Seed Funding Awards

The GEM3 Seed Funding program allows the program to respond to new opportunities as well as pursue high impact, potentially transformative research and educational projects. Its principal objective is to create a mechanism to catalyze new research on focal species, species interactions, ecosystems, genomics/phenomics, or other emerging areas related to the scope of GEM3. It is aimed at groups or individuals that emphasize the collaborative development and testing of important ideas and theories, cutting-edge analysis of recent or existing data and information, and/or investigation of social ecological systems issues.

Topic areas may be identified during the annual review of the NSF-approved RII Strategic plan, the Project Advisory Board (PAB) and External Evaluator, and the NSF Reverse Site Visit. Three types of awards will be available as noted below. Seed funding awardees are expected to use results of the work as a basis for pursuing external funding, co-authoring peer reviewed papers, and/or developing other GEM3-related innovations. It is also an important mechanism to broaden participation of institutions, faculty, and students from underrepresented groups.

Internal GEM3 Funding

  • Small Research Seed Funding (up to $50K, 1 year): The primary purpose of these awards will be to support early career faculty who are initiating research in topics related to GEM3; established faculty with innovative ideas are also eligible to apply. The award will provide support for exploratory and/or high-risk research for which preliminary data are needed.
  • Large Research Seed Funding (up to $150K): These 2-year awards will support collaborative research in topics related to GEM3. To broaden participation, proposing teams must include faculty from at least one other institution and discipline. Funding will support M.S. and Ph.D. research and allow for student exchanges within the state.
  • Workforce Development Seed Funding (up to $30K, 1 year): These awards will provide support to strengthen internship or training opportunities with existing institutional agency, underrepresented community, or Tribal collaborators. Proposed activities must be coordinated with ongoing GEM3 programming.

Award Year 1

Mapping and modeling to forecast ecosystem recovery after megafires in sagebrush steppe

Award Type: Large

Award Dates: September 1, 2019 - March 31, 2022

PI: Trevor Caughlin

Co-PI(s): Donna Delparte

Project Description

The increasing prevalence of megafires (>100,000 acres) is a key driver of ecosystem degradation in the American West. The devastating impacts of megafires on biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human livelihood raise the question of how fast ecosystems can recover from this major disturbance. Sagebrush steppe is particularly vulnerable to fire-induced degradation, and efforts to restore sagebrush plants to millions of hectares of degraded land are ongoing with varying success rates. Quantitative forecasts of ecosystem recovery could play a major role in spatial planning to assist restoration efforts. However, a scale mismatch between the limited spatial extent of field plots and the large spatial extent of many disturbances has impeded the development of restoration ecology as a predictive science. We will resolve this scale mismatch by fusing data on post-fire demographic rates of individual sagebrush plants with remotely-sensed imagery at landscape scales. Our data fusion approach will enable us to develop demographic process models for regional dynamics of sagebrush recovery. We will match time series of sagebrush population recovery with land management units, providing a direct link between human decision-making and sagebrush population dynamics. Overall, our project will address the ecological future of Idaho landscapes impacted by a novel social-ecological system (SES) disturbance.

Towards a genomic model to predict drought tolerance in sagebrush: Preventing embolism as a key adaptation

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2021

PI: Sven Buerki

Co-PI(s): Stephen Novak, Bryce Richardson, Marie Anne deGraaff , Marcelo Serpe

Project Description

The GEM3 project currently lacks a hypothesis connecting genomic with a specific phenomic processes underpinning sagebrush adaptive capacity to drought. The proposed project will contribute to fill this gap by using a genotype-by-environment (GxE) approach that integrates into the existing common garden approaches supported by GEM3. The novel components of this proposal is that we: 1) used existing legacy data to identify two genotypes of Artemisia tridentata that represent different levels of drought tolerance via phenotypic adaptation and 2) compare key drought-related phenotypes that are genetically determined. We hypothesize that drought-related mortality in sagebrush seedlings can be predicted by xylem adaptations preventing embolism (or cavitation) and ultimately hydraulic failure. We also hypothesize that this phenotypic trait is heritable (genetically determined) and therefore comparative genomic analyses will allow us to discover and characterize the genes and their expression contributing to drought-tolerance. Specifically, we predict that drought-tolerant sagebrush seedlings will exhibit i) less cavitation, thus less reduction in xylem conductivity, ii) significantly smaller vessel length and lumen diameter in roots and iii) respond to imposed drought by differential expression of genes associated with xylem anatomy and pathways involved in stress responses, compared to drought-sensitive seedlings. The morphology of xylem will be determined using X-ray micro-computed tomography and the discovery and characterization of genes will be determined by sequencing mRNA transcripts from stem and root tissues using the PacBio Iso-Seq technology. We will identify population-level genotypic differences for drought tolerance in sagebrush using the following assumptions: i) climatic conditions across the geographic distribution have been relatively stable during the last 1000 years, and ii) these climate conditions have selected for individuals and populations that are genetically adapted to drought conditions. Based on these assumptions and legacy data provided by our federal partners, we will select populations that are representative of two genotypes that have been shaped by the duration and intensity of drought. Comparative phenotypic and genomic analyses will be conducted on those genotypes to discover and characterize genes that increase drought tolerance in sagebrush.

Seasonal and thermal regulation of hormone signaling, growth, and reproductive success in free-living redband trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss gardneri

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: October 1, 2019 - August 31, 2022

PI: Devaleena Pradhan

Co-PI(s): Ernest Keeley

Project Description

The abundance and distribution of redband trout due to long-term impacts such as landscape shifts and climate change can be managed effectively by understanding the endogenous physiological mechanisms that help fish to adapt to changing environments. Salmonids adapt to these changes by modifying their hormonal pathways that regulate phenotype, such as growth rates (including body mass, bone and muscle density) and development of secondary sexual characteristics, sperm production, and sexual behavior. Natural changes in ambient fresh water temperatures occur during seasonal shifts, such as summer, fall and early winter, with highest temperatures in July and August, and declining temperatures into the fall. These observations raise the question of whether trout living in warmer rivers have higher thermal tolerance and/or chronic stress responses compared to those from cooler rivers. In fish, cortisol functions to maintain energy balance and food consumption. During the acute stress response, cortisol levels increase rapidly to maintain homeostasis, while chronically elevated cortisol (e.g. during heat stress), can negatively impact growth and all the levels of the reproductive axis, from reproductive behavior to gamete quality and embryo/larval development. Our fish collection sites north of Snake River represent lower temperature stress habitats, and southern sites represent high temperature stress habitats. Objective #1 is to determine the effects of shifts in seasonality and temperature on chronic stress response and growth. For each fish, we will measure morphology, feeding behavior and metabolic hormones such as cortisol, growth hormones and insulin-like growth factor 1. For Objective #2, we will determine the effect of thermal stress on reproductive behavior, steroid hormone profiles (such as cortisol, 11- ketotestosterone, and estradiol) and reproductive success. These studies will help determine the mechanisms by which hormones regulate sex and age differences in life history transitions and the phenotypic plasticity of redband trout in response to thermal stress.

Pathways to Conservation Careers

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2022

PI: Amber Greening

Co-PI(s): Mark Beaver, Kitty Griswold, Morey Burnham, Sonia Martinez

Project Description

The long term goals of this proposed project are to (1) increase participation of underrepresented minority (URM) students in natural resource conservation, STEM, and GEM3 related career paths and fields of study at Idaho State University (ISU) and (2) establish a nearpeer mentor network between high schools, early and upper-division college students, faculty, and natural resource agencies and organizations across Southern Idaho. Idaho’s landscapes continue to develop at a rapid pace and the necessity for diverse perspectives in conservation and natural resource management jobs is essential and requires an academic pipeline that reflects that same diversity. Unfortunately, URM student enrollment in STEM and GEM3 related academic programs in the state are low and follow a larger, national trend of underrepresentation of minority groups in STEM fields.

Award Year 2

Time travel with the sagebrush micobiome: connecting microbial composition with chemistry and adaptive capacity over three magnitudes of time

Award Type: Large

Award Dates: August 2020 - July 2022

PI: Leonora Bittleston

Co-PI(s): Kathryn Turner, Carolyn Dadabay

Project Description

Microbes, despite being very small, have large-magnitude effects on our ecosystems and are increasingly relevant for understanding and managing anthropogenic environmental changes, such as species invasions. They drive biogeochemical cycles and influence the health and fitness of larger organisms. In recent years, new findings have emerged highlighting the importance
of plant-associated microbes. For example, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can significantly improve resistance to salinity, drought, and nutrient deficiencies, and fungal and bacterial endophytes can modify disease severity, promote growth and protect against herbivory. Compared with soil microbes, above-ground plantassociated microbes have received relatively little attention, and we are still learning about their importance.

Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) is an iconic foundational species of the vast American sagebrush steppe, and plays a large role in structuring the community of other plants and animals. It can support the growth of other plants, and provides food for threatened non-game species (sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit), economically important big game species, and domestic species. The sagebrush steppe ecosystem is currently under threat; it has been declining and is becoming increasingly fragmented, partially due to anthropogenic development and increasing frequency of fire that promotes the invasion of exotic grasses. Though increasing effort is devoted to preventing this decline, sagebrush restoration efforts have mixed and often disappointing results.

Past research on sagebrush has built a large body of knowledge about plant physiology, leaf chemistry, and herbivory. Variation in leaf chemical phenotypes, or the ‘chemotype’, is thought to be a key mediator of the role of sagebrush in the ecosystem, and may determine whether a particular population or individual can deter herbivores or is suitable food for threatened species like sage-grouse. Leaf associated microbes, may, in fact, be the source of some of the leaf chemistry. For example, in a related species, Artemisia annua, fungal endophytes produce bioactive metabolites with strong anti-fungal activity towards plant pathogens. Despite this, much work remains to characterize sagebrush-associated microbial communities, and to our knowledge, there are no studies of the above-ground microbiome. A plant’s microbiome is a link between an individual’s genotype/phenotype and its environment, as it is generally influenced by both host and habitat characteristics. Thus, the microbiome is part of the ‘extended phenotype’ and has high potential to drive evolutionary feedback. A key missing piece in our knowledge of how ecosystems function is how microbial communities mediate adaptive capacity of plants in changing environments.

Local adaptation to biotic drivers: Integrating the evolutionary consequences of soil microbial communities into sagebrush population dynamics

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: September 2020 - August 2021

PI: Marie Anne deGraaff

Co-PI(s): Trevor Caughlin, Leonora Bittleston, Allison Simler Williamson

Project Description

Local adaptation fundamentally shapes diversity and population persistence in heterogeneous landscapes, and this evolutionary process is foundational to predictions of species’ responses to rapid environmental change (Kawecki & Ebert 2004). Yet, studies rarely assess the relative contributions of the underlying abiotic and biotic mechanisms that generate local adaptation (Wadgymar et al. 2017), in which genotypes exhibit fitness advantages at native sites, compared to other environments. Species interactions, including mutualism, predation, and parasitism, can generate selection (Lau and Lennon 2011, Kalske et al. 2016, Bjorkman et al. 2017), and inclusion of biotic selective agents can alter conclusions about local adaptation based on climate alone (Hargreaves et al. 2019). Nevertheless, predictions about the importance of biotic local adaptation remain elusive because 1) many studies of phenotypic plasticity seek to minimize species interactions, and 2) translocation can trigger diverse fitness impacts, associated with suites of species interactions (Brady et al. 2019). Understanding the role of biotic drivers in genotypeenvironment interactions (GxE) is of key importance as climate adaptation actions increasingly translocate populations beyond existing ranges. These actions rarely consider biotic interactions and their possible contributions to the success of translocated genotypes in new environments (Simler et al. 2019).

Both ecological and evolutionary drivers may explain variation in the observed importance of biotic local adaptation among populations (terHorst and Zee 2016, Van Nuland et al. 2016). Firstly, biotic selection pressures may vary with abiotic gradients that determine the frequency and costs of negative or positive species interactions (Johnson et al. 2010, Wilhelmi et al. 2017, Freeman et al. 2018). In addition, local population dynamics may influence finer scale variation in biotic selection pressures, representing a potential eco-evolutionary feedback (Van Nuland et al. 2017). For instance, soil microbial communities exert selective pressures on plant populations, with fitness impacts that vary along landscape-scale abiotic gradients (Revillini et al. 2016). Yet, individual plants also “condition” soils, locally altering pathogen, symbiont, or resource abundances and impacting conspecific fitness (Comita et al. 2014). Thus, legacies created by spatial and genetic signatures of local populations, as well as regional abiotic gradients that shape species interactions, may jointly determine impacts of biotic interactions on translocation.

Failing to account for variation in biotic interactions among populations and across environmental gradients is a crucial gap in our understanding of plasticity and population persistence under rapid global change (Wadgymar et al. 2017). We propose a novel investigation of the relative importance of species interactions on phenotypic plasticity in big sagebrush populations, focusing on plantassociated soil microbial communities. We will generate mathematical models and manipulative experiments to isolate the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms determining the strength of biotic local adaptation across this species’ range, a complement to GEM3’s current work.

Toward understanding interactions between large herbivores and abiotic factors on plant species distributions in sagebrush systems: a pilot study to validate predictive spatially

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: May 2020 - May 2021

PI: Jocelyn Aycrigg

Co-PI(s): Tracey Johnson

Project Description

Biotic and abiotic forces interact to influence the distribution and quality of forage plants, and altered abiotic conditions associated with climate change are predicted to affect ecophysiological characteristics of forage plants into the future. Declines in forage quality and availability are contributing to declining ungulate populations across Idaho, and also affect the production of domesticated ungulates (i.e., livestock). Thus, understanding the relative importance of biotic and abiotic mechanisms responsible for forage plant distribution and quality and how these characteristics are predicted to respond to future climate uncertainty is critical for managing both wild and domesticated ungulate populations within the sagebrush biome. Despite the need for this knowledge, current national vegetation mapping efforts (e.g., the USGS Gap Analysis Project) have mapped plant communities at a coarse taxonomic resolution across large spatial scales and lack information on distributions of individual forage species. At relatively finer scales, species distribution models (SDMs) are used to study species-environment relationships and make predictions of species occurrence. Approaches include data-driven statistical analyses (generalized linear models, Bayesian hierarchies, and occupancy models), and principal component analyses (e.g., MaxEnt). However, most SDMs are applied locally rather than across landscapes, such as the sagebrush systems in Idaho.

A Cooperative Faculty Position Bridging Between Idaho State University and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: TBD

PI: Colden Baxter


Project Description

This description is meant to share ideas developed during discussions between the ShoshoneBannock Tribes (“Tribes”) and Idaho State University (“ISU”) that have focused on the creation of an innovative educational and research position. Using the recently funded NSF-EPSCoR “GEM3” grant as a catalyst, tribal staff and ISU faculty and staff have been discussing the establishment of a new faculty position that builds on the objectives outlined in the jointly developed 2010 and 2019 MOA’s. Here, we give an overview of the conceptual framework for this position with the objective of broadening the discussion and creating a working group that includes key leaders within the Tribes and ISU. We are in the midst of these discussions and as such feedback and constructive comments that strengthen the vision and feasibility of this effort are being solicited.

The shared vision emerging from the working group expresses the desire to jointly create a newly designed faculty position that will benefit educational, research, cultural, and economic opportunities at ISU and Fort Hall. If successful, the Tribes and ISU could emerge as leaders in developing such innovative educational initiatives. This effort could serve as a model for other cooperative efforts between tribal nations and academic institutions within the state of Idaho and the nation, and would also serve as an important, sustained outcome associated with the GEM3 program.

The objective of this effort is to create a new position that increases Tribal representation on the ISU campus and creates a bridge to the Ft. Hall community. The person in this position (to be clear, the group has typically envisioned this person as being Native American) would jointly support the Tribes and ISU’s missions and research and educational services. For example, the person in this position might conduct community-based, participatory research and lead education activities that would address the information and educational needs and issues of the Fort Hall community. As an additional example, a native scholar in this position could teach courses from an indigenous perspective and offer Indigenous knowledge as a valued resource for education.

Visiting Tribal Scholars Program

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: August 2020 - July 2022

PI: Dennis Becker


Project Description

Few programs and fewer STEM faculty are available to mentor Native American STEM students in their first-to-second years. Students of color and from low-income backgrounds are also more likely to perform lower than their white peers when lacking a connection in traditional classrooms that relates to their cultural background (Castango & Brayboy, 2008). Culturally responsive schooling (CRS), as described by Castango and Brayboy (2008), provides vital connections and culturally responsive pedagogy that helps Native American students succeed.
The rates of Native American students in the STEM colleges at the university are flat or decreasing. In the College of Natural Resources, total enrolled Native American students decreased from 41 students in 2017 to 37 in 2019 (“Race and College Summary,” n.d,). While small, decreases in Native American enrollment of any level represents a significant portion of overall Native American students at the university. During that same time, total Native American faculty at the UI consisted of fewer than five. A lack of Native American faculty and professional mentors limits the ability of the university to attract Native American students and expand culturally appropriate instruction and scholarly work.

In September 2015, a Tribal Summit on Natural Resources was held at the UI to discover areas of intersection in the College of Natural Resources and Tribal Natural Resources to promote workforce development that is inclusive of Traditional Knowledge and culture. Tribal leaders and faculty identified the need for and interest in building capacity through collaboration, the need for understanding of and imbedding indigenous ways of knowing, pedagogies, and values into the curriculum. In February 2020, UI faculty hosted a second conference on Tribal Nation Building in Higher Education to further identify ways in which institutions of higher education could facilitate indigenous student education, increase enrollment, and increase success rates of
existing students.

Building on themes identified during this meetings, the aim of the visiting scholars program is to increase completion rates for Native American students by providing culturally responsive support in the form of mentoring to indigenous students, indigenizing curricula in the affiliated programs, and by providing direct linkages to regional tribes to engage in research or projects of mutual interest to the scholar and host college. The intention is that visiting scholars might also model the value of STEM training for indigenous students in regional communities to increase enrollment.

STEM Scholars Program

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: May 1, 2021 - August 31, 2022

PI: Yolanda Bisbee


Project Description

Students of color and from limited income backgrounds are more likely to perform lower than their white peers when lacking a connection in traditional classrooms that relates to their cultural background (Castango & Brayboy, 2008). Culturally responsive schooling (CRS), as described by Castango and Brayboy (2008), provides vital connections and culturally responsive pedagogy that helps
underrepresented students succeed. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) utilized as a part of culturally responsive schooling can assist in the connection of vital cultural understandings of science with the importance of success in Western science-based university settings.

The four STEM-focused colleges at the University of Idaho have a total of 532 underrepresented minority (URM) undergraduate students enrolled for fall semester 2019. Figure 1 below shows the breakdown of URM student enrollment for each college. The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has 120 URM students enrolled. The College of Engineering has 186 enrolled. The College of Natural
Resources has 69 enrolled, and the College of Science has 157 URM students enrolled. While the colleges have enrollments that range between 800 to over 1,500 students, the URM students enrolled in the colleges range from 8% and 14% of total college enrollment. Furthermore, the rates of Native American students specifically in the STEM degrees are decreasing. In the College of Natural Resources for instance, total enrolled Native American students has decreased from 41 students in 2017 to 38 in 2019 (Institutional Effectiveness & Accreditation, 2020). While small, decreases in Native American enrollment of any level represents a significant portion of overall Native American students at the university. This can account for lack of representation, visibility, and connection to the larger college community and cause URM students to suffer in their studies that can affect retention and completion of degrees.

Award Year 3

Tackling uncertainty: Coupling Stakeholder and Biophysical Scenarios under a multifaceted research program

Award Type: Large

Award Dates: May 2021 - May 2023

PI: Daniel Cronan

Co-PI(s): Sarah Ebel, Matt Williamson

Project Description

Natural resource decision-making is riddled with uncertainty because the interactions between social and ecological processes creates challenges for developing natural resource management that can adapt to socio-ecological change. Adaptive management has been suggested as a strategy to overcome these dilemmas because it works by identifying key uncertainties, choosing indicators that track those uncertainties, and decision points that require changing course. Determining which uncertainties are most important, however, can be particularly challenging in contexts involving diverse stakeholders with potentially divergent objectives. Adaptive management should instead have stakeholder involvement strategies that place stakeholders at the center of a study for they will decide what will happen in the future (Steinitz, 2012; Holling, 1978; Walters, 1986). Scenario-driven participatory processes are one way that can address this challenge, placing stakeholders at the center, by: a) initially providing scenario inputs (Hulse et al., 2007), b) providing scenario definition, desired outcomes, and model parameterization, c) and, further in the process for indicating system performance in later versions of scenarios (Fraser et al.,2017). In this project, we propose to develop and test a framework to explore convergent methodologies (Telecoupling and Bayesian Belief Networks) to inform adaptive management in socio-ecological systems, particularly of red band trout in Owyhee County and Chinook salmon in Kootenai County. Our framework intends to couple scenario outputs from GEM3’s socio-ecological system’s team and the biophysical (trout) team.

Challenges to sagebrush establishment: Ploidy level and resource co-limitation, competition, and multi-scale heterogeneity

Award Type: Large

Award Dates: August 2021 - July 2023

PI: Joshua Grinath

Co-PI(s): Kathryn Turner, Donna Delparte, Sven Buerki, Kitty Lohse

Project Description

Ploidy level and genome size are genetic traits that greatly influence the performance of phenotypes in ecological communities. In particular, organismal demands for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are expected to increase with genome size because genetic architecture requires larger amounts of these resources than other biomolecules. As N and P have limited availability in most natural systems, these demands translate into stronger limitation in the performance of polyploids vs. diploid relatives. In plants, restrictions on polyploid performance may be even more severe for species that are co-limited by both N and P supply. Co-limitation occurs when plant access to one resource is impeded by the lack of another
resource, and performance only improves greatly when multiple resources are simultaneously available. In addition, water availability can affect plant access to N and P, and co-limitation may occur among all three of these resources. Though resource co-limitation is common for plants, it is currently unclear how ploidy level and genome size affect the strength of co-limitation and plant competitive ability. Moreover, it is unclear how these resource relationships affect the spatial distribution of individuals within and across populations. We propose to study the effects of ploidy level, genome size, and resource availability (N, P, and water) on the performance of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata s.l.). Focusing on the
establishment life-history phase, we will use greenhouse and field experiments to evaluate how these factors affect sagebrush resource requirements, co-limitation, competitive ability, and spatial patterning.

Wireless Sensors for Detecting Chemical Phenotypes: Eavesdropping on Sagebrush Mechanisms and the Environment

Award Type: Large

Award Dates: September 1, 2021 - August 31, 2023

PI: David Estrada

Co-PI(s): Jennifer Forbey Joshua Griffin (NNU), Steven Parke (NNU)

Project Description

Sagebrush is an aromatic shrub distributed widely across the Western USA. It is known to chemically communicate with other conspecifics and other plant species through the synthesis and release of monoterpene mixtures.1 These monoterpenes are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that differentiate sagebrush taxa.2 Changes in VOCs reflect genome interactions with abiotic (e.g., drought, temperature) and biotic (e.g.herbivores) stressors in their environment.3 As such, VOCs represent early phenomic signals of genomes responding to environmental disturbance, but currently lacking is the ability to detect spatio-temporal changes in VOCs. We hypothesize that the structure-property-processing-performance (SP3) correlations of laser induced graphene based wireless chemical sensors can be tuned to “eavesdrop” on dynamics of sagebrush VOCs, providing rich new insights into phenotypic plasticity in response to environmental change.
In alignment with the goals of GEM3 NSF EPSCoR Program, this seed effort will develop wireless chemical and environmental sensors which provide real-time data of VOC phenotypic expression and environmental conditions in sagebrush environments. Our direct measurements of such mechanisms will provide new data for modeling the adaptive capacity of sagebrush, while providing the framework for a wireless sensor network to monitor changes in chemical
phenotypes of any vegetation relative to genome by environment interactions. The following objectives will provide the needed preliminary data to pursue additional funding opportunities: (1) Create laser induced graphene (LIG) -based VOC sensors and understand the fundamental role of SP3 correlations on sensor responses to VOCs. (2) Integrate LIG VOC sensors into low-power wireless sensor tags that can be read via hardware compatible with unmanned aerial vehicles. (3) Develop a vertically integrated project that converges Engineering, Chemistry, and Biology and deepens collaboration between Northwest Nazarene University, a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI), and Boise State University

The hydrologic, geomorphologic, and land use context of stream dry-down and redband trout habitat fragmentation in the Dry Creek watershed

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: August 2021 - December 31, 2022

PI: Anna Bergstrom


Project Description

The Dry Creek watershed is the only location along the Boise mountain front known to support a genetically pure population of Columbia River redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri). The main source of streamflow is melt of the seasonal snowpack that develops in the upper elevation of the watershed and winter rain and snow events at low elevation. Dry Creek undergoes seasonal dry down and stream fragmentation as the supply from snowmelt is exhausted and plant water demand for transpiration increases. Dry down begins mid summer from the bottom of the watershed migrating upward, leaving isolated pools that maintain water year-round serving as refugia for redband trout in the warmest and driest months. While the general pattern of drying and re-wetting is known, we have not identified the exact locations within the watershed that maintain water year-round or the characteristics of those reaches that allow them to maintain water. We lack a mechanistic understanding and what drives spatial patterns of how water is delivered to the stream network, how contributions from hillslopes and deeper groundwater shift over the season, and how the stream dries as stored water is depleted.
Furthermore, this region is predicted to become warmer and drier, resulting in increased evapotranspiration, lower precipitation, and lower stream flow, exacerbating the dry down and fragmentation of the stream network. The further loss of wetted stream channel and warmer stream temperatures will result in increased stress on the redband trout population. We propose to conduct a regular mapping survey of the Dry Creek channel network to characterize the dry down of the stream and relate this to watershed and channel characteristics in order to build understanding of why certain locations dry down while others maintain water. This will help us identify locations within the watershed that are critical for sustaining the fish population, ‘at-risk’ locations that are likely to dry in warm and/or dry years, and the watershed structural characteristics that distinguish the two.

The (emotional) tragedies of environmental conflict: a rural risk and well-being assessment in two acts.

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: June 2021 - June 2022

PI: Darci Graves

Co-PI(s): Morey Burnham, Matt Williamson, Jessica Wells

Project Description

Rural residents in Idaho are increasingly exposed to a range of stressors related to environmental change. Growing intensity and frequency of wildland fires, carnivore reintroduction and range expansion, and the social and economic tensions associated with the shift away from natural resource-based livelihoods towards amenity-based economies impact rural lives directly—for example, through the loss of property or employment. The changes themselves and conflicts over potential solutions have been linked to negative impacts on human well-being, including undesired emotional outcomes and increased levels of stress and anxiety for individuals. Exposure to chronic stress, anxiety, and mental-health challenges may contribute to a number of individual health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. When entire groups of people are exposed to similar sources of stress, the aggregated effects may become a public health concern. In this proposed research, we integrate perspectives from global environmental change, environmental social science, and community health to develop a theoretical and methodological approach to investigate how changing social-ecological dynamics affect public health outcomes at both the individual and community scales. We will use interviews, eco-mapping, virtual reality simulations, and physiological stress tests coupled with Bayesian hierarchical modeling to collect data and develop spatially explicit models that demonstrate how individual and community health outcomes of environmental change and conflict vary across cultural, economic, and institutional determinants of vulnerability to environmental change.

The role of bacteria-bacteriophage interactions in microbial ecosystem function and resilience

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: June 2021 - December 31, 2022

PI: James VanLeuven


Project Description

The microbial communities colonizing animals and plants are key to host health and development. These microbes are increasingly recognized as a source of host adaptive potential because host-associated microbes can perform functions (e.g., metabolism) for the host and should be considered in genotype-environment-phenotype modeling. The least well understood component of host microbiomes are the bacteriophages (phages). Phages modulate bacterial community composition through predation, facilitate horizontal gene transfer, and stimulate the immune systems of animals. However, the overwhelming genetic diversity and sheer abundance of phages in nature makes studying them difficult. For example, the most abundant phage in the human digestive tract was not characterized until 2018. This has left a gap in our understanding of microbiomes that presents a tremendous opportunity to learn about microbial ecology and how microbes impact host responses to changing environments.

The goal of the proposed research is to build a model system to test the molecular, ecological, and evolutionary role of phages in host-associated microbial communities. The specific aims to be accomplished within the funding period are; (1) describe the variation in the honey bee virome across the United States, (2) build a microbial ecosystem model that captures the role of phages in animal microbiomes, and (3) test mechanisms of interaction between the environment and microbial
communities. These aims address the overarching hypothesis that phages have essential functional roles in the regulation of microbiomes and are critical to host health and adaptive potential.

Barriers and opportunities for adaptation to socio-ecological change: Mapping exclusion and environmental privilege in Teton Valley, Idaho

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: May 15, 2022 - May 15, 2023

PI: Sarah Ebel


Project Description

This research examines how sociopolitical and cultural factors, specifically human-environment interactions and forms of exclusion, affect how people are impacted by, and adapt to, socio-ecological change in Teton Valley, Idaho. With a focus on the historically marginalized Latinx immigrant community, our objective is to examine how adaptation pathways are affected by racial exclusion and the reproduction of environmental privilege by integrating geospatial data, participatory mapping and ethnography to map
relative exclusion of the Latinx community from decision-making and public spaces in Teton Valley. To do so, we will: (1) assess and characterize interactions between human decisions and adaptation outcomes (GEM3 Objective 3.3) and (2) map complex socio-ecological conditions (GEM3 Objective 3.1). Our research asks: 1) How is the Latinx population excluded or integrated in adaptation decision-making in Teton Valley, Idaho? 2) How does exclusion limit social adaptation under the context of socio-ecological
change? and 3) How can we map the relative pattern of exclusion of the Latinx population on a landscape? Using a mixed method approach that integrates mapping and ethnography, we aim to elucidate culturally, socially appropriate adaptation pathways that lead to equity and inclusion in Idaho’s communities.

Collecting Gems: Improving Workforce Communication and Listening Skills Through Documenting Oral Histories of Idaho's Sagebrush Steppe

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: July 2021 - June 2022

PI: Kelly Hopping

Co-PI(s): Tiffany Hitesman, Jill Heney

Project Description

The urgent and fraught nature of natural resource management issues across the American West (e.g., Chambers et al., 2017) requires a diverse workforce equipped to tackle inherently transdisciplinary problems. To holistically address these challenges will require not only technical expertise, but also contributions from qualitative research (Sayre, 2004), increased dialogue and mutual learning between scientists and local knowledge holders (Knapp and Fernandez-Gimenez, 2009; Talley et al., 2016), and a greater understanding among academics and managers of the cultural and historical context in which local communities form place attachments (Williams and Stewart, 1998). However, this need for increased communication and understanding can be thwarted by divergent values and distrust between groups (Dietz, 2013; Gordon et al., 2014). Divides may be exacerbated by rural communities’ tendency to be disengaged from academia (Schafft, 2016), in part because of little attention to rural science education, despite these areas being rich environments in which to learn (Avery, 2013). By developing in our students communication skills and an appreciation for the importance of local histories and values, we can ensure that future scientists and members of Idaho’s workforce will have the skills needed to collaborate effectively with rural communities and land managers to address environmental challenges

Improving Tribal-University Research Engagement in Idaho Workshop Series

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: August 2021 - June 30, 2023

PI: Elizabeth Kickham

Co-PI(s): Georgia Hart Fredeluces, Laticia Herkshan

Project Description

As part of the movement toward decolonizing higher education, research practices involving Indigenous communities are being reevaluated. Bassler et al. (2008) argue community engagement is essential to ethical community-based research; engaging the community in research and development projects potentially improves ‘cultural match’ and uptake while building better relationships and trust between all participants (see Begay, Cornell & Kalt, 1998). Reed et al. (2018) describe four levels of community engaged research: communication, consultation, deliberation, and co-production. Co-production, entailing community engagement in all stages of research, supports Indigenous sovereignty—the right to political, economic, and social self-determination (Cobb 2005)—by creating space in the research process for Tribal shaping of research questions, methods, and results. Co-production increases the likelihood that research will address emergent community needs and allows communities to determine useful research products. Further, co-production improves uptake of results by ensuring that the needs and norms of all involved parties are considered (Begay Jr et al. 2007). Researchers are, therefore, increasingly moving toward community-engaged research and Indigenous-led research, though this has not been common practice in most fields (David-Chavez & Gavin, 2018; Latulippe & Klenk 2020).

Despite the call for culturally responsive and collaborative research practices spanning at least twenty years, most University-led research involving Native American Tribes remains extractive. Potential reasons for this lack of collaborative and Tribal-led research may lie in a mismatch between the expectations, cultural norms, research needs, epistemologies, and institutional structures of Tribes and universities. University researchers often are unaware of Native ways of knowing, including narrative and embodied practice (McKinley and Brayboy, 2006), or focus on and frame research questions in a way that is incommensurate with Native values, including responsibility to community and reciprocity (Wilson
2008). Failing to understand and respect the values of Native communities can hinder the development of healthy research relationships at best and create distrust and harm at worst. The history of harm to Native communities by past researchers also needs to be explicitly addressed within a healthy reimagining of the Tribal-university research relationship (Smith 1999). However, many university researchers may lack explicit knowledge of the complicated explicit and implicit harms caused by the research practices used in their fields and may inadvertently continue methods that inflict harm or cement distrust. An ‘innocence through lack of experience’ argument often proffered by those in positions of historic power (Malwhinney, 1998), can only be overcome by providing direct experience and knowledge of Tribal sovereignty and Indigenous research methods. It is not incumbent upon, however, Native peoples to take on this educational role alone. Bringing both parties together to acknowledge past harms is a necessary step in building healthier future collaborative research relationships.

Increasing diversity in STEM using mentoring and research opportunities, and science dissemination Spanish

Award Type: Workforce Development

Award Dates: August 2021 - May 2022

PI: Carolina Viera

Co-PI(s): Cristina Barber Alvarez Buylla

Project Description

English promotes global communication among researchers (Drubin and Kellogg 2012, Kamadjeu 2019). However, the predominance of one language in science is also a barrier for science outreach and limits academic jobs for people with diverse backgrounds. Moreover, in countries where English is a foreign language, field practitioners and decision-makers struggle to access research knowledge and apply it (Amano et al. 2016). For example, when research takes part in countries where English is not spoken at large, the monolingual dissemination of science limits researchers' ability to communicate findings to the local communities. These communities represent a missed opportunity to improve research outcomes by co-producing discoveries and applying research to solve local problems. Having a dominant language for science also marginalizes and ignores the science in other languages and the experience and perspectives of non-English sources (Gibbs 1995, Tardy 2004, Ferguson 2007). Overall, science's dissemination only in English fails to reach and welcome people with diverse backgrounds (Garcia-Felix 2019).

English being the dominant language in science can be discouraging for people with a diversity of backgrounds and diminish the contribution of different cultures to research. The first generation population in English-speaking countries and English learners receive the socio-cultural message that their family language is a liability instead of an asset when academic contexts are concerned (Tardy 2004). Consequently, first-generation and English learners learn to separate their English education from their Spanish-speaking families, limiting the educational exchange between students and families. The family is an essential factor influencing Hispanics to pursue STEM careers and explains how failing to acknowledge multiculturalism in academia inhibits Hispanic participation in STEM careers (Garcia-Felix 2019). Besides, the reliance on English and lack of cultural inclusion in academia contribute to non-native English speakers' marginalization. The challenges of navigating academia in a language different from the native one go may result in lost enrollment opportunities in graduate studies and increased time allocated to writing papers and proposals compared to their English-native speakers' peers (Bonetta et al. 2007). English being the only language in academia reduces diversity and multiculturalism in research and nonnative English speakers' potential competitiveness in STEM careers.

Award Year 4

Exploring the adaptive potential of mucosal microbiomes to increased temperature regimes in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdeneri) populations locally adapted to disparate ecotypes

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: June 2022 - May 2023

PI: Jacob Bledsoe (UI)

Co-PI(s): Christopher Caudill, Jonathan Masingale

Project Description

Certain population of rainbow trout in the western US are particularly vulnerable to increasing environmental temperatures and have become a model for studying genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity related to climate change. Simultaneously many studies have provided mechanistic links between animal microbiomes and a range of biologic functions which influence the fitness of their hosts (i.e. immunity, digestions, reproduction) all the while environmental temperature is a well-known driver of shifts in microbial ecology. Despite this, little is known regarding the effects of increasing environmental temperature on the microbiome of poikilothermic wild populations and whether thermal plasticity or adaptability of host-microbiome holobionts shows local adaptation by population or habitat.

From Molecules to Landscapes: Modeling Adaptive Capacity of Sagebrush Populations Using Remote Sensing

Award Type: Small

Award Dates: May 2022 - January 2023

PI: Anthony Melton

Co-PI(s): Sven Buerki, Trevor Caughlin, Donna Delparte

Project Description

Anthropogenic climate change is driving local extirpations and extinctions worldwide. Increased drought and high temperature lead to desiccation and die-off in many plants and, when combine with other anthropogenic disturbances, can contribute to increased wildfires (Nolan et al, 2020). Many species that are not fire-adapted are being exposed to increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, leading to native ecosystems being under ever-increasing threat. This has led to drastic changes in ecosystems, leading even wide-spread and ecologically important species to be threatened. The sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) steppe and prairie habitats of western North America once covered ~1,000,000 km2 but has been reduced by approximately 50% in recent decades (Shultz, 2012). Artemisia tridentata is a keystone species in western North America, creating habitat for over 350 species of vertebrates and numerous sagebrush-steppe obligates (e.g., the Greater Sage-Grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus). This sagebrush habitats are now frequently exposed to wildfire, though this species is not fire-adapted. Once mature sagebrush individuals are burned, they do not re-sprout (Knutson et al, 2014). Thus, only newly recruited seedlings will be able to grow post-fire. The Soda Fire of 2015 damaged over 1,000 km2 of sagebrush steppe in Idaho, USA and has been an important site for restoration and conservation efforts (Germino et al, 2018; Davidson et al, 2019). Since this burn, the native sagebrush population has been in recovery, providing opportunity to study how these sagebrush populations have responded to changes in climate and how the native populations compare to reseeded populations in their abiotic stress responses. Drought-stress response strategies and survivability vary among different populations of A. tridentata, indicating differing levels of drought-stress tolerance and different mechanisms to deal with such stress (Chaney et al, 2017). We hypothesize that these differences between populations and their phenotypes relate to water use efficiency (WUE) and may indicate growth potential, fecundity, and overall fitness. In this proposal, we lay out three goals: (1) determine what plant-scale and ephemeral leaf deciduousness phenotypes are correlated with previously studied drought-responsive phenotypes that relate to WUE (2) determine if the early- and late-deciduous phenotypes are genetically determined, and (3) use drone data to predict the adaptive capacity of a population based on (1) and (2).