2017 Seed Grant Awards

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


Wednesday, February 1, 2017