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Helena Mitasova

Bio

https://geospatial.ncsu.edu/geoforall/index.html

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Grants

Date: 01/01/23 - 12/31/25
Amount: $193,773.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Justice (NCDOJ)

Project Summary: Effective riparian vegetative buffers and wetlands are carbon sinks, minimize nutrient input, soil erosion and related runoff into adjacent surface waters. They are an essential component of livestock environmental resource management and mitigate the movement of nitrogenous and fecal waste from livestock operations and manure management fields into waterways. Watersheds in the coastal plain of North Carolina include a mixture of homes, businesses, livestock operations and other forms of agriculture. Each is a potential source of nutrient and fecal waste in surface waters. Watershed contamination with nutrients or fecal waste are traditionally considered to be non-point sources of contamination. However, all fecal waste has a vertebrate animal origin, and the species of origin varies with adjacent land-use practices. All vertebrates release cells from their gastrointestinal tract in their feces. These cells contain mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), a routine aspect of forensic investigation that can be applied to identify the animal hosts associated with fecal waste. An mtDNA-based assay we have developed can now specifically attribute the source of fecal waste to humans, livestock (cattle, pigs, poultry, goats), companion animals (dog, cat) and wildlife (white-tailed deer and Canada goose). We propose a comprehensive cross-sectional study to identify locations contaminated by nitrate and fecal waste in mixed use livestock intensive areas of the lower Neuse and Cape Fear watersheds. The study will be conducted with the aim of identifying the presence of fecal contamination and attributing the source of fecal contamination to their species of origin. Water grab samples will be screened for Enterococcus spp. as an indicator of fecal contamination. Samples from positive locations will then be tested for vertebrate mtDNA to attribute the contamination to specific species. Additional sampling at positive sites will assess fecal waste input during storm events. Riparian areas adjacent to waterways testing positive will be visualized using satellite imagery to identify proximity to potential sources of contamination with the identified species. Samples will be assessed for the potential correlation of fecal sources with ammonium, nitrate, chloride, silicate, phosphate, dissolved organic nitrogen and dissolved organic nitrogen. We will conduct community design charettes with cooperating town environmental management personnel and residents, in cooperation with local extension agents and resource managers to identify opportunities for riparian vegetative buffer or wetlands enhancement. Specific objectives include: 1) Identifying locations in agricultural livestock intensive areas where water quality is being degraded by nitrogenous and fecal waste; 2) Identifying riparian locations that will benefit from buffer or wetlands development or refinement; and 3) Working with community stakeholders to develop a plan for buffer and wetland development or refinement. The studies reflect the ecosystem health-oriented objectives of the Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG) program by facilitating efforts to identify locations that would benefit from either the introduction of vegetative buffers or wetlands or the potential refinement or restoration of existing buffers or wetlands.

Date: 09/30/22 - 12/31/24
Amount: $499,827.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of State

To ensure gender parity for women in climate change and environmental sciences in Pakistan, NC State University proposes to partner with the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), and two collaborative institutions (Fatima Jinnah Women University- FJWU and SBK Women's University- SBKWU), to develop Pakistani capacity, particularly for women scientists and students, to adapt to and mitigate climate and associated environmental changes. In this proposal,we will initiate a monthly Climate and Environmental Change Women Speaker Webinar series. Each year, 9 US scientists (6-7 are female) will visit LCWU/FJWU to give seminars, field courses, training workshops, and climate and associate environmental change forums. Correspondingly, every year, we will host 10 Pakistani women faculty, students, and policy makers for 30 days to have a field course at NC Outer Banks, on-campus workshop, training seminars, and interacting with female colleagues at NC Climate Office, Institute for Climate Studies, Center for Geospatial Analytics, and Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center. This grant will provide a great opportunity for the Pakistani women universities to learn from NC State, particularly in terms of how to train and boost women in environmental science fields. Those opportunities would help Pakistani women universities to reevaluate their current environmental major teaching and research programs, and strengthen each other’s curriculum development, and increase collaborative research, virtual teaching exchanges, sharing of pedagogical resources, professional development for women faculty, and faculty-and-student exchanges.

Date: 07/01/22 - 6/30/23
Amount: $120,000.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS)

North Carolina (NC) has launched the NC Wastewater Monitoring Network as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS). This system provides information on the presence and persistence of SARS-CoV-2-like viruses in wastewater systems as a metric of community COVID-19 prevalence. This approach provides a relatively low-cost way to measure both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in a community-wide sample. Wastewater surveillance can demonstrate trends in COVID-19 prevalence, direct action to protect public health, and allay concerns about the burden of disease when SARS-CoV-2 concentrations are low. The NC Wastewater Monitoring Network builds on an existing collaboration between NCDHHS and the NC Wastewater Pathogen Research Network (NC WW PATH) led by Dr. Rachel Noble in collaboration with University of North Carolina (UNC) system researchers including those from North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, and East Carolina University. NC WW PATH has developed laboratory methods for measuring the SARS- CoV-2 virus in samples from wastewater treatment plant influent wastewater and primary solids and completed weekly sampling at 20 wastewater treatment plants representative of urban, semi-urban, and rural wastewater sources across nine counties in 2020. NC WW PATH continues to compare wastewater and solids concentrations with data from NCDHHS and other community prevalence studies while applying epidemiological and geospatial tools to develop statewide interactive mapping to better inform public health decisions.

Date: 07/01/21 - 6/30/22
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS)

North Carolina (NC) has launched the NC Wastewater Monitoring Network as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS). This system provides information on the presence and persistence of SARS-CoV-2-like viruses in wastewater systems as a metric of community COVID-19 prevalence. This approach provides a relatively low-cost way to measure both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in a community-wide sample. Wastewater surveillance can demonstrate trends in COVID-19 prevalence, direct action to protect public health, and allay concerns about the burden of disease when SARS-CoV-2 concentrations are low. The NC Wastewater Monitoring Network builds on an existing collaboration between NCDHHS and the NC Wastewater Pathogen Research Network (NC WW PATH) led by Dr. Rachel Noble in collaboration with University of North Carolina (UNC) system researchers including those from North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, and East Carolina University. NC WW PATH has developed laboratory methods for measuring the SARS- CoV-2 virus in samples from wastewater treatment plant influent wastewater and primary solids and completed weekly sampling at 20 wastewater treatment plants representative of urban, semi-urban, and rural wastewater sources across nine counties in 2020. NC WW PATH continues to compare wastewater and solids concentrations with data from NCDHHS and other community prevalence studies while applying epidemiological and geospatial tools to develop statewide interactive mapping to better inform public health decisions.

Date: 03/01/20 - 12/31/21
Amount: $59,999.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Water Resources Research Institute

Anthropogenic nutrient loading is a critical driver of water quality throughout North Carolina and much of the world. Nutrient loading has increased over the last century due to fertilization of crops and green spaces, as well as waste from humans, pets, and livestock. The most salient outcome of nutrient loading is increased eutrophication (organic matter accumulation in surface waters), often leading to harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, which jeopardize water supplies and public recreation. As such, developing nutrient criteria and management strategies is a timely objective for state water resources managers. While sources of nutrients have been identified and many nutrient control measures have been proposed, there remains a need to quantitatively assess these sources and controls, particularly at the watershed scale. In this study, we propose a modern, data-driven approach to update our knowledge of the magnitudes of various sources and the effectiveness of various nutrient control strategies. The approach leverages large databases of water quality, hydro-meteorology, and watershed attributes, which have been developed by federal, state, and local governments over the last few decades. The approach will also leverage a sophisticated “hybrid” watershed model that combines a mechanistic representation of nutrient fate and transport within a probabilistic (Bayesian) framework where prior knowledge of loading and transport rates is updated through data-driven inference, and where uncertainty is rigorously quantified. Our project will focus on the Falls and Jordan Lake watersheds of North Carolina, for which preliminary models and data are already available. Key objectives include (1) development of an integrated geospatial database on watershed development, (2) adaptation of the hybrid watershed model to assess watershed development practices, and (3) application of the model to assess future management scenarios. Expected outcomes include quantitative guidance for developing nutrient reduction goals and watershed management strategies.

Date: 01/01/18 - 12/31/21
Amount: $499,847.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Participation and inclusion are highly sought and valued in urban and regional decision-making. However, processes for eliciting input from underrepresented populations and merging expert and local knowledge are often ineffective, undermining decision-making efforts. This RCN will collaboratively explore whether multi-user, web-based “serious” games––using real data and scientific models to show the connectedness of locations––could increase equitable participation in local decision-making, elevating the voices of underprivileged groups and diverse perspectives. The RCN will unite researchers and stakeholders to plan the design of a futuristic game called TomorrowNow, which enables people to interact with spatially explicit models of urbanization and associated changes to stormwater hydrology (quantity) and biogeochemistry (quality), problems of increasing concern across urbanizing regions in the US. The RCN will convene leaders from local and regional governments, non-governmental organizations, and research teams specializing in natural, social, and computer sciences in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina; these leaders will collaboratively identify needs and approaches for improving inclusive participation and allowing a wider range of stakeholders to explore and visualize intervention strategies in the places where they live and work. Stakeholders will help researchers conceive the game while co-producing stormwater management strategies and technical specifications. The network will establish and maintain both personal interactions and a collaborative online space for knowledge-sharing that will cultivate smart connections among stakeholders in the Triangle and culminate in consensus for the best strategy to develop the models and interface for TomorrowNow. The RCN, led by PI Ross K. Meentemeyer (North Carolina State University), will facilitate cross-sector collaboration and bridge existing silos among academics and community leaders to define the boundaries of the public engagement and multi-municipal decision-making problems that have so far hindered implementation of large-scale stormwater management efforts in the Triangle. The RCN will also identify important cyber infrastructure requirements for addressing those problems through TomorrowNow. The input of diverse communities will be collected via surveys, semi-structured interviews, panels, discussions during in-person workshops and symposia, and through discussion threads in an open-source online community.

Date: 02/01/17 - 8/31/21
Amount: $175,006.00
Funding Agencies: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

The GAPS (Geospatial Applications for Problem Solving) for Hi-Tech Teens program is a collaborative effort between NC State University, Wade Edwards Learning Lab (WELL), and RTI International. The program is designed to introduce high school students to Geospatial science, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and advanced geovisualization technologies through an intensive after-school STEM learning experience. The GAPS for Hi-Tech Teens program will consist of 2 unique 8-week cohorts (20 students) during the academic year, including 2 mandatory contact hours per week, plus a 2-hour open lab where students can work with mentors on project activities, for a potential of 64 contact hours. The program will also include a 1-week summer program focused on college and career preparedness. The four primary goals of the program are to 1) engage students in community-focused decision making using Geospatial science, 2) increase student capacity for creating and using interactive geovisualization technologies, 3) expose students to GIS-STEM related college programs and careers, and 4) support students with tutoring in mathematics and science. Another mission of the program is to reach historically underserved populations in STEM fields, including African Americans, Hispanics, American Indian, and female students. Therefore, we will utilize WELL’s experience and established relationships with several Wake County schools to provide a diverse base of possible participants in the GAPS for Hi-Tech Teens program, with a goal of at least 60% of participants being minority. To achieve goal 1 the curriculum will be designed around an 8-week project activity that focuses on relevant community topics. Students will work in pairs to identify a spatial topic, acquire the necessary data, develop relevant geospatial models (through student-built tangible landscape systems), analyze and visualize their results, and communicate findings to peers and the public. To achieve goal 2 students will design and build their own tangible landscape system coupled with GIS. Students will also learn how to map using GIS software. In addition, each cohort will participate in a technology field trip to NC State’s Geovisualization Lab where they will interact with advanced geospatial technologies, including Virtual Reality, GazeGIS, SimTable sandbox models, 3-D glasses, GigaPan cameras, and GPS units. To achieve goal 3 students will interact and observe geospatial professionals through an expert panel, and college and career field trips during the 1-week summer program. The semester cohorts will also be mentored by our professional collaborators at RTI International and NC State, community partners, as well as the graduate and undergraduate assistants. To achieve goal 4 students will have access to a dedicated mathematics and science tutor at the WELL for 6 hrs/week outside of the regular program activities.

Date: 08/01/19 - 7/31/20
Amount: $131,230.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS)

Eradication and/or containment of an invasive pest species is one of the most difficult, expensive and critical decisions that engage state, federal and private sector affected parties and stakeholders. Deciding whether or not to engage an eradication or containment program can vary according to complex factors that are difficult to predict. First, pest incursions are affected by many site-specific characteristics – such as the landscape configuration of the affected host(s) and distribution of pests – that make it challenging to define an action area, where containment or eradication would occur. Second, the timeline for making the decision to enter a program is not consistent among pests because of their life histories and response to the new environment. The response timeline can have a positive or negative effect, depending on whether or not the program is initiated before a critical threshold. Third, pest biology and treatment options could range from well-known to unknown and treatment efficacies could vary drastically. Even when treatment options are well-known and effective, these resources must be deployed in a timely and organized manner for containment or eradication to be successful. When there is little information on pest biology or treatment options, knowledge in these areas must be derived or developed to determine if containment or eradication is feasible. A decision to not enter a program that is not technically feasible will result in no program related costs, but a negative perception from affected parties; a win-lose. Alternatively, entering a program that is not technically feasible will result in high costs and a negative perception from the affected parties because the program is likely to fail; a lose-lose. If, however, a program is both technically feasible and successful, the affected industry benefits and regulatory resources are optimized, a win-win. Identifying the conditions that are likely to lead to each of these outcomes is a central question for those that manage invasive pests and diseases. While it is not feasible to predict the conditions surrounding an incursion a priori, we can address key factors surrounding an incursion once it occurs using the Eradication Analysis & Decision Support (eRADS) tool. First, eRADS identifies the area of concern using data on the pest distribution (e.g., from the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program) and its associated hosts (e.g. NASS Cropland Data Layer) and what is known about the biology of the pest (e.g. Global Pest and Disease Database and other data sources). Next, eRADS quantifies landscape metrics in the action area – specifically the connectivity of suitable hosts – to determine how likely the pest could disperse. Then, eRADS leverages what is known about the pest from CAPS datasheets or New Pest Response Guidelines, to evaluate treatment options and determine how quickly they might be deployed. eRADS evaluates the technical feasibility of implementing a program and provides a score ranging from “Feasible” to “Not Feasible,” along with an epidemiological description. eRADS allows decision makers to evaluate how technically feasible a program might be and determine what modifications are required to make it feasible.

Date: 07/01/19 - 6/30/20
Amount: $125,396.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS)

Invasive pests are a serious threat to the nations forest and agricultural systems. Planning and optimizing management of these pests at large-scales often requires input from a variety of stakeholders, many of which often disagree with the suggestions of experts due to different evidentiary bases and experiences. Forecasts to support planning and response rely on model predictions of future spread and risk. Tangible landscape brings this modeling process to life and makes it easier to understand for all stakeholders. Up until today there has been no framework to both communicate and test different scenarios and assumptions held by different farmers, land managers, regulators, researchers and other stakeholders. Tangible Landscape is a novel modeling platform that allows users to guide complex geospatial models via physical interaction. Users can designate treatment zones on a physical representation of a landscape, which are then incorporated into the pest and pathogen spread model. Results are projected back onto the landscape, allowing users to quickly and intuitively visualize how proposed management scenarios are likely to affect spread across the landscape. Tangible landscape brings this modeling process “to life” by making evident the processes, assumptions and the relationship between forecast system outputs and three-dimensional reproductions of actual agricultural or pest management settings. Tangible landscapes make it easier to understand complex dynamics between production and management scenarios for all stakeholders. Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) is an agency within APHIS that “safeguards agriculture and natural resources from risks associated with the entry, establishment, or spread of plant pests and noxious weeds to ensure an abundant, high-quality, and varied food supply”. Each year PPQ manages a large number of invasive species and faces challenges to determine the most viable, high-impact decisions given limited resources and complex epidemiological settings. The Tangible Landscape technology assists making such decisions by allowing stakeholders, decision makers, and land managers to interact physically with simulation models to facilitate visualization and understanding of the situation. It allows both subject matter experts and non-technical users to analyze multiple control scenarios in an instantaneous manner and enables users and policy makers to explore alternative decisions based on the available resources and user-driven variable assumptions regarding management assumptions. The goal of this project is to integrate pest and disease frameworks with existing current Tangible Landscape interface and to then validate management scenarios using multiple case studies that have real-world applications and actual production settings. Developing a tool that is useful for farmers and for regulatory agencies like PPQ would require validating models and technologies used in the Tangible Landscape. We plan to accomplish this using well-known exotic pests and diseases that are part of current programs and real-world challenges.

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.


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