UI Engineer gets NASA grant to study Iowa soil erosion


Photo by Irum Shahid

UI News Services Release

With rising commodity prices bringing more farm land under cultivation, a University of Iowa researcher is checking to see whether soil erosion may also be on the rise.

Thanos Papanicolaou, professor in the UI College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has received a three-year, $642,000 federal grant through the University of Northern Iowa to study agricultural soil erosion and the carbon cycle in Iowa. Papanicolaou is also a faculty research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering with a secondary appointment at the Iowa Public Policy Center.

Thanos Papanicolaou

Funded by NASA, the Carbon Cycle program will test the development of methods and models of carbon budgets at a smaller, regional scale, which will eventually be applied at larger scales. The proposed analysis is a critical component of any system for determining carbon credits that may be developed in the future, according to Papanicolaou.

The project, involving collaboration between the UI, the University of Northern Iowa and the USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, investigates how soil erosion may be threatening climate mitigation policies within the state and Midwest.

“Recently, the production of bioenergy crops has surged due to U.S. government policies calling for an increase in locally produced biofuels to lessen United States dependency on foreign oil supplies and help mitigate the burning of fossil fuels,” said Papanicolaou. “For example, there is an increase in corn acreage, as well as cash corn prices, in the Midwest because of its use in ethanol production. Continue reading

Soil erosion problem and more: Leopold shares parting thoughts in Des Moines Register


Richard Leopold

On Sunday, outgoing Iowa DNR director Richard Leopold shared some final thoughts about the state of Iowa’s environment in a Des Moines Register guest column.  There, he lamented about the state’s lack of progress in cleaning its rivers, it’s underfunded state parks, and the politicization of science (“Sadly, many of the scientific “debates” of today are not scientific debates; they are about power and money.”).

Leopold also shared a startling statistic about Iowa’s increasing infertility: Continue reading