The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tickle College of Engineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Co-directs NSF-funded Landscape Management Research Project

The Critical Zone Observatory for Intensively Managed Landscape (IML-CZO), a multi-university partnership project recently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is co-directed by Dr. Thanos Papanicolaou, the new Goodrich Chair of Excellence Professor in the University of Tennessee Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Dr. Praveen Kumar, of the University of Illinois Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is the director of the IML-CZO.

Intensively managed landscapes—regions of significant land-use change—serve as a cradle for economic prosperity. The intensity of change, however, is responsible for unintended deterioration of land and water environments. By understanding present-day dynamics in the context of long-term co-evolution of the landscape, soil, and biota, IML-CZO aims to support the assessment of short- and long-term resilience of the crucial ecological, hydrological, and climatic services provided by the critical zone.

The effort will provide leadership in developing the next generation of scientists and practitioners, and informing management strategies aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the systems to present and emerging trends in human activities.

IML-CZO uses two core sites, the Upper Sangamon River Basin in Illinois and the Clear Creek Watershed in Iowa, along with the Minnesota River Basin as a third participating site. These sites are characterized by low-relief landscapes with poorly drained soils and represent a broad range of physiographic variations found throughout the glaciated Midwest, and thereby provide an opportunity to advance understanding of the critical zone in this important region. Researchers will use historical data, existing observational networks, new instruments, remote sensing, sampling and laboratory analyses, and novel sensing technologies to study a number of variables related to climate and weather, hydrology, geology, geomorphology, soils, water chemistry, biogeochemistry, ecology, and land management.

The project aims for a wide range of engagement, from elementary and middle schools to colleges and the general public. Activities will include a variety of educational programs, internships for students, professional development programs, field tours and expos, speaking opportunities at public events and gatherings, and partnerships with volunteer groups and other non-governmental organizations. Partners in this effort include state agencies in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota; the National Great River Research and Education Center; the Partnership for River Restoration and Science in the Upper Midwest; the Science Museum of Minnesota; and the Agricultural Watershed Institute.

IML-CZO is a joint effort of faculty and scientists from several institutions, including the University of Tennessee, the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, Purdue University, Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Minnesota, Utah State University, the Illinois State Water Survey, the Illinois State Geological Survey, and the United States Geological Survey.


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