Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program

Prof. Amy Burgin Receives NSF Ecosystems Grant

Amy Burgin (EES) was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Ecosystems panel. The project is a collaborative effort between Burgin and Dr. Emily Bernhardt (Duke University) and Dr. Geoff Poole (Montana State University). Their project is entitled: Coupled Carbon, Nitrogen and Sulfur Cycling in Coastal Plain Wetlands: How will climate change and saltwater intrusion alter ecosystem dynamics? Coastal plain wetlands, primarily found in the southeastern US, occupy a critical landscape position at the intersection of terrestrial and aquatic and fresh and salt waters. Humans have drained wetlands for agriculture and forestry, thus diminishing their capacity to provide critical ecosystem services such as nutrient and carbon sequestration.  Draining wetlands and associated land use change has also caused eutrophication (nutrient pollution) of downstream freshwater and coastal ecosystems, with the associated degradation in water quality and decline in coastal fisheries. Climate change may further exacerbate these trends: higher temperatures and increasingly sporadic precipitation may further diminish the spatial extent of perennially flooded wetlands and is already leading to seasonal saltwater intrusion during drought. The goal of our project is to understand and model changes in carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycling of coastal plain freshwaters under a saltier and an increasingly uncertain hydrologic future. The total award is $1.2 million ($307K to WSU) over 3 years.