Environmental Research with Undergraduates in East Asia: Collaborations in China and Japan
China: From 2007-2008 as part of a collaborative research project funded by the ASIANetwork, VU and the VLACD, 5 VU students (2 chemistry, 1 biology, 1 environmental science, and 1 civil engineering) spent 3 weeks in Zhejiang province, China and 7 additional weeks in northwest Indiana comparing and contrasting water quality issues and attitudes in the two regions. While in China, the students interacted with one another and graduate students, faculty, and staff from Zhejiang University and Zhejiang A &F University, and with multiple local & regional officials and residents to collect water quality data and opinions about key water quality issues facing east central China and NW Indiana. Field and laboratory measurements of multiple parameters used to assess water quality were taken at 20 sites in/near Hangzhou and at >50 sites in NW Indiana. Measurements provided a snapshot of water quality in both regions. Elevated nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) levels in many sites in China resulted in increased plant growth, high dissolved oxygen levels and, in one case (Taihu Lake), a severe algal bloom. Copper, mercury and cadmium levels were elevated at several sites. In NW Indiana elevated phosphorus levels were sometimes found. In general, water quality in the Hangzhou area was poorer than that in NW Indiana, but was still generally within US EPA limits. Overall, nonpoint source pollution from domestic waste and agricultural runoff remain threats to water quality in both regions.
Japan: As part of a Fulbright scholar grant, with additional support from NASA, 2 VU undergraduates spent a month in Sapporo examining the impact of China’s air pollution on Japan before, during, and after the Beijing Olympic Games. The two students, one a meteorology major and the other a physics major, interacted with each other and with graduate students and faculty at Hokkaido University, working to condition, calibrate, and fly instruments designed to measure atmospheric pollutants and meteorological parameters on weather balloons in August 2009. Below we describe their experiences with both their research project and the Japanese culture. Immersion in East Asian cultures often presents challenges to Westerners, but also provides tremendous opportunities for growth and learning.
Gary A. Morris and Jon Schoer. "Environmental Research with Undergraduates in East Asia: Collaborations in China and Japan" Council on Undergraduate Research: International Perspectives on Engaging Students in Research and Inquiry First Year through Graduationa. Milwaukee, WI. Oct. 2011.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gary_morris/114