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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Health assessment of earth dams in Lebanon: towards sustainable development

PI:  Naji Khoury (Notre Dame University-Louaize)
U.S. Partner: Michael A. Mooney (Colorado School of Mines)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2016
In this project researchers will use accepted scientific and engineering procedures to study earth dams in Lebanon in order to advance scientific and applied knowledge about best practices for building and monitoring earth dams. This will be accomplished by visually inspecting dams for deficiencies, using geophysical techniques to assess dams and monitor their integrity, and modeling internal erosion using a support vector machine. Development of these models can help predict the performance and health of earth dams and add to existing models on the erosion characteristics of soils.

Lebanon 1
The research team collects soil core samples at Laqlouq for laboratory testing (Photo courtesy Dr. Khoury).

Lebanon 2
Dr. Khoury and his team of undergraduate research assistants discuss visual inspection of the earth dams in Laqlouq (Photo courtesy Dr. Khoury).

Three educational aims complement the research work and add to the scientific merit. The program includes plans for recruiting and mentoring high school and undergraduate students, particularly women and persons with disabilities, to help them gain experience in engineering research; developing a program to introduce high school students and persons with disabilities to sustainable practices in civil engineering; and organizing workshops on sustainable engineering for use in high schools and public forums. The educational component of this project will give remote communities access to information about building and maintaining earth dams. As communities become familiar with appropriate techniques, they will not only experience economic growth but will also be able to advocate for policy changes regarding dam construction and maintenance. On the broader international level, the scientific community at large can use the results in future research on understanding earth dam behavior, and data collected during the project can be added to the international database on earth dams.

Summary of Recent Activities

During the first three months of 2014, the project team made field trips to Laqlouq and Tarshish in order to map out and assess additional earth dams for testing during the spring 2014 round of fieldwork. Laboratory testing on bulk samples collected in the fall 2013 round of fieldwork continued. Sieve analysis, Atterberg limits, and Proctor tests were completed, and permeability, direct shear, consolidation, and triaxial testing have started.
The project has developed a significant social media component. The group recruited an additional undergraduate research assistant to develop the website at <>. A host was purchased for the site, and the research team has created accounts on Facebook and Twitter, with an Instagram account in development.
In the next three to six months, lab testing will continue. Field trips to previously assessed lakes are planned, in addition to field tests at new lakes. Additional meetings will be held with the mayor of Laqlouq. Training for undergraduate students will continue, and one or two high-school students will be recruited through the Notre Dame-Louaize admissions office to spend a summer in Dr. Khoury’s lab working closely with the undergraduate research assistants. In addition, the PI is expected to start developing the “Engineering Their Future” program in collaboration with local high schools. The program will give students the opportunity to visit Dr. Khoury’s lab once a month during the academic year to shadow civil engineers and researchers while being mentored by undergraduates.
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