CFAES Faculty Lead on Global Water Issues

March 22, 2018

World Water Day, held by UN Water on March 22 each year, seeks to highlight the importance of freshwater. Still today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home. Damaged ecosystems, together with a changing climate, affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. This year’s theme, ‘Nature for Water’, explores nature-based solutions (NBS) to the water-related challenges we face in the 21st century. NBS, such as expanding new forested landscapes, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands, have the potential to rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.

To contribute to the effort on global water sustainability, numerous CFAES faculty are working across globe through their teaching, research, and outreach to further understand and address an array of water-related challenges:

Suzanne GrayDr. Suzanne Gray, an assistant professor of Aquatic Physiological Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), integrates physiological and behavioral ecology research to advance the understanding of the generation, maintenance, and conservation of aquatic biodiversity. Her international field research focuses on Africa, where her “Water Across the World” initiative aims to increase awareness of linkage between human activities and water quality.  She accomplishes this through both research and outreach, namely delivering conservation education for students in Ohio and rurlal Uganda.

Joyce ChenDr. Joyce J. Chen, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE), researches migration, household bargaining, and human capital. Her current research project, “Climate-Induced Migration in Bangladesh”, examines the impact of climate risk on migration and, in turn, the impact of this migration on risk and resilience in vulnerable areas. She and her collaborators at the Bangladesh Water Development Board estimate the impact of rainfall variability, freshwater flooding, and saltwater intrusion on migration in Bangladesh and use these estimates to project the size and scope of vulnerable populations as the sea-level continues to rise over the next 50-100 years.

Dr. Jiyoung Lee, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology (FST), focuses on microbial contamination in environments, human exposure, and linkages to health outcomes. Her international studies have been based in Cameroon, where she studied public health issues caused by water pollution. Recently, her scholary works have included “Water Access, Sanitation and Hygiene Conditions and Health Outcomes among Two Settlement Types in Rural Far North Cameroon”, “Neighborhood diversity of potential pathogenic bacteria in drinking water from the city of Maroua, Cameroon”, and “One Health Research in Cameroon: A Critical Role for Anthropologists”.

   Dr. Larry C. Brown, a professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FAB), conducts research, extension, and teaching activities the area of agricultural water management, which includes drainage, subirrigation, micro-irrigation, erosion and sediment control, agricultural impacts on water resource quality and quantity, agricultural constructed wetlands, and water resources education. Dr. Brown has conducted water management work in Uganda, East Africa, South Africa, India, and also has a number of on-going projects in China through collaborations with the School of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering, Wuhan University.

   Dr. Mažeika Sullivan, an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), researches the ecology and conservation of stream, river, and wetland ecosystems, from headwaters to estuaries. In addition to work in Ohio, Dr. Sullivan conducts research in multiple geographic regions of the U.S. and internationally, especially in Eastern Europe and South America, the newest project on subsidies in Amazon streams has just began in Colombia. He directs the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, which is actively involved in multiple research and outreach activities related to aquatic ecosystems and water quality.

   Dr. Richard P. Dick, a professor of Soil Microbial Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), researches soil microbial ecology and the role of soil management in affecting the functioning of ecosystems. Dr. Dick has directed a project sponsored by the National Science Foundation, titled” Hydrologic Redistribution and Rhizosphere Biology of Resource Islands in Degraded Agro-ecosystems of the Sahel”, which aimed to address widespread landscape degradation and desertification in West Africa. The project examined methods of reducing crop water stress and stimulating microbial enhancement of nutrient availability and plant growth, benefiting the development of effective and sustainable agricultural systems in Senegal and the greater West African region.

For more information about World Water Day, please visit