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WKU group organizes water resource conference for scientists in China

Several WKU faculty and staff recently traveled to Kunming, China, to present the “Principles and Methods of Karst Resource Management” for scientists throughout southwest China.

The conference is part of the China Environmental Health Project (CEHP), a multi-year program of WKU’s Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the ENVIRON Foundation. The CEHP has been made possible through the support of Sen. Mitch McConnell.

The conference presented the most advanced karst and water research techniques and management practices currently available to China’s scientists and professionals, in order to develop China’s capacity to improve water availability and quality for human and environmental health. Millions of people that live in the karst region of Southwest China do not have reliable access to clean drinking water.

Hoffman Director Chris Groves and staff members Pat Kambesis, Priscilla Baker and Lee Anne Bledsoe traveled to Kunming to present research at the conference. Other conference presenters included Patrick Reed, Superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park; Rudy D’Alessandro, National Park Service Office for International Affairs, Washington, D.C.; Dr. Rickard Toomey, director of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning; and WKU geoscience graduate students Chrissie Hollon and Erin Lynch. WKU photojournalism faculty members James Kenney and Tim Broekema documented the conference and WKU’s continuing work in China.

The conference was attended by almost 100 Chinese scientists and students and was coordinated with the help of Southwest University of China, Beibei, and the Yunnan Provincial Geologic Survey in Kunming. Chief hydrologists from Yunnan, Guangxi and Hunan Provinces and Chongqing Municipality attended the conference, as well as environmental officials, professors and students from six government agencies and five universities. Also, as part of the goal of CEHP to “train the trainers,” previous workshop attendees from 2007 and 2008 presented at the conference in Kunming.

In addition to the three-day conference, conference speakers attended a sister-park agreement signing ceremony between Mammoth Cave National Park and the South China Karst World Heritage Sites at Stone Forest National Park in Shilin.

“I am proud to be here on this auspicious day to celebrate the pairing of our two World Heritage Sites, which preserve some of the world’s most spectacular, scenic and scientifically important karst landscapes,” Reed said at the ceremony.

“Water quality is one of the areas where we share common interests with our sister parks in China,” Reed said. “Through this conference and extensive prior work by Western Kentucky University faculty and staff, we have already begun to share practical information to improve water quality in China.  In the future we will exchange best management practices and techniques, as well as lessons learned, science and research, information, data, technology and training.”

These events received attention from American Consul General David Brown from Chengdu, China who spoke at the signing ceremony at Shilin Stone Forest and State Department representative Tahra Vose from the U.S. Embassy who attended the conference and signing ceremony.

“Mammoth Cave National Park is grateful for the outstanding partnership we have with Western Kentucky University,” Reed said. “We look forward to continuing our work with WKU and our new Chinese Sister Parks in promoting international cooperation and our combined efforts to protect these spectacular World Heritage Sites.”

“Although WKU’s cooperative efforts with Mammoth Cave go back decades,” Groves said, “these interactions raise this to a whole new level and exemplify WKU’s goal of developing international reach.”

Contact: Chris Groves at (270) 745-5974.

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