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Research Awards and Grants (October 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 October 2023.

Chatham County: Demographic and Development Study

  • PI: Sanchez, Georgina
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Lee-Moore Capital Company
  • Awarded Amount: $72,500 
  • Abstract:  Chatham and its surrounding counties are on the brink of significant population growth, a result of multi-billion-dollar investments that have led to the establishment of numerous large manufacturing plants. To effectively prepare for this impending growth and provide data-driven insights for potential service providers and consumer-focused businesses, it’s imperative to precisely forecast population expansion and the corresponding development trends over the forthcoming decades.

    Accurate projections of population growth and associated development patterns are essential. The service industry’s readiness and the willingness of many large companies to invest hinge on having concrete evidence of the population they will be serving within a community. Simultaneously, planned growth must carefully consider the local suitability of sites for urban expansion, factoring in environmental, infrastructural, and socio-economic conditions. However, conventional “off the shelf” projections often fall short in capturing.


  • PI: Laleicke, Frederik
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Maynard Nexsen
  • Awarded Amount: $2,672 
  • Abstract:  Perform chemical analysis on panel samples supplied by the client. Tests include SEM, FTIR, and GC/MS.

Advancing the National Bioeconomy through Regional Sun Grant Centers

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Awarded Amount: $116,141 
  • 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.

Distribution, biology, and impact of elm zigzag sawfly in the eastern US

  • PI: Oten, Kelly
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $281,567 
  • Abstract:  The elm zigzag sawfly is the newest invasive forest pest to be detected in the eastern US. Previously detected in Canada in 2020, it was confirmed in Virginia in 2021 followed by Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and North Carolina in 2022. Native to Asia, this foliage-feeding insect feeds exclusively on the leaves of elm and has great potential to impact an already-threatened tree genus. Our work will directly inform pest surveys in the eastern US, establish a repository for elm zigzag sawfly survey/infestation data, and will increase pest natural history knowledge.

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

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds
  • Direct Sponsor Name: WestRock CP, LLC
  • Awarded Amount: $66,000 
  • 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.

Recreation Resources Service (RRS)

  • PI: Larson, Lincoln
  • Direct Sponsor Name: NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources
  • Awarded Amount: $66,000
  • Abstract:  The Recreation Resources Service (RRS) is established for the specific purpose of providing assistance to public and private segments of the leisure service industry within North Carolina. Clientele of the program include municipal and county park and recreation departments, nonprofit agencies, private recreation agencies, recreation consumer groups, and recreation and park board and commission members. RRS provides timely, cutting-edge technical assistance to improve community park and recreation opportunities, sponsors a variety of continuing education opportunities addressing current issues facing park and recreation professionals, conducts applied research studies, and assist communities with state and federal park and recreation grants.

Rio Grande Cooter Estimation of Survival and Changes in Abundance at Two Sites on the Black River, New Mexico

  • PI: Mali, Ivana
  • Direct Sponsor Name: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
  • Awarded Amount: $35,000
  • Abstract:  This project will fill critical information gaps in management decision making by quantifying population dynamics of Rio Grande Cooter (Pseudemys gorzugi). The aim of this project is to provide high-quality demographic information for use by management agencies and other interested parties. Specifically, the goal of proposed work is: 1) to compile the data from 7 years of Pseudemys gorzugi surveys on the Black River into one large dataset (metadata) and 2) Estimate survival and changes in abundance based on this data.

Comparing Markets and Management Options for Carbon in Hardwood and Planted Pine Forests in the United States

  • PI: Cook, Rachel
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $373,709
  • Abstract:  Leveraging forests as a tool for abating climate change is a key component of so-called nature-based climate solutions. To achieve gains in in-situ forest carbon storage and sequestration requires management actions which impose costs on forest managers. In this economic context, it is necessary to understand how such costs can be minimized while maximizing climate benefits on a site-specific basis, where management varies spatially. Most landowners currently are not incentivized to maximize climate benefits (in-situ and ex-situ) in their stand management choices, or even are aware of their options. Additionally, the intrinsic surface albedo of different types of land cover implies a direct climate effect for land cover decisions, which should be incorporated into the large-scale carbon picture. A spatially explicit model that can inform landowners of in-situ baseline and achievable productivity, and the long-term C storage potential of the forest products derived from their management decisions would allow… 

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

  • PI: Meentemeyer, Ross
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)
  • Awarded Amount: $124,920
  • 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.”