Student: Ernestine Fu
Faculty: Martin Fischer
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Global climate change and coastal infrastructure
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering

This project focuses on the impacts of climate change on global seaports. Seaports require special attention because of their economic importance as essential links in supply chains, their locations in the heart of sensitive estuarine environments and their reliance on waterfront locations. The research includes conceptual and predictive models of the likely impact of sea level rise and associated storm surge on coastlines in general and ports specifically; the structures and designs needed for varying degrees of protection; the environmental impact of such structures and their the cost-value ratio. Ernestine has been developing three hurricane climate change scenarios for the seaports of Gulfport, Providence, and Kingston. The scenarios consider hurricane impacts, the potential range of storm surge and statistics on the likelihood of Category 5 hurricane events. She will develop the scenarios during the summer by collecting field data at the three case study ports. By analyzing the nature and impact of uncertain local conditions and communicating with stakeholders, Ernestine will expand her scenarios to shape policy. This project will also allow her to develop a senior honors thesis on the impact of global climate change on coastal infrastructure.
Student: Felicia King

Faculty: Dmitri Petrov
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Effect of elevational clines on local climate adaptation in D. melanogaster
Department: Biology

The study of adaptation is at the heart of evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, after more than a century of rigorous empirical and theoretical developments, we still lack a comprehensive view of the mode and tempo of adaptive evolution. The migration of the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster from tropical Africa to more temperate climates is an excellent system for the study of adaptation. D. melanogaster has only recently colonized temperate climates, yet displays a well characterized set of traits and behaviors that promote survival under the stresses of winter. This aim of this project is to study the adaptation of D. melanogaster to temperate climates by investigating whether climate-adaptive traits and loci that are known to vary latitudinally along the East Coast of North America also vary in a similar faction along an elevational transect from the Central Valley up into the Sierra Nevada through one growing season (March to November). We will test the hypothesis that “Northernly” winter-adaptive genes and phenotypes will vary linearly with elevation and through the season, being most prevalent at high elevation and early in the growing season. Investigating whether or not such patterns exists will significantly contribute to understanding the mode and tempo of adaptation in D. melanogaster and will fill fundamental gaps in our knowledge of the ecology of the species.

Student: Jessica Eastling
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Non-monetary consideration in land-use decision analysis
Department: Education

Cultural Ecosystem Services (CES), often referred to as “non-use” values, are a key component of ecosystem management. These services are defined as “non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experience.” However, the intangible and often unprofitable nature of CES makes it difficult to incorporate into the standard decision process of free market tradeoffs. This project will assess individual landholder valuation of CES in land-use decisions to evaluate how their interpretations are being expressed in actual practice. Through studying the relationships between CES valuation and land-use, a clearer understanding of landholders’ decision-making can be developed to promote practices that ensure conservation of the land, and thus CES provided by the land.

Student: Kimberly Pham
Faculty: Chris Field
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Physiological mechanisms of climate-induced forest mortality
Department: Biology and Environmental Earth System Science

Trembling aspen is the most widespread tree species in North America. A recent and severe aspen mortality, termed Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD), has swept across Colorado, several other western states and parts of Canada. This project will attempt to answer how hydraulic failure builds up over multiple years in dying aspen trees, leading to forest mortality - specifically, whether changes in fine roots or stem properties mediate multiyear mortality pathways. Kimberly will measure several key plant physiological characteristics in aspen stands in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. Using a combination of pressurized water and sieves, she will extract fine root matter from the tree cores to assess if mortality of fine roots is occurring, if root mortality leads or lags canopy mortality and if it can build up over many years, potentially driving hydraulic failure. The combination of observational data about root density, physiological data of xylem tensions, and laboratory examinations of these tissues will provides a rigorous test of the long-term effects and processes of the hydraulic failure hypothesis.

Student: Lucia Hennelly
Faculty: Peter Vitousek
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Translating traditional ecological knowledge to modern environmental frameworks: Youth engagement in community-based natural resource management in Ha‘ena, Kaua‘i
Department: Biology

The aims and scope of this research project touch on Lucia’s three deepest passions: community organizing, active engagement of youth and environmental activism. In this project, she will examine the specific motivations that lead young people to become involved in the complex process of developing a co-management partnership. Her work will be grounded in the social, ecological, cultural and historical contexts surrounding Ha‘ena, with the aim of drawing lessons from this community that can be applied to engaging youth in similar collaborations across varying contexts.

Student: Nick Cariello
Faculty: Jenna Davis
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Rural water supply, nutrition and health in rural Mozambique
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering

The government of Mozambique is installing deep boreholes with hand pumps in several hundred rural communities of Nampula Province. Our team will be researching the impacts of this intervention, and will design and carry out a baseline survey in Nampula this summer. The impacts of the intervention will be quantified in terms of increases in quantity and quality of water, rates of school enrollment, and increased income and health improvements. Nick will investigate the process by which water supply projects are implemented in Mozambique, and how they impact communities. In addition to developing Portuguese language skills, he will help design and code data collection instruments for use in household surveys, train the Mozambican field teams and support in-country survey activities.

Student: Sabina Perkins
Faculty: Firoenza Michel
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Assessing the impacts of ocean acidification in natural CO2 vents
Department: Biology

Increased anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) is predicted to be a major driver of environmental change in the coming century. The oceans absorb a large proportion of CO2 from the atmosphere, which causes a reduction in seawater pH and carbonate ion concentration in a process called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is predicted to impact nearly all areas of the ocean and a wide range of species. Organisms that build calcareous structures are particularly sensitive and have shown reduced calcification, growth and survival to experimental CO2 enrichment. However, laboratory experiments have also shown wide variation in how marine organisms cope with low pH. It is critical to our understanding of responses and adaptation to acidification that we expand these laboratory studies to examine responses to long-term exposure under natural conditions. This project asks the important question of how marine organisms integrate the physiological effects of ocean acidification over time by quantifying potential differences in energy allocation between marine snails collected in extremely acidic waters in Ischia, Italy, and nearby ambient conditions by comparing their shell, reproductive tissue and somatic tissue mass. We hypothesize and that marine gastropods from the vents will have less energy for somatic growth and reproduction due to the energy demands for maintenance of calcification in acidified conditions. The proposed research is novel, because many of the organisms have been exposed to acidified waters throughout their life spans. The results from this study will provide insights on the physiological impacts of ocean acidification on a marine snail, and some of the first examples of how marine organisms integrate the effects of ocean acidification over time.

Student: Yibai Shu
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Year Funded: 2011
Research: The impact of news media coverage of climate change on American public opinion
Department: Communication and Political Science

During the last 10 years, we have conducted a series of national surveys tracking American public opinion on issues related to climate change. And during this time, Americans have come to accept the views of mainstream scientists on many relevant issues. At at the same time, there has been a growing split between Republicans and Democrats on this issue. While Democrats have been moving steadily in the direction of the views of mainstream scientists, Republicans have not manifested any notable changes in this direction. Why has this gap grown? To answer this question, we will do an in-depth content analysis of news media coverage of climate change, randomly selecting a set of major news media stories on the issue. Students will develop a set of procedures for implementing the content analysis, carry it out, evaluate the reliability of their results and conduct statistical analyses of their data.