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Workshop to focus on forming a KU water research community

Wed, 09/11/2013

LAWRENCE — Water is on everyone’s mind this summer, with mounting evidence of dwindling aquifers, extended drought and receding ice sheets. Water is also on the minds of more than 100 University of Kansas faculty and staff members, who will gather this week to define and discuss opportunities for new collaborative research on a host of water-related topics.

The Water Research Workshop is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at The Commons, located in Spooner Hall. KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeff Vitter will address the group, as will Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Steve Warren. Karen Flournoy, director of the Water, Wetlands and Pesticides Division for Region 7 of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a guest speaker. Susan Stover, manager of High Plains Issues at the Kansas Water Office, will serve as moderator.

“KU has many resources for water research,” said Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey and a member of the planning committee. “We are home to a number of centers, departments and museums that do an amazing amount of research involving biodiversity and the quality, availability and use of water. Some of the best water-related researchers in the world are faculty and staff at KU.”

Another workshop organizer, Ed Martinko, director of the Kansas Biological Survey, said, “The grand challenge with water research goes well beyond science and engineering. To understand it we need to engage the humanities, the arts, the social sciences and education. KU has research strengths in all these areas and the workshop is an opportunity to bring them together to think about water in new and challenging ways.”

KU faculty and staff from more than 30 different departments and research centers will participate in small-group discussions designed to identify high-priority water-related topics. A second round of discussions will focus on these topics and identify cores of interested KU researchers willing to work together. Participants will also learn about university resources available to sustain this effort.  

“The goal of the workshop is to develop a grassroots community of water researchers at KU,” said Tricia Bergman, managing director for collaborative energy initiatives in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. “We anticipate this being the start of a long-term effort that engages a network of KU researchers with one another and the populations affected by these issues.”

The workshop reflects several of the themes expressed in Bold Aspirations, KU’s strategic plan. These include “Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World” and “Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities.” The plan also encourages “scholarly activities that have direct public impact” and that “engage local, state, national, and global communities as partners.”



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