Ecological Sciences & Engineering
Mentor / Lab:
Drs. Jeffrey Volenec and Sylvie Brouder
Specific Research Area / Project:
Dry Matter Partitioning, Seasonal Nutrient Cycling Dynamics, and Potential Ecosystem Impacts of Three Perennial Bioenergy Crops
My research is conducted at the Purdue University Water Quality Field Station (WQFS) under the USDA-AFRI Managed Ecosystem grant. The WQFS is a unique research design consisting of 48 agricultural plots centered on individual drainage lysimeters that allow for the measurement of agricultural chemicals that move through the water supply, as well as of the volume of water movement itself. The purpose of my research, which is a 3-year study that takes on an agro-ecology perspective, is to assess yields, dry matter partitioning, nitrogen response (rates of 0, 56, 112, and 168 kg/ha N), and seasonal nutrient cycling of C, N, P, and K, within above- and below-ground tissues (roots, rhizomes, stem bases, and shoots) of the three perennial grass biofuel candidates switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Miscanthus xgiganteus, and a big bluestem- (Andropogon gerardii) dominated prairie. Nutrient cycling dynamics for C, N, P, and K storage pools are assessed by measuring carbohydrates, protein, amino-N, total C, total N, total P, and total K concentrations within all tissues that were sampled once prior to emergence in the spring; once a month during the growing seasons; and once during the winter. Additionally, forage quality of above-ground biomass for all three candidate crops will be measured for chemical processing of grasses to cellulosic ethanol. Analysis of water quality from each tile-drained plot and measurement of gas emissions from each biofuel plot at the WQFS will be assessed to predict these candidates’ potential environmental impacts on surrounding ecosystems. Results from my research will indicate the nutrient requirements of these three unique perennial cropping systems, and how efficiently they cycle N, P, K, and C. Gas emission results will indicate the potential these crops have in aiding GHG mitigation, while the water quality results will indicate the hazards (if any) these crops may impose on connected waterways. Ultimately, my research will inform the community about the nutrient input load these candidate biofuel crops require; how efficiently these crops utilize those nutrients; the loss of these nutrients to the surrounding ecosystem or the carbon sequestration potential of these crops; and the potential yield/quality these crops would provide for biofuel purposes.
In September of 2010, using funding from the ESE (Ecological Sciences and Engineering) program, I was given the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China to attend the “US-China Joint Symposium on Energy, Ecosystem, and Environmental Change.” I feel that this trip lent incredible value to my graduate school experience, enhancing both my professional and my personal development. With respect to professional development, I was not only provided the opportunity to deliver an oral presentation on my personal research, but was also able to learn valuable information from the presentations of the many international researchers at the symposium who spoke on a myriad of topics relating to my research interests. Opportunities were also made available to me to develop international collaborations with both students and faculty who share research interests similar to mine. As a result of this, my academic skill set for both collaboration and public dissemination of results was made more robust. My personal development was also greatly enhanced by the opportunity to travel to China and experience the country’s culture and history. The hosts for the meeting were very generous, incorporating tours at the end of the symposium that allowed us, as visitors, to experience Chinese culture and learn about their history. We were exposed to Chinese cultural dinners, live entertainment, the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City. I feel that, although this portion of the trip was more relaxed and less academically oriented, it was necessary in order to gain a more international perspective and a respect for different cultures. I feel that perspective development is essential, not only in understanding international research, but also in developing international collaborations. Overall, this trip was very powerful and beneficial to my graduate school experience; I am honored to have been given the opportunity to represent Purdue University and the ESE program at the meeting.
- Travel award for participation in the China-US 2010 Joint Symposium on “Energy, Ecosystem, and Environmental Change” in Beijing, China where an oral presentation was given on current research—(September 22-24, 2010).
- Travel award for participation in the CHIEAM-IAMM 'Integrated Assessment of Agricultural Systems (IAAS) at regional level' conference in Montpellier, France—(September 2-4, 2010).
- Purdue University Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Programs Annual Spring ReceptionPurdue University Campus (April 4, 2012) Presented poster titled "Parameterization of perennial bioenergy feedstock grasses Miscanthus x giganteus and upland Shawnee switchgrass cultivar in the SWAT model using a multi-disciplinary approach" co-authored with Elizabeth Trybula and Cibin RajReceived Award of Excellence for the ESE Program
- Purdue University ESE (Ecological Sciences and Engineering) Annual Symposium 2011Presented poster titled "Parameterization of perennial bioenergy feedstock grasses Miscanthus x giganteus and upland Shawnee switchgrass cultivar in the SWAT model using a multi-disciplinary approach" co-authored with Elizabeth Trybula and Cibin RajReceived 3rd place in poster competition
- ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Society MeetingsSan Antonio, TX (Oct. 16-19, 2011) Presented a poster titled "Seasonal Cycling and Partitioning of N, P, and K in Perennial Bioenergy Crops"Abstract #326-3
- ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Society MeetingsLong Beach, CA (Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2010) Presented a poster titled "N Cycling Dynamics in Perennial Bioenergy Crops"Abstract #56-14
- Purdue University ESE (Ecological Sciences and Engineering) Annual Symposium October 27th, 2010Presented a poster titled "N Cycling Dynamics in Perennial Bioenergy Crops"
- China-US 2010 Joint Symposium on “Energy, Ecosystem, and Environmental Change” Beijing, China (September 22-24, 2010) Oral Presentation titled "Seasonal Nutrient Cycling in Perennial Bioenergy Crops"