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USD Part of NSF Environmental Research Project

Image Dave Swanson and Meghann Jarchow USD faculty members Dave Swanson and Meghann Jarchow are contributing to a National Science Foundation environmental research project.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota will receive nearly $2 million as part of a National Science Foundation effort to research the intersection of food, energy and water systems.

USD researchers will work on the project with colleagues from lead institution Montana State University and the University of Wyoming. They will examine the consequences of an economy based on bioenergy and "carbon capture and sequestration." That is the process of capturing carbon dioxide so that levels of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere in the Upper Missouri River Basin are reduced.

“The goal is to explore the impacts that a transition to a bioenergy economy would have on the Upper Missouri River Basin. Such a change might help to reduce carbon pollution and minimize conflicts with food security and clean energy production priorities, providing for a sustainable future for the region,” said Dave Swanson, Ph.D., professor in USD’s biology department, director of the Missouri River Institute and co-principal investigator with Meghann Jarchow, Ph.D., USD assistant biology professor and coordinator of its sustainability program. Associate biology professors Mark Dixon, Ph.D., and Jake Kerby, Ph.D., will also contribute.

The NSF recently made 11 Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Track II grants to institutions across the national totaling $55 million. The program is designed to fulfill the mandate of the NSF to promote scientific progress nationwide.

USD's share of $1.86 million over four years will fund research related to the grant topic and will also fund two new faculty members in biology. These faculty will support a new doctorate program in sustainability, which the grant will also fund.

USD researchers will be involved in four studies within the overall project:

First, they will model current and projected future trends in land-use in the Upper Missouri River Basin (UMRB), such as growing more biofuel crops.

Second, they will study how these land-use trends interact with other changes in the region, such as increases in hydraulic fracking and reductions in Conservation Reserve Program acreages, to affect water quality and bird and amphibian diversity.

Third, they will survey residents in the UMRB to map how people value the land and its uses across the basin and whether those values vary by geographic region.

Finally, the researchers will convene focus groups of diverse stakeholders across the region to identify what people think is critical to moving toward a desirable and sustainable future in the UMRB, with a specific focus on land uses and human health and well-being.

“It is our hope that this research will help inform future research and policy in the region regarding how we manage food and energy production while still protecting our water,” Jarchow said.

Download a photo: USD professors Dave Swanson and Meghann Jarchow are contributing to a National Science Foundation environmental research project.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News