Li Cheng

Before beginning her Ph.D. at MSU, Erin Haacker had studied dinosaur paleontology. Cool? Yes. Applicable to solving current world problems? Not really, says Haacker. Instead, at MSU she is working in hydrogeology, the study of Earth's groundwater distribution and movement. "[It's] absolutely wonderful to work on something that will have real world applicability," she says.

Haacker has joined the Department of Geological Sciences, where she'll be working on the High Plains' water supply project headed by Dave Hyndman. The project is developing a sustainability plan for managing the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest underground water systems. The research will address social, economic and geographic issues affecting the water supply. For now, Haacker will be focusing on the impact the Conservation Reserve Program, a voluntary program for farmers, has on water in the region. Working on the project will also facilitate Haacker's research interests in hydrology—the study of water's movement, distribution and quality—and how climate change is affecting the world's water supply.

A Washington native, Haacker came to MSU with a bachelor's in Biology and International Field Geosciences from the University of Montana, Missoula. Her International Field Geosciences degree is the first of its kind—a collaborative degree program led by University of Potsdam in Germany, University College Cork in Ireland, and University of Montana. Along with courses in Montana, the degree involved spending a year at Cork, a few weeks in Germany and a field course in Italy.

After taking a year off from academics, Haacker has returned to geology with a particular interest in science communication. She has joined ESPP with hopes of improving the relationship between scientists and the public. "Scientists are getting a reputation for not communicating with the general public," she says. Making scientific discoveries is important, "but if you don't tell anyone, it's useless," she says.