Urban dwellers may be familiar with the concept of a “rain garden.” These landscape sites help reduce stormwater runoff by allowing it to be reabsorbed into soil, while also filtering pollutants and providing habitat for birds and insects. The movement towards more green infrastructure in cities, compared to the traditional method of greywater systems of gutters and pipes, is building momentum in the United States and abroad. Ohio State PhD candidate, Joey Smith, is hard at work studying rain gardens as a viable method of large-scale water resource management.
During the spring of 2023, Smith travelled to China to serve as a senior visiting scholar in the School of Water Resources & Hydropower Engineering at Wuhan University. “While in Wuhan I have constructed a rain garden, run experiments, presented research findings, and made valuable interpersonal connections,” explained Smith. Smith was part of a team of students and professors building three rain gardens and two soil columns in the experimental field on campus. The team collaborated on a project to see how different soil blends in the United States and China impact rain garden drainage rate and pollutant removal.
A two-time Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship awardee, Smith is not new to the task of seeking green solutions for public infrastructure. In 2021, Smith successfully defended his MA thesis on how citizens’ perceptions may affect the design and execution of a water conservation project called “sponge city,” using Wuhan as a case study.
Smith participated in an Earth Day celebration that year, helping to continue solidifying the bonds between Ohio State and Wuhan University. Ohio State and Wuhan University renewed their memorandum of understanding later in 2021, extending a 40-year partnership between the two universities. This connection continues to provide opportunities for student and faculty exchange for lectures, advanced studies and research.
“In a climate challenged world where U.S. and Chinese cities struggle with flooding, continued collaboration on rain gardens can lead to improved implementation and governance of this shared solution,” said Smith. Smith will continue his work as a PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary Environmental Science Graduate Program stateside this autumn, and will collaborate with faculty, researchers and fellow students to seek innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
This story was produced in collaboration with the China Gateway.