WHAT IS KANSAS NSF EPSCoR?
As a long-running research engine, Kansas NSF EPSCoR serves to equip, empower, and elevate scientific research for the state.
The acronym stands for National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). NSF uses EPSCoR to level the playing field for states and U.S. territories whose scientists receive proportionally less federal support.
Kansas NSF EPSCoR funds projects across the state, including at Fort Hayes State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, and Wichita State University.
Education and outreach funding is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA- 1656006 titled: "Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas." The grant seeks to enhance science education in Kansas by supporting activities that will inspire and equip a new generation for careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.
OVERVIEW OF MICROBIOMES OF AQUATIC, PLANTS AND SOIL SYSTEMS
Currently, Kansas NSF EPSCoR provides up to $4 million per year for education and research across the state related to the microbiomes of aquatic, plant, and soil systems, or MAPS for short.
Studying these microbial communities in Kansas ecosystems will help scientists better understand how they function—and potentially unlock ways to use microbiomes for environmental benefits much like how probiotics aid human health.
Microbiome science was recently recognized as a critical pursuit for understanding ecosystem function. Knowledge gained from this field of research could help solve the challenges of simultaneously feeding a growing population, sustaining agriculture, maintaining soil quality, and minimizing greenhouse gases and water contaminants.
The research team of investigators from five universities have a slew of experiments underway to tease out the mysteries of Kansas microbiomes. For example, researchers are looking at how they mediate disease and productivity of plants, control the quality of water, and moderate soil characteristics and greenhouse gas production.
Over the past four years, the team created an observational and experimental network across Kansas to gather real-world data about MAPS. The sites represent areas with very different rainfall levels and use both agricultural and native locations. The work ranges from genes to ecosystems, and across habitats (terrestrial to aquatic).
The team envisions using the research to illuminate how MAPS can be invoked for various purposes. For example, MAPS could be used to make crops more productive or mitigate harm from floods and droughts. They could also be used to conserve native grasslands and their ecosystem functions.
The MAPS project has 3 main goals:
- Elucidate MAPS-mediated ecosystem functions useful for predicting ecosystem responses to a variable and changing precipitation regime
- Develop best practices for promoting MAPS for desired ecosystem services (e.g., plant productivity, soil and water quality)
- Use MAPS research to enrich educational and outreach opportunities.
This project is based on the generation of a nuanced, mechanistic understanding of the drivers of MAPS structure and function. We specifically aim to quantify how climate and land-use legacies govern MAPS as a means of predicting the resistance and resilience of multiple ecosystem properties to long-term (e.g., contemporary climate change) and punctuated (e.g. extreme climate events, land use changes) perturbations.
These results will be important in Kansas and beyond, informing basic research relevant to myriad agricultural landscapes globally.