Research Projects

Economic impacts

Economic impacts  >>

This project will study local public policy issues, human capital, and strategic mechanisms for implementing sustainable economic growth policies. Specifically, this project will explore the economic and social benefits of water resources in the Red Cedar Watershed while quantifying the costs of pollution mitigation.

Using data generated by projects, REU students will create simulation models to explore the short- and long-term consequences of sustainable policy. Students will build Bayesian network models and simulate outcomes under different assumptions informed by local data. We will then use these models to understand stakeholder behavior in the Red Cedar Watershed. Ultimately, this knowledge will be used to tailor regulatory policy to achieve long-term agricultural, economic, and water quality sustainability.


Sedimentology  >>

This project will model ecological phenomena using the tools of paleoecology and geomorphology. We will study the sedimentary record within the Red Cedar Watershed by comparing geomorphology and sedimentary phosphorus deposits to land-use history. 

REU students will study chemical and textural changes in floodplain sediments, depth variation in sediment nutrient concentration, and phosphorus sequestration in area sediments. They will then compare the basin stratigraphy to historical records such as precipitation, stream hydrology, and cultural changes in land use.

Using these data, we will compile a history of human, landscape, and climate-driven sediment fluxes. These data will provide an important landscape history perspective.

Ethnography of Red Cedar Basin land users

Ethnography of Red Cedar Basin land users  >>

This project will use ethnographic methods to understand how environmental activists choose to participate in society as they resolve conflicts over environmental issues. This project seeks to understand the social and cultural conditions of farmers in the Red Cedar Watershed.

To develop effective policy interventions, we need to understand how contemporary farming practices relate to rural land use. We also need to understand how stakeholders perceive environmental problems, and how individual farmers identify themselves within a larger socio-ecological context.

REU students will perform an ethnographic study of regional farming and rural land-use practices. Through data collected by interviews and observations at community gatherings (4H, Grange meetings, county fairs, etc.), students will employ a collaborative model that incorporates farmers and land users not only as research subjects, but as researchers themselves.

Farmer social networks

Farmer social networks  >>

This study will evaluate the structure of farmer social networks with the goal of understanding how their social capital impacts their adoption of sustainable farming practices. Social capital is the value a person gains from their connections to others who have different economic and cultural capital. REU students will survey farmers and use statistical analysis to examine social aspects of farmers' connections to local, regional, and global ecologies. 

This research studies social capital as a resource for mitigating phosphorus pollution, and how government and non-profit organizations can better resolve environmental issues by valuing diverse human interests and working with local stakeholders to forge lasting solutions. 


Phosphorus remediation strategies

Phosphorus remediation strategies  >>

This project uses mesocosm and whole-lake experiments to study how chemical treatments and biological manipulations can reduce phosphorus in the Red Cedar Watershed.

REU students will use the techniques of molecular biology to measure treatment effects on cyanobacterial community composition and characterize cyanophage in lake water. Experiments manipulating fish and aquatic plant populations will also be performed. 

The overall goal is to identify treatment approaches that remediate algal blooms and improve water quality over the long term.

Ethnography of phosphorus mitigation governance

Ethnography of phosphorus mitigation governance  >>

This project will study how policies are constructed and measure the consequences on socially and economically marginalized populations. We will explore how phosphorus remediation policy is shaped and implemented in the Red Cedar Watershed. 

REU students will identify specific phosphorus remediation policies and explore how they are enforced. Students will address these questions: 

  • Who is responsible for enforcing policies?
  • What do they understand of the policy and what attitudes do they bring to their work?
  • How are the policies interpreted and applied in day-to-day situations?
  • What mechanisms for enforcement exist and are resources sufficient? 

Students will map bureaucracies and policies to uncover relationships and conduct interviews of agency officials to study their jobs, how they understand the issue of phosphorus pollution, and how they apply policies and enforce regulations.