2014 Seed Grant Awards

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


Wednesday, January 1, 2014