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

CGRER’s Craig Just nets sustainability grant


From University of Iowa News Services:

A University of Iowa engineer is teaming up with Columbia University and the National Geographic Society to educate thousands of students in sustainability concepts by establishing living-learning communities at large, public universities across the country.

Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor in the UI College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering, received an $873,318 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education program.

The project will design, implement, evaluate and disseminate a blueprint for dozens of campus living-learning communities that would be residential experiences for first-year students. The goal of the project — which aspires to include some 500 students on the UI campus in its third year — is to educate students in concepts of sustainability that can be implemented through the democratic process.

Read more about Just and his very cool mini-wetlands project. He’s using plants to filter contaminated water.