Those poor communications practices between nations greatly increase the chances of flood-related deaths, especially in the developing world.
Tennessee Tech University civil engineering professor Faisal Hossain will spend the next several years working to change that, with the help of a Fulbright scholarship and a grant from NASA.
Hossain has spent years working monitoring satellite imagery of river basins and using the collected data to help nations to independently track river flows and flood threats.
Beginning this summer, he will split his time between collaborating universities and his native Bangladesh on a Fulbright research and lecture fellowship to build capacity among local staff in the Southeast Asian country to use his data. After the yearlong program, he will continue the same work with a 5-year NASA grant with an expected research budget of nearly $700,000.
“We’ve done a lot of research. Now, I want to take it and make it a day-to-day tool,” Hossain said. “If you want to transform knowledge, you need to give the people ownership of the technology. I’ll be working with people in the Bangladeshi equivalent of the National Weather Service because they don’t know a lot about this technology.”
Eventually, Hossain said he hopes the program will work similarly to weather websites in the U.S., where people can plug in their location and get a forecast on their cellphones.
Part of the NASA grant includes a provision to bring students from Bangladesh to TTU to learn the program, then return to teach it in their country.
“We’re training the trainer,” said Hossain, who recently received one of the two 2012 Graduate of the Last Decade Awards from the University of Connecticut, his alma mater. “If you train the trainer the way the Peace Corps does, rather than handing out aid or a complex tool, you maximize the effectiveness of your ideas because no one has to depend on a foreign toolmaker anymore. It gives people better control over their destinies.”