The WaterSHED Center Mission is to promote the stewardship of water resources for sustainable use and human and ecological health through interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach activities.
In 2002, Dr. Rita Colwell, the Director of the US National Science Foundation, wrote: “...in the 21st Century we have to develop an integrated approach across the disciplines to understand the complexity of water issues worldwide.”. She describes how complex global water issues require a combined engineering, and natural, physical, and social sciences approach. To foster the partnerships among disciplines at Tufts and to develop and identify Tufts as a leading resource for US and international agencies for education in , and research and policy analysis on water, the WaterSHED Center was founded in June 1999. The WaterSHED Center brings together faculty from the six Schools at Tufts that cover all the relevant areas of water; Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
The programs of the WatersSHED Center are unique because they blend research and educational programs from a larger number of disciplines than most, if not all, other water-related programs in the US. They are open to all faculty, staff, and students who are interested in water; in fact discipline diversity is sought. The programs also have a practical focus, emphasizing the integration of disciplines in education and research for real-world problem solving in the United States and internationally.
Center membership is open to all members of the University as well as invited partners from academia, industry, and government and non-governmental organizations interested in in the interdisciplinary water issues related to the science, protection, use, management, administration, and economic and humanistic value of water and related resources, and the relationship between water and health.
Research: The Center encourages interdisciplinary research within the University and across other institutions by providing an institutional mechanism and focal point to bring researchers together to seek and conduct interdisciplinary conduct research activities through their own academic departments and in conjunction with others. This is accomplished by: building a research network to help researchers find research partners in other disciplines, coordinating the use of laboratories and equipment, providing advice to researchers as needed on research and associated support areas, organizing the annual submission of interdisciplinary proposals, recruiting outstanding undergraduate and graduate students to academic departments to contribute to their research capabilities, and organizing a regular seminar series.
Research is organized around four areas where Tufts has well established research programs:
Water, Climate and Environment Change; Water and Public Health; Urban Watershed Restoration and Management; and Water, Food and Livelihood Security. A fifth emerging area is also included: Water and National and International Security. All of the research areas integrate several disciplines to approach problems centered on water. See the Research sidebar for more details on these programs.
Education: The Center assists academic departments and curriculum committees in: developing a university wide water resources undergraduate minor as well as graduate school concentrations in water resources through coordination of the various water related courses offered at Tufts University and by encouraging departments to develop new courses, using water related research to inspire undergraduate capstone projects and undergraduate and graduate research, facilitating water related curriculum development for kindergarten through high school, attracting outstanding graduate students interested in water to academic departments and encouraging researchers to support them through research assistantships.
We are also developing with others a graduate school Doctorate concentration known as Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) to complement our interdisciplinary research program. The purpose of the concentration is to educate people skilled in one water-related discipline to use multiple disciplinary perspectives and tools to develop solutions to water problems in multidisciplinary teams. The thematic basis of the program is to work with a global view toward assuring water security for the protection of the environment, health, and human livelihood. Our vision is to train a new kind of professional who understands the causes and dynamics of water-related problems and will be able to anticipate and respond to emerging water-related problems. The WSSS goals include to: educate a diverse, ethical, skilled set of professionals who are trained to be multidisciplinary even as they develop a specialization; meet the growing demand for interdisciplinary water experts; develop interdisciplinary research projects that will make significant global contributions; to develop and identify Tufts as a premier resource in the field; and enhance other graduate and undergraduate education at Tufts and nearby universities.
Graduate students in WSSS obtain their degrees from an existing school or department, fulfilling all requirements and gaining the necessary depth and expertise in that discipline. In addition, students take additional courses from other departments and participate in seminars to have exposure to the range of methodological tools used by the different specialties. Students also take advanced courses in one area outside of their major field to develop a deeper understanding of another aspect of water issues. The program is coordinated by members from the six schools participating in the program. For work in your field, they should be contacted for more information.
Outreach: The Center promotes and supports the stewardship of water resources through several outreach programs such as: working with the Tufts administration to make Tufts a model of institutional water management; supporting the many citizen-run Tufts Water associations in the northeastern US by providing student interns, technical support, and affiliate membership; working with communities on watershed management in the watershed where Tufts has campuses; and encouraging industrial liaison with the water technology research activities at Tufts by inviting industrial organizations to become affiliate members of the Center. Our major outreach is the Mystic Watershed Collaborative, which was started by the WaterSHED Center and now also involves TIE, UCCPS, and CIS. More information on this partnership of Tufts and the local Mystic River Watershed Association to restore the nearby Mystic River in metro Boston is in the sidebar under Outreach.