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K-State Today

August 19, 2021

Nippert awarded NSF grant to study water and carbon fluxes

Submitted by Jennifer Rhodes

Jesse Nippert, professor in the Division of Biology, received a collaborative research award from the National Science Foundation to study the interaction between climate, bedrock and vegetation.

The project will explore how the interaction of plant roots and bedrock has changed water and carbon movement between the land and atmosphere. These fluxes in turn influence climate by altering important factors such as greenhouse gas concentrations. To understand how the land surface will interact with climate in the future, these scientists will differentiate how landscape bedrock and vegetation control water and carbon storage and movement, which locations are most likely to change, and how below-ground properties influence climate conditions now and in the future.

The five-year $412,000 award to K-State, funded by NSF Frontier Research in Earth Sciences, will support Nippert's role in an interdisciplinary project with Pam Sullivan, Oregon State University; Li Li, Penn State University; Alejandro Flores, Boise State; Sharon Billings, University of Kansas; Kamini Singha, Colorado School of Mines; and Daniel Hirmas and Hoori Ajami, from University of California, Riverside.

The project will address two questions: when and to what degree does bedrock exert more controls than roots on subsurface and atmosphere coupling, and what impact does this have on water and carbon fluxes. The broader impacts of this project include training 45 educators, including high school and undergraduate professors, to develop discovery-based learning approaches in their classrooms. The products will be made publicly accessible on the Science Education Resource Center's website on the "Teach the Earth" portal.

The project will leverage existing datasets and collect new data from the NSF Critical Zone Cluster Networks, or CZCNs; National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON; and the Long-Term Ecological Research, or LTER, programs.