The Water and the Environment Challenge focuses on critical environmental issues associated with physical, chemical, and biological aspects of oceans and freshwater systems. Current research projects address a variety of topics including: control of particulates in water systems; organic contaminants in soils; impact of heavy rainfall on wildlife; implications of extreme rainfall and drought in African rangelands; and ocean chemistry and circulation.
All manners of environmental and water-related systems and processes involve colloidal particles and solutions that contain anions and cations. One important transport process associated with these systems, diffusiophoresis, is often overlooked and poorly appreciated.
Microorganisms in estuaries transform fixed nitrogen through denitrification, producing dinitrogen gas, which is harmless, along with nitrous oxide, which is an ozone-destroying agent and a potent greenhouse gas. Bess Ward is leading a team to increase understanding of nitrous oxide production in estuarine ecosystems.
Almost nothing is known about the effects of ENSO on the population dynamics of tropical forest animals, largely due to a paucity of baseline studies. Christina Riehl and her team are investigating the effects of rainfall regime on two key demographic parameters – survival and reproductive success – of a tropical rainforest bird, the Greater Ani.
There is a growing consensus in Earth System research that the Southern Ocean is a critical and under-measured gateway between the deep ocean and the surface ocean and the atmosphere. Jorge Sarmiento is spearheading a team to revolutionize Southern Ocean observations and modeling in this remote and inhospitable region of the world.