UCSB alumnus Mark Kram, founder of Groundswell Technologies, Inc., is developing environmental monitoring software that seeks to improve current methods of resource management.
Groundswell, created by Kram in 2004, is working in conjunction with Trifecta Global Infrastructure Solutions to create a system of web-based, integrated sensors that release real-time data to help researchers examine potential environmental and ecological hazards, including pollution and water distribution. The platform, Waiora 2.0, will be the first to allow users to track changes in four dimensions, using a 3D model that plots data over time.
Kram will be unveiling Waiora 2.0 at the UCSB Alumni Association on Feb. 27.
According to Kram, the program excels in combining a wide range of tools into one monitoring system, making it highly streamlined and user-friendly.
“We’ve integrated sensors, telemetry, geographical information systems and automated geospatial processing, visualization, reporting and archiving through an Internet platform,” Kram said. “If you are interested in pollutant distributions and changes over time, we can deploy sensors and, through a project website, track the concentration changes over time and space. This helps with understanding how best to remediate and allows users to determine how effectively remediation efforts are proceeding.”
Kram said Waiora also provides a tool to pinpoint particular problem areas that are leading to ecological problems, helping developers use the Earth’s resources in the most efficient manner possible.
“Our platform generates maps of the changes in water level distributions as well as estimates of total volumetric changes between selected time steps,” Kram said. “These types of analyses typically require a lot of manpower, laboratory or field analyses and time. We can now generate actionable information and conceptualizations in a matter of seconds, where conventional approaches require weeks, months or sometimes even years. In some cases, we can even automate the responses.”
A 2003 Government Accountability Office Report revealed that about 75 percent of the U.S. has water levels below the threshold for sustainable development, something Kram said Waiora aims to
improve upon by providing policymakers with constantly updated data on natural resources.
Geomorphology and hydrology professor Thomas Dunne said Kram’s fresh techniques have been an important contribution to sustainable development.
“He was a very talented innovator with very strong technical skills, and he has the imagination to integrate different technologies and to see a wide range of applications,” Dunne said. “He is perceptive [and] exceptionally broad[-minded], and that is much needed in the field of environmental science.”
Sanya Sirivithayapakorn, a classmate of Kram’s at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, said his program will set the foundation for further expansion of resource management tools.
“By integrating the new technology with the creativity, we could create a new technique that could become a new practice for the environmental monitoring and remediation works,” Sirivithayapakorn said. “This is really exciting to me and perhaps to most people that are working in this field.”
Kram received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCSB in 1983 and later earned a Ph.D. from the Bren School in 2002. In 2011, he won the Technology Award from the National Ground Water Association for his contributions in monitoring groundwater supplies.