Research Results

2016 Hand Dug Well Research

Students in 2016 installed three wells and collected data about water quality in hand-dug wells. In 2016 the water team consisted of Hayley Schram and Melanie Edwards.  They collected samples from hand-dug wells and analyzed water samples for bacteria using the IDEXX colilert method.  Melanie also collected samples for a DNA preservation study which was part of her capstone project.  Hayley Schram presented the results of this study at the 2016 Geological Society of America meeting in Denver, CO, you can find the abstract here.  Her poster won first place in the Hydrology student poster competition.

2017 GSA Poster Image

Sawyer Water Filter Research

In 2017 we distributed and tested 0.1 Sawyer fiber membrane filters with a water team consisting of Dr. Ryan Vannier, Danielle DeWeerd, Maria Beleen, and MacKenzie Kraft.  The results of this research were presented at the Annual Geological Society of America Meeting in Seattle.  The abstract for this post can be found here, and a copy of the poster can be downloaded here.

GSA 2016 Poster Presentation

Thinking Outside the Rocks – Study Abroad and Service Learning in Haiti - Traveling and working in Haiti is nonlinear and sometimes frustrating, however, compelling learning opportunities await those who are able to successfully navigate its unique complexities. In May and June 2016, I led the first ever study abroad from our university to Haiti. Seven undergraduates, a graduate student, an assistant director, and myself travelled and engaged in “adventure-based” learning for one month in Haiti. Students came with a variety of majors and skills to engage in hands-on, experiential, learning about healthcare, environmental degradation, water resources, deforestation, agriculture, and safe-water interventions.

The first week was spent in Haiti “boot camp”, where we spent the week learning, hiking, observing, and acclimatizing to the mountains of Haiti. Students were exposed to the urban setting of Port au Prince and very remote villages high in the mountains above Port au Prince. During the last three weeks, students experienced the diverse geography and culture of Haiti, traveling from the large capital city of Port-au-Prince to remote towns along the Artibonite River and in the Central Plateau of Haiti. Students engaged in service learning projects related to health, water resources, and education. They utilized their unique skills and experience to teach dance at a Haitian school, observe dental and health practices at a local hospital, teach nursing students about mental health, update data for a local hospital, and collect water samples for bacterial and DNA analysis.

The study abroad program allowed students from all disciplines to contribute their energy and ideas to explore real-world problems in Haiti in a collaborative environment. Although Haiti is known for its complex social, environmental, economic, and cultural issues, the Haitian people show great resilience and optimism in the face of these challenges. The study abroad program provided an opportunity for students to work alongside Haitians, in the context of service learning projects, field trips, and group activities to explore Haiti’s complex issues.

2017 Study Abroad Program GSA Presentation

Since 2008 I have been traveling to Haiti with undergraduate students from Grand Valley State University to engage in service learning and research. The research has focused primarily on understanding groundwater contamination in wells, springs, and surface water sources. Working in Haiti is challenging on many levels including logistics of transporting samples on poor roads, laboratory facilities, and consistent power. Despite these challenges my students and I have successfully collected data and published several peer-reviewed papers on water quality, water treatment, deforestation, and other aspects of Haiti's natural resources.

Since 2015, I have attempted to combine research with service learning opportunities for groups of undergraduate students. In the last two years I have led a few dozen students on trips to Haiti. We have installed wells, taught workshops at local libraries, distributed filters, and engaged in "ecotourism" as we learned about the complex nonlinear country that is Haiti. Although these trips are challenging, and initially faced considerable resistance from administration at my university, they have created a space for invaluable learning and research.


Challenges students must overcome to engage in studying abroad in Haiti include multiple languages that are not English, transportation on very poorly maintained roads, inclement weather, political unrest, unreliable power, and sometimes limited water supplies. Despite these challenges it is possible to work, travel, and engage in research with students in Haiti. There are many research problems and data needs that could help Haiti to meet the many challenges they face. It is worth the extra effort needed to explore these fruitful research topics with students.