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Research Awards and Grants (April 2022)

Each month College of Natural Resources faculty receive awards and grants from various federal, state, and nongovernmental agencies in support of their research. This report recognizes the faculty who received funding in April 2022.

Engaging Diverse Communities in Urban Greening Efforts: Lessons Learned and Pathways to Success

  • PI: Larson, Lincoln Ray
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Forest Service
  • Amount Awarded: $199,371

Abstract: Despite many benefits of urban greening, tree-planting programs in diverse communities nationwide often face strong local resistance, especially on private lands. This resistance impacts the success of initiatives such as Green Heart, an urban greening effort in Louisville, KY, designed to create healthier neighborhoods by encouraging tree planting to mitigate air pollution. Working with leaders of Green Heart, our project will investigate various factors (social and/or environmental) that influence the success of greening interventions and identify environmentally just practices to promote healthy urban communities across the US. Using Louisville as a case study, with lessons learned from other cities, we aim to: (1) Synthesize current state of knowledge regarding public support for urban greening across diverse communities; (2) Identify factors associated with tree-planting program success; (3) Examine public perceptions of relationships between urban trees, health, and neighborhood change; and (4) Define and share best practices to promote a national community of practice focused on equitable and inclusive urban greening. Our efforts will culminate in a best practice guide and toolkit, shared with a growing national community of practice promoting social equity in urban forestry. Ultimately, the project will identify strategies to promote urban greening with communities, not just within communities.

Interdisciplinary Energy Data Analytics Ph.D. Fellows Program Phase II: Training the Next Generation of Energy Data Scholars

  • PI: Vukomanovic, Jelena
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Duke University
  • Amount Awarded: $12,756

Abstract: The project will entail construction of an accessible, agent-based traffic flow model designed to evaluate and test the resilience and robustness of EV charging infrastructure under varying evacuation scenarios. I will first use the tool to conduct a case study on EV charging capacity along Interstate-40 from coastal to central North Carolina, specifically looking at how well existing capacity supports current as well as possible future levels of EV adoption across three different evacuation scenarios. I will then leverage a generalized version of the model to identify what parameters and parameter interactions are most important to ensuring that EV infrastructure can sufficiently support EV needs in emergency evacuation scenarios. I will also investigate how the temporal and spatial distribution of traffic contributes to the ability of infrastructure to support EV needs.

Preparing Diverse and Rural Students and Teachers to Meet the Challenges in the Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry

  • PI: Venditti, Richard A.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $2,750,000

Abstract: The project will prepare a diverse group of college students and high school teachers with the knowledge and interdisciplinary tools necessary to advance the future of America’s bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy. Distance courses will be developed and taught by faculty in the Departments of Forest Biomaterials & Environmental Resources, with guidance from the College of Education, undergraduate students are recruited from historically underserved institutions (HBCU, women’s college, community college), as are teachers from rural, high poverty NC high schools.  Undergraduates will complete three of the five online courses in bioenergy & bioproducts, and complete an industry internship, and earn a certificate. Bioproducts and bioenergy industrial and research organization partners provide hands-on internship projects in the industry or in a research setting.  Rural high school science teachers will complete three of the five online courses, earn a certificate, participate in professional development workshops, carry out lessons with their students during the school year, and conduct a career fair in bioproducts and bioenergy.

Railroad Tie Composting with 50 Degrees, LLC

  • PI: Hopkins, Christopher B
  • Direct Sponsor Name: 50 Degrees, LLC
  • Amount Awarded: $50,000

Abstract: NCSU and Blackwood Solutions believe that it may be possible to compost creosote treated wood (railroad ties) to reduce the content of the phenols and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and produce land applicable compost. We intend to cooperate on the analysis and application of NCSU designed studies of forced air composting of shredded railroad ties with animal waste. We believe that the higher temperatures afforded by supplemental air will improve creosote reduction. These studies will include several recipes of ties and animal waste with varying air supplementation. NCSU will also seek to understand the North Carolina regulatory parameters for composting and using creosote railroad ties. We anticipate 2 small scale iterations of recipes to optimize creosote reduction. We anticipate regular communication among all cooperators to help guide study design and implementation. NCSU seeks $50,000 in funding from Blackwood Solutions for this collaborative work. The team will include Site Manager Joseph Stuckey and Professor Mahmoud Sharara, and will be led by Chris Hopkins at Blackwood’s request. We are anticipating a schedule of implementation covering approximately 8 months. Much of this work will be at the Animal and Poultry Waste Processing Center. See attached Gantt chart for project schedule.

Development of a Capacitive Deionization Module via Tailored Clean Carbon Materials and its Optimal Analysis (3rd year)

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Siontech co., Ltd.
  • Amount Awarded: $82,038

Abstract: Development of graphite foil for water membrane application. Biomass will be graphitized, exploited, and then pressed into a foil structure. Key properties will be tensile strength, electric resistance, and thickness.

Controls on Dead Wood Turnover in Temperate Forests: Clarifying the Links Between Decomposer Diversity and Ecosystem Function

  • PI: Forrester, Jodi A.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $498,995

Abstract: The response of forest ecosystem carbon dynamics to disturbance is difficult to predict because it requires long term experiments on complex interactions among changing production, decomposition, microclimate, and nutrient regimes. Accomplishing this is critically important to predict and manage forests under future uncertainty, maintaining carbon management and sustainably meeting societal needs. To achieve this we are proposing to continue and expand process-based measurements of our long-term experimental manipulation of canopy openings and woody debris to evaluate the effects of disturbance on forest carbon pool dynamics and net ecosystem productivity. We are uniquely poised to address this question using our replicated, large-scale, field experiment established a decade ago in a sugar maple dominated northern hardwood forest in northern Wisconsin. The long-term goal of the on-going project is to quantify the effects of forest structure on carbon cycling and biodiversity and apply these first principles to ecosystem restoration, carbon management and sustainable forest management of northern hardwoods in the Great Lakes region. We propose to: 1) re-measure vegetation and soil carbon pools at three different time periods in the next decade to quantify the continued effects of the experimental treatments; 2) refine measurements of soil respiration to better estimate heterotrophic sources; 3) quantify decomposition dynamics 15 and 20 years following treatment; and 4) use the data from this process-based study in a simulation model to examine the effects of forest structural heterogeneity on landscape carbon dynamics

Collaborative Research: Establishing Norms of Data Ethics in Citizen Science

  • PI: Cooper, Caren Beth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Amount Awarded: $400,000

Abstract: Citizen science refers to a broad spectrum of ways in which scientists and members of the public collaborate in scientific discovery, and scientists and practitioners engaged in the use of citizen science is a rapidly growing part of the scientific community. However, because citizen science can be initiated and funded outside of traditional institutions and conventional regulatory oversight mechanisms, and creates new circumstances overlooked by regulatory oversight, the field has an ethics gap. The gap presents an opportunity to create and disseminate new frameworks, building an ethical culture at the outset of an emerging field to proactively address issues as they emerge. We focus on the common denominator to nearly all citizen science projects: volunteer data collection and use. We propose to survey current and ideal practices and the use of human-centered design to create ethical culture in collaboration with the Citizen Science Association (CSA) with the goals of: (1) Identifying and guiding responsible research by practitioners in the emerging field of citizen science, and (2) building capacity to establish and maintain ethical norms in a burgeoning field.

Improving Containerized Fraser Fir Seedling Production

  • PI: Owen, Jeffrey H.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Christmas Tree Association
  • Amount Awarded: $5,000

Abstract: ABSTRACT: The production of Fraser fir Christmas tree seedlings and transplants in NC is in an expansion phase to meet current demand. Unlike previous cycles of bare root production, current expansion includes container production in greenhouses and outdoors. Container production is being adopted primarily as a disease management strategy to reduce Phytophthora root rot. This proposal will continue container research efforts initiated in a previous NCCTA grant, Improving Greenhouse Fraser Fir Production. The objectives for this proposed project include further evaluation of container production components and production schedules and development of a containerized seedling production tour and meeting. Studies will be conducted that include media, containers, fertilizers, pH, weed control practices, and/or irrigation schedules as variables. Both greenhouse and outdoor sites will be selected. A combination of experiments and case studies will be used to evaluate factors such as annual production schedules, cold acclimation, and overwintering. Case studies will be used to contrast different production schedules used by cooperating growers. Different sowing dates, targeted number of flushes, and timings of cold acclimation will be compared. An educational meeting and nursery tour of containerized Christmas tree seedlings will be planned for the 2019 season. The meeting will include project results, invited speakers, and facilitated grower discussions. Research planned for this project will build on current work and past results reported in scientific literature. This project will help growers to produce containerized seedlings and transplants more effectively.

LSU Superfund Research Center – Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals

  • PI: Bryant, Jennifer Richmond
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Louisiana State University
  • Amount Awarded: $526,065

Abstract: This study addresses questions related to human exposure to environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs), a recently discovered class of pollutant species found at Superfund sites and formed during certain thermal treatment processes. It is unclear how long EPFRs persist when compared with other components of particulate matter (PM), and this research will provide information about the extent and duration of exposures to nearby thermal treatment processes. This research will also provide information about exposure to EPFRs in homes and how concentrations of EPFRs correlate with noise and other co-stressors.

MMC APS High Frequency Monitoring Data

  • PI: Gray, Joshua Michael
  • Direct Sponsor Name: RTI International (aka Research Triangle Institute)
  • Amount Awarded: $15,000

Abstract: North Carolina State University would be pleased to confirm our commitment to serve as a subaward to RTI in support of the competition for the Millennium Challenge Corporation cooperative agreement application in response to funding opportunity 95332418N0002, PARTNERSHIPS with MCC Program, for a proposed period of performance anticipated to be for a period of up to 30 months. Our organization will be supporting this team by providing general oversight of the project, ensuring project advancement, and providing supervision of the Research Practitioner and Graduate Student.

STTR Phase I: Genome Editing in Loblolly Pine for Sustainable Fiber Production in the Southern United States

  • PI: Sills, Erin O.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: TreeCo
  • Amount Awarded: $85,000

Abstract: Forest trees are the most abundant biomass on the terrestrial biosphere and sequester 315 gigatons of carbon (representing 57% of all the biomass on earth). There are tremendous opportunities for woody biomass to provide clean, sustainable, and renewable fiber and other biomaterials to replace petroleum-based products and fuels. However, genomic tools and technologies needed for the development of novel and improved forest trees with economically important traits lag far behind most other agricultural crops. Lack of genomic tools has been a serious limitation for the genetic improvement of ecologically and economically-relevant tree species such as loblolly pine. Biotechnology-enabled genetic/genomic research and breeding programs would greatly accelerate the development of new durable and high-value trees. TreeCo aims to edit the genome of loblolly pine, the most abundant plantation forest species in the US, and bring new transformative frontiers of efficient and sustainable production of fiber products to the US bioeconomy.

LSU Superfund Research Center – Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals

  • PI: Bryant, Jennifer Richmond
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Louisiana State University
  • Amount Awarded: $88,376

Abstract: Data indicate a disproportionate COVID-19 impact on Black residents of Louisiana. As of April 26, 2020, the United States (U.S.) has more confirmed coronavirus cases per capita than any other country, and Louisiana has the third highest rates of COVID-19 cases and the second highest deaths per capita in the country. Of 1,644 reported Louisiana deaths to date, 56% are of Black race. Louisiana’s industrial corridor (IC), an area along the Mississippi River densely populated with petrochemical factories, is home to 44% of Black residents and 30% of residents living below the poverty line in the state. The IC is responsible for 64% of statewide TRI emissions for 2018. The IC includes the parishes of West and East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Ascension, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Jefferson, Orleans, and Plaquemines. Together, these parishes comprise 67% of Louisiana’s COVID-19 cases and 68% of Louisiana’s COVID-19 deaths. Our hypothesis is that elevated COVID-19 death rates among Black IC residents is associated with long-term exposure to HAPs emissions and distrust in the information about the disease received from government and media sources. Our study of racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality risk will use a mixed methods approach integrating epidemiologic and ethnographic analysis to determine impacts of HAPs exposure on COVID-19 outcomes: 1) We will examine the associations between COVID-19 case and death rates with industrial emissions of HAPs by race and concentrated disadvantage; 2) We will explore the experiences of IC residents to understand how long-standing HAPs exposures and concentrated disadvantage may undermine public trust to influence COVID-19 outcomes. Insights from this study will be synthesized into policy recommendations designed to understand special health risks stemming from long-term HAPs exposure and promote trust in information distributed by credible sources among IC residents during subsequent waves of COVID-19. All findings will be communicated to the public, with special attention to residents of the IC, and we will share our protocols with state health and environmental officials to improve health assessments for IC residents.

Comparative Assessment of Global Wood Fiber Production Prospects

  • PI: Cubbage, Frederick W.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Mississippi State University
  • Amount Awarded: $20,678

Abstract: This research and development project will perform a strategic analysis of wood fiber production opportunities for these two most promising wood fiber supply regions, and drill down on the merits of a few countries that show the most promise for expansion of wood fiber production and investments in the near future. The overall objective for this research is to perform an analysis of global timber and wood fiber production opportunities for selected regions and countries in the world, focusing on newly developing timber regions and specific countries that are likely to have the most opportunity for expansion of wood fiber production. We will focus on (1) current fiber production and trends, (2) international trade, production and consumption trends of wood products (3) fiber production costs and technology (4) land availability and costs, and (5) institutional and infrastructure factors.

A Conference on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Citizen Science

  • PI: Cooper, Caren Beth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Amount Awarded: $74,947

Abstract: Citizen science projects number in the thousands and even a single project can engage millions of people. Yet, citizen science is not engaging much beyond highly educated, affluent white participants. The goals of this Conference proposal are to address the urgent need for diversity and inclusion in citizen science. Our primary goal, and strategic impact for the informal STEM learning field, is to create a framework to guide projects in addressing issues of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in institution-driven, large-scale, contributory citizen science projects. Our secondary goal is to extend the effort by preparing a proposal for a Research Coordination Network on inclusion in citizen science. To achieve these goals, we will assemble people with highly varied perspectives, lived experiences, and career experiences for a series of virtual workshops over several months.

Genetic Method for Control of Invasive Fish Species – Phase II

  • PI: Delborne, Jason Aaron
  • Direct Sponsor Name: University of Minnesota
  • Amount Awarded: $82,711

Abstract: Jason Delborne, Professor of Science, Policy, and Society in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, and S. Katie Barnhill-Dilling, Senior Research Scholar at the Genetic Engineering and Society Center, will collaborate with PI Smanski to organize and facilitate a series of four stakeholder workshops during the two-year grant period. The workshops will occur at the University of Minnesota (or virtually if necessary) with a diverse set of stakeholders identified by project team members and stakeholders involved in early workshops. The overarching goal of the workshop series will be to produce a set of guidelines for genetic biocontrol of invasive carp that align with the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework. Each workshop will build upon prior workshops to refine the guidelines and expand consideration to a suite of related technologies.