Cheese, Chocolates, and Case Studies

BY LINDSAY KEY – NOVEMBER 22, 2018

Croatia has recently become a hot tourist destination but students traveling as part of CLIGS’ Summer 2018 International Field Experience (IFE) to Croatia didn’t spend all of their time sampling delicious cheeses and chocolate truffles, swimming in the sparkling Adriatic Sea, or catching the next soccer World Cup game in the city square. There was a ton of work to be done as well, and the trip’s leader, Dr. Anamaria Bukvic, scheduled a full agenda of meetings with public officials in various localities so the students could get enough information for their group research projects.

As a final project for the class Global Issues in Natural Resources, students were divided into 3-4 person groups and asked to research and report on three unique case studies involving hydrological systems in Croatia—the city of Karlovac, the River Sava, and the Istra Region. They were to provide information on overarching hydrological issues in the country and potential paths forward. A website detailing each case study is available online.

Looking at these issues from this new perspective was beyond anything I could ever expect in a classroom or digital classroom experience. ~ Amy Petrovich Kerr, Online MNR student

MNR student, Amy Petrovich Kerr, was in a group that focused on the River Sava Basin. The River Sava is the second largest tributary to the Danube River and an important water resource for Croatia, while also having the potential to serve as a power resource and manage flood control.

While in Croatia, students had the opportunity to meet with Professor Ivan Cenjevac at the University of Zagreb and the company Zagreb naSavi, who shared details about a proposal to build several small hydrological dams along the River Sava. He stated that the original plans proposed one large dam, but then evolved to allow for multiple small hydropower dams that would support local electricity needs while also maintaining environmental standards along the river. However, at least one NGO—Save the Blue Heart of Europe—holds the opposing view that the dams would threaten biodiversity along the river. Learning about the project reinforced the complexity of natural resources issues for students.

“I loved learning about the impact and use of water resources in a country quite different than my own,” said Kerr. “Looking at these issues from this new perspective was beyond anything I could ever expect in a classroom or digital classroom experience.”

MNR student, Allison Kupar, was part of a group that focused on flooding issues in the city of Karlovac. The city was built near four rivers, which provide citizens with access to drinking water, sanitation, irrigation, and water-related recreation activities. However, in recent years, the rivers have overflowed as a result of heavy snow precipitation in surrounding mountains, followed by warm spring temperatures and heavy rains. While in Croatia, students met with employees of the Karlovac Fire Department to learn more about past and current flooding events and proposed management strategies.

“Being able to see the study area and interacting with stakeholders and people impacted by the issue that our case study was going to tackle was a valuable experience,” said Kupar. “Rather than looking up all the information via studies and websites on computers, we were able to ask direct questions to people who were involved with these issues, getting the whole facts rather than just a snapshot or one side of the story. Hearing different sides of the issue in person allowed us to be emotionally connected to the issues, as well as forming a full picture of how flooding impacts the Karlovac area and its residents.”

Students completed their final projects and the course in August 2018. The next International Field Experience in Croatia will be offered in Summer 2020.

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MNR alumna Lindsay Key is passionate about helping scientists translate their discoveries into news that the general public can understand and use. She’s particularly knowledgeable about the life sciences and has written extensively about the environment, wildlife, and human health. In addition to the MNR, she has degrees in creative writing (focus: poetry), English, and Communication Studies. Lindsay joined the Summer 2018 International Field Experience to Croatia as an embedded journalist.