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When Dr. William Bajjali travels to Jordan later this year, he'll be helping that Middle Eastern country manage its scant supply of groundwater while gathering information to train his University of Wisconsin-Superior students in hydrology.
He'll also be returning to his native land as a Fulbright Scholar.
Bajjali, a professor in UW-Superior's Department of Natural Sciences, recently learned from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board that he will receive one of the prestigious Fulbright Scholar awards to conduct groundwater research in Jordan.
Honored to help others
Bajjali said he's honored that his research project was chosen from among the thousands of proposals sent to the Fulbright board.
And as a citizen of both the United States and Jordan, he's honored to be using his expertise in an important cause. "To go back to Jordan, I feel I'm doing my duty as an American to help others," he said.
'Flagship' exchange program
The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government's flagship international educational exchange program. Each year it sends about 800 U.S. educators and professionals to 155 countries to lecture, conduct research or participate in seminars.
Bajjali will conduct research on "Groundwater Management in Irrigated Highlands in Jordan." He will work with that country's Ministry of Agriculture and its Ministry of Water and Irrigation in an effort to more efficiently manage groundwater use.
"I will be able to help the country by offering my expertise in dealing with several problems," he said. "It also will allow me to access more data on an arid area so I can bring that data back here to teach."
Conserving water, saving soil
In his research, Bajjali will evaluate current and future water demands in the Jordanian highlands, use computer models to develop a mechanism for determining sustainable groundwater use, and analyze soil and water. He then will develop an implementation plan that will translate information gained from the research into actions and structures that can be used for water impoundment.
The project will provide a scientific approach to reducing the amount of groundwater used for irrigation and develop a means for determining a sustainable level of groundwater consumption. It also will reduce the amount of fertilizer used in farming, which in turn will reduce water pollution and soil salinization.
Returning to teach
While there, Bajjali also will train geologists involved in the project and teach advanced courses in hydrogeology and geographic information systems to students at the University of Jordan.
Bajjali earned his master's degree in geology at the University of Jordan. He said he was honored when the professors who taught him there asked him to return to the university to share his expertise with them.
Teaching UW-Superior students
Bajjali, who joined the UW-Superior faculty in 2001, holds a doctorate degree in hydrogeology and has spent about 30 years in the environmental field as a hydrogeologist, researcher, educator, and expert in geographic information systems. He has broad practical experience in the field of environmental science and has been project manager of environmental development projects in several public and private sector organizations in the United States, Canada and the Middle East.
Bajjali teaches watershed hydrology and geographic information systems at UW-Superior. He said his work in Jordan will yield benefits to the university and its students.
The award will enable Bajjali to continue his research into groundwater issues in Jordan and use the real-world data in teaching his courses at UW-Superior. That will broaden students' knowledge of hydrology, provide information to use in undergraduate research, and further the university's goal of promoting global awareness among its students.
The Fulbright Program was proposed to Congress in 1945 by then freshman Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. In the aftermath of World War II, the senator viewed the proposed program as a much-needed vehicle for promoting "mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world." His vision was approved by Congress and the program signed into law by President Truman in 1946.
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