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November 14, 2012
By John Trent
The blue waters of Lake Tahoe are an important entryway into the field of international environmental research for a number of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Angela Stevens is no exception.
Stevens, who is a graduate student in the University's well-regarded Hydrology Program, traded the tropical trade winds and the ever-present waters of the Pacific Ocean of her undergraduate experience at the University of Hawaii for northern Nevada's promise of something just as enticing:
The opportunity to use Tahoe research as a springboard for water management and restoration efforts in countries where water quality is poor, and clean water is a scarce resource.
"I find water problems in these countries more inspiring, and closer to me," Stevens said, explaining that her mother is from the Philippines, where the question of water quality is an ongoing and important issue.
Stevens, who grew up in the small town of Carson, Wash., located just north of the Columbia River, said her studies at the University have taught her how interconnected water research throughout the world can be.
She said the upcoming ninth annual Student World Water Forum, which will be held Nov. 15-16 at the Joe Crowley Student Union and is part of International Education Week at the University, is a good example of how fully engaged the campus' undergraduate and graduate students have become regarding world water issues.
The forum will include more than 50 oral presentations and 19 poster presentations on water research ranging from drinking water contamination, pollution, climate change and ecosystems and their relation to water.
Educational sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Joe Crowley Student Union (JCSU) Great Room on Nov. 15 and from 9 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. on Nov. 16 in JCSU Room 324.
Daene McKinney, professor in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program at the University of Texas at Austin, will deliver the keynote address on Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. in the Davidson Mathematics and Science Building's Nell J. Redfield Auditorium, Room 110. McKinney is considered one of the world's leading researchers in sustainable management of water resources, and recently has embarked on a study that is hoping to develop ways to protect the world's villages and towns from rising glacial lake levels.
"These are really important issues," Stevens said of questions regarding the world's water. "I think it's good for people to be involved, and to think internationally, in terms of water. We have water quality issues right here in this country ... they might not be as dramatic as people who have to take water from a pool of water and carry it away on their heads, but it's all very important.
"We're hoping to link the many international issues to what's happening, here at home."
A similar focus is in evidence with International Education Week. Dubbed "This Is Global Nevada," the week kicks off on Nov. 13 with "Teas, Treats, Fun Around The World" and includes events such as a passport fair, a presentation on international opportunities for students and faculty, and concludes on the evening of Nov. 19 with an "International Thanksgiving" event.
For Stevens, who applied to a number of different graduate programs, including programs in Australia, California and Washington, D.C., her studies at the University are reminder that the horizon of international research isn't all that far removed - if it is even removed at all - from Reno.
"The more I started to look into it," she said of her fact-gathering process with the University's graduate program in hydrology, "the more excited I got."
She is currently working with veteran Lake Tahoe researcher Alan Heyvaert of the Desert Research Institute in studying near shore water clarity at Tahoe. For more than 20 years, Heyvaert has been a leading voice in Tahoe research, with his work on how pollutants, through stream inflows and urban runoff, affect water quality in Tahoe's near shore area.
It's opportunities like working with a world-class talent like Heyvaert, who is an academic affiliate with the University's Hydrology Program, or enriching and meaningful out-of-class experiences such as organizing the Student World Water Forum, or having access to the University's successful Student Association for International Water Issues (SAIWI), which travels the world to drill wells and conduct water quality tests in third-world locales) that truly helps set the University's Hydrology graduate offerings apart, she said.
"Student World Water Forum, SAIWI, the University's partnership with Tahoe researchers at DRI ... the more I started to talk to people like Alan about what studying here would mean, that was all definitely very exciting to me," Stevens said.
She said this week's focus on world water issues couldn't come at a better time.
"Whenever people talk about international water issues, we get a better understanding of what is going on not only in the world, but here in our country, too," she said. "Since I'm in the hydrology program, I know water is my focus. But really, I think it should be everyone's focus."
Along with several members of the course offered by Associate Professor Laurel Saito of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science and Professor Kate Berry of the Department of Geography, "International Issues for Water Development" as well as the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences' "Hydrology/Hydrogeology Seminar" course, it's been Stevens' responsibility to organize this year's Student World Water Forum.
It's been a lot of hard work. Yet, Stevens added with a smile, "What better way to get the word out on the really amazing work the students are doing on water at our University. The students get a chance to share actual research that they've done, and the people who attend get to learn more about international water issues. We're linking the work done on our campus with issues throughout the world."