PVAMU and UT Austin Researchers Publish Urban Agriculture Study in Journal of Cleaner Production
March 17, 2022
INFEWS Scholars from The University of Texas at Austin and faculty from Prairie View A&M University are publishing a study investigating the implications of urban agriculture and climate change on the food-energy-water-nexus in eight mid-sized U.S. cities.
PhD students Carolyn Cooper and Jacob Troutman from UT Austin’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering co-authored “Climate Change-Induced Variations in Blue and Green Water Usage in U.S. Urban Agriculture” in the Journal of Cleaner Production along with faculty researchers Ripendra Awal, Hamideh Habibi, and Ali Fares from the PVAMU College of Agriculture and Human Sciences.
The Journal of Cleaner Production is an international, transdisciplinary journal focusing on cleaner production, environmental, and sustainability research and practice that aims at preventing the production of waste, while increasing efficiencies in the uses of energy, water, resources, and human capital.
The UT Austin/PVAMU study explores the influence of local climate change on irrigation requirements, and green and blue water usages for turf grass and three common urban agriculture crops (carrots, spinach, and sweet corn) in eight moderate-sized U.S. cities in different climatic areas. Baseline (1980–2010) and Future (2040–2050) daily climate data were combined with site-specific crop water uptake data to calculate irrigation requirements using a numerical simulation model that uses a water balance approach.
The team’s results highlight the importance of appropriate and thoughtful crop selection for urban agriculture paired with environmentally sustainable water sourcing to maintain, or even reduce, future water and energy footprints of urban agriculture. The study also serves as an important first step in understanding how major influences such as climate change will impact future urban agriculture. Additionally, it suggests the importance of similar studies in other countries that are experiencing large migrations to urban areas to better understand how climate change will impact food availability.
Cooper and Troutman began this project virtually during the 2020 summer short course led by PVAMU as part of the NSF NRT “Reducing Energy Barriers for Novel Water Supply Use in Sustainable Agriculture.” As part of the grant, INFEWS Scholars are supervised by Fares, PVAMU Endowed Professor of Water Security & Water-Energy-Food Nexus, and Awal, Associate Professor of Water Resources, who administer intensive agricultural training and project oversight each summer.
PVAMU’s Ali Fares Selected as Author for Fifth National Climate Assessment
November 10, 2021
The United States Global Change Research Program has selected Dr. Ali Fares as an author for the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), the premier U.S. report on climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation across the country.
Fares, the Endowed Professor of Water Security and Water Energy Food Nexus at Prairie View A&M University, and a team of other climate change experts, will assess the needs of the Southern Great Plains and provide a comprehensive analysis that marks the greatest threats to climate in the area. These assessments will allow city and state officials to prepare for severe weather impacts that cause cascading effects on human health and economic well-being.
“It is a lifetime opportunity to contribute to such an important project to advise Congress, the nation, and the world on an essential issue shaping our lives,” Fares said. “I am excited about the knowledge I will gain through the discussions I will be having with my colleagues as part of this contribution.”
The team’s chapter on the Southern Great Plains includes Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas and will summarize the most critical topics that impact the area such as the consequential weather and its effects on people and the economy.
NCA5 is a congressionally-mandated interagency effort that unites experts from the federal, state, and local levels, and academic non-profit, and private sectors. In addition to the nationwide effort which has traditionally focused on water, energy, and agriculture, new chapters will be added on mitigation and adaptation needs.
“I hope to develop a product that will have useful information for Congress and the executive branch of the U.S. and globally,” Fares said. “I also want to show that PVAMU has talented faculty whose expertise is being used to help Texas and the nation address significant challenges.”
Two PVAMU Students Selected for NSF Undergraduate Research Experience
September 1, 2021
Two Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) undergraduate students recently participated in a research experience sponsored by the National Science Foundation at The University of Texas at Austin. Biology major and Honors Program students Emily Irikannu and Ehiguese Obiomon spent three weeks as fellows of the Food-Energy-Water-Systems (FEWS) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) during the summer.
The undergraduates worked on various projects with Cockrell School of Engineering researchers at the intersection of human health and engineering. They addressed social justice issues related to food, energy and water. Student participants gained laboratory experience, collaborated with interdisciplinary researchers across campus and learned what to expect in graduate school.
“The FEWS REU project has been training a new generation of students in developing transformative and globally relevant solutions,” said PVAMU Endowed Professor of Water Security and Water-Energy-Food Nexus Ali Fares, Ph.D. “I am happy to serve as co-principal investigator on this project alongside Professor Charles Werth from the University of Texas at Austin, who is the principal investigator.”
Obiomon got a chance to collaborate with Werth’s research group on a project evaluating the potential to store carbon dioxide in deep saline aquifers. Scientists have said these devices could mitigate climate change in the long run.
L-R: David Jarma, Ehiguese Obiomon, David Kyungtae Kim
Obiomon also worked with UT Professor Kerry Kinney and STEM professionals from UT’s School of Nursing and Dell Medical School as part of the Whole Communities–Whole Health Bridging Barriers Initiative. The team is studying the link between household contaminants and respiratory issues in children, such as asthma.
“Many of the faculty and Ph.D. students I worked with are just regular people who applied themselves,” Obiomon said. “If I do the same, I can also conduct research and understand complex scientific topics.”
L-R: Craig Ayers, Ehiguese Obiomon, Lan Nguyen
Irikannu worked with UT Professor Mary Jo Kirisits and studied a bacterial pathogen, Legionella pneumophila, which causes a severe and deadly form of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease. Unfortunately, this pathogen can develop in natural water environments and large plumbing networks. The research project aims to advance point-of-use technology to control Legionella pneumophila. The most common type of point-of-use system today is a reverse osmosis drinking water system.
“While in the lab, I learned many skills,” Irikannu said. “Overall, working in the UT Austin lab increased my research interest, and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity.”
“We were fortunate to have Emily and Ehiguese at UT this summer,” Werth said. “It was a win-win situation for us – they brought great energy and enthusiasm to our labs, and our graduate students were able to practice mentoring and introducing new learning tools and experiences. We hope to host more students from Prairie View A&M in the future.”
January 14, 2021
Food-Energy-Water-Systems Research Experience for Prairie View A&M Undergraduates
We are pleased to announce a summer research experience at UT Austin for STEM undergraduate students at Prairie View A&M University. Students will receive training in a collaborative research environment as they address engineering and social justice issues related to food, energy, and water. Working alongside graduate students and faculty, they will also learn firsthand about the graduate experience.
- Disruptive technology for resource recovery of energy and water for agricultural practices
- Decision support models for new energy and water resources in agriculture
- Global assessment of policy and technology diffusion
FEWS REU Fellowship Highlights:
- On-campus housing and parking provided
- Meal per diem provided
- Access to state-of-the art facilities
- Work alongside remarkable researchers to broaden knowledge
- Build professional skills for careers in industry, academia, government/policy, non-profit or building a start-up.
Questions? Please contact Laura Klopfenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE INFORMATION & APPLY bit.ly/REU_PVAMU
December 2, 2020
Co-PI Ali Fares Appointed First Endowed FEWS Chair at Prairie View A&M University
Professor Ali Fares was recently appointed the first endowed chair of Water Security/Water-Food-Energy Nexus at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU). He is recognized for his professional legacy of addressing critical issues related to water, energy and food security, and training future leaders at PVAMU and The University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Ali Fares
To meet the challenges of feeding and providing clean water for the future population, which is projected to be over 9 billion people by 2050, the water, energy, and food security nexus is among the most critical global areas of research. Fares has been a key contributor in the areas of watershed hydrology, management and allocation, irrigation management, and adaptation and mitigation of climate variability for many years.
In addition to his career in academia, Fares has many decades of international industry experience, including his work with the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture and a South Australian soil moisture sensing company. He was also in the faculty at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa before arriving at PVAMU in 2013, where he has served as a professor of water security in the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS) and as interim Vice President of Research, Innovation, and Sponsored Programs.
Fares is also Co-PI of the NSF NRT “Reducing Energy Barriers for Novel Water Supply Use in Sustainable Agriculture” at The University of Texas at Austin, providing programmatic leadership and leading an agriculture short course program and research platform for graduate students.
“Working in critical areas of water, food, and energy is a blessing and a huge responsibility,” said Fares. “It offers me an opportunity to pursue my passion for helping others and make an impact on people’s life. Training our students and junior faculty to assume future leadership in this area is a great opportunity for me.”
Throughout his career, Fares has been an active member of national working groups and committees focused on topics ranging from forest health and water quantity and quality to expanding diversity leadership in land-grant Institutions. At PVAMU, he also founded the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences’ Research Seminar Series, which explores emerging topics in the field and is held every semester.
One of his top priorities in the new role as endowed chair is to help build PVAMU’s international reputation in the areas of water and water-food-energy nexus research. This will include student mentorship and research opportunities, inviting international guest speakers to the university, and continuing to lead collaborative research projects in the field.
“I am excited about this opportunity to serve PVAMU in this new capacity. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues across campus, the state, nationally, and internationally,” said Fares.
July 27, 2020
New Graduate Portfolio in Food-Energy-Water Systems
A new Graduate Portfolio in Food-Energy-Water Systems (FEWS) will be offered beginning Fall 2020. The portfolio will prepare graduate students to become effective FEWS leaders and to develop the next generation of water and energy solutions for food production.
A major challenge in Texas, the U.S, and the world is water scarcity in agriculture. Drought, overuse of water resources, deteriorating water quality, and climate change are contributing to increasingly frequent, and sometimes permanent, water shortages for agriculture. Another complication is the expense and environmental impact of using conventional energy sources to provide agricultural water. Addressing these challenges requires innovation in water supply and treatment, as well as in energy production and delivery.
The new graduate portfolio will provide foundational training to address these challenges in courses focused on technology innovation, public policy, and complex systems integration, while still allowing students to become domain experts in a more focused topic specific to their field of study.
Approved courses are available across three prominent schools at The University of Texas at Austin – the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Jackson School of Geosciences, and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Contributing programs include Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Geological Sciences, and Public Affairs.
Additional programs and courses may be added to address each student’s career goals.
The FEWS graduate portfolio is open to current master’s and PhD graduate students in the university’s STEM-related and policy programs, with prior approval of the Graduate Advisor in the student’s primary degree program.
Learn more about the portfolio or APPLY NOW
Questions? Please contact Program Coordinator Laura Klopfenstein
July 8, 2020
Co-PI Ali Fares Selected as American Society of Agronomy Fellow
Professor Ali Fares was recently selected Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) Fellow, the highest recognition bestowed by the scientific and professional society. He is recognized for professional achievement and meritorious service.
Fares is Professor of Water Security in the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences at Prairie View A&M University, the INFEWS Scholar program’s partner university. His expertise is in watershed hydrology and management, water allocation, use and security, irrigation management, adaptation and mitigation of climate variability, and solving natural resource use issues.
He will be recognized during the 2020 Annual Meeting and included in the 2020 Awards Hall of Fame.
June 19, 2020
INFEWS Leadership Team Receives $2M NSF Award for Smart Sensing and Water Quality Forecasting Research
UT Austin professors from the Cockrell School of Engineering and College of Natural Sciences were recently selected to receive a $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to better forecast and identify potential lapses in water quality in urban water infrastructure. The interdisciplinary team will develop more accurate predictive models that could better protect the health of the American public from contaminated drinking water and guide future infrastructure investment.
Professors Charles Werth, Lina Sela, Kerry Kinney and Lynn Katz from the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, and Cory Zigler from the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences, are the project’s investigators.
The project, “Leading Engineering for America’s Prosperity, Health, and Infrastructure (LEAP-HI): Smart Sensing and Forecasting of Water Quality in the Water Distribution Network For Protection of Public Health”, aims to develop a broadly adaptable process- and data-driven models that will give water managers better tools to identify disturbances or lapses in water quality that could expose people to associated health risks.
In the U.S., pathogens in drinking water from public water systems cause an estimated 33 million cases of gastrointestinal illness each year. Two main pathogens found in contaminated drinking water, Legionella and non-tuberculous Mycobacteria, cause respiratory infection.
Pathogen occurrence can be caused by problems with the premise (building) plumbing (where end-users are consuming water), and in the water treatment and the distribution network (where the water is being treated and distributed), which can be caused by extreme events such as flooding or reliability failures that occur as infrastructure ages.
Motivated by the lead epidemic in Flint, Michigan and water quality issues that occurred in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast after Hurricane Harvey, researchers will use a data driven modeling approaches to adequately capture the complexity of an entire water system for real-time prediction of imminent transient and ongoing public health risks.
Principal Investigator Werth said, “This grant represents a unique opportunity to connect water quality and public health, and to train students in these often separate but connected disciplines.”
Three unique test beds will be utilized to gather data from small and large scale systems using smart sensing and monitoring efforts. They include a laboratory-based pipe network, and the water distribution systems of the UT Austin campus and the City of Victoria Water Utilities.
Co-PI Sela has already begun monitoring pressure changes in the water distribution system on campus. She said, “Utilizing more advanced sensing and models, and promoting collaboration between academic research and public utilities will support the modernization of urban water systems.”
Katz and Kinney have also previously collected water quality data related to Hurricane Harvey, highlighting changes in microbial composition of the water in the distribution system.
The project also includes interdisciplinary training of graduate students across hydraulics, water chemistry, microbiology, systems engineering, big data, risk assessment, and public health. An outreach component will also be created to connect water utility, health care and public policy experts with the general public.
May 29, 2020
INFEWS Scholar Receives Energy Fellowship to Advance CO2 Capture and Storage
Ph.D. student Erick Jones recently received a Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Energy. The fellowship program provides students with educational opportunities to gain real-world, hands-on research experience with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.
Since 1995, the fellowship program has mentored several hundred of the best and brightest students from across the nation for future careers in STEM with the mission of strengthening a diverse pipeline of future professionals in science, technology, engineering, national security, international affairs or business.
An INFEWS Scholar and student in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, Jones is discovering how to build and operate affordable, sustainable and innovative communities in urban and rural environments.
Through the DOE fellowship program, Jones will work at Los Alamos National Lab on CCS infrastructure optimization this summer. Alongside Dr. Richard Middleton, he will develop case studies, to improve solution heuristics and visualizations of SimCCS, a cloud computing service that provides novel capabilities for decision support and design of integrated carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies.
May 12, 2020
Co-PI Lina Sela Receives NSF CAREER Award
Assistant Professor Lina Sela was recently selected to receive a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance and promote intelligent and resilient water systems.
The primary impact of this research is to bridge knowledge gaps toward intelligent water systems through dissemination of new scientific tools, to train future engineers, and integrate this research into education.
The NSF’s CAREER Program offers the most prestigious award in support of early career faculty, providing up to five years of funding to junior faculty members who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership.
The grant supports Sela’s project “Predictive Estimation for Managing Water Distribution Systems and Applications of Distributed Sensing Technologies.” She will develop state estimation and predictive models that integrate the increasingly available digital information collected by distributed sensing devices. These models will provide a better estimation of system’s operation under uncertainty. The outcomes of this research will support current decision-making processes to advance water systems.
Sela’s new models for predictive state estimation under limited observability and advances in sensing and computational technologies will be adapted in the classroom and lab setting. Future outreach activities include engaging with stakeholders from water utilities and local agencies, and tech and consulting companies to identify and present practical solutions for technology adaptation. Sela and her team will also organize activities to attract K-12 students from a variety of different backgrounds to water resources engineering.
April 1, 2020
Two INFEWS Scholars Receive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships
The program recognizes high-potential, early-career scientists and engineers and supports their graduate research training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The two awardees are students in the environmental water resources engineering program at UT Austin. Cooper works with professors Lynn Katz and Frank Seibert at the Center for Materials for Water and Energy Systems. With rising demand and dwindling water supply, her research focus is produced water treatment for various reuse to improve small water treatment systems.
Palmer is studying the impacts of silver nanoparticles, a common antimicrobial agent used in consumer products and agricultural applications, on antibiotic resistance in the disease-causing bacteria P. aeruginosa. She is supervised by associate professor Mary Jo Kirisits.
“These NSF fellowships are extremely competitive and recognize the outstanding capabilities of Carolyn and Emma”, notes Professor Charles Werth, director of the NSF-funded INFWEWS Scholar program.
Werth also noted that another INFEWS Scholar, Brielle Hohne, is supported by a previously-awarded NSF graduate fellowship. Hohne is working with Cockrell School of Engineering faculty Manish Kumar and Keith Keitz on low-cost, sustainable water filters in equatorial regions where water is lacking.
Awardees were selected from more than 12,000 applicants and come from all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. They each receive a 3-year annual stipend as well as an education allowance for tuition and fees.