Going Global with Lessons from the Yahara

Post by Sam Zipper

Over the first 3.5 years of our WSC project, we’ve all learned a lot about the Yahara Watershed. This blog has shown you some of our favorite tidbits. Of course, we try our hardest to share this information with people right in our backyard–politicians, other scientists, land managers, and everyone else–to help them make sustainable decisions about the future of south-central Wisconsin. However, a lot of the great science being done by our team also has an impact outside the borders of the Yahara, as well.

Members of our group have shared their work at conferences hosted by diverse groups around the country, including the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Wisconsin section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA-WI), the Ecological Society of America (ESA),  and many others. Earlier this summer, Adena Rissman and Chloe Wardropper told you about their experience at the WOW! meeting in Bloomington, IN. These conferences and workshops are a critical part of the scientific process. They are where we can share our newest results with other scientists, get feedback from experts in our field, and learn about new ideas and techniques we can bring back and use in the Yahara Watershed.

UNL’s Ken Cassman talks about global yield gap and water productivity. Water for Food conference. WFF conference in Bellevue WA. October 21, 2014. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication — at 2014 Water for Food Conference. - See more at: http://waterforfood.nebraska.edu/blog/2014/10/22/five-data-tools-used-to-harness-the-data-revolution/#sthash.I6BC536c.rSPW2EAZ.dpuf

Ken Cassman talks about global yield gap at the 2014 Water For Food Conference . Photo credit: The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute

Last week, I was fortunate to attend the Water For Food 2014 Global Conference, which was organized by the University of Nebraska’s Robert B. Daughtery Institute. The conference gathered scientists, politicians, philanthropists, NGOs, and others from around the world in Bellevue, WA to discuss the challenges of meeting the food needs of a growing global population without compromising our global freshwater resources. I presented a poster with some recent results on the relationship between shallow groundwater and crop production, and the role of different soil types and weather conditions. While retaining my modesty, I think I can say the presentation was a success. I was able to talk with scientists from every continent, except Antarctica, about their experience with groundwater, soils, and sustainable agriculture in general.

Sam won first prize in the graduate student poster competition. Here he is congratulated by Roberto Lenton, Executive Director of the Robert  B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute. Photo credit: The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute

Sam won first prize in the graduate student poster competition. Here he is congratulated by Roberto Lenton, Executive Director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute. Photo credit: The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute

Shallow groundwater is an important issue around the globe. A recent study estimated that anywhere from 7% to 17% of the Earth’s surface has a water table shallow enough to interact with plant roots. Using shallow groundwater effectively in agriculture could make crops more resilient in the face of drought and thus help smallholder farms in Africa, for example. Hopefully my fellow conference attendees were able to bring a little bit of knowledge from the Yahara back to their own watershed, no matter where they live around the globe.

Map of global GW depths. From Fan et al. (2013), DOI: 10.1126/science.1229881.

Map of global groundwater depths. From Fan et al. (2013), DOI: 10.1126/science.1229881.

For more information about the conference, the Water For Food Institute is on Facebook and Twitter, and it has a blog of its own. Also, many of the talks from the conference are shared on YouTube.

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