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Research Awards and Grants (September 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 September 2022.

Research and Development in Geographic Information Systems for the National Park Service, Interior Region One

  • PI: Meentemeyer, Ross Kendall
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US National Park Service
  • Awarded Amount: $326,760.00 

Abstract:  The scope of work under this agreement will consist of three major functions: 1) GIS research, development and technical support for parks and programs of the Northeast Region of the NPS, 2) assistance with strategic and tactical planning for GIS implementation and 3) operational testing and deployment help with Enterprise GIS initiatives and designs.  The Center for Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University has worked with the Northeast Region of the NPS for over 20 years in the development of GIS for park management. This activity has led to major advances in the planning and application of GIS technology in the NPS and has placed the Northeast Region among the leaders within the NPS in this regard. 

Fork2Farmer:  Leveraging the High Visibility of Celebrated Chefs to Increase Small Farms’ Direct Product Sales and Farm Visit Sales

  • PI: Morais, Duarte B.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS)
  • Awarded Amount: $249,075.00 

Abstract: NC State University Fork2Farmer project leverages the high visibility of celebrated chefs to enhance the viability of small farms through new direct to consumer income from product sales and farm visit sales.  Fork2Farmer engages with celebrated chefs willing to contribute as catalysts for a marketing campaign promoting farm experiences and products offered by small farmers, and an Extension program mentoring small farmers on how to pursue new market opportunities.  We collaborate with tourism, local foods, and Extension partners to create short films celebrating partnerships between celebrity chefs and small farmers that supply them; we build marketing coalitions that allow small farmers to sell farm experiences and products to the public; and we offer a train-the-trainer program that enables the recruitment and accompaniment of participating small farmers.  Through the 2016 pilot of Fork2Farmer, we engaged high-profile chefs with video-production and social-media efforts, we obtained financial support for video production from participating counties, and we partnered with a tourism retailer to sell farm experiences by participating farmers.  Our team is now positioned to use the resources afforded by this grant to build on the concept and develop partnerships, processes and materials to scale-up across the state and to other states.

Geospatial Analytics for the Fire Management Offices of the National Capital, Northeast, and Southeast Regions of the National Park Service

  • PI: Vukomanovic, Jelena 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US National Park Service
  • Awarded Amount: $131,875.00 

Abstract:  The objective of this agreement is to contribute to present and future National Fire Program decision-support systems requirements of the Southeast, National Capital and Northeast Regions (collectively Eastern Regions) of the National Park Service (NPS) through the following four tasks:  Task 1: Sifting through the Noise: Making Sense of the NPS’s Wildfire and Treatment Geospatial Data. This task focuses on using wildfire data to create performance metrics, by investigating the utility of fire data to address management needs. Outputs from these analyses will lead to the development of products specifically addressing Fire Management’s need to better articulate the implications for decreased fuels funding. Focusing on Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, this task will examine recent treatment and wildfire data and compare the cost of wildfires with the cost of prescribed fires.  Considerations of cost will include location/access, water, associated costs, and impacts to the public, e.g. closures, smoke. Task 2: What Do We Protect? Supporting Fire Management by Protecting Natural, Cultural and Infrastructural Resources through Geodatabase Development and Visualization.  Fire Program managers have expressed a need for a spatial database consisting of locations where the effects of wildfire on the landscape would result in either habitat improvement (positive response) or habitat loss (negative response). Coincident to this are locations where sensitive cultural resources and critical infrastructure exist. Working with NPS fire ecologists and planners, this task will examine local parks vegetation data and assign fire response classes to vegetation types. Additionally, NCSU will examine the NPS Inventory and Monitoring, Southeastern Archeological Center (SEAC), NPS Archeological Sites Management Information System (ASMIS) and NPS Facilities Management Software System (FMSS) for existing sensitive-resource and critical-infrastructure datasets. Task 3: Understanding the Wildland-Urban Interface and Risk to Property from Wildfire through Geospatial Data and Web-based Applications. To reduce risk of life and property along and beyond their boundaries, NPS Park Units have historically suppressed wildfires inside their boundaries. For many years, the act of fire suppression has resulted in undesired consequences such as increases in fuel loading, changes to ecosystem structure and function, ecosystem and changes to landscape character. In addition, growing populations and increased development have limited the NPS Fire managers abilities to allow wildfire to play its natural role in these areas. This task will examine population growth and development in the wildland-urban interface.  Focusing on high-population growth centers, it will evaluate the relationship that historical wildfire events and recent fuels treatments have had in shaping the natural qualities of the landscape. Task 4: Develop Curricula and Provide Web-map Training for NPS Fire Management Personnel The NPS has access to a powerful technological suite of tools, applications, and data through ArcGIS products.  However, as with any new technology, training can improve the chances of adoption of new technologies and can ensure that it is implemented successfully and efficiently.  This task will provide training to the NPS Fire Management Personnel specifically focused on the use of ArcGIS Online (AGOL). 

CESU GIS Database Development for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVNHT)

  • PI: Smith, Charlynne T.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US National Park Service
  • Awarded Amount: $68,492.00 

Abstract:  Phase 8: CESU GIS Database Development for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVNHT) involves expanding geospatial data relative to the OVNHT Trail and Corridor through collaboration with trail partners and resource conservation agencies. This phase will review the entire OVNHT corridor for accuracy of protected trail segments and identify managing entities. The resulting inventory will inform trail managers of level of protection and provide a more accurate number of protected miles in an updated spatial database.

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

  • PI: Larson, Lincoln Ray
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $199,371.00 

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
  • Awarded Amount: $12,212.00 

Abstract:  This project will identify how energy poverty identification is affected by changing spatial scales of analysis in North Carolina. Research outcomes from this will research provide context for the identification of energy poverty in North Carolina. Specifically, they will provide context for community and government decision-makers to understand the impacts of spatial analysis. This work will be done in 2 parts. The first part is a multi-scalar spatial model that compares components of energy poverty indicators between four geographic scales to understand how these changes alter what main energy indicators present at these levels. The second part will combine actual energy use data and with indicators to characterize how the detection of energy poverty changes by the scale of analysis.  

Evaluating Academics Afield to Advance Equity in College R3 Programming

  • PI: Larson, Lincoln Ray
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Georgia Wildlife Federation
  • Awarded Amount: $39,694.00 

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) 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.

North Carolina Statewide Forest Products Marketing Team

  • PI: Mitchell, Philip H.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $249,739.00 

Abstract:  The North Carolina Statewide Forest Products Marketing Team (SFPMT) is a team of industry professionals working together to assess and review the current state of the North Carolina forest and wood products industry to identify marketing issues and needs, develop solutions and assist the industry to exploit opportunities. Covering all one hundred counties of North Carolina plus the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians,  economic opportunities identified by the project will benefit local communities for employment and economic activity.  Improved forest management and marketing will lower the cost of good forest management for landowners resulting in more acres of forest improvements to be undertaken.  This project will support efforts to maintain current forest land use as working forest land, thus supporting environmental maintenance of wildlife and water resources.  This project will offer a platform for cooperative education and networking to improve communication among industry participants and to promote better utilization of North Carolina’s forest resources in the US National Forests as well as on private forest lands. North Carolina State University is the organizer of this effort, with a project staff of five industry professionals to oversee the proposed efforts for organization and outreach. The project will update both USFS Product Locators for North Carolina for primary and secondary industry segments. The team will host approximately thirty regional meetings across the state, reaching out to all industry segments, including landowners, loggers, log yards, sawmills and lumber drying operations, firewood, cabinet, furniture, millwork, flooring and composite manufacturers. The use of electronic media tools will optimize outreach efforts and create a vivid, interactive, and resourceful connection to, and within the industry. Our expectation is that our efforts will grow sales, profitability and employment for the forest and wood products industry in North Carolina.  This project will raise the importance of networking to a new level as we reach out and include a large number of industry participants that are not connected today and will open new channels for better utilization of forest materials into value-added products.

The Multiverse of Biomass: From Nature to Innovation & Entrepreneurship

  • PI: Lavoine, Nathalie Marie
  • Direct Sponsor Name: VentureWell (formerly know as National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance)
  • Awarded Amount: $27,222.00 

Abstract: With the inevitable coming of the Green Economy, biomass valorization, use of renewable and bio-based materials and development of high-performance, recyclable, biodegradable and biocompatible products are nowadays challenges and opportunities to welcome a more sustainable society. Yet, to hasten its arrival, we must answer the daunting question of how we transform these challenges to opportunities? By educating new generations of students to the multiplicity of opportunities or multiverse of biomass, from a scientific and engineering perspective to an entrepreneurial vision. The Department of Forest Biomaterials has decades of expertise in conversion and valorization of biomass into new fuels/energies and high-performance biomaterials that offer solutions to greenhouse gas emissions, environmental and aquatic pollution and waste accumulation.We propose to leverage our graduate curriculum by adding an entrepreneurial and business competency to its strong scientific and engineering core. Our envisioned integrated program aims at educating Master and PhD students from NC State University, and others (via an online version) by training them in the principles, practices and methodologies of biomass valorization, conversion, and usage.

Biodegradable Microencapsulation Project

  • PI: Lavoine, Nathalie Marie
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC
  • Awarded Amount: $264,753.00 

Abstract:  The objective of the project is to design a sufficiently stable microcapsule system with encapsulated agrochemical active ingredient, using cellulose-based chemistries as the principal barrier materials, with a biodegradation profile that satisfies the criteria in the ECHA ANNEX XV Proposal for a Restriction on Microplastics.

Advancing the National Bioeconomy through Regional Sun Grant Centers

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds Wilfredo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: University of Tennessee
  • Awarded Amount: $82,622.00 

Abstract:  The hygiene tissue industry (bath tissue and kitchen towel) is an annual 39 million tons – USD 100 billion – global market with a forecast to grow ~ 3% per year for the next decade [38], [39]. Most hygiene tissue paper grades require the use of both long and short virgin fibers, which provide strength and softness respectively [8]. As an effect of global megatrends, the demand for non-woody biomass for tissue manufacturing will continue to increase [40], and agricultural biomass, which is perceived to be a sustainable option, can be an important source of short fibers for the tissue industry [41]. Therefore, the need to research and create knowledge on the handling and conversion of biomass sorghum and switchgrass to produce sustainable and high-end fiber furnish for the hygiene tissue industry. The proposed feedstock can be established to supply fiber at industrial scale.

Probing the Fundamental Parameters in Cellulose Crystal Self-Assembly leading to Structural Chromism

  • PI: Lucia, Lucian 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Pepsico, Inc.
  • Awarded Amount: $243,960.00 

Abstract:  In year 1 of our project, we will explore the nature of cholesteric phases incellulose crystal tactoids by controlling a series of ambient parameters to allow us to probe how the chiral nematic pitch changes over time, as a function of aspect ratio relative to Debye-Huckel lengths (ionic strength modulation), and DNA templating.

An Operational Multisource Land Surface Phenology Product from Landsat and Sentinel 2

  • PI: Gray, Joshua Michael
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Boston University
  • Awarded Amount: $180,223.00 

Abstract: Dense time series of moderate spatial resolution imagery from the Sentinel 2A and 2B Multispectral Instrument (MSI) and the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) are presenting the land remote sensing community with exciting new opportunities to monitor, map, and characterize temporal dynamics in land surface properties with unprecedented spatial detail and quality.  By combining imagery from all three sensors, users will be able to exploit multi-temporal information in a way that has not been previously possible. At the same time, the large data volumes and high-dimensionality of blended time series from Landsat 8 and Sentinel 2 introduce substantial new challenges for users who wish to exploit these data sets. Land surface phenology (LSP) products, which synthesize both the timing of phenophase transitions and also quantify the nature and magnitude of seasonality in remotely sensed ecosystem conditions, provide a simple and intuitive way to reduce data volumes and redundancy, while at the same time retaining information that is useful to a wide range of applications including ecosystem and agro-ecosystem modeling, monitoring the response of terrestrial ecosystems to climate variability and extreme events, crop-type discrimination, and land cover, land use, and land cover change mapping. Methods to monitor and map phenology from coarse spatial resolution instruments such as MODIS are both mature and operational.  However, the spatial resolution of MODIS is inadequate for most of the applications identified above.  The goal of this proposal is to address the need for LSP data products at moderate spatial resolution. To this end, we propose to implement an operational Land Surface Phenology product at moderate spatial resolution based on a blended time series of Landsat 8 OLI and Sentinel 2A and 2B MSI data. To demonstrate the need for this product, describe the strategy we propose, and illustrate the viability of our algorithm, this proposal includes four main elements.  First, we summarize the background and justification for our proposed product.  Second, we provide a formal definition for our proposed LSP data product, which includes a set of Science Data Sets (SDSs) that identify the timing of phenophase transitions and characterize the nature and magnitude of seasonality in remotely sensed land surface conditions. Third, we describe an algorithm that we developed and tested over the last several years, along with the input data requirements required for our proposed product. Fourth, we provide a detailed strategy for product validation along with validation results from a wide range of land cover types that demonstrate the effectiveness and accuracy of our algorithm.   For initial implementation, we propose to generate our product at continental scale for North America at 30-meter spatial resolution using the Harmonized Landsat-Sentinel (HLS) data set that is being generated by NASA. Finally, as part of this effort we propose to collaborate with Prof. Lars Eklundh at Lund University in Sweden, one of the pioneers of land surface phenology, who is funded in Europe to develop land surface phenology algorithms and data sets based on Sentinel-2. 

The Silviculture of Populus for Veneer

  • PI: Ghezehei, Solomon Beyene
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
  • Awarded Amount: $107,757.00 

Abstract: Forestry is the largest manufacturing industry in North Carolina (NC). Yet, opportunities for silviculture of hardwood plantations in western NC, where hardwood sawtimber industries are primarily located, have been missing. From our extensive experience of growing short-rotation woody crops for bioenergy and environmental clean-up in different parts of NC, we understand the importance matching species/clones to site conditions and their establishment and management, know expected production costs and yields under various scenarios, and have observed high growth and survival rates of many Populus clones. We have been identifying poplar clones for their potential for high-value veneer production. Our goal is to study feasibility and development of Populus clones as veneer crops by establishing a Populus-veneer demonstration and research site in western NC Piedmont, develop species, clonal and silvicultural recommendations and enterprise budgets for such plantations, and examine post-coppicing potential of Populus clones for veneer-log production. We will collaborate with Columbia Forest Products to test log quality for veneer processing. A successful launching of Populus for veneer would join existing markets without the requisite of new mills and offer landowners in the western Piedmont and mountains of NC with smaller stands/fields who tend to new promising crops with an opportunity to produce viable high-value hardwoods. 

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)
  • Awarded Amount: $200,000.00 

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 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.  

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: $306,625.00 

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 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.  

Camcore Tree Genetic Diversity

  • PI: Jetton, Robert M
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Amount Awarded: $100,000.00 

Abstract: The purpose of this cooperative agreement is to conserve species of concern in RS with a focus on Table Mountain Pine and Pitch Pine to support the CCSA Tree Conservation Project with Camcore.

Value of Flow Forecasts to Power System Analytics

  • PI: Kern, Jordan 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Amount Awarded: $74,126.00 

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. 

Integrated Multisector, Multiscale Modeling (IM3) Science Focus Area, Phase 2

  • PI: Kern, Jordan 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Amount Awarded: $170,000.00 

Abstract: The overarching goal of the proposed research tasks for the NCSU team in Phase 2 of IM3 is to help develop new, open source operational models of the U.S. bulk electric power system, one for each of the three regional interconnections: the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC); the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT); and the Eastern Interconnection (EIC). These models will then be used by NCSU and other members of the IM3 team to address the impacts of weather and water dynamics in the simulation of grid operations in Experiment Groups B and D as described in the IM3 Phase 2 proposal

A Citizen Science Internship Program to Quantify Racial and Economic Disparities in Lead Levels in Drinking Water Across North Carolina

  • PI: Cooper, Caren Beth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NCSU Water Resources Research Institute
  • Amount Awarded: $35,600.00 

Abstract: Ninety-seven of the one hundred counties in North Carolina have at least one community water system with leaded infrastructure. Collectively, these systems serve 10 million people. In 20 counties, 80% or more of the water systems reported leaded infrastructure, serving a total of over one million North Carolinians. Unfortunately, water systems do not have records with sufficient detail to identify highest risk areas at finer spatial scales. Furthermore, there is virtually no data, at any scale, about the privately owned portions of the water transportation systems, namely the privately owned portion of the service line and the household premise plumbing. This proposal addresses the problem that leaded drinking water infrastructure poses a significant health risk across NC. Water utilities cannot properly manage water lead levels without sufficient data about leaded premise plumbing and lead in tap water at households. The EPA funded a project to create Crowd the Tap, a citizen science project in which households share information about their drinking water infrastructure. We propose a Citizen Science Internship program at Shaw University in which student interns function as ambassadors for Crowd the Tap, carrying out direct outreach (in accordance with COVID safety protocols) to priority communities in order to fill data gaps particularly for the DEQs Needs Assessment, NGO/CBO lead mitigation programs, and a statistical model to reliably predict household risk of lead.  

Analysis and Economic Modeling and Clean Air Act Issues, Forestry, Agriculture and Landscape Change Modeling and Analysis Support

  • PI: Baker, Justin Scott
  • Direct Sponsor Name: RTI International (aka Research Triangle Institute)
  • Awarded Amount: $89,058.00 

Abstract:  This proposal, in response to the RTI International RFP titled Analysis and Economic Modeling and Clean Air Act Issues, is supported by RTI International and a mission support contract from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Climate Change Division. Under this contract, Dr. Justin Baker (NCSU-CNR-FER) will collaborate with researchers at RTI and other institutions on the development and application of several land use sector modeling frameworks to develop projections of land use, markets, resource management, and greenhouse gas emissions under socioeconomic, environmental, and policy change. Dr. Baker will provide analytical and modeling support for research and development efforts, quick turnaround research for policy analysis, and technical writing and synthesis to disseminate new research. Dr. Baker’s modeling contributions will focus on projecting terrestrial carbon stocks over different spatial and temporal scales and under a wide range of alternative future conditions using multi-model assessment techniques. Further, Dr. Baker will focus on policy design issues related to bioenergy expansion, international trade, and climate mitigation programs. 

Ecological Forecasting Tools for Movement Track Management at the Yukon-to-Yellowstone Migration Corridor

  • PI: Kays, Roland W.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Ohio State University
  • Awarded Amount: $159,356.00 

Abstract:  The Yellowstone to Yukon Corridor (Y2Y) is North America’s largest nature corridor and connectivity project for wildlife. The 2,000-mile swath of land between Yellowstone National Park and the Yukon of Canada is one of the last remaining intact mountain ecosystems on Earth, and home to many endangered and at-risk species. The Y2Y is a mosaic of protected and unprotected land including Canadian and US national parks, federally managed wildland and national forests, state/province/territory parks, Indigenous territories, and privately managed conservation easements. Our project will focus on developing a common animal movement archive for the Y2Y, and research tools to study the effectiveness of protected areas, and migration and movement connectivity that will be applied by our end users throughout the Y2Y.  Animal tracking data in the Arctic Animal Movement Archive, compiled during a NASA-funded ABoVE project, will provide the starting core of the Y2Y archive. Additional tracking data will be provided by our end users, their collaborators, and other researchers that study movement ecology throughout the Y2Y. This dynamic ensemble of studies will collectively contain millions of occurrences in the region, allowing our end users to document baseline movements and behavior of many individuals and species over past decades and up to the present. Our Movebank-based archive will provide a uniform platform and QA protocol for conducting large-scale, long-term, and multi-species analyses addressing critical research questions in support of wildlife management efforts in the region, contribute to biodiversity assessments related to climate and other regional and global changes, and provide early signals of local or large-scale ecosystem changes. Furthermore, we will develop a set of data access, preparation, and analysis tools within the MoveStore platform, a GUI-based environment for data flow and analysis tools. The data access and preparation tools will allow users to compile movement data meeting specific criteria from the Y2Y archive and link these data with contextual environmental data from remote sensing and weather resources, including NASA’s LANDSAT NDVI, GPM precipitation, human population density, the MERRA and NARR weather reanalyses, and local environmental data layers. We will provide tools to downscale data, resample, model null presence, and prepare movement tracks and corresponding environmental data for statistical analyses in R. Finally, we will provide tools to quantify utilization distributions and connectivity surfaces by fitting spatial and spatial-temporal point-process models.  The animal movement data archive will provide a resource for the Y2Y region, and it will be expanded over time. The preparation and analysis tools will be applicable worldwide, using movement data stored on Movebank. We will develop and test tools on a set of applications catered to the needs of our end users, addressing questions such as: How are protected lands utilized by mammals throughout the Y2Y? How is connectivity between conservation areas influenced by current and predicted future environmental and anthropogenic characteristics? What characteristics are most critical for stopover locations for migrating raptors? The archive and the tools we will develop will be hosted on, an international database and movement analysis portal. Movebank is supported and run by the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior. The German government and the Max Planck Institute have committed to guaranteeing the long-term operability and accessibility of the archive and tools we will develop. Our end users are a coalition of state/province/territory wildlife management agencies, and US and Canadian NGOs. Each will commit weeks of in-kind labor to contribute movement data to the archive and to help us design, test, and implement the tools we develop.  

BCS-DISES: Influence of Community Forestry on the Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems

  • PI: Sills, Erin O.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: UNC – UNC Chapel Hill
  • Awarded Amount: $185,964.00 

Abstract:  The overarching goal of the project is to understand how Community Forestry (CF) influenced the dynamics of the integrated Socio-Environmental System (iSES) in which CF is a vital part. To achieve this goal, the following major research questions will be addressed: (1) How does community forest governance influence the community social capital and livelihoods of participating households? (2) How does CF interact with rural out-migration? (3) How does CF feedback to land use decision? (4) How COVID-19 influenced the rural people’s livelihoods and CF? (5) How has CF influenced the goods and services the environmental systems provide? The research will be carried out in the Middle Mountains of Nepal, where CF originated. With help from local collaborators and assistants, we will conduct comprehensive community and household surveys in the study area and use remote sensing and ecological models to address these questions. In the final stage of the project, an Integrated Modeling System (IMS) will be developed and used to examine the dynamics of the iSES. 

Toward Improved Ecological Drought Indices for Forest Ecosystems Across the South

  • PI: Scheller, Robert 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $113,785.00 

Abstract:  We will build on prior efforts to develop a spatiotemporal statistical model for the 2011 Texas drought that relates forest conditions measured from FIA data to the SPEI or a similar drought measure. The model will account for trends in drought and mortality over time and space, as well as variations in drought effects based on forest species composition, drought tolerance of tree species, soil moisture, and other climatic, biophysical, and environmental correlates.  

Forest Health Monitoring and Assessment

  • PI: Conkling, Barbara L.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $405,511.00 

Abstract:  The Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) Program is a long term, national monitoring and research effort focusing on forest ecosystems. This interagency program is designed to assist resource managers and policy makers in managing forest resources in the United States, allocating funds for research and development, and evaluating the effectiveness of environmental policies. FHM national reporting efforts include an annual technical report that presents analysis and synthesis of technical information at national and multi-state levels as well as other publications that provide information about national forest health conditions and management priorities. Through the work in this agreement, the principal investigators and other research personnel will provide the Forest Health Monitoring Research Team of the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station’s Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC) with data analyses, natural resource assessments, and technical writing skills in support of the national Forest Health Monitoring Program’s annual forest health status and trends report, and other research, analysis, and reporting tasks. The principal investigators and other personnel will also provide support to the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program in documentation development and updates for field procedures and the FIA public database.

Climate Adaptive Forest Management for Breeding Bird Habitat in the Southern Appalachians

  • PI: Scheller, Robert 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Awarded Amount: $124,765.00 

Abstract:  Many species of forest birds have experienced population declines in recent decades and are at risk of further declines due to climate change. Active management is necessary to maintain habitat for these species, but shifts in the structure of forests caused by climate change or disturbance may necessitate changes in management strategies. Because silviculture or other management strategies directly affect forest structure, models of bird habitat which are sensitive to forest structure are needed, but these are not widely available at relevant spatial scales. We will quantify direct and indirect threats to bird habitat and assess climate-adaptive management strategies across the southern Appalachians.

A Citizen Science Internship Program to Quantify Racial and Economic Disparities in Lead Levels in Drinking Water Across North Carolina

  • PI: Cooper, Caren Beth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NCSU Water Resources Research Institute
  • Awarded Amount: $84,369.00 

Abstract:  Ninety-seven of the one hundred counties in North Carolina have at least one community water system with leaded infrastructure. Collectively, these systems serve 10 million people. In 20 counties, 80% or more of the water systems reported leaded infrastructure, serving a total of over one million North Carolinians. Unfortunately, water systems do not have records with sufficient detail to identify highest risk areas at finer spatial scales. Furthermore, there is virtually no data, at any scale, about the privately owned portions of the water transportation systems, namely the privately owned portion of the service line and the household premise plumbing. This proposal addresses the problem that leaded drinking water infrastructure poses a significant health risk across NC. Water utilities cannot properly manage water lead levels without sufficient data about leaded premise plumbing and lead in tap water at households. The EPA funded a project to create Crowd the Tap, a citizen science project in which households share information about their drinking water infrastructure. We propose a Citizen Science Internship program at Shaw University in which student interns function as ambassadors for Crowd the Tap, carrying out direct outreach (in accordance with COVID safety protocols) to priority communities in order to fill data gaps particularly for the DEQs Needs Assessment, NGO/CBO lead mitigation programs, and a statistical model to reliably predict household risk of lead.

Using Multiple Tactics in the Conservation of a Keystone Forest Species

  • PI: Jetton, Robert M
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $40,000.00 

Abstract:  The purpose of this project is to fully develop, evaluate, and deliver an integrated management strategy for conserving and restoring eastern hemlock, an ecologically “keystone” species in eastern North America. The strategy will simultaneously utilize multiple tools (i.e., silvicultural, biological, and chemical tactics) to minimize negative impacts of the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). Significant strides have been made in the application of these tactics individually or in paired use, but forest managers have consistently voiced the need for a cohesive strategy that applies multiple tools in the same ecosystem for combined benefit. Our studies will evaluate the interactive effects of silvicultural canopy gaps (that release groups of hemlock trees) and targeted chemical insecticide use (systemic neonicotinoids) on hemlock resilience and on pest and predator abundance The geographic scope of the project includes select sites in the northern and southern Appalachians, but results are expected to be applicable throughout the range of eastern hemlock.

An Assessment of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Criteria and Indicators: Enhancing Information for Criterion 7; Legal, Institutional, and Economic Indicators

  • PI: Cubbage, Frederick W.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $25,000.00 

Abstract:  The research will develop a general conceptual model of the legal, institutional, and economic factors that are required to translate broad international and national policy goals to use forests to store carbon and mitigate climate change into practical on-the-ground approaches that will be required for public policies, public agencies, and public and private landowners to change their land management practices to participate in the programs. Next, we will gauge the amount of land area, funding, technical capacity and personnel, financial incentives, and costs and returns for landowners, and similar components to assess program needs and challenges. We will review the assessments and analyses carried out for our 2020 Criterion 7 Report, including Indicators 45 (Legislation and Policies), Indicator 47 (Taxation and Other Economic Strategies), and Indicator 50 (Programs, Services, and Other Resources), which will support the problem analysis of the subject and will be used to information detailed subsequent research. 

Population Genomics of Race Non-specific Disease Resistance in the Endemic Pinus-Cronartium Pathosystem

  • PI: Isik, Fikret 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)
  • Awarded Amount: $782,568.00 

Abstract:  We seek to understand the genetic basis of non-race-specific resistance to fusiform rust disease caused by Cronartium quercuum f. sp. fusiforme (Cqf) in Pinus taeda, an economically critical pine species. In previous research, our group mapped two major resistance QTL with high genetic resolution in the genome of a P. taeda resistance donor. In a parallel bulked-segregant RNAseq experiment, we identified candidate resistance genes with SNP highly associated with resistance to Cqf. These genes were part of the nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat. Here, we will leverage our newly gained knowledge of the genetics of host resistance to generate a pine population segregating for the same two resistance QTL. To understand the genetics of avirulence in the pathogen, the pine population will then be challenged with a diverse basidiospore mixture of Cqf in an artificial inoculation experiment. Following symptom development, fungal strains capable of growing on each of four host resistance genotypes will be sampled directly from diseased tissue and sequenced. Following SNP discovery, the fungal genome will be scanned for the presence of selective sweeps that would indicate proximity to genes selected for virulence against one or the other QTL, such as effectors.