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Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Grants will fund collaborative research on energy, environmental science

Feb. 17, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie announced today that IU has awarded approximately $150,000 for research to improve understanding of energy technology and policy, the environmental consequences of extreme flooding events and the impact of chemical contamination.

Michael McRobbie

Michael McRobbie

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The three projects feature collaboration by faculty members at IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the IU School of Medicine. The grants are from the President's Fund for IU Bloomington and IUPUI Collaboration in Research.

"These projects are both important and timely, and they have the potential to produce results that will improve the health and economic security of the people of Indiana," McRobbie said. "They leverage the combined intellectual resources of the Indianapolis and Bloomington campuses for the betterment of the state -- an approach that is essential in this era of large, multidisciplinary research grants."

The grants include:

  • $50,333 for "Sustaining Water Resources: Environmental Impacts of Chemical Loadings and Transport during Floods"
  • $48,320 for "Environmental Human Health: Use of Genomic Signatures in the Study of Environmental Human Health"
  • $50,000 for "Energy and the Environment: Modeling the Effects of Developing Energy Systems in Indiana"
Lenore Tedesco

Lenore Tedesco

The projects include collaboration within and among IU research centers, including the Center for Earth and Environmental Science, the Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Research in Environmental Sciences, the Center for Research in Energy and the Environment, and the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics. Each grant is designed as "seed money" to enable the investigators to produce preliminary results and apply for larger, ongoing research grants.

The "Sustaining Water Resources" project will develop scientific tools for studying the environmental, economic and human health impacts of floods. Researchers are Meghna Babbar-Sebens, Pierre-Andre Jacinthe and Lenore Tedesco, Department of Earth Sciences, Purdue School of Science, IUPUI; Keith Clay, Spencer Hall and Heather Reynolds, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, IU Bloomington; and Todd Royer, School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), IU Bloomington.

Tedesco, who directs the Center for Earth and Environmental Science, said the researchers will compare the effects of environmental contaminants in areas of Indiana that are frequently flooded with those that are less often flooded. The goal, she said, is to gain better information about the pathways followed by flood-borne contaminants and to find ways to mitigate their impact on ecosystems and human health.

The "Environmental Human Health" project will pioneer the use of high-throughput genomics to assess the effects of environmental contaminants. Researchers are Peter Cherbas, Keith Clay, John Colbourne and Spencer Hall of the IU Bloomington Department of Biology; Barbara Hocevar, Lisa Kamendulis and James Klaunig of the IU School of Medicine; and Joe Shaw, SPEA, IU Bloomington.

Shaw said the project seeks to develop tools for monitoring the effects of many of the 80,000 chemical compounds currently being released into the environment, with 2,000 to 3,000 more compounds added each year. Researchers will attempt to assess the impact of chemical contaminants on genomic sequences of "sentinel organisms," such as the micro-crustacean Daphnia, and look for patterns and relationships between responses in those organisms and in humans. The results will guide future research and inform policy makers about effective environmental regulation.

Richards photo

Kenneth Richards

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The "Energy and the Environment" project will develop a model that combines the spatial analysis capabilities of GIS with technology characterizations and economic modeling of simultaneous developments in Indiana. Researchers are Andrew Hsu, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue School of Engineering, IUPUI; J.C. Randolph, Kenneth Richards and Barry Rubin, SPEA, IU Bloomington; and John Rupp, Indiana Geological Survey, IU Bloomington.

Richards, associate director for policy of the Center for Research in Energy and the Environment, said the idea came together over the past year, as scientists and policy experts realized that "no one was connecting the dots" on energy development in Indiana -- including ethanol production, wind power, and carbon sequestration and storage for coal-fired generating facilities. The goal is to create a forecasting model that merges analysis of the environmental science, economics, energy technologies, geographical locations and regulatory implications of proposed developments.

For more information or to speak to the researchers, please contact Steve Hinnefeld at University Communications, 812-856-3488 or