SU Graduate Students Travel to Rwanda for Environmental Research

 SU Graduate Students Travel to Rwanda for Environmental Research

June 19, 2018

From June 1st to the 16th, 11 graduate students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the College of Arts and Sciences, who are part of the EMPOWER graduate training program at Syracuse University, joined 12 students from the University of Rwanda for a course on field methods in the earth and environmental sciences at Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes in the rift valley.  It is large, one of the deepest lakes in the world, and strongly influenced by volcanic activity.  The lake is the site of a unique energy generating facility, Kivuwatt, in which methane is extracted from the water column of the lake and used to generate energy for Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the most mountainous countries in Africa, with spectacular landscapes. It is also poor and has one of the highest population densities in Africa.

The class was organized and conducted by SU faculty members Chris Scholz, Chris Junium and Laura Lautz in the Department of Earth Sciences and Charles Driscoll in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and three instructors from the University of Rwanda, Emmanuel Habimana, Alliance Nyiragtare and Valens Habimana. Dr. Antoine Nsabimana, Associate Professor of Chemistry in the College of Science and Technology at the University of Rwanda, also provided administrative assistance. Critical support for the class was provided by Jacqueline Corbett and Annie Pennella of Earth Sciences, and Mario Montesdeoca in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

SU students traveled to Rwanda and initially the city of Kigali and ultimately Kibuye and Gisenyi on Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is in the western border of Rwanda with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  For the course, students learned a variety of field methods to study lakes, their sediments, the water column and the surrounding geologic characteristics. Following these training exercises, small groups of SU and Rwandan students designed and implemented their own field measurements to address research questions they developed on the lake and environment. The class culminated in student presentations of their research results.

In addition to learning and implementing field methods, the EMPOWER and Rwandan students visited the Kivuwatt energy platform on the lake; received a lecture on Rwandan culture and the impacts of the energy generating facility on local culture and the economy by Kristin Doughty a professor at the University of Rochester; visited the markets and shops in Kigali, Kibuye and Gisenyi; hiked to the top of a 12,000 foot elevation volcano at Volcano National Park and visited the Rwandan Genocide museum.