WMU's Freshwater Science and Sustainability Program to Host International Water History Conference at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

by Tyler Lecceadone
June 8, 2017 | Extended University Programs News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Scientists and scholars from around the globe are expected in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 14 through June 16 to participate in the 2017 Water History Conference.

Hosted by Western Michigan University’s Freshwater Science and Sustainability program, the event will be held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. This marks the first time the international conference has been brought to the United States. The conference provides a platform for leading researchers to exchange and develop insights about the history and future of water. Individuals from more than 15 nations are expected to attend.

The bi-annual conference has been developed to generate public awareness about the role of water in world history and to promote public participation in resolving water resource issues. Conference sessions will include discussions on a variety of international issues related to water resources that range from mountain lakes to major river systems and coastal areas. Some topics will include “Water as agent for social change: Dam-building and irrigation case studies of poor relief projects in early twentieth century South Africa,” and “A Small River and the Big Capitals: The Logic of Qin Huai He River Management of China.” Discussions also will include such Michigan issues as the Flint water crisis, the Detroit River, the Grand River and more.

The event is being co-organized by the International Water History Association and WMU’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. It will feature presentations from some of the world’s foremost experts in water sciences. Three WMU faculty members are among the forum's invited speakers. They are:

  • Dr. Daniel Macfarlane, assistant professor of the environment and sustainability;
  • Dr. Marion Gray, professor of history and gender and women's studies; and
  • Dr. Lynne Heasley, associate professor of the environment and sustainability and history.

In addition to his position at WMU, Macfarlane is the chair of the International Water History Association's program committee. During the conference, Macfarlane will present, “A Brief History of Controlling Water in the Great Lakes” on June 14 and “Summer of ’69: Turning off Niagara Falls” on June 16. As a researcher, he explores the cultural views of nature and water, political ecology and the transborder spread of ideas concerning hydraulic engineering, hydroelectricity and technology. Macfarlane earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Ottawa, and has held Fulbright, Banting, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada fellowships.

Gray's research analyzes changes brought about by the Enlightenment period and French Revolution in regards to government, law, agriculture, environment and gender. He studies ways in which the creation of a modern market economy and scientific agriculture changed the lives of ordinary women and men. On June 15 of the conference, Gray will present, “From Marshland to Agriculture: Eight Centuries of Anthropogenic Change in the Nuthe-Nieplitz Watershed (Brandenburg, Germany).” He earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

On June 14, Heasley will discuss, “Concealed Infrastructures: Electric Fish Barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.” The associate professor’s work integrates history, geography, ecology and the arts, focusing the ways in which humans have shaped and been shaped by the natural world. She has previously presented on Great Lakes restoration, photography as historical inquiry and the changing ecology of environmental law. Heasley holds a Ph.D. in forest and wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

WMU launched its Freshwater Science and Sustainability program in 2014 in partnership with Northwestern Michigan College at WMU’s Traverse City regional location. The program aims to foster an understanding of both the core principles within and the intersections between three pillars of sustainability—environmental, social and economic systems—with a particular emphasis on freshwater sciences. The degree prepares students to address the complex regional, national and global challenges related to the sustainability of freshwater resources.

For more information regarding the International Water History Conference, contact Dr. Daniel Macfarlane

  •  When:
    Wednesday, June 14, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Thursday, June 15, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
    Friday, June 16, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  •  Where:
    Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
    187 Monroe Avenue NW
    Grand Rapids, MI 49503