SNR Research Seminars - Fall 2011

Why We Need Better Models for Assessing and Managing Ecosystem Services

Speaker: Valery Forbes

Director, School of Biological Sciences | UNL

Date: 9/14/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall

Abstract

Environmental protection goals are increasingly framed in terms of ecosystem services delivery, with a recognition that these services connect to ecosystem structure and dynamics. However, ecological science has not been delivering the kind of information needed for achieving environmental protection. Currently, there is interest among ecological scientists and among agencies in managing ecosystem services; however, the advocated approaches are based on overly simplistic representations of ecosystems that assume linearity and ignore important system feedbacks (e.g., adverse outcome pathways).

Recent advances in computer science are facilitating the development of detailed ecological models that can capture relevant properties of ecosystems in a realistic manner. Because these kinds of models can become very detailed and complex, they risk becoming too specific and may be difficult to understand and interpret. Therefore, a primary challenge is to develop models that are sufficiently complex to deliver effective management, but sufficiently transparent to provide effective educational tools and to command the confidence of environmental managers.

I will argue that, in order to do a better job of managing the environment, we need a new generation of models that are mechanistic and predictive, broadly applicable across ecosystem types, sensitive to the needs of a range of stakeholders, and that can be readily applied by environmental decision makers and in education/outreach activities. A particular challenge will be to integrate the outputs of ecological models with inclusive socioeconomic models to optimize the effective management of multiple ecosystem services and facilitate transparent policy decisions that are more explicit in their use of scientific evidence and public values.

Valery Forbes
Valery Forbes

Speaker's Bio

Valery E. Forbes has a Ph.D. in Coastal Oceanography from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. From 1989 to 2010 she lived in Denmark, where her most recent position was founding chair of the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change and professor of aquatic ecology and ecotoxicology at Roskilde University, Denmark. In January 2011 she started as director of the School of Biological Sciences at UNL. Some of her specific research topics include population ecology and modelling, fate and effects of toxic chemicals in sediments, and ecological risk assessment. Forbes has published more than 100 internationally peer-reviewed articles and two books on these topics. She is on the editorial board of several international journals and provides scientific advice to the private and public sectors. She is currently supervising seven Ph.D. students and four postdoctoral researchers. Forbes is participating in two large EU projects; the first is a 7th Framework Initial Training Network, "Mechanistic effect models for ecological risk assessment of chemicals" (CREAM), which started Sept. 1, 2009, and runs through Aug. 31, 2012; the second is a 7th Framework Collaborative Project, "The reactivity and toxicity of engineered nanoparticles: risks to the environment and human health," which started Dec. 1, 2008, and goes through Nov. 30, 2012.

E-mail: vforbes3@unl.edu
Phone: 402-472-6676

Physically-based Models for Remote Estimation of Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems' PrimaryProductivity

Speaker: Anatoly Gitelson

Professor, SNR | UNL

Date: 9/21/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall

Abstract

Biological processes on land and in the oceans strongly affect the global carbon cycle on all time scales. In both components of the biosphere, oxygenic photosynthesis is responsible for virtually all of the biochemical production of organic matter. Mechanisms of and constraints on photosynthesis on land and in the oceans are similar in many respects. Here, integrating conceptually similar models of the growth of terrestrial and marine primary producers, we present a unified approach to estimation of primary production of organic matter by terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems based on satellite measurements.

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Speaker's Bio

Anatoly Gitelson received a master's degree and Ph.D. from Taganrog Institute of Radio Technology in Russia in radio physics. His main research interests are radiative transfer in the atmosphere, water, and vegetation, as well as remote sensing of aquatic and terrestrial environments. He is part of the Center for Applied Land Management Information Technology (CALMIT) at the School of Natural Resources. Before joining UNL in 2000, Gitelson headed the Department for Environmental Physics and Energy Research at the J. Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 1997-2000, and in 1998 he received the Israeli State Award for Outstanding Contribution to Israeli Science. Gitelson also held scientific posts in the former USSR.

E-mail: agitelson2@unl.edu
Phone: 402-472-8386

Going Green: Impact of Modern Beef Production on the Environment

Speaker: Galen Erickson

Professor, Department of Animal Science | UNL

Date: 9/28/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall

Abstract

A talk by Galen Erickson, based on research jointly conducted with Terry Klopfenstein and approximately 13 current or former graduate students.

Per capita beef consumption is essentially constant, while beef cattle numbers have steadily declined since 1977. In 1955, we had the same number of cattle (90 million) as we do today, yet population in the U.S. increased from 170 million to 300 million. In the U.S. (which is second only to Argentina in beef consumption), we have increased beef productivity by using technology and feedlots (grain feeding, historically). Grain feeding developed due to cheap grain. Many have debated the environmental implications of using technology and having an intensive feedlot system in the U.S. Starting with the premise that beef consumption in the U.S. will remain constant, and will likely grow worldwide, I will illustrate that the U.S. beef production system is actually advantageous in terms of water quality, energy utilization, and greenhouse gas emissions (both enteric and from manure). Since 1977, we have decreased the carbon footprint by 18 percent and decreased manure and methane by 21 percent, while increasing beef production 31 percent. Ironically, we have 31 percent fewer cattle, 20 percent less feed and water, and 30 percent less land used for beef production over this same period. The only issue (for some, certainly not me) is whether you argue for decreased consumption and therefore less grain and pasture acres needed. Despite this, there are environmental challenges that I will outline, and particularly focus on ammonia emissions research over the past 10 years here at UNL. In my opinion, this is the largest environmental challenge for open-lot, beef feedlot production systems. If we can decrease nitrogen (N) emissions and trap the N in manure to be used for recycling to cropping areas, then air quality, phosphorus (P) losses through displacement from cropping areas, and economics will improve.

Galen Erickson
Galen Erickson

Speaker's Bio

I grew up on a beef cattle and crop farm in Northeast Iowa. I am a professor in the Department of Animal Science and a Beef Feedlot Extension Specialist for Nebraska. I was hired in 2001 after completing my graduate degrees here at UNL with Terry Klopfenstein and Todd Milton. My appointment is 50 percent research, 40 percent extension, and 10 percent teaching. My focus areas are on feedlot cattle nutrition and management with emphasis on use of byproducts from ethanol and milling plants for cattle and nutritional manipulation to decrease environmental challenges facing beef feedlots. I also evaluate current technologies that will increase efficiency and growth of cattle. Based primarily on collaborative projects, my grant funding is just over $4 million. I have 73 journal publications, mostly by students, but am most proud of our annual Nebraska Beef Cattle Report. We usually have a group of 12 or more graduate students working in the feedlot cattle nutrition area.

Independent Environmental Acts of Kindness or Focused Conservation Delivery, the Changing Conservation Delivery Paradigm

Speaker: Andy Bishop

Coordinator, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture

Date: 10/5/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 901 Hardin Hall

Abstract

The conservation community's delivery model is continuing to evolve as new information and tools become available. In the past, conservation practices were delivered on an opportunistic basis with willing landowners. With limited conservation funds and 97 percent of Nebraska in private ownership it is critical that effective communication and outreach tools are used to guide delivery to high priority landscapes. The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture has been a leader in developing geospatial tools that allow conservation delivery staff to prioritize contacts and implement outreach strategies to engage landowners and farm operators in high priority landscapes. This talk will highlight several examples of Decision Support Tools that have been developed to guide conservation delivery in the Rainwater Basin wetland complex.

Andy Bishop
Andy Bishop

Speaker's Bio

Andy Bishop is the Coordinator of the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, a landscape oriented partnership committed to delivering habitat conservation to support target populations of priority bird species. A native of Kearney, Bishop earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in biology at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Andy has previously worked for the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, and then for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Much of his work during that time involved developing biological and geospatial models that help quantify the habitat needs of waterfowl migrating through this region, and target locations that will provide the greatest habitat value.

Assessing Groundwater Renewability with Environmental Tracers

Speaker: John Gates

Assistant Professor, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences | UNL

Date: 10/12/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall

Abstract

Aquifers are renewable resources only to the extent that groundwater discharge processes, including but not limited to extraction for irrigation and other societal needs, are offset by replenishment processes. Because of inherent challenges associated with spatiotemporal heterogeneity in subsurface hydrology, there is currently no such thing as a direct measurement of groundwater recharge on spatial scales larger than a lysimeter. In the absence of direct measurement options, a range of scientifically-creative estimation methods have been developed to infer aquifer replenishment information, and this field continues to evolve rapidly as new analytical and remote monitoring technologies emerge. This talk will focus on how natural chemical and isotopic properties of groundwater and vadose zone pore water, i.e. environmental tracers, offer a means of estimating aquifer renewability. Tracer-based methodologies will be illustrated through case studies involving interpretations of natural abundances of stable isotopes, radioisotopes, dissolved solids and gases. The talk will address current frontiers of groundwater tracers research, and will conclude by considering how we might ameliorate the persistent disconnect between tracer-based water resource assessment opportunities and their very limited use outside of specialist academic research.

John Gates
John Gates

Speaker's Bio

John Gates is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His main research interests pertain to environmental change impacts on groundwater resources. His research group has active projects on dynamic groundwater systems in Nebraska, northern China and elsewhere. He joined UNL in 2009 following a postdoctoral fellowship in hydrogeology at the University of Texas at Austin. He received a D.Phil. from the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University in 2007.

E-mail: jgates2@unl.edu
Phone: 402-472-2612

The Oily Side of Algae

Speaker: Paul Black

Bessey Professorship of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Date: 10/26/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall

Abstract

We are working on defining lipid metabolic pathways in eukaryotic green algae as part of a collaborative effort to exploit algae as a source of biomass for renewable fuels. These efforts include the establishment of facilities for large-scale growth of algae and genetic engineering of metabolic pathways to maximize triglyceride production or fatty acid secretion. Our work combines traditional molecular genetics and biochemistry with cell and animal nutritional and metabolic studies and includes experimental work directed to define protein structure and delineate mechanism. This interdisciplinary approach to address fatty acid transport and trafficking has yielded seminal information describing many of the basic biochemical mechanisms operational in these processes.

Paul Black
Paul Black

Speaker's Bio

Black received a B.S. in Zoology in 1978 from Colorado State University; a Ph.D. in Cell Biology in 1983 from the University of Vermont, and did a postdoc in Biochemistry from 1983 to 1985 at the University of California-Irvine. Before joining UNL in 2008, he was at the Center for Cardiovascular Sciences, Albany Medical College, in New York, and previously at the University of Tennessee, Memphis.

E-mail: pblack2@unl.edu
Phone: 402-472-3212

Genetics of Adaptation to High-Altitude Hypoxia in Birds and Mammals

Speaker: Jay Storz

Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences | UNL

Date: 11/2/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall (Auditorium)

Abstract

High-altitude environments provide ideal testing grounds for investigations of mechanism and process in physiological adaptation. In this talk I'll describe recent efforts to identify and characterize genetic mechanisms of physiological adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia in birds and small mammals. I'll first describe efforts to identify mechanisms of hemoglobin adaptation to hypoxia in North American rodents and in Andean birds (passerines and hummingbirds). These studies integrate evolutionary analyses of sequence variation with experimental studies of hemoglobin function to address questions about the genetics of adaptation. Specifically, we are assessing whether it is possible to predict which mutations (or which types of mutations) are most likely to contribute to adaptive evolutionary change.

Jay Storz
Jay Storz

Speaker's Bio

Storz, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, received a B.A. in Biology from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1994, and an M.A. in 1997 and a Ph.D. in 2000, both from Boston University. He did post-doctoral research at Duke University and at the University of Tucson. Recent awards include the Outstanding Scientist Award from Sigma Xi at UNL in 2011, and UNL's T.O. Haas Faculty Award for Outstanding Research in 2009.

Disciplinary Differences and Their Implications for the School of Natural Resources

Speaker: Jeff Royer

Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics | UNL

Date: 11/9/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall (Auditorium)

Jeffery Royer
Jeffery Royer

Speaker's Bio

Jeffrey Royer is a professor in UNL's Department of Agricultural Economics with research and teaching responsibilities in agricultural marketing and agribusiness management. He is a native of Sioux City, Iowa, and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University. Prior to joining UNL in 1990, he held positions at North Carolina State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. From 1999 to 2003, he served as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, and since 2009, he has taught a course in the Department of Educational Administration on "The Economics of Academic Employment."

The Real Wealth of Nations: Mapping and Monetizing the Human Ecological Footprint

Speaker: Paul Sutton

Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Geography, University of Denver

Date: 11/15/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall (Auditorium)

Abstract

The earth provides myriad ecosystem services or "benefits" that enable and enhance human existence. Humanity, in turn, imposes myriad environmental impacts or "costs" on the earth. This presentation explores the idea of mapping these costs and benefits using proxy measures. The total value of the world's ecosystem services is set to be equal to the total cost of anthropogenic environmental impacts at fifty trillion dollars (roughly the global GDP in the year 2000). A global representation of ecosystem service value is mapped at 1 km2 resolution using Net Primary Productivity (NPP) as a proxy measure of ecosystem service value. A similar global representation of environmental impact is mapped using pavement (aka impervious surface area or ISA) as a proxy measure of cost. Subtracting the 50 trillion mapped onto ISA from the 50 trillion mapped onto NPP produces a 1 km2 resolution map of those areas where: 1) Human imposed costs exceed naturally supplied benefits, 2) Human costs balance with environmental benefits, and 3) Environmental benefits exceed human costs. Mapping this difference produces a spatially explicit and monetized representation of sustainability that can be aggregated to national, sub-national, and regional levels. Aggregations of this map at the national level are compared with other national measures of sustainability such as the Global Footprint Network's "Eco-Deficit." An additional benefit of this approach is that the national values derived from this difference map suggest a starting point for discussions of the dollar values and costs of both sustainable and non-sustainable behavior on the part of the nations of the world.

Pat Sutton
Pat Sutton

Speaker's Bio

Paul C. Sutton is an associate professor of Geography at the University of Denver. He received his B.S. from Union College in chemistry, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in statistics and geography from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Prior to his appointment at the University of Denver, Sutton worked as a high school physics and math teacher and as a process engineer in the aerospace industry. His teaching and research interests at the University of Denver are in the general area of human-environment relations and interactions. Much of his research involves the use of nighttime satellite imagery for mapping and measuring population distribution, economic activity, anthropogenic impact on the environment, and urban sprawl. Sutton is also interested in the mapping and valuation of ecosystem services. His current research activity involves the development of spatially explicit maps of carrying capacity at regional and national scales.

E-mail: psutton@du.edu
Phone: (303) 871-2399

The Earth from Space at Night: Explorations of the Human-Environment-Sustainability Problematic using Nighttime Satellite imagery

Speaker: Paul Sutton

Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Geography, University of Denver

Date: 11/16/2011
Time: 10:30:00 AM
Location: 901 Hardin Hall

Abstract

Images of the Earth from Space at night identify those areas of the earth where the most intense human activities take place. Data products derived from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System (DMSP OLS) have been used to estimate the population of urban areas, map urban extent, characterize intra-urban population density, map impervious surface, map and estimate CO2 emissions, map economic activity at sub-national levels, and estimate the ecological footprint of nations of the world. This presentation provides a broad overview of the DMSP OLS data product generation and explores several of the applications of these data products.

Patt Sutton
Patt Sutton

Speaker's Bio

Paul C. Sutton is an associate professor of Geography at the University of Denver. He received his B.S. from Union College in chemistry, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in statistics and geography from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Prior to his appointment at the University of Denver, Sutton worked as a high school physics and math teacher and as a process engineer in the aerospace industry. His teaching and research interests at the University of Denver are in the general area of human-environment relations and interactions. Much of his research involves the use of nighttime satellite imagery for mapping and measuring population distribution, economic activity, anthropogenic impact on the environment, and urban sprawl. Sutton is also interested in the mapping and valuation of ecosystem services. His current research activity involves the development of spatially explicit maps of carrying capacity at regional and national scales.

E-mail: psutton@du.edu
Phone: (303) 871-2399

Nebraska Water and Energy Flux Measurement, Modeling, and Research Network (NEBFLUX): Progress and data on measuring plant physiology and evapotranspiration for various vegetation surfaces

Speaker: Suat Irmak

Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering | UNL

Date: 11/30/2011
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: 107 Hardin Hall (Auditorium)

Abstract

Surface energy and water vapor fluxes, including latent heat flux or evapotranspiration, play critical roles in understanding the response of agro-ecosystems to changes in environmental and atmospheric parameters. These fluxes are crucial to exploring the dynamics of water and energy use efficiencies of these systems. Quantification of the fluxes is also necessary for assessing the impact of land use and management changes on water balances. Accomplishing these goals requires measurement of water vapor and energy exchanges between various vegetation surfaces and microclimates for long-enough periods to understand the behavior and dynamics involved with the flux transfer so that robust models can be developed to predict these processes under different scenarios. Networks of flux towers such as AMERIFLUX, FLUXNET, FLUXNET-CANADA, EUROFLUX, ASIAFLUX, and CAR-BOEUROPE have been collecting data on exchange processes between biosphere and atmosphere for multiple years across the globe. This furthers understanding the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems and their role in regional and/or continental and global carbon, water, and energy cycles, providing a unique service to the scientific community. Nonetheless, we need more of these kinds of networks to due to the great diversity among ecosystems and agro-ecosystems in species composition, physiological properties, physical structure, microclimatic and climatic conditions, and management practices. The Nebraska Water and Energy Flux Measurement, Modeling, and Research Network (NEBFLUX) is a comprehensive network that is designed to measure surface energy and water vapor fluxes, microclimatic variables, plant physiological parameters, soil water content, surface characteristics, and their interactions for various vegetation surfaces. At present, ten Bowen Ratio Energy Balance Systems (BREBSs) and one eddy covariance system are operating on a long-term and continuous basis for vegetation surfaces including tilled and untilled irrigated and rainfed croplands, irrigated and rainfed grasslands, irrigated alfalfa, rainfed winter wheat, rainfed switchgrass, and Phragmites (Phragmites australis)-dominated cottonwood (Populus deltiodes var. occidentalis) and willow stand (Willow salix) plant communities. The NEBFLUX project provides good quality flux and other extensive supportive data on plant physiology [leaf area index, stomatal resistance, within-canopy radiation parameters, productivity (yield and/or biomass), and plant height], soil characteristics, soil water content, and surface characteristics. These data are valuable to researchers in micrometeorology, water resources engineering, and many other areas of scientific inquiry about a broad spectrum of agro-ecosystems. The fundamental premise of the NEBFLUX project is to make continuous and long-term (at least ten complete annual cycles for each surface) measurements of exchange of water vapor and energy fluxes. In addition to the scientific and research objectives, information dissemination to educate the general public and youth is another objective of the network. This presentation will describe basic principles and operational characteristics of NEBFLUX and will present multiple years of data for some vegetation surfaces.

Suat Irmak
Suat Irmak

Speaker's Bio

Suat Irmak received his Ph.D. from the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department at the University of Florida, with an emphasis on Land and Water Resources Engineering. At UNL, Irmak's research, Extension, and educational programs revolve around applying engineering and scientific fundamentals to soil and water resources engineering, irrigation engineering, crop water productivity, environmental biophysics, evapotranspiration and other surface energy fluxes for various agro-ecosystems. He also researches the impacts of changes in climate variables on water resources and agro-ecosystem productivity. He provided leadership in the development of UNL's South Central Agricultural Laboratory. It is regarded as one of the premier irrigation and water management and evapotranspiration research facilities in the United States for understanding the relationships between the environment and center pivot irrigation, subsurface-drip irrigation, surface irrigation, evapotranspiration, and crop water productivity.

Irmak teams up with Extension educators and state and federal agencies to transfer research information to the growers and general public to help enhance water management practices and crop productivity. He is the leader of a team effort that established the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network (NAWMN) to create an environment for communication and idea exchange on current water resources issues and to increase the adoption of new technologies/tools/strategies for conservation of water and energy in agriculture. NAWMN is one of the largest Extension/Outreach programs in the USA.

Irmak is also the leader of the Nebraska Water and Energy Flux Measurement, Modeling, and Research Network (NEBFLUX), which is a comprehensive network of water and surface energy flux towers that is designed to measure surface energy and water vapor fluxes, microclimatic variables, plant physiological parameters and biophysical properties, water use efficiency, soil water content, surface characteristics, and their interactions for various agro-ecosystems. NEBFLUX is the largest and most comprehensive flux measurement network in the United States that is operated by a single research laboratory.

Irmak has authored and co-authored more than 80 scientific refereed journal articles, two book chapters, 30 scientific or technical papers in professional conference proceedings, 21 peer-reviewed extension publications, and more than 20 regional popular magazine articles. He has authored more than 400 technical presentations, including 20 invited talks. His awards and honors include 20 national and international and 17 regional and local awards and recognition. His awards include Sigma Xi Outstanding Young Scientist Award; Holling Family Teaching Excellence Award; Distinguished Extension Employee Award; ASABE New Holland Young Researcher Award; ASABE Engineer of the Year Award; ASABE Young Extension Worker Award; UNL Extension Excellence in Team Programming Award, ASCE Excellent Service to the Profession Award; and numerous superior/outstanding refereed journal paper awards.

He served as the chair of the ASCE-EWRI Task Committee on Evapotranspiration in Irrigation and Hydrology, chair of the WERA-202 (Western Regional Committee on Use of Climate Information in Irrigation Management), and chair and member of several other national/international committees. Irmak 's professional memberships include American Society of Civil Engineers, United States Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, and American Society of Agronomy. His research team included several Ph.D. students, two master's students, one research assistant professor, one research scientist, three post-doctoral research associates, one research technologist, and one research technician.

E-mail: sirmak2@unl.edu
Phone: n/a