National Science Foundation
Water, Water, Everywhere: Training for Management of a Crucial Resource
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Cathy McNally and Doto Masamba, a Saadani park ranger, record river edge habitat conditions during an ecological reconnaissance of the Wami River in Tanzania.

Credit: Photo by Baraka Kalanghe
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From watershed hydrology to saltwater intrusion monitoring and modeling to numerical modeling of the hydrodynamics in the lower Mississippi River, the issues of water intensive ecosystem and environmental management, monitoring and understanding are critical for our country. Students learn firsthand how to deal with such interdisciplinary issues through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. 

Trainees from the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) IGERT program Assessing Change in Coastal Ecosystems: Integrating Natural and Social Sciences, led by Principal Investigator Peter August, integrates ecology, biology, fisheries, natural resources science and the social sciences -- including economics, governance, planning, coastal policy -- to develop the skills required for effective watershed management. In collaboration with the government of Tanzania, developed as part of the International training component of IGERT, and in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), trainee Cathy McNally is collecting baseline data on the Wami River watershed, which is the only water source for the world’s third fastest growing city, Dar es Salaam, located 80 miles north. She will add this information to the work she and others are conducting in the United States to develop a holistic view of watershed issues and management solutions. Trainee Kathy Sullivan also works in Tanzania, where she helps evaluate sustainable livelihood options as a method of better defining options for coastal environments. She is helping to assess the economics of seaweed farming and its watershed management impact. To prepare trainees for today’s global interdisciplinary research environment, URI’s IGERT project requires trainees to spend a semester in residence working on coastal issues in a non-academic setting.

As part of Louisiana State University’s (LSU) IGERT project on Multi-scale Computations of Fluid Dynamics, led by Principal Investigator Sumanta Acharya, trainees conduct research in coastal management from the perspective of modeling and intervention. Trainee Samantha Danachuk has taken advantage of her IGERT interdisciplinary training in engineering, environmental science, and computer science to develop a numerical model simulating the hydrodynamics in the lower Mississippi River. This work serves as the basis for understanding and guiding future petro-chemical developments on the river, which is especially important in light of the restoration plans called for in this area of the river. Another LSU IGERT trainee, Kevin Tubbs, has linked his interdisciplinary training to develop methods for modeling the effects of saltwater intrusion on subsurface and surface water resources -- a critically important issue in coastal areas.

The interdisciplinarity brought to bear on these problems transforms our ability to study them and to develop solutions to complex issues such as water management.

Partners: Government of Tanzania, U.S. Agency for International Development

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Image of tetrahedral mesh.

Credit: Nathan Lane and Karsten Thompson
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