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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Norwich University
  • Laurie Grigg
  • (802) 485-3323
Award Date:09/12/2017
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 131,963
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 131,963
  • FY 2017=$131,963
Start Date:09/15/2017
End Date:08/31/2019
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.083
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:RII Track-4: Paleoecological insights into the impacts of climate change on Vermont lakes
Federal Award ID Number:1738748
DUNS ID:069912962
Parent DUNS ID:069912962
Program:EPSCoR Research Infrastructure
Program Officer:
  • Jeanne Small
  • (703) 292-0000

Awardee Location

Street:158 Harmon Drive
Awardee Cong. District:00

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Norwich University
Cong. District:00

Abstract at Time of Award

Non-technical Description The water quality of small lakes in Vermont and other northern states is influenced by the types of aquatic plants growing in the lake. Lakes dominated by large aquatic plants are able to maintain a relatively stable, clear water state, while lakes dominated by algae are more likely to suffer from a decline in both water quality and ecosystem health. The most important factor controlling whether a lake is plant- versus algae-dominated is the input of nutrients such as phosphorous, which has increased in many lakes as a result of human activity. Annual and seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation can amplify nutrient-driven changes in aquatic plant growth. These short-term climatic impacts have increased concern over the long-term water quality of lakes in the face of predictions of climate change. Lake sediment, which accumulates in layers at the bottom of lakes through time, provides an opportunity to investigate the dynamics between past climate change and aquatic plant growth over longer time-scales and to gain insights into how aquatic ecosystems will be impacted in the future by climate change. Lake sediment samples from central Vermont contain data on the chemical composition of the sediment and fossils of plants and animals, which will be used to reconstruct changes in both climate and aquatic plant growth during the last 10,000 years. A network of existing climate reconstructions from the northeast documents several past regional climatic changes, which will provide a context for evaluating how lakes respond to changes in temperature and/or precipitation. Collaboration with the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Wyoming will enable access to critical analyses, as well as training in innovative statistical approaches to data analysis. The results of this project will build a strong collaboration between researchers at Norwich University and the University of Wyoming while establishing new methods for investigating past aquatic ecosystems and contributing to a greater understanding of the long-term connections between aquatic plant growth, water quality, and climate change. This work will inform future management decisions concerning the conservation of Vermont's lakes and will provide additional evidence on the impact that projected climate change will have on valuable freshwater resources. Technical Description The fates of lakes and other freshwater resources in Vermont have become of central environmental concern due to increased nutrient loading. In small lakes, nutrient loading controls the dominance of phytoplankton versus macrophytes, and is a determinant of water quality and ecosystem health. Macrophytes promote a clear-water state while excessive phytoplankton leads to turbid-water and eutrophic conditions. In addition to changes in nutrient loads, fish population size and composition, lake size and depth, and climate, have the potential to induce a shift between macrophyte- and phytoplankton-states. Climate is the least well-understood of these factors and poses an important set of research questions in Vermont, where during the last 50 years, winter and summer mean annual temperatures and total precipitation have increased. This study will provide long-term insight into these issues by using lake sediment cores from central Vermont to reconstruct past changes in lake primary productivity and climate during the Holocene Epoch (10,000-0 years before present). Temperature and precipitation changes during the Holocene in the northeastern United States are well-documented by a network of paleoecological sites, and provide an opportunity to examine the role of climate as a driver of aquatic ecosystem change. Carbonate-rich lakes in central Vermont contain multiple depositional environments that preserve unique sets of proxy data that will enable the reconstruction of independent records of climate and paleoproductivity. This work will be done in collaboration with the University of Wyoming and will use a suite of sediment and geochemical analyses that are available within the Departments of Geology and Geophysics' laboratories. In addition, the collaborator at the University of Wyoming has developed quantitative approaches to analysis of multivariate paleoecological data that will be used to identify statistically significant patterns of variability. The work completed during this fellowship will employ novel approaches to reconstructing past changes in lake productivity that may be adopted more widely by other researchers and will expand the application of paleoecology to understanding modern limnological processes.

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