A professor of civil and environmental engineering, Richard M. Vogel has been working at Tufts University since 1984. And while his primary expertise is in the areas of water resource engineering and hydrology -- he's also the director of his school's interdisciplinary program in water systems and science -- Vogel spends a fair amount of time thinking about and calculating the likelihood of earthquakes, landslides, bird extinctions, and even near-Earth asteroid collisions.
Here, Vogel discusses what it is that people don't understand about interdisciplinary education and research; how the idea that the environment matters as much as human needs, which was first advanced in South Africa, is having enormous repercussions in the water world; and why urbanization as a trend is having a much greater negative impact on our limited water resources than climate change.
What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"
I'm a hydrologist but I sometimes consider myself an odds maker because I estimate the likelihood of floods, droughts, and other calamities caused by one of the most powerful forces on Earth -- water -- and look for ways to prevent catastrophic damage. I'm also an educator concerned with how to do interdisciplinary education relating to water and the environment.