2009 Seed Grant Awards

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; http://www.gloria.ac.at/) 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.


Thursday, January 1, 2009