary, I hope to improve our knowledge on global water security.

What impact did the BARD graduate student scholarship (2017) have on your work? 

The BARD graduate student scholarship I received in 2017 allowed me to study novel principles in the field of open-source hardware and gain access to one of the leading laboratories in this field – the OPEnS lab at Oregon State University led by Prof. John Selker and Dr. Chet Udell. Currently, at my postdoctoral research, I am utilizing this knowledge to develop and integrate new open-source, low-cost sensor arrays that simultaneously measure multiple soil parameters, including CO2, O2, and water content.

What is the main focus of your Postdoc work?

As a postdoctoral scholar at Prof. Helen Dahlke’s lab, my main research focuses on the environmental impacts of an emerging method for sustainable groundwater management named agricultural managed aquifer recharge. In this method, farmland is intentionally flooded in the winter with excess surface water to recharge the groundwater.

The method has received increasing attention from policymakers in recent years, and we are currently assessing its feasibility and environmental risks. We are conducting large-scale field experiments at three different sites in California’s Central Valley. The outcomes of this research will be used by California stakeholders to better design and implement projects to overcome California’s growing groundwater overdraft.

In addition, I am developing new, inter- and intra-connected open-source monitoring systems that are both affordable and provide high-resolution spatiotemporal data. These data can be used for precision agricultural and data-driven decisions.

How did the Covid-19 quarantines impact your research?

COVID-19 restrictions started two months after I arrived with my family to California. The pandemic resulted in unexpected challenges and required creative solutions to deal with the new normality. Luckily it didn’t significantly impact my research. I have an amazing team in the lab, which is a major key for our successful fieldwork. In addition, Helen, my PI, provided full support and peace of mind that are essential during the pandemic.

What tip would you give someone just beginning a career in agricultural research? 

Because agricultural research is a diverse scientific area, I would recommend being familiar with several disciplines and develop a holistic approach before specializing in a specific area. I also recommend consulting with experts in your fields of interest to get a good/clear idea of the current and future research trajectories. This will help to develop a personal research agenda, which I believe is essential as you progress in academia. And of course, you need to enjoy this journey!