Global Water Supply Crisis Informs Research of WMU Professor Named Fellow of American Association of Geographers | UGM News

Contact person: Melissa Priebe

Dr Chansheng He

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—There is an urgent need for academic research to Dr Chansheng Heprofessor and researcher in water resources management at Western Michigan University.

“We are facing a global water supply crisis,” He said. “More than two billion people lack access to clean water, and floods and droughts such as the 2021 Colorado River drought and the 2021 floods in China and Europe continue to cause significant economic losses”.

At a rigorous pace, he worked to solve these problems, to find the roots of the problem and to propose concrete solutions that allow access to drinking water in the affected areas. In honor of his accomplishments, he was named a 2022 Fellow of the American Association of Geographers.

“Climate change and unprecedented human activities have radically altered water cycles and the distribution of water resources around the world. Understanding and mitigating how these changes affect water resources at different spatial and temporal scales is key to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” says He.

Fight for drinking water

He earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in agricultural zoning and natural resource management from Northwestern Agricultural University in his native China, before coming to the United States to earn a doctorate in resource development.

Early in his career, he was involved in numerous water quality projects, studying natural resource management and water quality models that could track the sources of pollutants such as fertilizers, manure , pesticide applications and combined sewer overflows.

His research interests were shaped by his experiences in the field, where he found people struggling to find clean water in both regions of China and parts of the United States. During these years, he went on field trips to the semi-arid loess plateau region of northern China, and what he witnessed changed his career.

“I observed higher crop yields and income for villagers with irrigated cropland than those living on identical rainfed cropland. I also learned that farmers were fighting over irrigation water sources,” He said. “These experiences showed me the paramount importance of water supply for agricultural irrigation, which led me to pursue my post-graduate studies in agricultural irrigation to improve agricultural production and farmers’ incomes.”

Now he is an accomplished geographer and distinguished scholar at Western. It combines remote sensing data collection with GIS analysis, data management and modeling to link data at different spatial scales. It takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on areas of the social and physical sciences to address how land management affects water resources.

He has developed water resource management programs and water quality models to provide solutions in the United States and around the world. He developed a GIS interface for modeling nonpoint source pollution, called ArcView Nonpoint Source Modeling, which has been used in 12 countries.

In collaboration with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, he also developed the Distributed Large Basin Runoff Model, a physics-based distributed hydrological simulation model. The model has been successfully applied to more than 40 Great Lakes watersheds in North America, as well as northwest China and other countries.

Answer the most important question

Dr. He discovered his passion for academic work and higher education while studying in his doctoral program.

“During my doctorate. program, one of my professors said, “As a professor, you have to teach in your field. This statement got me thinking, “What do I profess? What are my strengths? How can I make a difference in my discipline?’ said He. “As a teacher, I want to both discover and impart knowledge to stimulate, nurture and challenge the minds of students.”

With this advice, he was determined to become a highly qualified scholar and teacher so that he could serve his students, his profession, and the global community.

“I tell my undergraduate and graduate students that to solve a problem, you must first identify what your problem is. Thus, analyzing, identifying and formulating a research problem is even more important and challenging.”

Not only does he publish frequently, but he also encourages his students to publish their ideas in national and international journals.

“It’s so rewarding to watch a student grow into a budding young professional, scholar and leader.”

Protecting water for the future

Over the coming year, he plans to collaborate with colleagues from different countries to test, modify and refine the watershed science framework.

“The researchers said that the global water crisis is a crisis of governance, and the missing link is effective interactions between researchers and decision-makers at different scales,” says He. “Since the watershed is the natural unit of water resource management, we have proposed watershed science to fill this missing link.”

It also studies the impacts of large-scale vegetation restoration (LVR) programs, such as reforestation and afforestation, or the establishment of forests on new land.

“LVRs have been promoted globally to mitigate climate change and improve ecosystem services. Yet, little is known about the trade-offs of LVR on ecosystem services, regional climate and water resources, especially in water-stressed regions,” says He. “I will work with international colleagues to identify a set of research priorities to address LVR trade-offs, maximize benefits, and prevent unintended hydrological consequences.”

He has published over 100 papers and articles in leading national and international journals, including Journal of Hydrology, Water Resources Research, Landscape and Urban Planning, Environmental Modeling and Software, and Geographical Analysis, Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, for n’ to name a few. He also sits on the editorial boards of several international journals such as Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, Geography and Sustainability, Science China Earth Sciences and Chinese Geographical Sciences.

“I am truly humbled and honored to receive this prestigious recognition,” he said.

He has received numerous honors, including Fellowship of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Fulbright Senior Specialist Awards, the US National Research Council, and the NOAA Senior Research Associatecship Award. He was also a member of the steering committee of the Commission for Water Sustainability of the International Geographical Union. Now it will add AAG Fellow to the list.

“Professor Chansheng He is an outstanding scholar, whose contribution to the field of water resources management has been widely recognized in the United States and around the world,” said Dr Benjamin Ofori-Amoah, director of the department. “His reputation as an internationally recognized scholar in his field has brought great pride and recognition to the Department of Geography, Environment and Tourism at Western Michigan University and beyond. The faculty, staff and students of UGM’s Department of Geography, Environment and Tourism are extremely honored to have him as a colleague and teacher.

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Andrew B. Reiter