Research Projects

Our research activities focus on technological, infrastructural, policy, and institutional innovations that foster sustainable FEWS in a changing world. These innovations will leverage our ability to use resources more efficiently, with less waste, and with governance structures in place to distribute authority and information in an equitable manner. CSU Faculty interested in mentoring InTERFEWS trainees can propose research topics here, and external partners interested in proposing a project or idea can do so here.

The research topic areas and projects listed below serve multiple purposes:

  1. To show research opportunities available to incoming InTERFEWS trainees;
  2. To help match incoming trainees with mentors based on shared FEW research interests;
  3. To highlight the types of FEW-related research being conducted at CSU; and
  4. To serve as a tool to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among CSU faculty and students by highlighting FEW interests to form research teams.

Incoming trainees do not necessarily need to join one of the projects listed below upon entrance into the InTERFEWS program. Incoming trainees may choose to develop their own FEW-related research project for their dissertation, create their own smaller project within one of those listed below that contributes to the larger project, etc. Current trainee research projects can be viewed on the Trainee webpage.

CURRENT PROJECT TOPIC AREAS

Topic Area A: Innovations at the Nexus of Food and Energy Systems

Food production systems are large consumers of energy and can also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time waste is produced in food production and consumption systems from which valuable resources including energy and nutrients can be recovered. InTERFEWS trainees have the opportunity to engage in transdisciplinary research to advance energy efficiency of food production systems and explore approaches for resource recovery from agricultural and food wastes.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Allan Andales (Soil & Crop Sciences), Daniel Mooney (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Jim Ippolito (Soil & Crop Sciences), Jay Ham (Soils & Crop Sciences), Meagan Schipanski (Soil & Crop Sciences), Mark Uchanski (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Jennifer Bousselot (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Gene Kelly (Soil & Crop Sciences), Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability; Soil & Crop Sciences), Jordan Suter (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Francesca Cotrufo (Soil & Crop Sciences), Becca Jablonski (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Dana Hoag (Agriculture and Resource Economics). 

College of Engineering: Steven Conrad (Systems Engineering), Thomas Bradley (Systems Engineering), Jason Quinn (Mechanical Engineering), José Chávez (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Steven Simske (Systems Engineering), Ken Reardon (Chemical & Biological Engineering), Shantanu Jathar (Mechanical Engineering), Emily Fischer (Atmospheric Science), Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Susan De Long (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Jeffrey Niemann (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Andrew Jones (Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere), Todd Bandhauer (Mechanical Engineering).

College of Natural Resources: Rich Conant (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability), Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability; Soil & Crop Sciences).

College of Natural Sciences: Hamidreza Chitsaz (Computer Science), Alan Knapp (Biology), Melinda Smith (Biology).

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: Colleen Duncan (Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology), Sheryl Magzamen (Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences), Ilana Pollack (Atmospheric Science).

College of Liberal Arts: Diego Pons (Anthropology and Geography), Jennifer Cross (Sociology).

 

Research Projects

Project 2: Co-digestion Capacity Assessment and Optimization of Agricultural Feedstocks in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems

Project 4: Thin-Film Photobioreactor System Fuel and Fertilizer Production

Project 5: Agrivoltaics: Integrating Horticulture and Photovoltaics in the Field and Green Roof Systems

Project 6: Understanding Linkages between Energy, Air Quality, and Animal Health

Project 8: Decarbonization of Heat for the Food and Beverage Industry

Project 9: Anaerobic Treatment of Organic Wastes for Resource Recovery

Project 13: Robust Monitoring, Reporting and Verification for Soil Carbon Sequestration in Rangelands

Project 14: Integrating Solar Energy into Dryland Agriculture – Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Topic Area B: Water Efficiency for Food Production Systems

Technological, behavioral, and policy solutions are all viable options to increase efficiency of water use for food production. InTERFEWS researchers are conducting cutting edge research to improve water use efficiency for arid region food production systems.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Keith Paustian (Soil & Crop Sciences), Allan Andales (Soil & Crop Sciences), Daniel Mooney (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Meagan Schipanski (Soil & Crop Sciences), Maria Munoz-Amatriain (Soil & Crop Sciences), Mike Wilkins (Soil & Crop Sciences), Jerry Johnson (Soil & Crop Sciences), Thomas Borch (Soil & Crop Sciences), Jay Ham (Soils & Crop Sciences), Mark Uchanski (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Jennifer Bousselot (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Gene Kelly (Soil & Crop Sciences), Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability; Soil & Crop Sciences), Jordan Suter (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Jan Leach (Bioagricultural Sciences & Pest Management), Dale Manning (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Becca Jablonski (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Dana Hoag (Agriculture and Resource Economics).

College of Business: Scott Shrake (Institute for Entrepreneurship).

College of Engineering: Steven Conrad (Systems Engineering), Thomas Bradley (Systems Engineering), Jason Quinn (Mechanical Engineering), Steven Simske (Systems Engineering), Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering), José Chávez (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Todd Bandhauer (Mechanical Engineering), Tiezheng Tong (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Peter Nelson (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Russ Schumacher (Atmospheric Science), Jeffrey Niemann (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Andrew Jones (Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere), Karan Venayagamoorthy (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Timothy Gates (Civil & Environmental Engineering).

College of Health & Human Sciences: Kimberly Cox-York (Food Science and Human Nutrition).

College of Liberal Arts: Stephanie Malin (Sociology), Diego Pons (Anthropology and Geography), Jennifer Cross (Sociology).

College of Natural Resources: Rich Conant (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability), Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability; Soil & Crop Sciences).

College of Natural Sciences: Hamidreza Chitsaz (Computer Science), Alan Knapp (Biology), Melinda Smith (Biology).

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: Elizabeth Ryan (Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences).

Colorado School of Public Health: Molly Lamb (Epidemiology).

 

Research Projects

Project 2: Co-digestion Capacity Assessment and Optimization of Agricultural Feedstocks in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems

Project 3: Assessing Links Between Social Environmental Justice Issues and FEWS in Semi-Arid Regions

Project 5: Agrivoltaics: Integrating Horticulture and Photovoltaics in the Field and Green Roof Systems

Project 6: Understanding Linkages between Energy, Air Quality, and Animal Health

Project 8: Decarbonization of Heat for the Food and Beverage Industry

Project 14: Integrating Solar Energy into Dryland Agriculture – Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Project 15: Modeling Feedbacks Between Irrigation Practices, Regional Climate, and Agricultural Productivity in Colorado and the Semi-Arid West

Project 16: Sustainable Development of Rice Bran at the Food-Energy-Water-Health Nexus

Topic Area C: FEW Resources in Urban Systems

FEW resource management in urban systems plays an important role to assure water and energy resource availability for rural food and energy production systems. InTERFEWS trainees can engage in research to develop and assess innovations for efficient use of FEW resources in urban areas.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Keith Paustian (Soil & Crop Sciences), Allan Andales (Soil & Crop Sciences), Daniel Mooney (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Jan Leach (Bioagricultural Sciences & Pest Management), Mark Uchanski (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Jennifer Bousselot (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture).

College of Engineering: Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Mazdak Arabi (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Thomas Bradley (Systems Engineering).

College of Health & Human Sciences: Kimberly Cox-York (Food Science and Human Nutrition).

College of Liberal Arts: Stephanie Malin (Sociology), Diego Pons (Anthropology and Geography).

College of Natural Sciences: Hamidreza Chitsaz (Computer Science).

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: Elizabeth Ryan (Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences).

Colorado School of Public Health: Molly Lamb (Epidemiology).

 

Research Projects

Project 1: Urban Water Efficiency for Resource Allocation in Semi-Arid Regions

Project 3: Assessing Links Between Social Environmental Justice Issues and FEWS in Semi-Arid Regions

Project 5: Agrivoltaics: Integrating Horticulture and Photovoltaics in the Field and Green Roof Systems

Project 12: Expanding Evaluation of Decentralized Wastewater Systems to Include Solids Treatment and Nutrient Recovery

Project 16: Sustainable Development of Rice Bran at the Food-Energy-Water-Health Nexus

Project 17: Improved System Level Comparison of Wastewater-Based versus Diammonium Phosphate Fertilizers

Topic Area D: Water-Energy Nexus

The connections between water and energy are plentiful and diverse. Energy is used for water supply and delivery while water resources are also used  for energy production. Understanding the use of water for energy and use of energy for water is crucial to advance more efficient use of these resources. InTERFEWS researchers are exploring these connections and innovations for efficient resource management.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Allan Andales (Soil & Crop Sciences), Daniel Mooney (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Jay Ham (Soils & Crop Sciences), Meagan Schipanski (Soil & Crop Sciences), Mark Uchanski (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Jennifer Bousselot (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture), Gene Kelly (Soil & Crop Sciences), Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability; Soil & Crop Sciences), Jordan Suter (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Keith Paustian (Soil & Crop Sciences), Thomas Borch (Soil & Crop Sciences).

College of Business: Scott Shrake (Institute for Entrepreneurship).

College of Engineering: Steven Conrad (Systems Engineering), Thomas Bradley (Systems Engineering), Jason Quinn (Mechanical Engineering), Steven Simske (Systems Engineering), Ken Reardon (Chemical & Biological Engineering), José Chávez (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Todd Bandhauer (Mechanical Engineering), Tiezheng Tong (Civil & Environmental Engineering), 

College of Liberal Arts: Stephanie Malin (Sociology), Diego Pons (Anthropology and Geography), Jennifer Cross (Sociology).

College of Natural Resources: Rich Conant (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability), Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability; Soil & Crop Sciences).

College of Natural Sciences: Hamidreza Chitsaz (Computer Science), Alan Knapp (Biology), Melinda Smith (Biology).

 

Research Projects

Project 2: Co-digestion Capacity Assessment and Optimization of Agricultural Feedstocks in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems

Project 3: Assessing Links Between Social Environmental Justice Issues and FEWS in Semi-Arid Regions

Project 4: Thin-Film Photobioreactor System Fuel and Fertilizer Production

Project 5: Agrivoltaics: Integrating Horticulture and Photovoltaics in the Field and Green Roof Systems

Project 8: Decarbonization of Heat for the Food and Beverage Industry

Project 14: Integrating Solar Energy into Dryland Agriculture – Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Topic Area E: Forest Fire Impacts on FEWS

Forest fires have become both more frequent and intense in the recent years. Forest fires have numerous ecosystem impacts. InTERFEWS trainees have the opportunity to engage in research to better understand impacts of forest fires on FEW resources and assess technological and policy solutions to overcome negative impacts.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Thomas Borch (Soil & Crop Sciences), Mike Wilkins (Soil & Crop Sciences), Patty Champ (Agricultural & Resource Economics; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station), Travis Warziniack (Agricultural & Resource Economics; Forest & Rangeland Stewardship; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station).

College of Natural Resources: Tim Covino (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability), Chuck Rhoades (Soil & Crop Sciences; Forest & Rangeland Stewardship; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station), Travis Warziniack (Agricultural & Resource Economics; Forest & Rangeland Stewardship; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station).

 

Research Projects

Project 7: Forest Fire Impacts on Headwater Quality in the Rocky Mountains

Topic Area F: Economic Assessment of FEWS

Technological and policy solutions to enhance FEW resource management are widely studied in the InTERFEWS program. However, for these solutions to be implemented, tradeoffs between costs and benefits must be assessed. A key component to InTERFEWS research projects is to assess economic considerations.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Keith Paustian (Soil & Crop Sciences), Daniel Mooney (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Jordan Suter (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Dale Manning (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Becca Jablonski (Agricultural & Resource Economics), Francesca Cotrufo (Soil & Crop Sciences), Dana Hoag (Agriculture and Resource Economics).

College of Natural Resources: Tim Covino (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability), Travis Warziniack (Agricultural & Resource Economics; Forest & Rangeland Stewardship; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station).

 

Research Projects

Project 1: Urban Water Efficiency for Resource Allocation in Semi-Arid Regions

Project 2: Co-digestion Capacity Assessment and Optimization of Agricultural Feedstocks in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems

Project 4: Thin-Film Photobioreactor System Fuel and Fertilizer Production

Project 6: Understanding Linkages between Energy, Air Quality, and Animal Health

Project 10: Sustainable Household Energy Adoption in Rwanda (SHEAR): Promoting Rural Health with Solar and Natural Gas

Project 13: Robust Monitoring, Reporting and Verification for Soil Carbon Sequestration in Rangelands

Project 14: Integrating Solar Energy into Dryland Agriculture – Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

Project 15: Modeling Feedbacks Between Irrigation Practices, Regional Climate, and Agricultural Productivity in Colorado and the Semi-Arid West

Project 16: Sustainable Development of Rice Bran at the Food-Energy-Water-Health Nexus

Topic Area G: Social Environmental Justice & Policy Considerations for FEWS

FEW resource management is inherently entangled with complex social environmental justice and policy considerations. InTERFEWS trainees have the opportunity to use multiple qualitative methods and community-based participatory fieldwork to investigate intersecting relationships between FEW resource allocation, policy, and social environmental justice.

 

Potential Mentors

College of Ag Sciences: Becca Jablonski (Agricultural & Resource Economics).

College of Liberal Arts: Stephanie Malin (Sociology), Heidi Hausermann (Anthropology & Geography), Michele Betsill (Political Science).

College of Natural Sciences: Patricia A. Aloise-Young (Psychology).

 

Research Projects

Project 3: Assessing Links Between Social Environmental Justice Issues and FEWS in Semi-Arid Regions

Project 11: Local Oil Refinery Study

CURRENT PROJECT OPPORTUNITIES

Project 1: Urban Water Efficiency for Resource Allocation in Semi-Arid Regions

Municipalities respond to increasing demand for water via infrastructure investments or acquisition of water rights from other sectors. This results in permanent dry-up of historically irrigated land and the inequitable reduction in economic activity in rural economies. Water demands for oil and gas production further intensifies pressures on local water supply for food production. However, innovations in urban water conservation and reuse provide solutions to enhance water supply reliability under population and climate uncertainty. A trainee will develop urban water technologies that provide cross-sectoral benefits (and co-benefits) for FEWS. These technologies facilitate water sensitive urban design via use of stormwater, treated wastewater and graywater, water conserving fixtures, xeriscaping and urban irrigation efficiency.

Multi-objective optimization will be used to identify pareto optimal frontiers when balancing short-term profitability and long-term resilience of water resources. Scenarios to be assessed include: 1) Policies to promote urban water conservation and reuse; 2) Urban growth control and land development policy; 3) Municipal purchase of agricultural water rights, alternative water transfers; and 4) Policies to limit fossil-fuel energy production and accelerate renewable energy portfolio.

Advisors

  • Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Mazdak Arabi (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Stephanie Malin (Sociology)
  • Thomas Bradley (Mechanical Engineering)

Interdisciplinary Aspects

Trainees will gain knowledge and skills to develop models to assess tradeoffs. Economics, policy and social sciences are deeply embedded in this project.

Systems Perspective

This project includes systems level analysis of impacts of urban water efficiency including assessment of cross-sectoral benefits to broadly assess FEWS impacts and co-benefits.

 

Project 2: Co-digestion Capacity Assessment and Optimization of Agricultural Feedstocks in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems

Biogas and electricity generation in wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) suffers from lack of investment. Only 2% of the ~14,500 WWTP in the US capture and utilize biogas. When evaluated solely on economics the typical return is below conventional energy supply due to low organics concentration in wastewater flows. Co-digestion, adding supplemental organic material, improves the economic and technical viability of WWTP bioenergy projects considerably. Wastewater system managers could use regional agricultural feedstocks as sources of organic material to enhance yields. This potential is increasingly recognized, yet there is limited “integrated” knowledge on capacity and processes and scant systemic support for broad scale agricultural feedstock routing to WWTP. To address this need we aim to assess performance and decision/behavioral influences of agricultural feedstock-enhanced co-digestion biogas and electricity generation in WWTP in Colorado through coupled agent-based system dynamics modelling, participatory processes, and decision visualization.

We are looking for 1-2 PhD students to support research across three efforts. 1) framework development: A) system definition through agricultural/wastewater/energy stakeholder interviews and workshops, B) data collection (wastewater processes and farm-level crop production and marketing decisions), and C) model parametrization of core processing operations (Biomass Production, Distribution, Processing, Conversion, and Use) across integrated interfaces (economics, policy, energy, wastewater, farm-level production); 2) assessment and process optimization on the overall efficacy of crop residues and oil feedstocks supply to WWTP addressed through: A) sensitivity analysis, B) multi-objective evolutionary algorithm optimization, C) techno-economic assessment, D) agent-based modelling, and E) scenario analysis; 3) decision analysis and support through participatory processes and a decision visualization workshop – providing water, energy, and agricultural sector stakeholders opportunity to visualize the feedforward and feedback effects between interconnect systems and how key decisions/policies affect the interaction of feedstocks to WWTP, biogas production, and farm management.

Advisors

  • Steven Conrad (Systems Engineering)
  • Thomas Bradley (Systems Engineering)
  • Brian Hurd (Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, New Mexico State University)
  • Jason Quinn (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Steven Simske (Systems Engineering)

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This study leverages active research programs at the nexus of the fields of bioenergy systems, techno-economic analysis, social sciences (policy, decision analysis, participatory processes, farmer behavior modelling), agro-economics, and water/energy/agricultural systems engineering and management.

Systems Perspective

This study addresses the lack of a common evaluation framework for integrated technical, economic, and policy solutions between water, energy, and agricultural sectors. It applies a systems perspective to the linkages between the agricultural feedstock supply system, wastewater management, and policy/economic incentives to promote renewable energy.

Project 3: Assessing Links Between Social Environmental Justice Issues and FEWS in Semi-Arid Regions

Colorado has seen quadrupled rates of oil extraction since 2010 and natural gas extraction has increased 51% since 2010 (EIA, 2017), due in part to technologies such as hydraulic fracturing. This can create dual natural resource dependencies that manifest as environmental injustices at the household, organizational, and community levels. This project assesses the social environmental justice issues associated with FEWS at the rural-urban interface in semi-arid regions, arising from rapid urbanization and energy development. In this project, a trainee will use multiple qualitative methods and community-based participatory fieldwork to investigate intersecting relationships between FEW resource allocation and social environmental justice. Students pursuing this project will be able to envision and lead their own aspect of the project and will be encouraged to identify their own niche and fieldwork opportunities.

Advisors

  • Stephanie Malin (Sociology)

  • Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics)

  • Keith Paustian (Soil & Crop Sciences)

  • Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering)

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This project brings together perspectives and methods from environmental and natural resource sociology, environmental health, political science (governance), water law, and environmental justice. In addition, a trainee will develop community-based research skills.

Systems Perspective

Drivers such as urbanization and population growth, increasing water-intensive unconventional oil and gas production, industrialized agricultural practices, and increasing urban growth create pressures on FEWS resources. Environmental inequities as well as economic impacts will be assessed.

Project 4: Thin-Film Photobioreactor System Fuel and Fertilizer Production

The production of liquid fuels from biomass is a case study in FEW nexus issues. Biofuels have a lower greenhouse gas footprint than fossil fuels, and biomass production removes CO2 from the atmosphere. However, biofuel production from terrestrial plant biomass consumes large amounts of water and nutrients, and thus competes for those resources with food production. While semi-arid locations have abundant sunlight, the competition for fresh water is a significant concern. The use of algae and cyanobacteria to produce biofuels has been the focus of research for several decades and has largely been directed to capitalize on the ability of algae to accumulate high levels of lipids. Phototrophic microorganisms can grow much more rapidly than plants; can thrive in fresh, brackish, or saline water; and can be grown on land that would be unusable for plant crops. But because cell concentrations are low, large amounts of energy are required to move water and culture, and to recover products.

The goals of this project are to develop novel thin-film photobioreactor (TFPB) systems for production of fuel and ammonia by cyanobacteria from carbon dioxide, atmospheric nitrogen, and sunlight, and to assess the resource benefits and economic impacts of these systems. The cultivation approach unique to this technology will result in greatly reduced consumption of nutrients and energy, as well as lower water losses. In addition, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria can be engineered to release ammonia, providing a means of producing this key fertilizer with far less energy than the widely used Haber-Bosch process.

Advisors

  • Ken Reardon (Chemical & Biological Engineering)

  • Jason Quinn (Mechanical Engineering)

  • Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics)

Interdisciplinary Aspects

The project blends biology, engineering, and economics to develop a new technology and assess systems level benefits of the technology.

Systems Perspective

Resource and economic modeling will be used to evaluate the impact of the TFPB technology on the nutrient, water, and energy.

 

Project 5: Agrivoltaics: Integrating Horticulture and Photovoltaics in the Field and Green Roof Systems

Today, farmers in both urban and rural locations are faced with many challenges, such as land/space availability, extremes in weather, water limitations, consumer connection to food, dependence on fossil fuels, and food security. Applications in photovoltaics can help resolve these challenges by growing food crops underneath solar panels. The rise in solar popularity, efficiency, and transparency is creating opportunity for co-location of agriculture and photovoltaics, also known as agrivoltaics. In this project, we will identify the micro-climate and expected yield of crops underneath variable transparent solar technology. The result will lead to development of various applications that will increase marketability, sustainability, efficiency, and value of crop production. The trainee on this project will collect agricultural data, including temperature and water impacts, and also human dimensions of agrivoltaics adoption through qualitative methods. A replicated solar array is installed at ARDEC South and a green roof system is installed at the Foothills campus under existing solar panel arrays. This proposed project will include collecting environmental data such as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), soil/substrate and air temperatures, soil/substrate moisture percentage, and crop fresh and dry weights. This project will begin in 2022 and will help to describe the benefits and tradeoffs of the microenvironment created by agrivoltaics, specifically crop water use and the interaction with temperature, in the field and in green roof systems.

Advisors

  • Mark Uchanski (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture)
  • Jennifer Bousselot (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture)
  • Diego Pons (Anthropology & Geography)

Systems Perspective

Growing food and generating power, as in agrivoltaics, in a changing climate while conserving water requires not only agricultural and technical perspectives but also human dimensions to ensure adoption. These interactions and potential feedbacks demand a holistic, systems approach to understand and address potential tradeoffs and implications that could come with the wider adoption of agrivoltaics systems in urban and rural settings.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

In addition to the water, food, and energy nexus inherent in the co-location of photovoltaics and vegetable crops in irrigated cropping systems. We plan to focus on crop water use in agrivoltaics in the field and in green roof systems to address water limitations expected with climate change. We will use a mixed methods approach to understand perceptions and likelihood of adoption of agrivoltaic systems.

Project 6: Understanding Linkages between Energy, Air Quality, and Animal Health

Air quality, driven by increases in energy production and use, has been deteriorating in the western United States. Poor air quality has been associated consistently with adverse health outcomes for human populations, specifically with inflammatory pathways in a number of organ systems. Given shared physiology among mammalian species, poor air quality is likely to affect mortality and morbidity for livestock within the animal husbandry industry. However, there are large uncertainties in how poor air quality imposes a health burden on livestock (as with humans) and an economic burden on the food industry.

In this project, we will leverage models and measurements to understand the (i) source contributions, including those from energy production, to ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution and (ii) the health and economic impacts of O3 and PM2.5 exposure on livestock. We will initially focus this study on the Colorado Front Range primarily because this region is home to both a large animal food and energy industry and has an air quality problem linked to ozone pollution, in addition to existing relationships our team has with animal producers. Specifically, we will undertake field measurements at select dairy cattle farms in the Front Range to understand the seasonal and annual exposure to O3 and PM and later extend this to beef cattle and small ruminant production systems. These networked measurements will be enabled by recently developed technologies at Colorado State University. We will perform simulations with a state-of-the-art chemical transport model, predictions from which will be evaluated against the gathered measurements and extended to understand the O3 and PM exposure for livestock over the entire Front Range. Finally, we will translate the pollutant exposures to economic costs that relate to loss in agricultural productivity. Through CSU’s Agricultural Extension Offices, we will have the opportunity to translate findings to producers in the region. Energy production and use, through its impacts on air quality, has adverse impacts on food production and this project attempts to understand that linkage better.

Advisors

  • Shantanu Jathar (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Colleen Duncan (Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology)
  • Emily Fischer (Atmospheric Science)
  • Sheryl Magzamen (Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences)
  • Ilana Pollack (Atmospheric Science)

Systems Perspective

Agriculture is dependent on access to energy but energy use through its impacts on air quality can adversely affect animal health and agricultural productivity. This project aims to better understand these systems-level interactions between energy use and animal health.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This interdisciplinary project brings together expertise in low-cost sensors, atmospheric chemistry, epidemiology, animal science, and economics to understand the linkages between energy use, air quality, and animal health.

Project 7: Forest Fire Impacts on Headwater Quality in the Rocky Mountains

Forests are well known for providing sources of energy and clean water as well as helping agricultural production through soil protection and water provision. However, the frequency and severity of forest fires has increased in recent decades, creating a heavy social and economic burden on millions of people across the United States. These forests provide valuable ecosystem services such as drinking water provision, carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, and climate change mitigation estimated at trillions of dollars a year. However, from 2008-2017 the estimated losses due to wildfires was roughly $20 billion, not including the loss of these services. The 2018 Colorado wildfires resulted in one of the worst years in history and fires such as the 2016 Beaver Creek Fire and 2018 Ryan Fire in northern Colorado have disturbed and contaminated sensitive headwater ecosystems. This catchment receives atmospherically deposited mercury originating from upwind coal-fired power plants that accumulates in forest soils and vegetation and is re-mobilized following fire events. This pool of mercury (Hg) can be transported into surface waters and sediments, and thus pose risk to ecosystems, agriculture and human health.

The major goal of this project is to develop a fundamental understanding of how forest fires impact microbial, chemical and physical processes that control transport of nutrients (N and P), toxic metals (Hg), sediment and organic carbon into headwater streams. In this project, students will compare sites burned during the Ryan Fire with unburned control sites. Advanced chemical analysis and metagenomics will be used to generate new knowledge on feedback and hydro-biogeochemical cycles in burned forested watersheds. Watershed hydrology and sediment flow models will be developed for application of other fire-impacted sites and results will be used to inform land restoration and water quality management decisions. Students will be exposed to ecosystem services valuation approaches needed to determine how wildfires influence the value of water delivered from forest watersheds. Additionally, project involvement with management agencies and local and regional stakeholders will promote understanding of the links between forest conditions and water supply and help guide decisions about how to sustain high elevation watersheds.

Advisors

  • Thomas Borch (Soil & Crop Sciences)

  • Mike Wilkins (Soil & Crop Sciences)

  • Tim Covino (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability)

  • Chuck Rhoades (Soil & Crop Sciences; Forest & Rangeland Stewardship; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station)

  • Travis Warziniack (Agricultural & Resource Economics; Forest & Rangeland Stewardship; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station)

  • Patty Champ (Agricultural & Resource Economics; US Forest Service, Rock Mountain Research Station)

Systems Perspective

This project includes systems level analysis of forest fire impacts on soil health and headwater quality in order to provide information critical for improving and sustaining food-energy-water systems in semi-arid regions.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This project integrates soil chemistry, hydrology, microbiology, forest ecosystem ecology, ecosystem services valuation and socioeconomic approaches to help understand the consequences of forest fires on watershed conditions and water quality in semi-arid regions. Close collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, farmers, and water managers plays an integral role in this project.

Project 8: Decarbonization of Heat for the Food and Beverage Industry

In the U.S., the food and beverage industry consumes 1.8 quads of primary energy, accounting for almost 2% of national energy consumption. Half of this energy is for fuel consumed onsite with 0.8 quads used to directly make process heat or provide steam from boilers and combined heat and power units. 88% of the primary energy used to provide heat are from fossil-derived natural gas or coal. As a result, nearly all of the onsite greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from the food and beverage industry come from the generation of heat. Furthermore, because food product safety is critical, water used to make steam is rarely reused in these industrial processes. In the U.S., total water withdrawals from the beef, poultry, pork, and dairy industries are 266 billion gallons per year, accounting for 4% of the total water withdrawals in the industrial sector.

In the proposed research topic, the InTERFEWS trainee will perform a multi-faceted investigation to identify achievable pathways that decarbonize heat in the food and beverage industry. The trainee will assess the largest contributors to GHG emissions from heat that includes understanding the technical, economic, and social challenges. First, they will understand material and energy process flows for key industries to identify significant GHG-heat contributors that are calibrated to existing national estimates. These results will enable the trainee to evaluate alternative technologies using a combination of thermodynamic, heat transfer, fluid flow, and economic analyses. Next, the trainee will work to identify the non-technical social challenges that prevent the industry from rapidly adopting decarbonized solutions for industrial heat. They will work with their advisers to develop and administer an effective survey with key entities within the food and beverage industry. This will allow the trainee to understand potential resistance to – and incentives for – adopting appropriate technologies. The trainee will integrate these assessments to develop a national strategy for the most rapid and effective industrial heat decarbonization strategy, including the identification of technical approaches that can be broadly applied to make the most impact.

Advisors

  • Todd Bandhauer (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Jason Quinn (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Jennifer Cross (Sociology)

Systems Perspective

Solutions for steam decarbonization must integrate disparate systems (facility water systems, boiler systems, utility infrastructure, wastewater and solid waste treatment systems) together and quantify the impact of the changes to the cash flow and consumption footprint, while understanding sociological constraints.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

The trainee will work with MECH professors to develop technological solutions, collaborate with a CEE professor to better understand renewable energy generation solutions from waste products, Ag and Resource Economics and MECH professors for LCA and TEA, and a SOC professor to develop effective surveys to identify barriers to and incentives for technology adoption.

Project 9: Anaerobic Treatment of Organic Wastes for Resource Recovery

Organic waste material such as municipal fraction organic waste (e.g. food waste and yard waste), food processing wastewater, and manure from animal feeding operations can be treated anaerobically to generate methane or organic acids. Organic acids can be converted into high value products such as fuel or plastics. At the same time, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus can be recovered from the waste material to further enhance resource recovery. Little is understood about the systems level impacts of recovering methane versus more financially valuable organic acids. Uncertainty in whether to focus technology development on methane or organic acid production is currently inhibiting advancement in the field. Further, tradeoffs exist between generation of different products from organic waste material. For example, maximizing nitrogen recovery can alter pH in a way that is inhibitory for methane production. A trainee will develop resource recovery technologies for FEWS and assess tradeoffs between recovery of different products. Technologies and processes will be developed to enhance resource recovery from organic wastes, while also understanding systems level considerations of those technologies. This research can inform high level policy decisions that impact research and development of anaerobic technology for resource recovery.

Advisors

  • Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Chris Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Thomas Bradley (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Susan De Long (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Jim Ippolito (Soil & Crop Sciences)

Systems Perspective

This project includes systems level analysis of impacts of resource recovery products from organic waste material to broadly assess FEWS impacts and carbon footprint.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

Trainees will gain knowledge not only on technology development, but also skills to develop models to assess tradeoffs. Economics and policy are deeply embedded in this project.

Project 10: Sustainable Household Energy Adoption in Rwanda (SHEAR): Promoting Rural Health with Solar and Natural Gas

Exposure to pollution from the use of traditional energy sources is a top-ten risk factor for morbidity and mortality worldwide. Emissions from traditional energy sources in the home create unhealthy levels of pollution and the issue is pervasive. Approximately 3 billion people rely on fuels like wood, charcoal, and kerosene to support needs such as cooking food, heating, and lighting. Approximately 80% of the population in Rwanda uses such fuels, making environmental pollution exposure to the 3rd leading contributor to the burden of disease in this country.

Nearly 50 years of research on ‘cleaner’ household energy technologies has demonstrated only modest global impact, due to a combination of economic, cultural, and technologic barriers that prevent access to and usage of clean energy. A further limitation is that nearly all household energy interventions, to date, have focused on replacing only a single energy source (i.e., replacing just cooking, or just lighting) with a more modern technology.

We propose to address these issues by conducting a randomized controlled trial that (1) focuses on total household energy (2) in a country that evinces readiness for alternative forms of energy, (3) by forming a public-private partnership to promote technological solutions that are consumer-focused and market sustainable, (4) by investigating outcome measures that are clinically actionable and strongly linked to morbidity/mortality, and (5) by developing project outputs that can inform policymakers with cost-benefit information.

We hypothesize that a whole-house energy intervention (replacing all primitive forms of energy within the home with cleaner, modern forms) will produce meaningful reductions in pollution and health benefits in rural Rwandan homes. The randomized controlled trial will substitute traditional forms of household energy (biomass for cooking and kerosene for lighting) with solar power and liquefied petroleum gas stoves in rural Rwanda. Participants will be followed for 3 years with repeated measurements of household pollution exposure, energy usage, and health. Primary health endpoints will include blood pressure in adult women and men and lung-function growth in children; secondary health endpoints include blood pressure in children and lung-function change in adults.

The long-term goals of this research are to increase the clinical knowledge-base on the health effects on household air pollution, to demonstrate that a whole-house energy intervention will produce meaningful household air pollution reductions and health benefits in rural Rwandan homes, to elucidate the relationship between fuel subsidy levels and household air pollution exposure, and to demonstrate that scalable solutions to the household air pollution disease burden are achievable via public-private-governmental partnerships.

Advisors

  • John Volckens (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Maggie Clark (Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences)
  • Dale Manning (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Dan Zimmerle (Energy Institute & Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center)

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This project represents a multi-PI effort (Volckens, Clark) that spans four CSU entities (WSCoE, CVMBS, CoA, Energy Institute) with contributions from faculty in engineering (John Volckens), public health (Maggie Clark), energy systems (Dan Zimmerle), and resource economics (Dale Manning). The student working on this project will contribute to field work in Rwanda to include survey administration, exposure and health assessment, energy technology delivery, and complex, hierarchical data analyses.

Systems Perspective

This research is designed to examine the home as an energy delivery system, with particular emphasis on the beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors of the home occupants, and how the use of modern energy technologies (primarily for food and light), can promote both the health and welfare of the home occupants.

Project 11: Local Oil Refinery Study

This project is one component of a larger study examining the environmental, social, and health impacts of a local oil refinery. The facility is located in Commerce City, Colorado, in a predominantly Latinx area of the city and has been notorious for its environmental impacts. Recently, these have included illegal releases of effluents that rained down on nearby communities, which led to fines collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. These fines were used to fund community-based efforts to address the refinery’s record and community impacts – including a competitive call for proposals that led to funding this study.

As a community-based study, we work directly with (and for) Cultivando, a community-based organization in Commerce City. This portion of the study examines the sociological, environmental justice, and health aspects of living near the refinery. We will conduct in-depth interviews, ethnography and participant observation, PhotoVoice, and other qualitative and community-based methods, drawing data from the households living closest to the facility. This study may also involve content analysis, archival and regulatory analyses, and other methods that could be utilized by the trainee. The project will have one Program Manager and four Research Assistants, but trainees could assist with conducting a component of the research. Bicultural and bilingual Spanish-speaking students will be an especially good fit for this project. (This project is in partnership with Cultivando and Dr. Ramona Beltran at DU.)

Advisors

  • Stephanie Malin (Sociology)
  • Ramona Beltran (Graduate School of Social Work at DU)

Systems Perspective

The project is utilizing a systems-level view of the impacts of oil refineries by including a variety of disciplinary approaches, including air quality and monitoring, social science and environmental justice, environmental and public health, medical records monitoring, and community-based methods.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This project is deeply interdisciplinary. The social science portion of this project is one component, with others focusing on real-time, multi-sited air quality monitoring, medical record analysis, examination of PFAS in drinking water, and environmental health.

Project 12: Expanding Evaluation of Decentralized Wastewater Systems to Include Solids Treatment and Nutrient Recovery

Our group has performed research to inform the safe, effective implementation of decentralized wastewater reuse in urban settings including development of risk-based treatment guidance and life cycle assessments of alternative scenarios. To date, the work has focused on treatment and reuse of liquid, with the assumption that residual solids are released to existing centralized sewers. Moving beyond the transitional phase of decentralized adoption will require incorporation of technologies and systems to process solids safely and effectively, including recovery and reuse of nutrients. Potential solutions may include treatment options for residual solids as well as alternative approaches for wastewater collection such as urine diversion. Previous work in our lab found that while anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBR) are able to produce enough biogas to decrease their energy impact relative to other treatment systems used for onsite water reuse (e.g., aerobic membrane bioreactors) this benefit is offset by the costs associated with the additional unit processes required to address AnMBR’s limited ability to remove nutrients—mainly nitrogen. Source separation of nutrient rich urine, therefore, may have cascading potential benefits on subsequent processing. System level assessment of a broad range of alternative scenarios for collection, treatment, and reuse of both liquid and solid components of wastewater will inform the design of decentralized approaches. The proposed work would link InTERFEWS students with EPA Office of Research and Development scientists and CSU faculty in developing and accessing such scenarios, providing students with experience in creative systems thinking related to urban infrastructure and application of life cycle and risk assessment tools. Results will be shared with stakeholders (utilities, public health regulators) interested in the adoption of decentralized systems, providing students with further experience in translating research and potential opportunities for future test beds for evaluating promising designs.

Advisors

  • Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Jay Garland (EPA)
  • Michael Jahne (EPA)
  • Cissy Ma (EPA)
  • Thomas Bradley (Mechanical Engineering)

Systems Perspective

This effort expands the perspective of decentralized urban wastewater systems beyond the current focus solely on water reuse to include broader consideration of the residual solids and associated nutrients. The proposed work focuses on a systems perspective including life cycle impacts of alternative scenarios, including cumulative energy use, global warming potential, and eutrophication impacts.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This research integrates technical analysis with public health, carbon footprint, and policy considerations.

Project 13: Robust Monitoring, Reporting and Verification for Soil Carbon Sequestration in Rangelands

As the United States accelerate efforts to mitigate the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere, a strong understanding of the true greenhouse gas consequences of improved rangeland management and a robust process for monitoring, reporting and verifying carbon credits are necessary. Despite grazing of extensive rangelands being one of the dominant land uses globally, the soil carbon and net greenhouse gas consequences of regenerative management strategies remains poorly quantified. There are numerous reasons including the nature of management decisions, lack of investment, and size of properties. At the same time rangelands and, in particular, adaptive grazing management on rangelands have been largely left out of emerging theories of soil carbon cycling focusing on biological transformations; essentially handicapping our ability to understand and predict carbon sequestration in response to adaptive grazing management. In addition to uncertainty around carbon sequestration, a gap remains in our understanding of the economic behavior driving rangeland management decisions related to soil carbon. Thus, it is urgent that we develop carbon offset potentials with acceptable accuracy and quantifiable uncertainty. Coupled with economic information, carbon offset potentials can inform the economics and policy required for adaptive rangeland management to achieve environmental goals while increasing profitability and resilience in the livestock sector.

In order to catalyze the development of quantitative indices of carbon sequestration and economic potential in rangelands, we propose a combination of top-down and bottom-up research tools that will address fundamental and applied science gaps in rangeland carbon cycling. Specifically, we aim to: (1) Evaluate the effects of adaptive management on soil carbon sequestration, (2) Advance our understanding of mechanisms driving soil carbon dynamics, (3) Improve predictions to more accurately evaluate the soil carbon sequestration potential, (4) Develop cost effective monitoring, reporting, and verification tools to enable rangelands to participate in emerging carbon markets, and (5) Integrate economic decision-making with the improved soil stock information to examine the economic potential for adaptive management and to identify policies that align private and societal values.

Advisors

  • Francesca Cotrufo (Soil & Crop Sciences)
  • Megan Machmuller (Atmospheric Science, Colorado Climate Center)
  • Dale Manning (Agricultural & Resource Economics)

Systems Perspective

The project utilizes a holistic and scientifically rigorous approach that aims to identify how the adoption of adaptive management practices impact ecological outcomes and climate mitigation potential in rangelands, including the assessment of water and nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas balance. With the collaboration of stakeholders and researchers across multiple disciplines and organizations, this project will address the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of adaptive management in Colorado rangelands.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

The research outlined here brings together strategic collaboration of producers, land-managers, and researchers from multiple fields including ecology, agricultural and resource economics, agronomy, soil science, process based and AI-based modeling, and remote sensing. Our project aims to produce the data and tools needed for regulatory carbon markets and policy; incentivizing regenerative management with rigorous science and an approach that is efficient, broadly applicable, and economically viable.

Project 14: Integrating Solar Energy into Dryland Agriculture – Innovation at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus

In low rainfall regions of the world, water, not land, is the resource most limiting agricultural production making precipitation management key to sustainable dryland agriculture. In contrast, solar energy generation, a renewable energy source that is most efficient in low rainfall regions, is land-use intensive. The substantial land requirement for solar energy combined with the “water not land” limitation of dryland agriculture can be synergized by using the area occupied by solar panels to harvest and redistribute rainfall – resulting in increased yields. Rainfall redistribution in dryland agriculture has the potential to permit growth of higher value crops which, when combined with reliable income from solar energy generation, reduces economic risk for land-owners, and rural dependency on fossil fuels. While this novel agro-energy approach is conceptually appealing, there are many challenges to overcome. These include:

  1. Understanding how rainfall redistribution from the co-location of solar panels with crops will alter soil moisture patterns, plant water relations and water use efficiency, plant growth and yield;
  2. Designing an efficient, low cost water collection and redistribution system utilizing commercially available solar panels;
  3. Conducting plant growth simulation modeling and/or economic analyses that integrated crop yield and energy production to assess the trade-offs associated with a range of solar panel-crop configurations.

This research project will lay the ground work for a new agro-energy paradigm in semi-arid regions – based on the principle that increasing both water-use-efficiency and the diversity of how solar energy is harvested, via both plants and photo-voltaic cells, can increase total yield (calories harvested as food/forage and energy) and the economic well-being of land owners.

Advisors

  • Alan Knapp (Biology)
  • Christopher Goemans (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Allan Andales (Soil & Crop Sciences)
  • Jay Ham (Soils & Crop Sciences)
  • Meagan Schipanski (Soil & Crop Sciences)
  • Jesse Burkhardt (Agricultural & Resource Economics)
  • Mark Uchanski (Horticulture & Landscape Architecture)
  • Gene Kelly (Soil & Crop Sciences)
  • Melinda Smith (Biology)

Systems Perspective

In order to conduct the feasibility and design optimization assessments needed for advancing the science of agrivoltaics, a systems perspective that integrates research in water use, crop/forage growth, energy production, economic feasibility, and environmental sustainability is required.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

To move this agro-energy (also known as Agrivoltaics) approach from concept to practice will require a team that includes a wide range of disciplinary skills and perspectives. The project would enable a graduate student to gain some expertise in plant growth (biology), engineering and design, renewable energy, economics and modeling.

Project 15: Modeling Feedbacks Between Irrigation Practices, Regional Climate, and Agricultural Productivity in Colorado and the Semi-Arid West

Over the past century, much of the Great Plains in eastern Colorado has undergone a transition in which the shortgrass steppe that formerly dominated the landscape has been replaced with areas of irrigated cropland and managed grazing lands. The transition to irrigated agriculture has likely had a significant influence on Colorado’s weather patterns, climate, and overall water balance. At a regional scale, there is considerable uncertainty about the possible ways in which irrigation and soil moisture impact clouds and precipitation. This is problematic for predictions of the state’s water resources and therefore future agricultural productivity, as it has been shown that runoff in the Colorado Headwaters is extremely sensitive to changes in both precipitation and evapotranspiration, and land use changes on the Great Plains have been shown to affect weather in the Rocky Mountains. Additionally, any feedbacks between irrigated agriculture and regional weather could have important impacts on crop yields. Given the state’s growing population and food demands in the face of limited water resources and changing climate, we must be able to answer the questions: How do irrigation practices affect regional weather patterns in Colorado? What affect do they have on patterns of precipitation, evapotranspiration, runoff, and storage, and the overall water balance? What could those changes mean for crop yields and decisions about what to plant and when and how to irrigate?

The main goals of this project are 1) to better understand how irrigation of agricultural fields influence land-atmosphere interactions and feed back on local and regional weather and climate in Colorado, 2) to gauge the implications of these effects on the overall water balance for the state, and 3) to assess how those potential changes may influence crop productivity and economic decision making associated with planting and watering practices. In this project, the trainee will a) use a high-resolution mesoscale numerical weather prediction model to investigate how, under current climate conditions, agricultural irrigation practices influence local and regional patterns of precipitation, evapotranspiration, and runoff, and b) model the impacts of these hydrological changes on crop yields, and c) integrate these findings with a statistical approach to examine how producers respond to weather events, such as exploring how irrigated acres, crop choice and well retirement depend on local weather and climate.

Advisors

  • Peter Nelson (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Russ Schumacher (Atmospheric Science, Colorado Climate Center)
  • Nathan Mueller (Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, Soil & Crop Sciences)
  • Dale Manning (Agricultural & Resource Economics)

Systems Perspective

This project aims to identify and quantify system-wide feedbacks between agricultural practice and regional weather and climate across a diverse landscape. This requires a systems perspective that integrates agricultural decision making, economics, hydrology, land-atmosphere interactions, and land use.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This project integrates atmospheric science, hydrology, irrigated agriculture, and economics.

Project 16: Sustainable Development of Rice Bran at the Food-Energy-Water-Health Nexus

White rice feeds nearly half of humanity as a staple food, and the associated agricultural practices, inputs and co-products of rice-based food systems merit attention for impacts on climate, water, energy and food security. Sustainable rice bran product development innovations at the food-energy-water nexus started 10 years ago with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to support biomedical, animal and human studies. Compelling findings from those studies for this food waste to have health properties have led to the current research opportunity that lies in various stages of development across the following countries (i.e. Guatemala, Mali, Nicaragua, India, Kenya, Cambodia, Nepal, France and Brazil). This project focuses on vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and children that are facing food and water insecurity coupled with chronic diarrhoea and poor health outcomes. Diarrhoea caused by unsafe drinking water results in nutrient malabsorption, which is a public health problem needing practical solutions in accordance with achieving sustainable development goals.

Ryan and colleagues embrace an interdisciplinary, multi-sectoral research network approach to advance the development of rice bran as this is the world’s largest agricultural byproduct, and used as animal feed or wasted. This project will develop rice bran as an ingredient with social, sustainable enterprise opportunities across the supply chain. We will create and test heat-stabilization technologies, implement food and water safety testing protocols in local laboratories, and prototype a distribution plan for target product use in infant weaning and maternal-child feeding programs. Many countries face water scarcity, and a tremendous amount of water resources are directed towards rice crop production in irrigated and flood plain agricultural systems. Some areas have already begun integrating aquaculture into rice paddies as rice-fish co-production systems, yet impacts of agrochemicals, heavy metals and pesticides remain a concern alongside the need for standardized testing. Importantly, this project will further the post-harvest output and provide substantial value addition to the rice crop. The research infrastructure for this project spans agricultural rice production and post-harvest practices, food engineering and technologies, as well as health systems at the rural-urban interface.

Advisors

  • Elizabeth Ryan (Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences)
  • Kimberly Cox-York (Food Science and Human Nutrition)
  • Jan Leach (Bioagricultural Sciences & Pest Management)
  • Molly Lamb (Epidemiology)

Systems Perspective

This project integrates complex elements of the rice agro-ecosystem and targets populations that strive to operate with environmental sustainability when increasing food security and seeking to reduce food waste.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This innovative approach to develop rice bran within the broader context of food-energy-water nexus issues is possible via the global co-training of students in highly engaged faculty teams from agriculture, engineering, public health and biomedical sciences.

Project 17: Improved System Level Comparison of Wastewater-Based versus Diammonium Phosphate Fertilizers

Previous work in our labs compared the emergy (the amount of energy that was consumed in direct and indirect transformations to make a product or service) requirements of struvite-based fertilizer and the commercial fertilizer production from “cradle to gate” (resource use to the factory gate). The results support the premise that nutrient recovery from municipal wastewater is a promising sustainable alternative in the water-nutrient-food nexus system management by capturing untapped resources, maximizing resource use, and optimizing the overall system efficiency. Emergy analysis shows almost one order of magnitude higher specific emergy in 1 unit of P presented in DAP than that of struvite due to the more intense use of nonrenewable resources and the high emergy embedded chemicals used in DAP production. Future research should focus on expanding the overall understanding of the benefits of nutrient recovery (N and P) when resource recovered fertilizers are compared with commercial fertilizers in field application. Further study beyond the fertilizer production phase is needed to have more complete comparisons between struvite (slow-release, low solubility in water, cost driven by the bioavailable P) and DAP (instantaneous-release, highly soluble, and higher P content) in the context of nutrient cycling. The proposed work would link InTERFEWS students with EPA Office of Research and Development scientists and CSU faculty to coduct this fuller comparison, with the goal of publication in the peer reviewed literature and sharing of results with EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management.

Advisors

  • Sybil Sharvelle (Civil & Environmental Engineering)
  • Jay Garland (EPA)
  • Michael Jahne (EPA)
  • Cissy Ma (EPA)
  • Thomas Bradley (Mechanical Engineering)

Systems Perspective

The work takes a systems perspective to fully assess the relative impacts, including cumulative energy use, of recovering nutrients from wastewater versus traditional fertilizer production.

Interdisciplinary Aspects

This research assesses broad considerations associated with fertilizers derived from different sources including energy, efficacy for crop production, soil health, and social acceptability.

Have an Idea?

CSU Faculty and External Partners interested in mentoring InTERFEWS trainees can propose research topics using the links below.