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Gary Blank

Assoc Professor

Jordan Hall Addition 5229


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Date: 08/01/17 - 7/31/19
Amount: $249,949.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Transportation

Accurately mapping wetlands at the road planning stage is critical for timely, cost-effective, and compliant projects. Assessing wetland impacts on proposed road corridors have required trained personnel to identify, measure and evaluate acreage impacts to jurisdictional wetland. NCDOT’s Wetland Predictive Model (WPM) is a GIS and remote sensing-based tool designed to reduce the need for these costly and time-consuming activities by creating a preliminary map of wetlands without the need for field measurements. To do so, the WPM uses lidar-derived terrain variables such as elevation and slope alongside soil maps and other geospatial data as inputs to a predictive model. WPM inputs such as lidar data are expensive and time-consuming to collect, and so are available only infrequently. Likewise, other geospatial data such as high-resolution satellite imagery and digital soil maps are not always available at the frequency necessary for accurate wetland mapping in potential corridors. Even when up-to-date observations are available, they may lack the spatial or spectral resolution necessary to aid in wetland identification.

Date: 08/15/15 - 6/30/18
Amount: $185,689.00
Funding Agencies: Conservation Legacy

Multiple studies exist on the impact of environmental corps programs on participants (e.g., Duerden, et al., 2013; Education Northwest, 2013). Each evaluation provided strong evidence for the impact of the corps experience on participants’ community engagement, environmental engagement, teamwork, leadership, communication skills and grit. Emerging research demonstrates the efficacy of conservation work to provide broader social, health, and economic benefits. The primary relevant conservation activities conducted by corps are improvements to public lands and trail stewardship. Research suggests links between land improvement activities like those conducted by corps and many long-term community and ecosystem impacts. Improving public parks and habitats is associated with increased ecosystem services, improved biodiversity, and environmental health (Benayas et al., 2009; Suding, 2011). Controlling invasive species has major financial implications for many economic sectors (Pimentel, et al., 2005) and can also positively impact outdoor recreational activities (Eiswerth, et al., 2005; Julia, et al., 2007). Conservation activities can ensure that publicly accessible ecosystems remain healthy in light of high human contact (Alessa et al., 2003). Numerous studies have also indicated how poorly constructed trails negatively influence the quality of recreation experiences and decrease visitation (Roggenbuck, et al., 1993; Vaske, et al., 1993). When trails are built and maintained properly, they have the potential to produce direct economic benefits through visitor expenditures on equipment, food, transportation, and lodging (Moore, et al., 1994). Relevant to the evaluation, there are two primary long-term impacts associated with corps activities. First, improving public parks and habitats promotes ecosystem health. Second, improving trail conditions increases the quality of trails, leading to higher accessibility and usage, enhanced visitor experiences, and increased health outcomes. While measuring the long-term impact of these activities lie outside the scope of a program evaluation, key antecedent mechanisms will be evaluated as program outputs and outcomes. Based on preliminary work with NC State University, conservation corps, the Corps Network, and land management partners; Two research questions were developed to guide the outcome evaluations: 1. Do projects focused on improving or constructing trails improve the visually assessed quality of trails? 2. Do projects focused on improving, protecting, and restoring public parks and habitats improve visually assessed ecosystem health?

Date: 05/01/16 - 9/30/17
Amount: $16,500.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

This grant creates two student positions for the summer and fall of 2016. These positions will provide assistance implementing the deliverables associated with this grant. Duties will include assessment of bottomland hardwood regeneration on sites throughout the coastal plain. Efforts will be primarily focused on those deep swamp sites dominated by tupelo and cypress species. These positions will assist in identification of project sites, securing permission to access these sites, collection of data on these sites, and analysis of data collected. In addition, these positions may assist with production of publications associated with this grant; such as forestry leaflets and other documents. Other work may involve additions to the literature search associated with this project. These positions will be accessing deep swamp sites and implementing a systematic method of estimating regeneration potential on these sites. Additional time will be spent utilizing GIS systems to locate assessment sites and obtain contact information for the owners of these sites. Other time will be spent utilizing both online and library resources to add additional publications to the ongoing literature search associated with this project. Other duties related to the grant may be assigned as needed.

Date: 10/01/14 - 7/31/15
Amount: $26,767.00
Funding Agencies: Southwest Conservation Corps

The evaluation partnership between an evaluation team led by Mat Duerden and Mike Edwards and multiple Conservation Corps is entering its fourth year. The last three years of the evaluation have produced evidence in support of the efficacy of the corps experience for participants. While the need to assess participants’ impacts remains important for many of the participating corps, there is a growing interest in evaluating community impacts. Questions remain regarding how the work performed by corps impacts communities. The community impact literature review, commissioned by the Southwest Conservation Corps, addresses approaches to answering this question across a variety of domains (e.g., health, social, economic, and environment) and provides a foundation for moving forward with this type of evaluation. Based on initial methodological suggestions from the literature summary, intensive community impact assessments across multiple corps or corps projects are likely beyond the resource scope of the 2014 evaluation. That being said, steps can be taken now to build capacity towards a more comprehensive community impact assessment approach for 2015. We believe the best way to move in this direction would be to design complimentary program level and project sponsor surveys that address both project outputs and perceived project impacts. This process would allow us to identify common projects and outcomes across corps as well as potentially identify existing sources of data from partners. Additionally, this approach will result in data that will meet requirements of AmeriCorps performance measures for environmental stewardship programs (e.g., Measure EN4: Number of acres of national parks, state parks, city parks, county parks, or other public and tribal lands that are treated). Initial program-level survey development would focus on documenting the amount of effort focused in key activity areas (e.g., trail and waterway development and restoration, development, maintenance, and restoration of parks and natural areas, control of invasive species, removal of forest fuels, and habitat restoration). The instrument will include opportunities for programs to include additional activities, but our goal will be to isolate common activities conducted across corps. We will also identify input measures (e.g., time spent in projects, numbers of crews and staff hours associated with projects) and output measures (e.g., miles of trails restored, acres of land treated, etc.) associated with these activities. Initial partner survey development will focus on both documenting similar project outputs from the program survey (primarily for reliability and to include as performance measures) as well as understanding the types of outcomes partners associate with corps projects. For example, what are the outcomes partners expect from trail restoration (e.g., increased visitation, health benefits, etc.) and perceived efficacy of these projects to elicit these outcomes. As we plan the implementation of future impact studies, it will be important to focus on outcomes seen as important to external stakeholders. In-depth interviews will be conducted with a representative sample of partners and strategic external stakeholders to provide context to survey results. We will also work with programs and partners to geo-code projects for GIS analysis.

Date: 11/30/-1 - 11/30/13
Amount: $508,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In accordance with the solicitation from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Center for Environmental Innovation for a "Partnership to Promote Sharing of Environmental Innovations," we propose to design and deliver two symposia to promote learning, knowledge transfer, and improved environmental performance through pollution prevention and innovation. These symposia will strengthen strategic partnerships for promoting innovation among EPA, States, tribes and other organizations. A steering committee including experts in environmental policy evaluation and technology innovation will identify and analyze current environmental innovations, and establish thematic panels to facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas and activities. The steering committee will identify and invite presenters and assign a program subcommittee to develop the concurrent sessions, plenaries, and breakout working groups as part of the symposia programmatic activities. The symposia will highlight best practices that result in innovation success while transferring knowledge that facilitates the adoption of environmental improvements by States, tribes, and other organizations. The symposia will be delivered under the direction of North Carolina State University's (NCSU) Forestry and Environmental Outreach Program, which has two decades of experience in organization and delivery of large-scale national and international conferences that allow for successful information exchange and education. Existing and emerging web technologies will be evaluated and used where appropriate in planning and delivering the symposia, as well as the post-symposia outputs.

Date: 06/16/10 - 4/30/12
Amount: $461,544.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Energy (DOE)

The College of Natural Resources (CNR) Student Energy Internships and Fellowships Program will use $435,481.00 to engage 45 interns and 3 graduate student fellows in the business of green energy transformation. These positions will equate to 31.5 full time jobs over the 23 months of the proposed program. Employing already existing and well tested systems for recruiting, monitoring and evaluating internship experiences by its students, the CNR will expand its outreach to business and organizational entities by matching eager students studying environmental technology, forest management, natural resources, or wood products with challenges that connect the classroom to energy technologies in the external workplace. Forty-three businesses and organizations have been identified--either because of past working connections or because of this enhanced funding opportunity-- where NC State CNR students could be employed in energy related projects and jobs. Through a combination of full-time summer and part-time semester-long internships, undergraduate students will have a range of opportunities to apply their knowledge and gain practical experience helping host entities address green energy concerns. Ten internships (full time) will be initiated in summer 2010, followed by five (part time) in each fall and spring semester of the 2010-2011 academic year, 15 (full time) during the summer of 2011, and 5 (part time) each semester of academic year 2011-2012. These last five internships will conclude before the end of April 2012. Graduate student fellows (3 over 23 months) will delve more deeply into several sustained investigations that contribute substantially to key problems faced by organizations involved in the green energy revolution. They will be awarded on a half-year basis renewable up to four semesters. Priority will be given to students serving as interns in Tier 1 counties or students from Tier 1 counties who want to be interns, especially during the summer internship periods when students can more easily live farther away from campus. Managing and monitoring internships and fellowships will be the responsibility of a program manager specifically coordinating with a faculty team in the college and with hosts of the interns. The program will monitor interns? progress through a series of reporting forms and agreements already developed for this specific purpose. The program manager will have the support of a CNR faculty team to recruit for the internships from students in environmental technology, forest management, natural resources, paper science engineering and wood products. Most of these curricula have existing internship or practicum requirements, so students are pre-disposed to seek such opportunities. Recruitment for the fellowships will coincide with normal graduate student efforts in the CNR and research and extension interests of designated faculty in CNR.

Date: 04/13/06 - 5/30/07
Amount: $2,500.00
Funding Agencies: US Forest Service

This cooperative agreement between Southern Research Station (RWU-4154), US Forest Service, and North Carolina State University will inventory plant communities currently in place on sites occupied by the Long Term Soil Productivity study. The overall study aim is to quantify impacts of soil compaction and organic matter removal in loblolly pine plantations on the plant community after a fifteen year interval. Specific objectives are to (1) characterize current standing understory vegetation; (2) determine interaction of organic matter removal and compaction treatments 15 years post-treatment; and (3) compare 15 year vegetation patterns with pre-treatment and one-year post-treatment vegetation. The inventory will employ the North Carolina Vegetation Sampling protocol. A total of 27 plots will be surveyed (3 blocks X 3 organic matter removal treatments X 3 compaction treatments = 27). Field work will be conducted Summer 2006, and a final report will be provided to the RWU by May 2007.

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