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WKU scientists visit southwest China to conduct karst water resource training

Two scientists from WKU’s China Environmental Health Project (CEHP) returned this week from rural southwest China where they trained government scientists in techniques for understanding and protecting karst water resources.

Sean Vanderhoff (upper right) works with Chinese geologists and local villagers to identify groundwater monitoring points in northern Guangxi’s remote Zhang Jia Village.

Sean Vanderhoff of Louisville, a recent graduate of WKU master’s in geoscience program, joined Dr. Chris Groves, CEHP and Hoffman Institute director, traveling to the Institute of Karst Geology (IKG) in Guilin. There they gave lectures and participated in fieldwork describing specialized methods of underground water tracing to support both water resource protection and joint U.S./China efforts to measure aspects of the global carbon cycle.

The Institute of Karst Geology is China’s premier karst research facility and operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Land and Resources. Much of its work is focused on understanding and finding solutions to water supply and quality problems in China’s karst regions, which impact tens of millions of mostly rural people.

The China Environmental Health Project, a program of WKU’s Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, works to develop partnerships in China and internationally to enhance China’s academic capacity building in environmental health and resource protection. Through 30 WKU trips to China since 1995, and supported by numerous visits of Chinese scientists to WKU, the joint teams have set up laboratories, implemented training seminars and fieldwork for scientists and government officials, and published papers in scientific journals. Most of this work has been under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The pair gave several lectures and conducted fieldwork in the Maocun Groundwater Basin near Guilin, which is a sister research site with Lost River Cave in Bowling Green. Vanderhoff also visited Southwest University in Chongqing to evaluate conditions at a groundwater tracing laboratory there established by CEHP in 2007, and he also gave several more lectures to about 50 scientists and graduate students.

“This was the perfect opportunity for Sean to use the experience he developed as a graduate student at WKU to help our Chinese colleagues develop new skills in groundwater protection,” Groves said. “The same technology is also providing direct benefits to China’s serious efforts to quantify CO2 budgeting and how it is impacting climate change.”

The trip and related efforts were supported by matching grants from the Chinese government and WKU’s Office of Research through its Research and Creative Activity (RCAP) Program.

Dr. David Keeling, Geography and Geology Department Head, noted: “Dr. Groves’ engagement with the Chinese on matters of global scientific importance is a wonderful example of WKU’s international reach. Our mission in the department is to engage with communities across the planet to help address the most pressing resource issues of the 21st century. The CEHP is one of many exciting opportunities for faculty, students, and colleagues directed by the Hoffman Institute that are making a real difference in people’s lives.”

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

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