During the Spring of 2023, Joey Smith traveled to China to serve as a senior visiting scholar in the School of Water Resources & Hydropower Engineering at Wuhan University. Joey graduated from The Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) BS/MS program, is currently a GTA for FABE land surveying classes, and is an Environmental Science Graduate Program (ESGP) PhD candidate.
Joey is currently researching rain gardens as a viable method of large-scale water resource management with his advisor, FABE’s Dr. Ryan Winston. Rain gardens are landscape sites that help reduce stormwater runoff by allowing it to be reabsorbed into the soil, while also filtering pollutants and providing a habitat for birds and insects.
While in China Dr. Winston and Joey helped construct three rain gardens, ran experiments, presented research findings, and made valuable interpersonal connections with the team at Wuhan University.
In August, FABE hosted the same team in the United States for a visit that included a twelve-day excursion across three states and nearly ten cities to showcase what the Midwest and OSU have to offer.
The team included Dr. Xiang ZHANG, director of the Hubei Provincial Key Laboratory of Water System Science for Sponge City Construction at Wuhan University and professor in the School of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering, and doctoral students Yifan YANG, Zhou GUO, and Shuying LIU. Dr. ZHANG is also a member of Joey’s OSU PhD committee.
"The experience showed me how important it was to learn the language of where I was going," said Joey. "My time as a FABE undergrad allowed me to double major in FABE and Chinese, and if you take the time to learn the language, the native language speakers will give you time and be willing to collaborate with you." Joey learned the language and cultural skills needed to collaborate with China under his OSU Chinese BA/MA advisor, Dr. Galal Walker, and cultural coach and liaison to Wuhan University, Dr. Minru Li.
Before arriving in Columbus, the team drove to Ann Arbor to meet a professor at the University of Michigan, visited OSU’s island campus in Lake Erie Stone Lab, headed to Cleveland to attend a stormwater Extension workshop taught by Dr. Winston and see OSU's research sites, and finally headed to the rain gardens in Buffalo and saw Niagara Falls before making it to Columbus nearly a week later.
Columbus is adopting rain gardens at a large scale through the Blueprint Columbus project, and Wuhan is a pilot “sponge city,” which is China’s large-scale rain garden initiative. The primary purpose of the team's visit consisted of comparing how a city in the United States manages its water with rain gardens compared to one in China, while also making progress on manuscripts and grant proposals.
"The US and Chinese neighborhoods are completely different, so you have to see it first-hand to even write a grant proposal," explained Joey. "Chinese homes are mostly high-rise buildings, and those buildings are built by a company that is required to add rain gardens. Homes in Columbus are mostly single-family houses, and the city government installs rain gardens along neighborhood streets. Sometimes, people may think that the rain garden is on their land."
They set up shop in the Agricultural Engineering Building and participated in a research exchange, visited the Extension Building to investigate OSU's stormwater management infrastructure, and met with the Project Manager for Blueprint Columbus.
Later in the week, the group attended a Master Rain Gardener class at Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and did a site visit at Griggs Reservoir with Franklin SWCD and the US Geological Survey.
The team also met with University leaders such as Scott Shearer of FABE, Dean Mary Stromberger of the OSU Graduate School, co-directors of ESGP Drs. Nicholas Basta and Mary Gardiner, Director of International Programs Dr. Luis Cañas, and finally Associate Vice Provost of OSU International Affairs Fernando Unzueta.
"Water is a global problem and requires global solutions," said Joey. "Projects like this unite us over international boundaries and allow for international thoughts to be shared towards the common goal of clean water."
Outside of the meaningful water management research that the team was doing, Joey planned some time for fun in Columbus. The team went to the statehouse, Columbus Metropolitan Library, German Village, a Columbus Clippers game and shared a meal with the Wuhan University Ohio Alumni Association.
Joey was happy to help host the team in the USA and build upon the 40-year partnership between OSU and Wuhan University. This connection continues to provide opportunities for student and faculty exchange for lectures, advanced studies and research.
"I had an idea of wanting to work with China, and I was grateful for the resources and support from this department to make it happen," said Joey. "There are lots of faculty in FABE that are interested in international work that helped me along the way, and the classes in humanitarian engineering do a great job of putting the human-focused work of engineering into context."
Moving forward, Joey will travel to China from October 20-30th to give a keynote speech at an Engineering Education Forum about sustainable development in Beijing. Joey looks to travel to China again in 2024 using interviews to follow up on his questionnaire about the social differences for the support of rain gardens in different cultural contexts.