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Grant Round-Up, Summer 2009
By Stephanie Doster | October 12, 2009
Every year, a number of UA faculty affiliated with the Institute of the Environment take on new, innovative projects aimed at improving knowledge about our climate and environment and advancing solutions to evolving environmental challenges. This year has been no exception; between June 1 and October 1 alone, faculty have launched a wide range of physical and social science research, from examining mosquito disease vectors in Arizona to using cave records to better understand drought in the Southwest to assessing how some cities are integrating climate science into water resource management. The following is a sampling of the type of projects faculty members are involved in with help from grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
National Science Foundation Grants
ETBC: Collaborative Research: Quantifying the Effects of Large-Scale Vegetation Change on Coupled Water, Carbon, and Nutrient Cycles: Beetle Kill in Western Montane Forests
Paul Brooks, Hydrology and Water Resources; UA graduates Dave Gochis (NCAR) and Elise Pendall (University of Wyoming); Brent Ewers (University of Washington); and Jeff Hicke (University of Idaho)
$362,483 (UA); total award: $900,000
The research team is quantifying how rapid, extensive changes in forest structure and composition associated with Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) infestation of western montane forests affect the coupling of water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles. MPB infestation and associated fungal pathogens radically change ecosystem structure by killing host trees, altering surface energy and water partitioning, reducing carbon uptake, and putting organic matter into soil on short and long time scales. The widespread extent of this disturbance presents a major challenge for governments and resource managers who must respond to the changes, yet lack a predictive understanding of how these systems will respond to the disturbance over various temporal and spatial scales.
P2C2: Hydroclimatic Variability in the Southwest United States: New High-Resolution Speleothem Records of Past Drought
Julia Cole, Geosciences
Funding is provided to help characterize patterns of Holocene drought using new cave records from the southwestern U.S. to better understand mechanisms of hydro-climatic variability in this arid region. The research is centered on the following science hypotheses: i) the North American monsoon intensified during the mid-Holocene due to higher local solar insolation; ii) regional hydro-climate undergoes substantial variability on multi-decadal to century time scales that are unrecognized in instrumental data and perhaps underrepresented by the comparatively shorter tree-ring reconstructions; iii) the past millennium experienced abrupt transitions among decadal/multi-decadal dry intervals; and iv) Southwest drought can be linked to large-scale ocean-atmosphere forcing from both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Early Career: Technician Support for the University of Arizona Center for Environmental Physics and Mineralogy
Craig Rasmussen and Marcel Schaap, Soil, Water and Environmental Science
This grant provides partial salary support for a laboratory technician for the University of Arizona Center for Environmental Physics and Mineralogy (CEPM) over a three year period. The (CEPM) houses analytical equipment for research in environmental physics, mineralogy, and soil science, to provide high quality physical and mineralogical characterization of Earth surface materials and other porous media. The technician will directly support the research of an early-career PI on soil hydraulic properties and the role of soil minerals in sequestering organic carbon and facilitate student training in modern analytical research methods for soils and mineral characterization.
Enhancing Interest in Water Resource Careers via Summer Field Experiences
James Washburne, Sustainability of Semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas, and Debra Colodner, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
This proposal seeks to couple the expertise of the Sustainability of Semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA) center and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) to address the issue of increasing the numbers of underrepresented high school students in summer environmental science camps or research experiences. These camps include the Arizona Rivers program, which seeks to develop student riparian monitoring skills and environmental stewardship, and Earth Camp, which provides hands-on environmental research experiences to help youth appreciate how science can be used beneficially.
RAPID: Evaluation of the Impact of Near-surface Turbulence on the Active Temperature, Ozone and Moisture Microwave Spectrometer (ATOMMS) Measurements
Emil Kursinski, Atmospheric Sciences
For more than ten years, Kursinski and his group have been developing an atmospheric remote sensing system called the Active Temperature, Ozone and Moisture Microwave Spectrometer (ATOMMS). ATOMMS combines the best features of the Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) and the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) techniques by actively probing via radio occultation (a subset of) the absorption lines that MLS observes via passive emission. The capabilities of ATOMMS will fulfill crucial needs for climate change monitoring, research and policymaking. This research focuses on several critical, near-term research objectives associated with the ATOMMS development.
MSI: The COsmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System (COSMOS)
Marek Zreda and William Shuttleworth, Hydrology and Water Resources; Xubin Zeng, Atmospheric Sciences; and Christopher Zweck, Hydrology and Water Resources
An interdisciplinary team of University of Arizona researchers is building a network of soil moisture probes to improve short-term and seasonal weather forecasting. The National Science Foundation has awarded the UA $5.45 million over four years to fund the project, known as the COsmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System, or COSMOS. Water in the soil exerts an important influence on the climate system, particularly regional precipitation. The project will measure low-energy neutrons produced when cosmic rays hit the soil. The neutrons are then emitted from the land. The number of neutrons in air above the soil surface is inversely related to soil moisture.
Collaborative Research: Growth of the Tibetan Plateau and Eastern Asia Climate: Clues to Understanding the Hydrological Cycle
J. Warren Beck, Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Laboratory
For 50 years, the Tibetan Plateau has been recognized as the largest topographic feature that perturbs atmospheric circulation. It serves as an ideal field laboratory for understanding the geodynamic processes that build high terrain. Accordingly, the growth of the plateau should have altered atmospheric circulation and therefore written an evolving paleoclimatic signature not only on eastern Asian regional climates, but on global climate as well. Despite many recent studies, we still do not know precisely when the Tibetan Plateau reached its current dimensions and how it perturbs atmospheric circulation. This project brings together geodynamicists, atmospheric scientists, and paleoclimatologists in a multidisciplinary study of the when and the how.
ATR-FTIR Spectroscopy of Electrochemical Catalytic Reactions in Aqueous Systems at Doped Diamond Film Electrodes
Glenn Schrader, College of Engineering, and James Farrell and Brian Chaplin, Chemical and Environmental Engineering
The objective of this research is to develop a new methodology for understanding the mechanisms of electro-catalytic conversions of highly functionalized organic compounds in aqueous phase systems. To that end, a powerful in situ technique, attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy, will be integrated into the design of an innovative "spectro-electrochemical cell". This device will be used to study solution/electrode interfaces systematically (e.g., as a function of electrode potential, solution pH, and surface functionality).
ULTRA-Ex: Ecological Hazards in Southwestern Metropolises: The Case of Mosquito Disease Vectors
Paul Robbins, John Paul Jones, Andrew Comrie, and Willem van Leeuwen, all of the Geography and Development; Elizabeth Willott, Entomology
This project will apply both social and physical sciences to examine mosquito disease vectors in southwestern cities. Uniting entomology, land cover analysis, climate/insect modeling, and institutional ethnography, this project will examine the relationship between institutions and insects in the burgeoning greater-Arizona metropolises stretching from Phoenix and Casa Grande to Marana, Tucson, and Green Valley, an area encompassing a total human population of 5.3 million. The results will advance knowledge by determining the gaps and overlaps of current human knowledge, management, and political territory with projected environmental changes and insect distributions. This will enable tests of basic theories that predict the match and mismatch of state and public knowledge in the complex ecological-mosquito system. This is an NSF-USDA grant.
CZO: Transformative Behavior of Water, Energy and Carbon in the Critical Zone: An Observatory to Quantify Linkages among Ecohydrology, Biogeochemistry, and Landscape Evolution
Jon Chorover, Soil, Water and Environmental Science; Paul Brooks, Hydrology and Water Resources; Jon Pelletier, Geosciences; Craig Rasmussen, Soil, Water and Environmental Science; and Peter Troch, Hydrology and Water Resources
We are developing an interdisciplinary observatory in the southwestern US that will improve our fundamental understanding of the function, structure, and co-evolution of biota, soils, and landforms that comprise the Critical Zone (CZ). The zone from the treetops to the bottom of the groundwater table has been dubbed the "Critical Zone" because of its key role in processing and cycling water, carbon and nutrients necessary for life. The observatory is designed as a natural laboratory for the earth science community to test hypotheses related to CZ function in relation to climate and water cycle variation. We posit that CZ systems organize and evolve in response to open system fluxes of energy and mass that can be quantified from point to watershed scales.
Quantitative paleorainfall reconstruction from the Chinese Loess Plateau using 10Be and magnetic susceptibility
J. Warren Beck, Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Laboratory; Li Cheng, Physics
This grant improves our understanding of the hydrologic variability associated with the Asian Monsoon system in response to precessional forcing. The work generates quantitative paleorainfall reconstructions from sediments collected from the Chinese Loess Plateau region using new methods. These records provide a quantitative measure of the strength of the Asian Monsoon in a form that can be used by climate models (e.g. rainfall in mm/yr).
Development of Efficient X-Ray CT Image Segmentation Techniques for Quantitative Analysis of Phase Distributions and Flow Processes in Porous Media
Markus Tuller, Marcel Schaap, and Pavel Iassonov, Soil, Water and Environmental Science
Nondestructive imaging methods such as X-Ray Computed Tomography (CT) yield high-resolution 3-D representations of pore space and fluid distribution within porous materials. Steadily increasing computational capabilities and easier access to industrial and synchrotron X Ray CT facilities have contributed to a recent surge in microporous media research with objectives ranging from theoretical aspects of fluid and interfacial dynamics at the pore-scale to practical applications such as (D)NAPL transport and dissolution. In recent years, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to improve CT technology, micro-scale analysis, and fluid dynamics simulations. However, the development of adequate image segmentation methods for conversion of grayscale CT volumes into a discrete form that permits quantitative characterization of pore space features and subsequent modeling of liquid distribution and flow processes is lacking far behind.
Collaborative Research: Impacts of urbanization on nitrogen biogeochemistry in xeric ecosystems
Kathleen Lohse, Natural Resources and the Environment; Paul Brooks and Thomas Meixner, Hydrology and Water Resources
Urbanization dramatically modifies the movement and transformations of nitrogen (N) compounds in semiarid ecosystems. In particular, nitrate contamination of drinking water is a growing concern in urban areas, especially in arid and semiarid environments, where urban runoff is actively managed to recharge groundwater and augment water supplies. Water managers and urban planners, however, lack information on what ecosystem characteristics are most important in controlling the quality of this recharged water, especially its nitrate concentrations. This research will quantify how sources, transport, and fate of nitrate in storm runoff vary with the density and type of urban land use in Tucson and Phoenix (CAP LTER), Arizona watersheds.
Upgrades to the NSF Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory
A. J. Timothy Jull, J. Warren Beck, and George Burr, Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Laboratory
NSF support for equipment upgrades and components form an integral part of continuing the vital role of the Arizona AMS Laboratory and maintaining our equipment at modern standards. The facility's two machines are in need of vacuum equipment and computer upgrades to bring them up to modern equipment standards. These upgrades to the Arizona AMS Laboratory will allow us to improve these AMS facilities to 21st century conditions. This will facilitate our service role for NSF-sponsored research projects. Scientists at the Arizona AMS Laboratory contribute to many fields of research on radiocarbon dating and studies of other radionuclides. These upgrades will improve the operational conditions of the AMS machines at Arizona and allow us to continue our research with less down-time due to equipment problems and failures. The laboratory will also be in a better position to provide service to NSF researchers using our facility.
P2C2: Late Holocene Hydroclimate Variability in the Great Basin, and Its Causes
Malcolm Hughes and Matthew Salzer, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, and Nicholas Graham
Funding is provided to reconstruct past hydroclimatic variables (precipitation, soil moisture, streamflow) in the Great Basin region over the past 5,000 years using long tree-ring chronologies. The aim of the research is to place the modern instrumental record in a longer-term context. Previous research by the group shows that dry conditions in the Great Basin of the western United States between circa AD 500 and 1350 partly resulted from tropically forced changes in winter Northern Hemisphere circulation like those associated with modern La Niña episodes. The broader impacts involve the promise of greater understanding of Great Basin hydrology and development of unique high-resolution records of climate from tree-rings.
CAUGHT: Central Andean Uplift and the Geodynamics of High Topography
Susan Beck, George Zandt, Jay Quade, and Mihai Ducea, Geosciences
This is an ambitious project that has the potential to fill in important gaps in the overall picture of orogenesis in the central Andes, and of convergent-margin tectonism in general. The project is constructed around a well defined basic-science question, did the Andes rise in a rapid pulse, or did they rise gradually? Producing elevations and crustal thicknesses of the magnitude found in this study area remains a key problem in continental tectonics.
Arizona-Israel-Palestine Water Management and Policy Workshop: Economic, Environmental, and Community Implications of Expanding Reuse and Desalination for Future Water Supplies
Sharon Megdal, Water Resources Research Center, and Robert Varady, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy
Provision and management of water are increasingly critical issues in arid and semiarid lands like Arizona, Israel, and Palestine. Water reuse and desalination comprise significant elements of each region’s strategy for assuring future water supplies in the face of climate change and persistent drought. The workshop assembles the broad, interdisciplinary expertise necessary to meet the complex challenges of water management faced by each region.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Grants
Assessing how Denver, Seattle, and Tucson are integrating climate science into water resource management
Jennifer Rice, Geography and Development
As water managers plan for future population growth and limited resources in the western US, many municipalities have become motivated to investigate the effects of climate variability, and increasingly, climate change on water resources. The translation of science for decision making requires that climate scientists, resource managers, and decision makers are effectively working together to connect scientific information to planning in urban water management. This project will evaluate engagements of climate science and water management in three western cities (Denver, CO, Seattle, WA, and Tucson, AZ) to build a body of knowledge that can be used to tune ongoing work and provide a solid basis for new science-to-action programs.
US Department of Agriculture Grants
A Novel Approach to Quantifying Soil Evaporation Rates with High Resolution Thermal Imaging and Heat Flux Measurements
Markus Tuller, Soil, Water & Environmental Science, and Scott B. Jones
Evaporation is a key process for water exchange between the soil and the atmosphere and therefore an extremely important component of the water balance. Better predictive capabilities for evaporation rates and development of advanced management strategies aimed at reducing evaporative water loss from urban and agricultural areas are crucial for conservation of scarce water resources in arid environments. Prediction of evaporation rates from soils remains a great challenge. The evaporation rate is affected by both atmospheric demand and by soil pore space and transport properties. This leads to complex and highly dynamic interactions between soil properties, transport processes, and atmospheric conditions. The goals of the proposed project are to advance and apply two novel techniques, High-Resolution Thermal Imaging and Penta-Needle Heat Pulse technology for quantification of soil evaporation. Based on the gained data we will develop predictive evaporation models for the pedon and field scales. These models will allow development of advanced management strategies for reducing evaporation from urban, agricultural, and natural landscapes and ultimately help to conserve precious water resources in arid environments.
Creation of an eXtension Community of Practice for Forest Climate Change
From the UA: Tom DeGomez (PI), UA Cooperative Extension, and Chris Jones, UA Cooperative Extension; Michael Crimmins, Soil, Water and Environmental Science and UA Cooperative Extension specialist; Gregg Garfin, Institute of the Environment; and Edward Martin, UA Cooperative Extension.
The Forest Climate Change eXtension Community of Practice (CoP) mission is to: 1) assess the current state of climate change knowledge and research for forests and their management in the U.S.; 2) assist with the complex dissemination of forest climate change research results and practical applications; 3) create and maintain the primary system that will continuously track new advancements and information (the CoP eXtension site); and 4) support the needs of individuals as well as local, state, regional and national resource planning professionals; and 5) continuously improve the CoP. All of these will help our nation meet demands placed on forests while maintaining or improving the sustainability of our forest resource in light of changing climate.
National Conference on Extension, Forests and Climate Change
Chris Jones (PI) and Tom DeGomez (co-PI), UA Cooperative Extension; Michael Crimmins, Soil, Water and Environmental Science and UA Cooperative Extension specialist; Gregg Garfin, Institute of the Environment; and George Frisvold, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
This project involves planning, conducting, and evaluating a National Conference on
Extension, Forests and Climate Change. The purposes of the conference include: 1) transfer of technology and new science findings to natural resource professionals and land managers; 2) providing professional development, continuing education and in-service training; and 3) providing a forum for natural resources professionals and land managers to convey their research needs to the science community and create opportunities for partnerships between extension educators, practitioners and scientists. It will be planned in concert with the creation of the new Forests and Climate Change eXtension Community of Practice (CoP) and will complement and help to expand participation in the CoP. The underlying long-term goal of the conference effort is to build and establish Cooperative Extension leadership in forest and climate change programming.