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Completed NIFA Planned Research Initiatives

Commercial Horticulture

This study is expected to reveal differences in one or more aspects of immune components and will aid in the understanding of how chronic exposure to certain organic pesticides may alter immune responses.

This research involves utilizing genomics and molecular biology tools to understand the basis of DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicide resistance dollar spot, the most important disease of turf grasses for golf courses.

This project has three components to increase sustainability in Massachusetts cranberry production:

  • development and demonstration of sustainable practices for the management of the most severe pest problems: cranberry fruitworm, fruit rot disease, and the parasitic weed dodder.
  • investigation of practices to conserve water and fuel.
  • work with growers to implement nutrient management Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Golf course superintendents often need to manage annual bluegrass on their courses and there are few methods for managing pests associated with annual bluegrass outside of multiple applications of chemical pesticides. This research seeks to refine understanding of the biology, ecology, and pathogenesis of these pests, develop better Integrated Pest Management tools to assess and monitor their impact, discover and deploy more effective pest management practices with reduced pesticide use.

With increased pressure to utilize more practical, ecological and economically feasible strategies to manage turfgrasses, research is needed to identify best management practices to preserve water resources. The primary goal is to increase sustainability of turfgrass by addressing water conservation issues, including (i) efficient irrigation strategies based on actual turfgrass water use, (ii) drought resistant species and cultivars, and (iii) an artificial wetland system to aid in preservation of water quality from managed turf settings.

Community & Economic Vitality

This project focuses on male equine infertility from several perspectives: 1) understanding at the molecular level the mechanisms of the causes of male infertility; 2) Methods to be developed during this project could easily be translated to standardized tests in the clinical laboratory; 3) Understanding of male infertility at the molecular level could provide rational strategies to treat infertile stallions and/or improve assisted reproductive technology.

This project will study and numerically model road salt impact on water quality in a typical aquifer in eastern Massachusetts.

This project will examine use of a sensory-affective, comprehensive approach to promote early childhood consumption of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. It is piloting a "Mass Farm Fresh" classroom methodology intended to increase levels of intake that are closer to meeting the USDA recommendations.

This research will address cultural tailoring of nutrition education programs intended to improve food security and nutrition of diverse cultures. It will further investigate cultural and ethnic differences in the language that is used to describe food security and the responses to household constraints that affect food purchasing. Finally, it will implement and evaluate a nutrition education program with a multicultural group of low-income Massachusetts residents.

The goal of this project is to clarify the essential link between the best design and management practices for green infrastructure in new suburban residential developments, the actual results those practices achieve, and the value that residents place on the protected areas.

Environmental Conservation

Hypothetical bias is a major problem in the economic valuation of ecosystem services. Because of this bias, the estimated value of ecosystem services may often be in error. The purpose of this research is to devise and test an improved method for the elimination of hypothetical bias

This research continues exploration of biological (non pesticide) control of a series of invasive plant and insect species that affect crops and forests.

The purpose of this research is to identify the microbial community constituents of mosquito midgut contents in order to identify new pathogens and functional gut microbes.

Communities across the country are face challenges from climate change. However, changes in municipal regulations take years to significantly change the buildings and infrastructure that make up our cities and towns. As a result, it is essential that communities begin now to adapt their built form regulations so that as climate impacts worsen, harm is minimized.  Outside of the major cities, it is not clear how many communities have taken steps toward climate change adaptation. There are a range of ways that communities could progress local adaptation policy, including preparing adaptation plans, including climate projections into other policy, or increasing resilience to current hazards and hoping that will help with intensified future risks. To explore these issues, this project will pilot a web-trawler that can identify adaptation actions at the local level in the New England region, and compare these to the situations of the communities. We will also survey Regional Planning Agencies and a sample of communities in the region. Taken together, this work will allow us to identify the status and types of adaptation actions underway in the region, the goals and barriers they are designed to address, and characterize these connections.

This research involves modeling of cell growth, metabolite production rates, and product yields on various feedstocks using a variety of target organisms that can perform the bioprocess. These emphases need to be addressed prior to commercial implementation of generation of biofuels and industrial precursors from hydrothermal vent microbes.

This project involves monitoring the levels and locations of EDCs (endocrine disrupting compounds) in the Assabet River of eastern Massachusetts to advance the protection of the aquatic environment.

This project will develop and diversify Crambe (an oilseed crop) and brassica (mustard green) species as dedicated bioenergy crops for biodiesel production. The proposed strategy will increase crop biomass and seed yields while growing these crops on marginal and heavy-metal-contaminated lands, thus increasing both yield and arable acreage.

This project aims to design and conduct economic laboratory experiments to investigate behavioral issues related to the defense of common pool resources from encroachment by outsiders. Common pool resources are assets -- often natural assets such as forests, fisheries and water supplies --t hat are managed by a group of users. We will design and conduct a series of laboratory experiments to examine the ability of a group of resource users to simultaneously manage their own exploitation of a resource and defend their resource from outside encroachment.

This project focuses on the economics of coping with decision environment anomalies through preparedness. Approaches to decision making in the presence of global anomalies and the economic implications for individual and collective preparedness will be investigated.

Recreational angling for striped bass is a popular activity in Massachusetts. Many bass are released following capture because of regulations and a growing conservation ethic, however, little is known about how stresses associated with capture impacts behavior and survival. This research is the first extensive approach to systematically link the physiological and physical stress response to angling with measures of post-release behavior and survival for coastal striped bass.

The goal of the project will be to develop methods to screen for mitochondrial impairment in human and animal tissues, a possible effect of exposure to a common pesticide.

Pitch pine-scrub oak forests are a significant contributor to the biodiversity of the Northeast. This project is examining the effects of management strategies on native bees within the Montague Plains Wildlife Management Area in central Massachusetts.

Despite the significant efforts to reduce nitrogen discharge from wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs), the Long Island Sound (LIS) area affected by hypoxia actually increased over the last decade. Our preliminary research has suggested that WWTFs utilizing the biological nitrogen removal (BNR) process may actually increase particular forms of N that are more potent for algal bloom in LIS. We propose a research plan to evaluate the true impact of upgrading WWTF for N removal (i.e., BNR) on receiving water eutrophication and toxic algal bloom.

The research focuses on responses to extreme flood events in Vermont, primarily Hurricane Irene, but also prior flood disasters. This research contributes to theoretical debates on adaptation to extreme events by explicitly accounting for the impacts of human-actions in response to flooding on riparian forest ecosystems needs. This research also investigates the motivations for human action.

A home that has been designed according to LEED green building standards may not necessarily be sustainable unless the systems operations and maintenance are tuned up and owners are. This project will include environmental audits of fourteen LEED-certified homes in New England at least twelve months after they were occupied. Findings will be evaluated by comparing baseline (predicted) performance data (LEED documentation) with actual operational data in order to identify the issues that effect sustainability.

Trees and forests act as a sink to collect and hold carbon and as a result are thought of as part of the answer to mitigate increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and increased global warming. Roughly 55-percent of all forests in the United States are privately owned and 92-percent of these owners are families. This project will investigate the opinions and preferences of family forestland owners in order to build effective educational and management programs.

A number of studies show that the probability of audit and the size of the penalty for violation impact compliance rates, Advancing our understanding of these issues will lead to more efficient enforcement in the sense that for a given budget the regulator will be able to induce a higher level of compliance. The second stage of the project will investigate the effects of general deterrence and audit uncertainty in markets.

Researchers will evaluate the potential use of field indicators of hydric soils to characterize wetland hydroperiods with respect to frequency, depth, and duration of water table fluctuations; test the effectiveness of proposed hydric soil indicators to identify 'problem hydric soils'; test monitoring protocols used to identify reducing conditions to determine if they are effective within a range of soil conditions within the Northeast; and investigate the hydraulic properties of hydromorphic soils with episaturation.

Managing conflict between people and black bears is a significant challenge confronting wildlife professionals. The challenge is heightened by the species’ large geographic range, acceptance of human disturbance, and propensity to exploit anthropogenic food sources such as garbage cans, bird feeders, apiaries, fruit orchards, and agricultural fields. Understanding and quantifying the range of variation in the nutritional ecology of free-ranging black bears in the Northeast is important for effective management of the species.

This research studies the effectiveness of stormwater Best Management Practices as tools to mitigate umpacts resultng from urbanization. The results of the study will highlight the implications for adaptation to flood mitigation risk under climate change scenarios in the Boston Metro Area and other urbanized watersheds.

The goal of this project is to gain further understanding of the genetic and evolutionary consequences of stream fragmentation by applying an evolutionary perspective to the consequences of stream fragmentation on wild brook trout populations in Massachusetts. Because brook trout are an indicator species for cold, unpolluted stream habitat, this work will help conserve and retain the ecosystem integrity of this critical habitat type.

Invasive plants in forest understories in Massachusetts threaten native ecosystems and working forests. This research will use satellite remote sensing to map three understory invasive species (buckthorn, honeysuckle, and barberry) in western Massachusetts. Occurrence maps will be compared to geology, topography, and land use to better identify correlates of invasion across the landscape and create maps identifying high invasion risk.

Food banks are major consumers of energy related to food handling and storage as well as major customers for local food producers. Energy efficiency and cost reduction in food banks could have synergistic benefits for both types of enterprise. This project will develop a process map to integrate energy and food handling audits tio help identify key nodes for effective energy efficiency and food safety interventions. By evaluating  technological innovation in the context of the local post-harvest food system the food banks can optimize energy efficiency and food safety.

This multidisciplinary project will promote the use of biochar and bio-oil generated from agricultural/forest organic wastes to enhance small farm sustainability through providing renewable fuel, and improving soil quality and crop productivity, and to improve the environment through sequestrating greenhouse gases and reducing the mobility and exposure of contaminants in soils.

This study will examine threats to water security and potential impacts on water quantity and quality in watershed systems. The main goal of the study is to evaluate the effects of land use, extreme precipitation, and climatic stressors on water security (quantity and quality) and potential mitigation opportunities at a river basin scale. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), uncertainty analysis, simulation modeling, and a multi-attribute decision framework will be used to evaluate and advance water security in watershed systems.

It has been hypothesized that climate change will cause plant species ranges to shift northward with plants at the south end of ranges declining in vigor and growth rate. The purpose of this research is to test this hypothesis for red spruce and balsam fir along the southern end of the continuous distribution of these species, in Massachusetts. By measuring the growth patterns of these trees, we can determine if the southern end of the range has been declining, relative to more northern stands of these species.

This research will determine the environmental behavior and process of several types of manufactured nanomaterials. The results of this study are expected to help us understand how these manufactured nanomaterials interact with natural and synthetic molecules, and their fate, mobility, exposure and bioavailability in the environment.

This project will examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency by using a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with both biological and thermochemical conversion.

This project uses experimental economics and stated preference surveys to address the the assumptions contained within incentive-based policies -- as well as evaluating alternative regulatory approaches and the management of common property.

The goal of this project is to clarify the essential link between the best design and management practices for green infrastructure in new suburban residential developments, the actual results those practices achieve, and the value that residents place on the protected areas.

With increased pressure to utilize more practical, ecological and economically feasible strategies to manage turfgrasses, research is needed to identify best management practices to preserve water resources. The primary goal is to increase sustainability of turfgrass by addressing water conservation issues, including (i) efficient irrigation strategies based on actual turfgrass water use, (ii) drought resistant species and cultivars, and (iii) an artificial wetland system to aid in preservation of water quality from managed turf settings.

The goal of this research is to gain better insight into the decision making process of Massachusetts forest-owning families in regards to the future of their land so that educators may tailor outreach programs and material to help these families make informed decisions about it. The cumulative effect of the independent decisions that these landowners make about their land will determine the future of our landscapes and the public benefits they continue to provide (or not to provide).

Reaching the potential for renewable biofuels depends on the development of new technologies that are able to release the energy stored in cellulose fibers. This research project centers around an unusual microbe, Clostridium phytofermentans, that can convert a broad range of biomass sources directly to ethanol without expensive thermochemical pretreatment. Further development of conversion processes using C. phytofermentans will create a path to renewable biofuels using our region's sustainable forestry and crop resources.

Energy

A home that has been designed according to LEED green building standards may not necessarily be sustainable unless the systems operations and maintenance are tuned up and owners are. This project will include environmental audits of fourteen LEED-certified homes in New England at least twelve months after they were occupied. Findings will be evaluated by comparing baseline (predicted) performance data (LEED documentation) with actual operational data in order to identify the issues that effect sustainability.

Food banks are major consumers of energy related to food handling and storage as well as major customers for local food producers. Energy efficiency and cost reduction in food banks could have synergistic benefits for both types of enterprise. This project will develop a process map to integrate energy and food handling audits tio help identify key nodes for effective energy efficiency and food safety interventions. By evaluating  technological innovation in the context of the local post-harvest food system the food banks can optimize energy efficiency and food safety.

This multidisciplinary project will promote the use of biochar and bio-oil generated from agricultural/forest organic wastes to enhance small farm sustainability through providing renewable fuel, and improving soil quality and crop productivity, and to improve the environment through sequestrating greenhouse gases and reducing the mobility and exposure of contaminants in soils.

This project will examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency by using a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with both biological and thermochemical conversion.

Reaching the potential for renewable biofuels depends on the development of new technologies that are able to release the energy stored in cellulose fibers. This research project centers around an unusual microbe, Clostridium phytofermentans, that can convert a broad range of biomass sources directly to ethanol without expensive thermochemical pretreatment. Further development of conversion processes using C. phytofermentans will create a path to renewable biofuels using our region's sustainable forestry and crop resources.

Water

This project involves monitoring the levels and locations of EDCs (endocrine disrupting compounds) in the Assabet River of eastern Massachusetts to advance the protection of the aquatic environment.

Researchers will evaluate the potential use of field indicators of hydric soils to characterize wetland hydroperiods with respect to frequency, depth, and duration of water table fluctuations; test the effectiveness of proposed hydric soil indicators to identify 'problem hydric soils'; test monitoring protocols used to identify reducing conditions to determine if they are effective within a range of soil conditions within the Northeast; and investigate the hydraulic properties of hydromorphic soils with episaturation.

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