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Research Awards and Grants (July 2023)

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 July 2023.

Embracing Ways to Engage Research in the Walnut Creek Watershed

  • PI: Allen, Angela Malelya
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NCSU Sea Grant Program
  • Awarded Amount: $8,300.00 
  • Abstract: This project aims to increase public and student understanding of how aquatic ecosystem health and human health relate and facilitate the expansion of community monitoring. The goals of the project align with WRRI, Sea Grant and KIETS strategic plans by 1) increasing student and community volunteer, hands-on research opportunities, 2) expanding collaborations to answer important public health questions, and 3) providing communities with research-based information to assist them with identifying and planning for existing public health hazards. The project is in an underserved community in southeast Raleigh and the project team has come together to collaborate with community members to address the concern they raised regarding the pollution in Little Rock Creek.

Improving Compliance with Boating Regulations and Associated Public Safety in North Carolina

  • PI: Peterson, Nils 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Wildlife Resources Commission
  • Awarded Amount: $113,944.00 
  • Abstract: We propose a collaborative project with two broad goals: (1) using extant data to determine practices, programs, contexts, and legal structures that promote compliance with wildlife laws and regulations with spillover impacts on public safety, and (2) developing interventions to improve compliance with conservation and safety laws.

GUIDE-BEST: (Antarctica): Growing Understanding of Individual Drivers of Expectations and Behaviors to Enhance Sustainable Tourism in Antarctica: PT Repair

  • PI: Leung, Yu-Fai 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: The Dutch Research Council (NWO)
  • Awarded Amount: $ 48,637.00 
  • Abstract: Tour operators often market a visit to the Antarctic as an experience that creates ambassadors of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) emphasizes that visitors returning from the region often make changes in their lives by the mere experience of awe and respect when encountering surreal Antarctic landscapes, flora, and fauna in combination with the educational program offered to the tourists. From a conceptual perspective, IAATO narrative appears to summarize behavioral shifts in visitors towards more pro-environmental values, attitudes, and behaviors. Addressing the overarching question of how pro-environmental behaviors of Antarctic visitors can be facilitated, and negative environmental impacts can be reduced, GUIDE-BEST will result in a better understanding of the drivers of expectations and changes in visitors and guides attitudes and behaviors through their Antarctic experiences during and after visits, while contextualizing these experiences against the modii-operandi and development of the Antarctic tourism sector. Tourist guides play a key but understudied role in protecting Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems through visitor education, the communication strategies they adopt, how they relate to the tourists and the environment, and their own pro-environmental behavior. GUIDE-BEST aims to understand the complex interactions between spatial expansion, trip characteristics, intensification, and diversification of tourism operations as well as how these affect visitor experience and, ultimately, tourist behavior. Such an in-depth exploration of tourist behavior will then lend itself to improving our understanding of the role and nuanced meaning of Antarctic ambassadorship. Finally, our research explicitly entails the development of recommendations and tools for Antarctic tourism management and regulation. The knowledge gained from the project will be used to develop and test strategies to reduce negative environmental impacts in situ and strengthen positive behavioral change in the Antarctic and beyond.

North Carolina Military Affairs Commission 2023-26 NCSU Project

  • PI: Bardon, Robert E.
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
  • Awarded Amount: $ 40,000.00 
  • Abstract: This proposal for $40,000 is continued funding toward ongoing program development of the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape (ENCSL) Partnership and activities within the ENCSL Partnership. The effort of this request assembles existing work performed by NC State University under the project: Coordination of the Sentinel Partnership (North Carolina Military Affairs Commission 2018-19 NCSU Project (NCDA 19-036-4002).

Iterative Improvement of a Program for Building Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accessible Large-scale (IDEAL) Participatory Science Projects

  • PI: Cooper, Caren Beth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Awarded Amount: $ 1,123,487.00 
  • Abstract: The goal of our Integrating Research and Practice proposal is to broaden engagement in informal learning in the context of large-scale participatory science projects to include identity groups historically excluded and underrepresented in STEM and informal STEM. Forms of participatory science that are remarkably successful at engaging hundreds of thousands of participants in informal learning environments face a diversity crisis. The overwhelming majority of participants in these types of projects, typically referred to as citizen science, are White, highly educated, and wealthy. Our aim is to provide project leadership teams (practitioners) with the knowledge, awareness, and resources to modify their projects with practices that support inclusion, equity, and accessibility. Our plan builds on products produced with prior NSF-AISL funding of the Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accessible, Large-scale (IDEAL) Participatory Science working group. We will beta-test the IDEAL Guide, tutorial, and workshops through an iterative cycle: a) provide professional development to project leadership teams, b) provide mini-grants for projects to implement IDEAL practices, c) support a community of practice model, d) assess the outcomes of practitioner training and their uptake of IDEAL practices, e) assess impacts on participant diversity and learning,  and f) update the IDEAL Guide. Pilot-testing will begin with two projects that have hierarchical governance models: Audubon Christmas Bird Count and iNaturalist City Nature Challenge, and then extend further with an open call. Mini grants will cover activities such as adding diverse representation to project governance, adjusting project designs to center at the margins, and building reciprocity into project outcomes. Our assessments will focus on practitioner learning and subsequent behaviors to change projects and will focus on participant learning, particularly science identity and belonging. 

Genome Editing for Superior Fiber Feedstocks, SAFI Consortium Enhancement Project

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds Wilfredo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: TreeCo
  • Awarded Amount: $ 841,870.00 
  • 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.

Membership in Consortium on Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI), Full Member

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds Wilfredo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Cascades Inc.
  • Awarded Amount: $126,000.00 
  • 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.

Effects Of Household Concrete Floors on Child Health

  • PI: Ercumen, Ayse  
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Stanford University
  • Awarded Amount: $57,106.00 
  • 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 duodenales and diarrhea. Aim 2 is to measure the 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. 

U-SAFEST: Utilization of Space-based Alternative Feedstock through Engineered Strains

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu 
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Washington University – St Louis
  • Awarded Amount: $10,014.00 
  • Abstract: The ultimate goal of this project is to lay the groundwork for manufacturing beyond Earth using in situ resources. To this end, we plan to evaluate Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae as well as a cyanobacterium Synchronous elongatus 2973 (S2973) and a heterotrophic bacterium Rhod coccus sp. RPET as additional hosts for their abilities to use three alternative feedstocks (AFs): carbon dioxide/sunlight, plastic waste, and Martian regolith.