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.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Benedictine College student studies the impacts of fire severity on fungi

Hannah Dea
     When Hannah Dea took a Mycology course at Benedictine College, taught by Dr. Janet Paper, she became “fascinated by the enormous role that fungi play in the life and health of plants.” She especially enjoyed learning about mycorrhizal fungi, the fungi that form a mutualist relationship with the root systems of plants as well as provide plants with nutrients. Because of this course, she wanted to continue researching ecological topics, so she found and decided to apply to the 2018 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) summer research experience for undergraduates (REU) at the University of Kansas (KU).
     Upon her acceptance into the EEB REU program, Hannah chose a fungi research project that paired her with Dr. Benjamin Sikes, Assistant Professor of EEB at KU, Assistant Scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey, and Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas plant systems research team member. She titled her project Fire severity effects on ectomycorrhizal colonization of Longleaf pine and Loblolly pine. Hannah explained her research project as follows:
Hannah analyzing ectos roots
“My project looked at how fire severity affects the relationship between microbial communities and soil nutrients and how this in turn affects a fire tolerant and a non-fire tolerant species of pine. I wanted to find out whether a more severe fire, which would kill off the microbial communities and release nutrients from the soil, would make the soil conditions more favorable to the fire tolerant Longleaf pine or to the non-fire tolerant Loblolly pine. My hypothesis was that, since fire tolerant species are more accustomed to fire affected soils, the fire tolerant species would be benefited by increasing fire severity while non-fire tolerant species would not. To test this, after both species were grown in high, medium, and low severity fire soil for 3 months, I took the percent colonization of ectomycorrhizae (a fungal mutualist on the plant roots essential for nutrient uptake) on both species of pine as well as the biomass of each plant. I found that while the biomass of the two species did not differ, the Longleaf pine had a much more efficient relationship with the ectomycorrhizae than the Loblolly pine. This showed that the fire tolerant species had a bit of an advantage over the non-fire tolerant species."
     When she was asked what the best part of her summer research experience was, she replied “My favorite part of the experience was living in a research community that allowed me to focus on sharpening my research skills. There were so many resources at KU that allowed me to do science without hindrance from lack of help or resources. I love plant and fungal ecology, and this allowed me to dive into it for a whole summer!” She added that the experience taught her how to conduct research, create good questions, make predictions, collect and analyze data and to communicate science “in a way that even non-scientists would understand.”
     Hannah is from Templeton, Iowa and is majoring in Biology with a minor in Latin at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. She is a student leader involved with Campus Ministries, and she assists with organizing and setting up masses on campus. Hannah has also been an officer in the Biology Club and is currently a Latin tutor for the college. Participating in this EEB REU reaffirmed her desire to pursue a career as a conservation biologist, an educator, and/or a naturalist. She plans to earn her masters degree in ecology after graduation. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Kansas NSF EPSCoR Announces the MAPS REI Award Recipients

     The Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 Microbiomes of Plant, Aquatic and Soil Systems across Kansas(MAPS) has awarded four Research and Education Innovation (REI) Awards for 2019-2020. REI Awards are specifically for small projects that will either allow for networking and planning or allow for the immediate pursuit of larger projects that are developing new transformational concepts. Faculty from the University of Kansas (KU), Kansas State University (KSU), Wichita State University (WSU), Fort Hayes State University (FHSU) and Washburn University (Washburn) are all encouraged to submit proposals. This funding is awarded to both research and education projects, given their close relationship, and selections are made in the same spirit as and share goals with NSF EAGER (Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research) awards for high risk/high gain research ideas. This year, the MAPS REI selection committee chose four REI proposals to fund. Project summaries and the broader impacts of the investigations provided by the investigators of the awarded projects are included below.
Dr. Ted Harris and Dr. Jerry DeNoyelles

Are persistent organic pollutants altering microbial methane emissions?

Dr. Ted Harris, Assistant Research Professor, Kansas Biological Survey, KU and
Dr. Jerry DeNoyelles, Deputy Director and Senior Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, KU

Project Summary:
     Freshwater systems are significant sources of methane and carbon dioxide, which exacerbate the effects of climate change. The established paradigm that microbial methanogenesis occurs exclusively in anoxic hypolimnetic waters has been challenged by studies showing that oxic methanogensis also represents a substantial source of methane (i.e., causing oversaturation in oxygenated surface waters – termed the “methane paradox”). Recent research has shown that microbes and cyanobacteria are able to cleave phosphonate compounds and create methane as a by-product to overcome phosphorus (P)-limitation. However, other direct or indirect methanogensis pathways – especially those in nitrogen (N) limited systems- are yet to be elucidated. Global estimates of freshwater methane emissions vary widely because differences in nutrient stoichiometry, phytoplankton community composition, and persistent organic pollutants
(POPs) - all of which likely mediate oxic methanogenesis- are not accounted for. The goal of this proposal is to experimentally test how (i) nutrient stoichiometry and (ii) glyphosate, a persistent organic pollutant containing phosphonate, mediate the microbial and phytoplankton community, which in turn likely alter methanogenesis and methane emissions from freshwaters systems. Resolving the methane paradox requires elucidating mechanisms and understanding relations between relevant parameters controlling oxic methanogenesis. This proposal tests recently discovered (methanogenesis by phosphonate cleavage in P-limited systems) and hypothetical interactions between nutrient stoichiometry, POPs, phytoplankton community composition/ cyanobacterial blooms, and global greenhouse gas emissions. Glyphosate is widely used and contains phosphonate, and could be indirectly altering global freshwater methane emissions. Thus, experimental results will likely yield a significant step forward in understanding the mechanisms and controlling factors of oxic methanogenesis in (i) N- and P-limited systems and (ii) when anthropogenically-created phosphonates are present in aquatic systems.

Boarder Impacts:
     The proposal is aligned with the philosophy and goals of the Advanced Placement (AP) Biology class at Baldwin City High School (20 miles south of the University of Kansas). Thus, we propose to conduct the experiment with the 2019-2020 AP Biology class; students will conduct the experiment with the help of the PIs and international collaborators while learning experimental design and analyses that directly connect with (i) their curriculum and (ii) relevant state-wide (e.g., eutrophication, harmful algal blooms) and global (e.g., climate change) issues. Because the experimental design and sampling methods are simple and structured in basic science, this proposal will serve as vehicle for exploratory research on oxic methane production and an outreach template to engage high school students via authentic experimental mesocosm research. Future funding requests will seek to expand mesocosm experiments to high schools across Kansas, and likely experimentally test other factors that may alter greenhouse gas emissions from freshwater systems.

Dr. James Bever, Dr. Folashade Agusto, KU and
Dr. Thomas Platt, KSU
Synergism between plant symbionts on productivity: Development of a mechanistic and predictive model of microbiome benefits to their plant hosts

Dr. James Bever, Foundation Professor in Ecology adn Evlolutionary Biology, KU;
Dr. Folashade Benette Agusto,  Assistant Professor Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, KU;
Dr. Thomas Platt, Assistant Professor of Biology, KSU.

Project Summary
     Microbial symbionts can dramatically alter their host’s phenotype and manipulation of these components of the microbiome may facilitate management goals such as maximization of productivity. Realization of the promise of microbiomes requires better understanding of the dynamics of complex microbial communities. Plants, in particular, interact with multiple symbionts, which govern acquisition of essential resources. Symbionts that deliver complimentary resources, such as mycorrhizal fungi delivering phosphorus and rhizobia fixing nitrogen, may act synergistically in their benefit to their host’s growth. While empirical evidence of synergistic benefits of mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobia exists, these benefits are often not realized. We propose to develop and test a mechanistic model of plant-symbiont interactions that is capable of predicting the environmental and plant life history circumstances in which synergistic benefits of complimentary symbionts will occur. We do this through extension of models initially developed as part of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (hereafter, MAPS) graduate course and through isolation of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and rhizobia from the core terrestrial sites of the MAPS sampling campaign. Together, this work will create conceptual and microbial resources that complement the MAPS objectives of determining microbiomem influences on terrestrial productivity and developing theory that synthesizes experimental and field observations. This work would also enable the development of more comprehensive proposals that could compete for federal grants from the NSF and USDA.

Broader Impacts
     The proposed project will provide training in mathematical ecology for one graduate student. This student, Rebekah Wagner, will be primarily advised by co-PI Fola Agusto, and with funding of this project, Rebekah will receive additional mentorship by all project co-PIs through the multi-disciplinary and collaborative nature of the proposed research. In addition, the rhizobia and AMF collections produced by this work will be available to 2019 Ecosystems of Kansas Summer Institute (EKSI), a component of the EPSCoR MAPS Outreach programs that focuses on researchers working with high school teachers to develop inquiry-based curricula for use in the teachers’ classrooms. We have strong reason to believe that these resources will be popular with Kansas’ teachers because PI Bever participated in EKSI in summer of 2018 and has arranged experiments with six teachers to use his AMF cultures for inoculation experiments with their students. Co-PI Tom Platt will be participating in the EKSI during summer 2019.

Dr. Benjamin Sikes and Dr. James Bever

Life on the edge: using landscape edges to evaluate the spread and function of microbiomes

Dr. Benjamin SikesAssistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Assistant Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey, KU
Dr. James Bever, Foundation Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Senior Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey, KU

Project Summary
     Current land use practices degrade the terrestrial ecosystem services upon which food production and human well-being rely. Plant productivity, carbon sequestration, and soil nutrient retention can all be mediated by microbiomes, an awareness that has motivated the core MAPS (Microbiome of Aquatic, Plants and Soil) program. The MAPS project explores how land use and water availability structure microbiome composition and functions across terrestrial/aquatic interfaces, yet it does not directly test the utility of native microbiomes for restoring and promoting healthy ecosystems. Using microbiomes to achieve these goals in anthropogenically disturbed landscapes requires knowledge on the potential of native microbiomes to persist and spread in these landscapes. This research explores how microbiomes of undisturbed grasslands are able to establish and spread into adjacent human altered systems, and the functional consequence of these interactions. We propose to investigate the dynamics of microbiome structure and function along different edge types between intact prairies and distinct land use types. Our planned experiments examine 1) if different microbiome components (bacteria, fungi, & mycorrhizal fungi) exhibit different distance decay patterns moving away from edges, 2) if microbiota dynamics at the edge relate to soil properties and/or plant communities differences between adjacent systems, and 3) if microbiome changes are realized in two key ecosystem functions: carbon sequestration and phytometer (test plant) productivity. Unraveling the spread of microbes at ecosystem edges and their functional consequences is critical to understand whether land use creates discrete terrestrial microbiomes and functions, or if edges are dynamic, with functions that are distinct from the adjacent systems. Land use history has strong, but differential effects on microbiome components and their functions. Edges of parcels where different land uses meet offer adjacent novel environments into which specific microbes might spread and utilize. The dynamics of microbes at that edge may then alter critical ecosystem functions that can enhance adjacent systems. This research will determine if microbial spread across edges is governed by the growth and dispersal strategies of individual microbial groups, the edaphic and biological environment of the adjacent system, or both. As importantly, we assess whether the ecosystem functions that microbes mediate shift at edges, and whether functional shifts scale with the similarity of microbes, soil properties, or plants of the adjacent systems. The proposed approach integrates field experiments, next generation sequencing, and controlled greenhouse experiments, all of which are necessary to determine which microbes spread across edges, what governs their movement, and the importance of microbiome edge dynamics for key ecosystem functions. Because microbiome dynamics and function at edges are scaled across a range of soil properties and increasing land use disturbance, the resulting framework can be adapted to other land use histories. This research expands edge effect concepts belowground to better understand the barriers to belowground microbial spread and the resulting consequences for ecosystem function. 

Broader Impacts
     Conserved, intact ecosystems are increasingly surrounded and tied to working landscapes, with managers of adjacent lands who have distinct backgrounds and goals interacting in these spaces. Indeed, the fences that often separate properties can represent barriers both for organisms and stakeholder interests. The Welda Prairie, for example, sits adjacent to private landowners who use their grasslands for ranching and farming. In order to promote resilient microbiomes in these multi-use systems, effective research strategies must be inclusive and involve this diversity of stakeholders. This research will use on-site workshops and community meetings to enhance connectivity between community members across these land use edges, including the Kansas Biological Survey, The Nature Conservancy, and local farmers and ranchers. To enhance the objectives of this research, two new on-site workshops will be developed, focused on microbiomes and soil services, that build on past successful land management workshops held at Welda Prairie. In both, half of the workshop will be led by ranchers and farmers to help researches better understand what data they need from us and what factors drive their land use goals and decisions. This research will also create research opportunities to underrepresented students, including students from Haskell Indian Nations University and the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (which fosters opportunities for underrepresented students in conservation science). In this way, this research will to not only push against the edges of microbiome research, but also integrate diverse land use perspectives for a holistic approach capable of meeting the demands of a changing world.
Dr. Wei Wei

Development of Microbial Fuel Cell-Based Treatment Systems

Dr. Wei Wei, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, WSU

Project Summary
     Municipal solid wastes (MSW) are rich in biochemical energy. However, much of this energy is sequestered in conventional landfills, which lack the moisture needed for efficient biological decomposition of MSW. Bioreactor landfills with microbiome as essential component enhance the conversion of MSW to methane, which can be converted to electricity. However, methane is potent greenhouse gas (GHG) and cannot be fully captured in landfills. Thus, in this proposed research, a twostage, microbiome bioreactor and microbial fuel cell (MFC)-based system will be designed and developed. Moreover, graphene sheets show great potential as electrode materials for MFCs. Many methods, such as mechanical exfoliation and chemical vapor deposition, are employed to prepare graphene sheets with a substrate. However, it is still difficult to prepare the separated graphene sheets without a substrate. In this project, the reaction between alkali metal hydrides and CO to graphene will be explored. This would constitute a new approach for the synthesis of separated graphene sheets. Although electricity production has been demonstrated in MFCs to treat a variety of wastes, a two-stage system which integrates a bioreactor with MFC has not yet been developed and investigated for MSW treatment. The reaction between alkali mental hydrides and CO has not yet been tested. The proposed research will explore this reaction for the first time. Knowledge regarding how the system configurations affect the MSW treatment performance, how the reaction conditions affect the structures and properties of graphene, and how the graphene sheets affect the MFC performance, which will be obtained from this project, can provide an opportunity to find a new approach for developing new process for MSW treatment and new materials preparation.

Broader Impacts
     The two-stage microbiome bioreactor-MFC-based treatment systems, which will be developed in this research, can directly benefit the research related to microbiome and solid waste management industry. Importantly, this new process will increase electricity production and lower GHG emissions compared to bioreactor landfill treatment technology alone. Thus, the proposed research will expand the role that landfills play in the protection of environmental resources while improving the sustainability of MSW management practices. The substrate-free 3D graphene sheets, which will be designed and synthesized in this research, will lead to the improvement of MFCs’ performance and reduce the cost, which will impact the commercial feasibility of MFC not only in MSW treatment industry but alsoin the other applications. Finally, this research will have a strong impact on the education of students. A special program—“Summer Institute in Solid Waste Management” will be created. This program will promote the knowledge and skills of solid waste management and materials science and engineering into the traditional high school science classroom via training high school teachers. This would be an effective strategy to increase female students in science and engineering schools of colleges. Furthermore, one graduate and one undergraduate student will work as important part of the diverse team, and they will gain hands-on experience designing, building, and running complex experiments. This project can increase opportunities for high school students as summer interns in solid waste management studies in the future.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the MAPS REI Awards 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, October 15, 2018

Kansas State University MAPS researchers receive award from Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy

Dr. Jesse Nippert and Dr. Lydia Zeglin
   The Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy has awarded nearly $1 million dollars to two Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS) researchers from Kansas State University (KSU). Dr. Jesse Nippert, associate professor of biology at KSU and part of the MAPS plant systems focus team, and Dr. Lydia Zeglin, assistant professor of biology at KSU and part of the MAPS acquatic systems focus team, plan to combine observational, experimental and modeling approaches in an effort to enhance the predictability of ecosystem consequences related to shrub encroachment and drought in the Great Plains region. The title of their project is DE-SC001109037: Using root and soil traits to forecast woody encroachment dynamics in mesic grassland. They will also be working with collaborators Kate McCulloh, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kevin Wilcox, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming. The team will conduct experiments and collect their data at the Konza Biological Field Station. They will use root and soil traits, taken at various soil depths, which contain microbes, water and a large amount of carbon to forecast the plant encroachment dynamics associated with grasslands that receive moderate amounts of precipitation. The data collected and the results from this project “will define the depth-resolved feedbacks of drought and dominant vegetation on below ground root architecture, soil microbial carbon cycling, and ecosystem carbon balance.”

For additional information regarding the proposal go to: DE-SC001109037
Click here for the KSU press release

Thursday, October 11, 2018

ANNOUNCING MAPS First Award Funding Opportunity

     Kansas NSF EPSCoR is announcing a funding opportunity for First Awards in the areas related to the current Kansas NSF EPSCoR focus of microbiomes as broadly construed to be in aquatic, plant and/or soil systems. The First Award program helps early career faculty become competitive for funding from the research directorates at the National Science Foundation. 

The full request for proposals with submission instructions can be downloaded as a PDF at: http://www.nsfepscor.ku.edu/funding.html

Submission Deadlines:

     Letters of Intent due by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, October 31, 2018.

     Full proposals due by 5:00 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2018 

Please note new proposal submission details included in the RFP.

Eligible to apply is any individual tenure track faculty member who:

  • is currently untenured at the assistant professor rank at Kansas State University, University of Kansas, Wichita State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Pittsburg State University or Washburn University; 
  • is within the first three years of his/her faculty appointment;
  • has not received a previous First Award or similar funding from another EPSCoR or EPSCoR-like (Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, COBRE) program in Kansas; and
  • is not currently be nor previously been a lead Principal Investigator of a research grant funded by a federal agency.

In addition, one of the following conditions must apply:

  • The Principal Investigator has a pending proposal or is planning to submit a proposal to the NSF (or other federal funding agency) for the proposed research submitted to this program.  If in the planning stages, the proposed research must be submitted to a federal funding agency by July 31, 2020. 
  • The Principal Investigator has had the proposed research declined by the NSF (or other federal funding agency) and has a plan to re-submit the proposed research by July 31, 2020. 

Only projects with research in areas that are related to the current Kansas NSF EPSCoR focus of microbiomes as broadly construed to be in aquatic, plant and/or soil systems are eligible for First Awards.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the MAPS first awards is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The award'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, October 10, 2018


     The Division of Biology at Kansas State University is recruiting diverse, highly-qualified graduate students to assist with understanding the linkages among microbiomes of aquatic, plant and soil (MAPS) ecosystems across the state ofKansas. 
The goal of MAPS is to understand:
  1. How microbiome structure and function among these systems change across the precipitation gradient of Kansas and land use, and 
  2. How those changes in microbiomes affect broader community and ecosystem properties. In all, the integrated and collaborative NSF-funded project is driven by >15 investigators, all of whom work collaboratively and train students in an interdisciplinary framework.
     If you are interested in developing skills in collaborative, team-based science focused on deploying cutting-edge tools in environmental microbiology and informatics, please contact the listed individuals who might serve as your graduate advisor. Students must discuss their interests with a potential advisor (by email or by scheduling a phone conversation by email) prior to submitting an application. 
Applications due by 
15 December for Fall or Summer 2019 start.



Plant Pathology
Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for these MAPS graduate positions is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The award'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, October 8, 2018

UIUC Actuarial Science major runs simulations to predict host infections in bird populations of the Hawaiian archipelago during KU REU

Megan Resurreccion
     Last spring, Megan Resurreccion met with her informatics adviser at the University of Illinois Urbanna-Champaign (UIUC) to discuss going to graduate school. During this meeting, she was encouraged to obtain research experience, so she decided to apply to a summer research experience for undergraduates program (REU). Megan specifically wanted a research experience that offered any kind of mathematical or statistical focus. In making her decision for where to apply, she commented, “Biology isn't normally my thing, but I wanted to see what computational work in that field was like.” Her search led her to a mathematical modeling project offered through the 2018 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) summer REU program at the University of Kansas (KU) and supervised by Dr. Folashade B. Agusto, Assistant Professor in the EEB department at KU and part of the research team for the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas.
Her poster describing her study and results 
    Megan titled this project, Effects of Breeding Phenology on Avian Malaria Transmission Model. She described her research and her findings as follows: “In the Hawaiian archipelago, there is an infectious disease called avian malaria which has been affecting many native Hawaiian birds, transmitted by southern house mosquitoes. Simulations were run in Matlab to predict what total host infection rates of a bird species was based on differing breeding phenology (seasonality). The breeding phenology refers to the various times of year that the birds and mosquitoes had their breeding seasons in, so a single bird peak breeding season was estimated and compared with five other mosquito peak breeding seasons. The temporal distance between a mosquito breeding season and bird breeding season was then used to predict the infection rate. This was also tested in terms of low and high elevation since infection rates have been known to differ at various levels. The results concluded that when the mosquito breeding season was later than the bird breeding season, total host infection rates were higher. Then a simulation for differences in low and high elevations were run. For low elevations, total host infection rates were at their highest regardless of breeding phenology but were highest when the mosquito breeding season was before the bird breeding season. For high elevations, total host infection rates were highest when the mosquito breeding season was later than the bird breeding season. The importance of this is that it's important to preserve the biodiversity of the Hawaiian archipelago, and conservation measures should be implemented depending on when total host infection rates were. Our findings indicate a higher rate of total host infection at lower elevations than at higher elevations. Additionally, total host infection rates are higher when vector breeding season peaks occur after the breeding season peaks of native Hawaiian birds. Conclusively, based on the breeding season peak phenology, there should be measures taken to protect Hawaiian bird species since avian malaria is a prominent reason for population decline in these birds. If not, the population decline and potential extinction of bird species can have drastic effects on the biodiversity of the Hawaiian archipelago.”
     Megan said the best part of the summer research experience was “getting to know the undergraduates, learning what their research was about, and what kind of possibilities for research are out there, even if it isn't something I tend to explore more in depth.” She added that she also learned what it takes to conduct research such as “reading up on related literature, writing up a paper, running trials, fixing errors” and working in a lab.
     Currently, Megan is a student at the UIUC majoring in actuarial science and minoring in mathematical statistics, informatics, and creative writing. She also works as a Resident Advisor in University Housing at UIUC. In addition to her studies and work, Megan is a member of the Actuarial Science Club and is looking forward to serving as a Mathematics Ambassador for the UIUC Department of Mathematics. As for her future plans, Megan would like to attend graduate school for a masters or Ph.D. in statistics, and eventually pursue a career in the realm of statistics and data science.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

MAPS investigator, Dr. Walter Dodds, receives the KSU Karen Ann Griffith Research Award

Karen Ann Griffith, Dr. Walter Dodds, Dr. Amit Chakrabarti
    Dr. Walter Dodds, University Distinguished Professor of Biology at Kansas State University (KSU) and co-principal investigator leading the aquatics team for the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS), has received the Karen Ann Griffith Research Award. He will be honored at a reception on October 10, 2018 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 in the Tadtman Boardroom of the KSU Alumni Center. This award has been granted to Dr. Dodds for his interdisciplinary research related to Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 and for connecting faculty from Biology, Agronomy, Plant Pathology and Geology in this collaborative research effort. Dr. Amit Chakrabarti, Dean of the KSU College of Arts and Sciences will deliver remarks. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

KU MAPS researchers receive NSF ERA award to examine soil properties in response to climate change using math models

Dr. Pam Sullivan and Dr. Sharon Billings
   Dr. Pam Sullivan, Assistant Professor, Geography and Atmospheric Science, and Dr. Sharon Billings, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Senior Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey, at the University of Kansas (KU) have received an NSF Earth Sciences grant award to study the changes of soil properties in response to climate change. The title of their project is RAISE-SitS: Designing models to forecast how biogeochemical fluctuations in soil systems govern soil development, terrestrial water storage and ecosystem nutrient fluxes (NSF EAR #1841614).
     The researchers will develop new mathematical models to study the causes of changing soil structures and examine plant-soil-water responses to varying environmental conditions.  These new “models will allow the effects of soil structure fluctuations on ecosystem processes to be evaluated at diverse spatial and time scales,” and “may improve forecasting of future availability and quality of water resources, soils, and associated ecosystem services.” More specifically, the “soil ecosystem models (empirical and process-based) will be developed at multiple spatial scales to link soil structure and function in order to enhance the prediction of water and biogeochemical fluxes on timescales of decades to centuries. These models will be parameterized using soil, plant, and aquatic microbiome data collected across a strong precipitation gradient in the central USA (part of NSF Kansas Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas) and continental-scale soil databases (e.g., the National Cooperative Soil Survey Soil Characterization Database, United States Department of Agriculture)."These models will also create and make available community tools to examine nutrient fluxes produced by soil, water and biogeochemical feedback, with an ultimate goal of addressing "nationwide problems such as managing the nitrogen cycle and the Gulf of Mexico dead zone" as well as “test climate driven changes in the soil fabric which prompt the emergence of integrated terrestrial responses that are more rapid than typically considered.”

For more information go to NSF EAR #1841614
And KU today 9/17/18

(Quotes in the article taken directly from the NSF EAR #1841614 award abstract)