Tufts University Water and Environmental Research, Education, and Actionable Research, Education, and Actionable Solutions Network
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Research Themes


WATER is what we think and do. WE REASoN. We synthesize theory and practice.

Our research and educational interests are to understand characterize, measure, and model water issues ranging from hydroclimatology to hydroepidemiology to water diplomacy with a focus on scale issues and remote sensing.
We are actively seeking to fill several graduate and postdoctoral positions immediately sponsored by grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

Hydroclimatology

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“Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get”. This often used quote highlights the dichotomy of our understanding – between expectation and reality; short-time scale and long-time scale; micro and macro processes – and is at the core of our climate related water research. These problems essentially manifest themselves in the range of scales they span and boundaries they cross – from micro scale of cloud particles to impact of climate change at the global scale; from rain drops at your backyard creek to the asymmetric flow in the Ganges; from the warming of the Pacific ocean to creating floods in China; from the drought in Russia to floods in Pakistan – and create the knowledge gap we must address. Selected climate related projects include:

Variations and Trends in Fall Precipitation over the Central United States: Issues of Physical Mechanisms, Circulation Anomalies and Boundary Forcing

A Precipitation Dipole in Eastern North America: Issues of Space-Time Variability and Physical Mechanisms

A Diagnostic Study of Possible Enhancement of the Hydrologic Cycle

Approaches for Aggregating Heterogeneous Surface Parameters and Fluxes for Mesoscale and Climate Models

 

Hydroepidemiology

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Cholera, an acute diarrheal disease, can kill an adult within 24 hours of infection without proper treatment. Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, is a bacterium that lives and thrives in two distinctively different environments: micro-environment of human body and macro-environment of aquatic and brackish habitats. The deep disciplinary focus on examining micro- or macro-environmental factors has produced a vast, yet somewhat disconnected, knowledge base of cholera. Despite steady accumulation of detailed knowledge of cholera in these two environments, we still cannot adequately predict when and where the next cholera epidemic will strike. Because V. cholerae exists naturally in brackish waters, and because of the growing evidence of new biotypes emerging, it is unlikely that cholera will ever be eradicated. Consequently, cholera cannot be defeated by medicine alone. We need a new intervention approach – a cholera warning system - to minimize the impact of this devastating disease by prior planning and implementing effective solutions. Our approach utilizes large scale macro-environmental (e.g.: ecological, hydrological, climatological) drivers conducive to cholera outbreaks and provide an advanced warning of outbreaks. Selected cholera, health and water related projects include:

Effects of Climate Change on Cholera Dynamics and Prediction

Climate Change Challenges and Population Vulnerability Mapping for Cholera

Tracking and Predicting Cholera Outbreaks from Satellites

Arsenic Contaminated Groundwater in Bangladesh:  Characterizing the Source Mobilization and Transport

 

Water Diplomacy

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Water problems are complex because they cross physical, disciplinary and jurisdictional boundaries. Water, viewed as a fixed resource, lends itself to conflicts over its division.

Origins of most water problems may be understood as intricate coupling among natural, societal, and political domains where people and problems interact to shape the framing of the problem. The search for scientific bases - without understanding the societal issues and driving values - to address water issues make these problems complex because the underlying policy issues cannot be definitively described or separated from political context. A synthesis of explicit (scientific water information from natural domain) and tacit (contextual water information from societal domain) knowledge of water is needed to transform fixed water quantity into a flexible resource.

Many contemporary and emerging water issues will not have clear solutions. We make a distinction between two types of water issues (water problems that have solutions and water conditions that may only have resolution. Think of a medical analogy: broken leg is a problem and surgery is a solution while diabetes, for now, is a condition that needs management and does not have a solution). Our focus is to address water issues with competing needs through negotiated resolutions and adaptive management.

We pursue interdisciplinary water scholarship by thinking across boundaries, emphasizing integration of explicit and tacit knowledge, and linking knowledge and action from multiple perspectives to help resolve water issues through mutual gains negotiations. The major Water Diplomacy initiatives include the phD program at Tufts University, the Train-the-Trainer Workshop for professionals, the NSF Research Coordination Network, and the AquaPedia Case Study Databse. More information on these projects/initiatives:

Water Across Boundaries - Integration of Science, Engineering, and Diplomacy

WaterDiplomacy.org - up-to-date information on all of the Water Diplomacy initiatives

 

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