Research Awards and Grants (May 2020)

Title: EMN-15-S-01 Applications of Nanocellulose in Waterborne Coatings Systems 

PI: Khan, Saad

Direct Sponsor: Eastman Chemical Company

Amount Awarded: $15,343                                                                                     

Abstract: We will use unmodified and chemically-modified nanocellulose materials to develop rheology, dewatering and film formation routes that will lead to films and coatings with target physical appearance, mechanical integrity and thermo-chemical and wetting properties. For this purpose, we will use precursors from three different nanocelluloses: cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) and lignocellulose nanofibrils (LCNF). Results from this study will be used to develop novel coatings and films, as well as novel personal care products.

 

Title:  Prescribed Fire and Air Quality to Minimize Smoke Impacts 

PI: Bardon, Robert

Direct Sponsor: NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

Amount Awarded: $2,500                                                                                                

Abstract: Managing fire-adapted species, such as longleaf and shortleaf pine, properly with prescribed fire not only helps restore the ecosystems, but yields associated benefits such as reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, thereby protecting air quality, and improving wildlife habitat for game, at-risk and endangered species. The Comprehensive Strategy for Prescribed Fire was written to fulfill the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability’s (SERPPAS) Strategic Action Plan goal of developing a comprehensive, regional strategy for increasing prescribed burning in the Southeast. NCSU Extension will continue to effectively implement the Prescribed Fire Strategy through coordination, outreach and education. NCSU Extension will work with the SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Work Group, the Southern Group of State Fire Chiefs, the Environmental Protection Agency, state air quality representatives, the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils or others to minimize local smoke impacts on air quality and public health and safety and maximize coordination between air and fire communities.

 

Title: Ecosystem Response to Traditional and Novel Upland Hardwood Regeneration Treatments

PI: Forrester, Jodi  

Direct Sponsor: US Forest Service

Amount Awarded: $33,557                                                                                             

Abstract: Oaks (Quercus spp.) are a dominant component of the overstory in nearly 50% of the forested land base (~79 million ha) in the eastern United States (Johnson et al., 2002; Smith et al., 2009), but widespread oak regeneration failure throughout their natural range threatens the persistence of oak cover (Dey 2014). As a result, contemporary deciduous oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya) forests are shifting towards domination by red maple (Acer rubrum), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), sugar maple (A. saccharum), or aspen (Populus spp.) (Abrams 1998, 2005, Nowacki and Abrams 2008, Dey 2014). These mesophytic species are more vulnerable to drought, fire, and insects with greater potential for reduced productivity and carbon storage capacity (Elliott et al. 2015, Roman et al. 2015, Klos et al. 2009). The increasing importance of more mesophytic and fire-sensitive species is linked to reduced water quantity and altered hydrology and nutrient availability through changes in stemflow, throughfall and litter quality (Alexander and Arthur 2010, Caldwell et al. 2016).

This widespread conversion from dominance by oak to maple and other mesophytic species was caused by changes to the historical disturbance regime (Lorimer 1989, Runkle 1982, Rentch et al. 2003a, b). Prior to Euro-American settlement, mixed-oak forests were characterized by complex structure and diverse species composition, with high levels of heterogeneity at both the stand- and landscape-scales (Rentch et al. 2003a, b). Widespread resource extraction and other factors associated with Euro-American settlement (e.g., land clearing and subsequent land abandonment, wildfires, grazing, etc.), combined with pervasive clearcutting on public lands in the mid- to late- 20th century, homogenized species composition (e.g., conversion of mixed-oak stands to pure yellow-poplar) and reduced structural complexity at all scales (Lorimer 1989, Runkle 1982, Rentch et al. 2003a, b).

Mixed oak forests have high economic and ecological value. Declines in the amount of oak forests have significantly negative effects on water quantity and quality, nutrient cycling, and floral and faunal diversity. Sustainable management and restoration of oak ecosystems have become primary goals for many federal and state natural resource agencies and non-governmental conservation organizations (Dey 2014). Private landowners are also seeking novel approaches to manage for both high-quality timber and wildlife.

Silvicultural recommendations for oak forests have advanced over the past decades. We propose to evaluate oak regeneration under traditional silvicultural systems and use these results to guide the design of an alternative expanding-gap approach; to initiate baseline sampling imperative in the long-term evaluation of the expanding-gap approach; and use stand- and landscape-scale simulations to test the degree to which a gap-based, silvicultural approach will increase: 1) oak regeneration, 2) structural complexity and species diversity and 3) carbon sequestration and storage.

This project will contribute to fundamental knowledge of the extensive, second-growth hardwood forests of the Southern Appalachians and will apply a new management practice to meet multiple goals of ecosystem function, biodiversity and commodity production. Biodiversity conservation, carbon storage and water yield need not be conflicting alternatives to timber production. Results from the proposed research will aid in developing management goals for greater structural, compositional and functional diversity in mature oak forests.

 

Title: Valorization of Industrial Hemp

PI: Lucia, Lucian 

Direct Sponsor: GenoVerde Biosciences, Inc.

Amount Awarded: $5,727                                                                                      

Abstract: We will harvest industrial hemp at selected farming sites and employ a variety of techniques to extract oils and fibers to deliver the most value to the NC farmer. We will work with farmers, provide them with the results of our 3-month studies, and disseminate all results widely through reports, NCSU web sites, memos, and public forums (conferences, publications, seminars). As a result of our 3-month project, the NC farmer will have a better idea of how to maximize the value of their crop.

 

Title: PIRE: Confronting Energy Poverty: Building an Interdisciplinary Evidence Base, Network, and Capacity for Transformative Change

PI: Grieshop, Andrew

Direct Sponsor: UNC – Chapel Hill

Amount Awarded: $294,686                                                                       

Abstract: Overview: Sub-Saharan Africa is the epicenter of the global challenge of energy poverty, with the absolute number of energy-poor projected to increase through 2030. Energy poverty has implications for climate, environmental sustainability, human health and well-being, with negative impacts realized at individual and collective-scales, and in local, regional and global contexts. The complex socio-environmental challenge of energy poverty requires contributions from the basic, applied and social sciences, and integration of evidence and learning using robust interdisciplinary frameworks. We will partner with and facilitate the networking of academic, practitioner and policy communities in the US and Southern Africa to fill critical gaps in the theoretical and empirical evidence base regarding mitigating energy poverty. International partnership is critical to the identification of important and representative energy poverty innovations to study, to creating a network of institutions using common frameworks, research design, and empirical strategies, and to cultivating long-term interdisciplinary energy poverty research capacity in the Southern Africa region.

Intellectual Merit: Our aim is to build an interdisciplinary evidence base and network focused on energy poverty in Southern Africa, building capacity for transformative change. We center our research and capacity building around three themes: technology and incentives; space and place; and population and environment dynamics. We will measure the air quality, land use and human welfare impacts of a representative set of technology and behavioral interventions designed to mitigate energy poverty. Based upon knowledge generated, we test new approaches for using and integrating appropriate technology and incentives to address energy poverty. In the second theme, we will investigate the spatial dimension of energy poverty by analyzing neighborhood effects as determinants of energy poverty, and consider the question of optimal scale of implementation of energy poverty interventions for maximizing environmental benefits and social welfare outcomes. Finally, we will investigate sustainable wood energy systems as a potential strategy for coping with the challenge of population and environment dynamics in the region and analyze the associated environmental and economic synergies and trade-offs. This PIRE is innovative for several reasons. First, we use rigorous quantitative interdisciplinary impact evaluation as the anchor for our research and training program. We seek to study what works, why it works, and over what spatial and temporal scale. Second, the study of energy poverty is highly fragmented across a large number of disciplines with very little cross-fertilization or engagement with interdisciplinary frameworks including complex socio-ecological systems and population and environment dynamics. We use these important theoretical lenses to shed new light on this highly intractable problem and to guide a coherent body of empirical research. Third, despite facing a looming crisis, energy poverty in Southern Africa is dramatically understudied.

Broader Impacts: Research findings from this study will provide new theoretical and empirical knowledge on energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa to academics, practitioners and policymakers. We will build new networks and promote collaborative research and exchange among over 50 scientists, graduate, and undergraduate students across the US and Southern Africa, with the aim of creating a robust interdisciplinary network of scholars. To facilitate this, we will coordinate a series of regional training workshops focused on interdisciplinary energy poverty research. A central component of the PIRE is continuous engagement with policymakers and practitioners.

 

Title: Sowtime: Climate Adaptive Agriculture in the Eastern Gangetic Plains

PI: Gray, Joshua

Direct Sponsor: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)

Amount Awarded: $100,000                                                                                              

Abstract: Agricultural transformations have increased food production five-fold in South Asia, but that progress has not been realized in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (EGP), a region spanning India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Meeting future food demand while coping with climate change will require substantial adaptation by EGP farmers. But we know little about the nature or outcomes of agricultural adaptations by EGP farmers, and even less about future possibilities. Our proposed research will answer the question: What is the adaptive potential of smallholder agriculture in the EGP? Our central hypotheses are: 1) Smallholder farmers have already adapted to a changing climate by planting earlier, adopting faster-maturing varieties, and switching crop types. 2) These adaptive practices have mitigated the effect of climate change on crop yields. And, 3) additional transformations will further increase crop yields and resilience, but socioeconomic barriers prevent widespread adoption. We will test these hypotheses by combining innovative remote sensing analyses, statistical and biophysical crop yield modeling, in-region field data collection, and causal analyses of fused household survey and remote sensing datasets. We will quantify contemporary cropping patterns and practices, and the extent and spatiotemporal variation of adaptive strategy adoption with remotely sensed assets and available ground and administrative data from regional partners. The effect of future climate change under various scenarios of agricultural adaptation will be quantified using climate projections and yield models. These analyses are integrated with a household survey and choice experiments that will reveal farmer’s attitudes towards climate change, adaptive agricultural practices and the barriers to further transformation.

Our effort will produce annual cadence, finely resolved maps of crop types, including the characterization of multi-cropping rotations, the timing and duration of critical crop growth stages, and changes in these variables over the period 2001-present. No existing products map these variables at the scale of individual smallholder fields, and for the time period and temporal cadence necessary to evaluate the adaptive potential of the EGP. We will create these products using a newly developed approach to data fusion capable of assimilating a wide variety of heterogeneous satellite imagery, including newly available high-resolution commercial assets. We will use phenology algorithms to extract the timing of growth stages, and emerging approaches to classification that use a Bayesian framework to assimilate existing heterogeneous crop type maps and ancillary data. Statistical and biophysical crop yield models will be fit, driven by historical weather and downscaled climate projections, and used to quantify the climate mitigating effects of adaptive practices. Our household surveys and analysis of map products will guide the design of realistic future scenarios of agricultural adaptation.

By characterizing and quantifying the adaptive potential of smallholder agriculture in the EGP, our study will support decision-makers, regional food and water security, efforts to alleviate rural poverty, and the adoption of feasible climate-adaptive strategies. Our project will further develop and apply innovative remote sensing methodologies such as data fusion and classification approaches, and will thus be useful to the broader remote sensing science community. 

Additionally, because the goals of our project are well-aligned with those of several large initiatives like SARIN, CIMMYT, and GEOGLAM, we expect our results to find a broad audience with the means and impetus to ensure they support on-the-ground change, and ultimately, a more sustainable and resilient food future for the EGP.

 

Title: Utilizing the Sub Regional Timber Supply Model (SRTS) to Address Hardwood Utilization and Management Options

PI: Henderson, Jesse 

Direct Sponsor: Virginia Department of Forestry

Amount Awarded: $60,000                                                                                                         

Abstract: As demands on our forests increase, it is important to have tools available that can help us plan for the sustainable management of the resource. This is especially true with Southern hardwood forests that vary in species and quality and can take decades to grow compared to softwood. The Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC) develops forest sector market models for application to forest resource assessments with the main model being the Sub-Regional Timber Supply (SRTS) model. This model has been widely used in the South and other forested regions to see how various forest conditions affect future forest resources. The core information for this model is USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and Timber Products Output (TPO) data. Although this model has been widely used and accepted, its analysis is mostly limited to generic hardwood and softwood groups and pulpwood and sawtimber size timber in the South. To address future resource concerns with the diverse hardwood forests species, we need the ability to do more species-specific and quality analyses across the hardwood regions. The goal of this project is to update the STRS model so that species-specific, multi-regional scenarios can be developed to model future forest resources. This will accomplish the following objectives.

1) Working with partners to update the current SRTS model to be able to incorporate individual species and attributes across regions, including a user guide.

2) Utilize the new model to run pilot hardwood scenario(s) and analysis and create a document.

3) Provide hands-on training of the new model.

4) Through SOFAC, provide support to model users and needed updates.

 

Title: High-performance Biodegradable Transparent Films: The First Step towards Green Aseptic Food Packaging, CAPPS Core project

PI: Lavoine, Nathalie

Direct Sponsor: Ohio State University

Amount Awarded: $59,970                                                                                   

Abstract: Here, we propose a new sustainable packaging solution as a recyclable alternative to plastic substrates that exploits and combines the intrinsic properties of renewable materials for the development of barrier and transparent plastic-like films. We will focus in particular on two types of cheap, abundant and renewable materials: (i) bacterial cellulose, synthesized by bacteria or algae, which can be easily grown and bioengineered, and (ii) alginate, a polymer extracted from brown algae; both of which are GRAS-approved substances. This project will study the effect of weight ratios, salt addition, pH and possible need of green plasticizers (e.g., glycerol) on the properties of the composite films under varying conditions by mimicking refrigerator, ambient, and microwave conditions, with a direct comparison to commercial plastic food films. The potential release of any of the used polymeric materials and plasticizers to solid and liquid food will be investigated. As a first step towards the design of green aseptic packaging substrates, the film stability against different aseptic technologies (e.g., U.V. radiation, hydrogen peroxide and hot air) will be studied. To this end, a third low-cost, renewable GRAS protein, namely (iii) zein, will also be considered in the last part of this project as a possible way to make up for any lack in the performance of the bacterial cellulose/alginate films with respect to water resistance, thermal stability, and heat-sealing properties.

 

Title: Membership in Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC)

PI: Cubbage, Fred

Direct Sponsor: Southern Group of State Foresters

Amount Awarded: $15,000                                                                                              

Abstract: The Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC) will develop forest sector market models for application to forest resource assessments in the South, U.S., and the World SOFAC will integrate currently available forest resource data from the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program and economic theory to model timber supply and demand in the South by local area.

SOFAC economic models will allow the use of exogenous or endogenous inputs about supply, demand, land-use change and landowner behavior in the analysis of timber and forest land markets and management.

SOFAC modelers and members will be able to use the SOFAC suite of models and research to simultaneously project timber inventory, supply and prices for a variety of regions and a variety of timber products across the South, the U.S., and the World.

SOFAC will foster discussion among modelers and members about the appropriate inputs and assumptions in forest projection models and employ these in building timber supply models and timber supply scenarios that represent likely conditions.

SOFAC will continue cooperative university-industry-public agency cooperation in southern and national forest sector economic modeling.

SOFAC will enhance graduate instruction in forest economics and modeling in the South.

 

Title: Forest Health Retrospective: A National Evaluation of Insect and Disease Extent and Impact 

PI: Potter, Kevin

Direct Sponsor: US Department of Agriculture Forest Service

Amount Awarded: $95,000

Abstract: The USDA Forest Service, via the Southern Research Station, is providing an additional $95,000 to complete an additional set of objectives for the project “Forest Health Retrospective: A National Evaluation of Insect and Disease and Impact.” To achieve these objectives, the existing 36-month project would need to be extended by an additional 24 months. The new objectives would focus on the development of improved analysis and application of Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data, in combination with other broad-scale datasets, to provide decision-support relating to forest health at a national or multi-state regional scale. This would include indicator information for national reporting efforts relating to forest resource status, forest sustainability and forest health. Specific new deliverables would include: 1) The development and refinement of improved indicators of invasive plant impacts in U.S. forests. This would involve the analyses of FIA data and other data sets to better understand spatial and temporal patterns of the ecosystem impacts of invasive plants and to predict their potential impacts across spatial and temporal scales. Results would be included in U.S. Resource Planning Act (RPA) Assessment reporting and sustainability reporting associated with the Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests (the Montréal Process). 2) The development (in cooperation with USDA Forest Service scientists) of methods to analyze FIA data, geospatial drought data, and other data sets to define explicit relationships between forest mortality and thresholds of drought intensity, extent, and persistence. The objective would be to establish quantitative relationships that can be used for prediction and for retrospective analysis for the RPA Assessment and Montréal Process reports. 3) The development and publication of forest health analyses using newly available FIA data, including from previously unsurveyed or under surveyed locations like Hawaii and Puerto Rico, and from newly available remeasurement data. This work may include assessments, across multiple temporal and spatial scales, of biodiversity change, indicators of forest tree genetic diversity risk, and/or forest disturbance. 4) The integration of multiple broad-scale forest health data sets to better understand the interactions among multiple threats, such as insects and diseases, drought and fire, and their cumulative impacts on forest ecosystems.

 

Title: Membership in Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC)

PI: Cubbage, Fred

Direct Sponsor: Canfor

Amount Awarded: $22,000                                                                        

Abstract:  The Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC) will develop forest sector market models for application to forest resource assessments in the South, U.S., and the World. SOFAC will integrate currently available forest resource data from the USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program and economic theory to model timber supply and demand in the South by local area. SOFAC economic models will allow use of exogenous or endogenous inputs about supply, demand, land-use change, and landowner behavior in the analysis of timber and forest land markets and management. SOFAC modelers and members will be able to use the SOFAC suite of models and research to simultaneously project timber inventory, supply, and prices for a variety of regions and a variety of timber products across the South, the U.S., and the World. SOFAC will foster discussion among modelers and members about the appropriate inputs and assumptions in forest projection models and employ these in building timber supply models and timber supply scenarios that represent likely conditions. SOFAC will continue cooperative university-industry-public agency cooperation in southern and national forest sector economic modeling. SOFAC will enhance graduate instruction in forest economics and modeling in the South.

 

Title: Lake Tahoe West Expanded LANDIS Modeling

PI: Scheller, Robert

Direct Sponsor: US Forest Service

Amount Awarded: $13,250                                                                    

Abstract: This program of work describes anticipated accomplishments and deliverables for the initial phase of the third Sierra Nevada Public Lands Management Agency (SNPLMA) Lake Tahoe project for North Carolina State University. This project extends previous LANDIS-II modeling work done in the Lake Tahoe Basin to include new modeling scenarios, make explicit linkages to the science team, improve fire modeling under climate change and tightly integrate hydrology.