Dr. Daniel B. Oerther is the John A. and Susan Mathes Chair of Environmental Health Engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Previously, he was Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Oerther describes himself as a social entrepreneur using design thinking to ensure universal access to water and sanitation, to combat the obesity epidemic and malnutrition, and to eliminate extreme poverty through information technologies. Dr. Oerther originally trained in microbial genomics during his doctorate at the University of Illinois. His early career expanded the intellectual merit of using ecological theory to understand bacterial communities in suspended growth and biofilms. Multiple grants from the National Science Foundation funded research exploring the broader impacts for using microbial genomics to address sewage and drinking water treatment while translational research in bioremediation and clinical environments was supported by multiple grants from the National Institute for Environmental Health Studies. In collaboration with the US EPA and USGS, Dr. Oerther’s team used cultivation independent environmental metagenomics to identify sources of fecal pollution in watersheds. From this work, Dr. Oerther is now collaborating with nutritionists to identify environmental determinants of the obesity epidemic and to improve nutrition. Leveraging Fulbright and in partnership with NGOs and community leaders, Dr. Oerther created award winning access to drinking water and sanitation for more than 100,000 villagers in India, Kenya, Tanzania, Guatemala, and Brazil. Recently, his team adapted methods from econometrics to explore multidimensional drivers of poverty including sanitation, food security, socioeconomic status, and household education. He has published groundbreaking results documenting the use of human computation to create jobs; thereby eliminating poverty in rural villages. Participants in pilot studies have used the income to purchase education for themselves and their children, and Dr. Oerther has documented that education is a primary contributor to reductions in diarrhea health burden from contaminated water supplies. The comprehensive approach developed by Dr. Oerther’s research team integrates basic science, applications of engineering, translations to public health, all with the ultimate purposes of evaluating and recommending policy.
State Department Profile
Office of Global Food Security
Office of the Secretary
Dr. Daniel Oerther serves as a science and technology policy advisor in S/GFS. His portfolio includes tracking agricultural biotechnology (GMOs and sustainable intensification), food loss and waste (sustainable production and consumption), nutrition (WHA 2025 targets for mothers/infants and NCDs), and the food-water-energy nexus. His geopolitical foci includes ASEAN as well as fragile and failing states in protracted crises including ISIL (NEA) and Ebola (AF) impacted regions. In addition to supporting his colleagues in the Secretary’s Office in general, Daniel interacts regularly with others in the Department of State, including International Organizations (IO), Economic and Business Affairs (EB), and Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES). Daniel also enjoys the opportunity of interacting with the broader interagency including serving on the external affairs team for Feed the Future as well as collaborating with USAID, USDA, MCC, USTR, USEPA, and Treasury. During his tenure, inaugural authorizing legislation for President Obama’s signature development program, Feed the Future, was passed in the 113th United States Congress. Major international fora where Daniel contributed included the 41st session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS41) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) co-convened by the UN FAO and the United Nations World Health Organization, the Milan Expo 2015, as well as the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) and the Post 2015 Development Agenda both as part of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).