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CONSERVE@1 year! 

March 1, 2017, marks the beginning of Year 2 for the United States Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded CONSERVE. CONSERVE's ongoing research, education, and extension efforts are developed with the goal of enabling the safe use of nontraditional irrigation water on food crops and effectively reducing the nation’s agricultural water challenges that are exacerbated by climate change. In the first year, the CONSERVE progress and accomplishments have been significant. To list just a few of the many highlights to date: 

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61 CONSERVE scholars from 7 different institutions supported by CONSERVE funds and  working toward CONSERVE goals: (20 Undergraduate students, 21 graduate students, 6 post-doctoral fellows, 14 technical staff) 

27 conference presentations by CONSERVE team members

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9 articles published by or featuring CONSERVE team members

17 field sites sampled in the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest (3 water reclamation irrigation sites that utilize reclaimed water from municipal wastewater treatment plants; 3 vegetable/beverage processing sites that discharge wastewater/recycled water that could potentially be used for irrigation; 2 farms that are interested in using pond water for irrigation; 4 sites that are using non-tidal freshwater for irrigation; 1 site that is using tidal freshwater for irrigation; and 1 farm that is using tidal brackish water for irrigation; 3 wastewater treatment plants)

147 samples collected, processed, and purified and sent for 16S rRNA sequencing and/or metagenomic shotgun sequencing

1,400 adult subjects participated in five economic experiments examining consumer preferences for foods grown with traditional vs. nontraditional irrigation water sources

3 high level advisory panels established (the CONSERVE Advisory Committee, the Mid-Atlantic CONSERVE Extension Advisory Panel, and the Southwest CONSERVE Extension Advisory Panel)

9 CONSERVE scholars travelled to Israel to learn about the successful water reuse for irrigation policies and processes that the small, arid country has implemented to successfully transition from extreme water shortage to abundance
 
4 states researched to compile the existing laws detailing water reuse for irrigating food crops (Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and California)

CONSERVE Year 2 plans are ambitious, including:

  • The first cohort of CONSERVE Summer Interns (undergraduate students who will intern in CONSERVE-funded labs around the US)
  • The first CONSERVE multimedia educational video
  • The first CONSERVE scholars workshop
  • The continuation of regular sampling schedules
  • The continuation of consumer and grower assessment data collection and analysis
  • The initial research to establish a laboratory-scale ZVI filter that can be implemented into a field setting
  • Expansion of peer reviewed publications, conference presentations, and communications vehicles
  • And much, much more

Go to conservewaterforfood.org for more information and updates.

CONSERVE Scholars in Israel
In January of 2017, law students, business and economics graduate students and CONSERVE scholars journeyed through Israel to study water reuse and learn about how the Arava Institute is working toward improving water access for communities in the West Bank. Funded in part by a grant from the University of Maryland Baltimore’s Center for Global Education Initiatives and CONSERVE researchers, the participants will ultimately draft a report for CONSERVE Collaborator Clive Lipchin and the Arava Institute that will focus on the Institute’s efforts to incorporate sustainable water reuse technologies in the Palestinian territory and how strategies may be employed in off-grid communities in the region to improve water access and reuse.

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CONSERVE Economics Experiment in Israel
As an extension to the January Israel trip, led by the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Environmental Law Program, CONSERVE Scholar Sean Ellis (from Kent Messer's group at the University of Delaware) collaborated with Dr. Clive Lipchin of the Arava Institute to survey the public on the Eilat promenade in Southern Israel. In just two days, the team collected 202 surveys, examining consumer preferences for foods grown with traditional vs. nontraditional irrigation water sources. These data are expected to initiate a more detailed, extensive study.

Mid-Atlantic group meets for lunch

The CONSERVE Mid-Atlantic group met for a joint lunch at the University of Maryland in College Park on November 3. In addition to our local group from UMD and USDA, team members came from University of Delaware, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and University of Maryland, Baltimore. Everyone met new colleagues and the lunch was followed up by a group training for the Lab Information Management Software System (LIMS).

Rita Colwell awarded the 7th Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) Creativity Award

Rita Colwell, a Distinguished University of Maryland Professor and CONSERVE collaborator, was awarded the 7th Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) Creativity Award on November 2, 2016 in a ceremony at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The PSIPW award, considered one of the most prestigious international awards focusing on water-related scientific innovation, recognizes the collaborative research by Rita and Shafiqul Islam from Tufts University that employs chlorophyll information from satellite data to predict cholera outbreaks at least three to six months in advance.

Dr. Colwell is one of the world’s leading researchers of cholera—a waterborne disease estimated by the World Health Organization to strike three to five million people annually, many of them young children.

In 1960, Rita became the first scientist to write a computer program that could identify bacteria. By the 1970s, her groundbreaking use of computational tools to study biology helped establish the field of Bioinformatics, a key area of scientific study today.
 

University of Delaware team at the USDA Farmers Market down in Washington DC

The CONSERVE team at the University of Delaware’s Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) rolled out its innovative tuk tuk at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers Market on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 30, conducting a study on consumers’ preferences for food produced with non-traditional irrigation water.

The Team's Tuk Tuk is a mobile lab with the appearance similar to that of a Thailand food truck and helps attract subjects of all demographics, making it a great tool for research in that it brings in a wide variety of participants. During Friday’s event, about 150 people participated in the experiment.

CONSERVE’s Mid-Atlantic Sampling efforts

Sampling efforts for CONSERVE’s Mid-Atlantic team have begun! In mid-September, we packed up our water pumps and rubber boots and piled into vans for our first sampling trip. We collected water samples from rivers, ponds, and wastewater treatment facilities. Several labs from the CONSERVE team spent the rest of the week processing samples, examining the microbiological, chemical, and physical quality of these diverse water sources. The hard work and planning of the CONSERVE team paid off, and our first sampling and processing days went smoothly. 

Last week, 3 vans full of CONSERVE scientists from 4 different research groups went back out to the Maryland sites with updated protocols and optimized sampling supplies. Our second sampling trip went even better than the first, and data continues to roll in from the first two sample collection days. Our sampling dates are scheduled through December.