Missouri EPSCoR

Climate Team Member Featured in Interviews on Climate Change

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Dr. Fengpeng Sun, Missouri NSF EPSCoR Climate Team member, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  He was recently interviewed by Kansas City Community Radio host, David Mitchell, about his research on climate change, on January 22, 2019.  Listen to the full interview here.  He was also interviewed about his 2015 study of California wildfire seasons--his research prior to joining UMKC--in a November 9, 2018 article in the New York Times by journalist, Kendra Pierre-Louis.  Read the full article here.

Links to the interviews are below:

KKFI Community Radio Interview

New York Times Article, "Why Does California Have So Many Wildfires?"

 

Missouri EPSCoR Researchers Gathered for the Fourth Annual Meeting

Monday, November 26, 2018

Missouri Transect researchers gathered on October 4-5, 2018 for the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) campus. The event brought together over 100 Missouri Transect participants, including faculty, staff, post-docs, graduate students, and undergrads and featured 42 research poster presentations.

On the evening of October 4, Jake Jacobson, Director of Public Relations for Children’s Mercy Kansas City, led a workshop for the Missouri Transect Student and Post-doc Association on effective communication to the public using social media engagement and building relationships with journalists.  He presented videos, social media posts, and anecdotes of communicating with print journalists to help students brainstorm how to get their own research out to the public in organic and creative ways.

The annual meeting with all Missouri Transect participants took place all day on October 5.  Among those in attendance were several key UMKC faculty and administrators. Attendees from all across Missouri received a warm address of welcome from UMKC Chancellor, Dr. C. Mauli Agrawal.  Dr. Agrawal was introduced by the UMKC Host and Climate Team member, Dr. Jimmy Adegoke.  He shared UMKC research areas of strength and highlighted successful interdisciplinary projects on campus.

Pictured L-R: UMKC Chancellor Dr. C. Mauli Agrawal, Missouri Project Director Dr. John Walker, Dr. Anthony Caruso, and Dr. Jimmy Adegoke

Dr. Anthony Caruso, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UMKC, gave the Keynote Address.  Dr. Caruso is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering at UMKC.  Based on his own research at UMKC, Dr. Caruso discussed how each of the teams (Plant, Climate, Community, Cyberinfrastructure, and Education) could contribute expertise to urban agriculture, One Heath Intelligence (OHI), and counter UAV defense research. He spoke on multi-institutional large grant opportunities for Missouri Transect researchers, particularly related to OHI.  OHI revolves around mapping the environmental, dietary, psychological, and physiological factors that affect a single person and predicting the health and longevity of an individual based on these factors.  Funding to study OHI ranges from federal to private sources based on the type of individual being studied, such as adults, children, elderly, the disadvantaged, active service members, or veterans.

After a short networking break, UMKC faculty, Dr. ZhiQiang Chen, Associate Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Plant Team Seed Grant Recipient, and Dr. Lawrence Dreyfus, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development led a panel of presentations of innovative technologies being developed and implemented by Missouri Transect researchers.  The session was called “Frontiers of Science: AVs, Autonomous Systems and Big Data Technologies and their Applications.”  The five presenters are Co-Investigators on the Plant and Climate Teams: Dr. Mikhail Berezin, Associate Professor, Department of Radiology, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL); Ali Shafiekhani, PhD student with Gui DeSouza, (Associate Professor) Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Missouri-Columbia (MU); Dr. Zhaozhang Yin, Associate Proffesor, Department of Computer Science, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T); Dr. Tim Eichler, Research Scientist at MU and University of Arkansas, and Dr. Neil Fox, Professor, Atmospheric Science, MU.

Graduate student, Ali Shafiekhani, presents on Vinobot and Vinocular technology out of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MU

As a representative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Timothy VanReken spoke in the afternoon about the NSF INFEWS program and other “Cross-Cutting NSF Activities.”  Dr. VanReken is a Program Officer for NSF INFEWS and a Program Director for NSF EPSCoR. He has been with NSF EPSCoR since 2014 and came to Missouri for the Missouri EPSCoR Site Visit in 2017.  In his presentation, Dr. VanReken gave an overview of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus and the evolution of the INFEWS program at NSF (Program Synopsis: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505241).  Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) is just one aspect of the NSF’s Ten Big Ideas (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/) and he encouraged EPSCoR researchers to look closely at the proposals and Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) coming out of these initiatives.  One DCL that he highlighted was the Growing Convergence Research (NSF 18-058) (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18058/nsf18058.jsp) that aims to fund “research driven by a specific, compelling challenge inspired by deep scientific questions or pressing societal needs.”  The proposed research should be interdisciplinary and innovative.  He also highlighted Rules of Life (RoL) funding opportunities because they fit well with Missouri EPSCoR research (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/life.jsp).  RoL: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18600/nsf18600.htm), RoL: Forecasting and Emergence in Living Systems (NSF 18-031, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18031/nsf18031.jsp), RoL: Building a Synthetic Cell (NSF 18-599, https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18599/nsf18599.htm) are all new initiatives. 

In the afternoon, four research and outreach highlights were given by students, Co-Investigators, and research scientists on the Missouri Transect Plant, Climate, Community and Education Teams. Lisa Groshong (Ph.D. Candidate, Community Team, MU) presented on “The community impact of climate change: Perceptions of state park visitors.” Abigail Aderonmu (Ph.D. Candidate, Climate Team, UMKC) gave her talk on “Missouri farmers’ perceptions of climate change and its impact on risk management practices.”  Dr. Nadia Shakoor (Senior Research Scientist and Tech Transfer Seed Grant Recipient, Plant Team, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center) talked about her research on “Natural diversity in maize drought stress response: Genome-wide association mapping of compositional traits and growth phenotypes.”  Dr. Sandra Arango-Caro (Education Programs Facilitator, Education Team, DDPSC) gave a presentation about her outreach education work, “MO DIRT: Promoting soil science in the state of Missouri.”

Graduate student, Abigail Aderonmu, presents her study of climate change and survey results of farmers' adaptation to climate change

After another networking break, students came to the front of the meeting room to give short “Poster Pop-Ups,” elevator pitches on their research to entice the audience to visit their research posters.  A poster session then took place and closed the annual meeting day of events.  At the end of the poster session, Dr. John Walker, Missouri EPSCoR Project Director, presented awards for the best posters and presentations, which were decided by a panel of judges.  The winning poster presenters where:

First Place: Carrie Merritt, UMKC, Undergrad (PI: Fengpeng Sun, Climate Team) “Midwestern Climate Modelling and Analysis: An Examination of Climate Patterns, Trends, and Sensitivities” (Poster 14)

Second Place: Shimin Tang, UMKC, PhD student (PI: ZhiQiang Chen, Plant Team) “Disaster-Scene Mechanics Understanding using Deep Learning” (Poster 21)

Third Place: Samuel Holden, MU, Undergrad (PI: Ruthie Angelovici, Plant Team) “Investigating the Genetic Architecture of the Seed Amino Acid Composition in Maize Using a Genome-wide Association Study (Poster 23)

Students give "pop-up" presentations of their posters before the poster session Samuel Holden describes his reserach to EAB member, Dr. Bonnie Bartel Carrie Merritt stands in front of her poster during the poster session

The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community is a statewide, collaborative research effort to understand how climate variability impacts plants and communities in Missouri. Researchers are collaborating with each other across disciplines and 10 institutions as part of this five-year project.  It is funded through the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) program.

Podcast on Drought Features a Missouri Transect Plant Team Member

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Missouri is currently facing a drought alert and 30 counties are experiencing extreme drought this summer.  University of Missouri Chancellor, Dr. Alexander N. Cartwright, sat down for an Inside Mizzou podcast with several MU professors, including Dr. Felix Fritschi of the Missouri Transect Plant Team to discuss how drought is understood and felt by communities, how it is studied at MU and how research can help bring about innovation to combat drought and natural disasters. 
 

Announcing the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Missouri Transect Annual Meeting will be held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus on Friday, October 5, 2018.  A student and postdoc event will take place the evening of October 4.  More details about the agenda is coming soon.

 

The Annual Meeting website is HERE

Register HERE

 

 

 

Where are they now? An update on Missouri EPSCoR Undergrad, Will McHargue

Friday, December 1, 2017

Will McHargue standing in front of his poster, "The use of thermography for quantifying plant transpiration," at the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting in June 2015
Will McHargue standing in front of his poster, The use of thermography for quantifying plant transpiration" at the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting in 2015
 

 

 

Will McHargue was one of Missouri EPSCoR's first undergraduates.  He did research on plant transpiration in Rico Holdo's lab at the University of Missouri (MU) from 2014-2016.  At the first Missouri Transect annual meeting, his poster and presentation on "The use of thermography for quantifying plant transpiration" received honorable mention.  In 2016, McHargue graduated with his Bachelor's of Science in Biological Engineering.  He now works as a Lab Technician at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.  First introduced to the Danforth Center in 2015 as a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) intern, McHargue returned to work in the new laboratory of Ru Zhang after graduating from MU.  McHargue continues to research plant responses to climate change, which is an integral component to Missouri EPSCoR research that he first started testing in the Holdo lab in 2014.  You can read more about Will McHargue's experience and research at the Danforth Center by reading his guest contribution for the Roots & Shoots Blog.

New Missouri Transect Newsletter!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Missouri EPSCoR Newsletter is now out.  You can read it online here:

Read both issues of The Transect here.

If you want a hard copy, please send a request at missouriepscor [at] missouri [dot] edu (subject: The%20Transect%20newsletter) .

Announcing Two Missouri Transect Seed Grant Opportunities

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Missouri EPSCoR is pleased to announce the release of two Requests for Proposals for the Missouri Transect Seed Funding program.  RFPs are in the fields of Data Integration and Ecosystem Modeling.  

Download RFPs and Budget Form:

Data Integration

Ecosystem Modeling

Budget Form
 
The Intent to Submit Form (Data Integration RFP.pdf and Ecosystem Modeling RFP.pdf, pp. 8-10) is due Wednesday, May 17 at 5:00 p.m. CST.  The Full Proposal and Budget Form are due Wednesday, June 21 at 5:00 p.m. CST.  You must send an Intent to Submit form, along with suggested reviewers, in order for your full proposal to be considered.
 
Please send all correspondence to: epscor [at] missouri [dot] edu

RFP Snapshot:

Program Name
The Missouri Transect Seed Funding
 
Source of Funds
The Missouri Transect Seed Funding is part of the Missouri NSF EPSCoR Track-1 Research Infrastructure Improvement program The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community (IIA-1355406).
 
Purpose
The Missouri Transect is a five-year effort to build infrastructure, knowledge, and collaborations in research and education across Missouri. The Missouri Transect Seed Funding program supports new research and educational initiatives to leverage new opportunities and emerging areas of research. These funds will be directed primarily to investigators and institutions not currently represented on the Missouri Transect team. High risk/high return projects from early career investigators, educators, and collaborative teams will be given preference for funding.  The Strategic Plan for the Missouri Transect can be found at https://missouriepscor.org/about/strategic-plan.
 
Data IntegrationThis RFP seeks to address the questions: What new knowledge can be gleaned by integrating the diverse data sets that are being generated by the scientists involved in the Missouri Transect, and given that opportunity, what are the best approaches to integrate and analyze the data?
 
Ecosystem Modeling This RFP seeks to address the question: Are there mathematical models that can be developed that describe the ecological system of Tucker Prairie and provide a better understanding of the larger ecosystem of a native prairie?   
 
Eligibility
Any individual, independent researcher, or educator at any higher education and research institution in Missouri is eligible to apply.
 
Award Amount and Duration
The total project budget should be a maximum of $50,000 in direct costs over a span of 12 months. A justification of all direct costs is required in the full proposal.  Seed Funds will be available during Year 4 of the Missouri Transect Project, August 1, 2017 – July 31, 2018. 
 
For more information about the Missouri Transect, visit https://missouriepscor.org/

Missouri EPSCoR Eligibility

Monday, April 3, 2017

Calculation of FY17 NSF EPSCoR eligibility indicates that Missouri is above the EPSCoR eligibility threshold of 0.75% of NSF Research Funds. Missouri has remained above the eligibility threshold for three consecutive fiscal years (the FY17 eligibility table is attached). As a result, beginning in FY18, Missouri will no longer be eligible for EPSCoR Co-Funding, Outreach and Workshop support.

Plant biologists welcome their robot overlords

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Old-school areas of plant biology are getting tech upgrades that herald more detailed, faster data collection.

by Heidi Ledford

25 January 2017
 
A robot measures the crops in an agricultural field near Columbia, Missouri (credit: DeSouza/Fritschi/Shafiekhani/Suhas/University of Missouri)
 
As a postdoc, plant biologist Christopher Topp was not satisfied with the usual way of studying root development: growing plants on agar dishes and placing them on flatbed scanners to measure root lengths and angles. Instead, he would periodically stuff his car with plants in pots dripping with water and drive more than 600 kilometres from North Carolina to Georgia to image his specimens in 3D, using an X-ray machine in a physics lab.
 

Five years later, the idea of using detailed imaging to study plant form and function has caught on. The use of drones and robots is also on the rise as researchers pursue the ‘quantified plant’ — one in which each trait has been carefully and precisely measured from nearly every angle, from the length of its root hairs to the volatile chemicals it emits under duress. Such traits are known as an organism’s phenotype, and researchers are looking for faster and more comprehensive ways of characterizing it.

From 10 to 14 February, scientists will gather in Tucson, Arizona, to compare their methods. Some will describe drones that buzz over research plots armed with hi-tech cameras; others will discuss robots that lumber through fields bearing equipment to log each plant’s growth.

The hope is that such efforts will speed up plant breeding and basic research, uncovering new aspects of plant physiology that can determine whether a plant will thrive in the field. “Phenotype is infinite,” says Topp, who now works at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, Missouri. “The best we can do is capture an aspect of it — and we want to capture the most comprehensive aspect we can.”

The plummeting cost of DNA sequencing has made it much easier to find genes, but working out what they do remains a challenge, says plant biologist Ulrich Schurr of the Jülich Research Centre in Germany. “It is very easy now to sequence a lot of stuff,” he says. “But what was not developed with the same kind of speed was the analysis of the structure and function of plants.”

Plant breeders are also looking beyond the traits they used to focus on — such as yield and plant height — for faster ways to improve crops. “Those traits are useful but not enough,” says Gustavo Lobos, an ecophysiologist at the University of Talca in Chile. “To cope with what is happening with climate change and food security, some breeders want to be more efficient.” Researchers aiming to boost drought tolerance, for example, might look at detailed features of a plant’s root system, or at the arrangement of its leaves.

False-colour images of a bean-breeding trial captured by a camera mounted on a drone (credit: Lav R. Khot/Washington State University & Phillip N Miklas/USDA-ARS)

A need for speed

The needs of these researchers have bred an expanding crop of phenotyping facilities and projects. In 2015, the US Department of Energy announced a US$34-million project to generate the robotics, sensors and methods needed to characterize sorghum, a biofuel crop. Last year, the European Union launched a project to create a pan-European network of phenotyping facilities. And academic networks have sprung up around the globe as plant researchers attempt to standardize approaches and data analyses.

Large-scale phenotyping has long been used in industry, but was too expensive for academic researchers, says Fiona Goggin, who studies plant–insect interactions at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Now, the falling prices of cameras and drones, as well as the rise of the ‘maker’ movement that focuses on homemade apparatus, are enticing more academics to enter the field, she says.

At Washington State University in Pullman, biological engineer Sindhuja Sankaran’s lab is preparing to deploy drones carrying lidar, the laser equivalent of radar. The system will scan agricultural fields to gather data on plant height and the density of leaves and branches. Sankaran also uses sensors to measure the volatile chemicals that plants give off, particularly when they are under attack from insects or disease. She hopes eventually to mount the sensors on robots.

A drone loaded with thermal imaging equipment flies over grapevines (credit: Lav R. Khot/Washington State University)

Sankaran’s mechanical minions return from their field season with hundreds of gigabytes of raw data, and analysing the results keeps her team glued to computers for the better part of a year, she says. Many researchers do not realize the effort and computing savvy it takes to pick through piles of such data, says Edgar Spalding, a plant biologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “The pheno­typing community has rushed off to collect data and the computing is an afterthought.”

Standardizing the technology is another barrier, says Nathan Springer, a geneticist at the University of Minnesota in St Paul. The lack of equipment everyone can use means that some researchers have to rely on slower data-collection methods. Springer has been working with 45 research groups to characterize 1,000 varieties of maize (corn) grown in 20 different environments across the United States and Canada. The project has relied heavily on hand measurements rather than on drones and robots, he says.

Topp now has his own machine to collect computed tomography (CT) images, but processing samples is still a little slow for his liking. He speaks with reverence of a facility at the University of Nottingham, UK, that speeds up its scans by using robots to feed the plants through the CT machine. But he’s pleased that he no longer has to haul his soggy cargo across three states to take measurements. “It’s just endless, the number of possibilities.”

Nature 541, 445–446 (26 January 2017) | doi:10.1038/541445a

Missouri Transect Second Annual Meeting Bring Together Over 100 Attendees at Missouri S&T

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Dr. Cheryl B. Schrader gives opening remarks at the Missouri Transect Annual Meeting

The Missouri Transect Annual Meeting took place on September 14-15, 2016, at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla. The event brought together over 100 Missouri Transect participants and featured 48 research poster presentations.

Among those in attendance were several key Missouri S&T faculty and administrators. Attendees from all across Missouri received a warm address of welcome from Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader. Other Missouri S&T leaders also on hand to meet and interact with attendees included Dr. Robert Marley, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs; Dr. Bruce McMillian, Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, and Dr. Stephen Roberts, Vice Provost and Dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business.

Dr. Kruse presenting on GRFP opportunities. To access her presentation, visit https://missouriepscor.org/news/nsf-powerpoints-missouri-transect-annual-meeting

Dr. Rebecca Kruse, Program Director for the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, gave a presentation about NSF funding opportunities. She focused specifically on grants available to early career investigators, including the Faculty Early-Career Development Program (CAREER) and Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Dr. Rich Ferrieri with Brookhaven National Laboratory gave the meeting’s keynote address. He described use of a technique his lab developed to administer and track radiotracers and their metabolites in whole plants using positron emission tomography (PET). To show the power of this technique for precision phenotyping, he highlighted results from two projects aimed at identifying the physiological, metabolic, and genetic changes in plants in response to root herbivory. Ferrieri previously served on the External Advisory Board for the Plant Imaging Consortium, a joint project of the Missouri and Arkansas EPSCoR programs, and has an adjunct faculty appointment with MU’s Department of Chemistry and Research Reactor. His talk highlighted the growing emphasis and innovations in precision phenotyping in plant science research.

Attendees were also brought up to speed on the progress of the Missouri Transect goals and projects. Each of the five Missouri Transect teams (i.e., Plant, Climate, Community, Science Education and Outreach, and Cyberinfrastructure) highlighted its accomplishments over the past year as well as next steps for the years ahead. A poster presentation session also gave students and postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to share results from projects as well as for all participants to learn about the wide range of research and educational projects currently underway.

Among the poster presenters were Lisa Groshong from the University of Missouri, who shared results from a project using photo narratives as a means to document visitors and park managers’ perceptions of the effects of climate change to Missouri State Parks. New advanced phenotyping technologies also were the focus of several posters, including Tyler Bradford with Missouri State University whose poster showcased a drone fitted with a hyperspectral camera being used to monitor and assess vegetative stress of fields of plants exposed to different drought conditions. Among the educational projects highlighted were Mutant Millets, an inquiry-based learning and advanced science research in modern agriculture project for high schoolers launched by the Danforth Center, and a community resilience education and training project for kids 6-9 years of age designed by Lincoln University.

Lisa Groshong, graduate student on the Community Team, speaks with Dr. Sandra Arango-Caro about community surveys and citizen science projects. Tyler Bradford, graduate student working on the Missouri State University seed grant, speaks with Rahul Sukharia about his research at Missouri State Lincoln University undergradates and graduate students speak with their faculty mentor, Dr. David Heise, during a networking break

Dr. Joel Burken, Chair of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department at Missouri S&T and co-Lead of the Missouri Transect Plant Team generously hosted the annual meeting.  The event was organized by Missouri S&T Distance and Continuing Education Department.  The Missouri Transect would like to thank Sue Turner, Director of Distance and Continuing Education and Dr. Burken for their efforts in making this event such a success.

The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community is a statewide, collaborative research effort to understand how climate variability impacts plants and communities in Missouri. Researchers are collaborating with each other across disciplines and 10 institutions as part of this five-year project.  It is funded through the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) program.

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