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.
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
During the opening months of the project, Dr. Geraci spearheaded the creation of a PEER Learning Community at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. A group of 13 students has been involved in a range of activities, including field trips at the Nature Iraq EcoCamp and in the Tigris River headwaters, a negotiation workshop, and new courses in water science and policy. Dr. Geraci taught one such course in the fall of 2013 titled “Water in Iraq: Past, Present, and Future.” The course had an enrollment of 28. At the same time, she has been working with local labs and NGOs to identify some 20 sites in the Tanjero and Lesser Zab watersheds that can be used to train students on biological assessment of water quality.
American University of Iraq, Sulaimani students traveled to Nature Iraq’s EcoCamp on Peramagroon Mountain (Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).
The AUIS students went on an all-day field trip that included hands-on training in water quality monitoring (Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).
The education component of this project also includes a January 2014 semester course called “Water: Science, Policy, and Health” taught by Geoff Gresk and a spring course called “Freshwater Science,” which will be taught in tandem with a course on technical writing. Students will receive training related to the sampling of streams and lakes in the Sulaimani Governate. In addition, a series of statistics workshops is being offered in the spring of 2014, and Dr. Geraci is been planning a special panel on water policy to be held at the 2014 Sulaimani Forum in March.