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Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development (CEMPD)

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: WA 3-01, titled “Provision of Modeling Software Support,” is designed to assist EPA by providing the continued use of existing support web-site software, through the operation of the Center for Community Modeling and Analyses System (CMAS). This flagship center hosted by IE since 2002 provides support for a global modeling community of > 5000 users. This includes the testing and documentation of three sets of CMAQ released versions ; the Atmospheric Model Evaluation Tool; maintenance of an internet-based query system; host a space for collaboration amongst air quality modelers; and host CMAQ-related input and output data files.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: For Work Assignment 3-02 titled “Development of a Tool for Gridded Agricultural Data for Air, Land and Water Modeling,” UNC-IE will continue the development of input information required for the bi-directional CMAQ (EPIC coupled with CMAQ) functionality and applications, including the interface used to run EPIC (FEST-C) and related tools (e.g., Spatial Analysis, QA tools). This WA builds on progress to date in this area provides continuing support for EPIC and FEST-C tools and new/expanded applications (ACE AIMS-2, SHC 4.61, SSWR 4.02 and SSWR 4.03), and provides for bug fixes, general interface support, documentation update support and support for fertilizer database update to 2011.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: For Work Assignment 3-03 titled “Improvement of parameterizations for modeling aerosol direct effects on radiation and visibility,” UNC-IE will improve parameterizations and data for the next generation air quality modeling system and to make refinements in previous deliverables associated with the following: optical and radiative effects of aerosols in the WRF/CMAQ modeling system including black carbon (BC) and brown carbon aerosols, and improved representation of aerosol size distributions, chemical composition, and aerosol mixing state on which aerosol optical properties strongly depend. The research addressed by this work assignment is in support of Air and Energy (A-E) Research Program tasks AIMS 1.5 and AIMS 1.2.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: For Work Assignment 3-06 titled “Method Development for Fine-Scale Air Quality Mapping,” UNC-IE, is working with EPA scientists to design TracMyAir, a smartphone application that predicts exposures to ambient air pollution (PM2.5, ozone). The app will use input data available from smartphones, which includes (1) outdoor air pollution measurements from local monitors (e.g., EPA’s AirNow Application Programming Interface); (2) current local weather; (3) user’s current location; and (4) user’s home characteristics. TracMyAir will run models published by the EPA’s Exposure Model for Individuals (EMI). The exposure model accounts for time spent in different microenvironments (e.g., outdoors, in-vehicle, indoors at home, work) and time-varying and building-specific attenuation of ambient air pollution while indoors. The tool will be delivered to the WACOR as native smartphone software, and not published for general use by public.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 3-07 titled “Emissions Modeling Platform Support,” is to improve emissions modeling software and data in support of EPA’s emissions modeling platforms but not improvements specifically related to mobile sources. The emissions modeling platforms include the emission inventories and ancillary data needed to prepare emissions inputs to air quality models such as CMAQ. The platforms are based on versions of the National Emission Inventory (NEI) and support national, regional, and local air quality modeling in support of rulemaking efforts and special studies by the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS), the Office of Atmospheric Programs (OAP), and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ), as well as model development and evaluation by the Office of Research and Development (ORD).

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 3-08 titled “Mobile Source Emissions Modeling Improvements,” is to improve emissions modeling software and emissions modeling platform data related to mobile sources. Mobile sources have increasing relevance in current and future years as emissions from many stationary sources have been reduced through installation of control devices and changes to fuels used. Emissions modeling platforms include mobile source and other emission inventories, along with ancillary data needed to prepare emissions inputs to air quality models such as CMAQ. Emissions modeling platforms are important in the support of regulatory and non-regulatory studies for the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ), the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS), the Office of Atmospheric Programs (OAP), and for model development and evaluation performed by the Office of Research and Development (ORD).

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 3-09 titled “R-Line Model Testing and Documentation,” is to prepare for a release of version 2 of the R-LINE dispersion model, including code testing on multiple platforms, updating the user manual, preparing sample cases and preparing materials for the webpage. The research addressed by this work assignment is in support of PEP-1.8.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 3-10 titled “Development of a Mobile App for Tracking Odors from Air Pollution,” is to provide a mobile phone app for reporting odors that can be used by communities around the U.S. that are impacted by odors from air pollution emissions. Information from the mobile app can be used by state/local governments and industry for air quality modeling and mitigation efforts.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 5-01 titled “Support for the Control Strategy Tool,” is to incorporate further enhancements to support upcoming Ozone Transport and NAAQS control strategy and cost analyses, and other necessary enhancements, as described in Section V of the task order. CoST was enhanced to implement versioning of the controls data; build additional capabilities into the tool needed to support ongoing and upcoming NAAQS Regulatory Impact Analyses; and to support application of the tool by internal (EPA) and external partners for local, state, regional, and national analyses.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 5-02 titled “Emissions Modeling Platform and Software Support,” is to provide source apportionment modeling for ozone transport and particulate matter, modeling in support of OTAQ rulemaking, modeling of the year of 2014 for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 4-km fine scale modeling in the southeast and the west, applications of a hemispheric modeling platform, modeling in support of ozone and PM designations, along with other analyses associated with rulemaking and special studies including the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA).

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 5-03 titled “Air Benefit and Cost and Attainment Assessment System” (ABaCAS) Development Support,” is to support EPA in developing and enhancing a community edition of “Air Benefit and Cost and Attainment Assessment System” (ABaCAS) to provide an integrated assessment of air emissions control cost and its associated air quality attainment and health benefits for international applications. A list of key tasks that will be performed under this WA include: (1) Enhance/improve the ABaCAS system prototype including the ABaCAS streamlined edition of (ABaCAS-SE) and the standalone tools such as “SMAT-CE” attainment tool; Develop/improve ABaCAS training materials, including “on-line User’s Manual” and “Quick Start Guide”, and assist EPA in setting up training programs and workshops for international applications; (2) Develop/improve a model visualization and analysis tool (Model-VAT) for supporting multiple models’ data graphical and statistical analysis; (3) Develop/improve a standalone “Data Fusion” tool to provide spatial field interpolation for fusing gridded modeling data and monitoring and other observational data.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 5-06 titled “SHEDS-PM Model Support,” is to obtain technical support for application of the Stochastic Human Exposure and Dose Simulation for Particulate Matter (SHEDS-PM) model to assess the model’s utility for estimating population distributions of exposure and dose for biological agents such as Bacillus anthracis following a hypothetical outdoor release within an urban area.

Sponsor: U.S. EPA

Abstract: The purpose of Work Assignment 5-07 titled “Meteorological and Dispersion Modeling Support,” is to provide assistance regarding meteorology and photochemical modeling. It is intended to provide Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model data, Mesoscale Model Interface Tool (MMIF) output data to be used to support current efforts within the Air Quality Modeling Group (AQMG), and potential bug fixes to the MMIF tool. The WRF model output will be used for future photochemical and emissions modeling, as well as for dissemination to outside entities for their use in SIP and permit development. The MMIF output and bug fixes are necessary within the scope of supporting recent updates to Appendix W. In addition, this WA also involves making various updates to the Comprehensive Air Quality Model with eXtensions (CAMx) – a regional-scale air quality model.

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration

Abstract: The objective of this research under FAA’s Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT) Center of Excellence is to continue developing tools that will enable quantification of National Air Space (NAS)-wide and airport-specific air quality (and health) impacts due to aircraft emissions from select individual airports. Started in FY14, under sponsorship from the ASCENT COE, UNC’s Institute for the Environment (UNC-IE) has been developing a state-of-the-art modeling framework referred to as the APMT Impacts Air Quality Modeling Platform (APMT-I AQMP). Research activities for FY19 will focus on two broad areas – assess the air quality impacts of aviation emissions on ultrafine particulate matter, and to develop a new local-scale dispersion modeling framework.

Sponsor: Environmental Defense Fund

Abstract: The air emissions from oil and gas production are presently a major, and underappreciated, contributor to air pollution. For this study, UNC-IE will construct a model framework using the Community Multiscale Air Quality Model with the Direct Decoupled Method (CMAQ-DDM), which is able to effectively model ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and includes the health impacts of VOCs through both ozone and particulate matter formation. UNC-IE will estimate health impacts of air pollution, including but not limited to mortality, hospitalizations, and heart attacks. This model framework allows for “tracking” of pollutants, from emission source, to final receptor. This means that UNC-IE will be able to estimate health impacts nationwide, and impacts occurring within each state or smaller geographies in the continental U.S. With this tracking framework, UNC-IE will also be able to quantify and map the health impacts of emissions from individual shale producing regions or states to each receptor state. Conversely, one can also use this framework to estimate for a given region the air pollution and health impacts occurring due to upwind oil and gas activity.

Sponsor: Harvard University/Georgetown University (Prime Sponsor: Barr Foundation)

Abstract: UNC IE will collaborate with the Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health’s C-CHANGE center (and received bridge funding from Georgetown University Climate Center) to quantify health benefits through detailed air quality modeling in support of the Transportation Climate Initiative in 12 states in the Northeastern U.S., and for further dissemination to state officials, Barr Foundation and to others through publications. The modeling system will use the SMOKE-CMAQ system instrumented with a sophisticated sensitivity analyses technique – the Decoupled Direct Method (DDM) to assess state/pollutant- specific sensitivities for O3 and PM2.5.

Sponsor: The Cadmus Group (Prime Sponsor: FHWA)

Abstract: The objective of this research is to conduct an evaluation that compares methods representing vehicle activity at signalized intersections for use in project scale air quality analysis. A detailed baseline will be used to compare other methods that are more practical to implement for each project-level air quality analysis. The study involves detailed modeling of a specific intersection using the MOVES and CAL3QHC models and assessing the impacts of multiple queueing options on model predictions, and developing a guidance document for the FHWA.

Sponsor: NIH (in collaboration with RENCI)

Abstract: This project focuses on building a pilot that uses data drawn from electronic health records, molecular data, and environmental exposure data.  We intend to develop methods by which a wide variety of data sources are surveilled and analyzed to identify effects of drugs already in use which are novel or not expected in the original development of the drug. IE’s specific contribution is to provide detailed information on roadway and environmental exposures using the CMAQ and R-LINE modeling systems for multiple years.

Sponsor: New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

Abstract: The goal of this project is to integrate COBRA and C-TOOLS and add custom higher resolution input datasets for emissions, health incidences and population for NYC to allow for a finer-grained, more localized analysis (zip-code level rather than county level) of the health benefits from air quality management decisions and perform rapid evaluation of various policy options. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Subcontractor #2) shall be the test user throughout the development of this software and use the new tool to evaluate multiple energy policy options. The specific objectives include: a) Adapt C-TOOLS to include building, street and unit-level emissions data for NYC domain, b) Adapt C-TOOLS to include rest of NY state using NEI- 2016) county-based estimates, c) Integrate COBRA with C-TOOLS to create a combined tool with a single web-based user interface to perform high-resolution zip-code level assessments, d) Update COBRA to include NYC-specific health incidence data, e) Develop estimates of secondary PM2.5 components, f) Model various energy-related emissions scenarios using the new integrated tool; and g) Prepare Users Guide and documentation for installing C-TOOLS/COBRA on New York City (NYC) and New York State (NYS) servers.

Sponsor: Gwangju Institute of Sciences and Technology (GIST)

Abstract: UNC-IE and Konkuk University propose to develop the fast on-road mobile emissions processor that can reflect the changes in policies and control strategies in Korea and can easily utilize the latest vehicle specific emissions factors, high-resolution vehicle activities, such as hourly averaged VMT and/or link-level activities. This model can be used as a research tool as well as a policymaking tool.

Sponsor: Korea National Research Foundation (KNRF)

Abstract: The ability of air quality models to predict accurate ozone and PM2.5 concentrations that track well with observation relies partly on an accurate estimate of emissions sources, including emissions from highway motor vehicles. Especially, on-road emissions inventory plays a critical role in the accuracy of air quality modeling and forecasting results.  Historically, on-road emissions inventories have been prepared by combining outdated emissions factors with estimates of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) from local transportation data to estimate daily average emissions. There have been several attempts to implement various on-road mobile emissions models from other countries in Korea. However, there have been several limitations to implement these mobile emissions models due to the lack of input datasets as well as inappropriate vehicle-specific emission factors. These kinds of significant inaccuracies can result from generating inventories at a larger scale spatially and temporally than is required for air quality modeling system. This project will develop the fast on-road mobile emissions processor that can reflect the changes in policies and control strategies in Korea and can easily utilize the latest vehicle specific emissions factors, high-resolution vehicle activities, such as hourly averaged VMT and/or link-level activities. This model also can be used as a research tool as well as a policymaking tool.

Sponsor: Coordinating Research Council, Inc. (CRC)

Abstract: Emerging data in Chemical Transport Modeling (CTM) and related measurements are improving our understanding of the relationships of different sources of emissions. Changes in emissions over the past 10 years are making us re-think traditional ideas about the most significant source of emissions. For example, utilizing the geostationary satellite image data could show the concentration of emissions on a high ozone day in Metropolitan Chicago. Contrary to past methods this satellite image could point to a new group of sources than traditional sources. In this study, UNC will develop two air quality modeling support tools to help the air quality community understand this shift in source contributions. The first are changes to the newest CTM source apportionment tools. The second is improved reporting tools that extract critical high-resolution inventory data that can be compared to measurement data including both terrestrial and remote sensing technologies.

Sponsor: NOAA

Abstract: Air quality forecasting is one of the key tools commonly used by state and local agencies to protect the public from adverse health effects of poor air quality. Emission is a key input to air quality forecasting systems such as the National Air Quality Forecasting Capability (NAQFC) and Next Generation Global Prediction System FV3-chem. In order to accelerate the transition of emission research into operation, a group of emission scientists will develop the NAQFC Community Emission Testbed. The testbed will provide a common platform for the community to contribute to future emission updates in NAQFC and FV3-chem. This project will address two specific emission issues: anthropogenic emission updates and wildfires. Anthropogenic emission inventories are time consuming to update and wildfire emissions are subject to large uncertainties. We propose to use NCET to solve these problems. First, we will deploy state-of-the-art emission modeling frames, including the NOAA Air Resource Laboratory emission forecasting system and EPA/UNC Emission Modeling Framework (EMF), to the GeoBrain cloud server. All interested emission scientists can apply for an account to access the platform. We will evaluate the CMAQ model performance after an incremental update to choose preferable emission configurations that lead to improved O3 and PM2.5 forecasts.

Sponsor: Ramboll, Inc (Prime: Western States Air Resources Council (WESTAR))

Abstract: This work is focusing on pollutants and emissions sectors that had the potential to influence photochemical modeling for Regional Haze Planning, such as large PM sources and major point sources.  The main criteria pollutants of concern that were reviewed for Regional Haze modeling include PM10, PM2.5, NOx, SO2, and NH3.  UNC will work with Ramboll Inc. to accelerate the development of the 2014 Photochemical Grid Modeling (PGM) modeling platform to conduct full 2014 Photochemical Grid Modeling platform.  The Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) 2018-2019 work plan and Intermountain West Data Warehouse (IWDW) -Western Air Quality Study (WAQS) work plan both identify the need to perform PGM for the calendar year 2014 to construct the base year modeling platform for the unified WRAP and IWDW-WAQS efforts.

Sponsor: Strategic Environmental Research Development Program (SERDP)

Abstract: The Department of Defense (DoD) ranks second among federal agencies in annual prescribed fire acreage. The safe and effective use of prescribed fire is a critical to sustain the military mission. The ability to use prescribed fire as a management tool to reduce biomass and manage wildfire risk is essential to DoD’s training mission by minimizing restrictions to and enhancement of training scenarios that often include incendiary ordnance. Maintaining fire-adapted landscapes is also important to ecosystem resilience, the management of threatened and endangered species, and a part of DoD’s interest in being a good environmental steward. Challenges to the continued use of prescribed fire in open pine woodlands and savannas across southeastern installations include liability concerns (e.g. fire escape), air quality and smoke management, and the increasing wildland/urban interface. Improvements to the understanding of fire dynamics and consequential air quality impacts will ultimately secure fire as a management tool by reducing risk and increasing control of fire effects in this southeastern, relevant DoD landscape type.

Through a series of progressively increasing scaled experiments and cooperation with complementary SERDP-funded projects already in progress, this project will determine the relationships between fuel characteristics, fire dynamics, and emissions production, which will be represented through emission source terms in FIRETEC, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD)-based coupled fire/atmosphere model. Laboratory and wind tunnel fire dynamics and emission data will be used to develop and refine emissions source terms in FIRETEC as functions of local fuel conditions and variation of ignition practices. Development of an air pollution model (“SOOT”) within FIRETEC for use at operational scales for prediction of local smoke dispersion will then be verified by coupling it to an EPA regional air quality model (CMAQ) for prediction of ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and comparing results to observations. 2020-2023

Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems (CoFiRES)

For descriptions on current research projects conducted by the Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems, please visit:

Center for Public Engagement with Science (CPES)

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Abstract: Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project that measures the seasonal variation (or phenology) and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles, and spiders found on the leaves of trees and shrubs. The project, led by Dr. Allen Hurlbert in Biology, partners with informal science centers and schools to act as host sites for Caterpillars Count! surveys. Volunteer participants submit data with a free mobile app or through the project website ( They can instantly visualize and explore the data they or others have submitted, to answer their own research questions. Through participation in Caterpillars Count!, citizen scientists learn about the diversity of arthropods around us and their roles within ecosystems, along with the concept of phenology and its relation to climate change. To date, almost 700 people have contributed data at over 55 sites, and they have identified over 35,000 arthropods (and over 2,800 caterpillars). The project is helping researchers understand where there may be mismatches between migratory birds and their food resources, leading to population declines.

Sponsor: NASA

Abstract: Lake Observations by Citizen Scientists and Satellites (LOCSS) combines lake height data submitted by citizen scientists with lake surface area data from satellite imagery to understand how the volume of water in lakes is changing over time. Led by Dr. Tamlin Pavelsky in Geological Sciences, this project is helping researchers to understand large water systems around the world. It also helps lake managers to provide information on flooding or low water conditions, minimizing impacts to lake users, shoreline property owners, and the health of the lakes. Currently, LOCSS is studying 62 lakes in four states (North Carolina, Washington, Illinois, and Massachusetts) and France and Bangladesh. Nearly 900 volunteer citizen scientists have contributed roughly 4,000 lake height measurements since the project began in 2017. 

Sponsor: NIEHS

Abstract: Within the UNC Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility, the Community Engagement Core (CEC) connects researchers with public health professionals and community-based organizations in NC. We use a train-the-trainer model to prepare public health practitioners to address environmental health issues in their communities, and we foster dialogue among Center members and community partners about research needs and associated policy issues. Our Stakeholder Advisory Board, a 12-member advisory board comprised of public health professionals and environmental health advocates, is an important partner in this process. Recent work has focused on how air quality and climate affect health (working with Drs. Ilona Jaspers, Jason Surratt and Jason West, Environmental Sciences and Engineering) and reducing post-hurricane environmental exposures (working with Dr. Larry Engel, Epidemiology). In recent years, we have trained hundreds of public health professionals on a range of environmental health topics. Using pre-/post-assessments, we have seen significant knowledge gains and participants reported being better prepared to communicate environmental health information to residents/clients.,

Sponsor: NCDHHS
For over a decade, the Center for Public Engagement with Science (CPES) has facilitated statewide outreach for the NC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, with a focus on increasing knowledge about lead-based paint and other environmental health hazards in homes among public health, healthcare, and childcare professionals. We also teach families in high-risk communities about how to reduce their exposure to lead in their homes and convene the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Outreach Task Force, a network of ~40 participants representing local, state, and federal public health and housing agencies. The Task Force shares policy information and strategies for community interventions to eliminate harmful environmental exposures. CPES provides web-based and in-person training, educational materials, and technical assistance and manages a website that serves as a clearinghouse for resources on lead and other healthy homes concerns. This project includes a subcontract with a community development nonprofit to conduct outreach in high-risk neighborhoods in Durham County. Working with state and local health departments, we helped develop lead screening guidelines for pregnant women, ensuring that pregnant women and their developing babies are better protected from lead hazards.

Sponsor: NIEHS, NSF, USEPA, and a private donor

Abstract: The CPES is collaborating with the UNC Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (Dr. Rebecca Fry) and Virginia Tech Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (Dr. Marc Edwards) to document and respond to private well contamination in environmental justice communities in North Carolina. Over four years, we have tested wells and reported findings to over 1,200 private well users in six environmental justice communities across the state. By offering free well tests and, when contaminants are identified, filters, we have helped some of NC’s most vulnerable populations to understand and respond to well water contamination in their communities.

Sponsor: NCGA

Abstract: The NC PFAS Testing (PFAST) Network is a statewide research collaboration focused on improving understanding of exposure to PFAS chemicals across North Carolina, including testing for current PFAS levels in drinking water and air samples. The Network is led by Dr. Jason Surratt (UNC Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering) and comprised of researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, Duke, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte, ECU, and NC A&T. The goal of the communications team is to increase awareness of the PFAST study and its findings and create opportunities for dialogue about the study among diverse groups, including scientists, key stakeholders, and lay publics. Activities are geared towards fostering understanding of potential exposure to PFAS chemicals in NC communities and have included research symposia, research briefings, science cafes, a webinar for teachers, and science communication training for investigators.

Sponsor: NCGA

Abstract: The CPES engaged key stakeholders and lay publics in the work of the Jordan Lake Nutrient Management Study, which was led by Dr. Mike Piehler (UNC Institute for the Environment). In the first year, CPES conducted focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders to understand their views on how to best manage nutrients in the lake. In later years, CPES facilitated a series of research symposia, science seminars, and science cafes to enable researchers to share their findings with over 300 stakeholders and lay audiences.

Sponsor: Duke Energy Foundation

Abstract: Since 2009, CPES educators have led energy-focused educational programming with hundreds of K-12 teachers and students. The year-long NC Energy Literacy Fellows (ELF) Program combines hands-on STEM investigations with explorations of energy production and research facilities and highlights relevant careers. The Energy Literacy, Engagement and Action Program (Energy LEAP) is a summer science enrichment experience for high school students that engages students in STEM activities focused on examining society’s current and future use of energy. CPES also conducts one energy-related regional workshop annually and contributes to teacher professional development conferences at the state, regional and national levels. Since 2017, 58 educators from across the state have participated in NC ELF. At the conclusion of the program, participants reported they were more prepared to deliver energy-related content to students, conduct hands-on, energy-related activities, and promote energy careers. In the same time frame, 58 high school students participated in Energy LEAP. These participants reported being more aware of how energy was relevant their lives, thinking more about pursuing a career in a STEM field, and having a better understanding of what scientists and engineers do.

Sponsor: NC State Parks and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

Abstract: These three programs use long-duration professional development to prepare teachers to use the outdoors in teaching required curriculum objectives. Teachers can participate in up to 50 contact hours of summer and school year programming that provide direct, hands-on experiences on school grounds and in local natural areas such as state parks. During programming, teachers interact with environmental scientists and expert environmental educators. They take home resources to support classroom integration of content, including tailored curriculum materials, and engage in a peer learning network that provides ongoing support in using outdoor experiences in instruction. Teachers who participate in these programs are better prepared to take their students out into local environments for authentic and relevant learning experiences. Participants typically experience gains in their confidence and sense of efficacy in teaching science generally, as well as teaching science outdoors after completing the program. Web pages: NC State Parks Teacher Collaborative, At Water’s Edge Teacher Institutes, Northside Elementary Outdoor Wonder and Learning (OWL).

Sponsor: NSF

Abstract: In partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS), CPES is developing a long-duration science enrichment program for high school students, titled Youth Engaging in the Science of Resilience in Urban and Rural NC (YES-Resilience). This program will engage 32 high school students (16 each from an urban and a rural region) in learning about climate change and resilience while empowering youth to participate in resilience building community-action projects. Participants will extend their knowledge, connect with youth from another region of the state, and receive ongoing support for their action projects through a six-day summer institute in Raleigh and Whiteville, followed by academic year programming. YES-Resilience program will provide insight into how urban and rural youth learn and teach others about community resilience in the face of climate change.

Sponsor: NSF

Abstract: Since 2012, the UNC Institute for the Environment has partnered with UNC geoscience faculty and the Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) to provide 10-week (summer), mentored geoscience research experiences for undergraduate students from both institutions. Academic year activities include Saturday Intensives that introduce students to geoscience researchers and practitioners in the Triangle. Participation is especially encouraged from female students and those who identify as underrepresented minorities (URM) in geoscience fields. IDEA also provides faculty and graduate student mentors with opportunities to develop and refine their mentoring skills through trainings such as Entering Mentoring and the Racial Equity Institute’s Phase I Anti-Racism training. Since 2012, IDEA has supported 71 undergraduate students, 64 of whom identified as female and/or URM, in geoscience internships and professional development activities; 24 UNC-CH faculty members have served as mentors. IDEA interns have contributed to scientific presentations, published works, new technologies and methods, and leveraged funding. Past participants reported that IDEA internships influenced their interest in pursuing graduate school or careers in the geosciences as well as their persistence in STEM. Similarly, current participants reported that the program fostered their understanding and interest in geosciences.

Sponsor: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Abstract: SELF is a new partnership with Robeson Community College’s Robeson Early College High School (RECHS). Each summer, approximately 24 RECHS rising high school seniors will participate in a 2-week summer field experience, and eight rising advanced senior students will come to UNC-Chapel Hill for a 5-week mentored research experience. During the academic year, approximately 20 students will participate in a series of environmental science and health-focused field trips. This project is designed to encourage URM students to pursue environmental science and health majors and careers. Robeson County has a more diverse population than many NC counties (with about 41% of the population identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native and about 24% identifying as African American). It also is a low-resource community with 30% of the county population living in poverty (including 44% of children age 0-17). Expected outcomes include increased knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for science careers among participants.

Sponsor: UNC Institute for the Environment

Abstract: The CPES coordinates local sustainability-focused internships for UNC undergraduate students through the Sustainable Triangle Field Site (STFS) and other environmental internships through EcoStudio. Each spring, the STFS offers a semester-long, residential experience that enables students to pair academic studies with professional experience gained in internships with local governments, nonprofits, businesses, and university departments working to implement sustainable practices. EcoStudio is a relatively new collaboration between the UNC Institute for the Environment and the UNC Environment, Ecology and Energy Program (E3P); it offers applied learning experiences to UNC students year-round. In 2018-2019, through these two programs, CPES has paired over 55 undergraduate students with internships in the Triangle area. STFS participants have regularly reported that the internships were a highlight of their UNC experience.

Other Research

Sponsor: CFE/Lenovo Instructional Innovation Grants, UNC Chapel Hill

Abstract: This project designs and executes a five-day drone (unmanned aerial system, UAS) course and creates online learning modules from the workshop that provide a foundation of experience, confidence, and skills for faculty to begin incorporating drone technology into classroom curricula and research applications. The five-day course will consist of classroom lectures, active learning, and hands-on flight instruction with several different types of drones. The course will be structured during the first four days as a series of learning modules that each address a vital element necessary for safe drone operations and basic data collection. This compartmentalized approach will allow the PI’s to develop online lessons for each topic that can be easily incorporated into UNC course curricula. The culminating event on day five will be a real-world data collection project whereby participants plan and execute a flight operation to collect and analyze geospatial data for a nearby natural system. At the end of the course, participants will be prepared to obtain their FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification (required by law for all commercial drone uses). 2019-2020.

Sponsor: North Carolina Policy Collaboratory

Abstract: While the connection between wildfire occurrence and debris flows following extreme precipitation events is well-established for the western United States, that link has not been established and validated for the western region of North Carolina. The ability to predict, and therefore potentially mitigate risk from debris flows and other types of landslides, requires a fundamental understanding of biogeochemical and geomorphological characteristics of the landscape. However, the lack of information regarding the potential contribution of wildfires to landslide risk in western NC represents a gap in predictive ability. The overarching goal of the project is to establish the relationship between wildfire occurrence and subsequent landslide events in western NC. The establishment of a relationship could ultimately contribute to increasing the certainty of predictive models and as well as fuel management strategies. If no relationship can be established, determination will have been made that fire inputs do not have to be included when considering the probability of landslides in western NC. Thus, the project goal will be met by testing the null hypothesis that the occurrence of wildfire does not change the probability of a subsequent landslide or debris flow.  2019.

Sponsor: NC Wildlife Resource Commission, North Carolina Policy Collaboratory

Abstract: Throughout the waters of the coastal and Great Lakes states are thousands of abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs). Although the definitions of the terms abandoned and derelict can vary widely within the contexts of ADV legislative and programmatic language, they are commonly understood to be abandoned vessels, often in disrepair and without determined ownership. Either left intentionally by the owner to deteriorate, typically due to local economic conditions and/or financial issues, or the consequences of extreme weather events, ADVs are consistently identified as problematic due to the numerous impacts on waterways and communities. ADVs present potential impacts to the surrounding ecosystems, communities, and navigation, through vessel deterioration, accumulation of marine debris, or the threat of vessel associated pollutants entering the environment. This project provides a brief overview of ADV laws and programs, and a summary of state policies regarding ADVs, including the status of states’ legislation and programs, whether the approaches for implementation of legislation and programs are centralized at the state level or decentralized to local authorities, as well as funding levels and outcomes from state actions related to ADVs. State and local responses to ADVs are rapidly evolving and many states and municipalities are actively pursuing new solutions through legislation, outreach, and interventions. 2019

Sponsor: Environmental Security, Technology, and Certification Program,

Abstract: The benefits of integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) into DoD natural resource management are numerous and transformative, often improving the quality of data collected, collecting data more efficiently and with less risk, and providing new opportunities to collect data in challenging environments. The pathway towards realizing those benefits from UASs is obstructed by real and perceived safety and capability concerns from a lack of standard protocols and training. For a large organization such as DoD, with a unique set of management drivers and requirements, a structured, ad-hoc approach to adopting UAS technology ensures a baseline of competencies, skills, and capabilities. With those fundamentals in hand, the applications within that organization can be customized by end-users to meet a variety of natural resource management needs. The overarching goal of this project is to provide a strategic, operational framework for US Marine Corps Installations EAST (MCIEAST) that facilitates the integration of UAS technology into present and future civilian-led management of natural resources. Specific objectives of the project are to: 1) develop and validate regional MCIEAST UAS protocols and provide a training pathway to professional remote pilot certification for installation personnel; 2) create and disseminate standardized UAS mission kits and training materials; and 3) integrate UAS technology through demonstrations that represent a range of applications for DoD natural resource management that exist across a broad range of installations. 2019-2022

Sponsors: Habitat Wildlife Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Division of Marine Fisheries, Clean Water Management Trust Act

Abstract: The New River Estuary (NRE), located within Onslow County, NC, is a broad shallow, periodically vertically stratified estuary, covering an area of approximately 34 square miles. The NRE is in the White Oak river basin and the entire river is classified as Nutrient Sensitive Waters by the Division of Water Resources. Nutrient input sources include private wastewater treatment plant discharge, septic systems, stormwater runoff related to urban development, and agricultural runoff from crop and animal production that drains to the upper portions of the NRE. These nutrient inputs into the NRE have caused algal blooms, increased turbidity and caused bottom waters to become hypoxic/anoxic during summer months. The New River “Highway of Oyster” project creates oyster habitat stepping-stones in the central portion of the estuary that will host oyster brood stock populations that will supply larvae to habitats within the central and upper portions of the NRE.  Oyster populations will be transfered from the lower portion of the estuary to the oyster depauperate central/upper portions using a novel substrate technology developed in eastern North Carolina as the means to establish brood stock populations on the created stepping-stone habitats.  The enhanced oyster populations will provide valuable ecosystem services to the entire watershed and serve as destination sites for recreational fishers. 2017-2021

Sponsor: Environmental Security, Technology, and Certification Program

Abstract: Erosion of coastal landscapes can adversely impact amphibious training and coastal infrastructure and prescribed burns are an important tool used for forest management throughout DoD installations. The commonality between coastal and fire management is the reliance on occupied aircraft for data collection, real-time monitoring, and ground support, which is expensive and a safety risk. This project aims to implement reliable unmanned aircraft systems in DoD fire and coastal zone management, thereby increasing the speed, ease, and safety of obtaining useful monitoring products for a fraction of the cost of manned operations. In addition, this project will publicize, communicate and deliver the unmanned aerial vehicle demonstrations across DoD installations. State-of-the-art aircraft (both multirotor and fixed wing) and sensors will be used for this project. Multispectral imaging will be conducted using a combination of visible (RGB) and infrared (shortwave and longwave) sensors. Image processing and interpretation will allow mapping important features at the coast and in the forest, such as the shoreline position, beach topography, sea turtle nests, and vegetation recovery after fires. Real-time video with infrared sensors will allow fire managers to see through smoke and pinpoint fire progression, hotspots, and areas that require ignition. Existing unmanned aircraft systems, which encompass all necessary hardware and software, technologies and applications are not currently included in DoD land management. The costs associated with the versatility of these aircraft and sensors has dropped precipitously within the last few years, making them broadly accessible. We will demonstrate the wide array of monitoring and management possibilities that a reasonably-priced UAS kit can provide DoD land managers.  2017-2020

Sponsor: NEERS Science Collaborative

Abstract:  Stormwater outfalls that discharge into coastal waters have detrimental impacts on human and ecosystem health worldwide.  Elevated levels of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, nutrients, sediment, and turbidity are associated with coastal stormwater outfalls, leading to fishing and swimming closures, illness, and negative impacts on estuarine ecosystems.  The Rachel Carson Reserve (RCR), a component of the North Carolina (NC) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NCNERR), includes a series of islands and surrounding waters proximal to the Town of Beaufort (ToB), NC, an historic coastal town experiencing rapidly increasing development, and lagging stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.  Recent research on stormwater outfalls in NC, including those discharging to RCR, shows dramatic delivery of contaminants during storms.  This project will conduct applied research using a multi-faceted approach to 1) quantify stormwater pathogenic bacteria, nutrient and sediment delivery to the RCR, 2) use the quantitative information generated, along with decades of historical data, to create predictive models for shellfish and recreational waters for the NCNERR, 3) use Collaborative Learning methodology to engage stakeholders and end-users to prioritize candidate remediation strategies, applicable to this and other reserves, and (4) engage coastal decision-makers, community members, K-12 students, and teachers in hands-on education on stormwater runoff and impacts.

Sponsor: NC Policy Collaboratory

Abstract: This contract is for Piehler to serve as the technical lead for the Jordan Lake Nutrient Management study.  Responsibilities include:

  • Lead pan-project integration
  • Assist with the production and review of project reports, including the Final Report to the NC General Assembly
  • Present findings to the legislature and stakeholders as required
  • Assist with reviewing and assessing research proposals

Sponsor: NC Policy Collaboratory

Abstract: This project includes Piehler serving as the Technical Lead on the Falls Lake Nutrient Management Strategy effort and conducting nutrient flux experiments on lake sediments.  As technical lead I will lead pan-project integration, assist with the production and review of project reports, including the Final Report to the NC General Assembly, present findings to the legislature and stakeholders as required, assist with reviewing and assessing research proposals.  The research goal of this project is to characterize nutrient fluxes from Falls Lake sediments to inform research-based policy for lake management.  The goal will be met by utilizing existing analytical equipment, field equipment, and methodology at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Morehead City, NC.  Jordan Lake sampling sites will be selected in consultation with the Falls Lake study team.  Sediment cores will be collected from 5 sites throughout the lake in locations selected in consultation with the research team.  We determine rates of net N2 flux and sediment oxygen demand.  Using a flow-through incubation, fluxes of N2, O2, and Ar from the intact sediment cores will be analyzed with a membrane inlet mass spectrometer.  Additionally, fluxes of nitrogen (NOx-, NH4+, and organic nitrogen) and orthophosphorus will be calculated through these flux experiments.  Data will be analyzed and used to calculate nitrogen and phosphorus processing attributable to sediments throughout the lake and the year.

Sponsor: NC Wildlife Resource Commission

Abstract: Lake Mattamuskeet has a long history of human modifications.  The west and east basins of the lake are separated by Highway 94 and are distinct in their ecosystem states.  The east side is dominated by rooted plants and has generally clear water.  The west basin is dominated by phytoplankton and the water is not clear, due to both sediment resuspension and high phytoplankton biomass. The east side of the lake has been demonstrated to have more desirable fish communities including sought after sport fish, to be more attractive to overwintering birds and to have more stable sediments and sediment nutrient cycling.  Canals drain into both basins of Lake Mattamuskeet, delivering materials from the surrounding landscape including nutrients, sediments and potentially metals.  The current management strategy for Lake Mattamuskeet has maintaining migratory waterfowl populations in and around the lake as a central focus.  Because macrophytes are a more desirable habitat for migratory birds, maintaining this habitat in the east basin, and the potential to enhance macrophyte coverage in the west basin, are priorities for future lake management.

Sponsor: NC Policy Collaboratory

Abstract:  The goal of this project is to characterize nutrient fluxes in Jordan Lake sediments to inform both the ongoing modeling effort in the lake and research-based policy for lake management.

The goal will be met by utilizing existing analytical equipment, field equipment, and methodology at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Morehead City, NC.  Jordan Lake sampling sites will be selected in consultation with the Jordan Lake Nutrient Management Study (JLNMS) team and the modeling task force.  Sediment cores will be collected from 5 sites throughout the lake in locations selected in consultation with the JLNMS team.  We determine rates of net N2 flux and sediment oxygen demand.  Using a flow-through incubation, fluxes of N2, O2, and Ar from the intact sediment cores will be analyzed with a membrane inlet mass spectrometer.  Additionally, fluxes of nitrogen (NOx-, NH4+, and organic nitrogen) and orthophosphorus will be calculated through these flux experiments. Data will be analyzed and used to calculate nitrogen and phosphorus processing attributable to lake sediments throughout the year.

Sponsors: NC Wildlife Habitat Foundation,

Abstract: The New River Estuary (NRE), located within Onslow County, NC, is a broad shallow, periodically vertically stratified estuary, covering an area of approximately 34 square miles. The NRE is in the White Oak river basin and the entire river is classified as Nutrient Sensitive Waters by the Division of Water Resources. Nutrient input sources include private wastewater treatment plant discharge, septic systems, stormwater runoff related to urban development, and agricultural runoff from crop and animal production that drains to the upper portions of the NRE. These nutrient inputs into the NRE have caused algal blooms, increased turbidity and caused bottom waters to become hypoxic/anoxic during summer months. The New River Oyster Highway project creates oyster habitat stepping-stones in the central portion of the estuary that will host oyster brood stock populations that will supply larvae to habitats within the central and upper portions of the NRE.  Our research will quantify nutrient processing, particularly nitrogen removal attributable to oyster restoration.