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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.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Former Secondary Science Teacher studies Geomicrobiology and Microbial Ecology with MAPS Researchers

    When Christina Richardson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, she also graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education and obtained an Illinois teaching certification. Following graduation, she began her career as a substitute teacher in Illinois, and then later, she became a teacher aid in Indiana. Although, Christina is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, she grew up in New Delhi, India, so it was not unusual that in June of 2012, she accepted a position in New Delhi serving as an Education Consultant for the Metro Delhi International School.
Christina presenting her research at the
2018 Geological Society of America (GSA)
meeting in Indianapolis, IN
     As an Education Consultant, Christina created “the middle school science curriculum and the high school biology curriculum,” as well as developed the science safety guidelines and the school's annual Science Fair. In addition, she taught 6th through 8th grade science and high school biology. After working four years as an Education Consultant, Christina decided she wanted to go back to school to earn a master's degree because, as she explains, “ ... I realized that I missed studying science for myself.” She added that her interest in studying “Geomicrobiology and Microbial Ecology grew through my students’ curiosity in high school biology and my desire to learn about and promote more sustainable agricultural and water management practices around the world.” So, she moved back to the U.S. to pursue a Master of Science in Geology at Kansas State University (KSU).
    Now in her second year, Christina is working on her master's project with Dr. Matthew Kirk, Associate Professor in the Geology Department at KSU and a team leader of the Soil Systems research team, and Dr. Lydia Zeglin, Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at KSU and a team leader for the Aquatic Systems research team, both involved with the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS).  On November 16, 2018, Christina presented a poster featuring her research at the MAPS All Science Meeting held at the Konza Prairie Biological Station. Christina collaborated on the poster project with a fellow graduate student, Alexandria Richard. The title of their poster was “Impact of Land Use on Groundwater Chemistry and Microbial Communities in the Great Bend Prairie Aquifer.” Within their research project, Christina focused on looking closely at “the soil and aquifer microbial communities in the Great Bend Prairie Aquifer to understand how they are impacted by land use” while Alexandria focused on the “impact of land use on groundwater chemistry in the Great Bend Prairie Aquifer.”
   
Left: Surveying for soil sampling sites near monitoring wells in south-central
Kansas, and 
Right: Sampling soils at different depths, using ethanol and gloves
to ensure the soil microbial communities remained intact with minimal
contamination of microbes from other sources.
     Christina explained what their research addressed as follows: “Microbial species engage in redox reactions that significantly affect aquifer geochemistry and water quality. Previous studies have focused on the impact of land use on groundwater quality as well as on soil microbial communities. However, very little research has been conducted to understand the influence of land use on aquifer microbial communities. In this study, we are examining the relationship between land use and aquifer microbiology in the Great Bend Prairie Aquifer, a portion of the High Plains Aquifer in south-central Kansas. We hypothesized that land use significantly impacts the composition of the shallow aquifer microbial community and that the composition of the groundwater microbiome will be related to the composition of the soil microbiome. To test these hypotheses, we are comparing the shallow aquifer microbial communities to groundwater geochemistry and to soil geochemistry and microbiology in areas of different land use. We have analyzed multiple samples of the soil and aquifer microbiomes to compare the composition and diversity of their microbial communities. In addition, we have measured environmental parameters (e.g. pH, particle size, EC, OM, NO3-, NO2-, NH3, Mg, Ca) in the soil and shallow aquifer at each sampling site. We are currently analyzing our collected data with alpha and beta diversity tests through QIIME and RStudio. Because land use changes many environmental factors (e.g. added nutrients through fertilizers, pesticides, and manure; change in soil structure via cattle or machinery compaction), we expect to see significant correlations between the shallow aquifer and soil microbial communities of cropland compared to those of pastoral sites.”
     As for her future plans after graduation, Christina said, “I plan to get some experience in the environmental consulting world while my husband is still in the Army, and I am interested in pursuing more research and higher education in the future. Eventually, I plan to work internationally as an environmental consultant.”

The Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas workforce development, and educational objectives are designed to enhance research capacity and STEM education in Kansas, expand the STEM workforce and prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.



Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Registration is open for the 2019 MAPS Research Symposium on March 18, 2019 at Kansas State University




The 2019 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS) Research Symposium will be held Monday, March 18, 2019 from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM at the K-State Alumni Center. The symposium will feature the activities of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 project, Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems Across Kansas (MAPS) with presentations by the researchers and educators. Also featured will be a keynote speaker (tba), lunch and a poster session detailing some of the most recent research findings. Student attendance and posters are encouraged.

In addition, preceding the symposium will be an opening event Sunday at 4:30 PM, March 17, at JP’s in the K-State Union.

There is no cost to attend, however, registration is required.

Meeting Agenda

Registration is now closed.

Links to all the talks are accessible at 
2019 MAPS Symposium Presentations



Contact Doug Byers at dbyers@ku.edu or 785-864-3227 with questions.

Funding for the symposium 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, February 5, 2019

MAPS graduate student studies HABs and Kansas water quality

Janaye Hanschu working on
her first independent research project
as an undergraduate
     During the summers of her childhood, Janaye Hanschu would visit the Marion Reservoir located on the Cottonwood River, 3 miles northwest of Marion, Kansas. Because she loved the water, it was a weekly event. Unfortunately, as she got older the lake “would often get shut down due to harmful blue-green algae blooms" (HABs). Harmful blue-green algae is a bacteria know as Cyanobacteria that reproduces rapidly if conditions such as high nutrient and high light levels are present. The dense growth of the algae, or bloom, can produce toxins if it becomes stressed or dies. These toxins impact water quality and are harmful to people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. According to the 2018 Kansas Water Authority Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature, HABS continue to impact the Marion Reservoir's water quality, and Janaye added, it is “one of the worse lakes in Kansas as far as algae blooms” are concerned. After witnessing, firsthand, the impacts HABs and excess nutrients had on Kansas waterways, Janaye decided she wanted do something about the water quality problems in Kansas.

Janaye collecting samples for the Kansas River RAPIDS project
      So, while she was earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Kansas State University (KSU), Janaye pursued her research interest in water quality by working for Dr. Lydia Zeglin's in her Microbial Ecology Lab. Dr. Zeglin is an Assistant Professor of Biology at KSU and is a member of the Aquatics research team for the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS).
 
     After graduating in the fall of 2017, Janaye continued to work for Dr. Zeglin as a research assistant on another NSF research project titled: RAPIDS: Are biogeochemical responses linked to the microbial composition of a defined nutrient and microbial input to a large river? (DEB #1822960). This project involved a collaboration between the Zeglin Microbial Ecology Lab (KSU) and the Burgin Lab at the University of Kansas (KU). The Burgin Lab is led by Dr. Amy Burgin, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at KU; Environmental Studies Associate Scientist for the Kansas Biological Survey; and a MAPS Aquatics research team member. The RAPIDS project was designed to study nutrients in the Kansas River.
     On November 16, 2018, Janaye presented a poster featuring her RAPIDS research at the MAPS All Science Meeting held at the Konza Prairie Biological Station. The title of her poster was “Do novel inputs to the Kansas River affect the water of sediment microbiome and water chemistry?” She explained her RAPIDS project as follows: “The city of Lawrence bought an old fertilizer plant. The plant contained several gallons of fertilizer dissolved in water. The city needed to dispose of the fertilizer. Initially, the city was selling the fertilizer to farmers to use for their crops. However, the execution was time consuming and a financial burden. As a result, the city got permission from the state and EPA to release the fertilized water into the Kansas River over a time frame of about two months. The release inoculates the water with both nitrogen (nutrients) and microorganisms. This novel input into the Kansas River lead to the question: Does microbial nitrogen processing in the river respond solely to changes in the nitrogen substrate supply, or does changing the microbial community also affect ecosystem-scale biochemistry. We sampled the river every two weeks (in addition to other sampling). At one time point, it was found that there is a microbial community composition (MCC) spike--an increase in microbial diversity--where the fertilizer was being released into the river. The overall MCC was returned to normal by 5 km downstream of the input site, but the microbial types unique to the input can be detected to at least 29 km. There were 23 unique bacterial OTUs in the water downstream of the input, but only 5 of these increased in relative abundance. As for the biochemistry and microbial relationship, for this specific time point, the microbial biochemical processes seem to be turning over the nutrient load at a sufficient rate because the chemical signals are weaker than the microbial signals.” And she said that although "this poster was done on a different grant ... the research was relevant to the MAPS project." While working on RAPIDS project, Janaye became “highly interested in linkages between MCC and biogeochemistry rates.”
Janaye standing a Milford Tank,
part of an experiment led by Dr. Ted Harris
in the summer of 2018 which will she will
continue this summer (2019). 
     In the fall of 2018 Janaye decided to continue pursuing her research interests in water quality and entered graduate school at KU. Janaye was hired by Dr. Amy Burgin to work as a MAPS graduate research assistant in the Burgin Lab. Janaye explained why she wanted to participate in the MAPS research this way: "I am interested in working on the MAPS research because we live in this delicately interconnected environment that needs to be understood in order to preserve it. Humans are changing our Earth's ecosystem at a rapid rate and understanding out interactions between aquatic, plant, and soil microbes could be a key in establishing policies and practices for a better future." And she added, “During the MAPS project, I hope to better understand connections between the MCC in harmful algae blooms (HABs) and nutrient availability/limitations to be able to better understand the production of cyanotoxins by cyanobacteria.” Her MAPS research will involve conducting a mesocom tank experiment in the summer of 2019. She explained the experiment as follows, “Large tanks will be inoculated with Kansas lake water and different nutrient limitations will be imposed on the tanks. Also, different forms of nutrients, such as nitrogen, will be observed. We will look at which kind of nutrients influence cyanobacteria growth and cyanotoxin production.”
   
Janaye is from McPherson, KS and is a first year EEB Master's student at the KU. As for her future plans, she hopes to continue a career in research and/or outreach.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for graduate assistantships 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.