Science Sessions

2008 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting & International Research Conference

November 20-23, 2008
Marriott Renaissance Hotel
Washington, D.C.

A science session is a classroom-style activity to educate on some topic of science/engineering research that ties in with our annual theme. An ideal science session stimulates discourse and debate, and suggests new research directions. It also enhances a non-expert’s understanding of a scientific discipline, yet engages topic specialists. These goals are consistent with Sigma Xi’s mission to enhance the health of the research enterprise and to promote public engagement in science. Science session formats include workshop, seminar, panel, roundtable and lecture.

Saturday, November 22, 2:00-3:15 p.m.

Water, XXIst Century Technology and Adoption
The problems facing the world with supplying clean fresh water to the peoples of the world are exponentially growing, and are impacting energy, the environment, agriculture, and the health of people in both the developed and, most urgently, the developing world. Unfortunately, the cost to supply clean fresh waters for the peoples of the world in the coming decades with current technologies is staggering (trillions

USD) and is rising rapidly. Rapid and massive development of water science and new technologies is needed to affordably secure the water needs for the peoples of the world. The Global Innovation Imperative

(GII) over the next ten years is to create new water technologies to increase supplies through cleaning impaired waters, disinfecting water from a host of pathogens without adding salts and toxic compounds, reusing waters while extracting energy and chemical nutrients, and desalinating seawater and, most importantly, inland saline aquifers that underlie most of the world.

Solutions are needed at every level, from sophisticated large systems to simple point sources and point-of-use systems. Fortunately, there is much prospect for hope that scientists and engineers can help find solutions: we are far from the natural law limits for separations in water and nature provides us many examples of biological systems that do a far better job of purifying water than current human systems. Research and development to better understand and manipulate the interactions that occur at the aqueous interface can provide new methods to purify water using fewer chemicals and lower the energy use and impact on the environment.

On another front of research and development, over the past 30 years, Information Technology (IT) played an important role in transforming many sectors of human society within and outside of the workplace.

Sustainable natural resource management is one area that benefited greatly from IT tools. However, the lack of access to IT services and supported environments in developing countries, combined with fast paced developments, continue to widen the digital divide between the developed and developing worlds.

Approaches to technology adoption that served us well in the 20th century are not well suited to the global connectedness of the 21st century. As IT evolves into environments where socialization and collaboration become a vehicle for development, the issues of “faster, connected and smarter” are added to the long list of contributing factors that separate the developed and developing worlds. We will focus on the differences of the appropriate technology paradigm and an ICT adoption paradigm that particularly points to education as affected by recent developments in ICT, above all, Web 2.0 technologies. A set of conditions for successful adoption and long term sustainable ICT services will be outlined. A set of successful examples of use of IT in water resources will be provided.

We will close with some open questions and challenges facing water purification research in the next decade, and how chemists, scientists, technologists and engineers can help solve the most pressing problem facing the world with water in the coming decades.
Presenters: Mark Shannon and Fedro S. Zazueta
Water Sustainability for the Peoples of the World: Nexus to the Economy, Energy, and Environment by: Mark Shannon

Climate Change and Environmental Groundwater Across Southern Australia
In this paper, we consider the issues of the water movements in the conservation biology systems across southern Australia. Climate change has large areas of high biodiversity in its grip. Initially the major perceptions of threats to the ecological stability in the conservation estate related to agricultural clearing and fragmentation. This was followed by groundwater rise and the salinization of low-lying ecosystems. More recently, and with a global level of concern we are contemplating climate change. Agriculture in Australia has historically sought to bring European cropping practices into marginally optimized production, establishing varieties of the globally-cropped annuals, and substantially fertilizing ancient depauperate soils, with often modest yields from large efficient farms. Losses in land resources followed from the extreme weather variability in a land of droughts and flooding rains, but were tolerated because of the low land cost.

Water balance of these crop-lands was modified by the relative inefficiency of crops in using water when and as it fell, mostly in the opening winter rains across southern Australia. Flushing of salts from beneath cropland and their accumulation lower in catchments, driven by high evapotranspiration, has changed the soil regimes of many conservation areas. Such changes have become the enemy to stability of ecosystems. Large areas of semi arid land have been cleared in a region of significant biodiversity and the resulting salinised landscape has been threatening damage to this native biota.

Ironically, we may now be seeing climate change slow and stall the salinization, this is uncertain. But further losses of biodiversity through changes in environmental water and consequences in landscape resources are likely to follow. Extensive research investigating land-water interactions are now the theme of many conservation projects. There is much emphasis on new technologies to follow water path movements in the hydrological cycle, and examples of such projects will make up much of the paper. Further, what to do to adjust the relationship of conservation and agriculture will also clearly be resolved by better understanding of the hydrological systems. Adjustments away from the crops that are hydrologically inefficient by being shallow-rooted and brief-lived appears strategically important.
Presenter: Colin Walker

Water Policies in West Africa
The history of water policies in West Africa by US funding agencies must contend with social and political trade-offs. Today many important policies on the environment and gender equality might be considered as strongly as issues of water availability, market-chain economics and social displacement. In addition, these programs are also burdened with the need for non-water investments, such as transportation, communication and power needs. The workshop will examine these issues and draw some conclusions with respect to the two management schemes of USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Presenter: Jon Cooper

Dry Land Farming in the Hopi Peoples of Arizona—Continuation of Traditions from Centuries to the present time—A study in Hands-on Approach to Sustainable Agriculture
The presentation will feature the focus on "Water" and the Hopi and Indian perspectives, including culture, philosophy, conservation and its efficient use in sustainable irrigation and agriculture especially as in the Hopi way of life and living, especially in the understanding of the Hopi philosophy - with regards to Western Science and over reliance and discriminate use of water by some folks have led the Hopi people to violate a basic water ethic, when we treated water as a commodity, not as sacred. According to their worldview, the Hopi people were allowed to enter this world many years ago with their commitment to Ma'sau to respect and live in harmony with the Earth and to preserve and protect her natural resources. What is profound is the importance and relevance of this original covenant made by the Hopi people - it is exactly the level of commitment that we need to return to today - to honor and respect Mother Earth and conserve, preserve and protect her resources to restore balance and harmony for future generations. Water is not a commodity to the Hopi people. It is sacred - the lifeblood of all living things. In Hopi, "hiiko"means "to drink", "hikwsi" is "to breathe," hence to drink is to breathe. According to the Hopi, "each time a raindrop falls, they are taught to say, "Thank you for visiting us, thank you for remembering us. The Rain is our ancestors visiting us, blessing us with life-sustaining rain." They Hopis believe that: Water is a good, natural medium for discussion because all living sentient beings, including humankind are connected through water. And that they like gourds or vessels of water on earth and join their ancestors, the cloud people when their journey on earth is ended. The speaker will also address the current struggles in their conservation of water as a precious resource that must be protected at all costs and how some of the ancient Hopi techniques and technology of sustainable irrigation and agriculture are still very relevant today; and how some of these can be transferred to other arid regions.
Presenter: Vernon Masayesva