Pat Farrell traveled to Sri Lanka for the third time this spring to work with the University of Kelaniya in educating the public on soil conservation. Farrell, a Geography, Urban, Environment and Sustainability Studies associate professor, has been a part of this soil conservation research program since its introduction in 2007.
“Sri Lanka is dealing with big issues, such as water contamination, landslides, deforestation, animal invasion and major soil erosion,” Farrell said.
Farrell travels to Sri Lanka to help further educate others on the importance of soil. She lectured and taught field courses to faculty and staff at the University of Kelaniya, and also led field trips for graduate students.
“Soil is the core of agriculture,” Farrell said. “We explored soil variation in Sri Lanka. Without this core knowledge, Sri Lanka would struggle to improve.”
Sri Lanka, a small island country near Southeast India in South Asia, is home to a large diversity of soil. The landscape ranges from mountains to paddy fields.
“The university and I traveled all around the island to study the different soils and educate others on these differences.”
Currently, Farrell and Kelaniya faculty are working to gather funds in order to build a physical geography lab at the university in Sri Lanka. This lab would allow for more extensive research and soil study on campus.
“Right now the only real soil lab they have is at the Coconut Research Institute,” said Farrell.
The Coconut Research Institute and the University of Minnesota have an existing partnership. According to Farrell, these Sri Lanka trips have helped form major international connections at UMD.
Since 2007, Farrell has seen major improvements in the general landscape and treatment of soil in Sri Lanka.
Farrell received a grant from the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance based out of the Twin Cities campus. She plans on going back to the island in November 2015.
Eventually Farrell and the GUESS department hope to make this Sri Lankan soil conservation program a study abroad opportunity. For now though, Farrell and the University of Kelaniya continue to work hard.
“The faculty, staff and students are very dedicated to Sri Lanka,” Farrell said. “The scholars there are committed to a sustainable future, and, as a geographer, I am willing to do whatever I can to help.”
BY AISLING DOHENY