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Research Awards and Grants (May 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 May 2022.

Strengthening Local Food Systems Through Children: The Role of Agritourism in Agricultural Literacy and Purchasing Behaviors of Local Foods

  • PI: Barbieri, Carla E
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $499,536

Abstract: This integrated (research, education, outreach) project will measure the educational and market impacts of agritourism among middle school students under three scenarios: unstructured (family recreational visits), semi-structured (school-based farm visits), and structured (farm visits in support of agricultural curricula) conditions. Specifically, it will investigate the impact of farm visits on children, agricultural literacy, and how that knowledge is transferred to their parents as purchasing intention of local agricultural products. Identifying the most high-impact forms of agritourism in terms of educational and market value will help to forge stronger connections between citizens and their local food producers, which in turn will contribute to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of local agricultural systems and strengthen rural communities and economies. Through partnerships with agritourism farmers and elementary teachers across North Carolina, this project will use experimental and quasi-experimental approaches to test changes in agricultural literacy (children) and locally-based purchasing behaviors (parents) via pre and post-tests surveys. Project results will help to: Determine which forms of agritourism are most suitable to increase agricultural literacy and stimulate the purchase of local agricultural products (Research); develop a measurement instrument for agricultural literacy (Research); train agritourism farmers so they can modify their programming offerings (e.g., tour content, farm signage) to increase agricultural literacy and locally-based purchasing behaviors (Extension); and enhance agricultural curricula content to strengthen student’s connection to local agricultural systems (Education).

Enhancing Cultural Resource Adaptation Planning in Dynamic Environments and Assessing Sediment Budget Research and Information Needs at Gulf Islands National Seashore

  • PI: Seekamp, Erin Lynn
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Amount Awarded: $48,824

Abstract: Barrier islands are subject to natural and anthropogenic changes, such as hurricanes, sea level rise, and dredging. These changes can influence the persistence of natural and cultural resources. For example, a single storm event can drastically alter barrier islands, damaging or destroying cultural resources and impacting (either negatively or positively) habitat. Moreover, dredging can change the natural rates of lateral sand transport and placement of dredge materials can also influence natural rates of lateral sand transport, both of which can have positive (sand accretion) or negative (sand erosion) impacts. These changes to barrier islands can also influence the ability of the island dunes to serve as a first-line of defense for the mainland during storm-events. A better understanding of sediment budgets related to coastal vulnerability (storm events and dredging) can enhance the protection of both natural and cultural resources and guide future nourishment and placement of dredge materials. This work will support the conservation stewardship mission of the National Park Service by providing science to inform management of its natural and cultural resources at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Specifically, this project will contribute to ongoing research at Gulf Islands National Seashore related to cultural resource adaptation planning, as well as identify future research and information needs to better conserve the cultural and natural resources on the barrier islands. The project will include (a) updating a planning exercise framework designed to assist the National Park Service optimize cultural resource adaptation planning given a range of budget constraints and (b) conducting a sediment budget needs assessment workshop with National Park Service personnel and other regional stakeholders, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Intended outcomes from the project include enhancing efficiency in adaptation planning of vulnerable coastal resources and identifying research priorities that will help predict changes of barrier islands and reducing the negative impacts associated with improperly placed dredge materials.

Evaluating Academics Afield to Advance Equity in College R3 Programming

  • PI: Larson, Lincoln Ray
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Georgia Wildlife Federation
  • Amount Awarded: $39,694

Abstract: Recent R3 projects focused on college students, such as Academics Afield, have demonstrated success and revealed unique opportunities for recruiting new hunters from non-traditional backgrounds (e.g., women, young adults from urban areas). However, more can be done to diversify the population of young adults who participate in these programs. In September 2021, the Georgia Wildlife Federation, working in conjunction with our NCSU team, was awarded a grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), and the Multistate Conservation Grant Program (MSCGP) to extend and expand the effective Academics Afield program model to focus on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the Southeastern United States. Our team at NC State University will be helping to implement and evaluate this project. We will leverage our existing experience, infrastructure, and partnerships to identify and address the unique constraints faced by African Americans and create opportunities to make hunting and shooting sports more relevant and inclusive for students of color. In addition to increasing participation in hunting and shooting sports, this project will also help underrepresented and historically marginalized populations forge a stronger positive relationship with the outdoors, hunting, and wildlife management agencies.

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 American 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, womens 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, complete an industry internship, and earn a certificate. Bioproducts, 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.

Developing Expertise in Risk Analysis and Risk Management for the Bioeconomy

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds Wilfredo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $238,500

Abstract: Led by the Department of Forest Biomaterials in collaboration with the Departments of Forestry, Business Management and Science Education at NC State University; this proposal will develop an educational program for a new generation of technology-to-commercialization researchers who will graduate with the expertise to perform risk analysis and develop risk management strategies across the value chain of biomass supply, biobased materials, and biofuels manufacturing to meet current and future national needs that will ultimately advance the nascent bioeconomy of the United States. Previous studies indicate that a limited number of companies in the forest product industry perform risk analysis for their decision-making process. We do believe that this small adoption rate is due to lack of awareness of the importance of risk analysis and risk management for effective/efficient R&D planning and investment and lack of expertise (people trained) to perform risk analysis across the whole supply chain. This proposal supports TESA in Agricultural Management and Economics, in the discipline of Environmental Sciences/Management. Three Ph.D. students will be trained to analyze and propose mitigation strategies for current and future risks inherent to the bioeconomy. To considerably amplify the effect of this proposal, prospective fellows and project directors will deliver educational workshops in risk analysis and management targeting the biobased community across the U.S., while the proposal is expected to be completed in three years, the project director expects to keep the program as a permanent teaching/research program. This proposed program supports the USDA-NIFA Goal of exemplary and relevant research, education, and extension programs.

Pathways to Sustainable Materials Science and Engineering: Supporting Rural Women from College to Career

  • PI: Peralta, Perry N.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $94,878

Abstract: Materials are linked to human society progress and our historical eras are named after the dominant material of the time. This demand for raw materials has grown explosively that we are now beyond the planet’s carrying capacity. It is crucial to revise society’s techno-economic approach to development, which strongly correlates with environmental degradation, and embrace the concept of sustainability, which balances the competing demands of the environmental, social, and economic sectors. NCSU’s Department of Forest Biomaterials has successfully instituted a STEM-based Sustainable Materials and Technology undergraduate program. Program faculty proposes to extend this success to K-14 students to prepare future workforce in the holistic discipline of sustainability. The grant will focus on minority women attending community colleges since historically they have been under-represented in the forest biomaterials field. The goal is to expand their opportunities for professional careers and educational equity in sustainable materials science and engineering. This will be accomplished by providing a multitiered support system at every phase of the student’s postsecondary academic career — specifically through community support, academic mentorship, experiential learning, community research projects, professional development, and university scholarship/admission guidance. The project will enhance participant’s scientific and professional competencies, leadership and communication skills, professionalism, critical and problem-solving skills, and team-building ability. The project is based on accountability; project-component outcomes will be assessed using proven methodologies. The project goal and objectives are aligned with NIFA Strategic Sub-Goal 1.7 and address Education Need Areas of Student Experiential Learning, and Student Recruitment, Retention, and Educational Equity.

Empowering Farmers by Diversifying Industrial Hemp to Bioproducts and Biochemicals

  • PI: Pal, Lokendra
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $649,257

Abstract: The overarching objective of this proposal is to systematically assess the potential of industrial hemp diversification in multi-scale bioproducts and biochemicals. We will assess several high-value uses, which are essential oils extraction and multi-scale lignocellulosic fibers, nanocellulose, coatings, and composites for bioproducts such as food packaging products.

Efficient and Cost-Effective Enzymatic Conversion of Lignocellulose Feedstock to Useful Bioproducts

  • PI: Jameel, Hasan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: InnoSense, LLC
  • Amount Awarded: $65,000

Abstract: InnoSense LLC (ISL), in collaboration with Oklahoma State University North Carolina State University (NCSU), proposes to develop and exploit a consortium of enzymes for the deconstruction of lignocellulosic materials toward meeting BER objectives. To support the burgeoning bioeconomy, dedicated energy crops are used as non-food plant biomass and a finite source for the building blocks of biofuels. The biodegradation process of lignin is initiated via a one-electron oxidation of lignin units, mediated by extracellular heme peroxidases such as lignin peroxidase (LiP) and manganese peroxidase (MnP). The arsenal of engineered enzymes such as LiP, MnP, along with lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase (AN1602), family 7 cellobiohydrolase (AN0494), endoglucanase (AN1285), beta glucosidase (AN1804), and xylanase (AN1818) will effectively deconstruct lignocellulose. These enzymes are considered to be key players in industrial biocatalysis. Enzymatic deconstruction of lignocellulose facilitates: (1) controlled, (2) predictable, (3) non-toxic, and (4) reproducible conversion of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin into high-yield end products. However, the long-standing battle in the enzymatic conversion of lignocellulose is the unfavorable cost to benefit aspect and the inefficiency in enzymatic deconstruction. NCSU will provide hydrolysates from different biomass that have been well characterized and will also provide the substrate produced from autohydrolyzed biomass. NCSU will also characterize the hydrolyzates. Characterization methods will include wet chemistry methods such as nitrobenzne oxidation, methoxy and catechol analysis, and elemental analysis. NMR characterization with phosphorus, carbon and proton NMR will also be conducted. The molecular weight of the samples will also be measured using GPC. DSC and TGA will also be used to measure the thermal properties of the different lignins. Dr. Hasan Jameel will serve as the Principal Investigator for the project. He will coordinate all the activities of the project and will have overall responsibility for management of the data and information. He will also coordinate the preparation of different kinds of biorefinery lignin and hydrolysates. NCSU will provide its expertise in lignin biorefinery processes and characterization of lignin fractions leading to value-added products. Dr. Hasan Jameel is a recognized expert in the fields of paper mill unit operations, wood and lignin characterization and his industrial engineering experience makes him a valuable contributor for this project.

Membership in Consortium on Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI), Associate Member in-kind

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds Wilfredo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: MiniFIBERS, Inc.
  • Amount Awarded: $0

Abstract: The purpose of the Consortium on Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI) is to develop fundamental and applied research on the use of alternative and sustainable fibers for the manufacturing of market pulp, hygiene products and nonwovens. The idea for SAFI has grown out of societal needs for alternative yet sustainable materials. SAFI will study the potential of alternative fibers based on technical (performance), sustainable and economic principles.

Genome Editing for Superior Fiber Feedstocks, SAFI Enhancement Project

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds Wilfredo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: TreeCo
  • Amount Awarded: $252,685

Abstract: The purpose of the Consortium on Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI) is to develop fundamental and applied research on the use of alternative and sustainable fibers for the manufacturing of market pulp, hygiene products and nonwovens. The idea for SAFI has grown out of societal needs for alternative yet sustainable materials. SAFI will study the potential of alternative fibers based on technical (performance), sustainable and economic principles. This enhancement project aligns with the goals and mission of SAFI and aims to harbor novel genome editing technologies to advance the development of new fiber feedstocks with unique properties to improve pulp production.

Expanding Prescribed Fire Delivery to Restore Longleaf Pine in the Southeast

  • PI: Bardon, Robert E.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
  • Amount Awarded: $130,000

Abstract: The Southeast Prescribed Fire Initiative will occur in priority areas across all 13 Southern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Priority habitats will include longleaf pine, shortleaf pine and other fire adapted ecosystems in the Southern region, and priority locations include, but are not limited to, Longleaf Implementation Team (LIT) priority areas and Sentinel Landscapes. The project purpose is to implement the Comprehensive Strategy for Prescribed Fire (which is a comprehensive, regional strategy for increasing prescribed burning in the Southeast), thus ultimately helping to increase the use of prescribed fire across the Southeast. The Strategy represents a consensus among representatives of federal and state agencies (including the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Defense, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state forestry and wildlife agencies), non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector; therefore, these groups will be the primary partners for this project. Major activities will include continued coordination of the SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Working Group, and implementation of several action items within the Prescribed Fire Strategy such as field days for private landowners, and support and promotion of Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs) and Fire Festivals.Outcomes include increased use of and support for prescribed fire.

Genomic Selection in Forest Trees: Beyond Proof of Concept

  • PI: Isik, Fikret
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $500,000

Abstract: Intensively managed pine plantations in the South are the major source of wood and fiber in the world. The farmgate value of timber and fiber production ranks only behind corn in the USA. Our group (Cooperative Tree Improvement Program) has over 60 years of history in working with stakeholders to support the sector by genetic improvement of pines. The objectives of this research are i) test the utility of genomic selection in loblolly pine, ii) discover alleles conferring fusiform rust disease resistance and iii) train professionals for routine applications of genomics in tree breeding. A specific population of loblolly pine has been developed over two generations to test the genomic selection concept. An Affymetrix 50K SNP array, currently under development, will be used for large scale genotyping. Bulked-segregant analysis and next-generation high-throughput RNA sequencing will be used to discover fusiform rust resistance genes. Resistance genes will be mapped using artificial inoculations on segregating pine seedling families. Disease symptoms will be associated with variants discovered from RNAseq analysis. Large sample sizes will allow for high-resolution mapping of genes conferring resistance to fusiform rust. If successful, sequence variants diagnostic for rust resistance can be converted to Affymetrix probes and included on the 50K SNP array. The results from genomic selection may have a profound effect in loblolly pine breeding. Genomic selection could replace time-consuming field experiments, reducing the tree improvement cycles from 15 years to 7 and doubling genetic gain in wood and fiber production from pine plantations in the southern US.

Increasing Ecological Complexity And Resilience Of Southern Appalachian Mixed-Oak Forests Via Disturbance-Based Management

  • PI: Forrester, Jodi A.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $470,000

Abstract: Significant changes to the historical disturbance complex have altered ecological function in many Southern Appalachian forested ecosystems. To maintain oak and hickory and perpetuate the forest types that have been ecologically and economically important to the region, it is necessary to seek alternative management approaches that will restore species, structural, and functional complexity to the Appalachian region. We are proposing 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. Specifically we will evaluate the capacity for alternative hardwood management practices to increase the regeneration of oak and hickory within the Southern Appalachian mixed oak forest. We will assess the interactions among forest structure, composition, regeneration and ecosystem processes and integrate our empirical research into a spatially-explicit landscape model to simulate multiple scenarios of management, disturbance, and climate interactions. With strong support from local and regional forestry professionals and non-government organizations, our team of University and Forest Service scientists will ensure that the results will reach managers and resource professionals. We specifically address AFRI Program Area D, Priority 1 with the goals of advancing our understanding of processes and interactions and assessing and developing new management practices to improve ecosystem services.

Advancing the Capacity of the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape Partnership

  • PI: Bardon, Robert E.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Endowment for Forestry & Communities, Inc.
  • Amount Awarded: $212,053

Abstract: The NCSLP is in its 13th year of operation, formally since 2016 and prior to 2016 as the core group of the Partnership that began to amplify its vision, mission, and implement signature projects that the NCSLP has uniquely done. This proposal is requesting financial support to bolster the continued efforts that are focused on the ENCSL. The NCSLP is working to protect the military mission in North Carolina, its forested and agriculture working lands, and its natural and water resources by minimizing the impact of encroachment and incompatible land uses that affect both the military and surrounding communities. By fully implementing the Sentinel Landscape program in North Carolina, the NCSLP will achieve multiple benefits that allow North Carolina to be more effective.

Coastal Plain Aquifer Vulnerability to Extreme Storms and Implications for Rural Prosperity, Food Security, and Water Resource Resiliency

  • PI: Nichols, Elizabeth Guthrie
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $200,000

Abstract: This ERG proposal is time-sensitive to coastal North Carolina communities that were flooded by Hurricane Florence and whose livelihoods depend upon safe and reliable groundwater. Rural, eastern NC communities rely almost entirely (97%) on aquifers for drinking water, crop irrigation, food processing, and industry. There is little information about the water quality of these coastal aquifers and even less understanding of how extreme hydrologic events, such as Hurricane Florence, impact them. We estimate there are ~ 300,000 private well users, equal or more livestock/crop irrigation wells, and hundreds of permitted water supply wells in the eleven counties that were extensively flooded by Hurricane Florence.  Experts estimate slow-moving hurricanes will increase in frequency for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The risk of surficial, near-surface, and deep aquifer contamination is uncertain for these extreme storm events. We will pilot an innovative dual-tracer strategy using tritium and 3H3He groundwater tracers with non-targeted, suspect-screening high-resolution mass spectrometry (NTSS-HRMS) to assess young water intrusion to groundwater. Our first goal is to establish comprehensive organic chemical fingerprints of aquifers in flooded and non-flooded areas of the Coastal Plain. Our second goal is to use these fingerprints, with tritium and tritium/helium, to evaluate changes to organic chemical fingerprints in wells flooded by Florence and to advance our understanding of young water flux to confined aquifers.  This project is high-risk because ~90% of organic chemical features in HRMS analyses are not identifiable although mass to charge spectral features are determined. State of the art database workflows will help tentative identification (suspect screening HRMS) of these unknown chemical features. Just as the LCMS analyses of surface waters revolutionized our understanding of pervasive pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the 1990s, this ERG research may likewise revolutionize our understanding of organic chemical eposomes in coastal aquifers. This project will advance regional water quality data for chemicals of concern and potentially contribute new tracer chemicals or chemical features to improve our understanding of aquifer connectivity, modern water flux to groundwater, and groundwater vunlerability to extreme storms.

Forestry of the Future: Improving Student Readiness and Workforce Participation of Underrepresented Minority Populations in Forest Resources

  • PI: Leggett, Zakiya Holmes
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $246,000

Abstract: The US South has 245 million acres of forestland covering 46% of total land use. This region is the largest wood basket in the world where 60% of US timber derives largely from managed softwood plantations and hardwood forests. These forest systems are major economic engines to rural economies. However, nationwide, forest resources have the lowest minority representation within Food, Agricultural, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences and even lower representation in the US South. Diversity enrollment and matriculation have failed due to poor intersections of academic support, peer community support, mentoring, leadership development, and readiness work skills. This NNF program builds on a pilot program to pipeline minority undergraduates from HBCUs to successful graduate training in forest resources at NC State University (NCSU). The proposed program recruits HBCU undergraduates and offers pre-admission mentoring and professional development for a Masters of Forestry at NCSU. Our NNF program will recruit and retain four, high-caliber minority forestry graduate students and prepare them for matriculation and professional success through NNF-specific programmatic, curricular, and industry experiences in forest resources.  Key NNF program elements are a minority Mentoring/Leadership Community (MLC), certified forest curriculum, and industry internships in the automation, economics, biotechnology, and science communication of forest resources. The NNF cohort will mentor minority undergraduates, disseminate their experiences, network with professionals, and participate in annual NNF program performance assessment to support pipeline sustainability. This project supports USDA’s goal to develop a diverse and highly-skilled workforce for employment shortages in forest resources.

User Support and Science Delivery for the Southeast Conservation Blueprint and the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy

  • PI: Peterson, Nils
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Amount Awarded: $306,625

Abstract: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is committed to landscape-scale conservation to accomplish its mission. The Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) is a state-led collaborative initiative focused on sustaining thriving fish and wildlife populations in the Southeastern US and Caribbean. The SECAS vision of a connected network of lands and waters that supports thriving fish and wildlife populations and improved quality of life for people is in direct alignment with the vision and mission of the FWS. Since its inception in 2011, the SECAS initiative has achieved notable accomplishments including the Southeast Conservation Blueprint (Blueprint), a living spatial plan that efficiently and effectively guides conservation implementation across 15 states in the Southeast U.S and two territories in the Caribbean. In advancing its conservation vision, the FWS seeks to continue participation in the state-led SECAS initiative. Through improving the applicability and expanding the use of the Southeast Blueprint, FWS will advance and facilitate on-the-ground conservation action that will reduce the need to list species, integrate State Wildlife Action Plan priorities, support Gulf coast restoration, and reduce regulatory burdens. To support these actions, the FWS Southeast Science Applications program seeks to expand its capacity and provide funding through a cooperative agreement with the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) at North Carolina State University. Through this project, the CESU will provide a dedicated staff person to achieve the following: 1. Provide user support for application of, and improvement to, the Southeast Conservation Blueprint; 2. Ensure that key external partners’ needs are reflected in the Southeast Conservation Blueprint and incorporated into the Blueprint revision cycle; 3. Work with the FWS Southeast Science Applications program to develop and deliver tools supporting at-risk species conservation by partners;  4. Serve as a liaison among FWS Science Applications, the USGS Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA), and SECAS to identify science information gaps, promote research efficiencies and leverage available resources;  5.     Identify research projects that advance the needs of state fish and wildlife agencies and end users of the Southeast Blueprint; and  6. Provide project management for the Southeast Science Applications program, ensuring it meets milestones and objectives that advance the collective conservation visions of FWS and SECAS.

Urban and Community Forestry Economic Impact Analysis

  • PI: Parajuli, Rajan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF)
  • Amount Awarded: $130,663

Abstract: Economic contribution analysis communicates the greater monetary benefits of the urban and community forestry sector in terms of contribution to gross domestic product, jobs, and labor income to policy makers and legislators. This project will involve conducting an economic contribution analysis of the urban and community forest industries in the Southern region (a 13-state region), and in 13 participating states. The specific objectives of the project are to: (1) facilitate discussion and consensus on scope of urban and community forest industries, methodology for analysis, and report template, (2) develop and distribute relevant survey questions in cooperation with the project team, (3) document the methodology and rationale for the selected approach in a written report, (4) analyze IMPLAN and other relevant datasets for the Region, and at the state level, (5) produce reports summarizing the findings for the Region, plus each individual participating state, totaling 14 reports, and (6) present the methodology, a mid-project progress report, and a final presentation of results. To accomplish the objectives, the College of Natural Resources North Carolina State University is teamed up with Ohio State University, Virginia Tech Univeristy, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, and Mississippi State University. Our multi-disciplinary team of urban forestry professionals, natural resource social scientists, and forest economists with extensive involvement in IMPLAN modeling and economic contribution analysis is capable of accomplishing this project in a timely and efficient manner.

Environmental Justice for Future Leaders in Forestry and Environmental Resources

  • PI: Bryant, Jennifer Richmond
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $262,500

Abstract: Environmental justice (EJ) is an academic and a policy framework intended to help count the full societal costs of decisions about environmental management, food production, and other activities, including many within the purview of the US Department of Agriculture. However, scientists and other professionals in agriculture and natural resources rarely encounter EJ in their academic training.  Fewer still have research experiences or hands-on training that centers on EJ. This project will recruit and mentor doctoral students who will gain a strong working knowledge of EJ policy and its intersections with other areas of expertise within Forestry and Environmental Resources.  Students will acquire research skills and leadership experiences related to implementation of EJ policies and analytical frameworks within their knowledge domains. The project will recruit students from diverse backgrounds, and especially those with demonstrable commitments to marginalized communities on whom EJ policies often center.  To accomplish this, the project will take advantage of North Carolina State University’s critical mass of EJ scholars and existing partnerships with Tribes and community-based groups. Careful recruiting and mentoring will ensure that students are successful. Deep integration of EJ and related topics into curricula will ensure that students have a firm grasp of EJ that complements other academic work. Internships and specialized training will help students be prepared for future leadership.  Benchmarks will assess success of the project, including the extent to which it advances the USDA goal of increasing the number, quality, and diversity of students in the food, agricultural and related sciences.

Collaborative Research: Quantifying the Amount and Functional Significance of Long-term Stored-water in Trees

  • PI: Emanuel, Ryan E
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Amount Awarded: $171,690

Abstract: Accurate modeling of water storage and fluxes in both natural and human-altered ecosystems is critical to managing global water resources under current-day and projected future climate and human stresses. This project aims to improve model estimates of water storage and fluxes in trees and forests by increasing our predictive understanding of ecophysiological processes influencing water storage by individual trees and entire ecosystems, and likely changes in these with anthropogenic climate change. Doing so will allow us to address some of the unresolved differences between models and large-scale observations of watershed storage (e.g., satellite). We propose an innovative stable isotope tracer experiment coupled with tree ecophysiological measurements at the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed (Idaho, USA). Broader Impact objectives include broadening participation of tribal college faculty and students in research collaborations at Reynolds Creek and at participating research institutions.

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.

Unlimited Genomics Applications through High-Resolution, Sub-Cellular Precision Sample Isolation and Imaging

  • PI: Whitehill, Justin
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $492,378

Abstract: The Equipment Grants Program (EGP) serves to increase access to shared special purpose equipment for scientific research for use in the food and agricultural sciences programs in our Nation’s institutions of higher education, including State Cooperative Extension System

Lessons for the Recovery: Evaluating the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Forest-based Rural Economy in the Southern United States

  • PI: Parajuli, Rajan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $648,004

Abstract: The United States (U.S.) South, 13 southeastern states from Virginia to Texas, has approximately 245 million acres of forestland, covering about 46% of the total land use. Forestry operations, logging, and wood-based manufacturing industries are vital to the rural economy, as the forest product industry is one of the top employers among all manufacturing industries in rural counties. Since early 2020, every sector of the economy throughout the world has grappled with the global COVID-19 Pandemic, and the forestry product industry is no exception. The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on forestry and forest product industry in the U.S. South, and identify, develop, and disseminate the strategies to revitalize the southern forest-based rural economy in the post-pandemic era. The specific objectives are to: 1)evaluate the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on roundwood markets, forest landowners, and forest management in the U.S. South; 2) examine the impacts of the pandemic on forest-based employment and workforce involved in the forestry supply chain in rural southern states; 3)investigate the pandemic impacts on the forest product industry including their corporate social responsibility contribution during the pandemic; and 4) develop and deliver an Extension program in the post-pandemic forest management strategies and rural economic development to promote rural prosperity in forested counties in the U.S. South. Understanding the Pandemic impacts on the forest sector and exploring the possible forest management strategies in the post-pandemic era could help develop public policies and revitalize the forest-based rural county economies in the southern states.

Optimizing Poplar for Sustainable Bio-Products in the Mountains of North Carolina

  • PI: Nichols, Elizabeth Guthrie
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $811,641

Abstract: Greenhouse, field, and AI optimization of germplasm for poplar and hemp are needed to address economic and environmental challenges to sustainable bioeconomies in the South’s highland or mountain regions.

Long-term Phosphorus Carryover in Loblolly Pine Plantations

  • PI: Cook, Rachel
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Amount Awarded: $649,912

Abstract: We will investigate the carryover effects of P fertilization on loblolly pine plantations and the effects on the soil microbial community.

Value of Flow Forecasts to Power System Analytics

  • PI: Kern, Jordan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Amount Awarded: $55,000

Abstract: Most hydropower utilities rely on external forecast products provided by NOAA River Forecast Centers and/or an additional source from private industry to support the scheduling of hydropower operations. The producers of these forecasts, “NOAA, industry, and even in-house forecasters do not have access to the dynamic energy prices (production cost models) or the electricity traders’ strategies to maximize revenue from utilization of the hydropower assets. Therefore, the group operating the reservoir is unable to assess the market value of their inflow forecasts, eliminating any ability to target forecast improvements to increase contributions of hydropower to electrical system needs. Both NOAA and industry have reached out to DOE WPTO to understand which inflow forecast products and accuracy levels would be needed to enhance the value of forecasts, from water management and marketed hydropower and grid resilience perspectives. We propose to use inflow forecast, reservoir and power system model simulations, and case studies to practically demonstrate where forecast improvements would create the most value for hydropower services. This research will benefit utilities and other hydropower operators who utilize flow forecasting to support water management and electricity production; it will also support DOE in targeting future investments related to forecasting that will benefit these groups.