Collaborative UA-Alabama A&M Aquatic Project Awarded National Science Foundation Funding

October 11, 2021

By Dr. Carla Atkinson and Brock Parker

Four women in the forest standing in a stream.The National Science Foundation has awarded Alabama A&M University $399,000 in supplemental funding for a collaborative aquatic project with The University of Alabama and other institutions.

The supplemental support will be used for the Aquatic Intermittency effects on Microbiomes in Streams, or AIMS, an EPSCoR RII Track-2 project that is partially based at UA. With the additional funding from the NSF, the AIMS team will build a strategic partnership with Alabama A&M University (AAMU), a Historically Black College and University. Dr. Dawn Lemke, assistant professor of environmental sciences at AAMU, will join the AIMS project with Drs. Carla Atkinson, Jon Benstead and Nate Jones, as well as new AIMS affiliate Dr. Arial Shogren from UA’s Department of Biological Sciences.

The overall goal of the AIMS project is to quantify and predict how drying in stream networks impacts downstream water quality in order to better inform policy and management in the Mountain West, Great Plains and Southeastern Forest ecosystems.

AIMS is a multi-institutional effort among UA, University of Kansas, University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Oklahoma, Kansas State University, Idaho State University and now AAMU. The requested support will expand the impact of the AIMS institutional network to formally include a minority-serving institution that will enhance research and education opportunities among AAMU and all AIMS institutions. As a result, this partnership will add a diversified perspective as well as specific scientific expertise and talent to the multi-university, multistate endeavor.

The AIMS project has many initiatives to broaden participation, primarily through student training and mentoring. The greater collaborative connections between UA and AAMU that would be fostered by this supplement would enhance nearby research infrastructure, provide direct mentored research experience for AAMU students and several additional workshop opportunities. Greater preparation, skill development and exposure to concepts through workshops and hands-on field experience will ideally interest more AAMU students in research careers and opportunities, which can affect long-term engagement for a key underrepresented group in STEM, particularly the natural sciences.

The requested support will enable a postdoctoral research associate to be based at AAMU that will work collaboratively with personnel from the AIMS project, Lemke and graduate and undergraduate students at AAMU. The two-way connection between these institutions will lead to benefits for both AAMU and UA students, faculty and early career researchers. As a result, AAMU will gain access to a network of researchers at a larger institution, while UA will benefit from the unique perspectives and experiences of MSI students.

(Pictured above: Dr. Carla Atkinson, left, along with members of UA’s AIMS team. Photo credit: Dr. Carla Atkinson)