Walker, a professor and chair of the university’s Department of Natural Resource and Environmental Science, received a 2010 Project of Excellence award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in January for his research testing unregulated water supplies in the Navajo nation. The recognition has spurred a flurry of offers from numerous organizations inviting Walker to conduct research across the country and abroad.
“The Project of Excellence award has been helping me get involved in projects that I would have never been involved with otherwise, like this trip to Samoa,” Walker said. His project was profiled in the National Water Program’s annual publication.
Walker recently returned from Samoa, where he spent 10 days conducting research on the parasite leptospira and leading a workshop on preventing waste contamination of water supplies. Walker’s work strives to protect public health from potential toxins.
His research at UNR has focused on exposing and assessing the health risks of water contaminants such as arsenic, E. coli, leptospira and cryptosporidium. The research he conducts away from the university is brought back to his classroom and taught to his students, who have the opportunity to analyze and sometimes participate in Walker’s research.
In his research at the Navajo Nation, Walker’s teams sampled nearly 100 wells, finding that the water supply exceeded the federal standard for arsenic, uranium and fluoride, and that 15 percent of the samples were contaminated with E. coli. Walker’s reports helped the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority decide to close some of the unregulated wells.