Monday, May 12, 2014

Annual Small Grant 2014 Recipients

This year we received twenty creative, innovative grant applications from researchers all over Illinois. In fact, the submissions were so good that we had an incredibly difficult time ranking them. We even went over our deadline for responding to applicants. Finally, after a great deal of anxiety and consultation with our review panel, the following proposals were award small grants. We look forward to sharing the findings of these projects on the blog and our website.

Hydro-meteorological responses to tropical system precipitation in Illinois
Dr. David Changnon and Alex Haberlie, M.S. student
Northern Illinois University
While Illinois precipitation is seldom controlled by tropical weather systems, these events do occur with regular, and potentially destructive, frequency. This study will examine tropical precipitation by focusing on drought, stream flow response, and latent effects on the following warm-season by supplementing climate database entries with stream flow gauge data, local rainfall, soil moisture conditions, and surface hydrology responses.

Anthropogenic litter and microplastic in urban streams: abundance, source, and fate
Dr. Timothy Hoellein and Amanda McCormick, M.S. student
Loyola University Chicago
Microplastics are an abundant and ubiquitous form of anthropogenic litter in waterways, yet no one has measured their presence in river ecosystems. Using six streams draining a variety of land use activities near Chicago, this study will examine the sources and sinks of microplastics in urban streams and the potential ecological impacts of these pollutants.

Year-round wetland microbial activity impacts on nitrogen cycling annual budgets: Is restoration impacting greenhouse gas emissions in wetlands?
Dr. Angela Kent and Natalie Stevenson, Ph.D. student
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Previous studies have indicated that denitrification in wetlands may be less efficient during the winter months and, in restored wetlands, may be incomplete, leading to releases of greenhouse gasses rather than nitrogen gas. Monitoring restored and natural wetlands through the year should help determine what occurs in the nitrogen cycle in restored wetlands and provide insight in planning wetland restoration projects.

Epikarstic groundwater ecosystems in Illinois: a sensitive but unstudied faunal element
Dr. Steven J. Taylor and Scott Cinel, M.S. student
Illinois Natural History Survey and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois epikarstic habitats are found between a soil layer and limestone bedrock, and, while largely unstudied, they are an important component of protecting delicate ecosystems and endangered species. This project will expand water collection methods for epikarstic areas in Illinois, develop a baseline for further Illinois study, and “expand on the groundwater hydrology and subterranean ecology of Illinois’ karst areas.”

Finally, we would like to recognize Dr. Jerry Kavouras for submitting the sole undergraduate project application. We know running a research program at a predominately undergraduate institution is challenging, and we’re excited to partner with him to help his students get experience in water sciences. We hope there are many more undergraduate applicants in the next rounds of Annual Small Grants. 

Changing food webs in Lake Michigan: Dreissena and the microbial loop
Dr. Jerry Kavouras and Erin Cox, undergraduate student
Lewis University  
Zebra mussels have dramatically altered the Great Lakes ecosystems, and they may have altered microbial food chains. A series of laboratory assays will determine if these aquatic invasive species modify the quantity and quality of dissolved organic matter that fuels bacterial secondary production and what possible impacts these changes could have on invaded freshwater systems.