NU Water-Related Research in the Lower Loup NRD

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

Displaying 22 records found for Lower Loup NRD


Topic Climate
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shulski, Martha
Unit High Plains Regional Climate Center
Email mshulski3@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6711
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=474
Project Information
Title High Plains Regional Climate Center - Monitoring Stations
Description

As the demand for water grows, it is important to have reliable information for various assessments, such as drought, fire, and water development. In an effort to understand the surface hydrology and the water and energy interactions at the surface, scientists with the High Plains Regional Climate Center have installed a series of monitoring stations that collect temperature, humidity, solar radiation, windspeed and direction, soil temperature, precipitation and soil moisture data. These stations take hourly and daily data which can be used to calculate evapotranspiration and water balance terms. Monitoring equipment is located near Higgins Ranch, Sparks, Merritt, Ainsworth, New Port, Barta, Gudmundsens, Halsey, and Merna.

Volunteers supplement these stations by using rain gauges to monitor precipitation; volunteers enter their data online as part of the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network (NeRAIN). In total volunteers from 40 states contribute precipitation data to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). The CoCoRaHS network has been incorporated into the Applied Climate Information System (ACIS), which allows resource managers, researchers, and decision-makers to better access data.

Project Support National Climatic Data Center
Project Website http://hprcc.unl.edu
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Crop Nutrient Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Schepers, Jim
Unit Agronomy and Horticulture
Email Jim.Schepers@ARS.USDA.GOV
Phone 402-472-1513
Web Page http://www.agronomy.unl.edu/newfacultystaff/directory/schepers.html
Project Information
Title Managing Nitrogen Fertilizer Applications to Protect Groundwater
Description USDA-ARS scientists have research projects near Shelton, near Giltner, and about seven miles north of Central City which deal with protecting groundwater by carefully managing nitrogen fertilizer applications to corn and wheat. One cropping system involves seed corn production, which is assumed to be environmentally unfriendly. Our strategy is to plant wheat as a scavenger crop after the seed corn is harvested. In early June, soybeans are inter-seeded into the wheat. Both wheat and soybean function as scavenger crops and essentially eliminate the potential for nitrate leaching. A component of this management strategy is to use active (no sunlight required) crop canopy sensors to monitor plant chlorophyll (greenness) and biomass (vigor) while driving through the field to determine if more nitrogen is required by wheat or corn and automatically applying additional fertilizer while at that spot in the field. These technologies allow producers to use the crop as a bio-sensor of nitrogen needs and optimize nitrogen supplied by other sources (soil organic matter, manure, irrigation water).
Project Support U.S. Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service
Project Website http://www.nue.okstate.edu/
Report
Current Status n/a
Topic Crop Water Use
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Determining the effect of the amount and timing of irrigation on corn production, using subsurface drip irrigation (SDI)
Description

It is important to learn how to grow crops with limited amounts of water and to determine crop water use with SDI. In 2007 a field study with corn was initiated that will be continued in 2008 and 2009. The treatments are:

  • Rainfed (no irrigation)
  • 0.50 ET (meet 50% of evapotranspiration requirements) throughout the season
  • 0.75 ET throughout the season
  • 1.00 ET throughout the season
  • no irrigation at first, 1.00 ET during 2 weeks around tasseling, then no more irrigation after that
  • 0.50 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 2 weeks around tasseling, then 0.50 ET after that
  • 0.50 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 3 weeks around tasseling, then 0.50 ET after that
  • 0.50 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 4 weeks around tasseling, then 0.50 ET after that
  • 0.75 ET at first, 1.00 ET during 4 weeks around tasseling, then 0.75 ET after that

Using SDI may not only increase water use efficiency, but also nutrient use efficiency when applying nutrients through the SDI system. This study was conducted at WCREC to assess the effect of different in-season nitrogen (N) application (via SDI) timings on corn production and residual soil nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N). We evaluated the effect of three N application timing methods at two N application rates (UNL recommended rate and the UNL rate minus 20%) on corn grain, biomass yield, and end-of-study distribution of residual soil NO3-N.

In 2006, there were no significant differences in corn grain yields between the two N application rates. In 2007, the grain yield under the UNL recommended N rate was significantly higher (3.0 bu/ac) than under the UNL-minus-20% N rate. In both years, grain yield and biomass production for the N application timing treatments were not significantly different. The lack of response to different N application timing treatments indicates that there is flexibility in N application timing for corn production under SDI. This two-year field study was published in Soil Science.

Impact: This study helps us better understand the most appropriate times to apply N with SDI (underground fertigation). If applied at inappropriate times, nitrates are not used by the crop and may leach into groundwater. If N use is minimized, the producer's cost can be minimized.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report SDI_Corn_Yield.pdf
Current Status Completed
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 Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Kranz, Bill
Unit Northeast Research and Extension Center
Email wkranz1@unl.edu
Phone 402-584-3857
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/web/bse/wkranz1
Project Information
Title Demonstration Projects and Field Tours
Other(s) Charles Shapiro, Northeast Research and Extension Center, cshapiro1@unl.edu. 
Description

A project associated with using beef manure compost on sandy soils is being conducted near Pierce and Plainview as a means of improving soil quality, using a beef production by-product in crop production and reducing commercial fertilizer application. The data collected at these two sites has been presented by Charles Shapiro at several educational meetings across northeast Nebraska. The project shows a slight improvement is some parameters, but the cost of transportation reduces the quantity of compost that can be transported and so the effect on soil physical properties is minimal, although soil phosphorus levels are increasing.

Near Pierce a project funded by the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District aims to demonstrate the impact of reducing season long water application by 10% on corn yield. At this site the farmer uses a computer control panel to speed up or slow down his center pivot automatically to apply 10% less or 10% more than his normal application, respectively. Nitrogen is being applied at three different rates to demonstrate the adequacy of the UNL Calculation Procedure.

Near Brunswick a project funded by the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District aims to develop improved nitrogen credit following soybeans in a corn-soybean rotation. Six nitrogen treatments and 6 different cropping sequences have been imposed to determine the nitrogen credit from soybeans on sandy soils. This project will run through the 2008 growing season. To date data suggests lower nitrogen credits on the sands than the silt loam soils in eastern Nebraska.

Project Support Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District, Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuous
Topic Extension
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title West Central Research and Extension Center - Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory
Other(s) Jim Goeke, West Central Research and Extension Center, jgoeke1@unl.edu 
Description

The University of Nebraska West Central Research and Extension Center is a research and extension facility of the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR). It serves as the site for field-based research and extension involving faculty and graduate students in eight IANR departments. West Central consists of approximately 1,800 acres of which 1,100 acres are in pasture with the remaining in dryland and irrigated cropping systems. West Central delivers research-based education and information to citizens throughout the state. Extension specialists and educators are committed to excellence, conducting educational programs customized to meet the needs of Nebraskans. These educational programs, delivered via a variety of methods, are offered through federal, state and county partnership arrangements and provide research-based information and other educational resources to the 20-county West Central district and beyond.

The Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory (GSL), a 13,000 acre working ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, is also part of West Central. GSL is situated over a relatively small portion of the High Plains Aquifer where saturated thickness exceeds 1000 feet. GSL also features a valley with a live stream, a drained valley with wet meadows, an adjacent lake, dry valleys, and many dune types so that literally all the surface and groundwater locales in the Sandhills are represented and available for research. In 2004 a U.S. Climate Reference Network station was established at GSL to provide future long-term observations of temperature and precipitation accurate enough to detect present and future climate change.

Project Support Varies according to program and project - for more information see http://www.westcentral.unl.edu
Project Website http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/gudmundsen/
Report
Current Status Continuous
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 Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Billesbach, Dave
Unit Biological Systems Engineering
Email dbillesbach1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-7961
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/faculty/Billesbach.shtml
Project Information
Title Effects of Precipitation and Groundwater on Grassland Productivity in the Nebraska Sand Hills
Other(s) Tim Arkebauer, Agronomy and Horticulture, tarkebauer1@unl.edu 
Description

In the Sand Hills the depth to groundwater greatly affects the types and amounts of grasses that grow there, suggesting a strong linkage between groundwater, precipitation, and grass productivity. Wet meadows are where the water rable is usually less than a meter below the surface and make up about 10% of the Sand Hills land area. Dry valleys are where the water table never intersects the land surface and usually lies several meters below; dry valleys also make up about 10% of the Sand Hills land area. Except for lakes and wetlands (about 2% of the land area), the rest of the Sand Hills is dunal uplands where the water table is many meters below the surface.

It has long been assumed that the Sand Hills are a recharge zone for the underlying aquifer and that local precipitation more than accounts for the water usage of surface vegetation. This research measures how much water enters the Sand Hills ecosystem (via precipitation) and how much water leaves the land surface - the Sand Hills surface water balance. Research shows that Sand Hills surface water is lost primarily through evapotranspiration, or surface water evaporation and plant transpiration, with the relative size of each varying greatly depending on the time of year and other factors, such as drought. Research also shows that: 1) the most water is transferred to the atmosphere from wet meadows, followed by dry valleys and dunal uplands; 2) the close proximity to the aquifer acts as a buffer to both wet meadows and dry valleys, but not to dunal uplands; and 3) groundwater buffering is most affected by regional rather than local precipitation events. The long-term goal of this project is to study and better understand the relationship between water and the vegetative land cover (carbon).

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report Billesbach_SandHills_Water.pdf
Current Status Continuing
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 Hu, Qi (Steve)
Unit School of Natural Resources
Email qhu2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-6642
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=54
Project Information
Title The Missing Term in Surface Water Balance in the Great Plains
Other(s) Jinsheng You, School of Natural Resources, jyou2@unl.edu 
Description

It has been recognized that the surface water budget derived from the NCEP-NCAR Reanalysis and other existing climatic datasets is not in balance in the Great Plains region. This imbalance is shown by large surface evaporation which cannot be supported by source terms in the budget equation. This large surface evaporation is always appearing in calculations from the surface and soil moisture conditions specified in those datasets. This imbalance poses serious uncertainties to diagnostic and modeling studies of energy and carbon balances and to our understanding of atmospheric/climatic processes in this region. An effort aiming at identifying sources causing the water budget imbalance has been underway and some preliminary results have been obtained. A main source of the imbalance arises from the calculation of the surface evaporation. It was found that the surface and soil water specified in those datasets (developed from integrations of both observations and model simulations) is biased because of inaccurate descriptions of the soil properties, particularly the sandy soils in the Nebraska Sand Hills. A revised model with more accurate descriptions of the soils and soil hydrology in the Sand Hills has produced a balance surface water budget in the Sand Hills.

Project presentation at the 2008 Water Colloquium

Project Support Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Project Website
Report
Current Status
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Hubbard, Kenneth
Unit High Plains Regional Climate Center
Email khubbard1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8294
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=55
Project Information
Title Assessment of Soil Moisture Dynamics of the Nebraska Sandhills Using Long-Term Measurements and a Hydrology Model
Other(s) Venkataramana Sridhar; David Wedin, School of Natural Resources, dwedin1@unl.edu 
Description Soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and other major water balance components were investigated for six Nebraska Sandhills locations during a 6 year period (1998-2004) using a hydrological model. Annual precipitation in the study period ranged from 330 to 580 mm. Soil moisture was measured continuously at 10, 25, 50, and 100 cm depth at each site. Model estimates of surface (0-30 cm), subsurface (30-91 cm), and root zone (0-122 cm) soil moisture were generally well correlated with observed soil moisture. The correlations were poorest for the surface layer, where soil moisture values fluctuated sharply, and best for the root zone as a whole. Modeled annual estimates of evapotranspiration and drainage beneath the rooting zone showed large differences between sites and between years. Despite the Sandhills' relatively homogeneous vegetation and soils, the high spatiotemporal variability of major water balance components suggest an active interaction among various hydrological processes in response to precipitation in this semiarid region.
Project Support National Science Foundation, High Plains Regional Climate Center
Project Website
Report Hubbard06.pdf
Current Status Published in Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, September/October 2006, 463-473
Topic Sandhills Studies and Modeling
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Loope, David
Unit Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Email dloope1@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-2647
Web Page http://eas.unl.edu/people/faculty_page.php?lastname=Loope&firstname=David&type=REG
Project Information
Title Large Wind Shift on the Great Plains During the Medieval Warm Period
Other(s) Venkataramana Sridhar; James Swinehart, School of Natural Resources, jswinehart1@unl.edu; Joseph Mason, University of Wisconsin, Madison, mason@geography.wisc.edu; Robert Oglesby, School of Natural Resources, roglesby2@unl.edu; Clinton Rowe, Geosciences, crowe1@unl.edu 
Description Spring-Summer winds from the south move moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Plains. Growing season rainfall sustains prairie grasses that keep large dunes in the Nebraska Sandhills immobile. Longitudinal dunes built during the Medieval Warm Period (800-100 yBP) record the last major period of sand mobility. These dunes are oriented NW-SE and are composed of cross-strata with bi-polar dip directions. The trend and structure of these dunes directly record a prolonged drought that was initiated and sustained by a historically unprecedented shift of Spring-Summer atmospheric circulation over the Plains: southerly flow of moist air was replaced by dry southwesterly flow.
Project Support National Science Foundation
Project Website
Report Loope Wind Shift.pdf
Current Status Published in Science November 2007 318:1284-1286
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 Survey
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Joseph Hamm
Unit jhamm2@nebraska.edu
Phone 402-472-5678
Web Page http://ppc.unl.edu/
Project Information
Title Platte River Habitat Partnership Survey
Other(s) Lisa Pytlik Zillig, Public Policy Center, lpytlikz@nebraska.edu, Alan Tomking, Public Policy Center, atomkins@nebraska.edu 
Description

Nebraska’s native prairies are a valued resource and under constant anthropogenic demand and degradation. By engaging land owners in voluntary programs, the Platte River Habitat Partnership aims to restore and enhance this important natural resource. In this project, the Public Policy Center conducted a survey to assess land owners’ perceptions of the Platte River Habitat Partnership to help direct the Partnership’s second phase. Specifically, land owners who live in the region covered by the Partnership but did not participate, and those that did participate in the Partnership were surveyed in order to answer four key questions: 1. How knowledgeable are these land owners about the Partnership? 2. What is the nature of these land owners’ interactions with the Partnership? 3. How is the Partnership itself generally perceived by these land owners? 4. What would encourage land owners who had not participated in the Partnership to participate?

Project Support The Nature Conservancy
Project Website http://ppc.unl.edu/project/PlatteRiverHabitatPartnershipSurvey
Report PRHP_Report.pdf
Current Status Completed
Topic Wastewater
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Bartelt-Hunt, Shannon
Unit Civil Engineering
Email sbartelt2@unl.edu
Phone 402-554-3868
Web Page http://www.engineering.unl.edu/civil/faculty/ShannonBartelt-Hunt.shtml
Project Information
Title The occurrence of illicit and therapeutic pharmaceuticals in wastewater effluent and surface waters in Nebraska
Other(s) Daniel D. Snow, School of Natural Resources, dsnow1@unl.edu; Teyona Damon; Johnette Shockley; Kyle Hoagland, School of Natural Resources, khoagland1@unl.edu 
Description The occurrence and estimated concentration of twenty illicit and therapeutic pharmaceuticals and metabolites in surface waters influenced by wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharge and in wastewater effluents in Nebraska were determined using Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS). Samplers were installed in rivers upstream and downstream of treated WWTP discharge at Lincoln, Grand Island, and Columbus, downstream of Hastings' WWTP discharge, and from Omaha's effluent channel just prior to it being discharged into the Missouri River. Based on differences in estimated concentrations determined from pharmaceuticals recovered from POCIS, WWTP effluent was found to be a significant source of pharmaceutical loading to the receiving waters. Effluents from WWTPs with trickling filters or trickling filters in parallel with activated sludge resulted in the highest observed in-stream pharmaceutical concentrations. Azithromycin, caffeine, 1,7 - dimethylzanthine, carbamazepine, cotinine, DEET, diphenhydramine, and sulfamethazine were detected at all locations. Methamphetamine, an illicit pharmaceutical, was detected at all but one of the sampling locations, representing only the second report of methamphetamine detected in WWTP effluent and in streams impacted by WWTP effluent.
Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report Bartelt-Hunt_Wastewater.pdf
Current Status Published in Environmental Pollution 2009 157:786-791
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Gitelson, Anatoly
Unit Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies
Email agitelson2@unl.edu
Phone 402-472-8386
Web Page http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/faculty-member.asp?pid=39
Project Information
Title Using Remote Sensing to Detect the Threat of Blue-Green Algae
Description

Remote sensing is a useful tool for providing regulatory officials with the data necessary to make decisions regarding recreational waters. In 2005, CALMIT scientists undertook a collaborative effort with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality aimed at developing a tool to identify lakes where blue-green algae populations are present. The overall purpose was to incorporate those affected lakes into a toxic-algae alert procedure to provide early warnings to the public about the potential danger. This project also served to promote coordination and information sharing about toxic-algae issues among local units of government, lake associations, lake owners, and the public.

Both in-situ (close-range) and remote techniques were employed to detect and quantify in real-time the algal phytoplankton pigment concentration and composition (i.e., chlorophyll-a and phycocyanin in the water column). Two criteria were used to identify lakes and reservoirs with high probability of toxic algae: 1) chlorophyll concentration above 50 mg/m3; and 2) existence of blue green algae (the phycocyanin absorption feature has been used to indicate remotely the presence of blue-green algae). These criteria were tested by analytical assessment of toxic algae and the tests were positive: when the sensor systems indicated high probability of toxins, they were found in water samples.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Project Website http://www.calmit.unl.edu/research.php
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Water Quality
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name van Donk, Simon
Unit West Central Research and Extension Center
Email svandonk2@unl.edu
Phone 308-696-6709
Web Page http://westcentral.unl.edu/web/westcentral/svandonk
Project Information
Title Quantify the extent of vertical hormone movement through vadose zone soils
Description

The extent of exogenous hormone use in beef cattle production, in addition to endogenous hormones, increases the risk of hormone residues entering the environment when manure is applied to soil. This research will provide key information on the environmental fate of hormones commonly found in feedlot cattle manure. This information is critical in developing management practices for concentrated animal feeding operations and farms that will reduce environmental risks associated with land application of manure.

This research will be conducted using the specialized percolation lysimeters research site at the West Central Research and Extension Center during 2008 and 2009. The site contains fourteen percolation lysimeters installed at the center of each of fourteen field plots. Each plot is 40 ft m by 40 ft. Each lysimeter contains an undisturbed soil core with a diameter of 3 ft and a depth of 8 ft and has porous extractors at the bottom, which allows the extraction of leachate from unsaturated soil using a vacuum pump. These lysimeters have been used successfully for several nitrate-leaching experiments. Water samples, which represent the water that is leached from the crop root zone, can be collected at the bottom of these lysimeters and will be used to determine the amounts and types of hormones leaching below the crop root zone. Treatments will consist of treated stockpiled manure, treated compost manure, and a check (no manure application). The manures will be applied to the lysimeters and field areas adjacent to the lysimeters in the spring of 2008 at application rates to satisfy the nitrogen needs of corn based on University of Nebraska recommendations. The check plots will receive commercial nitrogen fertilizer to match the manure N availability. Three treatments and three replications (nine lysimeters in nine plots) will be used for this study.

Wheat will be planted in the lysimeters and adjacent plots during both years. Soil moisture from each plot will be measured weekly at 1 ft depth increments to a depth of 7 ft, using the neutron probe method. Water samples will be collected every three weeks from the lysimeters from April to November in both years. Soil samples will be collected at six depth increments down to a depth of 8 ft, four times between application and October in 2008, and three times from April to August in 2009. To reduce sampling errors created by spatial variability within each plot, five sub-samples will be taken from each depth. The sub-samples will then be mixed to create one composite sample. Background soil profile samples will be taken before the manure is applied. Sampling depths will be increased as needed, based on the confirmed movement of hormones of interest through the soil profile. Soil and leachate samples will only be taken during the periods when the ground is not frozen (April to November), when movement of water is expected.

Project Support n/a
Project Website
Report
Current Status Continuing
Topic Watershed Management
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Jenkins, Allan
Unit Economics
Email
Phone
Web Page
Project Information
Title Middle Platte Socioeconomic Overview
Description This report was published in February 1999 and designed to provide a common body of knowledge to all groups engaged in decisions regarding the Platte River. Recognizing that different decision-makers have different levels of prior knowledge concerning the Platte River, the author attempted to create a document suitable for a range of audiences that also facilitated discussion.
Project Support U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Project Website http://watercenter.unl.edu/PRS/PlatteRiverReports/The%20Platte%20Watershed%20Program.pdf
Report
Current Status Completed
Topic Watershed Project
Project's Primary Contact Information
Name Shelton, David
Unit Biological Systems Engineering and Extension Agricultural Engineer
Email dshelton2@unl.edu
Phone 402-584-3849
Web Page http://bse.unl.edu/dshelton2
Project Information
Title Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Project
Other(s) Rod Wilke, Northeast REC, rwilke2@unl.edu 
Description

Through a several-entity partnership best management practices (BMPs) are being adopted or installed in the Shell Creek Watershed, helping to protect the quality of both surface and ground water. Shell Creek drains approximately 300,000 acres in parts of Boone, Colfax, Madison, and Platte counties, and has a history of flooding that has frequently caused damage along its length. Shell Creek has been on the Nebraska's list of impaired waters for fecal coliform bacteria and other impairments. Soil erosion is a major problem throughout the watershed.

Using a variety of delivery methods, cooperative educational programming led by Extension in the Shell Creek Watershed primarily focuses on: the water quality benefits of (BMPs, management needed to ensure BMP success, and the availability of enhanced and/or special cost-share funding for BMP adoption or installation within targeted areas of the watershed. Key accomplishments since the project was initiated in September 2004 include:

  • Twenty-nine illegal wells were properly decommissioned thus protecting water quality and human health and safety. One of these was a 36-inch diameter, 50-foot deep dug well that the landowner discovered when the front wheel of his tractor dropped into it. He did not know that this well was there, despite having grown up on that farm.
  • Thirty-one sub-standard or failing septic systems were upgraded to current standards. Before upgrading, septic tank effluent was surfacing in at least two of these systems, while another system had no drainfield and the effluent was piped directly to Shell Creek. Over two million gallons of domestic wastewater annually is now being properly treated because of these upgrades, substantially reducing the risks to public health and the environment.
  • Forty-eight producers contracted for the implementation of no-till planting on nearly 6,600 acres of cropland for a period of at least five years. This conversion will result in an estimated soil erosion reduction of over 328,500 tons annually.
  • Fifty-two contracts for buffers and other structural practices were installed on a total of 215 acres of cropland. The conversion of this land to permanent vegetative cover will reduce soil erosion on the order of 3,200 tons per year and provide excellent wildlife habitat. These practices and additional benefits include:
  • five stream-side filter strips installed by three individuals on 38.1 acres that will filter the runoff from approximately 1,200 upslope acres;
  • a 6.0 acre riparian forest buffer that will filter the runoff from approximately 200 upslope acres and may provide future income from the sale of some of the trees that were planted;
  • thirteen grassed waterways, totaling 36.3 acres, installed by six individuals, will filter and direct the runoff from approximately 400 acres of upslope cropland;
  • a nearly 5-acre field windbreak that may contribute to increased yields by reducing wind velocity on the adjacent crop;
  • three buffers that provide 31.9 acres of habitat especially suited for northern bobwhite quail;
  • and contour buffers totaling 17.2 acres on two farms that will help reduce soil erosion by slowing the flow of runoff water and trapping sediment carried by the runoff.

In aggregate, over $1 million in incentive, land rental, cost-sharing, and other payments is being infused into the Shell Creek Watershed as a direct result of this programming. These payments include:

  • $289,800 for the implementation of no-till planting systems and associated management practices.
  • $198,500 for the installation of various types of conservation buffers.
  • $40,700 to upgrade failing septic systems to meet current standards.
  • $10,050 to decommission out-of-service water wells.

This educational effort and special cost-share funding is a partnership among USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; UNL Extension; PrairieLand Resource, Conservation and Development Council; Shell Creek Watershed Improvement Group; Natural Resources Conservation Service; Pheasants Forever; and the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District.

Project Support Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Section 319 Program (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Nebraska Environmental Trust.
Project Website http://www.newman.esu8.org/vnews/display.v/SEC/Activities%3E%3EWatershed%20Project
Report Shelton_Buffers.pdf
Current Status Completed
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