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 January 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.
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|Dr. Geraci and SCI 323 Freshwater Science students demonstrate water quality sampling techniques ||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.
|AUIS students and faculty collecting aquatic invertebrates in the Rawanduz River (Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).||Freshwater Science students collect aquatic macroninvertebates at Zalm Stream, May 2014 (Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).|
In July 2014, three AUIS students successfully completed their four weeks of training at the Miami University of Ohio, where they conducted research in ecology of human dominated landscape. During their U.S. visit, AUIS students collected aquatic insects from the Mad River watershed in Ohio, completed morphological identifications of the specimens after receiving training on aquatic insect morphology and taxonomy, and, in the final two weeks, the students learned how to do DNA extraction, PCR amplification, and gel electrophoresis using the Ohio Mad River specimens. The results of the Ohio dataset will later be used to help further development of biological assessment protocols in the Upper Tigris River watershed. All three AUIS students presented the results of their research at Miami's REU student symposium on August 1st, 2014.
|(Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).||(Photo courtesy Dr. Geraci).|
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