2018 Seed Grant Awards

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



Sunday, February 18, 2018