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Biology Senior Leads Project to Bring Safe Water to Haitian Village

Release Date: 
Jul 26 2012

Evan TorlineWhile many of his peers are kicking back, soaking up the sun this summer, School of Science senior Evan Torline is making plans to visit a tropical destination of his own. He plans to enjoy sandy beaches and palm trees, that is, if he has any down time from analyzing stool samples to help fight disease in a remote area of Haiti.

Mole Saint Nicolas is a town of about 5,000 residents along Haiti’s northwest coast best known as a landing point for Christopher Columbus in 1492. Today, the area includes an additional 20,000 residents spread out along the coastline—most living in poor, decrepit shacks that can sometimes house as many as 10 people.

Torline first visited the region last year on a church mission trip. He found many residents bathing and drinking in the same river where livestock drink and swim. Infectious disease is widespread because most residents have no access to clean water.

“My first visit was an incredible experience,” said Torline, a biology major from Jennings County High School in Vernon, Ind. “Coming from the Midwest, it was pretty shocking going to a third-world country and see the living conditions, just 80 miles from Florida.”

Evan TorlineIn August, Torline will return to Haiti intent on improving the living conditions in the town that affected him so deeply. He has been leading the effort to install a solar-powered, water filtration system with the capacity to provide clean water to as many as 10,000 people.

He will work with the philanthropic organization Fountains of Hope International, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit with experience installing similar filtration systems in impoverished areas. Torline will test human waste samples for parasites and compare that data to a later trip after the water system has been installed.

“I think this will really cap off my research experience at IUPUI,” Torline said. “This also will give me a view of what I would like my professional life to be. I want to hold a leadership role in these communities.”

At IUPUI, Torline has done genetics research with Dr. Martin Bard as well as Dr. Scott Renshaw at the IU School of Medicine, who has researched parasite rates in Honduras. He spent the last year participating in the Life and Health Sciences Internship program. 

Torline’s research effort is sponsored by the IUPUI Center for Research and Learning.

“I hope to be able to provide some data that will improve the health of this community. Clean water sounds so simple, but it really can prevent deaths and disease in these places,” he said.