Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home page No. 41, Spring/Summer 1997
The CCD, Part II: Asia & Americas

The ALRS Graduate Students' Corner

"The 29 students in the Arid Lands Ph.D. program come from a range of backgrounds, bring a wide variety of experiences to the program, and conduct research in a number of different areas."

A look at ALRS student research
by Cindy Salo

We graduate students learned more about ourselves during the recent academic review of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Arid Lands Resource Sciences. In its report the review committee stated that we make up a "... rather distinguished array of students, both past and present ...." They went on to point out that we include students with a wide range of experience such as a practicing architect, a medical doctor, a registered nurse, a meteorologist, an oil company administrator, U.S. Geological Survey employees, and several returned Peace Corps volunteers.

The 29 students in the Arid Lands Ph.D. program come from a range of backgrounds, bring a wide variety of experiences to the program, and conduct research in a number of different areas. Research topics reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the program and include projects in famine early warning, safe drinking water, crop genetics, land use, and landscaping for energy conservation. Here's a sampling of some of the research projects currently being carried out by Arid Lands students.

Terry Sprouse is working to ensure safe drinking water in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. He is examining the county's regulatory procedures including the Aquifer Protection Program and the Nogales Well-Head Protection Program, as well as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's Safe Drinking Water Act and Mexican regulatory programs that affect water quality in the U.S. - Mexico border region. From this base he will examine legal reforms that might better protect drinking water in Santa Cruz County, such as extending liability for manufacturers of fertilizer or gasoline storage tanks to cover contamination caused by use of their products. Sprouse will also address the economic aspects of safe drinking water as he develops a model to describe the costs and benefits of different policy options.

Daniela Soleri received a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Student Research Fellowship to support her first season of research on the genetics of farmer-managed maize varieties in Oaxaca, Mexico. Soleri is working in two communities in the Central Valley of Oaxaca to test a new method for rapid estimation of genetic variation in plant populations. She is employing both formal interviews and participant observation with collaborating farmer households to study seed selection and farmers' perspectives of basic genetic processes in their maize populations. This field work will continue for two more cropping seasons.

Len Milich received funding for his dissertation research in West Africa from the University of Arizona and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Sahelian Center, in Niamey, Niger. He is investigating the use of remote sensing to study desertification and food security. Milich's fieldwork examined interannual growing season normalized difference vegetation index coefficients of variation in five Sahelian countries, from Mauritania to Niger, to determine indicators and predictors of desertification and food insecurity.

Eric Weiss received one of only eight Dean's Fellowships awarded last fall. This is supporting his research on the use of mathematical techniques for the analysis of vulnerability to food insecurity as part of USAID's Famine Early Warning System Project being implemented in Malawi. Working with a panel of country experts and using statistical clustering methods and classification and regression trees, Weiss will first divide the country into regions with similar characteristics and food economies. These regions will then be analyzed to assess vulnerability to food insecurity and to identify its causes and correlations. Weiss aims to improve the objectivity of methods used in vulnerability assessment and to increase the effectiveness the results, which can provide a basis for long-term development and food aid targeting decisions.

John Maingi received an African Dissertation Internship Award from the Rockefeller Foundation African Initiative to support his research in Kenya. He is studying land use and vegetation changes in response to river basin development in the Lower Tana area of eastern Kenya. To do this, Maingi is examining relationships between recently established dam and irrigation projects and changes in land use and vegetation patterns in the area. In addition, he will also address the broader issue of furthering understanding of riverine forest ecology.

Susan Kliman is studying the effects of landscaping on the energy consumption of residences in arid environments. She will quantify energy use by analyzing different types of vegetation and styles of construction based on data available in utility bills and assessor's records. In a larger view she will also measure the effects of various types of landscaping on the microclimates of some Tucson neighborhoods. From these data Kliman will develop design guidelines for integrating landscaping and buildings to maximize energy efficiency in arid regions.

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Cindy Salo, a Ph.D. student in the Economic Botany track of the ALRS Ph.D. program, is also a Senior Research Specialist in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences Department at The University of Arizona. You can reach her at:

Dept. of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Tel: +1 (520) 621-2968
Fax: +1 (520) 621-1647

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