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Group from United Nations, China visits WKU as part of joint research project

Group from United Nations, China visits WKU as part of joint research project

A team representing the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Chinese government visited WKU this week for fieldwork and to discuss cooperative research under way to study atmospheric carbon dynamics.

Chris Groves explains details of groundwater monitoring equipment to Chinese scientists within WKU-owned Crumps Cave. (Photo by Jason Polk)

The group, which included scientists from UNESCO’s International Geoscience Program and the Chinese Geological Survey, visited sites at the WKU-owned Crumps Cave Educational Preserve and Lost River Cave. Research is under way there, with sister sites in China, to measure rates at which atmospheric CO2 is consumed by the dissolving of limestone in the world’s karst regions, which are areas like in south central Kentucky where caves, sinkholes and underground rivers are common. Rapidly changing atmospheric concentrations have been linked to increased rates of climate change, and so much work is underway to understand ways in which CO2 is being added to, or subtracted from, the atmosphere.

The pilot project, “Cooperative International Research in Measurement of the Global Atmospheric CO2 Sink from Carbonate Mineral Weathering,” is funded jointly by WKU’s Research & Creative Activities Program (RCAP) and China’s Institute of Karst Geology.

The project involves developing a standard operating procedure for measuring this consumption of atmospheric CO2, and the Lost River Cave site, along with a similar station near Guilin, China, will serve as the reference sites for an eventual global network of such stations.

The project is led on the U.S. side by University Distinguished Professor Chris Groves, Director of WKU’s Hoffman Environmental Research Institute and the Institute’s China Environmental Health Project (CEHP). The CEHP has been working cooperatively with Chinese scientists and students for 17 years to understand the hydrogeology, geochemistry and water resources of rural southwest China’s extensive karst region. In December, Groves will lead a group of six WKU scientists and students to China for lectures and fieldwork on the project. Nine graduate and undergraduate students are gaining experience by working on the effort, which is leveraged with related water-monitoring efforts funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and WKU’s Applied Research and Technology Program.

“We are very appreciative of the funding from WKU’s RCAP program to support this effort,” said Groves, “and feel this is a great expression of how the program should work. This is increasing our intellectual infrastructure with regard to equipment and training, is getting four WKU students to China, and should lead to significant external funding as the efforts expand globally.”

Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling noted that “the Hoffman Institute has a long tradition of engaging students in research across the globe, and this project is another opportunity for WKU to expand its international reach by addressing an issue of critical importance to our global community.”

Contact: Chris Groves, (270) 745-5974.

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