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National Science Foundation Grant Targets Water Quality in Developing Countries

Research will Take Buffalo State Students to Thailand and Cambodia

Posted: October 2, 2007
Professors Kim Irvine and Stephen Vermette of the Geography and Planning Department at Buffalo State College have received a $99,306 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund undergraduate research. Six students will be selected to research wastewater treatment practices and the assessment of drinking water quality in developing countries during the summers of 2008 and 2009.

Three teams of two students will work at locations across the globe with this project, with one group in Thailand and the other two in Cambodia.

“Our students will gain valuable experience in addressing both the science and social aspects of such problems in cultural settings very different from their own,” said Irvine, who also serves as chair of the Geography and Planning Department. “This project will challenge the student’s critical thinking skills, including the basic assumptions they make, as they embark on a scientific investigation.”

In Thailand, students will work with faculty and doctoral students at the Asian Institute of Technology on a combination of field sampling, field experiments, and integrated modeling for environmental sanitation planning, with application to a constructed sewage treatment wetland.

In Cambodia, one team will work with a non-government organization, Resource Development International-Cambodia, on a project to sample and analyze drinking water quality in rural wells. The second team will work with faculty and students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on an existing project to assess the efficiency of the wetland system surrounding Phnom Penh in treating the city’s waste.

“Access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation in the developing world through sustainable and technologically appropriate means remains an important challenge,” Irvine said. “This research will allow future U.S. scientists to experience how international collaborations are important for working in the global scientific context. With increasing globalization of markets, business, and the environment, the U.S. will require scientists capable of operating effectively in the international arena.”

Doug Graber Neufeld, associate professor of biology at Eastern Mennonite University, partnered with Irvine and Vermette on the project. Students from EMU, which is located in Harrisonburg, Va., will participate with Buffalo State students in the research settings.
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