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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Professor participates in global gathering

March 22, 2016
Professor Richard Dick with farmers in Niger beside Guiera senegalensis, an indigenous shrub his research has shown enhances soils, reduces drought stress, and increases crop productivity in the Sahel. (Photo credit: Dr. Tougiani ABASSE)
Professor Richard Dick, was an invited participant at the first Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Global Gathering, held March 8-10, 2016 in Dakar, Senegal.
The NEF initiative, a partnership of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung Foundation, is a new global forum for science in Africa to propel Africa onto the global scientific stage and and according to its website, mobilizes the brightest minds to address the most pressing problems through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the social sciences.
For the past 15 years, Dick, funded mainly by the National Science Foundation, has led a team of scientists conducting research on rhizosphere hydrology and microbiology of shrub-intercropping systems in Senegal, West Africa.  He was asked to attend the invitation-only forum in recognition of his long-term research of semi-arid agroecosystems and engagement with West African scientists and universities, Dick said.
“The research developed from a serendipitous observation that several uninvestigated shrubs, can coexist with crops. From that I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with African, French, and US scientists to fund and conduct research on this novel system."
Dick is a professor and Ohio Eminent Scholar of Soil Microbial Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. The school is in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
The team, led by Dick, discovered through their research that two indigenous shrubs do hydraulic lift of water from wet soils to dry surface soils, changing the paradigm of how semi-arid ecosystems function; promoting beneficial microorganism/plant water relations and dramatically increasing crop productivity while stabilizing fragile landscapes in the Sahel.
More than 1000 attendees participated in the global NEF gathering, including university scientists, ministers of higher education, and various scientists from global and African scientific agencies and think tanks. 
Speaking at the event were Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, and Paul Kagame, the president of  Rwanda and other keynote speakers, notably from the U.S., Dr. France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation. Coverage of the event is featured in news publications such as The New York Times and The Economist.

Pre-conference workshop brings together interdisciplinary expertise

Professor Dick was also one of approximately 30 African and U.S. scientists invited to attend one of the pre-conference workshops, US-Africa Workshop on the Science and Research Vision of  Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus (March 6-7) falling under the NEF umbrella and sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) program, which also funded his travel to attend the NEF and this workshop.
The workshop brought together experts in disciplines of hydrology, agronomy, soil science, biology, and environmental engineering with those from ecology, complex systems, economics, and social sciences. A platform for interdisciplinary research was explored at the intersections of the water and energy cycles, soils, and plant biogeochemistry within a social and economic context. 
A primary outcome of the workshop was a white paper to serve as a scientific foundation for research toward sustainable policies and strategies to manage ecosystems for food, energy, and water availability in Africa. The white paper was delivered and discussed at the NEF. It will also provide guidance for a potential directive of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s involvement in African science initiatives.
Source: Richard Dick