GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 48-11
Presentation Time: 4:20 PM


GIERKE, John1, BOWMAN, Luke2, HENQUINET, Kari B.3, BARTEL, Beth Ann4, CARTER, Angie3, AGUILAR, Nelson Andres5, ZAMBRANA, Juan Franciisco6, CRUZ CENTENO, J. Fredy7 and CLARK, Emily8, (1)Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, (2)Geological and Mining Engineering, 20522 Boundary Rd, Chassell, MI 49916-9159, (3)Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton,, MI 49931, (4)803 W Edwards Ave, 803 W Edwards Ave, Houghton, MI 49931-2422, (5)Project S.O.S., Lutheran World Relief--El Salvador, Baltimore, MD 21230, (6)El Salvador Headquarters, Lutheran World Relief--El Salvador, Baltimore, MD 21230, (7)Agricultural Sciences, University of El Salvador, San Vicente, 1101, El Salvador, (8)Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of the Hydrologic Sciences, Inc., 150 Cambridge Park Drive, #203, Cambridge, MA 02140

Climate change exacerbates water scarcity in agricultural communities in El Salvador, driving shorter and more intense rainy seasons separated by longer and more frequent droughts. Addressing this complex problem requires an interdisciplinary research approach. A National Science Foundation funded International Research Experience for Students (IRES) led by faculty from multiple disciplines at Michigan Technological University and in collaboration with the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) and local NGO Lutheran World Relief introduced 7 graduate students to applied international research in summer 2021. The team collaborated with Universidad de El Salvador—Facultad Multidisciplinario Paracentral, municipal governments, and Civil Protection. This marked year one of a three-year project to address water scarcity challenges using anthropological, sociological, geological, and geological engineering approaches.

Students were recruited from 6 universities, with backgrounds in geoscience, meteorology, anthropology and sociology, natural resource sciences, agriculture and food systems, and wastewater management. Because of the pandemic, US and Salvadoran faculty prepared students for the field work through a project-derived, 2-week Virtual Ethnographic Field School instead of the original intention to prepare students in El Salvador. The students used ethnographic methods to learn about water scarcity and access in multiple communities experiencing severe water shortages. The summer work highlighted how partnerships are critical for projects and student experiences in challenging, international settings. The project team met with community leaders, water committees, and other community members to learn about water needs, strategies to increase water access, conservation, and agricultural practices that require adaptations to the changing seasonal climates. Water-access projects were identified for future cohorts (summers 2022 and 2023), which include rain-water harvesting and groundwater development. Moreover, the communities and partners expressed strong interests in water conservation practices and policies to foster more equitable use of water supplies.

  • GSA_2021_T153.48-11_Gierke.pdf (3.3 MB)