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The SBU-BNL Seed Grant program serves to foster collaborative efforts between scientists at the University and BNL. It is a key opportunity for developing synergistic activities that can grow joint research programs aligned with the strategic plans of both institutions.  The SoMAS Faculty awards and their descriptions are listed below.

Faculty Daniel Knopf and Pavlos Kollias were awarded a 2018 SEED Grant to create “A Drone for Air Quality Measurements.”

Air pollution is the cause of millions of premature deaths per year globally. To improve monitoring and prediction of the physical and chemical processes that drive air pollution, frequent and economic atmospheric measurements are necessary. We will take advantage of the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sensor miniaturization, using a drone to conduct meteorological and atmospheric chemistry measurements. We aim to develop a drone prototype that, in a modular fashion, allows in situ measurements of temperature, humidity, pressure, ozone, aerosol size distribution and collection of air samples for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM) analysis addressing U.S. EPA federal regulated air pollutants. The octocopter drone allows to bridge the data gap between ground site and research aircraft measurements. It facilitates measurements inside a pollution plume in a stationary manner or moving with the plume, not easily achievable by other means. The drone is a highly versatile platform and other applications, beyond the scope of this project, can be envisioned such as air mass sampling along tall buildings, chimney stacks, gas pipelines, or oil platforms and rapid employment in disaster situations. The UAV capabilities will be developed by the joint Stony Brook University-Brookhaven National Laboratory Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing (SBU-BNL-CMAS) that aims to integrate high resolution modeling and observations in urban and coastal areas.

SoMAS Joint Faculty Stephen Baines from the Department of Ecology of Evolution received a 2018 SEED Grant for “Using Hyperspectral Spectroradiometry to Estimate Nitrogen Removal in Wetlands.”

Wetlands provide a critical service to society by removing nitrogen pollution from surface and ground waters, thereby reducing the chances of harmful algal blooms, fin and shell-fish die-offs and destruction of habitats that acts as nurseries for key living resources. The key processes are hard to measure and therefore difficult to estimate on a landscape scale, making it hard to assess the value of these ecosystems. We will use easily observable above-ground plant traits to “scale up” to regional estimates of nitrogen removal from local measurements. Microbial denitrification, which converts bioavailable nitrate to inert nitrogen gas, is enhanced when plants promote cycles of oxygenation and de-oxygenation of associated soils. Therefore, traits related nitrate concentrations in soils, production of O2 via photosynthesis, delivery of that O2 to sediments, and use of O2 by microbial respiration are all related to microbial denitrification. We will first refine these relationships by collecting data on above and belowground plants traits, soil characteristics and denitrification along transects in three wetlands. We will then use high resolution reflectance spectrometry to infer various important plant traits, such as leaf nitrogen, water stress, and plant biomass. These measurements will be conducted at the plant level, at the canopy level using drone mounted sensors, and finally using airborne sensors provided by NASA. The spectral measurements will be related to denitrification via plants traits using established statistical methods. This data will provide the proof of concept needed to apply for NSF, NASA and DOE funding to establish clear mechanistic links that will enable regional projection of nitrogen removal by wetlands for different land-use, climate or sea level scenarios.

Previous SEED Grant Winners at SoMAS include Heather Lynch, Bruce Brownawell, Jeff Levinton, Brian Colle, Minghua Zhang, Dianna Padilla, Andrew Vogelmann, Anne McElroy, and Duane Waliser.

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