Seed Grant Archives

1992 - Present

2022 Seed Grants

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Made in Iowa: Agro-waste Concrete for Disaster Resilient 3D Printed Construction Dr. Shelby Doyle, Iowa State University, Architecture and College of Design - $29,969

A Crop Planting Date Algorithm to Enable Corn Belt Satellite Soil Moisture and Soil Roughness Retrievals Dr. Brian Hornbuckle, Iowa State University, Agronomy - $30,000

Groundwater-Surface Water Impacts on Complex Chemical Mixture Evolution in an Effluent-dominated Iowa Stream Affected by Regional Change Dr. Gregory Lefevre, University of Iowa, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering - $30,000

Differentiating vulnerability to climate change in the US urban and rural areas Dr. Liu Lu, Iowa State University, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering - $30,000

Co-producing climate storylines with women landowners in Iowa Dr. Linda Shenk, Iowa State University, Department of English - $29,928


2021 Seed Grants

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Massive-scale discovery of new species in our own backyard: towards improved estimates of the global “pie of life.”  Dr. Andrew A. Forbes, Department of Biology, University of Iowa

The number of species on Earth and where they live is fundamental to global conservation efforts but remains hotly contested. The core impediment has been that most of life is small and occupies specialized habitats, including inside other organisms, thus eluding detection. New models suggest that accurate estimates of global biodiversity depend on discovering how many specialist symbiotic mites, nematodes, protists, fungi, and bacteria live inside the average species of insect, but these ratios of symbionts to insect hosts are largely unknown. We are developing a suite of specific PCR primer sets that will allow us to detect the full array of symbionts within insects and calculate how specialized each symbiont is to its host. I propose to pioneer this technique on a large collection of insects collected at the UI’s Ashton Prairie site. Resulting data will be used to seek funds for collection of similar data at sites worldwide. - $22,270

Using Digital Twins to Make Cities More Sustainable and Resilient  Dr. Joe Gomes, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa; Dr. Gregory Carmichael, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa

We are requesting funds to develop a prototype digital twin for urban applications and demonstrate the power of such a tool in answering complex and pressing problems related to sustainability and resilience. The digital twin proposed here is a virtual representation of an urban system, which mirrors complex interactions between multiple hazards such as air pollution, climate change and disease exposure in actual urban environments, and enables analysis of impacts in the context of such multiple hazards. We will combine physical based models of air quality, weather and climate, with modern spatial/temporal machine learning. Multiple sources of data will be used, including new satellite capabilities (Kim et al., 2020) that can detect air pollutants, routine air quality monitors, low cost sensors, urban mobility data, traffic patterns, and socio-economic information. The data and models will be used together for the analysis of multi-hazard impacts and risks and to evaluate various interventions in terms of sustainability and resilience, consistent with the United Nations sustainable development goals (Sachs et al., 2019). - $28,239

Effects of Wind-Wave Environment on Power Generation and Wake Aerodynamics for Offshore Wind Energy  Dr. Corey D. Markfort, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa

The Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Renewable Energy Lab at IIHR proposes a series of experiments that will for the first time investigate the interactions between theatmospheric boundary layer (ABL), surface water waves, and wind turbines. The experiments will be conducted in our ABL wind-wave tunnel using multiphase, time resolved,stereo particle image velocimetry (TR-SPIV), to measure the 3D turbulent flow field upwind and in the wake of a scale model offshore wind turbine. The unique data will provide valuable insights into the dynamics and interactions between wind turbines in the offshore environment with coupled wind and waves. We request funds to support a graduate research assistant to perform analyses of the turbine power performance and flow field upwind and in the wake of a model turbine under varying wind-wave conditions. The data will allow us to test recently proposed wind power and wind turbine wake models to optimize offshore wind power plant arrays. - $30,000

Developing an approach for quantifying iron mass fluxes between aquifers and ferruginous lakes to improve constraints on biogeochemical cycling  Dr. Jessica Meyer, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Iowa

Poorly constrained estimates of solute exchange between groundwater and lakes limits insights into the cycling of redox active elements, particularly under changing hydrologic conditions. My overarching goal is to develop a comprehensive approach for quantifying solute exchanges between groundwater and lakes. As an initial step, this research focuses on developing an approach to characterize the scale of spatial heterogeneity in iron mass flux between groundwater and a ferruginous lake. The approach emphasizes collection of high-resolution hydrogeological data along a transect using tools adapted from studies of point source groundwater contaminant plumes. The research will quantify the scale of heterogeneity in iron mass flux upgradient of a discharge area and assess geologic and hydrogeologic controls on the spatial patterns of iron mass flux into the lake. These research products are critical to estimating iron budgets in ferruginous lakes and for studies focused on the impact of environmental change on biogeochemical cycles. - $30,000

Linking predators and prey through physiological performance to predict the effects of climate change  Dr. Eric Riddell, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University

Insectivorous birds, such as tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), have experienced dramatic declines over the last several decades from the direct and indirect effects of climate change. Like many migratory birds, tree swallows are migrating earlier as spring advances earlier into winter. Cold snaps are more likely during the early spring and impact birds by challenging their ability to maintain a stable body temperature while simultaneously causing mortality and reduced activity in their insect prey. These complex interactions between the physiological effects of climate change and species interactions requires sophisticated approaches to predict future population declines as climate change accelerates over the next century. Our project addresses these issues by (1) studying the thermal physiology of tree swallows and their prey and (2) developing a simulation-based approach that uses physiology to predict population declines of birds based on interactions with insect prey across landscapes under climate change. - $29,748

2020 Seed Grants

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Addressing global bee decline through prairie restorations  Dr. Brian J. Wilsey, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University

Wild bees are the main contributors to pollination in terrestrial ecosystems and are in decline worldwide. Restoring bee habitat is a feasible solution to global decline, but lacks sophistication in the tall grass prairie region, where non-native (exotic) plants strongly influence restoration outcomes. The objective of this proposal is to test the effectiveness of prairie plantings with different grass-forb seed mixes on flower production, resistance to invasive plants, and attracting wild bees. Plots within a 36-acre prairie restoration will be seeded with varying grass-forb ratios and the resulting plant and bee community will be documented. A separate experiment will quantify bee visitation to competing paired exotic-native plant species to estimate whether visitation differs between native and non-native (exotic) species. Results will be used to initiate an experiment to determine the optimal grass-forb ratio for creating bee habitat in the Midwest.

A unified information-driven model for CO2 reduction chemistry  Dr. James Shepherd, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa

Chemical transformations of carbon dioxide, such as electrochemical CO2-to-fuel conversion, has been identified as a potentially viable renewable carbon-neutral energy source. There are a growing number of chemical descriptors and design parameters for molecules and materials that can catalyze this reduction. We propose to use an advanced computational technique called fully quantum mechanical embedding to isolate and study the electronic structure properties of CO2 as it binds to putative CO2-reducing catalysts. Our hypothesis is that single molecule properties of CO2 that can be measured from these calculations can be correlated to catalytic efficiency. The benefit of a model that focuses on CO2 is that it would be simple by nature, and widely transferable to heterogeneous, homogenous, and biological catalysts. In light of recent reports on climate change and growing student interest in global solutions, we will also integrate our research into an existing course-based undergraduate research program at the University of Iowa. - $35,000

Decarbonizing Building Thermal Control in Iowa and the Upper Midwest  Dr. Charles Stanier, Deparment of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa; HS Udaykuman, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Iowa; & Jerry Anthony, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Iowa

In the Midwest, continued reliance on natural gas heating will lock in substantial and avoidable greenhouse gas emissions. Rapidly increasing renewable electricity creates a unique opportunity to solve this building thermal control (BTC) challenge using heat pumps. Further penetration of heat pumps in the upper Midwest requires lower costs and changes to outdated comparison methodologies. District heating configurations with heat pumps have seen impressive success, but require considerable thermal design optimization in concert with suitable state and local codes. We will address these challenges through (i) a design optimization case study for district heating with heat pumps in Iowa, and (ii) publication of comprehensive cost and carbon footprint comparisons at county-resolution. Both tasks require enhancements to existing publicly available energy modeling tools, and development of new tools integrating energy systems, demand profiles, environmental conditions and economic indicators. This project will deliver a Python toolbox for planning, projection and policy evaluation. - $30,000

Advancing tools to assess the impact of garbage burning on air quality  Dr. Elizabeth A. Stone, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa

Garbage burning is a significant source of toxic air pollution, although little is known about its environmental and health impacts. Our overarching goal is to evaluate the impact of garbage burning onair quality. To achieve this goal, we will develop and validate a high-throughput analytical method to quantify 1,3,5-triphenylbenzene (TPB), a molecular tracer of garbage burning emissions. With this method, we will make the first measurements of TPB in ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Iowa and the United States. By source apportionment, we will establish the contributions of garbage burning to ambient PM2.5 and select classes hazardous pollutants. We will gain new insight to garbage burning impacts on air quality and establish preliminary data to leverage future funding in this research area. This research is especially pertinent to the state of Iowa where residential waste burning and agricultural plastic burning are allowed. - $30,000

2019 Seed Grant Awards

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Once and future forests: Exploring divergent responses of Douglas-fir and limber pine to recent climate change  Dr. Matthew P. Dannenberg, Department of Geographical and Sustainable Systems, University of Iowa

Forests provide numerous ecosystem services, but how different forest ecosystems will respond to a changing climate remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of global change ecology, with important consequences for our future forest resources. To address this, I will collect new tree-ring data in nested, fixed-radius plots of mixed conifer forests in the central Rocky Mountains, where large changes in temperature, snowpack, and vapor pressure deficit have occurred. I will specifically target two long-lived, iconic, and regionally-important tree species: Douglas-fir and limber pine. Using these tree-ring data, in combination with historical climate data, I will quantify changes in tree growth over the past century and the dominant
climatic drivers of growth across these sites. This seed research will lay the groundwork for future funding aimed at developing a mechanistic understanding of how and why tree species respond differently to climate change across a range of spatial and temporal scales. - $30,000

Extreme Heat Adaptation Strategies for Buildings and Neighborhoods in the Upper Midwest Using Novel Urban Energy Modeling Techniques  Dr. Ulrike Passe, Department of Architecture, Iowa State University

This project integrates a set of urban and suburban adaptation scenarios into a hybrid data-physics model developed by Passe et al. (2019) that will support community preparedness for extreme heat events. By mid-century (2036–2065), one year out of 10 in the Midwest region of the United States is projected to have a 5-day period that is 13°F warmer than a comparable earlier period (1976–2005). High humidity due point days are also increasing (Melillo et al., 2014). The hybrid data-physics model assimilates weather, building, and near-building microclimate data integrated with a building energy simulator to develop preliminary adaptation strategies for building interior conditions during real-time events applicable to the urban Midwest. The proposed project refines this model and adds initial adaptation scenarios that will later be co-designed with the team’s community partners to acknowledge the needs and challenges of low-income populations who are especially vulnerable during extreme heat events.- $29,999

Growing the urban forest: Uncovering relationships that shape urban forests and understories in agricultural cities  Dr. Heather Sander, Department of Geographical and Sustainable Systems, University of Iowa and Dr. Stephen Hendrix, Department of Biology, University of Iowa

Urban forests and their understories (hereafter “urban forests”) enhance ecological functioning, environmental quality, and species habitat, thereby providing ecosystem services to urban humans. These forests thus represent a resource for supporting objectives related to human well-being and urban ecological functioning and quality. Managing urban forests to support these objectives requires an understanding of their components, interactions among them, and their development. Many of the drivers of urban forest development and interactions among them remain underexplored, particularly with respect to differential effects on tree, shrub, and herbaceous layers and the services they provide. The proposed study will identify relationships between contemporary forest structure and past and present biophysical, socioeconomic and demographic attributes in cities embedded in agricultural landscapes. By identifying important factors and time periods for urban forest formation, our results will support decision-making by households, urban foresters, and policy makers in guiding the development of multifunctional urban forests. - $29,997

Development of a proxy record of El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from Colombian Stalagmites during the last 6,000 years  Dr. Alan D. Wanamaker & Juan Carlos Romero Gelvez, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University

Extreme weather can adversely impact crop health and production. Such impacts cause economical and food chain stresses that are difficult to predict and/or manage. With increasing stresses associated with global warming, droughts and flood events are becoming more prevalent and severe in the upper Midwest region. Prediciting future growing conditions is made even more challenging when internal modes of climate interact with ongoing climate change. One of the largest influences on global weather conditions is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is a semi-periodic internal mode of climate with global impacts. However,despite its importance in natural and manipulated systems, scientific consensus regarding its behavior (frequency and magnitude) and its potential impacts over recent millennia is lacking. Without a broad understanding of ENSO’s variability over past centuries to millennia, the forecast of its activity, and hence its impacts, in the future is highly problematic. - $29,920

2018 Seed Grant Awards

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Simultaneous aerobic & anaerobic groundwater pollutant biodegradation processes: potential for enhanced biodegradation rates, novel ecological relationships, and sustainable commercial applications; Timothy E. Mattes, UI Civil and Environmental Engineering
Groundwater contamination by chlorinated ethenes, particularly vinyl chloride (VC), remains a pervasive and challenging environmental problem. New fundamental understanding of subsurface interactions among microbial populations would facilitate development of novel bioremediation strategies and technologies. Our long term goal is to apply microbial ecology methods to uncover novel interactions between aerobic and anaerobic chlorinated solvent degrading bacteria in groundwater. Because anaerobic bacteria that dechlorinate chlorinated ethenes in the subsurface generate products (i.e. VC and ethene) that can be used as primary and cometabolic substrates for VC-oxidizers, we hypothesize there are novel ecological relationships between these microbial groups at oxic/anoxic interfaces or sources of low-level oxygen flux in high VC concentration zones at contaminated sites. The purpose of this project is to develop laboratory scale systems that demonstrate both aerobic and anaerobic VC bio-degradation in the presence of very low dissolved oxygen (DO), and model the substrate interactions of these mixed cultures. $35,000

Developing early warning tools of harmful algal blooms in lakes; Grace Wilkinson Assistant Professor Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology Iowa State University
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are increasing in frequency and severity globally. In order to protect human health and water resources there is a growing need to be able to predict HABs to mitigate their effects. Previous whole-lake experiments have demonstrated that statistical indicators of ecosystem resilience can serve as an early warning of an oncoming HAB. However, it is unknown if this early warning tool is effective in other ecosystems. We propose to evaluate the utility of this statistical prediction tool in two Iowa lakes that experience annual HABs, performing the first real-world evaluation of this promising forecasting method. Additionally, the early warning system will be evaluated as a risk assessment tool for cyanotoxin exposure aimed at protecting human health. This research will result in the development of a tool to predict HABs and produce the data needed to better understand the dynamics and drivers of toxic HABs in lakes. $35,000

Detection, Attribution and Projection of Changes in Temperature Extremes, Heat Waves and Heat Stress across the U.S. Midwest; Wei Zhang IIHR, University of Iowa, Prof. Gabriele Villarini, UI Civil and Environmental Engineering
Heat waves and extreme temperature can exert catastrophic impacts on agriculture, ecological systems and public health. These negative effects can be further exacerbated by the increased humidity, leading to heat stress increases. Here we focus on the examination of historical and future changes in temperature extremes and heat stress across the U.S. Midwest, using model outputs from the Climate Variability Programme's Climate of the 20th Century Plus Project (C20C+). In particular, we will focus on the C20C+ “Detection and Attribution Project” to quantify the contributions of anthropogenic and natural forcings to the observed changes in temperature extremes and heat stress. These models will be complemented by those from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5. We will also examine future changes in these temperature- and humidity-related hazards under different scenarios, including those global temperatures warming from 1.5-2ºC (part of the Paris Agreement) to ~5ºC by the end of this century. $35,000

A river runs through it: Surveying Iowa City residents’ on water use, water quality and flood management; Silvia Secchi UI Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences and Public Policy Center, Kajsa E Dalrymple
We will develop, implement and analyze a survey to evaluate Iowa City residents’ opinions regarding water quality and flood/floodplain management. The goal is to provide a baseline assessment to be replicated at a larger scale (such as the Iowa River watershed or the whole state) on a regular basis, and a proof of concept for future grant proposals. The survey design will be informed by the wealth of water-related biophysical data available in the study area, and the survey results will be linked to biophysical data to help develop stakeholder-driven water policies at a local and state level. The survey will provide information on how local residents perceive the links between water quality and water quantity, their level of satisfaction with local water quality, their understanding of water issues drivers, such as the links between climate change, land use and water problems, and preferred sources of information. $35,000


2017 Seed Grant Awards

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Ambient Air Pollution and Reproductive Health among Women in Wuhan, China; Bao, Wei - Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa
We will examine the associations of ambient air pollution with reproductive hormone levels and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, which have not been investigated previously. Based on an international collaboration, we will leverage resources by using existing data and blood samples from about 4500 women attending the Reproductive Medical Center, Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China between January 2013 and December 2016. Data on serum levels of reproductive hormones (follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and prolactin) and clinical diagnosis of PCOS will be extracted from medical records. Serum Anti-Müllerian hormone levels will be measured by an automated electrochemiluminescence immunoassay using archived blood samples in a subset of participants (n=600). We will estimate exposure levels of particulate matter (PM) and individual gaseous air pollutants by linking daily air pollutant data, provided by the Wuhan Environmental Protection Bureau, to the participants’ addresses using the inverse distance weighting (IDW) modelling method. $35,000

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation in a Warming World; Developing Coral Records of Ocean Variability from Past Greenhouse Periods; Professor Rhawn Denniston, Geology, Cornell College
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) describes inter-annual changes in the temperature and circulation of the tropical Pacific ocean and the over-riding atmosphere. ENSO represents the single largest source of short-term global climate variability, and is responsible for many floods, droughts, heat waves, and even societal unrest. Climate models do not adequately resolve how ENSO will respond to elevated atmospheric CO2 levels, and thus studies have looked to past “greenhouse worlds” as
analogs for future warming. Commonly used periods are the late Miocene and Pliocene (~6-2 million years ago) epochs when atmospheric CO2 levels and global mean air temperatures were above present values. The proposed research involves evaluating Miocene/Pliocene ENSO by reconstructing monthly Caribbean sea surface temperature (SST) using oxygen isotopic ratios of pristine fossil corals from two sites in Central America. The power and frequency of ENSO events will be determined by spectral analysis of these isotopic data. $26,550

Surface Scanner Upgrade for Satellite Soil Moisture Applications, Professor William E. Eichinger - IIHR Hydrosceince and Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa
We have developed a surface scanner capable of mapping a surface to a resolution of approximately 1 mm. The scanner has found utility in precision mapping of stream banks and with the hydraulic modelers in IIHR (to estimate erosion in both cases). With our Iowa State collaborator, Brian Hornbuckle, we have applied the instrument to the measurement of soil surface roughness (needed to obtain soil moisture estimates from satellite measured microwave emissions). While the data from the instrument offers at least an order of magnitude improvement over existing methods, the current design of the instrument does not lend itself well to this task. We propose to make the system smaller, lighter and faster and develop software tools for visualization and statistical analysis of the surface. These improvements will enable the use of the instrument for a variety of soil surface applications. $14,000

Impacts of iron biogeochemical cycling on soil carbon stabilization in Iowa agroecosystems, Steven Hall - Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB), Iowa State University
Soil organic carbon (C) stocks are a key metric of agroecosystem function and sustainability that have dramatically declined under conventional agricultural practices. Perennial grasses and cover crops can increase short-term C inputs, but the longer-term fate of this C remains uncertain. Associations between C and soil minerals can attenuate decomposition, but mineral-associated C is thought to respond slowly to land use changes. Our recent work challenges this paradigm. Iron (Fe) redox cycling is stimulated by plant C inputs and occurs at significant rates in terrestrial surface soils, providing opportunities for C stabilization in Fe-organic associations. Mineralassociated soil C may respond much faster to changes in management and climate than previously thought, providing opportunities for agroecosystem C sequestration. Here, we will test the hypotheses that (H1) Fe reduction/oxidation occurs at significant rates in terrestrial soils and scales with variation in C inputs across Iowa crops and native vegetation, (H2) sorption/coprecipitation with Fe represents a significant C sink in Iowa Mollisols, and (H3) C associated with Fe responds to management shifts over timescales of years rather than decades. $34,978

Prairie Strips as a Sustainable Mitigation Strategy to Retain Antimicrobial Resistant Organisms; Adina Howe et al. (Michelle Soupir, Lisa Schulte, Matthew Helmers, Thomas Moorman) - Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Iowa State University
Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to both animals and humans. The large number of farm animals receiving antibiotics and their close contact with soil and water resources pose a public threat to the increasing emergence of antimicrobial resistance and ineffective drug treatments. Consequently, methods to mitigate the transport and spread of antimicrobial resistance are critically needed. Prairie strips are a conservation practice that uses strategically placed native prairie plantings in crop fields and have been shown to reduce the movement of soil and water from the agricultural environment. We hypothesize that prairie strips can also mitigate the spread of antimicrobial resistance genes and bacteria to the environment. This proposal develops a pilot system to test the retention of manure-associated resistance genes and bacteria in installed prairie strips. The output of this research will provide an understanding of the sustainable benefits of prairie strips for surrounding soils and waters. $35,000

Optimization of wind energy projects using experimental and computational fluid dynamics; Corey Markfort - IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa
The Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Renewable Energy Lab at IIHR –Hydroscience & Engineering proposes a field campaign in collaboration with Kirkwood Community College, Clipper Windpower, Inc., and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) to make the first full-scale volumetric measurements of the incoming wind and wake of an industrial scale wind turbine using multiple nacelle-mounted scanning wind LiDARs. The LiDAR measurements will be compared with data collected at a fully instrumented tall-tower atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) observatory near the turbine to better understand the differences between observed wind and power production for a
variety of atmospheric conditions.
We request funds to support a graduate research assistant to perform analyses of the data collected on the meteorological tower and the LiDARs. This work will be complimented by research conducted at EPFL, which will involve validating a next generation Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) framework. $35,000

Coupled Climatic and Human Impacts on the Sycomore Fig, a Culturally and Ecologically Significant Tree; Professor John Nason - Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Evolutionary Biology, Iowa State University
Ficus sycomorus, the sycomore fig, is a keystone species throughout its wild distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa. North of the Sahara, this tree has been cultivated across North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean for at least 6,000 years, where it continues to be an essential resource. Successive civilizations have depended on it in myriads ways: it provides shade; its sap is regarded for medicinal uses; its branches yielded robust timbers for the construction of sarcophagi, ships, temples, etc. Although the trees are regarded as sacred in many cultures, they are under threat due to urbanization and climate change. The sycomore fig’s importance to human history – and prominence in the modern landscape and archaeological record of the region – provides an incredible opportunity to investigate how climate change, enhanced cultural status, and, ultimately, urbanization, have impacted the distributions and genetic diversity of a wild plant species and it’s cultivated descendants. $16,590

Trace element records of Pacific Ocean tropical corals as a proxy for multi-millennial record of ocean acidification; Ingrid Ukstins Peate - Professor Earth and Environmental Sciences

Total: $227,983

2016 Seed Grant Awards

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2016 CGRER Seed Grants - $243,664

Development of Chemically Functionalized, High Surface Area Nanofiber Networks for Carbon Capture; David Cwiertny, UI Civil & Environmental Engineering, and Vicki Grassian, UI Chemistry
To limit global warming, new technologies for CO2 capture are not only needed but must also be aggressively implemented upon development. Here, we aim to improve the efficiency of CO2 capture through the development of high-capacity, functionalized nanofiber networks as next-generation solid-state sorbents. We will systematically prepare nitrogen-functionalized polymer and carbon nanofiber networks (Task 1) and quantitatively evaluate their CO2 sorption capacity and rate, while also using spectroscopic methods to elucidate key mechanistic insights of CO2 uptake (Task 2). To ensure sustainable technology development, the environmental impacts of nanofiber production will also be assessed (Task 3). This strategic partnership builds upon complementary strengths of the PIs and thrusts their research programs in new directions. Project outcomes (e.g., structure-activity relationships) will guide the sustainable design of next-generation nanomaterials for CO2 capture, while also demonstrating the tremendous opportunities for the application of nanomaterials in moving society toward a more sustainable tomorrow. $35,000

Mobility of Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in Bit Cuttings from Unconventional Drilling Operations; Tori Forbes, UI Chemistry
Naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORM) in solid wastes from unconventional drilling (“fracking”) operations pose environmental contamination risks; however, the composition and behavior of NORM in solid wastes are poorly understood. There is a critical need to determine (1) the isotopic composition of NORM in solid wastes, and (2) the potential for NORM to migrate from solid wastes into fresh water systems. The long-term goal of this research is to develop a fundamental understanding of the biogeochemical behavior of understudied radio elements. The objective of this proposal is to evaluate the isotopic composition of NORM in solid wastes from the Marcellus Shale and to determine the potential for NORM to migrate under conditions typical of landfills. The rationale for this project is to characterize the environmental impacts of fracking wastes entering the State of Iowa. $35,000

Towards effective and reliable removal of MCs from drinking water through biologically active filtration; Kaoru Ikuma, ISU Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering
A record increase in cyanobacterial blooms that release toxic microcystins (MCs) was observed in the Midwest region in 2015. Harmful cyanobacterial blooms are becoming an increasingly common issue globally, in part due to climate change. As a final line of defense for public health protection, drinking water treatment systems must be able to effectively and reliably remove MCs from tap water. The most promising method for MC removal is biologically active filtration that is bioaugmented with MC-degrading organisms. This proposed work will study the effectiveness of bioaugmentation of biofilters with a focus on practical scenarios in which bioaugmentation would be needed. The overall goal of this proposed work is to understand the important operational parameters that result in effective MC removal by bioaugmentation of biologically active filters. The specific research objectives will be fulfilled through laboratory-scale column reactor experiments, chemical and molecular biology measurements, and next generation sequencing. $35,000

Enhanced Plant Uptake of Contaminants of Emerging Concern under Simulated Global Change Conditions; Gregory LeFevre, UI Civil and Environmental Engineering
Improving sustainable water resources in agricultural systems requires enhanced understanding of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in plants. Elevated carbon dioxide (eCO2) conditions are known to increase nitrogen uptake by plants and alter the distribution ofassimilated nitrogen from oxidized sources to more reduced forms, including complex organic nitrogen species (CONS). In previous work, we demonstrated that two CECs with secondary amine groups were rapidly assimilated by plants and biotransformed to novel metabolites with unknown effects; indeed, some of these metabolites act as hormone mimics. We hypothesize that this assimilation and transformation phenomenon occurs for a broad range of CEC CONS and the propensity for plants to assimilate these compounds will increase under eCO2 conditions. Hydroponic assimilation studies using a model plant system will be conducted for a suite of CEC CONS and assessed under simulated eCO2 conditions. Metabolite identification will provideinsight to CEC human exposure potential from crops. $35,000

An Integrated Photoelectrochemical/Supercritical System for CO2 and Wastewater Utilization, and Fuel Production; Syed Mubeen, UI Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
The overall goal of this proposed work is to evaluate the feasibility of an innovative, integrated photoelectrochemical/supercritical process for synthesis of liquid fuels using CO2, wastewater and sunlight. Sunlight is used as the primary energy source to produce H2 from wastewater, which is then converted to liquid fuels in a supercritical CO2 reactor (Figure 1). The proposed program includes three major components. (1) Development of earth-abundant light absorbers (semiconductors) for visible light production of H2 from organics rich wastewaters. (2) Investigation of inexpensive metal-metal oxide nanoclusters for selective hydrogenation of supercritical CO2 to CH3OH. (3) Technoeconomic assessment and life cycle analysis to evaluate economic and environmental benefits of the entire process. Outcomes of this proposal may provide a transformative approach in both the philosophy and technology associated with CO2 utilization, wastewater treatment and fuel production. Experiments paired with economic justification, may result in a pilot-scale demonstration at UI power plant. $34,561

The Changing Aerosols in the Midwestern U.S. Advanced Tools to Relate Sources, Composition, Climate, and Land Use; Charles Stanier, UI Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and Elizabeth Stone, UI Chemistry
The scientific objective of this project is to demonstrate new methods, datasets, and data analysis techniques to inform how particulate matter composition respond to changes in emissions, climate, land use, and extreme weather in the Midwestern U.S. The proposed retrospective analysis of filter samples will allow for new insight to inter-annual trends in biomass burning, bioaerosols, and secondary aerosol formation over the last decade. These organic aerosol are climate-sensitive, but are not currently assessed by national particulate matter (PM) monitoring networks that lack molecular analysis. We will establish the feasibility of archived filter analysis for organic aerosol source apportionment and develop the capacity to perform future analysis across the Midwest and beyond. The impact of this research will be extended by making our resulting dataset of air quality and related variables available to researchers and students in the Iowa Informatics Initiative. $35,000

Quantifying Salinization Vulnerability of Municipal Water Supplies from Winter Road Maintenance: A Case Study in Eastern Iowa; Eric Tate, UI Geographical & Sustainability Sciences
This study quantifies impacts from winter roadway runoff through water monitoring and load calculations in two Eastern Iowa communities. By understanding the fate and transport of road salts from transportation systems, we gain insight to environmental susceptibility for groundwater contamination. Roadway runoff samples will indicate potential impact to the Silurian aquifer and enable scaled methodology to other cold-climate regions in North America. The findings will directly inform local decision makers and water supply managers regarding the potential vulnerability from road salts. Furthermore, the results will help calibrate modeling tools implemented in project’s initial assessment phase, and determine needs for further analysis, data collection and scalability.

This study incorporates new approaches to basic screening and field-based monitoring activities. The objective is to validate a “proof of concept,” in which modeling and field sampling are applied to assess potential for contaminating local groundwater supply from winter road maintenance activities. $34,103

2015 Seed Grant Awards

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2015 CGRER Seed Grants - $148,191

Early hominins and Pleistocene climate in Southern Wallacea:  Russell L. Ciochon, Department of Anthropology, The University of Iowa

With Pleistocene climate cycling, Island Southeast Asia became an expanse of ecologically dynamic landmasses. A million and a half years ago, Homo erectus arrived to the western landmasses and, by a million years ago, pushed onto the smaller islands east of Wallace’s Line. The unique Flores island find of Homo floresiensis evinces one evolutionary result. On Flores and other core Wallacea islands, Stegodon (extinct Asian elephant) and Paleolithic stone tools co-occur archaeologically. Common habitat variables are indicated for both forms. Farther south, on the Southern Wallacea outer arc (Sumba and Timor islands), stone tools and stegodontid fossils are also present, but temporal cooccurrenceis not as clear. Toward understanding early hominin outer arc habitats, this project will evaluate stratigraphy and geochemistry at eight sites with stegodontid fossils and/or stone tools. One or two sequences will be sampled intensively for radiometric age and isotopic climatic indicators.  $30,000

Fate Studies of Insensitive Munitions Explosives in Poplar and Methlyobacteria:  Dr. Craig L. Just, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, The University of Iowa

The environmental fate of 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN), 3-nitro-1,2,4-triazole-5-one (NTO), and 1-nitroguanidine (NQ) in new insensitive munitions explosives (IMX) formulations is an emerging global issue. The new IMX formulations are replacing old formulations at a rapid pace, but IMX has a relatively unknown fate and ecosystem toxicity. The proposed research will examine IMX fate in poplar trees, poplar tissue cultures, and poplar endophytic bacteria. The research will focus on uptake and partitioning by whole trees and degradation of IMX by poplar tissue cultures and poplar-associated bacteria in vitro. The results will inform the possibility of in situ remediation by poplar trees toward field-scale implementations. Full-scale remediation will be necessary for military training and testing sites around the world, and this research will confirm the viability of the energy-efficient and economical technique of tertiary treatment by poplar trees, as opposed to costly techniques such as incineration or landfilling of contaminated soils.  $29,896

Seeing the urban forest for the trees: An assessment of the relationships between urban forests and biodiversity, carbon storage, and carbon sequestration:  Dr. Heather Sander, Assistant Professor, Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, The University of Iowa

Over half of today’s population is urban, a number expected to rise to nearly three-quarters by mid-century. Cities occupy little land, but have large ecological footprints, influencing environmental quality within and beyond their boundaries. Urbanization will thus dramatically alter ecosystems, making it critical to manage cities to enhance ecosystem services. Urban forests execute many ecological functions, making them key in such management. However, current poor understanding of these functions limits such urban forest management. The proposed research, which aims to identify how urban forests influence spatial variability in urban biodiversity and carbon storage and sequestration and the regional generalizability of these relationships, seeks to fill this gap by quantifying relationships between urban forests and ecosystem services in cities in the US Corn Belt. This study will increase our understanding of how urban forests influence biodiversity and ecosystem services, facilitating management to both support species conservation and enhance urban sustainability.  $28,899

Effects of larval nutritional stress on honey bee disease susceptibility and immunocompetence:  Amy L. Toth,  Adam G. Dolezal, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University; Department of Entomology, Iowa State University

Honey bees and other pollinators are important to natural ecosystems and sustainable agriculture, but recent bee declines have been alarming. Increased disease exposure and poor nutrition due to decreasing plant diversity have been implicated as likely contributors to pollinator declines. These factors also appear to interact, as recent evidence shows that a low-diversity pollen diet increases disease susceptibility in adult honey bees. However, previous re-search has overlooked the importance of nutrition during the sensitive period of larval de-velopment. Nutritional stress on immatures can potentially have life-long and dire conse-quences on the health of adult workers, queens, and entire colonies. To date, it is unclear how nutritional deprivation during development affects disease resistance and immunocompe-tence at later stages. To address this, we will treat developing honey bees using two forms of field-relevant nutritional stress and test pathogen susceptibility and immune function in these bees as pupae and adults. The results of this work will help us better understand how the effects of poor nutrition during development is translated into health effects later in life, and will pave the way for more in-depth investigations of honey bee health and immunity.  $30,000

Modeling Nonstationary Spatio-temporal Data on Stream Networks:  Dale L. Zimmerman, Robert V. Hogg Professor of Statistics, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, The University of Iowa

Statistical methods for spatio-temporal prediction and temporal trend estimation have long been available for environmental variables on Euclidean domains, but are not yet available for variables on stream networks. The proposed research will develop new models for nonstationary and spatio-temporal processes on stream networks. It will also modify or extend the Torgegram — a graphical tool for characterizing spatial dependence on stream networks — for use with nonstationary spatio-temporal data. The performance of new hypothesis tests for stationarity and space-time separability based on these new Torgegrams will be investigated. The combined effect of these efforts will be to make statistically sound spatiotemporal prediction and trend estimation possible on stream networks.  $30,000

2014 Seed Grant Awards

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2014 CGRER Seed Grants - $149,150

Constraints on the Movement of Insects in Urban and Agricultural Landcover:  A Novel Landscape Genetic Approach, Andrew Forbes, Department of Biology, UI 

We propose to evaluate associations between human land-use and spatial population dynamics of two native Iowa insect species in a system that has unique promise as a landscape genetic model.  The services that insects provide are important (and underappreciated), but the complex biotic and abiotic factors that influence landscape-level movements of insects can be difficult to quantify and disentangle.  In Iowa, as around the world, impacts of intense anthropogenic land-use on native habitats underscore a need for sustainability efforts to be informed with truly integrative biological knowledge.  This study will combine detailed, spatially explicit ecological, geographical, and population genetic data to infer constraints on insect movements in human-altered landscapes.  Ultimately, this research builds a strong empirical foundation for long-term studies of insect systems in a framework that will contribute to interdisciplinary synthesis and practice in the burgeoning field of landscape genetics.  $30,000

Understanding a Surface Film’s Role in Atmospheric Chemistry:  Creating Molecular Views of Urban Films, Scott K. Shaw, Department of Chemistry, UI

Urban films are ubiquitous coatings that form on impervious exterior surfaces such as windows, masonry veneers, sidewalks, and some flora.  They consist mainly of semi-volatile organic and inorganic compounds and range from 0.01 to 1 micrometer thick.  Over timescales of days to months these films accumulate significant amounts of persistent organic pollutants (PCB, PAH, pesticides, etc.).  Release of these species during rainfall events or temperature cycles plays a significant role in their fate and transport.  Our studies represent groundbreaking, molecular level examinations of urban films in simulated urban environments.  Results will describe the culpability of film composition, morphology, maturation state, and hydration level as factors that affect pollutant partitioning capacity and chemical reactions within the film.  Our goals include advancing knowledge to better predict and model the environmental impacts of these environmentally active films, and deploying this knowledge in pursuit of technological advances for permanent pollutant capture and remediation.  $30,000

Counting (on) Trees for Carbon Sequestration:  Understanding the Energy-Environment-Gender Nexus in Rural India, H.S. Udaykumar, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UI

Deforestation and firewood burning have severe impacts on climate change, due to loss of carbon-sequestering biota and the emission into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases and soot. This proposal brings together a multidisciplinary group of faculty from engineering, social sciences and urban planning to get a clear understanding of the socio-economic, demographic, technological and environmental factors involved in the disappearance of forests due to firewood harvesting in rural areas. This is a worldwide problem, afflicting large swaths of the developing world; this proposal however focuses on two villages in the Aravalli hill ranges of Rajasthan because they typify the web of conditions that trap rural communities in an unsustainable socio-economic situation. Possible technological solutions to the firewood problem include introduction of high efficiency and solar cook-stoves to provide a clean, abundant energy source. However, past empirical studies indicate that adoption levels of such technologies are very low despite the fact that these technologies displace tedious and arduous quotidian wood gathering activities, primarily by girls and women. The reluctance of rural womenfolk to adopt such technologies derives from several intertwined and complex socio-cultural factors that need to be carefully identified and understood. Accounting for these factors in the ongoing development of a novel stored energy solar cooker in the PI’s lab will lead to a design that will have a greater chance of successful adoption. This proposal therefore seeks to quantify the impact of firewood harvesting on the carbon stocks in the Aravalli hill range and to understand the various socio-cultural factors at play in the connection between forest loss, gender relationships and cooking device design and adoption.  $29,450

Inventing the Renewable Century.  How Governments, Universities, Non-profits and Corporations Shape the Global Development of the Clean Energy Sector, Ion Bogdan Vasi, Department of Sociology, UI

Scientists have warned that catastrophic climate change can be prevented only by limiting the increase in average global temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a goal that would require a major transformation of the energy system worldwide. This project aims to understand how the global energy system is beginning to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy at the beginning of the 21st century. It addresses the following major research questions: 1) Are clean energy industries concentrated in certain regions? 2) How do governments contribute to the growth of renewable energy industries? 3) What is the role of universities, nonprofits, and corporations for the development of clean energy industries and the diffusion of clean energy technology? This study will interest not only academics from various disciplines— sociology, political science, economics— but also policymakers involved in industry development, policy design and implementation, and diffusion of clean technologies.  $29,700

How is Discharge Projected to Change for an Agricultural Watershed in Iowa over the 21st Century?  Gabriele Villarini, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UI

River discharge represents a vital resource for many human activities. Addressing questions about how it may change in the future has important socio-economic consequences in terms of our adaptation and mitigation strategies. This is particularly true for an agricultural state like Iowa, relentlessly plagued by catastrophic flooding and drought. Here I focus on the development of statistical models to provide discharge projections (of low to high flows) over the 21st century for the Raccoon River at Van Meter in Iowa. These models use one predictor related to climate (rainfall) and one related to agricultural activity (harvested corn and soybean acreage) to describe year-to-year changes in discharge. I will use the projections of these covariates from two warming scenarios in seven global circulation models (14 projections in total) to investigate how different quantiles of the discharge distribution are projected to change over the course of this century.  $30,000

2013 Seed Grant Awards

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2013 CGRER Seed Grants - $149,145

Use of Waste Heat to Sustainably Generate High Quality Effluent for Aquifer Recharge – Daivd M. Cwiertny and Danmeng Shuai, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa

Aquifer recharge with treated wastewater represents a promising route to sustainable groundwater resources, but it is currently limited by the energy intensity and treatment costs needed to generate high quality effluent. Here, we develop an innovative wastewater treatment operation to destroy chemical pollutants by converting waste heat into oxidizing equivalents using pyroelectric materials. Specific tasks include (i) synthesis and characterization of pyroelectric materials (e.g., LiNbO3 and LiTaO3), which convert temperature gradients into chemical energy (e.g., oxidizing and reducing equivalents), with systematically varied physicochemical properties; (ii) performance optimization of these pyroelectric materials toward model pollutants under various water chemistries including those representative of wastewater; and (iii) a preliminary environmental impact assessment addressing the energy footprint and sustainability of this innovative technology relative to other advanced treatment processes. Outcomes will move society closer to water sustainability via an energy efficient treatment technology that promotes beneficial water reuse.  $29,700

Development of a Late Holocene Decadal-Scale Proxy Record of the North Atlantic Oscillation from Portuguese Stalagmites – Rhawn Denniston, Department of Geology, Cornell College

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is a persistent climatic phenomenon reflecting an atmospheric pressure dipole between Iceland and Portugal and is tied to climatic anomalies around the Northern Hemisphere, including seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Recent paleoclimatic data suggest that in contrast to frequently changing NAO behavior evident in historical records, NAO modes may have become entrenched in previous centuries, yielding long-lasting climatic regimes. For example, analyses of Scottish stalagmites and Moroccan tree rings suggest that the Medieval Climate Anomaly resulted, in part, from a persistent positive mode of the NAO while the Little Ice Age reflected more negative NAO indexes. However, the fidelity of these data has been questioned and high resolution paleoenvironmental records from other NAO-sensitive areas are required to address this uncertainty. This research proposes to develop a precisely dated, decadal-resolution stalagmite isotopic time series from western Portugal, the climate of which is strongly influenced by the NAO, as a means of examining NAO variability over the late Holocene (the last ~3,000 years).  $30,000

Impacts of Extended Drought Conditions and Global Warming on Groundwater Resources in Iowa and the Upper Midwest – Kristie J. Franz, William W. Simpkins, and Ozlem Acar, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University

Extended drought conditions that affected much of the US throughout 2012 and continued into 2013 are bringing climate change to the forefront of public attention. Long-term effects of an extended dry spell on groundwater is especially concerning as these resources are essential for meeting drinking water demands, supporting agricultural and industrial activities, and maintaining water levels in rivers and lakes. Thus, the impact of extended drought conditions on the entire hydrologic cycle needs to be well understood to guide future resource and land management decisions. We propose to explore the impact of extended drought conditions on groundwater resources in a representative Iowa watershed using Regional Climate Model scenarios implemented through HydroGeoSphere, a physically-based, surface water-groundwater model. This will complement our current efforts in the South Fork watershed to quantify the impact of agricultural drainage on flooding using this model.  29,548

Theoretical Description of Nanomaterials for Water Remediation – Sara E. Mason, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa

Developing countries and rural farms are at elevated risk for arsenic (As) contaminated waters, mandating durable and cost-effective treatment methods. Recent research highlights affordable nanomaterials that are promising co-precipitation agents due to properties such as high surface area. Polyaluminumchloride (PACl) with high levels of theAl30 nanocluster (Al30O8(OH)56(H2O)2618+) has been shown to improve the removal efficiency of As over a broad range of pH. However, the underlying physiochemical properties of Al30 are not known, preventing optimization of Al30 usage.  We will use quantum-based simulations to model Al30 interactions with As species. Calculations of energetic, geometric, and electrostatic properties for arrangements of As adsorption on Al30 will be used to characterize bonding interactions as a function of nanocluster functional groups.  By developing a theoretical framework of cluster-As interactions, this simulation work may direct experimental studies of Al30, and ultimately may direct the engineering of PACl water remediation strategies.  $30,000

Groundwater Sustainability in Agriculturally Dominated Watersheds:  A Case-Study in Mewat District, Haryana, India – Adam Ward, Department of Geoscience and Marian Muste, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa

Freshwater in Mewat (Haryana, India) is a limited resource, with only 61 of 503 villages having access to safe groundwater, leading to a range of social, economic, and human health impacts. In those villages with freshwater, supplies are expected to be entirely depleted in 10-15 years.  Water consumption supports both domestic use and agricultural production. This project will develop a numerical model of current conditions and test future scenarios based on climate change, land use decisions, and governmental interventions. Hydrologic modeling of current and future scenarios will be used to estimate the Water Poverty Index, a single term integrating wellbeing of social, economic, and natural systems. All project data and results will be included in a cyberinfrastructure system for stakeholder use. The overarching objective of this work is to develop a sustainable water management strategy for Mewat.  $29,897

2012 Seed Grant Awards

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2012 CGRER Seed Grants - $159,819

Evaluating the Hydrologic Performance of Bioretention Cells for Mitigating Urban Stormwater Runoff – E. Arthur Bettis III, Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa

Bioretention cells are a best management practice (BMP) used to reduce urban stormwater runoff to streams.  Adoption of this BMP has been spotty across the nation and few studies have been undertaken to quantitatively evaluate the performance of bioretention cells (biocells), or to document the effects of environmental conditions on materials used to construct biocells. One part of the proposed project is a series of field experiments designed to determine the water budget for an existing biocell and to see how effective the structure is for reducing thermal shock to streams from pavement runoff.  The second part of the project is a laboratory experiment designed to evaluate the effects of freeze-thaw cycles and runoff sediment input on the infiltration capacity of biosoil mixtures. Results of the project will provide important information for biocell design in temperate climates and will contribute to understanding how properties of biocell materials change with time.  $21,068

Working Toward a Sustainable Iowa:  An Assessment of Public Attitudes Toward Water Sustainability – Kajsa E. Dalrymple, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa

Research has consistently shown that public opinion toward science and the environment can be very influential on public support of research, behaviors, and future policy decisions. Although many scholars and agencies are focused on encouraging water sustainability in the state of Iowa, there is a paucity of research examining public concerns about water sustainability issues, opinion towards policy, and understanding of the water problems that face the state. Working with researchers at the university and various environmental agencies throughout the state, this project proposes the implementation of a statewide public opinion survey examining understanding of and opinion towards water sustainability. Such research will not only provide a baseline understanding of opinion towards water sustainability issues in the state of Iowa, but will also help identify appropriate methods of communicating with various public groups during future informational campaigns and university outreach efforts.  $30,000

Modeling Hydrologic Systems in Elementary Science (MoHSES):  A Pilot Study – Cory T. Forbes, Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Iowa

Students in Kindergarten through 12th-grade should engage in the construction, use, evaluation, and revision of scientific models to develop disciplinary conceptual understanding within the geosciences.  However, science classrooms rarely engage students in model-based reasoning.  There is a clear need for more research that can inform efforts to design science curriculum and instruction that engages students in scientific modeling, particularly elementary students (grades K-5). Using multiple research methods grounded in a case study design framework, I will investigate 3rd-grade students’ model-based reasoning about one component of hydrologic systems – groundwater. This project is a direct response to calls for research on students’ participation in and learning about scientific practices, will make important contributions to the knowledge bases in the fields of science education and the learning sciences, addresses CGRER’s stated research and educational outreach goals, and will provide pilot data necessary to develop and submit future proposals to external funding agencies.  $29,987

Investigations of Uranium Complexation for Enhanced Transport Modeling and Environmental Remediation of Nuclear Materials – Tori Z. Forbes, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa

The mobility of uranium in natural aqueous systems is greatly enhanced by complexation with naturally occurring organic compounds, such as citrate, but the structural characteristics of the relevant molecular species are currently unknown. There is a critical need, to determine the structural nature of these complexes to provide detailed information regarding the speciation of uranium in aqueous systems. The long-term goal of my research program is to provide a molecular-level understanding of actinide complexes in aqueous solutions to improve containment strategies and facilitate environmental remediation of nuclear materials from groundwater systems. My objective in this proposal is to synthesize and structurally characterize uranyl citrate complexes and directly compare the results to species that are likely present in solution. The rationale for this project is that its completion will improve our functional knowledge regarding uranium complexation and provide enhanced information for transport modeling and remediation strategies.  $29,896

Climate Change, Spring Persistence and Conservation in the Kunene Region:  Assessing the Sensitivity of Springs to Climate change in Arid Western Namibia – Peter J. Jacobson, Department of Biology, Grinnell College; Keith E. Schilling, Iowa Geological and Water Survey; Werner Kilian, Etosha Ecological Institute, Namibia; Jeff Muntifering, Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia; and Mary Seely, Desert Research Foundation of Namibia

This research will assess the sustainability of key springs used by people and wildlife in the Namib Desert in western Namibia. Current and projected climatic trends suggest greater aridity within an already arid to hyper-arid ecosystem. Changes in precipitation and groundwater recharge could have serious negative implications for the region’s inhabitants. The study will use physical and chemical measurements to assess hydrogeologic properties of the region’s springs and potential responses to hydroclimatic alterations. Combined with site surveys and existing physical and biological datasets, this will permit an examination of how climate change may affect one of Namibia’s most important regions for conservation and tourism, a site with global conservation significance. We will compile and analyze key digital datasets (e.g., topography, geology) and field surveys of the springs’ physical and chemical characteristics to assess susceptibility to drying. The results will elucidate the influence of spring persistence on landscape connectivity with respect to key elements of the regional biota, including elephant, mountain zebra and rhinoceros.  $24,800

2011 Seed Grant Awards

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2011 CGRER seed grants - $149,879

Are Solitary Bee Communities Collapsing?  An Empirical Test for Declines and the Search for Colony Collapse Viruses in Solitary Bees – Stephen D. Hendrix and Harsha Doddapaneni, Department of Biology, University of Iowa

Considerable attention has focused on the decline in honey bees (Apis mellifera) and the devastating effects that loss of this species may have on the pollination of numerous, important crop species.  Often ignored, however, is that there are 20,000 species of wild, solitary bees that also provide valuable pollinator services and who are also likely threatened both locally and globally.  This study focuses on these important solitary bees and has two major goals.  First, it will provide the only statistically valid test of hypothesized loss of diversity in solitary bee communities.  Second, it will provide the first survey of wild bee species west of the Mississippi for viruses recently implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  Taken together our study will gather invaluable data on the health of solitary bee communities in Iowa, providing benchmark measurements of pollinator sustainability against which to judge future assessments.  $29, 982

Development of Quantification Standards and Methods to Evaluate Agriculturally-Derived Organic Aerosol – Elizabeth Stone and David Wiemer, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa

Thorough understanding of atmospheric aerosol composition and sources is critical to understanding how aerosols affect global climate.  A key source of uncertainty lies within secondary organic aerosol (SOA) that forms through the atmospheric oxidation of gaseous precursors.  A major hindrance in the study of SOA has been the lack of authentic standards for marker compounds that prevents accurate quantification of known products.  The proposed research would address this need through the collaboration of Dr. Stone and Dr. Wiemer that would integrate atmospheric, analytical, and organic chemistry and develop standards and methods for improved SOA quantification.  Our initial efforts target biogenic precursor gases abundant in agricultural environments that are hypothesized to be an important source of SOA in the Midwestern United States.  Measurements of SOA markers would be made in Eastern Iowa to assess the relative importance of natural, agricultural, and anthropogenic precursors to organic aerosol using statistical source apportionment models.  $30,000

Exploring Alternatives to the “Typical Meteorological Year” for Incorporating Climate Change into Building Design – Eugene S. Takle and Shannon L.Rabideau, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed the Typical Meteorological Year (TMY) for use in building design, with primary focus on solar energy building design.  TMY provides locally specific estimates for 1100 locations throughout the U.S. of typical meteorological conditions over the course of a year.  It does not consider possible extreme conditions but provides what is considered the average conditions as determined by examining individual months from a 30-year climate record.  We propose to work with NREL, ASHRAE, and key people in the design and construction fields to evaluate alternatives to the use of the TMY in determining building response and smart management options, for efficient operation in current and future climate conditions.  Of special note is the possibility of forming a “future TMY” from future scenario climates being developed under the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP), in which ISU plays a central role.  $30,000

Quantifying Urban Headwater Stream Flow and Water Quality Dynamics to Develop Predictions for Urbanization and Climate Change Scenarios in Central Iowa – Janette R. Thompson, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University

We propose to conduct a study of 20 urban watersheds in the Des Moines metropolitan area to quantify land cover characteristics, and stream flow and pollutant loading associated with current precipitation inputs.  Relationships among these characteristics will be examined and used to calibrate existing hydrological models.  This work will provide essential data to support a proposal to the National Science Foundation Coupled Natural and Human Systems program to collect additional empirical data and to validate and use the hydrological models to predict responses to changes in precipitation input that are likely in the future, and to support collaborative modeling with local municipal officials and watershed residents.  As a stand-alone project, the proposed CGRER work will generate critical information on stream response to a wide range of urban conditions to be used in dialog with local municipal officials about patterns and forms of future urban development that mitigate impacts to streams.  $29,897

Nitrogen Load Reduction Evaluation for the Huai River:  Balance Pressures from Agricultural Intensification, Industrialization and Climate Change – You-Kuan Zhang, Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa, and Keith Schilling, Iowa Geological Survey

The Huai River is one of the largest rivers in China. As a major agricultural region, the Huai River basin (HRB) yields 16.5% of China’s total grain with only 3% of its total land.  Despite its current agricultural productivity, in July 2008, China’s State Council set the goal to increase the grain production of HRB by 32.5% in 2020.  However, like many regions of China, land use/land cover (LU/LC) change is rapidly occurring as urbanization is expanding into rural areas.  Increasing urbanization and industrialization result in an increase in point source loads into the river whereas the mandate to increase agricultural productivity will result in increasing nonpoint source loads from excessive application of manures and fertilizers.  Clearly, competing LU/LC interests and economic drivers in HRB are not sustainable, but similar issues apply to many developing countries.  In this study, we propose to develop a watershed model to quantify the current pollutant loading from point and nonpoint sources in the HRB and develop load reduction strategies centered on sustainable LU/LC practices that balance demand for agricultural productivity with increasing industrialization.  Our strategies will be evaluated against a backdrop of climate change to test their long-term sustainability.  30,000

2010 Seed Grant Awards

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2010 CGRER Seed Grants - $149,997

Remote Sensing Based Distributed Hydrologic Modeling in Midwestern Landscapes for Predicting “Tile-to-Tide” Responses – Nandita Basu, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Marc Linderman, Department of Geography, University of Iowa

This project will explore the use of remote sensing (RS) products (MODIS) for developing parsimonious hydrologic models that can then be used in conjunction with water quality modules (that will be developed later) to evaluate impacts of dynamic land-use shifts under alternate energy production scenarios. The Threshold Exceedance Lagrangian Model (TELM) is unique in its ability to identify functionally homogeneous units in the watershed, and predict streamflow, without calibration, using hydrologic attributes specific to tile-drained Midwestern watersheds. Integration of RS with TELM will enhance its ability to predict spatial patterns of runoff generation, which in turn will improve distributed estimates of contaminant load (e.g., N and P) generation and potential impacts of bio-energy driven land-use changes. Simplicity of the model and lack of calibration renders it a useful tool for prediction across scales, from a single tile to the Mississippi Basin.  $29,997


Sustaining the biodiversity of coral reefs: evolutionary insight from coral skeletons - A. F. Budd, Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa,

Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems, and are increasingly threatened by climate change, ocean acidification, and local anthropogenetic disturbance. Despite the ecological importance and threatened status of the corals that build reef framework, their evolutionary history is poorly understood. Recent molecular analyses disagree with the traditional taxonomy of reef corals, prompting paleontologists to search for new morphological features that better agree with molecular data. The most promising involve skeletal micromorphology and microstructure; however, the effect of environmental factors on growth of these features is uncertain. The proposed project will conduct two laboratory experiments testing the effect of light intensity on these features in four coral species. This pilot study will lay the groundwork for future experiments on skeletal growth, which will be used to examine the relationship between evolution and environmental change over the past 50 million years.  $30,000

Climate Change Effects on Trophic Interactions in Montane Meadow Systems – Diane Debinski, Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University

Ecological effects of climate change can include advancement of spring events, shifts in species distribution patterns, and phenological changes. Studying these responses under field conditions can require decades of research. However, butterflies provide an excellent model system for examining these issues over shorter times because of their tight relationship with host plants, short generation times, and sensitivity to changing conditions. We will establish experimental manipulations using snow removal and passive heating to mimic the effects of predicted climate change and measure the responses of Parnassius clodius, a common montane butterfly, and its host plant (Dicentra uniflora) in Grand Teton National Park. Growth and timing of emergence and maturity of P. clodius and D. uniflora will be measured. This research will provide insights into the effects of warming and drying conditions on plant‐insect interactions and the results will be valuable for understanding potential climate‐related trophic impacts in other ecological systems.  $30,000

Feedbacks Between Agriculture and Climate Revealed Through the Coupling of an Agricultural Land Surface Model to a Regional Climate Model – Brian K. Hornbuckle, Department of Agronomy, Jason C. Patton, Raymond W. Arritt and Eugene S. Takle, Iowa State University

Changes in the regional climate of the U.S. Midwest may impact agriculture. Changes in agricultural practices may also impact future climate by modifying the local land surface water, carbon, and energy cycles. The specific nature of these impacts cannot be anticipated with current regional climate models (RCMs) for two main reasons. First, RCMs do not include many of the specific processes that influence the movement of water, carbon, and energy between the land and atmosphere in agricultural landscapes. Second, RCMs do not allow their own climate to influence how crops develop over the growing season. We propose to couple a recently–developed agroecosystem model, Agro–IBIS, with an RCM in order to correctly simulate the feedbacks between agriculture and climate. Our long–term goal is to use this coupled model to predict: the effects of climate change on agriculture; and how changes in agricultural practices may influence the regional climate.  $30,000

Arsenic in Iowa Groundwater:  Identifying Important Geochemical Processes – Michelle M. Scherer and Gene F. Parkin, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa

We request funding from CGRER to help address the emerging water quality issue of arsenic in Iowa groundwater. According to Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), there are 69 public water supplies that utilize groundwater with arsenic concentrations greater than the recommended limit and in a recent survey 473 private wells in Iowa, 48% were found to contain arsenic. We propose to help address the issue of arsenic in groundwater by conducting laboratory experiments to better understand the geochemical processes controlling the release of arsenic from soils to groundwater. The requested funding would be used to support Angela Brown, a Master’s student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Specifically, we propose to (i) implement analytical techniques for measuring arsenic speciation in water and soils, and (ii) identify geochemical processes important for arsenic release from soils.  $30,000

2009 Seed Grant Awards

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Speleothem Evidence for the Influences of Enso and Solar Variability on the Holocene Australian Summer Monsoon 0 Rhawn Denniston, Department of Geology, Cornell College

The influences of solar activity and the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on decadal and centennial-scale monsoon variability are fundamental but poorly understood components of Earth’s climate system. Analysis of a Holocene stalagmite from the monsoon-dominated and ENSO-sensitive region of northern Australia reveals correlations between (1) stalagmite carbon and oxygen isotopic composition and solar variability, and (2) stalagmite growth hiatuses and ENSO frequency/intensity. Before this promising avenue of research into the Australian Summer Monsoon (AuSM) can be fully exploited, however, three fundamental questions must be answered. First, what mechanism(s) are driving stalagmite carbon isotopic variability? Second, are monsoon amount effect signatures in stalagmite oxygen isotopic ratios masked by evapokinetic effects? And thirdly, do stalagmite growth hiatuses represent regional drought or the peculiarities of karst hydrology? Isotopic and trace elemental analyses of cave dripwater and stalagmites will allow a better understanding of climate signals in northern Australia stalagmites.

Carbon Dioxide Adsorption and Conversion on Nanomaterials – Vicki Grassian, Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa

Reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and utilization of carbon dioxide are widely regarded as both grand challenges and opportunities for scientists and engineers.1-3 In a recent workshop report by the National Science Foundation, nanoscience and catalysis have been identified as two enabling areas that could provide the scientific and technological innovations needed to address sustainability issues such as carbon dioxide mitigation.3 In this context, oxide nanomaterial catalysts are the focus of the proposed research. Major goals of the proposed studies are to use these materials for carbon dioxide storage and as catalysts to achieve high selectivity and efficiency in key steps for the conversion of carbon dioxide into more useful chemicals, such as methanol. These catalysts can be used alone or coupled with biocatalysts in some cases for processes that benefit from the synergism of nanoscience and biocatalysis for enhanced efficiency and conversion (i.e. development of hybrid nanomaterials in collaboration with people in CBB such as Director Manny Subramanian).

A Context for Alpine Tundra Response to Climate Change – George Malanson, Department of Geography, University of Iowa

The diversity of alpine tundra may be reduced by climate warming. Ongoing monitoring includes the extensive GLORIA (GLobal Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments; program, including sites in the West. To provide context across the West, we will assemble and organize all available studies of alpine tundra in which community composition is available. We will develop an algorithm for resampling these data by comparing the common sampling methods from past studies as applied to a range of types of alpine tundra. We will repeatedly sample alpine tundra using the most common methods of prior studies. Lastly we will create a statistical mapping of these data so that the variation of alpine tundra can be described, major axes derived, and a template within which to analyze change can be provided as a guide for adaptation to and mitigation of the impacts of climate change.

The Effects of Climate Change on Soil Organic Matter and Soil Quality in Iowa – Thanos Papanicolaou, Jerry Schnoor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa; and Lee Burras, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

In Iowa, projected climate shifts coupled with intense agriculture activities may have detrimental effects on the sustainability of a healthy soil, i.e., a soil that is rich in organic matter (SOM). Collectively, increased precipitation and intense agriculture can trigger increased erosion and sequential loss of large quantities of SOM. We argue that management practices can either amplify (as with conventional tillage practices) or dampen (as with conservation tillage practices) the impacts of precipitation on SOM redistribution. Understanding the interplay between climate shifts and management practices is critical for minimizing SOM loss and constitutes the overarching goal of this grant. This research involves coupled field and model studies. Limited but representative plot measurements will be conducted to measure SOM redistribution for model calibration and verification. These models then will be used to perform “thought experiments” for assessing the response of SOM to projected climate and land use changes at larger scales.

Sustainability of Crop Yields and Wind Power in Iowa Under Expansion of Wind Farms – Moti Segal, Department of Agronomy and Eugene Takle, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University

We will evaluate the environmental interactions and economic benefits of wind turbines with crops through assessment of altered surface drag (wind power production) and induced changes in crop growing conditions (biomass production) when agricultural crops are raised over vast regions within wind farms. These interactions are associated with unique climate change, which will affect such regions. There have been no studies addressing the relationships between wind power resources and the agricultural cropping systems of the Midwest. Quantification of this synergy and development of strategies are imperative for optimizing economic gain. We will use a wind turbine numerical model to quantify meteorological features impacts downwind from wind turbines and their interactions at the surface with crops. The model will also assess the impacts of crop management on wind power availability and determines optimal configurations of wind farms with these roughness changes.

Ecological Physiology, Gene Flow, and Demography among Fiddler Crab Populations (Genus Uca) Along the South Atlantic Coast of Brazil – Carl Thurman, Department of Biology, University of Northern Iowa

Intra- and interspecific variation in morphology, population genetics, and physiology will be assessed across the ranges of nine species of fiddler crabs along the southern coast of Brazil (Appendix. 1, Fig. 7). Patterns of variation will be compared eventually to those in Uca from temperate and subtropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean. This unique approach will permit a comprehensive understanding of diversity and distribution of species. The study will contribute to a better understanding of the physiological processes and genetics mechanisms enabling shallow-water marine organisms to acclimate and adapt to a changing environment. Since Uca are integral in the ecology of shallow-water marine habitats, an understanding of their movements and distributions across ecosystems will provide the initial ingredients to develop a suitable paradigm of maritime conservation. This international program is likely to make a substantial contribution towards a realistic model for management of marine ecosystems on a global scale.

2008 Seed Grant Awards

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In 2008, CGRER awarded five seed grants totaling $143,873.

Development of Prototype Instrumentation for Ultra-High Resolution Measurement of Land Surface Relief

Studies of land-atmosphere interactions, and surface-fluid processes such as soil erosion, are limited by researchers’ abilities to characterize the shape and roughness of the Earth’s surface. William EichingerWitold KrajewskiThanos Papanicolaou, and Anton Kruger developed instrumentation capable of mapping small areas (about 50 square meters) at extremely high resolution (less than 1 centimeter). Most of the funding was used to construct a portable framework to hold and move a lidar (light-radar) measuring instrument over the study area. The lidar instrument bounced a pulse of light off the soil surface, and mapped soil roughness by measuring the light’s return time.

Tailoring the Surface Properties of Nanocrystalline Zeolites for Environmental Applications: Insights from DFT Calculations

Zeolites are alumino-silicates with very large surface areas that are already widely used in catalysis and in water softeners. Sarah Larsen’s research project involved very small zeolites — nanocrystalline zeolites with crystal sizes less than 100 nm in diameter. These tiny particles are porous, but have large surface areas and decreased diffusion path lengths relative to microcrystalline zeolites. As such, they can be tailored to environmental applications, such as adsorption of air or water pollutants. The study used DFT (Density Functional Theory) calculations to model surface properties of functionalized nanocrystalline zeolites, so that their properties could be optimized for these environmental applications.

Climate Change Impacts on Cold Season Hydrologic Processes and Spring Soil Moisture Recharge in the Upper Midwest

This grant, awarded to Kristie Franz, initiated studies of past and projected changes in the Midwest’s cold-season climate: its snow cover, snow melt rates, and frozen ground traits. These traits are crucial to understanding spring soil-moisture recharge, spring flooding, and water availability to summer crops, yet Midwestern cold-season climate has not been previously studied in much depth. Weather records for the past 50 years were used to assess and model historic weather, stream flow, and soil moisture trends for six Minnesota and Iowa watersheds; hydrological models were then used to estimate expected climate-change-related alterations of 2041-2070 cold-season hydrologic processes. Such models are vital for assessing the impact of a changing climate on the water cycle, thereby producing information that could guide future land use and natural disaster planning.

Discovering the Vertical Dimension of Atmospheric New Particle Formation: Aircraft Profiling Proof of Concept

Ultrafine atmospheric particles play important roles in regulating climate because they are potential seeds for cloud droplet formation. However, although the technology for counting these very small particles became available a decade ago, concentrations of ultrafines throughout the atmosphere have never been systematically measured in the Midwest.Charles Stanier’s grant allowed the first such Midwestern tests, which were performed from the ground up to a five kilometer elevation. These measurements helped address one of the largest uncertainties in climate-change assessments and models.

Observations on the Movement of Bedload Using Motion-Sensing Radio Transmitters

Characterizing the movement of sediment along river bottoms has always posed a challenge: The movement of these bouncing particles is confounded by both the variability of the bed material itself and by stream flow’s turbulent nature.Thanos Papanicolaou and Jerald Schnoor developed techniques to use thousands of minute, motion-sensing, radio-tracking techniques (Radio Frequency Identification systems) to simulate individual sand-sized sediment particles and to study their movement. Their use enabled the researchers to study the displacement, rate of motion, and pathways of individual sediment particles, and fed into predictive models of sediment movement. In future years, this technology could be used for applications-oriented field monitoring of sediments.

2007 Seed Grant Awards

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In the 2007 year, CGRER awarded five seed grants totaling $148,230.

Optimization of Environmental and Economic Benefits of Corn Harvesting for Biofuel Production Amy Kaleita

Biofuels are seen as economic windfalls for Iowa. While corn-based biofuels currently are made from the corn kernels, methods for converting lignin-containing plant materials (such as corn stalks and leaves) into ethanol are being developed. However, the removal of corn residues from cropland significantly increases the risk of soil erosion — one of several potential environmental costs related to biofuel production. How do biofuel’s immediate economic benefits balance with such long-term environmental costs and the land’s sustainability? Amy Kaleita and James Newman created a numerical model that produced a county-by-county “erosion risk map” that estimates soil loss at different rates of corn residue harvest. This model is available to individual farmers, who can use it to calculate biofuel-related erosion losses on a more detailed level.

The Effect of Harvesting Trees, Shrubs, and Native Grasses on Soil Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Flux in Riparian Buffers Designed to Provide Biomass for Biofuel Production

Riparian buffer strip plantings concentrate nitrogen fertilizers and carbon in their living and dead plant parts. Because they sequester more carbon and nitrogen than they release, buffers help control the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. By supplying carbon to the microbes in the soil ecosystem, riparian buffers stimulate the denitrification process which converts excess nitrogen fertilizer to harmless nitrogen gas. Buffer strip plants are now being considered as a cellulosic biofuel feedstock. This use would increase the frequency of harvesting and accelerate decomposition in the buffers. Such changes may shift the release of harmless nitrogen gases to higher proportions of potent nitrous oxide. Richard Schultz and Thomas Isenhart compared the release of the various forms of nitrogen gas (as well as carbon dioxide and methane) from undisturbed riparian buffer strips with that of harvested sites, and thus assessed the ramifications of biofuel production before such harvests commence.

Inter-Calibration of Global Remotely Sensed Vegetation Measures

Numerical models of vegetation, hydrology, climate and other environmental processes rely in part on data collected by satellites. Data sets of nearly 30 years duration are available, but recent design advances have improved sensors that collect information on the spectral and thermal characteristics of Earth’s surface. Although previous data sets continue to provide valuable long-term records, improving the compatibility of earlier data sets and more recent data collected with the improved sensors would provide more robust analysis of the Earth’s surface features. Marc LindermanKate Cowles, and Dale Zimmerman provided such improved compatibility by using current, high-quality satellite data to correct earlier, less reliable data sets. The improved data sets better assess trends in our planet’s vegetational activity, and provide better baseline information for today’s more precise studies of changes in agriculture, land cover, and climate.

Heterogeneous Photochemistry of Atmospheric Aerosol

For nearly a decade, Vicki Grassian and collaborators have been working with heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry — that is, the chemical interplay between atmospheric particles and trace atmospheric gases. She has investigated how these interactions are significant in altering the troposphere’s chemical balances, a feature important to the modeling of changing climate. She and Mark Young extended that research into a new area, incorporating the effects of sunlight and asking the question, “What influence does heterogeneous photochemistry play in atmospheric chemistry?” They looked at organic material of biological origin (e.g. from soil) as well as organic- and nitrate-coated particles, and measured light-induced changes in the particles and key trace gas species, changes that also could be important to climate and climate models.

Observational and Modeling Studies of Rainfall Interception by Corn Plants

Numerical models are continuing to increase our scientific understanding of the hydrological cycle. However, variations in the Earth’s surface cover and other variables continue to confound measurements and models. Witold Krajewskiaddressed one such variable: interception of rainfall by corn, a process that is not well understood. Corn provides significant storage for water when integrated over Iowa’s vast fields of rowcrops. This storage modifies rainfall-runoff processes and the exchange of water mass and energy between land surface processes and the atmosphere through evaporation. The project studied the interception of rainfall by corn plants using in-house developed sensor systems. The grant funded the development of the observational system and demonstrated its usefulness in the field — efforts that are necessary prerequisites to subsequent field-sampling experiments and the development of mathematical models of the rainfall interception process.

2006 Seed Grant Awards

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In the 2006 fiscal year, CGRER awarded six seed grants totaling $145,092.

Ecological Intensification of the Industrial Bioeconomy: Sustainable Biofuel Production through the Integration of Perennial Crops with Advanced Biomass Conversion Technologies

Robert Anex considered the use of native perennial grasses as biofuels for bioenergy. The researcher evaluated the possibility of recovering key plant nutrients from such grass crops, and recycling these nutrients onto croplands. Such recycling of recovered nutrients could maintain highly productive farmland while reducing the use and impact of chemical fertilizers, improving energy use efficiency, and creating more sustainable agricultural systems.

A Workshop to Assess Climate-Change Effects on the Ice Regimes of Northern Rivers

Anecdotal information suggests that global climate change is altering the ice regimes of many northern rivers, and is increasing ice jam severity. This grant, awarded to Robert Ettema and Allen Bradley, funded a 2006-07 workshop involving leading researchers from Russia, Canada, and the U.S. These experts produced a substantial proposal for an international study of climate change impacts on ice regimes of northern rivers.

Assessing the Ecotoxicology of Nanomaterials and Identifying Biomarkers in Bacteria Exposed to Nanomaterials

Nanomaterials are increasingly being used in commercial products and environmental applications. Jiasong Fang assessed the environmental risks and ecotoxicology of such extremely small particles. In particular, the research elucidated nanomaterials’ stress on bacteria, determined imposed shifts in microbial communities, and identified reliable biomarkers for assessing nanomaterial’s effects.

Equity in Relief: Urban Water-supply and Recovery from Tsunami during Suspended Civil War in Sri Lanka

Paul Greenough and Harish Naraindas examined the equity of relief distribution in three Sri Lankan cities following the December 2004 tsunami. Post-storm restoration of drinking water was studied to determine if aid was allocated according to need or, as alleged by some, according to politics. Field studies were followed by a workshop in Iowa City, where funding proposals for more extensive research were developed.

Real-time, Personal Sampling for Airborne Nanoparticles

Although short-term exposure to nanoparticles from traffic may be associated with cardiac sudden death, current sampling methods hamper efforts to directly assess this relationship. Thomas Peters developed a novel monitor to assess fluctuations in personal exposure to nanoparticles. The research may impact future regulation of such extremely small particles.

Using the Past to Create a Sustainable Future for Agriculture: The Impact of Federal Farm Policy on Environmental and Social Landscape Change in Iowa

The twentieth-century intensification of rowcropping has created a uniform landscape lacking in environmental and socioeconomic resilience. This interdisciplinary project, conducted by Lisa Schulte and Paul Brown, detailed how U.S. federal farm policies have socially and ecologically affected three rural Iowa townships between 1933 and 2002. The resulting historic insights helped create a vision of agricultural and rural sustainability, which may feed into revisions of federal farm policy.

2004 Seed Grant Awards

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In 2004, CGRER awarded five seed grants totaling $100,000.

Historical Controls on the Evolution of Continental Plant and Insect Herbivore Biotas

John Nason considered the long-term effects of changing climate on genetic variability. His project examined the amount of genetic divergence in four Sonoran Desert plants and their dependent herbivorous insects. These organisms are thought to have migrated into their current Sonoran locations during the past 10,000 years, following the close of the Pleistocene. By using molecular genetics to compare the standing genetic variability of multiple plant-insect populations, this project determined whether genetic adaptability was lost during the northward migrations, or whether physical barriers induced more significant changes in the species’ genetics. The identification of migration-induced genetic changes could bode poorly for native communities that are likely to be forced to migrate by global warming; loss of genetic variability could reduce the environmental adaptability of native populations, making them more susceptible to possible extinction.

Capturing Iowa’s Industrial Age Record of Global Change

This project marked Iowa’s first attempt to use the isotopic composition of rainfall as a tool to fingerprint climatic trends of the past few hundred years. Jeff DoraleGreg Ludvigson, and Dick Baker attempted to procure intact layered sediments from the depths of northwest Iowa’s Lake Okoboji. These annual sediment deposits, which are visibly layered and thus can be counted and aged, contain isotopes of oxygen that identify the geographic origin and airmass history of precipitation falling on the lake. They thus can be used to track the global air circulation patterns that cause precipitation in Iowa. Identifying the changes in isotopic composition allowed the investigators to identify evolving weather trends from before the Industrial Revolution to the present, an accomplishment that in turn may be predictive of Iowa’s future weather and precipitation patterns.

Stable Carbon Isotope Fractionation in Fatty Acid Biosynthesis of Piezophilic Bacteria and Implications to Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction

Jiasong Fang investigated whether biomarkers now used to decipher ancient oceanic environments are valid. The deep sea floor serves as the final repository for all oceanic activities. Sediments there contain bacterial byproducts (fatty acids) which are used to interpret the ocean’s paleoenvironments. However, interpretation of oceanic deposits is now based on our understanding of fatty acid synthesis and carbon isotope fractionation in surface-water bacteria. Fang used his grant to grow deep-water oceanic bacteria and compare their fatty acid synthesis and carbon isotope fractionation to that of surface-water bacteria. Differences or similarities found in this comparison were used to ensure that we are correctly reading the ocean’s ancient geochemistry and distant past.

How Accurately Can I Remotely Sense Surface Temperature? Practical Options for Investigators focuses on improving the accuracy of remote sensing equipment used to measure surface temperatures.

Brian HornbuckleThomas Sauer, and Elwynn Taylor attacked inaccuracies inherent in the use of an infrared thermometer (IRT). Although the research instrument of choice when remotely obtaining detailed radiometric temperatures of land surfaces (vegetation, soils, etc.), an IRT actually compounds measurements of Earth surface emissions with those of infrared emissions from the sky. This grant concentrated on quantifying the resulting error and its variation, in preparation for submission of a major grant to determine standard, easily applied correction methods for this error.

Development and Implementation of an Aerosol Flow System for Laboratory Studies of the Impact of Atmospheric Aging on the Optical Properties of Mineral Dust Aerosol

Paul Kleiber and Vicki Grassian concentrated on the climatically significant interplay between light and dust. The absorption and scattering of solar radiation by mineral dust aerosol is crucial to the Earth’s temperature balance and climate. In simple terms, dust scattering of incoming solar radiation tends to cool the atmosphere, while dust absorption of outgoing terrestrial radiation has a warming effect. However, dust’s optical properties are so poorly understood that we don’t know whether mineral dust aerosol causes net global warming or cooling. This grant funded the construction and initial laboratory use of an aerosol flow-absorption cell designed to investigate this question.

2003 Seed Grant Awards

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In 2003, CGRER awarded seven seed grants totaling $127,993.

Synthetic Musk Fragrances in Great Lakes Sediments

Synthetic musk fragrances (SMFs), compounds widely used in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products, are released in treated wastewater effluent and also exhibit aerial transport. These persistent chemicals, now ubiquitous in the environment, are known to be endocrine disruptors, but details of their fate and potential toxicologic impacts on humans and ecosystems remain poorly understood. This project evaluated the presence and fate of SMFs in the Great Lakes. Keri HornbuckleJerry Schnoor, and Bryan Boulanger measured specific SMFs and their breakdown products in air, water, and sediment samples collected at four sites in Lakes Ontario and Erie. Sediment cores yielded information about trends in SMF lake contamination over the last 30 years. These data improved our understanding about the presence, storage, and decomposition of SMFs in the Great Lakes, laying down a firmer baseline for understanding their possible health impacts.

A Geochemical Survey of Iowa’s Freshwater Mussels: Understanding their Historical Decline

Freshwater mussels constitute excellent biological monitors of water quality. These bottom-dwelling animals, once common in Iowa’s streams, depend on specific host fish and clean streamwater for life and reproduction. Iowa’s mussels are now in serious decline. Proposed explanations include the disappearance of host fish due to damming of rivers, and habitat degradation through agriculturally-induced siltation, eutrophication, and waterborne pesticides. Donna Surge andScott Carpenter performed the first geochemical analyses of Iowa’s mussels, comparing carbon and oxygen isotopes of shells from the late 1800s with those of the late 1900s. Resulting data allowed the researchers to reconstruct changes in stream productivity and climate to clarify the mechanisms responsible for current mussel declines.

Environmental Effects on Stable Isotopes and Carbon Cycle Processes in Agricultural Settings of Iowa

Concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have increased over 25 percent since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, but the fate of these emissions remains poorly understood. Terrestrial ecosystems both absorb and emit this greenhouse gas in varying amounts that depend on ecological, seasonal, and environmental conditions. The complexity of these processes significantly impacts computer models that attempt to predict future climate change based on altered atmospheric CO2 levels. German Mora collected critical data about day-to-day and seasonal changes of both carbon and oxygen isotopes in Iowa’s corn and soybean fields. The data provided insight into carbon fluxes related to the plants’ respiration and the assimilation of CO2 during photosynthesis. By elucidating the complexities of gaseous interchange between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere, the research helps predict cropland responses to future atmospheric changes.

Applicability of Aquatic Life Cycle Testing to the Assessment of Ecological Health Impacts of Emerging Contaminants

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) such as prescription drugs, food supplements, sunscreens, and cosmetic ingredients constitute an emerging group of little-tested water contaminants. Innovative approaches are needed to evaluate untested, potential, subtle ecological effects of these compounds that are not discernable through standard toxicological methods. Meredith Gooding examined responses of freshwater mussels to SMF contamination. Following laboratory exposure to SMFs, mussels were studied for changes in growth, morphology, bioaccumulation, and mortality. Consideration of chronic, low-level exposure at different life stages were addressed by testing both mussel larvae and juveniles. The results provided data on the suitability of using mussels as test organisms for PPCPs, and more broadly helped determine the need to further evaluate environmental PPCPs’ health impacts.

Characterization of Particulates and their Role in Environmental Health

Rural inhabitants are exposed to unique health hazards. For example, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have long been known to affect the respiratory health of humans who work therein. Airborne contaminants combine to form a complex mixture that is deleterious to health at unexpectedly low levels. One poorly understood component of the CAFO problem involves synergistic health effects of gases adhered to inhalable particles. Vicki Grassian and Patrick O’Shaughnessy quantified ammonia gas adhered to corn dust and swine-confinement dust, characterizing the complexes under varying environmental conditions. They made similar efforts with gaseous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) adhered to tractor diesel exhaust. This second complex (not associated with CAFOs) is thought to resemble the soot-adhered PAHs that are known to impact respiratory health in urban environments. Lastly, this project established new collaborative efforts between researchers in chemistry and environmental health.

Quantifying the Health and Climate Benefits of Curbing Air Pollution in Megacities: Comparing Shanghai and Santiago

Developing countries face tremendous challenges when attempting to balance the costs and benefits of economic development. The fossil fuels used to power increasing numbers of vehicles and industries also degrade human health and magnify climate change processes. However, these longer-term problems are often overlooked in the search for short-term economic gain. Greg Carmichael sought to provide a tool that would encourage megacities in the developing world to consider certain economic benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An existing numerical model for analysis of multiple development-related questions, “IAMS,” was further refined and tested for its ability to integrate costs and benefits of air quality management systems. Health-related improvements (e.g. decreasing chronic bronchitis or workday losses) were then compared with expenditures on emission control measures. This model, once refined, is expected to encourage megacities around the world regularly to integrate protection of their citizens’ health into policy decisions.

Responses of Vegetation and Fire to Little Ice Age Climate Change across a Wisconsin Sand Plain

Ecologists and land managers now realize that wildfires were crucial to many pre-settlement ecosystems. Thus, scientists are increasingly using prescribed fire to restore habitats for endangered native species. Details about fire’s long-term historic interactions with specific native communities, however, often remain poorly understood. Elizabeth Lynchproposed to clarify the issue for one area: northwestern Wisconsin’s sand plain. Charcoal and pollen deposits were tested for their ability to relate changing vegetation to fire history in three sand plain sites. Project results were immediately useful to land managers and restoration ecologists working in the region. However this effort also constituted the initial phase of a larger sand plain interdisciplinary investigation of interactions among vegetation, fire disturbance, climate, and soil. The larger project aims at delineating the region’s long-term ecological history through mapping evolving vegetation and fire patterns at 200-year intervals for the past 2,000 years.

2002 Seed Grant Awards

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In 2002, CGRER awarded four seed grants totaling $75,815.

Development of a High-Resolution Paleoclimate Data Set from New Zealand using Speleothem Growth Banding and Stable Isotopic Ratios

CGRER researchers have been developing “paleoclimate proxies” for several years. These proxies (typically annual depositions of materials such as limestone in cave stalagmites) allow the interpretation of ancient climates that predate human record-taking, and provide a baseline for understanding future climatic shifts. Rhawn Denniston took his search for proxies to the Southern Hemisphere, for which paleoclimatic data remains sparse. He performed high-resolution examinations of annual growth bands (which are linked to precipitation) and stable isotope ratios (which reflect temperature and vegetation activity) of stalagmites collected in New Zealand. In addition to providing basic information about South America’s previous long- and short-term climatic shifts, his studies helped decipher how the changes in Southern Hemisphere’s climate corresponded to periods of rapid climatic change in the Northern Hemisphere.

Factors Affecting the Adoption and Conservation Value of Certified Organic Coffee Production in Oaxaca, Mexico

Preservation of biodiversity in the tropics depends in large part on the ability of local residents to see such preservation as viable and profitable. Tad Mutersbaugh and George Malanson attempted to assess indigenous Mexican farmers’ responses to one such preservation-based program: growing certified shade-grown organic coffee. Doing so requires that coffee producers meet the stringent requirements of U.S. or European coffee certifiers. These requirements may include numerous environmental benefits, for example erosion control or preservation of a diverse canopy that favors wintering neotropical bird populations. However, the certification process may be difficult and restrictive for small coffee producers. The research team described the factors that shape farmers’ participation in certification programs, and determined how well the certification programs foster preservation of native biodiversity. Their results relate to the certification of other crops (such as sustainably produced tropical lumber) and have wide-ranging implications for future conservation efforts.

Sustaining Pollinator Diversity in a Fragmented Landscape

Stephen Hendrix and Diane Debinski completed preliminary studies on native butterfly and bee diversity in Iowa’s prairie remnants, with emphasis on how this diversity relates to the remnants’ size and pattern on the landscape. These insects provide a crucial role in ensuring pollination and thus successful reproduction of the 70-80 percent of tallgrass prairie plants that are forbs, and thus are crucial to the long-term integrity of this endangered ecosystem. This pilot study tested sampling procedures, developed preliminary bee species lists, examined butterfly pollination behavior, and completed other prerequisites preliminary to an National Science Foundation proposal.

Microbial Source Tracking in the Upper Iowa Watershed using E. coli Ribotyping

Mary SkopecLora Friest, and Nancy Hall developed a tool to evaluate the source and transport of bacterial contaminants in Iowa’s rivers. Normally, in urban areas, the presence of harmless fecal coliform bacteria (E. coli) in water samples is an indicator of the potential for other human disease-producing organisms to enter the water. However, in Iowa, E. coli may also originate from farm livestock or wildlife; these resources may have lowered risk to human health. Using a process called “ribotyping,” the research team “DNA fingerprinted” E. coli from a variety of livestock and wildlife sources in the Upper Iowa River watershed. The group then prepared a database that allows rapid and accurate evaluation of the source of water contaminants, so that remedial actions can be targeted accurately. This new research field is likely to raise numerous questions about the natural occurrence and health effects of waterborne microorganisms.

2001 Seed Grant Awards

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In 2001, CGRER awarded eight seed grants totaling $149,874.

High-Resolution Stable Isotope Analysis of the Last Deglaciation as found in the Sediments of Glovers Pond, New Jersey

If we are to develop a critical perspective on modern human-generated climatic alterations, we must understand the timing, rate, and intensity of ancient global climate change. However, creating a high-resolution picture of ancient climates is not easy. Scott Carpenter has identified one window to the past through his studies of Glovers Pond, a small lake in New Jersey, whose sediment cores present a unique record of Earth's last deglaciation or past 20,000 years. His CGRER grant defrayed the cost of dating these cores. Because of the lake's proximity to the North Atlantic Ocean, these data helps us better understand the relationship between ocean circulation and continental climate change.

Use of Environmental Isotopes to Determine the Predominant Sources of Moisture that Drive the Precipitation Events in Northeast Iowa

The hydrologic cycle, which traces water’s flow around the globe, is integral to the climate system. It also is a crucially important determinant of life on Earth as well as the success of human activities. However the details of the hydrologic cycle require clarification. Mohammad Iqbal investigated one facet of this cycle: evaporation-precipitation processes in Northeast Iowa. He analyzed rainwater isotopes to determine what portion of our precipitation is derived from local sources (e.g. evaporation from nearby lakes and streams) rather than distant sources such as the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. This analysis also provided a mechanism for tracing shifts in regional precipitation patterns through time.

Conceptual Network Design Studies for Iowa Hydrologic and Environmental Validation Site

Satellite, radar, and other remote sensing data, as well as results of numerical models of land and atmospheric processes, need to be validated against high quality in-situ data before they become credible bases for operational, management, and policy decisions. Witold KrajewskiWilliam Eichinger, and Keri Hornbuckle created a hydrologic and environmental validation site, to run jointly with the University of Iowa's IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering. The permanent, 400-square-kilometer “natural laboratory” houses numerous measuring devices that record precipitation, soil moisture, stream flow, water quality, energy balance, and other hydrometeorologic and biochemical variables over long time periods. CGRER's seed grant provided planning funds so that detailed proposals for this national site could be submitted to other funding agencies.

Magnetically Modified Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries for Reduced Environmental Emissions

The environmental impacts of automobiles could be greatly reduced if automobiles were powered by electricity rather than by internal combustion engines. Given current technologies, the first commercially viable zero-emission vehicles will be battery-based, and nickel-metal hydride batteries have fewer environmental repercussions and less toxicity than other batteries. Johna Leddy increased the performance of this type of battery through magnetic modification, a process that enhances rates of electron transfer and interfacial reactions.

Grass-type Controls over Carbon Fluxes from Grasslands

The U.S. government currently pays farmers to remove nearly 34 million acres of cropland from production. This Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides numerous benefits, including the promotion of carbon sequestration in soil. James Raich compared the soil carbon dynamics (sequestration and turnover) of non-native, cool-season (C3) grasses to those native, warm-season (C4) prairie grasses. His investigations and large field experiments helped determine how landscape carbon budgets can be influenced by the types of grasses that are planted.

Measuring Net Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Wetlands

Growing plants can be used to capture and store carbon dioxide, thus decreasing atmospheric concentrations of this greenhouse gas. Reconstructed wetlands could serve this end, but their decomposing plant material also release the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Jerry Schnoor and Richard Ney investigated the overall balance of greenhouse gases emitted from wetland systems. They reviewed literature and investigated models for these greenhouse gas flows, and developed a verification protocol for wetland greenhouse gases that is suitable for field testing.

Basin Scale Water Quality Change and Uncertainty under Global Climate Change

Predictions of the effects of climate change are based largely on numerical, computerized global climate models (GCMs) and on regional climate models (RCMs) that cover a smaller area but have a finer resolution than GCMs. Gene Takle and Zaito Pan evaluated the differences between GCM and RCM predictions of future water quality accompanying climate change. They quantified uncertainties in these water quality models, and specifically explored water quality problems associated with Gulf of Mexico hypoxia and Upper Mississippi River basin erosion.

Mass Spectrometric Probes of Photochemistry in Natural and Model Water Samples

Solar irradiation of surface waters that contain inorganic and biological materials can result in complex photochemical reactions. The resulting product species can have enormous consequences for the greenhouse gas effect and global carbon cycle. Mark Young developed a mass spectrometry apparatus that allows researchers to better understand, quantify, and monitor these photochemical reactions.

1999 Seed Grant Awards

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In 1999, CGRER awarded four seed grants totaling $76,083.

Evaluation of Climate Change Scenarios for the Central U.S.

Ray Arritt received $19,172 for examining the ability of global climate models (GCMs) to capture regional climatic fluctuations. He evaluated whether GCMs can reliably reproduce aspects of weather systems that are important to the shaping of regional climate. A positive answer to this question would suggest that we can use regional numerical climate models to focus on these systems in more detail. More specifically, Ray extracted data from two of the better GCMs and determined their accuracy in representing two continental-scale circulation patterns: the Great Plains low level jet (LLJ) and the North American monsoon system (NAMS). These circulation patterns are important determinants of the quantity of Iowa's summertime precipitation. Were the GCMs to perform well, that would give us some confidence (but wouldn’t guarantee) that the models could be used to predict how future changes in greenhouse gas concentrations would alter the LLJ and NAMS.

Holocene Sphaerosiderites: Calibrating an Innovative Paleoclimate Proxy

Luis Gonzalez and Greg Ludvigson received a $17,055 grant to stretch use of the new Paul H. Nelson Stable Isotope Laboratory into a new area. Researchers have known for years that sphaerosiderites could be used as indicators of environmental conditions of ancient times. These tiny nuggets of the iron carbonate mineral siderite up to a few millimeters in diameter are abundant in wetland soils of the distant past. However the formation of these ancient sphaerosiderites is not well understood, and thus their encoded messages about past temperatures, rainfall, and soil chemistry cannot be easily deciphered. Gonzalez and Ludvigson used the Isotope Laboratory to determine the sphaerosiderite carbon and oxygen isotope chemistry in order to grasp how hydrology, climate, and vegetation affect sphaerosiderite growth in modern soils. They then applied their findings to the formation of ancient sphaerosiderites, extrapolating information about ancient environments in the process. In particular, they strove to outline the environmental parameters of the mid-Cretaceous, the most recent period that experienced both atmospheric CO2concentrations and global mean temperatures similar to — and even greater than — those predicted for the near future.

Design and Installation of the Iowa Atmospheric Measurment Station (IA-AMS)

Keri Hornbuckle and Bill Eichinger received $20,000 to establish the Iowa Atmospheric Measurement Station (IA-AMS). This permanent monitoring station, located near Iowa City, allows the long-term measurement of a variety of very specific atmospheric and climatic traits. As one example, Keri's primary interest lies in the transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are air toxins such as dioxins, herbicides, and byproducts of combustion. Although these compounds continue to float around the globe, being deposited and then returning to the air time and time again, little is know about how climate, changing land use patterns, or changes in diurnal, seasonal, and global temperatures affect their movement or changing concentrations in the air or soil. Her collaboration with Eichinger produced a detailed picture of the fluxes and relative concentrations of such pollutants between air and terrestrial surfaces. The IA-AMS pulls together a diverse group of researchers from within and outside of the UI, all of whom observe and measure or numerically model atmospheric or climatic variables in different manners. It provides an excellent resource for student training and research projects in chemistry or meteorology. In anticipation of future projects, Hornbuckle submitted an NSF grant to establish similar stations in Mexico and Canada.

An Experimental Examination of the Role of Mineral Aerosols in the Greenhouse Gas Effect

Mark Young received funding to perform a very different type of detailed atmospheric analysis. Young’s $19,856 grant allowed the completion of an atmospheric reaction chamber on the UI campus and the initiation of its experimental use. This chamber is dedicated to analyses of the interactions between aerosolized mineral particles and atmospheric gases, interactions that have been recognized as potentially important to climate change. This CGRER grant encouraged multidisciplinary collaboration that broadened and deepened our understanding of the gas-particle interplay in a very detailed manner, looking at the interaction gas by gas, mineral by mineral, always in a controlled environment. Young and Paul Kleiber designed the reaction chamber and its instrumentation and outlined experimental protocols. Vicki Grassian analyzed chemistry of such interactions, while Greg Carmichael fed the resulting data into his numerical models of atmospheric chemistry and transport. This unusual integration of disciplines and approaches made this work globally unique.

1996 Seed Grant Awards

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In 1996, CGRER awarded three grants on the subject of "Iowa’s Environmental Future."

George Malanson focused his efforts on land cover. He evaluated spatial data bases that were already in existence — basic geological features, the Department of Natural Resource’s spatial data systems for Iowa's land cover around 1850, and water well distribution. Malanson analyzed such data bases and united them into a single recognizable format so that all resulting maps could be overlaid and multiple features could be viewed in one document. He also designed user-friendly techniques for the public to access this information.

Gene Takle and Bill Gutowski looked at the interaction between land use changes and climate. Takle and Gutowski accessed GIS systems collected by Malanson and translated them to parameters that interfaced climate-related data — such as deep soil moisture and the total surface area of transpiring leaves. Researchers can then overlay these high-resolution maps of various surface features (historic vegetation, groundwater, soils, etc.) with specific climatic scenarios.

Gerard Rushton studied the inaccessibility of Iowa's environmental spatial data. While Iowa's GIS data sets were numerous and increasing, they were of little use if no one could readily retrieve them. Rushton eased this problem by creating an environmental data clearinghouse for Iowa; the clearinghouse was actually a program at a centralized computer site that attached users via the Internet to dispersed GIS data systems. No central depository existed; the data remained with agencies and researchers scattered throughout the state while they constantly manipulated and upgraded them. Rushton's technologies and methodologies paralleled those of the National Spatial Data System (NSDS).

1995 Seed Grant Awards

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In 1995, CGRER awarded seven seed grants totaling $95,909.

The Effects of Climate Variability on the Occurrence of Extreme Precipitation in the Upper Midwest

A. Allen Bradley established whether changes in atmospheric circulation patterns affect the probability of hydrologic extremes such as Iowa's 1993 floods. By using an innovative regional framework to detect and quantify changes in rainfall extremes, Bradley aimed to find linkages between climate variability and rainfall occurrence probabilities. His work established a regional baseline to quantify anomalous events such as the 1993 floods, and helped to assess the sensitivity of rainfall extremes to potential climate change.

A Numerical Study for the Global Carbon Cycle Through the Atmosphere/Terrestrial Biosphere/Ocean Interaction

Tsing-Chang Chen coupled the recently-developed Iowa Global Carbon Model with a global climatic change computer model that was developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). This allowed him to combine the unique features of each: those in the Iowa model that assess interactions of the atmosphere, terrestrial biosphere, and ocean, with the features of the NCAR model that allow assessment of regional variations in the global temperature response to non-uniformly-changing CO2 concentrations.

An Investigation of the Effects of Uncertainties in Aerosol Mixing on Radiative Forcing Calculations

Annmarie Elderling studied the ability of atmospheric particles (pollutants such as sulfate aerosols) to cool the earth's temperature. Such particulates may counteract the global warming potential of steadily-rising greenhouse gases. However, calculations about the cooling effects of these particulates are based on several sweeping assumptions about the size composition of the particulate material. Eldering performed numerical studies to quantify the effects of these uncertainties to better understand the radiative properties of these particles.

Determination of the Fluxes and Origin of Methane in Glacingenic Deposits and Landfills of the Upper Midwest

Luis Gonzalez and Suellen Seimkuehler quantified and identified the sources of methane in soils and groundwater in sites in the Upper Midwest. More specifically, they developed methods for characterizing and differentiating between methane produced in landfills and normal background methane — that generated naturally from the loess and till sequences of central Iowa.

Paleoclimatology and Paleohydrology of the North American Interior in the Mid-Cretaceous “Greenhouse World”

Greg LudvigsonLuis GonzalezRobert Brenner, and Brian Witzke investigated the history and variability of the continental climate during the global greenhouse warming of the Cretaceous Period. By measuring the oxygen isotopic ratios of freshwater carbonate minerals, and dating the non-marine deposits of our mid-continent in which these minerals are contained, they reconstructed air circulation patterns, rainfall patterns, temperature patterns, and other elements of the paleoclimate. Their data is useful to other investigators who are validating computer models simulating the Cretaceous climate system, which are significant because of the possibility of modern-day global warming.

Terrestrial-Atmospheric CO2 Exchange

James Raich and Christopher Potter looked at the well-documented seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2 concentrations: atmospheric CO2 increases in the winter when it’s released from the soil, and decreases in the summer when it’s being stored in growing plants. These researchers coupled, tested, and refined existing computer models, so that they could estimate the seasonal and spatial patterns of this exchange of carbon (as CO2) between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems around the globe.

Dating the Mississippi River Valley with a New Uranium-Series Technique

Mark Reagan proposed to develop a new radiometric technique for dating oxidation of sulfide minerals. He determined the timing of the growth of iron oxide minerals as they replace sulfides by using uranium-series isotopes. This new technique was used to investigate the history of the Mississippi River valley, a poorly understood topic. Reagan traced the river's down-cutting by dating water table levels in mines near the river, and dated other important geological phenomena such as cave formation and rock weathering rates.

1994 Seed Grant Awards

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In 1994, CGRER awarded 8 seed grants totaling $119,866.

Inference of the Effects of Global Change on Growing Season Precipitation Over the Great Plains

Raymond Arritt evaluated the regional impact of potential climate changes resulting from the predicted doubling of atmospheric CO2 by the middle of the coming century. By examining potential changes in large-scale patterns conducive to spring and summer precipitation in the Great Plains, he hopes to estimate precipitation changes and promote the evaluation of adaptive strategies.

Decadal Variation of the Northern Hemisphere Atmospheric Circulation Related to the Midwest Climate Variability

Tsing-Chang Chen looked at climatic changes and global air circulation patterns. Over the past 40 years, a deepening of the low pressure system over the North Pacific and amplification of the high pressure system over the California coast have intensified the channeling of cold air from Canada southward into the Midwest. Chen's research was among the first to examine the relationship between short and long-term changes in climate and global air circulation patterns as they affect the Midwest.

Characterization of Atmospheric Aerosols of the Midwest with an Application to Visibility Visualization

Annmarie Eldering investigated atmospheric aerosol particulates. Although little is known about their size, chemical composition, or transport in the Midwest, aerosols are important determinants of air quality. By scattering incoming radiation, they also could counteract global warming trends. Eldering’s research will provide the baseline data needed to ascertain problem areas and trace future changes in aerosol levels.

The Role of Elemental Iron in Enhanced Reductive Dechlorination of Halogenated Methanes

Brad Helland and Pedro Alvarez looked at the feasibility and specific design criteria for using elemental iron to transform chlorinated methane chemicals (such as carbon tetrachloride) into relatively innocuous compounds. Chlorinated methanes are hazardous both to humans and to the stratospheric ozone layer; thus methods to detoxify them are of great interest.

Assessment and Visualization of Interpolation Error in Environmental Monitoring Networks

Claire PavlikMarc Armstrong, and Dale Zimmerman evaluated which surface generating techniques most accurately interpolate and display various types of environmental data (such as measurements of acid rain deposition) collected at field stations. To do this, they linked GIS software to a statistical programming environment to map out and visualize environmental data.

Research and Development of a Prototype Parallell Global Scale Tropospheric Chemistry Model

Florian Potra and Greg Carmichael developed a sophisticated mathematical model to investigate the chemistry and transport of tropospheric contaminants. This computer model allows faster and more precise simulations of atmospheric transport and chemistry processes, leading to a better understanding of the environmental effects of contaminants around the globe.

An Iowa Greenhouse Gas Action Plan

Jerry Schnoor and David Forkenbrock commenced a policy-oriented collaborative research effort with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Midwest Transportation Center. They inventoried Iowa greenhouse gases and integrated strategies for increased energy efficiency and reforestation into an action plan for reducing greenhouse gases in Iowa. There report is available here.

Integrated Environmental and Economic Analyses of Potential Implications of Climate Change for Rangeland Ecosystems

U.Sunday Tim and Robert Jolly explored the environmental and economic implications of global warming on rangeland ecosystems. They attempted to integrate biophysical and economic models to estimate the impact of changes in climate on rangeland hydrology, forage production, and animal production. They also used the integrated modeling system to examine the potential impact on regional economies.

1993 Seed Grant Awards

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In 1993, CGRER awarded eight seed grants totaling $103,706.

Free Radicals and Antioxidants in Ultraviolet Radiation

Gary Buettner and Beth Jurkiewicz used sophisticated technologies (electronic paramagnetic resonance) to detect and identify free radicals and catalytic iron in the skin, substances that hypothetically are induced by the sun's ultraviolet radiation and cause skin cancer — one health concern related to ozone depletion.

The Development of a Model of Community-Level Worldviews as a Factor in Local Responses to Global and Regional Change

Janel Curry-Roper studied the community-wide worldviews of nine rural Iowa social groups, in order to better understand the range of possible human responses to environmental change.

Cultural Responses to Environmental Change

James Enloe studied prehistoric human remains from home, in northern Europe, where he is searching ancient campsites for signs of prehistoric hunters' behaviors that allowed occupation of new lands during times of gross environmental change.

Holocene Vegetational Change in the Prairie Peninsula

William Green considered whether studies of wood-charcoal remains from archaeological sites can elucidate prehistoric environmental changes in the same prairie province, such as prairie expansion, changes in forest composition, and the effects anthropogenic fire.

Effect of Habitat Fragmentation of Genetic Diversity in Phlox pilosa

Stephen HendrixRobert Cruden, and Lisa Rigney examined how the reduction of native plant populations — the prairie phlox in particular — impacts genetic diversity, fitness, and the ability to withstand further environmental stresses such as changing climate.

Coupling a Greenhouse Gas Model with NCAR’s Community Climate Model

Jerry Schnoor devised a policy-oriented model to test the effects of reforestation and energy conservation on carbon dioxide concentrations (and hence on global warming).

Integrated Environmental and Economic Analyses of Climate Change Impacts on Crop Production in Iowa

U. Sunday Tim and Ramesh Kanwar extended their efforts from previous year.

Documenting the Diversity of Human Environmental Knowledge: The Case of Alternative Food Production from Fragile Environments in India

D. Michael Warren documented how farmers in India have responded to rapidly changing environments (such as deforested hillsides and saline soils) through developing innovative alternative food production systems.

1992 Seed Grant Awards

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In its first year administering seed grants, CGRER awarded 18 grants totaling $237,871

Application of Radioastronomical Techniques to Measure Earth’s Ozone Layer

John Fix and Steven Spangler investigated a radio-astronomial technique for measuring ozone concentrations accurately at all levels of the atmosphere.

Land-Atmosphere Feedbacks on Regional Scales in Mid-Continent Watersheds

Konstantine Georgakakos attempted to better understand the regional variability of links between soil moisture and climate (specifically air temperature and pressure), over time, through investigating 30 years of data on these traits collected in the Des Moines River watershed.

High Resolution Paleoclimatic Analysis in Speleothem Calcite: Cold Water Cave, Iowa

Luis Gonzalez and Mark Reagan determined that analysis of stalagmites can be used to determine shifts in climate (such as periods of high precipitation) over the past 10,000 years.

Remote Sensing of Soil Moisture: Basic-Scale Averaging Concepts

Witold Krajewski helped develop more accurate techniques for quantifying moisture, first by evaluating the accuracy of satellite-based large-scale remote sensing of soil moisture (which is an important indicator of more general climatic conditions), then by working on a method of estimating rainfall on the open ocean through recording underwater noise created by the rain.

Georgraphic Distribution Analysis of the Forest Trees of Eastern North America

George Malanson and Marc Armstrong improved the precision of computer simulation models for predicting the response of important tree species of eastern North Amoerica's fragmented forests to changes in climate — an important potential result of global warming.

A Comparative and Contextual Analysis of Environmental Risk Assessments

Eric Plutzer applied a cultural theory of risk perception and political division to citizen groups in the European Economic Community, thereby theoretically developing techniques for mediating environmental disputes.

A Simple Global Carbon Dioxide Model for Scenario Analyses and Research Prioritization

Jerry Schnoor and Y. Yan coupled and cross-checking computer models dealing with greenhouse gasses, thus improving predictions of trace gas characteristics during global warming.

Intercomparison of Global Climate Model Simulations for the U.S. Midwest for a Doubling of Atmospheric CO2

Gene Takle and Linda Mearns modeled future temperature variables for the Midwest given present carbon dioxide, and improved the resolution of their model by relating temperature to the Earth's surface characteristics (two grants awarded).

Photochemical Processes Affecting Trace Gas Emissions, Carbon Cycling, and Light Attenuation in Aquatic Environments

Richard Valentine looked at the sunlight-induced degradation of dissolved organic material, and the resulting rates of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide production.

Paleoenvironmental Analyses in the Southern Midwest

Richard Baker and Diana Horton studied both ecosystems and climates of the past 10,000 years, in particular searching the southern boundaries of the prairie province for fossiliferous deposits that would allow more detailed investigations.

Global Climate Change and Regional Trace Gas Cycles: A Study of Impacts and Feedbacks

Greg Carmichael considered how climate change on a global scale would affect trace gas cycles in the eastern United States and the resulting changes in air pollutants, ultraviolet light penetration, and temperature.

Carbon, Nitrogen, and Energy Budgets for Iowa-Grown Biomass Fuels

Lou Licht measured the emission of greenhouse gasses from the burning of biomass fuels (such as corn and wood chips) as alternative fuels, and evaluated their impact on global warming relative to fossil fuels.

Radiative Transfer in Rainy Clouds with Application to Remote Sensing of Rainfall

Ted Smith improved understanding of remote satellite sensing of rainfall by investigating the efforts of various cloud types and rainfall patterns on the radiant energy signal received by the satellite.

Climate Change Impacts on Hydrology and Water Quality in Iowa

U. Sunday TimRamesh Kanwar, and Robert Jolly considered the ramifications of climatic change on crop production, farm profits, and hydrology in Iowa (two grants awarded).

Interpretation and Clarification of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity

Burns Weston interpreted and clarified the 1992 multilateral Convention on Biological Diversity. His project helped establish an ongoing Law, Science, and Global Environmental Policy Project within the University of Iowa's law and engineering colleges.