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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

PEER Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU): freshwater science and policy in the human-dominated Tigris River Basin

PI: Christy Jo Geraci (The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani)
U.S. Partners: Ann Rypstra and David Berg (Miami University of Ohio)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2015

This proposal will create a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in freshwater science and policy in the human-dominated Tigris River Basin. The REU will be liked with a new curriculum with research opportunities to teach students at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) about water resources and development. This program will immerse undergraduates in science as it is done in American liberal arts-style, inquiry-based learning, a first for Iraq. By rooting the REU in the AUIS Core Program, Dr. Geraci and her team will proceed with its mission in mind (“to cultivate self-reliant, educated minds”). In this new learning community, they will develop human capital by teaching students about argument, scientific method, statistics, research, and scientific writing—all in the context of water resources. The training the students will undergo will be broadly scientific and will push them to be thinkers, doers, and leaders in their own right. They will be able to formulate research questions, deploy the scientific method to seek answers, employ appropriate tools and techniques to collect data, and use statistical methods and software to analyze data. They will be able, throughout, to approach these processes critically, place them in the larger contexts of politics and development, and, at the end, competently present their findings.

Iraq 1
American University of Iraq, Sulaimani students traveled to Nature Iraq’s EcoCamp on Peramagroon Mountain (Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).

Iraq 2
The AUIS students went on an all-day field trip that included hands-on training in water quality monitoring (Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).

Further development of human capital will take place in subsequent courses. Freshwater Science and Water Policy in Iraq will both address advanced topics—water science, use, policy and management in Iraq and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa. In these courses, students will do research and gain their first firm experience in being scientists/policy analysts. The Freshwater Science course will prepare students for basic research by giving them laboratory and field experience, while the Water Policy in Iraq course will prepare students for policy research. Both courses will push students to think critically about how the Tigris River basin is linked to regional development. After completing one of these courses, some will visit the United States to join the Miami REU, while others will do original research on water in Iraq.

Summary of Recent Activities

In the spring semester of 2014, PEER project activities have revolved around the PEER Learning Community. Each of the 10 students enrolled in the Technical Writing and Freshwater Science courses has been working on a research proposal on a topic of his or her choice, in addition to smaller assignments such as an ethics memo, synthesis and presentation of water quality data, and regular milestone memos for their proposals. As part of the coursework, students have taken several field trips to local streams and rivers to practice techniques for biological assessment. In early March, the Sulaimani Forum was held at AUIS. Although the event did not directly include PEER students or PIs, it featured a well-received panel on water resources in the Tigris Basin.
In the next phase of the project, the team is working with the faculty and staff in the AUIS Math and Natural Science department to finalize plans for a two-day high school science teacher workshop. The program is intended to attract 15 to 20 local educators, and the  regional Ministry of Education has been helping with recruiting the teachers. The workshop has been approved by the AUIS provost and should occur between May and August 2014. If logistics can’t be arranged, it will be postponed until the fall of 2014. Also, Dr. Nasseer Idrisi will continue with the second of a two-part workshop on experiment design and statistics for PEER students. Off-campus exercises are also being planned. The students will travel to the town of Choman on the Rawanduz River north of Erbil to participate in a festival to raise awareness for river conservation as part of a joint outreach program with NatureIraq. In addition, three students will be attending Miami University of Ohio’s summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, which is planned for June 30 to August 2, 2014.

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