Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anne Kroeger Receives Fellowship to Study Fluorosis

Anne Kroeger, a PhD student in Anthropology, has been awarded an NSF Fellowship to study skeletal and dental fluorosis in Ethiopia.  Kroeger did her undergraduate training in chemistry and biology, and focuses on human health in her discipline of Biological Anthropology. Her research involves understanding the progression and health effects of skeletal fluorosis within populations living in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. In the Rift Valley, fluoride levels have been detected as high as 33 mg/l. The WHO recommendation for maximum fluoridation is 1.5 mg/l.   Skeletal fluorosis can develop with chronic exposure to fluoride levels as low as 3 mg/l, and crippling skeletal fluorosis with fluoride levels above 6 mg/l.   

Anne Kroeger has been awarded an NSF Fellowship
to conduct her work in Ethiopia.
Kroeger will travel this summer to Ethiopia's Rift Valley with another graduate student of the WaTER Center, Laura Brunson, and other faculty and staff affiliated with the WaTER Center. These other personnel are exploring research questions concerning locally-available and sustainable technologies for fluoride removal and concerning the business entrepreneurship environment at both the macro- and micro-levels.

Indian woman who suffers from long-term effects of skeletal fluorosis.

Kroeger's research will seek to uncover the physical effects of fluoride consumption, including pain and decreased range of motion. While other WaTER Center students are studying methods of fluoride removal, Kroeger will examine alternative ways to alleviate or reduced the physical effects of fluoride consumption. She is also interested in developing simple and inexpensive ways of measuring / estimating the amount of fluoride being taken up by the the body.

Kroeger is grateful for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship that will support her work. With this grant, she hopes to emphasize the importance of fluorosis and water quality and also to learn how to mitigate the effects of fluorosis before children develop painful manifestations.  Ultimately, this study will help improve the understanding of how fluoride is metabolized in bone and how the disease progresses through the skeleton.

Field Methods Course Update

The first offering of the first-of-its-kind course, Sustainable Development in Emerging Regions: WaTER Field Methods, has come to a conclusion. Thirteen students from the University of Oklahoma completed the three-week course. Both undergraduates and graduate students participated, with students coming from microbiology, public health, international area studies, and engineering.
This year's Field Methods class consisted of 10 undergraduate and 3 graduate students
from a variety of academic disciplines.
Students learned a wide variety of skills they might be called upon to demonstrate while working in the field. Activities included slab and concrete block construction, water well-drilling by hand and by machine, water quality analysis, topographical surveying with Abney level, soil identification by hand, construction of biosand filters, hydraulics of gravity-flow systems, baseline health surveys, and comparison of common long-term and emergency household water treatment methods. Individual modules were led by the Water4 Foundation, Dr. Paul Weckler and five students from Oklahoma State University, Dr. Helene Carabin of the OU Health Sciences Center, and others.

Ashley Rhone and Stephen Lindstom sip dirty duck pond water
using a LifeStraw water filter.
Anna Humphrey and Amanda Oehlert build and fill a wooden
form for a biosand filter.
William Mwangi sets out the first course for a concrete block wall.

Several students who completed the course are already planning to use their skills in-country this summer. Cate Lynn will be working this summer in Uganda, Seth Gilliam will be traveling to Burma, and Anna Humphrey is dreaming of returning to Cambodia. Many students have future hopes of improving the lives of rural villagers across the world, either as an integral part of their career path or as an avocation. 

Students auger a small-bore hole, develop well logs, and practice
soil identification using standard ASTM field methods.
Dr. Sabatini joins in the fun of hand-drilling a well
using Water4's portable drilling rig.

Junyi Du expériences drilling mud first hand by working on the
diesel-powered LS-100 rig, taught by John Stam of Enid, OK.

Visit from Jenna Davis of Stanford's "Poop Group"

Friday, April 27, was a busy day for Dr. Jennifer "Jenna" Davis, as she was shuttled from one meeting or seminar to another at OU, talking about her favorite human resource. Davis, Assistant Professor at Stanford University, is the faculty adviser to the Poop Group and a co-founder and faculty lead of the Water, Health & Development program at Stanford University. Her research and teaching focuses on the interface of engineered water supply and sanitation systems and their users in developing countries.
Davis at work on one of her many international field sites.
Davis holds an MSPH and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has a background in public health, infrastructure planning, and environmental science & engineering. She teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in water and sanitation planning, the theory and practice of sustainability, quantitative methods, and multidisciplinary research design. Her research explores questions related to the role of water and sanitation investment in economic development and public health, assessing users' felt needs and preferences for public services, alternative institutional arrangements for public service provision, and determinants of infrastructure sustainability. Over the past 15 years her group has carried out applied research in more than a dozen developing countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Bangladesh.

A street art exhibition by the German Toilet Organization 
in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2006.

While on campus, Davis shared her personal and professional insights with WaTER Center graduate students, directors, and research staff who are engaged in similar research pathways. In the developing countries of Asia and Africa, two out of every ten people have no improved water supply service, and half of the population lacks access to even the most basic sanitation services. The high cost of installing modern water and sewer networks means that effort to expand access for these rapidly growing, low-income populations will rely principally on “non-networked” options, such as shared water points and household latrines. A variety of such technologies exist, but their widespread use creates unique challenges for environmental, institutional, and public health planning from the household to the watershed scale. Dr. Davis' seminar at OU presented work carried out by her research group in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America that quantifies the costs and impacts of non-networked service provision, and that tests program and policy interventions designed to accelerate access to, and enhance sustainability of, improved water and sanitation services in resource-constrained communities.

Dr. Davis presents her OU seminar on
costs and impacts of non-networked water and sewer.

Visit from Uganda Hero, Sr. Rosemary

Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus based in Juba, South Sudan, spent two days visiting with students and faculty at the WaTER Center. She presented her work to the Sooners Without Borders evening meeting, and met privately with WaTER Center staff and interested students over the course of her visit. The next morning she toured the Fears Lab where she showed much delight at the projects involving ecolatrines, brick-manufacturing, and Field Methods training. 

Students and staff of the WaTER Center meet for dinner in Norman
at the beginning of Sr. Rosemary's visit.
For the last 30 years, Sister Rosemary has answered the call to serve the least among us from the epicenter of a bloody and violent civil wars that decimated northern Uganda and South Sudan. Armed with only a sewing machine, Sister Rosemary openly defied Joseph Kony and the rebel soldiers and commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in their 20-year reign of terror. Since 2002, Sister Rosemary has enrolled more than 2,000 girls who had been previously abducted by the LRA or abandoned by their families. Anyone who steps foot on the grounds of the Saint Monica campus in Gulu, Uganda, will instantly recognize there are few other places on earth where a community of women learn to become self-reliant and change agents for peace and prosperity. Sister Rosemary has taught these brave girls to make their own clothes, grow their own food, learn a valuable trade, and show mercy to others that are less fortunate.

Rachel Whitten and Sr. Rosemary at the launch of the new Sisters United
line of pop-tab purses, made by the hands of Saint Monica students.
Sisters United, LLC is a for profit business designed to promote a fun and trendy global brand of fashion, while at the same time, supporting certain non-profit causes, like Pros for Africa  and St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring School in Gulu, Uganda. Pros for Africa is an Oklahoma-based nonprofit foundation whose mission is to "connect professionals of all fields with the children of Africa". They have graciously provided assistance for two students, active with Sooners Without Borders, to travel to Uganda this summer to work with Sr. Rosemary and her marvelous school and orphanage.

For more information, go to:

Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oklahoma

The WaTER Center encourages entrepreneurial activities to promote feasible technologies in the regions where it works. In both Ethiopia and Cambodia, the WaTER Center team is assessing the role of entrepreneurship in the creation of water purifying and sanitation techniques.

Dr. Lowell Busenitz, the co-founder and Academic Director of the OU Center for Entrepreneurship and member of the WaTER Center team, has been pivotal in helping the WaTER Center see the value of social entrepreneurship and promoting entrepreneurship at the University of Oklahoma. His research has appeared in the leading journals in management and entrepreneurship, and he has recently co-authored an article defining the scope and substance of social entrepreneurship. His current research includes in the incorporation of SE and business principles into water system analysis, including the assessment of market and small business potential. Dr. Busenitz will be traveling to Ethiopia with the WaTER Center team later this summer.
Under Dr. Busenitz's leadership, social entrepreneurship has become a focus for many OU students. In April, a group of OU students competed in the Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University, where they placed second. The competition challenged 22 participating schools to propose a plan for a socially valuable and profitable business. The OU team proposed "Bright Sanitation", which would provide cost-effective, self-contained toilets for India's urban slums. The $10,000 prize awarded the OU students' desire to promote sanitation, dignity, and safety.

Jurors Selected for 3rd OU International Water Prize

The University of Oklahoma Water Prize exists to honor the outstanding contributions of an individual in the field of water, sanitation and health (WASH). Every two years the WaTER Center assembles a group of experts in the field of WASH to serve as the prize selection jury and to speak at the University of Oklahoma Water Prize Symposium. Previous jurors have come from academia, industry, government and NGOs. This years panel is equally diverse.

2012 Jury Panel for Selecting the 2013 OU Water Prize Winner:
  • Rita Colwell, University of Maryland, Chairman of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc., former NSF director
  • Idrissa Doucoure, Director, Water and Sanitation for Africa, formerly of WaterAid
  • Ravi Jayakaran, Vice President, Global Programs, MAP International
  • Christine Moe, Eugene J. Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation and the Director of the Center for Global Safe Water at Emory University
  • Marc Parlange, Professor of Hydrology and Dean School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Dennis Warner, Senior Technical Advisor for Water Supply, Sanitation and Water Resources Development, Catholic Relief Services, formerly with WHO in Geneva, Switzerland as Head of the Community Water Supply and Sanitation Program and then as Chief of Water Supply, Sanitation and Rural Environmental Health
The winner of the 3rd University of Oklahoma International Water Prize will be announced at the Water Prize Symposium on September 21, 2012.

The WaTER Center is grateful to the University of Oklahoma for their continued support of the International Water Prize.