Research

At the Environmental Change Initiative, researchers from science, engineering, social science and other disciplines work with policymakers, corporations, resource managers and the nonprofit community to pursue environmental change research that is translational. Our goal is to provide solutions that minimize the trade-offs between human welfare and environmental health where trade-offs are unavoidable, and to discover win-win solutions where they are possible.

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Effects of early adversity on health in Baboons

This research is relevant to public health because it tests how two key factors—harsh conditions in early life and poor social circumstances in adulthood—predict individual health and physical functioning across the life course.

Funded By:
National Institutes of Health
ECI Investigators:
Elizabeth Archie

PalEON – a PaleoEcological Observatory Network to Assess Terrestrial Ecosystem Models

PalEON is an interdisciplinary team of paleoecologists, statisticians, and modelers partnered to synthesize paleoecological data and ecosystem models and determine how well terrestrial models simulate dynamics when confronted with climate change.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Jason McLachlan

Detection of eDNA in Flowing Water

This project aims to predict eDNA transport and degradation in flowing waters, demonstrating the application of a conservation tool using integrated experimental field and modeling approaches.

Funded By:
U.S. Department of Defense
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster, Gary Lamberti, Jennifer Tank, Kyle Bibby

Smart Water Crowdsensing

Examining how innovative data analytics and citizen science can ensure safe drinking water in rural versus suburban communities.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster, Dong Wang, Jennifer Tank, Na Wei

Competition between Trees and Liamna

This research aims to unravel the mechanisms of below and above ground competition between trees and liana (vines) in tropical forests.

Funded By:
US Department of Energy
ECI Investigators:
David Medvigy

Urban Adaptation Assessment

This work aims to advance the knowledge of adaptation by building a better understanding of how climate change affects U.S. cities and exploring the connection between adaptive capacities, social inequities, and the impacts of climate disasters.

Funded By:
Kresge Foundation

Use of cover crops and two-stage ditches to reduce agricultural run-off

This project will quantify the water and soil quality benefits from the pairing of winter cover crops and the two-stage ditch construction, implemented at the watershed-scale, in three row-cropped watersheds in Indiana.

Funded By:
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, Indiana Soy Bean Alliance, US Department of Agriculture, Walton Family Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Alan Hamlet, Jennifer Tank

Cooperation over transboundary groundwater resources

Groundwater is a shared resource, where pumping by any user can decrease ability of other users to exploit this resource. This research will integrate hydrology, economics, and law to improve cooperation over shared groundwater resources.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster, Marc Muller

The timing of seasonal life cycles and biodiversity

Animals and plants synchronize with the seasons to avoid freezing or overheating and to exploit seasonal resources. Our goal is to understand how historic and contemporary shifts in seasonality can facilitate diversification in insect communities.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Jeff Feder

Processes and patterns of dormancy-driven biodiversity in microbial communities

The overarching goals of this research project are to identify the key ecological and evolutionary processes that generate and maintain microbial biodiversity, and to understand how this diversity in turn influences ecosystem processes.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Stuart Jones

Gut Microbiome Dynamics

Gut microbiomes are diverse microbial communities that play important roles in mammal physiology and health. The goal of this project is to discover if gut microbiome dynamics are "universal" or if each host's microbiome follows its own rules.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Elizabeth Archie

Cover crops in Great Lakes watersheds

This project will quantify changes in soil nutrient retention and water quality benefits when implementing winter cover crops on cropland area in a Michigan watershed and determine how responses vary under a changing climate.

Funded By:
US Environmental Protection Agency
ECI Investigators:
Alan Hamlet, Jennifer Tank

Dynamics of coastal marsh responses to rising CO2

Salt marshes provide many important ecosystem functions. This project will examine the synergistic effects of two environmental changes on salt marsh ecology - increases in atmospheric CO2 and rising sea levels.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Jason McLachlan

Quantitative Viral Metagenomics for Water Quality Assessment

This project will develop quantitative viral metagenomics for water quality monitoring. The technical developments will significantly advance not only water quality monitoring but also viral pathogen detection in other settings (e.g., food safety).

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Kyle Bibby

Increasing the accuracy and efficiency of storm surge models

This research will lead to new insights on how coastal flooding is controlled by unresolved flows through marshes, natural channels, and man-made canals. This will assist in forecast operations and in understanding and designing protective

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster

DNA Barcode Reference Library – Zooplankton, Mollusca/Annelida and Benthic Arthropoda

This project will generate barcodes for zooplankton, molluscs, annelids and benthic arthropods. In collaboration with expert taxonomists we will generate a barcode reference library for the Great Lakes and investigate the occurrence of cryptic species.

Funded By:
US Environmental Protection Agency
ECI Investigators:
Michael Pfrender

Rapid Diagnostics for Cryptic Insect Pests

This work will develop and apply an innovative, simple, and cost effective genomic approach to identify cryptic agricultural pests as a centerpiece of an integrated program to devise better ways to control harmful insects and lessen their economic impact.

Funded By:
US Department of Agriculture
ECI Investigators:
Jeff Feder

Local to Global Scales of Mixing in Heterogeneous Porous Media

Threats to freshwater from contamination must be understood to assure sustainable supplies as well as to guide remediation and development. This project aims is to improve the theoretical framework of how media heterogeneity affects mixing of solutes

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster

Gut Microbiome aging and health in non-human primates

This project uses an unprecedented, birth-to-death, longitudinal data set, in an animal model, to test whether individual variation in the gut microbiome predicts age at maturation, rates of aging, and lifespan.

Funded By:
National Institutes of Health
ECI Investigators:
Elizabeth Archie

A yeast-based detection system of bioavailable phosphate in water

Pollution of surface water supplies through excess nutrients, causes harmful algal blooms and the degradation of the quality of surface waters. This project will develop a yeast based biosensor that measures the amount of bioavailable phosphate in water.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Holly Goodson, Jennifer Tank

Agriculture and Infections

This project will study the effects of agriculture expansion and intensification on infections.

Funded By:
National Institutes of Health
ECI Investigators:
Jason Rohr

The effects of tundra fire on biogeochemical cycles

Climate change is increasing fire size and frequency in the arctic tundra. This project will develop a multi-decadal record and model of carbon and nutrient cycling after the largest recorded arctic tundra fire, the Anaktuvuk River fire from 2007.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Adrian Rocha

Transport of nanoparticles in streams and rivers

With the growing use of nanoparticles for commercial and industrial applications, their release into the environment is inevitable. This project will combine field/lab experiments and models to determine the fate of nanoparticles in streams.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster, Kyle Doudrick

Assessing High-Resolution Wind Power in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia aims to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to broaden its energy mix by expanding to renewable energy sources, including wind energy. A preliminary task in the development of wind infrastructure is the assessment of wind energy potential.

Funded By:
Kind Abdullah University of Science and Technology
ECI Investigators:
Stefano Castruccio

Disease Epidemics in Wildlife

This collaborative research project will study the best mechanisms to manage epidemics in wildlife with acquired resistance.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Jason Rohr

Surface temperature and nutrient changes in the Subtropical Front of the South Ocean

This project seeks to reconstruct changes in the position of the Subtropical Front in The Southern Ocean south of Africa over the last 1.5 million years. Changes in these currents influence marine nutriens, ocean uptake of CO2, and global climate.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Melissa Berke

Improving Disease Surveillance through modeling

This project aims to develop and extend statistical and modeling methodologies to correct for biases in surveillance data, impute missing data, predict the course of epidemics, and appropriately characterize uncertainty at relevant spatial scales.

Funded By:
National Institutes of Health
ECI Investigators:
Alex Perkins

Recreational fishery dynamics

This interdisciplinary research project will explore the dynamics of freshwater recreational fishery landscapes, where social and ecological processes interact to determine the status of fish populations and the human populations that depend on them.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Stuart Jones

Regulation of lake productivity by terrestrial dissolved organic matter

This project will experimentally test and refine a mathematical model of lake productivity and ultimately predict the response of lakes to watershed inputs of nutrients and organic molecules that vary across the landscape and through time.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Stuart Jones

Viral Indicators of Water Contamination

Ensuring high-quality irrigation water is necessary to protect the public when consuming minimally processed produce. The development of this viral monitoring tool will enable risk-managers to have an accurate and abundant indicator of viral contamination

Funded By:
Center for Produce Safety
ECI Investigators:
Kyle Bibby

Dispersal of genetically engineered organisms

The goal of this project is to develop methods to monitor the dispersal of genetically engineered organisms in the environment, combining a dynamic modeling framework for transport of DNA and proteins with observational studies.

Funded By:
US Department of Agriculture
ECI Investigators:
Jennifer Tank

Epidemiology and Vaccine Demand Modeling

Using mathematical models to predict the demand for vaccines.

Funded By:
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation
ECI Investigators:
Alex Perkins, Sean Moore

Predicting reactions in environmentally relevant porous media systems

Predicting complex reactions in realistic environmental settings remains a demanding challenge to be met by the scientific community. This project will derive and test models for the transport and chemical reactions in complex environmental systems.

Funded By:
Deptartment of the Army
ECI Investigators:
Diogo Bolster

Ecological Forecasting

The Ecological Forecasting Initiative RCN will use NEON-enabled near-term forecasting to synthesis our understanding of predictability across ecological systems and scales.

Funded By:
National Science Foundation
ECI Investigators:
Jason McLachlan

Coastal Wetland Monitoring

Coastal wetlands along southern Lake Michigan and in Green Bay of Lake Michigan will be sampled for fish, macroinvertebrates and water quality. Chlorophyll samples will be processed for Great Lakes sites each year.

Funded By:
US Environmental Protection Agency
ECI Investigators:
Gary Lamberti