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Completed Research Projects

Nutrition

This project is developing food-based delivery systems for transporting butyrate—a bioactive food component with possible cancer preventive effects—to the colon. It will generate fundamental scientific knowledge about how common food components (lipids and polysaccharides) can be assembled into new food structures with novel functional properties. This knowledge could be used to incorporate bioactive lipids (such as butyrate-enriched milk fat) into functional food products specifically designed to tackle human health problems, such as colon cancer prevention.

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.

Breastfeeding is now recognized as the optimal feeding for healthy child development, including in the prevention of childhood obesity

Obesity is higher among black and Latino children compared to their white peers, regardless of gender and age (ranging from preschoolers to adolescents). On an alarming note, research now shows that overweight and obesity exist in very young children. This suggests that how a child is fed early in life is important in preventing childhood obesity. Currently, the scientific evidence suggests that childhood obesity is due to a complex relationship between genes, behavior and the environment, however, the fast rise of the obesity epidemic implies a significant influence of environmental factors. One such environmental influence is in the area of infant feeding

This project will use multiple colon cancer cell lines to investigate the potential synergistic interactions between different dietary components in inhibiting cancer cell growth, and elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved.

This project takes a theoretical and empirical approach to study how several aspects of the food supply chain affect the decisions of consumer and firms and their well-being. The research is examining three issues: buyer market power, the vertical structure of markets and benefits and costs associated with mandated labeling of food products.

Advances in nanotechnology have allowed more rapid and sensitive testing methods to be developed in the form of biosensors to help identify potential dangers in food products prior to distribution. This project aims to develop a microfluidic detection device designed for rapid and portable detection of pathogens and toxins in our food supply.

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.

This project will investigate the effects of a bioactive food component called sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, on basic cellular functions. The aim of this work is to develop new knowledge that could help improve the dietary prevention of the bone disease osteoporosis and obesity, two important public health problems.

Commercial Horticulture

This project will examine the performance of three turfgrass species that are commonly used on home lawns, golf courses and on athletic fields for remediation of organic pollutants.

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 aims to discover local cost-effective feedstock opportunities for sustainable production of high-added value compounds by 1) enriching the PCCL (Plant Cell Culture Library) collection in plant species commonly found or cultivated in Massachusetts, 2) implementing ecologically meaningful elicitation tactics for controlled biosynthesis of metabolites with desired properties, and 3) adapting and developing chemical and biological high-throughput screening (HTS) tactics for rapid discovery of unique valorization-enabling properties.

Communities across the New England region and the country are facing challenges from climate change including more extreme storms, hotter and longer-lasing heat waves, more rain in winter and less in summer, as well as the slower but significant effects of sea level rise. Given the incremental development and long lives of the built environment, 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 (zoning, building codes, road specifications, sewer infrastructure, etc.) so that as climate impacts worsen in the next decades, harm is minimized. However, outside of the major global cities such as Boston and New York, it is not clear how many communities have taken steps toward climate change adaptation.

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.

New research into the challenges facing Springfield will offer insights into processes and approaches for revitalizing cities and will:

· Identify trends and reasons some American cities are rebounding

· Identify the factors that are inhibiting the revitalization of legacy cities

· Identify the factors that are inhibiting the revitalization of Springfield

· Identify new approaches to revitalizing legacy cities, including Springfield

· Disseminate new approaches to revitalizing legacy cities in ways that can impact other cities

· Explore ways to optimize the partnership between the UMass Design Center and the City of Springfield

· Implement new university supported design and planning projects in Springfield

After years of decline, many American cities are experiencing growth and renewal. In the first decades of the new century a host of U.S. cities saw increases in urban employment and population along with decreased rates of poverty and crime (McDonald, 2008). For the last three years, data show American cities growing faster than their surrounding suburbs (Voith & Wachter, 2014).

Still, the urban resurgence is not happening everywhere (Ehrenhalt, 2012). This is especially true for the country’s traditional manufacturing centers, or “legacy” cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo (Mallach, 2012). A similar situation can be seen in Massachusetts where the state’s so-called “Gateway Cities,” the former manufacturing centers that once provided a “gateway to the middle class,” lag behind more prosperous areas such as Boston and its suburbs (Forman, 2009). For this study, the term “legacy city” is used to describe former manufacturing centers, in general. The term “Gateway City” is used to describe former manufacturing centers located in Massachusetts.

The goal of this project is to understand  the many complexities of physical and mental health faced by rural low-income families within the context of their communities.  As more and more families, regardless of income level, face financial insecurity, those who are already at the bottom of the economic ladder become even more vulnerable. It is the economic issues confronting rural, disadvantaged families due to poor physical and mental health that will be addressed through this project.

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

This project utilizes robotic submersible technology to characterize submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) blooms in the Charles River in Massachusetts.

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.

This project aims to design and synthesize the renewable biopolymer chitosan into novel nano-constructs that will efficiently remove tungsten from dilute aqueous solutions.

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.

Fishing is highly popular worldwide and a dominant use of many fish stocks (Cooke & Cowx 2004). There is a growing movement where anglers voluntarily practice catch-and-release to help maintain healthy fish stocks. It is therefore essential to develop conservation-minded angling practices to ensure the sustain ability of recreational fisheries and the conservation of exploited fish species.

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.

Wetland identification, protection, and restoration is a multi-million dollar industry in the United States. State, regional, and federal agencies are working to develop and enforce regulations to maintain, enhance, increase, and protect our nation's wetlands. Non-profit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and Ducks Unlimited have joined forces to support many of these efforts. In contrast, economic development can be stymied by over-regulation and thus developers argue for a balance between natural resource protection and development. In between these arguments are often the small isolated wetlands known as vernal pools that have already suffered serious loss (some regions report as much as a 90% loss of vernal pool wetlands, mostly due to draining for agriculture). Although many states protect vernal pools in their wetlands regulations, federal protection under the Clean Water Act is limited because these systems are often not connected at the surface to the larger wetlands. Thus, showing a connectedness to the regional hydrology could be an important issue regarding their protection.

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.

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