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Welcome to the Kansas NSF EPSCoR (KNE) news and announcements blog. Stay up-to-date with all the happenings, discoveries, events and funding opportunities associated with KNE. Enter your email in the "Follow by email" box below and to the right to stay notified of new posts. Feel free to leave comments.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

KS-LSAMP Student Studies Interference Competition Among Biovar 1 Agrobacteria


Natalie Melendez-Velador
Presenting at the 2019 KS-LSAMP
 Research Immersion: Pathways to STEM Poster Session
     Animals and plants have always been of interest to Natalie Melendez-Velador, and being good in science helped to solidify her pursuit of a biology focus in her Bridges Program at Seward County Community College. This summer, Natalie participated in the 2019 Pathways to STEM: Kansas Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KS-LSAMP) program and was sponsored by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). KS-LSAMP is funded by the National Science Foundation and "promotes recruitment and retention programs throughout Kansas in support of increasing the success of underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The summer portion of KS-LSAMP is called Research Immersion: Pathways to STEM (RiPS) and is an 8-week summer research program that "aims to introduce students to the process of research and assist in their academic and professional success."
Dr. Thomas Platt and Natalie Melendez-Velador
with members of the Platt Lab Team
   Natalie worked with Dr. Thomas Platt, Synthesis Team Leader for the MAPS project and Assistant Professor of Biology at Kansas State University. She also worked with Ashlee Herken, a graduate student with the Platt Lab.  She titled her project, Interference Competition Among Biovar 1 Agrobacteria from Helianthus annuus Roots. According to Natalie, her summer research was very similar to the research she was already doing in her Bridges program. She specified the summer "research focused on methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus and multi-drug resistant bacteria.” Natalie explained her project as follows: “In this study, we aimed to determine whether a sample of biovar 1 agrobacteria produce bacteriocins inhibiting the growth of several pathogenic strains, including strains with whom they co-occur. This work has the potential to lead to the discovery of noval biocontrol agents for crown gall disease. Root samples of common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus, were collected from Konza Prairie. Isolates were grown on semi-selective media that supports the growth of biovar 1 agrobacteria but excludes the growth of most fungi and bacteria present in the microbial communities on plant roots. We used an inhibition assay to determine if agrobacterial isolates produce bacteriocins interfering with the growth of Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains C58, 15955, and K203. Each of these strains is pathogenic with C58 containing a nopaline-type Ti plasmid, 15955 containing an octopine-type Ti plasmid, and K203 being isolated from the same plant as some of the isolates being tested. Experiments are ongoing but preliminary results indicate that several of the environmental isolates inhibit the growth of C58 but not 15955 or K203. This strain-specific inhibition is consistent with prior work with pathogenic agrobacteria, however, we see no evidence for bacteriocin mediated interference competition among co-occurring strains. Future work will aim to determine the mechanisms mediating strain-specific C58 inhibition, including the possibility that inhibition depends on Ti plasmid encoded functions.” And she added, "the research focused on methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus and multi-drug resistant bacteria."
    The best part of the summer RiPS KS-LSAMP experience for Natalie was “getting to meet a wide variety of people who each have unique skill sets and experiences.” From this summer experience, Natalie added she “learned new scientific techniques, as well as, how to communicate with team members and diverse audiences about my research.” Natalie presented her research poster at the 2019 LSAMP Poster Session held at Kansas State University on July 24, 2019.
    Natalie is originally from Liberal, KS.  This fall, she will be a sophomore at Seward County Community College pursuing an Associate Degree in Biology. As for her future plans, she said “After getting my associate's degree, I plan to transfer to Kansas State University in the fall of 2020 and major in Biology. I also plan on continuing my research next summer with Dr. Platt.”

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the KS-LSAMP is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.



Monday, August 12, 2019

University of Kansas Distinguished Professor and MAPS Co-PI receive an NSF EPSCoR Track-2 FEC Award



Dr. A. Townsend Peterson and Dr. Folashade Agusto
University of Kansas 
     Dr. A. Townsend Peterson, University of Kansas (KU) Distinguished Professor with the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, along with Co-Principal Investigators Xiangming Xiao (University of Oklahoma), Folashade Agusto, Assistant Professor of EEB at KU, Sean Laverty (University of Central Oklahoma), and Susan Little (Oklahoma State) were awarded an NSF EPSCoR Track-2 FEC Award. Dr. Folashade Agusto is part of the Synthesis team of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS) project. The title of this Track-2 FEC project is Marshalling Diverse Big Data Streams to Understand Risk of Tick-Borne Diseases in the Great Plains. Peterson's team received  $1,964,628 with an official start date of August 1, 2019. The research team "will use ecological niche modeling and mathematical population modeling approaches to assess and predict transmission of the major tick-borne pathogens, and create and test the automated identification tools. The project will foster what can be termed 'big data literacy' via a series of workshops and courses, as well as online data resources."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

MAPS Student Wins Best Undergraduate Presentation at Society for Freshwater Scientists Conference



Abagael Pruitt presenting at
the Great Plains Limnology Conference
     Abagael Pruitt was always interested in studying water. However, after taking Biology 661: Ecology of Rivers and Lakes her sophomore year with Dr. Jim Thorpe, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas (KU) and Senior Scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey, she knew she really wanted to study water ecology. With this in mind, Abagael visited with Dr. Amy Burgin, the KU Aquatic Research Team Lead for the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS); an Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies; and an Associate Scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey, and decided to join the Burgin Lab. Abagael said she started a project with the lab team last August "to get a feel for lake-work, as I had previously only worked on streams." She added that she really enjoyed working on the lake project and "wanted to continue to do this type of research.”
     In October and November of 2018, Abagael presented her research findings during poster sessions at the 2018 Great Plains Limnology Conference and then at the 2018 Governor's Water Conference. The title of her poster was Spatial Variation of Organic Phosphorus Degrading Extracellular Enzymes in Milford Lake. This research led to the KU Environmental Studies Program awarding her the Ruben Zadiagan Scholarship to continue her research on Milford Lake. In conjunction with this scholarship, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) and collaborations with Emma Overstreet, Kynser Wahwahsuck, Dr. Burgin, and other members of the Burgin/Loecke lab, Abagael was able to continue her research. This additional research opportunity resulted in a presentation during the Environmental Studies Colloquium last May that she titled Spatial Variation in Water and Sediment Phosphorus chemistry in Milford Lake. Shortly after the colloquium, she developed another poster supported by the MAPS project that she co-authored with Janaye Hanschu, Emma Overstreet,  Dr. Terrance Loecke, Dr. Lydia Zeglin, Samantha Thomas, and Dr. Burgin titled Variation in Stream Chemistry Across the Kansas Precipitation Gradient. She presented this poster at the annual Society for Freshwater Scientists Conference, and she won the  Best Undergraduate Presentation award.
Abagael out in the field
On the left - Abagael pulling up the Eckman dredge, which is filled with sediment
On the right - Abagael taking sediment core for phosphatase activity
     Abagael explained her research projects as follows: “We wanted to understand how phosphorus is cycling in the lake, and how that relates to the harmful algal blooms that occur there almost every year. We asked: How do phosphorus and phosphatase activity vary spatially in Milford Lake? Are there differences between top and bottom waters? Are there differences between peak bloom (August) and post-bloom (October)? To answer, we took sediment and water samples from 30 sites around the lake, including sites from each of the three USGS-determined zones. We analyzed the water samples for Soluble Reactive Phosphorus concentrations, and the sediment samples were used to determine phosphate activity which would show how much phosphorus is being released back into the water column due to extracellular enzymes. We hypothesized that zone C would have the highest SRP concentrations, as well as the largest amount of extracellular enzyme activity in August, as that is where the harmful algal blooms generally occur. We found that Zone C did have the highest SRP concentrations in both surface and bottom waters in August. In October, Zone C still had the highest concentrations, but all zones were relatively similar with lower concentrations of SRP than in August. Phosphatase activity was much higher in August, with the highest amount of activity in zone A. We think this is because zone A is a lot deeper than zone C, resulting in greater sedimentation in that area. The shallow water in zone C allows for more mixing, causing less phosphatase activity. October phosphatase activity was significantly lower than in August, with all three zones similar in activity levels. In the future, we plan to look at the available forms of phosphorus in the sediment to better understand the differences in phosphatase activity across the lake."
     As for the MAPS research that won her the Best Undergraduate Presentation Award at the Society for Freshwater Scientists Conference, Abagael described it as follows: "We wanted to understand how stream chemistry changes across Kansas. So, we looked at changes in stream chemistry due to changes in land-use, precipitation, and stream order. This was only the first year of the project and there was a drought last summer, so the results are still preliminary. However, we found that stream order was the most consistent factor for explaining variation in stream chemistry across the state."
     A native of Ottawa Kansas, Abagael is a senior in the KU Honors Program working towards a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a minor in Economics. In addition to working in Dr. Burgin’s lab, Abagael is a trombone section rank leader in the Marching Jayhawks (band) and a member of the KU Men's Basketball Band. She also visits with incoming students to introduce and promote the KU Honors Program as an Honors Ambassador. And last year, she volunteered with Dr. Peggy Schultz’s MAPS outreach Kansas Ecology for Elementary Students (KEES) initiative and taught ecology and environmental science to 3rd-graders. She plans to volunteer for the KEES program again this fall. As for Abagael’s future plans, she said, “I have one more year of working in Dr. Amy Burgin's lab at KU. After that, I plan to go to graduate school to continue doing research, and one day, I'd like to work in academia.”

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for undergraduate student research is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Register for the Department of Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) Northeast Regional Meeting



   
    The Department of Defense is holding a Northeast regional meeting at the University of Rhode Island on September 26, 2019 from 8am to 5:00 to present funding opportunities through the recently reinstituted DoD Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) and related DoD research programs. Program managers from the research agencies and other DoD representatives will participate in the meeting.

The meeting will cover the following topics:

  • How to work with the DoD, especially ARO, ONR, AFOSR
  • How to make connections with DoD program officers
  • How to pursue funding opportunities specific to DEPSCoR
  • How to pursue other programs within the Basic Research Office
This is a free event presented by the Department of Defense and hosted by the University of Rhode Island.

If you would like to attend this meeting please REGISTER HERE.

You have the option to submit a quad chart with your meeting registration. Please submit your quad chart by August 26, 2019 so the DoD program officers may have time to review it.

There will be a poster review session during lunch, please see the website for details.

DoD is also hosting a DEPSCoR webinar on August 15th  to discuss the program and the posted funding opportunity announcement. 



Monday, July 29, 2019

MAPS REU and HERS students present posters at the 2019 University of Kansas Summer Undergraduate Research Poster Session

     On July 26, 2019, three undergraduate researchers from the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems (MAPS) Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates cohort at the University of Kansas (KU) and one Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Program student presented their summer research projects at the 2019 University of Kansas Summer Undergraduate Research Poster Session held at Ritchie Hall. Students presented their posters digitally during one of the 5 twenty-minute sessions.

The following is a list of student presenters, the title of their research and their mentors:




Adriana Caldwell

The Effects of Concentration, Location, and Land-Use History on Plants Success in Prairie Restoration

Mentored by Jim Bever & Ben Sikes, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Martin Pollack

Effectiveness of Disease Control Measures in a Pathosystem with Co-Infectionand Vector Preference 

Mentored by Folashade Agusto, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Amanda Rouillard

How Does Land Use Increase Coliform Bacteria Concentrations in Drinking Water Sources for the Santee Sioux Nation?

Mentored by Katrina McClure, Geography


Steven Winkler 

How Root Exudated Organic Acids change Soil pH and Affect Nutrient Availability, Across Different Land Use History

Mentored by Sharon Billings and Ligia Souza, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


     The poster session was the culminating event of their summer research experience. The specifics about each student and their project will appear in a blog article in the fall. 

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems



Monday, July 22, 2019

Kansas Science Teachers Explore the Konza Prairie with the KSU MAPS Team


Teachers conducting fieldwork
Pictures courtesy of  Tom Platt and Peggy Schultz

      The 2019 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute was held June 17-21, 2019 at the Konza Prairie Biological Station as part of the Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems (MAPS) across Kansas education and outreach initiatives. Ten high school science teachers from across the state were invited to attend. The teachers participated in activities related to aquatic, terrestrial and soil ecosystems. Kansas State University (KSU) MAPS faculty, staff, and graduate students led field experiments, facilitated group discussions, and guided lesson planning. The MAPS faculty leading the activities included Peggy Schultz, Director of the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute and Associate Specialist with the Environmental Studies Program at the Unversity of Kansas (KU); Walter Dodds, University Distinguished Professor of Biology at KSU and Co-PI of the MAPS project; Tom Platt, Assistant Professor of Biology and MAPS Plant Research Team Lead at KSU; and Lydia Zeglin, Assistant Professor of Biology and MAPS Aquatic Team Lead at KSU. Other KSU Biology Department facilitators included Teacher Assistant Professor Anna Larimer, Research Assistant Professor Mark Mayfield and graduate students Jaide Allenbrand and Ashlee Herken. Jill Haukos, Director of the Konza Environmental Education Program (KEEP) also led group discussions and outdoor activities.
     Each day began with a whole group aquatic, plant or soil activity which was followed by afternoon breakout sessions focusing on the teachers’ area of interest (aquatic, terrestrial, or soil systems). During the lunch hour, teachers participated in open discussions related to the current issues Kansas science teachers are facing.
Teachers conducting experiments
Pictures courtesy of Evan Brandt and Tom Platt
     When the participants were asked about their overall impression of the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute experience, one teacher said, "The summer institute gave me time to reflect on my curriculum and develop meaningful methods for helping my students grasp important ecological concepts." Another teacher added “I feel I'm walking away with great information to apply to my classroom, specifically, data related to the prairie. I know more about the prairie than I ever have, and I can share that with students. I will love creating a smaller version of a restored prairie on our school grounds, and getting my students to be active with researching what happens." When asked what was their favorite part or activity of the institute, one teacher shared, "There were so many great activities. It is hard to pick just one," and another indicated, "Listening to the professors and learning about their research and how it relates to the hands-on activities we participated in was the most valuable and will help us develop lessons for our kids." Collectively, the participants agreed the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute was a great learning experience that will have a positive impact on their teaching, and they would definitely recommend Kansas science teachers apply for next year's institute.

2019 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute Participants
Picture courtesy of Jill Haukos

Teachers attending the 2019 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute: 

  1. Eric Beckman, Russell HS
  2. Evan Brandt, Shawnee Mission North HS
  3. Brian Gahagan, Chanute HS  
  4. Ruth Hudson, Blue Valley HS
  5. Michelle Loeffler, Leavenworth HS  
  6. Jennifer Karr, Manhattan HS
  7. Chris Morrison, South HS  
  8. Walter Pitts, Onaga HS
  9. Pesha Ptacek, Southeast of Saline HS
  10. Anna Thornton, Eureka HS

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The grant's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.








Wednesday, July 17, 2019

New Funding Opportunity for EPSCoR States - DEPSCoR: Defense Established Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research




The Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) is a pilot program that aims to:

  1. Increase the number of researchers capable of performing Science and Engineering (S&E) research responsive to the needs of the Department of Defense (DoD); 
  2. Improve the capabilities of institutes of higher education (IHEs) in eligible EPSCoR states and territories to develop, plan, and execute science and engineering (S&E) research that is relevant to the mission of the DoD and competitive under the peer-review systems used for awarding Federal research assistance; and 
  3. Increase the probability of long-term growth in the competitively awarded financial assistance that IHE in eligible states/territories receive from the Federal Government for S&E research. The program is sponsored and managed by the Basic Research Office, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD [R&E]), awarded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and administered through the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Approximately $3.6 million in total funding will be made available for this program to fund approximately six (6) awards of up to $600,000 (total cost) each. Each award will be funded up to $200,000 (total cost) per year for three (3) years in the form of a grant. Subjected to funding availability. 

Eligibility

   This program aims to create basic research collaborations between a pair of researchers, namely:

  1. Applicant (Principal investigator, Mentee), a non-previously DoD-funded, full-time faculty member with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to conduct the proposed research as the principal investigator and 
  2. Collaborator (co-Principal Investigator, Mentor), an investigator who was previously funded by DoD within the last seven years. Though this is a collaboration between Applicant and Collaborator, Applicant’s Institution of Higher Education (IHE) will submit the proposal. 
  3. Applicant and Collaborator, both must hold a tenured or tenure-track position with your IHE, or your proposal must include a letter from your IHE stating that you will be considered for a tenured or tenure-track position if you currently hold a short- term appointment.

Application Criteria:

  • Proposed research should describe cutting-edge efforts on basic scientific problems. White papers deemed to be applied research, as opposed to basic research, will not advance to the proposal stage of the competition.
  • You should show strength in as many of the evaluation and selection areas as practicable to demonstrate maximum competitiveness

Registration and submission Deadlines:

  • Applicants must register with Sam.gov by no later than 11:59 PM EST on October 18, 2019
  • White Paper and Supporting Documents must be submitted by no later than 11:59 PM EST on October 25, 2019
For more information go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html/ and search for DEPSCoR


For General Inquiries and Questions, contact: 
Ms. Lisa Pizarro
Grants Officer
Email: Lisa.Pizarro.1@us.af.mil


The program objectives for DEPSCoR are described in the program statue:
  Pub. L. 115–91, div. A, title II, §219[e][3], Dec. 12, 2017, 131 Stat. 1331