SFU teams up with i2P to run the Kalahari


Dr. Georges Agnes is leading eight students through the desert to explore the role of water

By Alison Roach
Photos by PAMR

Dr. Georges Agnes, a SFU chemistry professor and associate dean of the Faculty of Science, is currently running across the Kalahari Desert in Botswana along with eight students to explore the role of water there. The run began Oct. 30 and is expected to end on Nov. 8. Agnes developed the Kalahari trek’s academic component.

The expedition is part of the impossible2Possible (i2P) World Expedition Series. i2P is a non-profit organization based out of California that sponsors youth trips with academic themes. These have included journeys to Tunisia, Baffin Island, and Bolivia last May, which Agnes was also involved in. SFU has collaborated with SFU to create an educational curriculum of the trip. This year, the 17–21-year-old participants will cross 400 kilometres of desert on the expedition. The eight participants prepared for several weeks before the program began to narrow down their own personal research interests, as well as ensure they were physically ready for the run.

Unfortunately, Agnes was not available for comment, since he had already made his way to Botswana in preparation for the run, but he did say in an interview with SFU’s Public Affairs and Media Relations that “foundational scientific principles are at the core of the i2P expedition’s academic themes . . . The i2P academic program allows its youth ambassadors to identify and learn what they are interested in as it relates to the Kalahari Desert.” The students participating in the run are mainly from North America and range from high school students to recent university graduates.

The trek is centred around the study of water availability and use in the desert, as well as its effect on biodiversity and human development. The participants have chosen specifically to study water purification, human rights issues, animals, and economic and biodiversity issues related to water in the Kalahari Desert. While Agnes is to teach the experiential learning modules, Jay Solman — an SFU ombudsperson who volunteers with the i2p organization — is also part of the core educational team. Solman is to guide the youth ambassadors to produce online content and interactions.

Part of the program is global and informational, with the i2P youth ambassadors maintaining video and photo journals, live video conferencing, Facebook, and Twitter throughout their journey to keep in contact with students and classrooms around the world who are interested in following along. Part of the goal of the program is to provide students and teachers around the globe with informative and useful educational resources and material.

The Peak spoke with Diane Mar-Nicolle, the communication officer for the Dean of Science Office at SFU, who said, “This is a combination of experiential learning that reaches a global audience, and it is just one way that the Faculty of Science is a world leader in innovative science outreach and teaching.”