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 Skopec, Lora 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.