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WKU geoscientist to help lead new United Nations water project

A WKU geoscientist will help lead a new project titled IGCP 598: Environmental Change and Sustainability in Karst Systems under the auspices of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Geoscience Program.

Dr. Chris Groves, director of the WKU’s Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, will serve as a co-leader of the five-year project. He traveled to China last September to work with Chinese government scientists on the proposal for the initiative, whose approval was announced last week by UNESCO officials in Paris, France.

IGCP 598 has an international leadership team. In addition to Dr. Groves, the work will be led by Project Leader Zhang Cheng of China’s International Research Center on Karst, along with co-leaders Yuan Daoxian and Jiang Yongjun (China), Augusto Auler (Brazil), Martin Knez (Slovenia) and Bartolome Andreo (Spain).

Aims of the work include research to better understand how to protect water resources from changes in human land use that can contaminate water supplies; clarify geologic interactions that may influence global carbon cycling and, in turn, climate change; better understand methods for sustainable ecological and cultural resource protection; and refine interpretation of environmental records contained within karst systems.

“An exciting aspect of the project’s design,” Dr. Groves said, “is that it will merge basic and applied research by applying state-of-the-art hydrogeological concepts with participatory approaches that engage local, impacted communities.”

The work has a strong capacity building component with water resources-related training efforts already scheduled later this year in the United States, Europe and Asia.

The first business meeting for IGCP 598 will be held at WKU this June, during the International Conference on Karst Hydrogeology and Ecosystems, hosted by the Hoffman Institute. The conference is expected to draw more than 100 karst scientists from around the world, including many of the top names in the field.

“Dr. Groves’ ongoing engagement with this global-scale project is indicative of the Hoffman Institute’s and WKU’s international reach,” said Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling. “In addition, the ability to attract internationally recognized karst scientists to WKU for a conference that is truly global in scope is a testament to the quality of research conducted by the Hoffman Institute and to the efforts by Hoffman Institute faculty, staff, and students to focus attention on one of humankind’s biggest challenges – the protection of water resources across the planet.”

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

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