Collaborative Research Projects

EIWR performs routine maintenance of rain gauge and weather stations and data downloading every six months. Staff regularly work to improve sites when the gauges need better protection.  It is uncertain how EIWR will be able to maintain this site after funding from USAID has ended.

  • Hydrology Research Site – Awash Basin: EIWR installed a Laboratories and Field Research Sites   
  • The Hydro-informatics laboratories are located at  the EIWR Akaki campus in two rooms. The hydro-informatics labs are used to simulate hydrological processes of a watershed and to undertake spatial and temporal analysis of data. The software installed to improve these laboratories included SPSS 20, GIS 9.3, Epi Info 7, Riverware, and Google Earth.
  • Blue Nile Rain Gauges Network:  In 2012, EIWR installed 60 tipping-bucket rain gauges and fiveimage002 automatic weather stations across the Blue Nile basin from which staff and students collect data every six months  These stations generate reliable information on rainfall characteristics over the complex terrain in that region.  Teachers use the collected data in the classroom and students use the data for research.  Three graduate students recently conducted research using the weather data on the following topics. 
    1. “Effect of Topography in Satellite Rainfall Estimation Errors: Observational Evidence across Contrasting Elevation in the Blue Nile Basin.” By: Gebrehiwot Niguse
    2. “Effect of Topography on Rainy Season Rainfall Variability over the Blue Nile River Basin, Ethiopia.” By: Shambel Habte
    3. “Spatial and Temporal Rainfall Variability and its Effect on StreamFlow: The Case of Birr Watershed.” By: Nebyou Solomon
  • hydrological measuring station in the Awash Basin around Melka Konture that will generate primary data for modelling runoff and erosion processes in the Ethiopian highlands. A team consisting of professors from the University of Tubingen, Germany and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and 2 PhD and 3 MSc WREM students, established the site. The trip created a good opportunity for the students to understand the land degradation and hydrological processes of a tropical black cotton soil. These students undertook field measurements, such as infiltration, soil moisture, hydraulic conductivity, etc. In addition, they installed sensors measuring rainfall, vertical profile of soil moisture across a hillslope, and overland flow at the Melka Konture watershed.
  • Gas Analyzer at  Wonji Sugar Factory: The Eddy Covariance system measures the amount of actual
    Gas Analyzer

                                                   Gas Analyzer

    evapotranspiration (i.e. the amount of water needed) from an agricultural field. This can be used for (i) irrigation scheduling, and (2) quantifying how much water is needed for an acre of land. After training students and staff how to maintain and calibrate the equipment, a Ph.D. student installed the gas analyzer at the  Wonji Sugar Factory.  The farm is one of the first sugarcane state farms in Ethiopia. It is about seven thousand square kilometres, and is located in the upper Awash Basin which is one of basins with large scale  irrigation. EIWR received permission to install the equipment at the farm and interested students can use this instrument to conduct their research work.

  • Malaria Research Site in Ghibe Basin: In collaboration with researchers from UCONN and Jimma University, EIWR established a malaria field research site that will generate comprehensive field data to investigate the dynamics of climatic, ecological, anthropogenic factors as drivers of malaria transmission in low-elevation and higher-elevation areas. This complex and poorly understood dynamic plays a key role in determining malaria risk. To select the study sites, the team visited urban and rural areas at different elevations in the Wolkite-Jimma and Wolkite-Tolay transects across the Ghibe Basin. The study sites were selected based on differences in altitude, land use patterns, hydrological features and proximity. During the selection process, focus was given to identify and consolidate specific study sites with manageable size and avoid overstretching efforts, time and resources conduct more intensive sampling in depth and frequency carry out repeated sampling and generate data for statistical analysis. In addition, the team made several field observations which will be used to refine research questions and methodologies.
  • Water Quality Laboratory: EIWR has started to establish a water and wastewater quality laboratory. The PhD students in the Water and Health track who are doing research on wastewater treatment need these supplies to complete their dissertation research. So far the following water and wastewater laboratory reagents and equipments are purchased and available for research and teaching: chemical oxygen demand (COD) reagents, acidity and alkalinity reagents, test tubes, pipettes, beakers, volumetric flask, measuring cylinder, brushes for flask and cylinder washing, Biological oxygen demand test (BOD) bottles, imhoff cone and imhoff con racks for sludge settleability test, autoclave, and safety cabinet.

Students and Staff more Skilled at Using State-of the Art Research Equipment and  Software

Students learning to use Gas Analyzer

                     Students learning to use Gas Analyzer

International faculty trained students and staff how to set-up, operate and maintain a wide variety of research equipment.  Dr. Niles from  University of Khartoum spent a week at EIWR teaching students and staff how to set up, run and maintain the gas analyzer.  EIWR hopes to do collaborative work with Dr. NIles using this equipment in the future.  Dr. Mekonnen Gebremichael from UCLA took groups of researchers and students to the field to learn how to use hydrology equipment. Seminars were provided on how to use GIS software and one student traveled to Tanzania to learn SAS statistical software.

Critical Water Resource Data Captured and used in Student Research – Data Matters

The UCONN/AAU Partnership significantly increased the number of educational resources available for data collection and research  and the Institute’s capacity to utilize these resources.  The overwhelming consensus from early workshops on program development was that resources should be invested in field data collection because of the gap in data for research on critical water related research questions.  Consequently, the Partnership invested significantly in purchasing state-of the art research equipment and software for indoor and outdoor laboratories.  Among others, the  partnership  deployed rain gauges, hydrology equipment, and an eddy covariance gas analyzer to collect data measurements  used by multiple graduate students in their dissertation research. (See full description of equipment and research, research objectives, and locations of research sites.) EIWR does not currently have a suitable space for a water quality laboratory, however, AAU intends to build a facility over the next few years.   

These new educational resources allowed for a transformation of the graduate research experience in the water resource area.  Our students had to design field experiments, collect real data, and pursue approaches relevant for Ethiopian conditions. This is a paradigm-shift in Ethiopia, where most graduate students had to use “synthetic” or “existing data” to just play with models developed and tested outside of Ethiopia, just to get a degree. Research planning with international faculty participation was very effective,  particularly during the first WREM program when a faculty team supported  the generation of research topics.

Students Access to an Electronic Library for the first time:  Another improvement in instructional resources included providing all students access to the electronic library at UCONN where they had access to the same large set of academic publications as UCONN students.  For most students, this was the first time that they had easy access to large numbers of academic journals and publications.

Course Materials Documented for Future Use: The majority of courses for all four programs were taught by international faculty who developed syllabi and  course materials for each class.  Copies of all of these materials have been stored in a digital database for use by future students and teachers.

Project Outcome:  Improved Advising  and Counseling Capacity

Advising:  International advisors, local advisors, and research coordinators who met with students during regular research planning seminars all helped to advise students.  The research coordinators  helped to ensure the scientific quality of student research and steady progress toward research goals. Students benefited from working with international advisors who used state of the art teaching methods,  a range of teaching styles, and  global and real life perspectives to lead discussions on research priorities and achieving results.  Research planning with international faculty participation was very effective when it happened, and some students developed  relationships with their international advisors which led to  internships, lab research, joint research, and joint publications.

One of the challenges with advising was that students were located out at the Akaki campus rather than physically close to their advisors making frequent interactions more challenging.  Another challenge was that local faculty did not always demonstrate a high level of commitment to EIWR  students because they were not graduating from their own departments.  Two structures were put in place to address these challenges.  EIWR hired four research coordinators to supervise students at Akaki in research groups during weekly seminars.  During these meetings, the coordinators helped keep students on target with planning their research by providing guidance and structure.  They could advise students; problem solve, and address overarching issues with EIWR staff.  The advisors  provided some continuity and regular contact with students. The local university advisors benefited from interactions with international advisors focusing on common student’s work; having students with access to unique research resource (field data, access to electronic journals through UCONN’s library, highly specialized software such as IDL, Riverware, etc); and from having the opportunity to advise highly motivated Ph.D. students on water related topics.