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Research Awards and Grants (December 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 December 2023.

Eradication Analysis & Decision Support Tool

  • PI: Jones, Chris
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Awarded Amount: $148,559 
  • Abstract:  The purpose of this project is to develop the eRADS tool and the algorithms and workflow to help evaluate the feasibility of entering an eradication or containment program following a new pest incursion and to suggest effective and most optimal strategies on managing the new pest.

Simulating pest leakage and spatio-temporal propagule pressure to improve phytosanitary program design and evaluation us

  • PI: Jones, Chris
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Awarded Amount: $127,192
  • Abstract: We will use the PoPS Border simulation to estimate the amount of pests being during inspections at ports. Additionally, we will use the Freight Analysis Framework to determine which regions the pests will end up in and from there we will calculate the suitability for the pest to establish in that area.

A New Generation of Flexible Food Packaging from Agro-Based Fibers and Biopolymers

  • PI: Pal, Lokendra
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Wrigley Company (Mars, Inc)
  • Amount Awarded: $150,000
  • Abstract: Consumer demands for sustainability and recent changes in government policies and regulations, such as the ban on single-use plastic products, are forcing companies to consider new alternatives to plastic-based packaging. There has been tremendous growth in the development and production of paper and bio-coating technology. This project will focus on the development of alternative fiber-based packaging and barrier coatings to deliver high functionality while maintaining compostability and biodegradability profile.

Alternative Eradication Methods for the Asian Longhorned Beetle

  • PI: Oten, Kelly
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Awarded Amount: $68,735
  • Abstract: The Asian longhorned beetle is a non-native invasive insect that threatens North American forests. After its discovery in bottomland forests and swamps where traditional tree removal equipment cannot access, alternative methods of management are needed to manage this pest. Previous research at NC State suggests felling trees and leaving them provides a viable management approach; this funding will support research to validate that management in large-scale operational settings.

Scholarly Review Article on Biodegradability of Cellulose Fibers

  • PI: Hubbe, Martin
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Cotton, Inc.
  • Awarded Amount: $25,000
  • Abstract:   The goal of this project is to provide a definitive scholarly review article that will fill an important void in the literature.  Specifically, there is a need for a comprehensive review article focusing on the biodegradability of cellulose, with emphasis on seawater biodegradation and soil biodegradation.  The scope will have a primary focus on natural cellulose fibers, especially cotton.

Eco-Anxiety and Eco-Hope among Students in Environmental Science Courses

  • PI: Lupek, Megan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Amount Awarded: $39,458
  • 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, “Eco-anxiety, the mental distress caused by climate change and environmental degradation, has gained significant attention in recent years. It has emerged as a particularly prevalent issue among youth and young adults, who face an uncertain future due to environmental challenges. Campus communities, often characterized by a high level of environmental awareness and activism, are ideal settings to investigate the prevalence and manifestations of eco-anxiety among students, faculty, and staff. By studying eco-anxiety and eco-hope (feelings of hopefulness surrounding our environment future) on campus, we can gain valuable insights into the mental health implications and explore potential intervention strategies to support individuals experiencing such distress. 

This project will explore whether taking environmentally related courses increase or decrease feelings of mental distress related to climate change and environmental degradation. Specifically, we will implement changes to ES 100 601 to include the course” 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.

Hofmann Forest Water Farming Demonstration and Research Project

  • PI: Ardon Sayao, Marcelo
  • Direct Sponsor Name: North Carolina Land and Water Fund
  • Awarded Amount: $383,191
  • Abstract: We propose to construct and monitor a demonstration water farming system on 28.8 acres of active loblolly pine plantation at the Hofmann Forest. This area covers the headwaters of the New River. Hofmann Forest is located upstream of the city of Jacksonville, which has experienced flooding damage in recent years. Low berms (two feet in height) will be constructed around the perimeter of the pine plantation in order to provide temporary water storage after rainfall events. A flume with water level control will be constructed at the outlet of the plantation in order to facilitate the slow release of water after rainfall events. The outlet structure will allow for approximately one foot of ponding depth on the field after storm events. By holding the water on the land, this project will minimize peak discharges to downstream communities after rainfall events. Both the quantity and quality of water leaving the field through the flume will be monitored during multiple storm events. 

Camcore Tree Genetic Diversity

  • PI: Jetton, Robert
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $77,000
  • Abstract: “This agreement supports a cooperative project between North Carolina State University and the USDA Forest Service Southern Region for the genetic resource conservation of threatened and endangered tree species in the

Southern Region, on the Southern Appalachian forests. Genetic diversity studies are critical in understanding adaptation of imperiled tree species to climate change and forest health impacts. This agreement will allow NCSU and Camcore to identify and add new imperiled tree species to the list for new seed collections. Genetic diversity studies will be done on the species and seeds will be used in restoration efforts in the Southern National Forests.”

US-UK Collab: Long-Distance Dispersal and Disease Spread Under Increased Ecological Complexity

  • PI: Jones, Chris
  • Direct Sponsor Name: USDA – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
  • Awarded Amount: $244,933
  • Abstract: Epidemic invasions have substantial impacts on both ecosystem function and human welfare (1,16,31,67,91), and may become more frequent owing to globalization (116). Understanding the establishment and spread of such diseases can contribute significantly to identifying appropriate disease control strategies (35,96,115). Pathogens demonstrating long-distance dispersal (LDD) are of particular concern, owing to their potential to rapidly spread over large spatial scales. This includes pathogens with propagules that have the potential for long-distance transport through air, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) (60), West Nile Virus (90), avian influenza (62), white-nose syndrome of bats (4) and many diseases of plants (8), through water, such as Aspergillosis of coral (134), and perhaps also pathogens spread through human transport systems, such as influenza (66) and Ebola virus (40). Bird migration can result in fat-tailed, LDD dispersal patterns, with dispersal over hundreds or thousands of kilometers (95,130).

Safe Places to Play Mini-Pitch Evaluation

  • PI: Bunds, Kyle
  • Direct Sponsor Name: United States Soccer Foundation
  • Awarded Amount: $125,034
  • Abstract: In this response to the Safe Places to Play Mini-Pitch RFP, we highlight our approach to working with the U.S. Soccer Foundation in creating a comprehensive evaluation of usage and community impact. We do so by providing a scaffolded evaluation approach consisting of three levels of potential evaluation comprehensiveness and three different budgets. The approach is designed to build upon each phase whereby additional evaluation phases are complimentary and provide additional depth.

Shells to Sleeves (StS)

  • PI: Pal, Lokendra
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Wrigley Company (Mars, Inc)
  • Awarded Amount: $183,000
  • Abstract: This project aims to valorize agro-residues and industrial byproducts through mechanical and green chemical transformations into biobased biodegradable sleeves that will provide the desired protection for the fruit growth and slowly degrade during the harvest season. We will use shells and husks from various sources that will be pretreated and refined before processing. Various mechanical and mild chemical treatments will be used to synthesize the agro-fibers and biopolymers. The sleeve system will include microfibrillated cellulose derived from agro-fibers and functional additives and will be constructed using a solvent casting process followed by drying. Finally, the sleeves will be evaluated for air and water resistance, mechanical stability, composting, and UV stability in various simulated environments.

Quantifying the ephemeral: integrating satellite observations with physical models to map daily inundation and capture short-term methane emissions (Jenna Abrahamson)

  • PI: Gray, Josh
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)
  • Awarded Amount: $50,000
  • Abstract: Biogeochemical processes are strongly influenced by hydrology, particularly in low-lying coastal wetlands where drastic changes in inundated and hydrologically connected areas occur over short time scales. Wetlands are known to be hotspots of methane (CH4) emissions and were a primary driver in the sharp uptick in global CH4 emissions observed in 2020. Inundation acts as an a??on/off switch for CH4 production in wetland ecosystems. When soils are saturated, oxygen becomes limited and turns on the switch for methanogenesis to occur as organic matter decomposes and releases CH4 into the atmosphere. Small, often forested, wetlands (<1 hectare) account for a large portion of this type of CH4 production; however, the inability to map these small-scale inundation dynamics has led to discrepancies in total emission estimates. As sea levels rise and storm surge events increase in frequency and severity across the globe, coastal wetlands will be at the forefront of these climate change impacts. 

Inclusion Diversity Equity & Accessibility Success (Ideas) To Forestry & Renewable Energy Careers

  • PI: Nichols, Elizabeth
  • Direct Sponsor Name: USDA – National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
  • Awarded Amount: $247,500
  • Abstract: This project will leverage MCS scholarship funds with existing DEIA initiatives and programs in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University (NCSU) to improve access of historically underserved and under-representative undergraduates (HU3) to forestry and renewable energy careers and graduate education. There is a large gap between Women, Indigenous, Latino/Hispanic, and Black worker employment in the general workforce versus forestry and renewable energy (RE) workforces. Women, Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Indigenous worker employment is 48%, 13%, 17%, and <1% nationwide but only 19%, 4%, 19%, and 1% in forestry and 27%, 8%, 15%, and 2.3% in RE in NC. Forestry job growth is stable at 5% growth by 2030, but expected renewable energy job growth is 50% by 2029. NC estimates 28,000 new RE jobs by 2030.