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April 20, 2012

ULM biology awarded $87K enhancement grant

After a grant proposal written by University of Louisiana at Monroe's Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee, an assistant professor of biology, ULM was awarded an enhancement grant to help establish a carbon dioxide - water vapor flux monitoring tower in a bottomland hardwood forest in the Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area.

The grant, which totals nearly $87,000, is from the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Bhattacharjee serves as the principal investigator, and Dr. Anne Case-Hanks, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, earth science, and physics, as the co-principal investigator.

The first of its kind in Louisiana, and the 31st state in the nation to have such a facility for monitoring carbon fluxes between the atmosphere and forests, this facility will put ULM on the national and international scheme of climate change monitoring and its global impact.

"I am really excited about this," said Bhattacharjee. "It's something that I have been trying to establish here for the past couple of years, and now it is transforming into a reality."

According to Bhattacharjee, measurements of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 and H2O, have recently gained worldwide attention in light of the changing climate patterns.

Scientists are setting up more flux towers to monitor the "net exchange" of these gases in a variety of ecosystems to understand the impacts of changing climate on the these ecosystems.

Bottomland hardwood ecosystems are very unique and have, until now, not been represented in the global flux network.

"With this tower up and going, we will be able to collect data from these bottomlands and share it with scientists. This will help us better understand our regional climate variations and its impact on our forest systems," continued Bhattacharjee.

Data collected by the flux monitoring station will be shared with the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, the primary climate-change data and information analysis center of the U.S. Department of Energy, located at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which also includes the World Data Center for Atmospheric Trace Gases.

"The project brings forth a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with scientists at the ORNL," Bhattacharjee said. "I am currently working on getting a PhenoCam (a camera that monitors seasonal changes in vegetation through a series of time-lapse photographs) to be mounted on the tower, from a potential collaborator at Harvard University, for monitoring vegetation phenology of bottomland hardwood forests."

The grant also supports the beginning of the establishment of the "Center for Biometeorology" at ULM.

"I see this as an excellent platform for faculties from the Departments of Biology, and Atmospheric Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Physics at ULM and other educational institutions in the region to collaboratively conduct cutting edge research and utilize the facility," Bhattacharjee concluded.

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