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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

NRE faculty member and students researching effects of salinization on wetlands

Connecticut now has a fraction of the forested wetlands that used to cover the state. Until the middle of the twentieth century, clearing land, constructing roads, building infrastructure and introducing irrigation and drainage systems did not require an assessment or mitigation of potential environmental impacts. Amidst growing concern for wetlands, the US Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a nationwide wetlands inventory in 1954. In the decades that followed, further scientific studies helped raise awareness of the benefits of wetlands for habitat, improving water quality and providing flood protection. The change of public opinion from approving of wetlands use for residential and industrial improvements and landfills towards conservation led to the adoption of legislation throughout the 1960s and ‘70s to safeguard wetlands. The volume of forested wetlands in Connecticut has since remained relatively consistent, with small losses due to natural conversion, typically becoming ponds, and from development projects. The embrace of wetlands research helped ensure the passage of federal and state laws and regulatory controls that stabilized the loss of these important ecosystems.


Beth Lawrence

Forested wetlands are now facing new threats. The application of road salt is salinizing freshwater areas, affecting the ecosystem services these swamps provide. Beth Lawrence, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) with a joint appointment in UConn’s Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, is taking a closer look at the impact of salinization on forested wetlands. Forested wetlands represent over two-thirds of all wetlands in the state.

“The application of road salt and its effects on these swamps are an emerging issue of concern,” says Lawrence.

“The aim of my research is to better understand and quantify the numerous ecosystem services forested wetlands provide. My focus is on how plant community composition, carbon storage and carbon dynamics are affected by salinization. I’m also looking at the effects of experimental road salt applications. We know that wetlands benefit people in a variety of ways, but we do not have a good understanding of the capacity of these ecosystem services and how their functioning may be impacted across environmental gradients,” says Lawrence. (more…)

Image of the week: NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy on “Transformative Innovations for 21st Century Food and Agriculture”

SRamaswamyDr. Sonny Ramaswamy (at right in above photo), director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), visited the College Monday August 14. He was hosted by Mike O’Neill, the College’s associate dean and associate director of UConn Extension (left, facing camera). During his presentation entitled “Transformative Innovations for 21st Century Food and Agriculture,” Ramaswamy spoke about NIFA’s efforts to catalyze discoveries to address agricultural challenges through education and engagement. He described NIFA-funded projects  at the cellular, organismal and community levels to address nutritional security, food waste and efforts to decrease the ecological footprint of agricultural production. He emphasized the need for sustainable consumption as well as sustainable production. Following his talk, Ramaswamy met with faculty and administrators from the College and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and representatives from other New England land-grant universities. The discussion covered a variety of topics, including the challenges faced by smaller land-grant institutions. Earlier in the day, the group met for breakfast with Vice Provost for Research Radenka Maric before touring the Innovation Partnership Building on Discovery Drive.



Meet graduate student Roman Shrestha

Roman Shresthra

Roman Shresthra

As a volunteer intern and then research assistant in his native Nepal, Roman Shrestha worked with nonprofit groups on HIV prevention and intervention. After earning his undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health at UConn, where he is currently completing his Ph.D. in public health in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. Here’s what he said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate? Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.

What was your major? I majored in biology and chemistry.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school? As an undergraduate student, I spent two summers as an intern at UConn. I spoke with professors in public health, and they were doing similar types of work that I was doing in Nepal related to HIV prevention. It came to me that I wanted to pursue public health rather than biology.

Who is your advisor and what is your field of research? My advisor is Dr. Michael Copenhaver in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. My primary field of research is HIV prevention. It is interdisciplinary, in that my work involves HIV risk reduction, substance abuse, neurocognitive impairment and mHealth (mobile technology on health management). My dissertation work is mostly related to developing a brief integrative bio-behavioral approach for HIV prevention among drug users.

Name one aspect of your work that you like. It’s research and clinical work at the same time. I mostly work with drug users. I talk to them, do group, and help them in any way possible. At the same time, I mentor students. (more…)

A nutritional leader emerges


Emerging leader, Tho Pham, stands next to his award-winning poster.

A UConn nutritional sciences postdoctoral fellow, who was named an “emerging leader” in his field at a recent international event, began the path to nutrition research when he was studying biochemistry as a Nebraska undergraduate.

“I was always curious about science and loved biochemistry. But, I never imagined being in nutritional sciences,” said Tho Pham, who is the first place winner of the postdoctoral fellow category in American Society for Nutrition’s Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science poster competition at Experimental Biology 2017. Four hundred nutritional scientists judged the competition.

In referring to this award and Pham’s USDA pre and postdoctoral fellowship grants, Department of Nutritional Sciences Head Sung Koo said, “Tho is truly an emerging scholar.”

Scholar Pham is not new to receiving honors. For example, his first exposure to nutritional sciences started with an (more…)

Meet graduate student Cora McGehee

Cora McGehee

Cora McGehee

Cora McGehee is a master’s degree student studying horticulture in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She is researching the use of non-chemical options on plant pathogens in hydroponic systems.

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I went to Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge.

What was your major?

My major was environmental horticulture and I minored in history.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I was working with a horticultural crop pathologist during my last year at LSU and really enjoyed applied research. I was using biological fungicides to suppress plant pathogens, such as bacterial leaf spot and downy mildew, in the field. Then I found an applied research graduate student position at UConn working with suppressing plant pathogens in hydroponic leafy greens. It was a great fit and I’m glad I made the decision to come to UConn! (more…)