NU Water-Related Research in Knox County

The list below shows water-related research being conducted within your district or that affects your district. They are sorted by water topic, then by primary contact's last name.

Displaying 17 records found for Knox County


Topic Drought
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hanson, Paul
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email phanson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7762
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=758
Project Information
Title Pre-Historic Drought Records from the Eastern Platte River Valley
Other(s) R. Matt Joeckel, School of Natural Resources, rjoeckel3@unl.edu; Aaron Young, School of Natural Resources, ayoung3@unl.edu 
Description Recent studies have related large-scale dune activity in the Nebraska Sandhills and elsewhere on the western Great Plains to prehistoric megadroughts. At the eastern margin of the Great Plains, however, little or no effort has been expended toward identifying the impacts and severity of these climatic events. The eastern margin of the Great Plains should be of particular interest in paleclimate studies because it represents an important biogeographic boundary that may have shifted over time. In dunes around the present confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers near Duncan, Nebraska, optical dating contrains, for the first time, the chronology of dune activity in the central-eastern margin of the Great Plains. A total of 17 optical age estimates taken from dune sediments clearly indicate two significant periods of dune activation at 5,100 to 3,500 years ago and 850-500 years ago. These reconstructed time intervals overlap both periods of large-scale dune activity in the Nebraska Sandhills and ancient droughts identified from other paleoclimate proxy records on the western Great Plains. The agreement between results from the eastern margin of the Great Plains and data from farther west indicate that megadroughts were truly regional in their effect. In order to further test a hypothesis of geographically-widespread megadrought effects, future work will date other dune deposits in eastern Nebraska from sites along the Loup and Elkhorn Rivers, as well as dunes in east-central Kansas and western Iowa.
Project Support United States Geological Survey Statemap Program
Project Website
Report Hanson Eastern Platte Valley.pdf
Current Status Published in Geomorphology 103 (2009) 555-561
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kranz, Bill
Unit Northeast Research and Extension Center
Email wkranz1@unl.edu
Phone 402-475-3857
Web Page
Project Information
Title Northeast Research and Extension Center - Haskell Agricultural Laboratory
Other(s) Charles Shapiro, Northeast Research and Extension Center, cshapiro1@unl.edu; Dave Shelton, Northeast Research and Extension Center, dshelton2@unl.edu; Sue Lackey, Conservation and Survey, slackey1@unl.edu; Terry Mader, Haskell Ag. Lab, tmader1@unl.edu 
Description

The role of the faculty and staff in this unit is to prevent or solve problems using research based information. Faculty and staff subscribe to the notion that their programs should be high quality, ecologically sound, economically viable, socially responsible and scientifically appropriate. Learning experiences can be customized to meet the needs of a wide range of business, commodity, or governmental organizations based upon the many subject matter disciplines represented. As part of the University of Nebraska, the Northeast Center faculty and staff consider themselves to be the front door to the University in northeast Nebraska. Through well targeted training backgrounds and continuous updating via the internet and other telecommunications technologies, faculty and staff have the most current information available to help their clientele.

The Haskell Ag. Lab is a University of Nebraska research farm located 1.5 miles east of the Dixon County Fairgrounds in Concord. This 320 acre farm was donated to the University of Nebraska by the C.D. Haskell family of Laurel in 1956. A number of demonstrations and projects are going on at the Haskell Ag. Lab, including a riparian buffer strip demonstration and a study to evaluate the effect of irrigation on soybean aphid population dynamics. Other studies focus on:

Subsurface Drip Irrigation: In the spring of 2007 a new subsurface drip irrigation system was installed on a 4 acre portion of the farm with sandy loam soils. The initial objective of the research is to collect field data to document crop water use rates for new corn varieties. Specifically, the work will concentrate on varieties that have different drought resistance ratings to improve the accuracy of the information provided to producers via the High Plains Regional Climate Center. In 2007, two varieties were planted and five irrigation treatments were imposed ranging from dryland to full irrigation. The data will also be used to develop improved local crop production functions for use in the Water Optimizer spreadsheet.

Hormones in Livestock Waste: This project will evaluate the fate of both naturally occurring and synthetic hormones that are associated with solid waste harvested from beef cattle feeding facilities. The research involves: 1) tracking the fate of hormonal compounds from the feedlot into surface run-off that would make its way into a liquid storage lagoon; 2) establishing stockpiled and composted sources of the solid manure removed from the feedlot; and 3) applying stockpiled and composted manure to cropland areas under different tillage systems and native grasses. Once the manure is applied the runoff potential will be evaluated using a rainfall simulator. Research will then focus on whether plants that could be a source of food for wildlife and/or domestic animals take up the hormones. (More information about this project is available; see projects listed under Dan Snow.)

Project Support Varies according to program and project - for more information see http://nerec.unl.edu/ Hormone Project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://nerec.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Groundwater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Swinehart, James B.
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jswinehart1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7529
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=487
Project Information
Title Geology and Groundwater Supplies of Box Butte County, Nebraska
Other(s) Vernon L. Souders (project lead, retired); Frank A. Smith (retired), fsmith1@unl.edu 
Description

This report describes the relationship between the geology and the groundwater supplies in Box Butte County. It also evaluates the aquifers with respect to waterbearing characteristics and groundwater in storage. It further describes recharge to and discharge from the aquifers, outlines the movement of groundwater in the county, and summarizes the changes in groundwater storage that have occurred since the advent of irrigation in the county. Brief descriptions of the topography and drainage are included. An evaluation of climatic data for Box Butte County and the Nebraska Panhandle is incorporated into this report and several observations are made about climate in relation to groundwater and the irrigation requirements of crops. Brief mention is made of the soils and agricultural activity in the county.

The report estimates that to date (1975-1976) the amount of groundwater in storage has decreased 2-3% since 1938 and perhaps 1/2 of this decrease has occurred since 1964. The most serious water level declines were immediately north of Alliance in an area where the groundwater resource is large. This area had the highest concentration of irrigation wells and is also the oldest irrigated part of the county.

The report explicitly does not answer the question, "How long will the water supply last?" Rather the authors make the point that economic considerations and social attitudes are just as important as the characteristics of local groundwater supplies in answering that question.

Project Support Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District, U.S. Geological Survey
Project Website
Report WSP-47.pdf
Current Status Test Holes Drilled Fall 1975-Spring 1976, Report Published 1980. An electronic copy of the report is available above; A hard copy is available via Nebraska Maps and More
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Ayers, Jerry
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jayers1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0996
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=5
Project Information
Title Box Butte County / Niobrara River Numerical Groundwater Flow Model Studies
Description

The main objective of these studies was to determine the effect, if any, of large-scale regional pumping on the base flow of the Niobrara River. One study involved the construction and implementation of a groundwater-flow model for Box Butte County and the surrounding region to simulate hydrogeologic and hydraulic conditions, including groundwater extraction by large-capacity wells. The other study focused on the upper reaches of the Niobrara River to obtain estimates of stream-bed hydraulic conductivity (i.e., the ease with which water can move through pore spaces or fractures in the stream-bed) to be used as input to the modeling effort.

The groundwater-flow model was calibrated to predevelopment by primarily adjusting recharge flux through a trial-and-error process until a reasonable fit was obtained to the observed water table configuration of 1938. Once calibrated to predevelopment heads, transient simulations (i.e., simulations taking into account real-life conditions, thus modeling potential real-life changes in the basin), were run to model the change in heads due to pumping for the time period between 1938 and 2005. Results from these simulations were compared with observed heads for available years. After satisfactory results were obtained from the transient simulations, two additional scenarios were tested. These were simulations where all wells were turned off and where only those wells in Box Butte County and its proximity were active. The computer program ZONEBUDGET, which computes the water budget for user-defined zones, was run coincident with all simulations. Both head and water budget computation results were then used to determine the effect of pumping on the base flow the Niobrara River.

Based on model results, reductions in the base flow of the Niobrara River is due primarily to localized pumping effects, rather than from groundwater extraction on a regional scale. A comparison of simulated outflow values for selected reaches of the Niobrara River indicates that 1) flow characteristics in the uppermost part of the basin did not change greatly over the period of pumping indicating that base flow is not significantly reduced by large-scale pumping, 2) significant changes in base flow appear to have occurred after about 1960 in the middle and lower reaches, 3) the maximum change in flow for the middle reach due to all wells pumping is 19.6% and only 4.4% for Box Butte wells, with both maximum reductions occurring at the end of the 2005 pumping season, 4) the maximum change in flow for the lower reach is about 24.4% for all wells and only 2.5% for Box Butte wells, again, both occur at the end of the 2005 pumping season. Overall, the Niobrara River appears to be a gaining stream along most of its flow path, with the exception of the uppermost part of the basin.

The conclusion is that the affects of large-scale regional pumping appears to not impact base flow in the Niobrara River to any significant degree. Rather, localized pumping, especially where irrigation wells are situated near the river, reduces base flow on the order of 20% to 25%. For the most part, the Niobrara River valley is somewhat isolated from the extensive pumping taking place in Box Butte County. The upper reach is sufficiently distant from the pumping center that the cone of depression has little effect on the water table. Much of the middle reach transects units of the White River group that are considered to be nearly impermeable, and thus, provide a hydrogeologic barrier, preventing the northward expansion of the cone of depression. Pumping along the lower reach of the Niobrara River has a much greater influence on base flow reduction simply due to the proximity of the extraction wells to the river.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
Project Website http://www.dnr.state.ne.us/Publications_Studies/Box-Butte_ModelProjectCompletionReport.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Chen, Xun-Hong
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email xchen2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0772
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=19
Project Information
Title Hydrologic Connections in the Elkhorn River Basin
Other(s) Sue Lackey, Conservation and Survey, slackey1@unl.edu 
Description This project involves investigating the hydrologic connections between streams and the adjacent aquifer systems in the Elkhorn River Basin. Researchers have used a Geoprobe direct-push technique, in-situ permeameter tests, and a thermal camera to collect data in this basin. Research has been conducted in Taylor Creek (west of the City of Madison), in Maple Creek, and two sites in the Elkhorn River near Norfolk and Meadow Grove. Ultimately this data will be used for integrated management of surface and groundwater resources.
Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District, Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuous
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 This image shows our work in the Elkhorn River near Meadow Grove and in Taylor Creek. 
Pic 2 Project Image 2
Pic Caption 2 Direct-push techniques used by UNL researchers for study of stream-aquifer connections in Madison County, Nebraska. 
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Korus, Jesse
Unit Conservation and Survey Division
Email jkorus3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7561
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/staff-member.asp?pid=1010
Project Information
Title Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA)
Other(s)

Paul Hanson, School of Natural Resources / Conservation and Survey Division, phanson2@unl.edu; Sue Lackey, School of Natural Resources / Conservation and Survey Divison, slackey1@unl.edu; Matt Marxsen, School of Natural Resources / Conservation and Survey Division, mmarxsen2@unl.edu

Dana Divine, ENWRA Project Coordinator, ddivine@lpsnrd.org

Visit the Nebraska Maps and More website (http://nebraskamaps.unl.edu/home.asp) to order an excellent publication that describes this project more in-depth, Bulletin 1: Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA) Introduction to a Hydrogeological Study.

 
Description

Eastern Nebraska contains 70% of the state's population, but is most limited in terms of the state's groundwater supplies. The population in this region is expected to increase; thus the need for reliable water supplies is paramount. Natural resources districts (NRDs), charged with ground water management in Nebraska, seek to improve their management plans in response to growing populations, hydrologic drought, and new conjunctive management laws. Detailed mapping and characterization is necessary to delineate aquifers, assess their degree of hydrologic connection with streams and other aquifers, and better predict water quality and quantity.

In a collaborative effort between local, state, and federal agencies, the ENWRA project has been initiated to gain a clearer understanding of the region's groundwater and interconnected surface water resources. These resources can be difficult to characterize because of the complex geology created by past glaciations. Acquiring geologic and hydrologic data in the eastern, or glaciated, part of Nebraska requires the use of multiple, innovative techniques. Currently, little is known about which techniques are most effective and feasible. Once identified, the most effective and feasible tools will be used to provide data, interpretations, and models for improved water resources management.

The ENWRA group has established three pilot test sites for intensive study using a variety of investigative techniques. The goal of the initial work being done at the three pilot test sites is to determine the location, extent, and connectivity of aquifers with surface waters, with the hope of expanding these investigative techniques across other portions of eastern Nebraska. The pilot test sites are located near Oakland, Ashland, and Firth with each site exhibiting differing geologic conditions. The techniques that will be utilized in the study include: 1) helicopter electromagnetic (HEM) surveys; 2) ground-based geophysical surveys; 3) test hole drilling; and 4) geochemical analysis, just to name a few. So far HEM surveys were completed over approximately one township at each site. Other techniques were used to provide "ground truth" data to support the HEM interpretations.

The agencies involved in the ENWRA are:

  • Lower Platte South Natural Resources District
  • Lower Platte North Natural Resources District
  • Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District
  • Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District
  • Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District
  • Nemaha Natural Resources District
  • United States Geological Survey
  • University of Nebraska Lincoln Conservation and Survey Division
  • Nebraska Department of Natural Resources
  • Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Project Support Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Interrelated Water Management Plan/Program
Project Website http://www.enwra.org/
Report
Current Status HEM surveys are complete and 3-D aquifer diagrams have been prepared. Report Status: Ashland area report has been prepared and is under review and the Firth area report is being written.
Pic 1 Project Image
Pic Caption 1 Eastern Nebraska Water Resources Assessment (ENWRA) Study Sites. 
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Lenters, John
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email jlenters2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9044
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=743
Project Information
Title On Basin Residence Time and Annual Hydrology: Development of Annual Hydrology Model of the Sandhills Rivers
Other(s) Erkan Istanbulluoglu, University of Washington, erkani@u.washington.edu; Durelle Scott, Virginia Tech, dscott@vt.edu; Tiejun Wang, University of Washington-Seattle, tjwang@u.washington.edu 
Description

Simple models of annual and mean annual basin runoff and evapotranspration, such as the one proposed by Budyko, are useful for investigating the relationship between river flow and climate, and planning water storage structures in basins where long term streamflow measurements are not available. Such models are often based on the assumption that annual precipitation is in balance with annual runoff and evapotranspiration, and change in water storage of the basin is negligible. In basins where groundwater is the dominant source of streamflow this assumption hardly holds.

In this study first we develop a technique to investigate groundwater residence time to identify time scales over which a simple model of mean annual runoff can be meaningfully used. The model is applied in the Niobrara and Loup Rivers. Second we develop an annual hydrology model by solving the rate of change in basin storage. The runoff component of the model is based on the well-known linear reservoir model and a parameterization to characterize runoff on saturated areas. River water storages and streamflow diverted for irrigation are included as inputs in the model. The model explained as high as 80% of the annual variability of runoff in the Niobrara River at the Sparks gage. The model underscores the importance of saturation overland flow in the basin. Finally we used the model to investigate climate change scenarios, including extreme dry and wet conditions, as well as scenarios for the Medieval Warm Period during which Sandhills were destabilized as suggested by geological evidence.

Project presentation at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website
Report Lenters_Groundwater.pdf
Current Status Published "On the role of groundwater and soil texture in the regional water balance: An investigation of the Nebraska Sand Hills", USA, Water Resour. Res., 45, W10413, doi:10.1029/2009WR007733.
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Pederson, Darryll
Unit Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Email dpederson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7563
Web Page http://eas.unl.edu/people/faculty_page.php?lastname=Pederson&firstname=Darryll&type=REG
Project Information
Title Waterfalls on the Niobrara River's Spring-fed Tributaries
Description The waterfalls on the spring-fed tributaries of the Niobrara River downstream from Valentine, Nebraska are unique in that the waterfalls are convex downstream. Groundwater discharge on either side of the waterfalls has led to significant weathering because of freeze/thaw cycles in the winter and wet/dry cycles in the summer. The water falling over the face of the falls protects them from the two weathering processes. Because the weathering rates on either side are higher than the erosion rates from falling water, the face of the falls is convex downstream. Similar waterfall face morphology occurs on the Island of Kauai where the main weathering processes are driven by vegetation and the presence of water.
Project Support National Park Service through the Great Plains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/gpcesu/Project_library.htm
Report Waterfalls_Abstract.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Hydrology
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Wang, Tiejun
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email tiejunwang215@yahoo.com
Phone
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=945
Project Information
Title Niobrara River Flow Variability
Other(s) Erkan Istanbulluoglu, University of Washington, erkani@u.washington.edu 
Description This project develops a database for hydrological and climatological variables within the Niobrara River basin so that researchers may study flow variability in the Niobrara River and its historical changes. Analysis includes all existing and discontinued streamflow gages within the system. Surface water diversion data are also collected to relate to changes in the flow discharge. Annual water yield of the river is studied at Sparks and Verdel gages. A lumped annual water yield model is developed to identify the natural variables that control runoff. The model uses annual runoff as forcing variable, as well as water diversions as outflux from the system. The model is currently being extended to monthly time scales.
Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, National Park Service
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Recreation
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Laing, Kim (Graduate Student)
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email kmeuhe1@unl.edu
Phone n/a
Web Page
Project Information
Title Assess Extent of Disturbance by Canoeists in Tributaries to the Niobrara National Scenic River
Other(s) Kyle Hoagland, School of Natural Resources, khoagland1@unl.edu 
Description

The Niobrara is a rich and unique ecosystem. Because it is relatively swift and shallow along this reach, the Niobrara is also a popular locale for tens of thousands of canoeists each year. Frequent bottom trampling and bank destabilization can result in a variety of short and long-term changes, including bottom substrate degradation, higher levels of drift including premature drift of aquatic larvae, increased turbidity and sedimentation, and the elimination of sensitive species.

The overall goal of this project is to assess the extent of disturbance by canoeists in tributaries to the Niobrara National Scenic River and its overall impact on stream ecosystem health. This assessment will be used to evaluate resource management practices in these unique habitats, while also serving as a basis for future comparisons to assess habitat degradation.

Ten tributaries, located along the south side of the Niobrara River, were sampled each month May through September. The tributaries were divided into five streams that were potentially impacted from visitors, located upstream, and five streams that were known to have no visitors. A mini-surber sampler was used to collect invertebrates from upstream sections of the tributaries (above the waterfalls with no visitors) and from downstream sections, below the waterfalls. Current velocity, depth, width, and distance from the edge of the tributary were recorded at each location. Water temperature, pH and conductivity were measured and a water sample taken to measure total nitrogen, total phosphorus and turbidity. In June, July and August visitor information was collected by volunteers at each potentially impacted tributary. Each volunteer counted the number of times the tributary was disturbed. This information, along with daily visitor use collected by Fort Niobrara, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was used to calculate the amount of disturbance occurring at each location.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Recreation
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shultz, Steve
Unit UNO Real Estate Research Center
Email sshultz@mail.unomaha.edu
Phone 402-554-2810
Web Page http://cba.unomaha.edu/dir/HomePageBio.cfm?id=347
Project Information
Title Economic and Social Values of Recreation on the Niobrara National Scenic River
Description

The goal of this project is to generate objective and accurate economic data and analyses that will allow the State of Nebraska to evaluate an in-stream appropriation on the Niobrara River for recreation purposes. Nebraska in-stream flow laws and regulations as stated in statute 46-2,116 specify that an in-stream appropriation must be in the public interest on the basis of:

  • The econmic, social, and environmental value of the in-stream use or uses including, but not limited to, recreation, fish and wildlife, induced recharge for municipal water systems, and water quality maintenance; and
  • The economic, social, and environmental value of reasonably foreseeable alternative out-of-stream uses of water that will be foregone or accorded junior status if the appropriation is granted.

The economic value of in-stream uses for recreation will involve estimates of both direct expenditures by river recreationists and the value of their use of the Niobrara Scenic River for boating and tubing using a travel cost model. The economic value of reasonably forseeable alternative out-of-stream uses will be determined by estimating the change in economic value of irrigation in the Niobrara River watershed based upon agricultural land sales from 2000 to 2007. The societal values associated with in-stream flows of and recreation on the Niobrara River will also be calculated using a telephone survey.

Project presentation at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Website
Report Niobrara_Values.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Efting, Aris
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email aefting@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-3471
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=226
Project Information
Title Determining Toxic Algal Bloom Frequency in Nebraska Lakes
Description Research has been conducted in the Sandhills to determine whether or not there has been an increase in toxic algal blooms. Four different lakes were cored to identify the lakes' history of toxic algal blooms and determine whether there is an increase in toxin concentrations post 1950.
Project Support Layman Fund
Project Website
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Wedin, Dave
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email dwedin1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-9608
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=128
Project Information
Title Sand Hills Biocomplexity Project
Other(s) Vitaly Zlotnik, Department of Geosciences, vzlotnik1@unl.edu. 
Description

The Sand Hills, the largest sand dune area in the Western Hemisphere, is now stabalized by native grasses. This was not always the case. The Sand Hills have mobilized several times over the last 10,550 years. Major droughts destabilized significant portions of the Sand Hills as recently as 1000 years ago. The stability of the Sand Hills affects not only hundreds of cattle ranches, but also the recharge of the High Plains Aquifer. Of the total groundwater stored in this vast aquifer, 65% occurs in Nebraska and over half of that lies under the Sand Hills. The groundwater connection is obvious throughout the region. Due to the high water table, interdunal valleys in portions of the Sand Hills contain extensive complexes of lakes, wetlands, and naturally sub-irrigated wet meadows, which together cover over 10% of the landscape.

The Sand Hills Biocomplexity Project is a major federal project led by Professor Wedin. The project is aimed at testing whether:

  1. Evapotranspiration (ET) from wet valleys buffers the impacts of short-term drought on upland grasslands through local climate feedbacks. (resistance stability)
  2. When wetlands go dry, the combined effect of lost upland grass cover and lost wetland ET creates a desertification feedback that amplifies drought impacts.
  3. Since subregions of the Sand Hills differ in their extent of interdunal wetlands, subregions respond differently to paleo and historic droughts, thus enabling landowners to prepare for future droughts.
  4. Increased groundwater recharge when dunes are bare hastens the rise of groundwater levels, which, together with the rapid recovery of warm season grasses, restabilizes the dunes. (resilience stability)

The project's Grassland Destabilization Experiment (GDEX) is studying what happens to a Sand Hills dune when the vegetation dies. Researchers have created 10 circular plots at the Barta Brothers Ranch, each 120 meters in diameter, and used herbicide to kill all the vegetation on several of them. The plots are kept clear of vegetation, so that information on vegetation coverage, root mass, soil organic matter, and sand movement may be monitored and recorded to determine the stability of the plots. Results indicate that the Sand Hills may be more stable than previously thought; that is, ersosion is just starting to occur were vegetation was killed two years ago. Additional studies are needed to determine what happens when sand dunes become mobile.

As a part of this project, Professor Vitaly Zlotnik carries out research on groundwater recharge, hydraulic properties of the dune cover, and the climate change effects on groundwater recharge.

Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website http://sandhills-biocomplexity.unl.edu/
Report
Current Status n/a
Topic Wetlands
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Allen, Craig
Unit Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Email callen3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-0229
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=647
Project Information
Title Missouri River Mitigation: Implementation of Amphibian Monitoring and Adaptive Management for Wetland Restoration Evaluation
Other(s) Martin Simon, Benedictine College; Michelle Hellman, School of Natural Resources, michelle.hellman@huskers.unl.edu; Ashley Vanderham, School of Natural Resources, avanderham@huskers.unl.edu 
Description

Data are being collected to determine what constitutes a successful wetland restoration, given the desired goals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Herpetofauna primarily amphibians are being used as indicators of wetland success. This will be accomplished by quantifying the occurrence and recruitment of amphibians at existing mitigation sites and formulating models of quality wetland restorations. These models will be used by managers in future restorations and for adaptive management approaches to the design of new wetland restorations. The study area is the Missouri River corridor of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

This project is a multi-institutional monitoring program that focuses on tightly linking monitoring with hypothesis testing in an adaptive framework. The design consists of frog call surveys to determine occupancy rates for a large number of wetlands on numerous restoration properties, coupled with intensive sampling of frogs, turtles and salamanders to assess abundance and recruitment on eight restored wetland complexes in four states. The focus areas for the Nebraska Coop Unit are three Missouri River wetland complexes located from Falls City to Omaha, Nebraska. Project collaborators at Benedictine College in Kansas are focusing on the Benedictine Wetlands in Kansas.

Click here to read a fact sheet on this project

Project Support United States Geological Survey, United States Army Corps of Engineers
Project Website http://snr.unl.edu/necoopunit/research.main.html#missouririvermitigation
Report
Current Status Underway
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Pegg, Mark
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email mpegg2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6824
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=739
Project Information
Title Habitat Usage of Missouri River Paddlefish Project
Description Sediment from the Niobrara River has created a delta area near the headwaters of Lewis and Clark Lake, the reservoir formed by Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River. This sediment aggregation has reduced reservoir volume and threatens to fill the reservoir; therefore, restoration of reservoir capacity has been proposed by means of high-velocity water releases from upstream mainstem dams. Biologists, however, have reported that this delta area may serve as spawning grounds for native fishes like paddlefish, and may provide suitable spawning habitat for federally endangered pallid sturgeon. This situation has created a unique paradox where information is needed to provide insight into fulfilling both the river management needs and biological needs in the Missouri River. This project will use paddlefish telemetry to study spawning success.

Click here to read Brenda Pracheil's dissertation on Paddlefish populations

Project Support Nebraska Environmental Trust
Project Website
Report Pracheil et al_Fisheries_2012.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Stansbury, John
Unit Civil Engineering, UNO
Email jstansbury2@unl.edu
Phone 402-554-3896
Web Page http://www.civil.unl.edu/faculty/John-Stansbury
Project Information
Title Multi-Criteria Assessment of Habitat Restoration for the Missouri River Project
Other(s) Istvan Bogardi (retired), ibogardi1@unl.edu 
Description

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in cooperation with other agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently planning, designing, and constructing projects designed to restore habitat in and along the Missouri River. The primary focus of the projects is restoration of habitat for three endangered or threatened species: pallid sturgeon, least tern, and piping plover. Management and restoration of the Missouri River is a complex endeavor that affects many people with many and often conflicting priorities. In addition, restoration of habitat is a complex process with many and often conflicting objectives. For example, habitat restoration activities for one species may interfere with habitat needs for another species. Finally, habitat restoration success is difficult to measure, in part because there is often a significant lag time between the restoration activity and the response by the target species. Therefore, a method is being developed, using multi-criteria assessment tools, to help the USACE and cooperators assess the status and the progress of the habitat restoration program.

The goal of this project is to develop a multi-criteria assessment tool that can be used to assess the overall status and progress of the habitat restoration efforts on the Missouri River. To achieve this goal, the first step will be to determine the requirements for habitat (e.g., water depths, velocities, bottom substrates, etc) for the endangered species. Then measurement criteria (i.e., what data will need to be collected to assess the availability of the required habitat) will be established. Finally, a multi-criteria assessment tool will be developed and used to integrate the conditions of the various measurement criteria (depths, velocities, etc.) to gain an understanding of the overall quality and quantity of habitat at different points in time.

Project Support U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Wildlife
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Young, Chelsey
Unit Biology, UNK
Email youngca2@unk.edu
Phone 507-469-8284
Web Page
Project Information
Title A range-wide assessment of plains topminnow (Fundulus sciadicus) distribution and potential threats
Other(s) W. Wyatt Hoback, Biology UNK, hobackww@unk.edu; Keith Koupal, Biology UNK; Justin Haas 
Description The plains topminnow, Fundulus sciadicus, was once distributed from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, north to South Dakota and as far south as Oklahoma. Two centers of distribution are recognized. One is centered in Nebraska and the second is centered in Missouri. The geographic range of plains topminnow has decreased in the past decades. Plains topminnow are now considered a species of special concern in the state of Nebraska and listed as a Tier 1 species in the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project. Elimination of plains topminnow populations has been associated with introduction of invasive species, as well as loss of backwater habitats due to drought and lowered water tables. The objective of this project is to provide an updated assessment of plains topminnow distribution and population status as compared to all available historical records. Between 2004 and the present, sampling of plains topminnow revealed that in Nebraska 77% of historic Nebraska sites no longer contain plains topminnow populations. The sampling of remaining historic sites in Nebraska and neighboring states will continue in the 2009 sampling season.
Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report topminnow_range_reduction.pdf
Current Status Completed