SMU to host regional U.N. conference on Texas climate extremes Sept. 17, 2015

Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity

SMU to host regional U.N. conference on Texas climate extremes Sept. 17, 2015

Stock photo of drought-stricken landscapeTexas is a place of legendary weather extremes. Droughts, floods, extreme heat and bitter cold are a fact of life for its residents. How will people adapt to these climate issues and their impact on water supply, infrastructure, public resources and vulnerable populations?

SMU will host a major conference on climate extremes in Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area that will focus on impacts, solutions and collaborative strategies the public and private sectors can use to prepare for such issues – and what individuals can do to help address the underlying issues.

The University’s Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, along with sponsors and community partners, will present the half-day program — an official conference of COP21 Paris, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change scheduled for December 2015. The SMU event is part of a series of preliminary sessions called “FACTS: French Ameri-Can Climate TalkS,” which are being organized by the Embassies of France in both Canada and the United States.

> Find a complete schedule at the conference website: climateextremes.com

The conference focus is purposely inclusive of both the global and local scenes related to climate extremes. The Consul General of France in Houston, Sujiro Seam, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will open the conference. Climate extremes experts will deliver brief talks in two panel discussions moderated by Dallas journalist Lee Cullum.

A featured panelist is Bruce McCarl, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University, who was part of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Lunch will include the introduction of a new research paper by Hunt Institute Director Eva Csaky on the topic of climate extremes, “The Inclusive Economy;” brief remarks by Trammell S. Crow, founder of Earth Day Texas; and keynote speaker Patrick Caron, director general in charge of research and strategy at CIRAD, a French agricultural research and international cooperation organization.

Watch the SMU Climate Extremes Conference live smu.edu/live beginning at 8:45 a.m. Central time Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. The conference video will be archived after its conclusion.

September 16, 2015|Calendar Highlights, For the Record, News|

Living Village is showpiece of 2012 Engineering and Humanity Week

Living Village at SMUThe Living Village is back for its second year at SMU, serving as an interactive display and teaching tool for 2012 Engineering & Humanity Week. Through Friday, April 20, students will live, cook and sleep in temporary shelters designed for international refugees and rapidly expanding urban populations.

Students, faculty and members of the North Texas community began building the village on the lawn just west of the Engineering Quad on Wednesday, April 11, preparing to showcase a variety of shelter technologies with applications for people displaced by war and natural disasters, as well as impoverished urban dwellers in the developing world. The village’s temporary residents – student volunteers from disciplines all over campus – will be without electricity and running water in the shelters, as is frequently the case for refugee populations.

Many of this year’s shelters are designed for longer-term habitation than last year’s, and two are student projects. Harvey Lacey is back with his popular recycled plastic Ubuntu Blox House, fresh from exhaustive earthquake testing that proved his house to be a potential fit for quake-prone places like Haiti. And bcWORKSHOP’s Brent Brown has brought his Rapido Prototype, the largest structure in the village, developed as part of the state of Texas’ Natural Disaster Housing Reconstruction Plan. During Engineering & Humanity Week, bcWORKSHOP designers will seek feedback from SMU students and visitors to help them improve the project’s design, construction process, deployment method and performance.

Read more about the innovative structures that will make up the Living Village. The public is welcome to tour the village and speak with student participants, who also will be blogging their experiences.

The Living Village also will host a special event at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, designed to spotlight approaches to preserve culture among populations that are housed long-term in refugee camps.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Learn more about the Living Village and the week’s events from SMU News
> Follow the Living Village students at their SMU Adventures blog
> Visit the Engineering & Humanity Week website

April 17, 2012|Calendar Highlights, News|

Research Spotlight: Seeking solutions for unsafe water

Supported by a $270,000 grant from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and additional SMU funds, faculty member Andrew Quicksall and his graduate students in the University’s Lyle School of Engineering are collecting water samples in UNHCR refugee camps, bringing samples back to SMU for analysis, and training workers in and around the camps to test water supplies.

The group will integrate information from multiple sources to develop a database that will help UNHCR planners provide safer drinking water in existing and future camps.

“They’ve asked us to build out a whole picture, truly worldwide, for what’s in the drinking water in refugee camps,” said Quicksall, J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Assistant Professor in the Lyle School. “So we’re going to go on-site, collect water, analyze some in the field and bring quite a bit of water back to our SMU laboratories and get a full picture.”

The database developed by Quicksall’s group will identify contaminants in drinking water and allow UNHCR officials to track water quality in the camps over time. Some water quality problems are indigenous to the regions where the camps are situated, some develop over time, and some are the nearly instant consequence of thousands of people collecting in unsuitable locations to escape war and famine faster than sanitary infrastructure can be built.

For example, the agreement with UNHCR commits Quicksall’s team to investigate critical water issues in Dadaab, Kenya – home to the largest refugee complex in the world. Nearly half a million people are concentrated in three camps there, many living in makeshift shelters of twigs, reeds and scraps. Refugees pouring across the border to escape war and famine in Somalia continue to face shortages of food, water, shelter and sanitation hazards there.

“The technical challenges of supporting refugee populations of this size will require that our teams stay engaged with the UNHCR for years to come,” said Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering. “Fortunately, our new Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity makes it possible to lead efforts of this magnitude nearly anywhere on the globe.”

Some camps have safe drinking water available, but the taste is so off-putting that residents seek out other sources. In Nakivale, Uganda, for example, the high iron content in well water drives refugees to drink surface water that is frequently contaminated with coliform bacteria. Quicksall’s group also will investigate methods of improving the taste of such safe, but unpalatable, drinking water.

Preliminary research results have revealed problematic concentrations of iodide in drinking water at Dadaab and fluoride in both Southern Uganda and Kakukma, Kenya. Some types of contaminants may not create problems short-term, Quicksall explains, but create severe health issues for people over the long term – particularly children and the elderly. His study group will have the opportunity to both recommend and implement remediation methods for those problem water sources, he said.

“To work with the science in the lab and see it applied internationally — I don’t think there is an opportunity like this anywhere else,” said graduate student Drew Aleto, a member of Quicksall’s study team.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

November 3, 2011|Research|
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