Skip to main content

Research Awards and Grants (April 2024)

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 April 2024.

Economic Contribution of Urban Forestry in California in 2019

  • PI: Parajuli, Rajan
  • Direct Sponsor Name: California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
  • Awarded Amount: $35,000 
  • Abstract:  This project will involve conducting an economic contribution analysis of the urban and community forest industries in CA and selected regions in CA.

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

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • Awarded Amount: $27,437 
  • 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.

Increasing Coordination and Capacity for Prescribed Burning Across the Southern Region

  • PI: Bardon, Robert
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Amount Awarded: $239,994 
  • Abstract: This proposal is a continuation and expansion of work conducted by North Carolina State University (NCSU) since 2012 in its role as a leading partner in the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS) Southern Prescribed Fire Initiative. NCSU Extension Forestry will continue to coordinate the SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Working Group and will implement activities to meet the goals of strategies such as the SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Strategy and the Range wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine in partnership with key stakeholders. These activities will increase prescribed burning capacity in the Southeast through coordination, education, and outreach. Adapting to current priorities identified by key partners, this proposal introduces pilot projects related to increased support of Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs) and historically underserved landowners.

LSU Superfund Research Center – Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals

  • PI: Richmond-Bryant, Jennifer
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Awarded Amount: $155,091 
  • Abstract: This study addresses questions related to human exposure to environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs), a recently discovered class of pollutant species found at Superfund sites and formed during certain thermal treatment processes. It is unclear how long EPFRs persist when compared with other components of particulate matter (PM), and this research will provide information about the extent and duration of exposures nearby thermal treatment processes. This research will also provide information about exposure to EPFRs in homes and how concentrations of EPFRs correlate with noise and other co-stressors.

Disease Resistant Exotic Fir Christmas Trees

  • PI: Whitehill, Justin
  • Direct Sponsor Name: North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
  • Awarded Amount: $79,718 
  • Abstract:  Funding to work to expand access to genetically improved and disease resistant fir species for the NC Christmas tree industry.

Changes in Exposures to PFAS, Metals, Dioxins, and Furans following Cessation of Open Burning of Munitions Wastes at a Hazardous Waste Thermal Treatment Facility

  • PI: Richmond-Bryant, Jennifer
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
  • Amount Awarded: $238,904 
  • Abstract: Several rural communities across the U.S. are burdened by hazardous explosive waste disposal sites, including many active and retired military bases on the National Priorities List. Colfax, LA (2021 pop. 2,010, 71% Black, 26% White, med. income $16,687) currently hosts the only commercially-operating open burn/open detonation (OBOD) hazardous waste thermal treatment (TT) facility in the nation and treats contaminated soils from Superfund sites, spent military munitions, and other explosives. Fine and ultrafine particulate matter (PM) is emitted during TT of Superfund hazardous wastes and military munitions. Colfax residents living immediately south of the TT facility solicited our assistance after enduring health impacts including chloracne, cancers, and thyroid, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases. 

Advancing the National Bioeconomy through Regional Sun Grant Centers

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Awarded Amount: $63,000 
  • 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.

Somatic Embryogenesis, Cryopreservation, and Plant Regeneration of Sugar Pine (Pinus Lambertiana)

  • PI: Whitehill, Justin
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
  • Awarded Amount: $383,712 
  • Abstract: Coniferous giants are some of the most majestic, yet vulnerable tree species on Earth. Long life cycles and slow generation times limit our ability to improve and deploy genetically elite trees across the landscape. The cascading impacts of accelerated climate change threaten existing elite genetic resources as forest fires become more frequent and intense. To ensure the long-term preservation of elite germplasm and facilitate the rapid deployment of genetically improved individual genotypes requires the development of novel tools that offer solutions to these new challenges. Here we propose to initiate somatic embryogenic (SE) cultures of elite sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) germplasm. SE is an alternative and synergistic approach used to preserve important coniferous genetic material. Ultimately, we plan to facilitate rapid deployment of improved conifers through clonal propagation of elite germplasm.

Deep Eutectic Solvent Pulping Technology to Reduce Carbon Emission in Pulp and Paper Industry

  • PI: Park, Sunkyu
  • Direct Sponsor Name: US Dept. of Energy (DOE) – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE)
  • Awarded Amount: $2,105,000 
  • Abstract: We propose to advance the high-kappa (high-lignin) softwood containerboard pulping process to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by replacing the traditional kraft process using a low-GHG emission Deep Eutectic Solvent (DES) pulping process. The process contains (1) low-severity DES solvent pulping, (2) low-energy pulp mechanical refining, (3) lignin recovery for aviation fuel production, and (4) solvent recovery by new anti-solvents, membrane ultrafiltration, and/or process steam with mechanical vapor recompression. By applying the DES system in pulping, we will reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating the recovery boiler and lime kiln, which are energy intensive processes in the current kraft process. DES will also produce lignin product, which can be converted to aviation fuel and biobased polymer for further CO2 reduction.

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

  • PI: Gonzalez, Ronalds
  • Direct Sponsor Name: CMPC Forestal (Chile)
  • 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.

Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program: Partnership through the University of Florida (previous title: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation National Educational Partnership for Conservation)

  • PI: Leggett, Zakiya
  • Direct Sponsor Name: Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
  • Awarded Amount: $55,614 
  • Abstract: Although gender diversity in the natural resources profession has increased dramatically in the past twenty-five years, the field continues to lack adequate racial and ethnic diversity. We believe that diversification of the conservation workforce is essential for the long-term success of conservation science in our country. Diversification will bring important ideas and perspectives to natural resources decision-making that are currently absent. Moreover, in an increasingly diverse society, disciplines that attract a narrow ethnic and racial slice of the population are unlikely to be adequately valued by society. Given our changing demographics and the environmental challenges we face, it is important to foster expertise in conservation science and exposure to the conservation ethic across the breadth of society. A key bottleneck in efforts to diversify the conservation science workforce is recruitment and graduation of undergraduates. 

Coordinating and Advancing Rangewide Longleaf Restoration

  • PI: Walker, Trevor
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Awarded Amount: $1,500,000 
  • Abstract: For longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) restoration to be successful, reliable and dependable sources of adapted seedlings are required. Given that 80% of longleaf restoration will occur on private lands, there will be a myriad of objectives for these plantations (e.g. wildlife habitat, timber production, carbon sequestration, aesthetics), and landowners need options for the seedlings they plant. The wide range of the restoration region also requires a diverse genetic pool for seedling adaptability, especially for cold- and drought-hardiness.  Regardless of their objectives, landowners have one chance to choose the appropriate genetics when establishing a longleaf plantation.
    Trees that have been established in range-wide genetic trials can be selected for a multitude of traits to produce progeny with desired attributes. There is a tremendous genetic resource available from the USDA Forest Service, cooperative tree improvement programs, state agencies, and forestry companies in the southern US. 

LSU Superfund Research Center – Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals

  • PI: Richmond-Bryant, Jennifer
  • Direct Sponsor Name: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Awarded Amount: $20,000 

Abstract: Data indicate a disproportionate COVID-19 impact on Black residents of Louisiana. As of April 26, 2020, the United States (U.S.) has more confirmed coronavirus cases per capita than any other country, and Louisiana has the third highest rates of COVID-19 cases and the second highest deaths per capita in the country. Of 1,644 reported Louisiana deaths to date, 56% are of Black race. Louisiana industrial corridor (IC), an area along the Mississippi River densely populated with petrochemical factories, is home to 44% of Black residents and 30% of residents living below the poverty line in the state. The IC is responsible for 64% of statewide TRI emissions for 2018. The IC includes the parishes of West and East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Ascension, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Jefferson, Orleans, and Plaquemines. Together, these parishes comprise 67% of Louisiana COVID-19 cases and 68% of Louisiana COVID-19 deaths.