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Research Awards and Grants (October 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 October 2022.

NCDOT Community Studies Geospatial Sandbox

  • PI: Pala, Okan 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Department of Transportation
  • Awarded Amount: $389,408.00 

Abstract: NCSU CGA will provide a box environment for the NCDOT Community Studies Group members and others approved individuals or groups. This environment will also serve as the secure staging area for the data to be readied, vetted and approved before it is shared. As a part of this agreement NCSU CGA will perform quality control/quality assurance (QC/QA) for data that is hosted. NCSU CGA will also maintain and update metadata within the NCDOT Community Studies and relay approved datasets to the ATLAS project team to ensure accuracy of the information and avoid versioning pitfalls. Metadata will include all the necessary information including, but not limited to: contact information, geospatial extent of the data, sources used to develop the data, cartographic projection details as well as data use and sharing limitations set by NCDOT and external data procurement services. In addition, NCSU CGA will develop training materials and provide training to designated NCDOT personnel, including designated contract personnel, in order to further the use of geospatial technologies, datasets and spatial thinking.

Smart Zoning for Coastal Flood Resilience and Adaptation

  • PI: Sanchez, Georgina Maria
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NCSU Sea Grant Program
  • Awarded Amount: $10,000.00 

Abstract: Since 2016, flooding from extreme weather events has caused over $40 billion in damages across eastern North Carolina, as a result coastal municipalities are seeking strategies to reduce current and future flood risk (NOAA, 2022). Land use policies and zoning regulations have been successfully implemented to protect residents and reduce long-term vulnerability to flooding. However, zoning data are limited in scale and availability making regional-scale assessments of zoning regulations in flood-prone areas dificult. In this study, we propose using machine-learning methods to predict zoning codes for North Carolina’s Coastal Plain and locate high-risk, overburdened, and under-served communities where adaptive zoning strategies could be implemented for flood adaptation and resilience.

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: $199,371.00 

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.

Leveraging Tourism-Dependent Coastal Community Insights to Develop a Virtual Disaster Preparedness Hub

  • PI: Savage, Ann Elizabeth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NCSU Sea Grant Program
  • Awarded Amount: $9,973.00 

Abstract: On September 6th, 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, causing historic flooding and widespread damage across tourism-dependent barrier island communities. Two communities, Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, were among the hardest hit. As Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts began, the COVID-19 pandemic substantially altered recovery within the tourism sector. Fragile, outdated infrastructure and limited access policies disrupted supply chains and workforce availability, significantly lengthening recovery efforts well into the 2020 hurricane season. Once access was restored, the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke boomed with visitors seeking an escape from the pandemic, even while business owners were struggling to rebuild and housing shortages continued. The compounding crises of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the decisions within the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke. Through an NSF-funded project RAPID: Disaster recovery decision making in remote tourism dependent communities the research team uncovered pathways of near-term decision making and integrating these decisions within a broader network of actors establishing a baseline for understanding disaster recovery in remote tourism-dependent communities. Through this research the need for a centralized location to integrate information sources and recovery resources, facilitate sharing of capacity strengths and weaknesses, and foster learning and partnerships among tourism-dependent coastal communities. This proposed project seeks to define inter-community, region-specific components (e.g., resources, information pathways, community interactions, and knowledge brokers) needed to create a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. The objectives of this project are designed to build upon the data from the NSF-funded project, by identifying existing community-based planning resources, hosting community focus groups to prioritize resources and actions the community members are willing to take, analyze the feedback from the focus groups, and develop a blueprint for a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. This process will identify the infrastructure and management foundations needed to establish and sustain the hub as well as how tourism-dependent community stakeholders would contribute to and utilize a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub could advance knowledge and practice of resilience strategy development and planning efforts in coastal community contexts.

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: $12,756.00 

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. 

Establishing Tools to Measure the Relationship between Travel and Retirement Decisions in North Carolina

  • PI: Savage, Ann Elizabeth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Visit NC
  • Amount Awarded: $50,444.00 

Abstract: North Carolina (NC) ranks third for net migration of retirement age adults in the US meaning nearly 20,000 people 60 years or older moved to NC in 2019 . In 2021, places in NC including Asheville , Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham2, and Winston-Salem3 were identified as some of the best places to retire in the US further proving the attractiveness of NC as a retirement destination. And this recognition is happening all as the rate of US retirement has been increasing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic .   With the considerable potential for retirees to contribute to the state’s economy and communities it is necessary to understand the factors that drive their decision to retire to NC. Furthermore, a more robust knowledge of how to assess the economic impact of retirees will provide the tools to illustrate one aspect of retirees contributions to the state, its counties, and local communities. This study aims to fill these gaps by creating a profile of NC retirees, their motivations to retire to NC, and the influence of travel to the state as a driver in their retirement location decision. To enable future efforts to measure the economic impact of retirees this study will also  identify processes for assessing the economic impact of retirees including their travels while deciding on a retirement location and once they settle in a new community. The outcomes of this work will help inform North Carolina communities efforts to attract and support retirees.  

Lignocellulosics Engineering to Advance Dewatering (LEAD)

  • PI: Pal, Lokendra 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Alliance for Pulp & Paper Technology Innovation (formerly Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance)
  • Awarded Amount: $300,000.00 

Abstract: The most salient cost factors for paper manufacture are fibers and drying energy. There are continued efforts in the paper industry to move towards lower grammage sheets (especially in the packaging arena) and higher machine speeds to increase productivity while conserving resources and energy. The proposed project will address the critical need for innovation in the dewatering of the paper web to maximize its solids after wet pressing through changes that result from a better understanding of equilibrium moisture and bound water, thus reducing energy consumption in the drying section while maintaining desired paper attributes.

Scaling Up Biocrude Derived Anode Material (BDAM)

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Energy (DOE) – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
  • Awarded Amount: $2,649,938.00 

Abstract: We will improve and validate the critical unit operations needed for producing high-value carbon materials (graphite and hard carbon) used for lithium ion and sodium ion batteries from a faction of the biocrude produced by biomass fast pyrolysis. This work will bring together two innovations, 1) production of high-value carbon materials from the biocrude heavy residues fraction, which are often difficult to convert into biofuels, and 2) process innovations that should lower the costs for producing these high-value carbons. In order to produce high-value carbons, the biocrude residues are sequentially heated to remove volatiles and oxygen, polymerize the biomass carbons into graphene sheets, and in a second step form either highly crystalline graphite or disordered hard carbon. The graphite can be used in as drop-in anode material in existing commercial lithium ion battery (LIB) applications such as portable electronics and electric vehicles (EVs), while the hard carbon can be used in emerging and advancing battery applications, such as sodium ion battery (SIB) for grid electrochemical energy storage and LIB for hybrid batteries in EV with high capacity and good rate capability. The team has demonstrated that both graphite and hard carbon can be produced from pyrolysis biocrudes at laboratory scale and has measured their electrochemical performance in batteries. This work will optimize the range of operating parameters, with a focus on the complex interactions between the chemical changes and the heat and mass transfer characteristics of the reactor and increase the production scale to obtain mass and energy balances that are relevant for modeling commercial potential. The performance of the carbon materials will be evaluated to define their values in commercial systems. Both techno-economics (TEA) and life cycle analysis (LCA) will be performed to understand the economic and environmental impact of the proposed technology. Preliminary revenue analysis suggests diverting 15-25% of the biocrude, essentially all of the heavy and less valuable fraction, into high-value carbons like graphite or hard carbon can significantly improve the profits of a biorefinery and lower the cost of making biofuels. The goal of this project is to optimize and scale-up the process for producing graphite and hard carbon that meet the requirement for LIB and SIB, respectively. Performance specification will be measured, including electrochemical performance under varying conditions (e.g., operating voltage range, current density, and c-rate) using coin-type and pouch cells. We will use a suite of advanced analytical tools to develop a more detailed understanding of 1) how the chemical composition of biocrude and the carbonization process impact the macromolecular ordering of the final products and 2) how the changes in carbon structure influence on the ion storage behavior (e.g., (de)insertion and adsorption/desorption) and subsequent electrochemical performance. In addition to the performance of the carbon materials, we will determine yields in order to close the mass and energy balances of the process. This data will be used to conduct rigorous TEA and LCA models to demonstrate the target FOA metrics such as $3.00/GGE fuel selling price and 60% reduction in emission. Successful completion of the scale up of bio-based graphite and hard carbon production will enable commercialization of these processes and will have an important impact on several sustainable technologies, 1) the low cost biocrude, the bio-based graphite will reduce the cost for LIB that can be used in EVs, 2) the low cost of hard carbon production will enable SIB for energy grid storage and LIB for advanced batteries for EVs, supporting continued growth of PV and wind electricity generation, and 3) commercial production of graphite and hard carbon as biorefinery co-products will improve the overall economics of producing biofuels.  

AI-Enabled Hyperspectral Imaging Augmented with Multi-Sensory Information for Rapid/Real-time Analysis of Non-Recyclable Heterogeneous MSW for Conversion to Energy

  • PI: Pal, Lokendra 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Energy (DOE) – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
  • Awarded Amount: $1,001,531.00 

Abstract: This project will focus on rapid/real-time analysis of domestic heterogeneous municipal biomass waste utilizing AI-Enabled Hyperspectral Imaging for developing conversion ready feedstock into cost effective and sustainable biofuel for selling price under $2.50 per gallon gasoline equivalent (GGE) by 2030. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is considered as an abundant potential source for biomass. This biomass, if used as a feedstock for fuel conversion operation will promote the sustainable fuel production and lower the prices. The heterogeneity of the MSW based on locations and time period can affect the biofuels or bioproducts. Therefore, the characterization of the MSW feedstock at macro and microlevel in terms of chemical and physical composition, at different speeds of conveyor system, at different times and collection sites will be studied.

Sargassum and Hurricane Waste Biomass for Aviation Fuel and Graphite (SWAG)

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Energy (DOE) – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
  • Awarded Amount: $0.00 

Abstract: This project will merge NREL’s highly robust biomass fractionation and fermentation technology and NCSU’s highly robust graphitization technology to convert two waste streams that are increasingly problematic in the southeastern US and Caribbean states (hurricane-damaged wood waste and Sargassum seaweed) into Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and graphite for lithium ion batteries (LIB), as shown in Figure 1. NREL has developed fractionation technology for biomass and algae that solubilizes carbohydrates and proteins of varying composition into fermentable hydrolysates. Hydrolysates from woody biomass contain abundant carbohydrates but are typically nutrient-poor for fermentation and require added nutrients, such as nitrogen. Algae (both micro- and macroalgae) hydrolysates are also rich in carbohydrates but are often over-rich in nutrients. Thus, combining these two waste stream hydrolysates in an appropriate ratio will maximize fermentation productivity of SAF precursor (ethanol) while keeping wood waste and Sargassum out of landfills. NCSU and NREL have also demonstrated synthesis of battery-grade graphite from a variety of sustainable feedstocks, including pyrolysis oil, lignin, and cellulose using metallic iron catalysts. This technology is also expected to work well with the insoluble residues from the waste streams described above. The proposed fermentation pathway presents a viable pathway to helping reach BETO’s goal of producing 3 billion gal/year of SAF and the graphite production is compatible with the rapidly growing market for LIB (20% per annum) for portable electronics and electric vehicles. 

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

  • PI: Cubbage, Frederick W.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $180,000.00 

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

LSU Superfund Research Center – Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals

  • PI: Bryant, Jennifer Richmond
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Louisiana State University
  • Awarded Amount: $538,665.00 

Abstract: AERMOD is the most widely applied U.S. EPA regulatory model to predict the dispersion of airborne pollutants from a point source. The Iowa Superfund Research Program (ISRP) has extensive experience running AERMOD, the primary model used by ISRP to predict airborne PCB congener concentrations. The applicant’s research at the Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program (LSU SRP) consists of performing spatial and statistical modeling of particulate matter components to understand exposure to emissions from an open burn/open detonation hazardous waste thermal treatment facility in rural Colfax, LA. As part of her dissertation, Ms. Martine Mathieu will develop a hybrid exposure assessment model integrating surface-level measurements with the AERMOD dispersion model to provide a robust prediction of concentrations as surrogates for estimated exposures. Drawing on ISRP’s experience with AERMOD, the overarching objective of the Externship is to learn to predict air pollutant exposure using the AERMOD atmospheric dispersion model. This externship will enable the applicant to learn about requirements for model inputs, construction of AERMOD inputs, implementation of the model, and quality assurance of the results. With current research interests in hybrid approaches to spatial air pollution models, the new skills gained through the Externship will add value to Ms. Mathieu’s research career and professional goals. Furthermore, Ms. Mathieu’s experience through the KC Donnelly Externship will enhance long term collaboration between the LSU SRP and the ISRP through community engagement experiences and further research collaboration centered around modeling, including journal publications, that will provide insights for similar studies and comparable sites.

Repellent Compounds for Deer Browse Control in Fraser Fir

  • PI: Whitehill, Justin 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Christmas Tree Association
  • Awarded Amount: $6,000.00 

Abstract: Christmas tree farms suffer extensive deer browse injury no matter tree size. Deer browse can lead to significant losses and increased costs of production. Existing strategies to deter deer browse on valuable Fraser fir production include hunting, temporary fencing, and chemical repellents. However, these methods provide only partial protection and eventually fail. Christmas tree growers need alternative strategies to overcome this persistent pest. A new product called Trico has been tested on Canadian Christmas tree farms and shown promise as a volatile deterrent to deer entering plantations. Another alternative control strategy is presented by the presence of volatile deer deterrents naturally occurring within the trees themselves. Observations of experimental trials suggest natural genetic variation among Abies species for deer browse preference. These differences appear to be driven by variation in the volatile profiles of terpenes emitted by the trees. To assist growers, we plan to evaluate the role that volatile chemicals play in deer browse preference and deterrence. To accomplish these goals we plan to: (1) test the efficacy of the newly identified product Trico compared to currently used products; and (2) characterize the natural genetic variation among of the volatile terpene profiles of eight different species including Fraser, Nordmann, Noble, Balsam, Concolor, Grand, Korean, and Turkish fir. Tests of Trico will be performed at 3 Christmas Fraser fir tree farms. Samples for terpene chemistry will be collected from a single timepoint in mid-October to establish a baseline of fir terpene chemistry. Terpene compounds will be evaluated at NC State University’s METRIC core analytical facility. Results of these experiments will provide new information that will help in the development of effective deer browse management strategies. 

Quantifying On-Farm Reservoirs’ Impacts on Surface Hydrology Using a Multi-Sensor Approach (Student: Vinicius Perin)

  • PI: Tulbure, Mirela Gabriela
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)
  • Awarded Amount: $45,000.00 

Abstract: Fresh water stored by on-farm reservoirs (OFRs) is a fundamental component of surface hydrology and is critical for meeting global irrigation needs. Farmers use OFRs to store water during the wet season for crop irrigation during the dry season. There are more than 2.6 million OFRs in the US alone, and many of these OFRs were constructed during the last 40 years. Despite their importance for irrigating crops, OFRs can contribute to downstream water stress by decreasing stream discharge and peak flow in the watersheds where they are built, thereby exacerbating water stress intensified by climate change and population growth. However, modeling the impact of OFRs on surface hydrology remains a challenge because they are so abundant and have frequent fluctuations in surface area and water volume. Prior to the recent availability of satellite data, widespread monitoring of OFR surface area and water volume across space and time was impossible due to temporal latency of satellite observations. The goal of this project, therefore, is to harness a multi-sensor satellite imagery approach to reduce observation latency and improve surface hydrology modeling, with the aim of supporting more efficient management of OFRs and mitigation of their downstream impacts. Our objectives are: 1) Develop a multi-sensor imagery approach to reduce latency and obtain sub-weekly OFRs surface area and volume change; and 2) Input sub-weekly OFRs volume change into the Soil Water and Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to estimate OFRs impact on surface hydrology. Specifically for Objective 1, a novel method based on the Kalman filter will be used to harmonize data from multiple optical sensors and to provide sub-weekly OFRs surface area change, which will be converted to volume change using area-elevation equations. Then for Objective 2, we will carry out hydrological simulations in SWAT to quantify OFRs impact on simulated daily and monthly stream discharge, simulating stream discharge with and without the OFRs. We will perform yearly simulations, based on satellite imagery availability, to measure OFRs impact during low and peak flows in each watershed of our study region, which will account for both intra- as well as inter-annual variability in flows. This project will monitor OFRs surface area and volume change to enable better assessment and management of water quantity, and further the use of Earth system science to inform decisions and provide benefits to society regarding preservation of surface water resources, both of which are overarching science goals that guide Earth Science Division program.

The Southern Fire Exchange: Putting Fire Science on the Ground

  • PI: Roise, Joseph P.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: University of Florida
  • Awarded Amount: $82,860.00 

Abstract: The key goals of SFE are to unite the fire science and natural resource management communities in the Southern U.S. and to increase the awareness, access, understanding and application of wildland fire science into regional natural resource management decisions. Over the last three years, we have focused on refining our core interactive fire science delivery programs, such as workshops, field tours and webinars, in ways that have solidified our role as a key knowledge broker for fire science in the region.

Effects Of Household Concrete Floors On Child Health

  • PI: Ercumen, Ayse  
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Stanford University
  • Awarded Amount: $36,728.00 

Abstract: Enteric infections and diarrhea are responsible for a large burden of morbidity and mortality among children under 5 years and are associated with increased growth faltering, anemia, impaired child development, and mortality. The primary public health interventions to prevent enteric infections are household water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions. However, recent WASH intervention trials found only modest impacts on enteric infection prevalence in children. Observational studies have found that children in households with concrete floors have lower prevalence of diarrhea, soil-transmitted helminth infection, and Giardia infection than those in households with soil floors. However, these findings may be strongly confounded by household wealth. We propose a randomized trial in rural Bangladesh to measure whether installing concrete floors in households with soil floors reduces child enteric infection. We will randomize 800 eligible households with pregnant women and install concrete floors before index children are born. We will collect follow-up measurements when children are ages 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Our team is comprised of experts in environmental and infectious disease epidemiology, including Bangladeshi scientists. We have extensive experience implementing large-scale health intervention trials in Bangladesh and other low resource settings. Aim 1 is to determine the effect of household concrete floors on child enteric illness in households. The primary endpoint is Ascaris lumbricoides prevalence at any follow-up measurement. Secondary endpoints include prevalence of other soil-transmitted helminths, Giardia duodenalis and diarrhea. Aim 2 is to measure effects of household concrete floors on household fecal contamination over time. In a subset, we will detect molecular markers of enteric bacteria (N=200) and parasites (N=800) in floors, child hands, and sentinel toy samples. Aim 3 is to assess whether household concrete floors reduce child soil contact and ingestion. We will conduct video observations in a subsample (N=60) to estimate the frequency of child activities inside vs. outside the home each day. This trial will determine whether concrete floors reduce enteric infection, and further determine how concrete floors reduce enteric infection or if they do not, why. Our findings will provide rigorous, policy-relevant evidence about whether concrete flooring installation should be delivered as a public health intervention to reduce child enteric infection. More broadly, this study marks a paradigm shift in intervention design for improving child health by expanding its scope to include housing improvements. 

Genomic Resilience to Christmas Tree Pests

  • PI: Whitehill, Justin 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
  • Awarded Amount: $176,219.00 

Abstract: This project will be a collaboration between the Christmas Tree Genetics Program and the Molecular Tree Breeding Lab in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. Our goal is to accelerate the genetic improvement of Fraser fir against the important regulatory pest Elongate Hemlock Scale (EHS). Fraser fir is one of North Carolina’s most important specialty crops generating annual revenues exceeding $100 million. The development of novel genomic tools and technologies will have a positive, transformative impact on the North Carolina Christmas tree industry. Our project builds on resources developed by the NCSU Christmas Tree Genetics Program in collaboration with the NCDA and NC Christmas tree growers over the past 4+ decades. We propose four major objectives in this proposal: (1) evaluation of genetic variability in Fraser fir and select Abies spp. response to Elongate Hemlock Scale infestation; (2) histological evaluation of EHS feeding on Fraser fir and Abies spp. foliage; (3) biochemical and molecular response of Abies spp. to Elongate Hemlock Scale infestation; (4) development of molecular resources to identify defense characteristics of EHS resilient Abies genotypes; and (5) synthesis and dissemination of results to NC Christmas tree stakeholders. Subsequent to the funding period, these efforts will benefit the North Carolina Christmas tree community and contribute to the genetic conservation of native Fraser fir populations in the Appalachian Mountains. We expect project deliverables will help address key knowledge gaps of pest resilience in Fraser fir and push conventional conifer breeding strategies and integration with genomic information into a new era. 

Women-in-Fire Prescribed Fire Training Exchange

  • PI: Fawcett, Jennifer L
  • Direct Sponsor Name: The Nature Conservancy
  • Awarded Amount: $19,607.00 

Abstract: The Women-in-Fire Training Exchange (WTREX) is a two-week prescribed fire training that will take place in North Carolina in 2023. WTREX is dedicated to evolving the fire culture through the empowerment and advancement of women, as well as bringing awareness to the value of diversity in the workforce. With an inclusive approach that engages fire practitioners of all genders and backgrounds, the WTREX provides rare training opportunities, mentorship, awareness, and social connections. We propose to assist with the logistics and organization of this event. The PI, Jennifer Fawcett, has played a role on the Incident Management Team for this event since 2016, and is uniquely qualified to serve in this capacity.