Belmont Soils International Scholars Program
The U.S. National Science Foundation provided funding to the coordination project of the Belmont Soils CRA to enable student travel to study sites or pre-eminent laboratories globally to further the investigation of the critical zone (CZ) ands its relevance to society. A major goal of the Belmont Soils 2020 coordination project is to develop international collaborations, prioritizing young scientists who will advance knowledge of the CZ and its relevance to society throughout their careers. In 2022, 10 students from five countries were awarded funds for research-related travel for their proposed international and interdisciplinary projects.
2023 Awards Recipents
Shin-Pei Fu, National Taiwan University
National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Shin-Pei Fu is a PhD student in the international degree program in Climate Change and Sustainable Development at National Taiwan University. Her research focuses on human-water relationships in water protection areas. Her studies investigate residents’ connectedness to the local river, their attachment and identity to the place, and their motivations and behaviors to protect river ecosystems, and how these could be affected by institutions of protected areas. Her current study site is Pinglin, an administrative district entirely included in the Taipei Water Resource Protection area (TWRPA) where the Beishi river flows. The Feitsui Reservoir built downstream provides an important water source for the Taipei Metropolitan area. Hence, upstream human activities and their impacts on the environment have drawn attention from researchers.
Collaborating with the ABRESO research team in Taiwan and Dr. Jr-Chuan Huang’s laboratory, she is engaged in a project in Pinglin. With support from this award, she investigates environmental attitudes and behaviors among tea farmers, and examines the impacts on tea farm soil environments by different agricultural practices. Tea plantation and production have been the major industry in Pinglin, and conventional farming has been regarded as pollution to river water. This project contains two parts. The first part is to compare soil environments between two tea farms with similar geographic conditions but one practicing conventional farming and the other practicing organic farming. The second part contains in-depth interviews with tea farmers to understand their concerns behind different farming practices, and a survey to measure their connectedness to the river, their attachment and identity to the place, and their environmental attitudes and behaviors. The award allows her to conduct this field research and afford the required expenditures, and also helps her to find support from specialists in Dr. Jr-Chuan Huang’s team for soil tests and water quality tests. The results of this project are expected to clarify environmental concerns behind tea farmers’ different farming practices and environmental impacts of organic and conventional tea farming. This will provide implications for governors of protected areas and enable comparisons among countries and different cultures.
2022 Awards Recipents
Tanjila Akhter, Michigan State University
Milena Beekmann, Sapienza University
Nuong Thi BUI, Hanoi University
Christophe Demichelis, French National Research Institute
Tasi-Jung Jiang, Pingtung University
Hao-Chi Lin, National Taiwan University
Oscar Pascal Malou, French Research Institute
Sarah Ollivier, University Paris-Saclay
Eric Parker, University of New Hampshire
Chiara Richiardi, National Research Council of Italy
Michigan State University, U.S.
Tanjila is a second-year PhD student in Civil Engineering at Michigan State University in the Multi-scale FEW Systems Modeling lab. Her research focuses on advanced numerical modeling to assess past and future trends in groundwater-surface moisture interaction and irrigation, and to see their impact on global and regional climate, biosphere, and water resource systems in the Lower Mekong River Basin. Tanjila visited the Red River Delta in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the Lower Mekong River Basin to understand the present state of groundwater resources and irrigation practices. She was hosted by the National Center for Water Resources Planning & Investigation (NAWAPI), an organization for planning and carrying out nationwide survey activities on water resources in Vietnam. She also visited the Remote Sensing and Modeling of Surface and Atmosphere (REMOSAT) laboratory at the University of Science and Technology (USTH) to explore possible research collaboration in the Lower Mekong River basin.
With her award, Tanjila directly engaged with specialists and stakeholders to understand the different roles of groundwater in irrigation, domestic water supply, and the environment of that region. She went on several field visits and interacted with local people, farmers, and farm owners. She worked with the team at NAWAPI towards the conceptualization of a groundwater model for the region and the representation of groundwater in the land surface model (Community Land Model version5) she is using for her research. The knowledge and understanding from the visit will help her to refine a research plan and strategy for the region, as well as obtain additional data. The visit to the climate and hydrology research group in the REMOSAT laboratory at USTH exposed her to ongoing research in Vietnam and the opportunity to engage collaboratively in future research.
Sapienza University, Italy
Milena Beekmann is a PhD student in the Environmental and Evolutionary Biology Doctoral Programme at Sapienza University pursuing research on the interlinkages between climate and biodiversity changes in forest landscapes in the Congo Basin. Her project focuses on both the direct and indirect impacts of climatic change (via local people's climate change adaptation strategy) on ecosystems, through a socio-ecological perspective. Milena is planning to explore how this nexus will be applied in two Congo Basin sites: the Lac Télé Community Reserve in the Republic of Congo, and the Bas Ogooué Ramsar site in Gabon. Using multidisciplinary methodologies, the study will combine local ecological knowledge and scientific monitoring tools, aiming to generate meaningful knowledge for socio-ecological resilience and adaptive capacity in the two landscapes.
With the support of her award, Milena organized a field mission to the Bas Ogooué Ramsar site in Gabon, in collaboration with the project VULCAR-FATE. A mosaic of tropical rainforest, savannahs, and wetland ecosystems, the Bas Ogooué supports rich biodiversity, including important populations of African megafaunas, such as the central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes), forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The data collection plan entailed two steps: 1) conducting semi-structured interviews to produce a list of relevant ecological and cultural keystones species (e.g., species playing a culturally salient role in a local community) and collecting associated observations of change, as a proxy for understanding broader landscape ecological changes, and 2) quantitatively assessing the extent of human adaptation measures to understand associated impacts on ecosystem dynamics. Her study aimed to produce a detailed analysis of global change-driven impacts on socio-ecological characteristics of the Bas Ogooué landscape, in conjunction with the data produced in the framework of the VULCAR-FATE project.
Nuong Thi BUI
Hanoi University of Natural Resources and Environment (HUNRE), Vietnam
Dr. Nuong Thi BUI is an environmental specialist whose research focuses on sustainable water resource management, multicriterial decision-making approaches, system dynamics, and applied math and computer programming in environmental and natural resources valuation and management. After receiving her doctoral degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Tokyo Metropolitan University in Japan in 2018, she continued her work as a postdoctoral researcher and is now a faculty member at Hanoi University of Natural Resources and Environment in Vietnam. She is PI and Co-PI of several national and international projects in Vietnam, Mekong and ASEAN regions.
The BLUEGEM project aims to explore pathways for sustainable critical zone management by considering the influence of groundwater irrigation, groundwater-soil moisture interactions, and local and regional knowledge of the Lower Mekong River Basin. In this effort, the project utilizes the Community Land Model version5 (CLM5), the latest in a series of land models developed through the Community Earth System Model (CESM) project. With her award, Nuong worked to calibrate and validate the CLM5 model for the project with local observations. Additionally, active participation or co-production with stakeholders is essential to ensure the successful implementation of the project. She provided local knowledge and expertise on the diagnostic of groundwater dynamics and validation for BLUEGEM activities and supported communication with local stakeholders for technical co-design and the implementation of priority legal and policy reforms, and investments for the protection and equitable utilization of groundwater.
French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, France
Christophe Demichelis graduated with a PhD in environmental geography from the University of Rennes 2 in France. He also worked as a lecturer in the geography departments of the Universities of Rennes 2 and Picardy Jules Verne. His research, at the interface of the social and natural sciences, is based on a socio-ecological approach of tropical landscapes, especially in Central Africa and Madagascar. By coupling social approaches with remote sensing, Christophe proposed to use his award for multidimensional analyses of landscapes and their dynamics, truly rooted in local realities.
As a post-doctoral researcher with the Vulcar-Fate project, Christophe aims to understand the perceptions of local populations in the Moyen-Ogooué region of Gabon regarding climate change and landscape evolution, with a focus on adaptation strategies in the face of these transformations. In collaboration with professors Victoria Reyes-Garcia (ICREA-UAB) and Jean-Jacques Braun (IRD-GET), Christophe is developing analytical tools to study human societies and their interactions with their environments, as well as the consequences on the evolution of landscapes, while highlighting the impact of global changes, both social and environmental, on people's lifestyles and practices. Globally, Christophe is interested, through the prism of geography and its tools (e.g., remote sensing, GIS, social and ecological surveys), in how rural populations depend on, use, and modify the critical zone in a context of global changes affecting both human populations and biodiversity, as well as the environments in which they co-evolve.
French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, France
Tasi-Jung Jiang is currently a second-year PhD student in biological resources at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) in Taiwan. Under the direction of Dr. Herlin Chien, he participates in the ABRESO project to study soil water quality and related ecosystem services at the critical zone site in the Pinglin District of New Taipei City. The Pinglin site is located upstream and in the critical watershed region of the Feicui Reservoir which acts as the emergency water source for the Greater Taipei metropolitan area with a population of 6 million.
Historically, the local people of this region rely on growing tea for livelihood support. However, due to the strict water quality control regulation in the region, Pinglin residents have suffered from a decline or restricted economic activities. Tasi Jung’s research focuses on collecting and analyzing stakeholder perceptions on the land management governance of this region. With his award, he was able to collaborate with Dr. Pankaj Kumar at Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan. Here, he learned how to use and apply the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP) model for hydrological simulation (developed by Stockholm Environment Institute). This model’s functionality enables researchers to generate various scenario-building, necessary to answer “what-if” questions for policy and decision-makers.
National Taiwan University
Hao-Chi Lin is a post-doctoral researcher at the National Taiwan University working with Dr. Jr-Chuan Huang on projects related to the Taipei Water Resource Protection area (TWRPA), providing drinking water to 6 million people in the north of Taiwan. Hao-Chi is a biogeochemist and his research focuses on the transport of dissolved carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) through watersheds and reservoirs. He is one of the team members in the Concentration-Discharge Relationships working group for the ABRESO project. His current aim is to understand the disturbance impacts of typhoons, which occur 2 to 5 times each year in Taiwan, in subtropical freshwater ecosystems.
With his international scholar award, Hao-Chi focused on the influences of terrestrial dissolved organic matter (DOM) loading and agricultural land use on carbon and nitrogen fluxes under typhoon disturbances in subtropical mountain streams and reservoirs. He investigated the water quality data including the dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and nitrate (NO3) not only estimating the dissolved C and N fluxes (or yields) but also attempting to clarify the coupling between C and N in freshwater ecosystems. Due to the over-fertilization for the agriculture planting around the mountain rivers in TWRPA, the typhoon disturbances controlled the seasonal patterns of allochthonous C and N loading into the streams via surface runoff and soil groundwater. Hao-Chi hopes to use these data and clarify the typhoon regimes of C and N cycling in the subtropical critical zone.
Oscar Pascal Malou
French Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) / National Museum of Natural History (MNHN), France
Oscar Pascal Malou is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the French Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) and the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN). He obtained his PhD in Environmental Sciences from the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal where he specialized in soil science and the soil carbon cycle. His research focused on the effects of cropping practices on soil carbon and the role of soil organic matter in soil fertility, agrosystems productivity, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. He has also spent time researching the thermal and biogeochemical stability of organic matter in soils. More recently, he has focused on the characterization of anthropogenic soils from several archaeological sites using a classical geochemical tool: the Rock-Eval® thermal analysis.
Working within the framework of the VULCAR-FATE project, his international scholar award, in collaboration with the AnThroSoilC project, allowed him to complete fieldwork characterizing the anthropogenic soils of the Ogooué river basin in Gabon. This work supports a study looking at the neglected natural and cultural heritages in soils and the present-day ecological heritage of past human activities on the functioning of the soil. Oscar worked with a multidisciplinary team aiming to evaluate the human activities that had a lasting impact on the soils (e.g., Anthroposols, raised fields, burning practices) of the region. These traces constitute a fragile heritage in the landscape, which is now endangered, and play a significant role in the long-term storage of carbon.
University Paris-Saclay, France
Sarah Ollivier is currently a PhD candidate with the Geosciences Paris-Saclay Laboratory (GEOPS) of the University Paris-Saclay in France where she also obtained a Bachelors in Geology and a master's in Hydrology-Hydrogeology. Her research focuses on the geomorphology and geochemistry impacts of climate change on permafrost in the Arctic, more specifically the carbon dynamic in thermokarst lakes. With the PRISMARTYC project, she currently studies the origin and nature of organic and inorganic carbon in thermokarst lakes to understand how the trapped carbon in the permafrost could be released into the atmosphere and contribute to a positive feedback on climate.
Her international scholar award allowed her to conduct a field study in the southwestern Yukon at Beaver Creek in Canada. The goal of this data collection includes: 1) to determine the origin of POC and DOC (old permafrost-derived carbon, or carbon which has been more recently fixed from the atmosphere), that can be tracked by 14C analysis, 2) to compare the DOC and POC from lakes with different ages, as well as sampled at different seasons (winter, spring, and summer), and 3) to understand the variations in the signal due to geomorphological processes and hydrogeological connection between lakes. She is currently analyzing and comparing this data to a similar site in Central Yakutia of Siberia.
University of New Hampshire
Eric Parker is a PhD student in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment working with Dr. Adam Wymore’s ECOSHEDS group at the University of New Hampshire. His research interests are broadly based in watershed biogeochemistry, with a current focus on how changing climates and land use influence concentration-discharge (CQ) relationships of solutes and nutrients—and how such relationships relate to water quality through the lens of Critical Zone science.
Eric leveraged his Belmont International Scholars award to travel to Hokkaido, Japan to join ABRESO collaborators at Hokkaido University in studying the Bekanbeushi River. As part of his research efforts dubbed “Sister Streams,” Eric is conducting a comparative study of the Bekanbeushi and Lamprey (New Hampshire, USA) Rivers due to the remarkable similarity of the two watersheds. The river systems share characteristics of land use/cover, size, climate, annual discharge, and both terminate in culturally and economically important estuaries threatened by nutrient pollution. Spatial sampling of multiple sub-watersheds was conducted during the 2022 summer season across a range of sites chosen to represent different landscapes and land-use regimes, such as agriculture versus forested sub-catchment, to better understand the impacts on water resources. Sixteen locations across each watershed were selected for seven replicate samplings over the course of a four-week period. Further, a single location at the bottom of each river-reach was chosen for two twelve-hour time series to evaluate the impact of a storm event on the watersheds. Samples were analyzed for a wide suite of water quality parameters including carbon, nutrients, and base cations. Utilizing these spatial and temporal frameworks, snapshots of nutrient and solute inputs were mapped across the Lamprey and Bekanbeushi Rivers. The similarity of the study sites enables parallels to be drawn between the impacts of changing land use on watersheds and water resources in different parts of the world.
National Research Council of Italy – Institute on Atmospheric Pollution (CNR-IIA)
Chiara Richiardi currently holds the position of research fellow at the Institute on Atmospheric Pollution of the Italian National Research Council (CNR-IIA) in Italy. Her research is focused on the analysis of multi-source Earth Observation data for the monitoring of alpine ecosystems with attention to carbon flows and indicators related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With support from the Belmont International Scholar award, Chiara recently began a new collaboration with Dr. Xulin Guo at the Department of Geography and Planning of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. During her time abroad, she participated in field activities conducted in the fragile mixed prairie ecosystem of southern Saskatchewan, threatened by encroaching woody vegetation, aimed at collecting biophysical and remote sensing data and targeted at investigating the drivers of vegetation dynamics. A similar process is underway, mainly due to climate change and the abandonment of traditional pastoral activities, in two Italian study sites of the ABRESO project distributed in the Alps: Noaschetta, in Piedmont, and Brocon, in Trentino Alto Adige. Field activities and time series analysis of Earth Observation data analogous to those conducted in Canada will be performed at these sites to obtain maps of land cover. The vegetation cover change maps will be correlated to anthropogenic impacts and climate change data allowing us to understand the forcing functions that drive land abandonment and subsequent land cover change and to fill the gaps in understanding of actual impacts on vegetation dynamics and on the other related processes of the critical zone.