PEI Awards $433,500 for Innovative Research, Teaching, and Mentorship in Climate and Energy

Joanna M. Foster ’08 for the Princeton Environmental Institute ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

The Princeton Environmental Institute has awarded a $433,500 to support three additional research projects as part of the Climate and Energy Challenge.

Climate and Energy Challenge research projects tackle challenges in climate dynamics, the impacts of global change on the Earth’s ecosystems, alternative energy, and energy efficiency. Funded projects involve faculty from numerous departments across campus.

The Climate and Energy Challenge is one of several long-term research and teaching cooperatives supported by PEI as part of the Grand Challenges program – a campus-wide initiative that addresses complex global environmental challenges including scientific, technological, and policy dimensions. A critical component of Grand Challenges is the integration of research with innovative undergraduate research supervision and teaching, with outcomes including undergraduate research fellowships, mentoring of independent projects, and introduction of new courses to the curriculum. Thirty-nine innovative projects have been funded since the program’s inception in 2007.

The newly awarded projects are detailed below:

Novel Deployable Storm Surge Protection for Coastal Cities

Sigrid M. Adriaenssens, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Ning Lin, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, are partnering to experiment with the design, and analyze the performance of, model inflatable, flexible storm surge protection systems. As sea level rises and hurricanes become more powerful, coastal cities are increasingly vulnerable to damaging storm surges and floodwaters. While traditional storm surge barriers such as seawalls cause obstructions when not in use and can interfere with human and ecological activities, these inflatable barriers, adapted from small-scale pneumatic dam design, can be deployed and deflated as needed. Adriaenssens and Lin will apply a wide range of extreme hydrodynamic loads, generated from storm surge simulations to a large-scale pneumatic storm surge barrier to determine what causes this new type of barrier to fail and to improve its form and function. The project is also designed to provide year-round research internships locally and internationally.

Baroclinicity in the Lower Atmosphere

Elie R. Bou-Zeid, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is receiving support to refine models of the lowest one kilometer of the atmosphere known as the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). A more systematic understanding of this layer, where humans live and the atmosphere interacts with oceans and land, is crucial to creating accurate weather and climate models. Using large-eddy simulations (LES), Bou-Zeid will probe the influence of strong horizontal gradients in temperature, which lead to baroclinicity, on flow and transport in the ABL. Bou-Zeid will provide opportunities for two undergraduates and one graduate student to collaborate on this research. Data sets from the project will also be incorporated into both graduate and undergraduate courses.

Climate Change, Iron Usage, and Pathogenic Vibrios

François M. Morel, the Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences and director of the Princeton Environmental Institute and graduate student Darcy McRose, will investigate how rising ocean temperatures may affect the abundance and virulence of marine pathogens known as Vibrios. The pathogenicity of Vibrios hinges on their ability to acquire iron using iron-binding molecules called siderophores. Morel and McRose will determine the iron requirements and siderophore structures for several common Vibrio species that pose a threat to human health and characterize siderophore production responses to iron availability and quorum sensing molecules at elevated temperatures. The grant will support McRose’s dissertation and one undergraduate student.