Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Dorothy J Vesper

Committee Co-Chair

Joseph J Donovan

Committee Member

Harry Edenborn

Committee Member

Nicolas Zegre


Sinkholes and sinking streams are examples of karst features that can serve as direct pathways for contaminants, including non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs), to quickly enter karst aquifers. Once NAPLs are in karst aquifers, their fate and transport is difficult to predict and is not well understood. In this study, floating hydrogel tracer beads (HTBs) are developed and tested to help gain a better understanding of the fate and transport of NAPLs. The HTBs are formed by cross-linked sodium alginate polymers that can be made with different fluorescent pigments and density-modifying additives. The focus of this research was on the development and testing of an optical method for quantifying HTB transport. This optical quantification method records the transport of fluorescent HTBs as they move under an apparatus holding ultraviolet lights and a camera. HTBs transport is video recorded and then quantified using an image analysis algorithm. The method was validated in tracer tests of short duration at the Experimental Stream Facility in Milford, OH and applied in tracer tests of long duration at Buckeye Creek Cave, WV. The results of these tests agreed well, but suggest that the optical quantification method is better suited for tracer tests of short duration in controlled environments.;Comparative tracer tests using sodium chloride and buoyant HTBs were conducted at both sites when the optical quantification method was being tested. In the Experimental Stream Facility tests, the buoyant HTBs traveled at a higher velocity and lower mean transit time than did the sodium chloride. The faster travel time for the particle tracers agreed with what is reported in the literature. In contrast, in the Buckeye Creek Cave tests, which were conducted under low-flow conditions, the buoyant HTBs traveled at a lower velocity and a higher mean transit time than did the sodium chloride. These findings suggest that the relative transport of particle and solute tracers may vary with hydraulic conditions.