MORESE at UTSA

MORESE Research


Statement About Research Projects

Below are participating faculty mentors and potential projects that you may choose from. You are encouraged (but not required) to contact potential faculty mentors to discuss your interests and possible projects (including those listed here or any other you may develop with your mentor). You may do this prior to submitting the application or after you have been accepted into the program.

All accepted students should expect to attend some outreach activities and our seminars in regular semesters, and a field trip in the summer semester. All expenses for the field trip will be paid by the program.

While most internships will be completed over a 10-week period during the summer months, the timing is flexible and may be altered to fewer hours over more weeks, in the summer or during the academic year. Dispersement of the $3000 stipend will be spread over the whole period. Outstanding students are also encouraged to continue their research beyond the summer period (and may continue to accept stipend on monthly basis if funding available) under the mentoring faculty's satisfaction and willingness for continuing advises. Outstanding students may receive stipend for consecutive summers.

Each funded student will be required to submit a final report on the project (due upon completion of the stipend-term) and to participate in a student colloquium in the Fall semester following the summer internship.

All students are encouraged to submit abstracts for national or local meetings—funding for student travel to conferences is available through the program.

 

Summer 2013

Dr. Samer Dessouky (samer.dessouky@utsa.edu)

Innovative Eco-Concrete Sustainable Design by Increasing CO2 Absorption

The US department of Energy recent report has considered Texas the lead state in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. Texas produces 1.5 trillion pounds of CO2 annually. This research program aims to develop a portland cement concrete (PCC) mix capable of storing atmospheric CO2. The CO2 will be dissolved in water and introduced to the mix components. The induced CO2 will replace the air voids in-between the mix when the PCC starts to harden.

Influence of Antioxidant Additives to Reduce Cracking in Asphalt Pavements

This research studies the effect of antioxidant (AOX) additives to mitigate aging (oxidation) in asphalt roadways. The ultimate goal of this study is to develop long-lasting roadways networks that can save billions of dollars annually to tax payers and state agencies. Antioxidant additives tend to reduce the mechanism of aging by slowing down the oxidization process induced in the bitumen at high temperatures. Hindered Phenol, hydrated lime and Vitamin E are among the wide used antioxidants in organic oil products.

Dr. Alan Dutton (alan.dutton@utsa.edu)

Evolution of Porosity and Permeability in the Edwards Aquifer – Insights from Geochemical Models of the Mixing of Fresh and Saline Waters

Desalination of brackish groundwater continues to be of interest in South-Central Texas given a projected long-term growth in demand for water supplies and many incentives to add diversified unconventional sources of water. The brackish part of the Edwards aquifer is of interest as an additional source of new water.

The interface between the fresh and saline or brackish water in the Edwards aquifer is poorly understood. Hydrogeologic characteristics of the brackish-water zone have been little studied because the focus of data collection and analysis has been on the potable freshwater zone. It is reasonable to ask whether brackish water, a potential source of new water, could be harvested in a sustainable manner without threatening the quantity and quality of the freshwater resource. A geochemical study of the brackish-to-saline part of the Edwards aquifer probably will yield results to help better manage the Edwards aquifer.

The proposed study considers the geochemistry of mixing between waters of various salinities. Its goal is better understanding of the dissolution and precipitation of calcite and dolomite in the mixing zone between the freshwater and very saline parts of the Edwards aquifer and insight into whether porosity and permeability of rock in the mixing zone are being enhanced. The study approach is to simulate mixing using the geochemical modeling program PHREEQC; it is a well-documented and user-friendly public-domain software available online from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Step 1 of the study will be to reproduce geochemical models for the solubility of calcite and dolomite in mixtures of freshwater and seawater in equilibrium with calcite and dolomite. This has been presented as an explanation for cave development in coastal carbonate rocks of Florida, the Yucatan, and elsewhere. This step will show that the model in this study is being correctly posed. Step 2 will consider mixing between freshwater, seawater, and formation brines with salinities of > 100,000 mg/L, in equilibrium with calcite and dolomite. The goal of step 2 is to consider what diagenetic changes might be taking place in the Modern mixing zone of the Edwards aquifer, which has salinities between 1000 and 10,000 mg/L and is the target of brackish-water production for desalination. This model also can consider the geochemical requirements for dedolomitization, which has been documented in the literature as a diagenetic process that creates porosity in the deeply buried Edwards aquifer.

Research products are planned for presentation in a MORE Science seminar and in the Fall 2013 COS Research Conference.

Dr. Yongli Gao (yongli.gao@utsa.edu)

Sinkhole Hazard Assessment Using GIS and Geostatistical Tools

Sinkholes are closed depressions on land surface and serve as direct links between the surface and the underlying aquifers. Surface contamination can enter the aquifer system within days or even minutes in a karst terrain. An additional hazard associated with sinkholes is the danger of the catastrophic surface collapse. Within seconds or over a period of a few days, large sinkholes can develop and destroy surface structures. The primary goal of this project is to develop karst feature database and tools for resource management and hazard assessment using GIS and spatial analysis tools. High resolution LiDAR data are also available for sinkhole hazard assessment in selected karst regions.

Investigating Surface Water and Groundwater Interactions of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer System

Carbonate aquifers such as the Edwards-Trinity aquifer system are highly vulnerable to rapid ground-water contamination. The fundamental scientific goal of this research is to study what controls groundwater flow in different types of carbonate settings in the San Antonio segment of Edwards Aquifer. This research project aims to measure and simulate groundwater flow, contaminant transport, and to delineate groundwater basins in central Texas. Different tracers such as fluorescent dyes, stable isotopes, hydrograph, temperature, and ionic concentrations will be used to study surface water and groundwater interactions.

Reconstructing High Precision Paleoclimate Records of Speleothem Samples from Southern Appalachian Region

Speleothems (cave deposits) are recognized by scientists as well-preserved archives of information about past climate, vegetation, hydrology, and landscape evolution. They can be precisely dated in calendar years using U-series dating during the past 0.5 Ma. The primary objective of this research project is to assemble a calibrated, highly-resolved composite record of decadal- to centennial-scale climate change from the mid-latitudes of eastern North America that extends across the last four interglacial/glacial cycles. Students involved in this project will conduct stable isotope and trace metal analysis on speleothems collected from southern Appalachian caves.

Dr. Jie Huang (jie.huang@utsa.edu)

Experimental Study of Soil Arching Effect under Cyclic Loading

Soil arching is a popularly geotechnical phenomenon in soil mass such as tunnels, underground man-made structures, and retaining walls. The soil arching affects the stress distribution, and has great influence on the design of various structures. Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the soil arching, which play a significant role in improving the understanding on this topic, such as Terzaghi’s experiment in early 1940s. However, the completed theories are based on static loading tests. We propose a study to investigate the soil arching phenomenon under cyclic loading condition. In this study, we build a test box with trapdoor at the bottom, which can be lowered down to simulate differential settlement. The study is performed on a 4.5 x 4.5 ft2 steel shaking table with a payload of 100 kips. The test box is rigidly attached to the shaking table. The motion is controlled by FlexTest SE – MTS, connected with a computer. The cyclic loading is input with pre-determined amplitude, frequency and duration. The soil is ideal and granular, which is represented by cylindrical aluminum bars. The aluminum bars have the uniform length of 2”, but different diameter of 1/4”, 1/2” and 3/4”. The experiment begins with labeling each medium and large bar, and then mixing bars proportionally by weight to represent different soil gradation. A layer of nonwoven geotextile is placed at base. The box is filled up with bars to a specific height. Ratio of (height) over (trapdoor’s length) needs to be determined. A trapdoor is lowered down to simulate the differential settlement. A DSLR camera is setup about 3 ft away from the test tank to track the movement of aluminum bars during cyclic loading. Images are taken before and after the each test to differentiate the displacement between bars. During the test, continuous pictures are taken to track the movement path.

Dr. Drew Johnson (drew.johnson@utsa.edu)

Nanofluid Filtraion

This study will investigate ability for microfiltration membranes to remove nanoparticles from water. The student will perform bench scale laboratory testing of water samples that contain nanoparticles. The student will learn to use computer data acquisition systems to monitor filter performance and collect research data related to minimizing membrane fouling during filtration processes.

Dr. John Joseph (john.joseph@utsa.edu)

Environmental Science Support for Rural Communities Contesting Unjust Industrial Practices

Petroleum and precious metals mining, logging, and other industrial practices have played an important role in the technological advancement of the world. Yet when the practice occurs in communities without their permission and adversely affects them without recompense, the practice is unjust. If communities choose to contest the practice, environmental data must be collected, analyzed, and synthesized to communicate the harmful impact to the general public or in a court of law.

In this MORESE project, at least one such rural community which shares with the MORESE participant a common language will be identified. The Internet will be explored for available satellite imagery and other available data. Relevant statistical and/or deterministic models will be identified. After a preliminary assessment, communication with the community will be sought to assess the mutuality of interest in contesting the injustice and for acquisition of additional data. An actual commitment to the community from the MORESE participant and/or the participant’s mentor would occur at a later stage, if involvement is welcomed by the community.

Identifying such rural communities may be achieved through reviewing the listings of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or other organizations working for human rights. Such listings will occasionally identify persons incarcerated or otherwise persecuted for voicing objections to industrial practices that threaten their community. One might also identify such communities through discussions with UTSA anthropologists, such as Dr. Michael L. Cepek (Ecuador) and Dr. K. Jill Fleureit (US/Mexico borderlands).

I anticipate that this project would greatly enhance the meaning that the MORESE participant finds in academic coursework, and would be of public service in the U.S. or abroad.

Dr. Lance L. Lambert (lance.lambert@utsa.edu)

Phyletic and Paleoecologic analysis of Micro-Ornamentation in the Conodonta

This project will analyze whether various forms of micro-ornamentation on conodont fossils are adapted to particular paleoenvironments, and to what degree their distribution is controlled by evolutionary relationships. This project should appeal to students interested in fossils, paleoecology, and complex pattern recognition.

Cladistic Analysis of Selected Lower-Level Conodont Taxa

The analysis of conodont relationships by cladistic methods has only recently begun. Most studies have focused on higher-level taxa to understand major evolutionary relationships. This project will focus on species-level taxa to better understand population variation and dispersal patterns. This project should appeal to students interested in fossils, diversity, and computer-assisted analysis.

Ammonoid Preparation and Preliminary Analysis Techniques

Before fossils can be studied, matrix materials must be removed and the specimens prepared for analysis. This project will focus on getting ammonoid fossils out of rock and preparing them for study, and then doing basic statistical analyses of the specimens. This project should appeal to students that like to get covered in dust and dirt, like to work with their hands and simple machines, and that are patient enough to work fossils out of harder rocks.

Dr. Xiaofeng Liu (xiaofeng.liu@utsa.edu)

Laboratory Experiments on Gravity Currents

Gravity current happens very often in nature. It is caused by the density difference of fluids, such as hot and cold fronts in the weather systems. Other examples of gravity current include sand storms and river plumes into ocean. The later is of great interest to oil and gas companies in finding best drilling spots. In this project, the student will conduct laboratory experiments in a small scale flume in the hydraulics lab. With the help of graduate students, he/she will learn how to setup the flume, taking velocity measurements using ADV (Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter), image/video processing, etc.

Scanning and Analysis of a 3D Digital Gravel and River Rock Repository

The objective of this project is to create a virtual repository of gravels and river rocks found in natural rivers and streams. The student will have the opportunity to use the 3D Laser Scanner in our group and learn to use computer graphics software to reconstruct the 3D surface. The student will also perform analysis on the properties of the gravels and rocks, such as volume, equivalent diameter, shape, etc. This project will contribute to our understanding of how rivers develop and shape the landscape.

Dr. Xin Miao (XinMiao@MissouriState.edu)
(a visiting professor here at the Department of Geological Sciences)

Detection of Melt Pond from Aerial Photos through Object-Based Remote Sensing Classification

Melt ponds are pools of open water on the surface of sea ice in the warmer months. They have a significant influence on Earth's radiation balance since they strongly absorb solar radiation rather than reflecting it as ice does. However, manually delineating of melt pond from is time-consuming and labor-intensive. In this research, students will have an opportunity to learn how to extract melt ponds efficiently from aerial photos through the advanced object-based remote sensing classification method using Matlab, ENVI and ARCGIS programming.

Extract Detailed Terrain Information From High-Resolution Lidar Data

LiDAR as an amazing technique has been broadly used in geological survey, 3D terrain information extraction, urban planning and environmental modeling. Students will have an opportunity to learn the state-of-art LiDAR data processing techniques and get involved in real projects to extract sinkholes or sea ice measurement.

Dr. Ruoting Pei (ruoting.pei@utsa.edu)

Regulation of Cyanotoxin Metabolism by Quorum Sensing in Cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria, also called the blue green algae, are the main microbes that caused harmful algal blooms (HAB) throughout many lake and coastal water bodies in many states in the US, which affected greatly recreation water usage and drinking water quality. Microcystis aeruginosa have been the best studied species of cyanobacteria and its metabolism regarding cyanotoxin synthesis is well known. Despite the negative health and economic consequences of Microcystis aeruginosa, there is little information regarding the regulation of cyanotoxin release. In many types of bacteria, it is generally agreed that quorum sensing, ie, communication among bacteria via small chemical molecules, is the ubiquitous pathway regulating bacteria communication and group behaviors. Quorum sensing in many Gram positive and negative bacteria is via three main categories of signaling molecules, acyl homoserine lactone (AHL), autoinducer-2 (AI-2) and autoinducer peptides (AIP). Recently, AHL molecules have been discovered in Microcystis aeruginosa to regulate bacteria aggregation and biofilm formation. In our preliminary studies, we found that Microcystis aeruginosa can release AI-2 like molecules that affect the gene expression of a reporter E. coli strain. Also it has been reported that mutation for a cyanotoxin synthesis gene, mcyB, resulted in hyperaggregation of Microcystis aeruginosa. Therefore, we hypothesize that cyanotoxin release can cross-talk with the quorum sensing pathway including the AHL and AI-2 pathway. We plan to 1) confirm the presence of AI-2 pathway in wild type Microcystis aeruginosa by isolating AI-2 molecules and perform in vitro functional studies of the isolated AI-2 molecules; 2) study whether mutaions of cyanotoxin synthesis genes in Microcystis aeruginosa, including mcyA, mcyA, mcyD mcyH, affect the AI-2 pathway. Taken together, the information garnered from the proposed research will shed light on the regulation of cyanotoxin release in cyanobacteria and ultimately bring increased health and environmental quality in water body containing Microcystis aeruginosa.

Modulation of the Power Generation in Microbial Fuel Cell by Regulating Biofilm Thickness

Microbial fuel cell (MFC) represents a novel technology that has the potential of simultaneously generating electricity and reducing contamination from waste water, via the redox metabolism of bacteria. In the past decades, there have been great strides in the design of MFC that dramatically increased the power generation efficiency. However, continued improvement of MFC requires a deeper understanding of the biology of the bacteria which formed a layer of biofilm on the electrodes. Geobacter sulfurreducens is one of the best studied bacterial species in MFC. Recently, Bond et al have generated genome wide transposon mutants of Geobacter sulfurreducens with effects in biofilm formation. Because thickness of the biofilm layer on the electrodes has been reported to affect the power density of MF, we hypothesize that many of these bacteria mutants with in vitro biofilm will have decreased thickness of bacterial layer on the electrode, which affected power generation in MFC. Therefore, we plan to 1) screen the various mutants of Geobacter sulfurreducens ,based on the behavior of the bacteria on the electrodes 2) study thickness of bacteria biofilm on the electrodes and correlate the thickness with the power generation. The study will lead to deeper understand of the biology of the bacteria performing power generation in MFC and eventually make MFC highly efficient.

Dr. Hatim Sharif (hatim.sharif@utsa.edu)

Impacts of Heat Island on Rainfall in San Antonio, TX

Several studies described the existence of heat islands within and around major urban areas. Other studies suggested that a downwind rainfall maximum can happen due to urban heat island effects on circulation and on urban roughness effects on low-level moisture convergence. Assessing the spatial structure of rainfall climatology and of urban rainfall modification is challenging using rain gage networks, due either to the limited spatial extent of the network or limited gage density. One application of radar rainfall datasets is the examination of the climatology of rainfall. In this study, mean rainfall and mean number of days exceeding 25 mm of rainfall will be examined over the region surrounding San Antonio metropolitan area for the 2000-2012 period. The aim is find out whether a clear local maximum in mean rainfall and/or mean number of heavy rain days exists within or around the city.

Impacts of Heat Island on Rainfall in Houston, TX

Several studies described the existence of heat islands within and around major urban areas. Other studies suggested that a downwind rainfall maximum can happen due to urban heat island effects on circulation and on urban roughness effects on low-level moisture convergence. Assessing the spatial structure of rainfall climatology and of urban rainfall modification is challenging using rain gage networks, due either to the limited spatial extent of the network or limited gage density. One application of radar rainfall datasets is the examination of the climatology of rainfall. In this study, mean rainfall and mean number of days exceeding 25 mm of rainfall will be examined over the region surrounding Houston metropolitan area for the 2000-2012 period. The aim is find out whether a clear local maximum in mean rainfall and/or mean number of heavy rain days exists within or around the city.

Dr. Jyotsna Sharma (jyotsna.sharma@utsa.edu)

Community Structure of Benthic Nematodes in the Alaskan Arctic

Nematodes are the most abundant and diverse metazoa in the meio- and macro-benthos. Over 90 nematode genera were recovered in the meio and macrobenthos in the Arctic deep-sea Canada Basin and show a variable distribution that is related to water depth and available organic matter (Sharma and Bluhm, 2010; Sharma et al, 2011). The student will conduct research on abundance, biomass and composition of meiofauna invertebrates and nematode communities in benthic samples from the Chukchi and Beaufort sea. One hundred nematodes from each station will be placed on slides and identified to genus level. Nematodes exploit different food sources and therefore the trophic group composition of each nematode community will be determined to identify functional responses to contaminants. Comparison of nematode communities among different stations will assess the effect of environmental factors on diversity and structure of the nematode communities.

Recovery of Nematodes and Meiofauna in Intertidal Sediments Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The student will examine the abundance, biomass and composition of meiofauna invertebrates and nematode communities in intertidal sediments to determine the rate of recovery of the biotic fauna. The functional aspects of the recovery will be studied by looking at the composition of the nematode feeding groups in relation to seasonal changes. The vertical distribution of the nematode fauna in the sediments will also be considered in relation to physic-chemical parameters.

Dr. Heather Shipley (heather.shipley@utsa.edu)

Dissolved Oxygen (DO) Monitoring in Lower Leon Creek

The project will conduct 24hr DO monitoring in portions of Lower Leon Creek. It includes sampling at six different field sites for DO and other water parameters to give a better understanding of DO is this portion of the creek.

Wastewater Treatment Efficiency: Evaluation of Current Treatment Processes and Pollutant Concentrations

This project will examine different treatment processes for wastewater at a tannery. It will consider current practices and suggest improvements to treat water more efficiently and sustainably.

Dr. Marina Suarez (marina.suarez@utsa.edu)

Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Chemostratigraphy of the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation in Eastern Utah

The Cedar Mountain Formation in eastern Utah has become a hotbed of recent dinosaur finds, with numerous new species being named in the past year. Because the Early Cretaceous climate was much warmer than today, the Cedar Mountain Formation is not only important to understanding dinosaur evolution, but to understanding a climate state that transitions to a "greenhouse" world. High resolution stable isotope records are critical to identifying major climate and environmental changes that occurred as well for stratigraphic correlation to global isotope records. There is much debate on the age of the lowest portion of the CMF (the Yellow Cat Member). Carbon isotope chemostratigraphy is one way to help constrain the stratigraphic position of the formation. This goal of this project is to help processes samples collected in previous years for carbon isotopic analyses. This will entail crushing and decarbonating samples and learning to prepare samples for analysis in the stable isotope lab.

Dr. Blake Weissling (blake.weissling@utsa.edu)

Sea Ice Physical Property Parameterization from Ship-Borne Imagery – East and West Antarctica

This project will involve an attempt to parameterize sea ice physical properties from the sea ice observation photographic record collected during the cruise of the icebreaker Oden on the Southern Ocean Expedition 2010-11 and the icebreaker Aurora Australis on the SIPEX 2012 expedition. Sea ice physical properties such as floe size, concentration, ice type, and ice freeboard represent critical physical parameters in indirectly deriving total ice mass or volume as well as ice development history. Ice mass and mass balance data are valuable input to climate models. Several thousand high resolution digital images were collected during the Oden and Australis cruises. These images will be processed using a semi-automated computer script to orthorectify the imagery and to calculate critical ice parameters. The student involved in this project will play a critical role in quality assessing and preparing the images prior to processing, running the processing scripts, as well as in organizing results and summary statistics.

Archaeometric Analysis of Ceramics and Other Artifacts from a 16th Century Spanish Shipwreck in Mexico

This project will involve a laboratory-based analysis of ceramics collected from a recently discovered 16th century shipwreck site in Veracruz state, Mexico. Work will involve petrographic analysis (using polarizing microscopes) of the mineralogy and composition of the ceramics, assistance with a new experimental method for age-dating ceramics using the theory of rehydroxilation kinetics, and assisting with other areas of research involving the artifacts (classification and description). The ideal student for this project is one with a geology background (with coursework in mineralogy) and with a strong interest in archaeology. Work will be conducted at UTSA’s Center for Archaeological Research on West Campus.

Dr. Hongjie Xie (hongjie.xie@utsa.edu)

Antarctic Sea Ice Thickness from ICESat Altimetry

Satellite remote sensing has been the main operational means of monitoring changes in sea ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic, due to the remoteness and vast area of ice coverage. Although sea ice extent has been relatively easy to retrieve by using passive microwave remote sensing, there has been a lack of comprehensive sea ice thickness and snow depth (over sea ice) data available for the Antarctic sea ice. The NASA’s ICESat (2003-2009) has been the only such satellite to derive snow depth and ice thickness for the Antarctic sea ice. During the summer period, the student will (1) know some basics of Antarctic sea ice and ICESat using literature review, (2) learn to process ICESat data using GIS (Geographic Information System, a popular computer-based software), and (3) use algorithms developed in my lab to derive snow depth and ice thickness for the Weddell Sea region for the 2003-2009 period. Some spatial analysis and statistical analysis skills will also be learned and will be used to analyze the final results and write a final report.

Lead Analysis of Arctic or Antarctic Sea Ice Using NASA's Operational IceBridge Data Collected during 2009, 2010, and 2011 campaigns

NASA's IceBridge is a program of airborne remote sensing measurements designed to fill the gap in measurements between the end of the ICESat-1 mission (early 2009) and the launch of the ICESat-2 mission (2016) for both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice and ice sheets. This project will use one of the remote sensing datasets, the very high spatial resolution DMS (digital mapping system) images, to map the open leads of sea ice, in terms of lead dimension (width and length), primary extension direction, and fraction in different areas and years.

Mapping and Analyzing the Martian Highlands Bedrocks (Outcrops)

Numerous exposures of bedrocks (outcrops) have been identified using THEMIS data in a variety of southern highlands terrains, including crater floors and intercrater plains. This study will use THEMIS, and other high spatial and spectral resolution images available (MOC, HRSC, HiRISE, OMEGA, CRISM) to characterize the composition, thermophysical properties, and morphology of these rocks. The purpose of this study is determine the mineralogical composition of the rocks, and detail spatial relationships between defined units, and evaluate possible igneous and sediment processes to recover the Martian history of evolution.


Summer 2012

Prof. Steve Ackley (stephen.ackley@utsa.edu)

Development of Algorithms for Remote Sensing Applications from Analysis of Arctic Sea Ice Thickness and Elevation Data

Measurements of Arctic sea ice surface elevation can be conducted from space or aircraft using Lidar, Radar or Aerial Photography. However, the parameter of interest for climate applications is the ice thickness. Our work will be to take data obtained from ice-based measurements of ice thickness, surface elevation and snow depth to develop relationships or an algorithm where the ice thickness can be computed only knowing the surface parameters. These data sets will then provide a test platform for the predictive accuracy of the algorithm where the elevation data is used as a simulated remote sensing profile as input, the ice thickness is computed and the predictive accuracy of the algorithm is computed by comparison to the field data on ice thickness.

Dr. Kiran Bhaganagar (kiran.bhaganagar@utsa.edu) and Prof. Steve Ackley (stephen.ackley@utsa.edu)

Numerical Modeling of Heat and Mass Transfer in Antarctic Sea Ice

An unsteady, 2-D numerical model solving the conservation of mass, momentum and energy will be developed to understand the heat and mass transfer in Antarctic sea ice by coupling with the experimental data from drifting ice mass balance buoys. The buoyancy will be introduced using a Buossinesq approximation w to couple the energy/momentum equations. The experimental data acquired by Ackley et al (2011) from the Amundsen Sea, Antarcatic, ice pack consists of temperature profiles, air pressure distribution, snow depths, ice thickness. Model/experimental comparison will be performed to understand enhanced bottom melting.

Two undergraduate students will be working on the project. The students will have basic skills in using Matlab, developing numerical methods and fundamentals of fluid/thermal transport. One will work on the construction and running of the numerical model (with K. Bhaganagar), while the other will analyze the heat and mass transfer data from remote buoys deployed on Antarctic sea ice (with S. Ackley) that will be used to provide driving data, boundary conditions and to verify the model predictions.

Dr. Stuart Birnbaum (stuart.birnbaum@utsa.edu)

Assessing Growth, Survival, and Persistence of Sulfate Reducing Bacteria under Simulated Martian Conditions

NASA recently announced new findings by the Martian Rover Opportunity of in situ deposits rich in calcium and sulfate presumed to be bedded gypsum (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-377#3). Gypsum had been described in the past in Martian soils, but has never been found in place. Sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) utilize SO4= as their terminal electron acceptor and survive in extreme environments. This project will explore the solubilization of solid sulfate minerals by SRB and explore via scanning electron microscopy their association with mineral phases and potential for preservation in a rock record.

Dr. Samer Dessouky (samer.dessouky@utsa.edu)

Effect of Pre-Heating Duration and Temperature Conditioning on the Rheological Properties of Asphalt Bitumen

While heating asphalt bitumen is an essential protocol in sample preparation, it is important to identify the oven setting time and temperature for lab testing. Current AASHTO standards do not specify exact oven settings for bitumen sample preparation prior to laboratory testing. This study is evaluating the effect of oven-heating duration and pouring temperature during sample preparation in the rheological properties of neat and polymer-modified bitumen (PMB). Rheological properties are measured using Rotational Viscometer, Dynamic Shear Rheometer and Bending Beam Rheometer at grade-specific testing temperatures. A neat bitumen PG64-22 and two PMB PG70-22 and 76-22 in unaged (original) and aged conditions were tested at two temperatures: 143°C and 185°C for half, two and four hours. The effect of short term aging by rolling thin film oven was also investigated. To investigate the rheological properties over a wide range of temperatures, temperature sweep testing was conducted from 35°C to 110°C at a 10 rad/s frequency.

Innovative Eco-Concrete Sustainable Design by Increasing the CO2 Absorption

The US department of Energy recent report has considered Texas the lead state in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. Texas produces 1.5 trillion pounds of CO2 annually. This research program aims to develop a portland cement concrete (PCC) mix capable of storing atmospheric CO2 through two mechanisms. The first will be during the mixing process as CO2 will be dissolved in water and introduced to the mix components. The induced CO2 will replace the air voids in-between the mix when the PCC starts to harden. The second is taking place during the life of the concrete as CO2 is absorbed naturally inside the concrete to form calcite (CaCO3) which is responsible of concrete hardening. This will be enhanced through curing the PCC in CO2-controlled chamber.

Influence of Antioxidant Additives to Reduce Cracking in Asphalt Pavements

This research program focuses in reduce aging in asphaltic materials by using antioxidant (AOX) additives mixed in the bitumen. The ultimate goal of this study is to develop cracking-free highways that can save billions of dollars annually to tax payers and state agencies. Antioxidant additives tend to reduce the mechanism of aging by slowing down the oxidization process induced in the bitumen molecules with the present of high temperatures. Hindered Phenol, hydrated lime and Vitamin E are among the wide used antioxidants in organic oil products. Currently, there is no approved protocol to implement antioxidant(s) in the bitumen production. The objectives of this research are to combine chemistry, physics and material science to 1) investigate the degradation mechanism at the bitumen molecular structure, 2) identify and study AOX effect in degradation of bitumen and 3) study the influence of AOX in asphalt pavements.

Dr. Judy K. Haschenburger (judy.haschenburger@utsa.edu)

Defining Initial Grain Motion

Bedload transport occurs only when flow is sufficiently large to entrain bed sediments. The aim of this project is to explore different ways that grain entrainment can be quantified and evaluate the influence on bedload transport prediction. To address this aim, a series of laboratory flume experiments will be conducted. This is a good project for junior or senior students with interests in river sediment transport and the desire to gain experimental experience.

The Role of Grain Properties in Sediment Entrainment

River sediment can exhibit a wide range of grain sizes and shapes, properties that affect overall sediment mobility. The aim of this project is to investigate how grain properties control when sediment starts to move. To address this aim, a series of laboratory flume experiments will be conducted. This is a good project for junior or senior students with interests in river sediment transport and the desire to gain experimental experience.

Dr. Jie Huang (jie.huang@utsa.edu)

The Stability of Soil Arching under Dynamic Loading

The soil aching is one of the most common phenomena in soil mass. Soil arching transfers overburden stress of soil mass from one location to another. The degree of stress transfer is largely dependent on the shear stress mobilized, which is a function of relative movement between soil particles. There are a numbers of soil arching theories proposed by different researchers, which are included in design methodology of underground structures such as pipelines, tunnels. These soil arching theories are based on two major assumptions: 1). Soil is in limited equilibrium conditions; and 2). The soil is only subjected to static loading, i.e., soil particle migration under dynamic loading is not considered. As a matter of fact, dynamic loading exists in many difference forms as a routine basis, for instance, the cyclic loading from traffic and seismic loading from earthquakes. The stability issue of the soil arching is of a concern for engineering design for many years. Given lack of study conducted to investigate the stability of the soil arching under dynamic loading, this study is aimed to examine the stability of soil arching in terms of the soil particle migration behavior under dynamic loading. The study will be implemented on a 2x2 ft2 shaking table in the structural lab of CEE department of UTSA. The soil particles are idealized into aluminum bars of various diameters with random size distribution to simulate the behavior under plane-strain conditions. The dynamic load is applied by the shaking table with the maximum payload 22 kips. The frequency of the dynamic loading varies to simulate the low frequency traffic loading as well as high frequency seismic loading. The movement of the particles will be monitored with time. The mobilized shear stress will be analyzed in terms of frequency, amplitude and duration of the dynamic loading. Finally, the soil arching effect under dynamic loading will be compared with that under static loading.

Dr. Drew Johnson (drew.johnson@utsa.edu)

Membrane Filtration of Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are of the order 10-9m in diameter. Due to their small size and large surface area to volume ratio, they provide unique capabilities with respect to reaction capacities and transport within the environment. Unfortunately, these same nanoparticles also enter public water supplies and best methods of removing these particles need evaluation. Through small lab scale experiments, this project will explore the filtration efficiency of different membrane types to remove nanoparticles of different sizes.

Plant Root Templated Subsurface Drip Irrigation

Irrigation water use efficiencies are of prime importance as drought and scarce water resources have stressed water supplies. Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is an irrigation approach to improve water use efficiencies where water emitters are buried within soils to reduce potential evaporative water losses as they deliver water to growing plants. A drawback to SDI is the cost of excavation and burial of drip tapes. This project explores an alternative to SDI, the utilization of previous grown plant root structures as irrigation conduits. Plants can be cut at above ground stems and the root system connected to pressurized water sources. The pressurized roots then act as water distribution networks that supply water to other growing plants. This project will utilize small lab studies to evaluate the potential of this irrigation approach.

Dr. Lance L. Lambert (lance.lambert@utsa.edu)

Phyletic and Paleoecologic Analysis of Micro-Ornamentation in the Conodonta

This project will analyze whether various forms of micro-ornamentation on conodont fossils are adapted to particular paleoenvironments, and to what degree their distribution is controlled by evolutionary relationships. This project should appeal to students interested in fossils, paleoecology, and complex pattern recognition.

Cladistic Analysis of Selected Lower-Level Conodont Taxa

The analysis of conodont relationships by cladistic methods has only recently begun. Most studies have focused on higher-level taxa to understand major evolutionary relationships. This project will focus on species-level taxa to better understand population variation and dispersal patterns. This project should appeal to students interested in fossils, diversity, and computer-assisted analysis.

Ammonoid Preparation and Preliminary Analysis Techniques

Before fossils can be studied, matrix materials must be removed and the specimens prepared for analysis. This project will focus on getting ammonoid fossils out of rock and preparing them for study, and then doing basic statistical analyses of the specimens. This project should appeal to students that like to get covered in dust and dirt, like to work with their hands and simple machines, and that are patient enough to work fossils out of harder rocks.

Dr. Xiaofeng Liu (xiaofeng.liu@utsa.edu)

Scanning and Analysis of a 3D Digital Gravel and River Rock Repository

The objective of this project is to create a virtual repository of gravels and river rocks found in natural rivers and streams. The student will have the opportunity to use the 3D Laser Scanner in our group and learn to use computer graphics software to reconstruct the 3D surface. The student will also perform analysis on the properties of the gravels and rocks, such as volume, equivalent diameter, shape, etc. This project will contribute to our understanding of how gravel rivers develop and shape the landscape.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) of Storm and Surface Water Management in Texas

BMPs are used to protect the beneficial uses of water resources through the reduction of pollutant loads and concentration as well as discharge reduction to control stream channel erosions. The aim of this project is to investigate the current status of BMPs for storm and surface water management in the state of Texas (with emphasis on the most populated metropolitan areas, such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, etc).

Flood Control for the City of San Antonio

The objective of this project is to conduct research to synthesize the flood control practices in San Antonio. According to San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the watershed we live in is a populated area with severe flooding problems. Through literature review, a detailed description will be written on the flood control history, ongoing structural controls and river restoration projects.

Dr. Ruoting Pei (ruoting.pei@utsa.edu)

Fouling Control in Membrane Bioreactors by Engineered Bacteriophages

Membrane bioreactor technology is an emerging wastewater treatment technology with many advantages such as superior effluent quality and low production of excess sludge. However, the main drawback of membrane bioreactor is the high operating cost as a result of membrane fouling, which has prevented the wide application membrane bioreactor technology. Our research objective is to control membrane fouling in membrane bioreactor by using genetically engineered bacteriophages to inhibit biofilm formation on membrane surface

Engineered bacteriophages that expressed biofilm dispersing enzymes for degrading extracellular polysaccharides have been reported in the literature that successfully disrupted biofilm formation of E. coli. However, whether such bacteriophages can meet the challenges of the complexity of bacterial species in bacterial community in activated sludge has not been proven. In general, phage mediated bacteria mortality has been reported to be beneficial for waste water treatment processes such as dewatering sludge and controlling foam. Therefore engineered bacteriophages have high potential to impact the waste water treatment process and, more specifically, control membrane fouling. In this study, we plan to assess the impact of engineered bacteriophages for the biofilm formation in membrane bioreactors. In addition, we plan to further develop engineered bacteriophages that target various pathways of biofilm formation. The pathways of biofilm formation have been elucidated from many model bacteria in recent years and will provide guidance for our designing effective bacteriophages in fouling control in membrane bioreactor.

Signaling in the Electrochemically Active Biofilm of Geobacter sulfurreducens

Microbial fuel cell technology is a promising environmental biotechnology that has the potential to deliver sustainable energy by consuming the organic material in waste water. The energy is generated through oxidation of organic substrates by biofilms of electroactive bacteria on anodes. Geobacter sulfurreducens is a member of the metal-reducing Geobacteraceae family and has been used as electroactive bacteria on electrodes of microbial fuel cells. The mechanism for the formation of biofilm of Geobacter sulfurreducens to generate electricity is not well understood. We plans to use novel molecular biology tools to study the signaling of biofilm formation and elucidate how such signaling affect the generation of electricity on the electrodes. These molecular biology tools include using computational biology tools to analyze whole genome sequencing data of Geobacter sulfurreducens to generate hypotheses and using inhibitor and protein analysis to studying the function of proteins in the signaling.

Dr. Hatim Sharif (hatim.sharif@utsa.edu)

Impacts of the Current Texas Drought on Groundwater Levels

The record-setting hot and dry conditions throughout 2011 have drastically reduced the flow of water in most of Texas streams and reduced groundwater levels in much of the state to the lowest levels in more than 60 years. The drought impacted major water supply sources in the state. Even with the recent rain, 2011 is on pace for one the driest years in recorded history. A student is needed to collect aquifer level data for south central Texas from sources such as the Drought Center's website at http://go.unl.edu/mqk and compare it with maps produced by NASA using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission.

Impacts of the Current Texas Drought on Stream Water Quality

The record-setting hot and dry conditions throughout 2011 have drastically reduced the flow of water in most of Texas streams and reduced groundwater levels in much of the state to the lowest levels in more than 60 years. Even with the recent rain, 2011 is on pace for one the driest years in recorded history. The drought affected stream water quality and aquatic life among other things. Stream water quality data is important for environmental assessment and management studies. A student is needed to collect water quality data from US Geological Survey stations at (waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt) to examine how, under extreme drought conditions, various water quality indicators and ecological functions would respond.

Dr. Jyotsna Sharma (jyotsna.sharma@utsa.edu)

Biodiversity of Nematodes and Meiofauna in Intertidal Sediments Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Nematodes are the most abundant and diverse metazoa in the meio- and macro-benthos. Over 125 nematode species have been recovered in the deep Gulf of Mexico (dGOM) and show a variable distribution that is related to water depth and available organic matter (Sharma et al, in prep., Sharma et al., 2011). Current studies of nematodes from intertidal beaches on the Northern Gulf coast that were affected by the oil spill show a differential composition of nematode taxa within three months following the oil spill (Sharma et al, unpublished). These observations indicate that nematodes are important in the recovery of the interstitial fauna and may have differential tolerance for hydrocarbon contamination.

Nematodes comprised up to 65 percent of the total meiofauna community in the dGOM (Baguely et al, 2006 ) and in intertidal sediments (personal observations). The diversity of deep sea nematodes should be monitored particularly as they are often the first group of meiofauna to appear after an oil spill (Giere, O., 1979; Wormald, A.P., 1976). The intertidal data from my current RAPID grant shows similar recovery patterns with nematodes. The taxonomic identification of nematodes will identify the genera and families that are are important in the recovery of the meiofauna community.

The student will conduct research on abundance, biomass and composition of meiofauna invertebrates and nematode communities in samples collected at regular intervals on five Gulf coast beaches. One hundred nematodes from each station will be placed on slides and identified to genus level. Nematodes exploit different food sources and therefore the trophic group composition of each nematode community will be determined to identify functional responses to contaminants. Available data on nematode communities prior to the spill will be included in the overall multivariate analysis to evaluate pre vs. post spill community structure differences. Comparison of nematode communities among different stations will assess the effect of contaminants on diversity and structure of the nematode communities.

Dr. Heather Shipley (heather.shipley@utsa.edu)

Wastewater Treatment Efficiency: Evaluation of Current Treatment Processes and Pollutant Concentrations

This project will examine different treatment processes for wastewater at a tannery. It will consider current practices and suggest improvements to treat water more efficiently and sustainably.

Application of Computer Platforms

This project focuses on researching the capabilities of computer platforms such as Unity and Paraview or the use of the Haptic device in the Advanced Visualization Laboratory for Civil/Environmental Engineering applications.

Dr. Marina Suarez (marina.suarez@utsa.edu)

Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Chemostratigraphy of an Early Cretaceous Lake in Eastern Utah

The Cedar Mountain Formation in eastern Utah has become a hotbed of recent dinosaur finds, with numerous new species being named in the past year. Because the Early Cretaceous climate was much warmer than today, the Cedar Mountain Formation is not only important to understanding dinosaur evolution, but to understanding a climate state that transitions to a "greenhouse" world. High resolution stable isotope records are critical to identifying major climate and environmental changes that occurred as well for stratigraphic correlation to global isotope records. This goal of this project is to collect rock samples from a newly discovered lacustrine section near Moab, Utah in late July/early August of 2012. In addition, participants will learn how to prepare samples for isotopic analyses, and to utilize the isotope ratio mass spectrometer (and associated peripherals) to analyze their samples.

Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Chemostratigraphy of the Xinminpu Group of Northwest China

Cretaceous strata of NW China contain abundant terrestrial flora and fauna including dinosaurs and early birds. To improve stratigraphic correlation over 2,000 samples have been collected for carbon and oxygen isotope analyses. In addition, preliminary data suggest this area may have experience a period of global warming associated with Ocean Anoxic Event 1a. Identification of this event in the terrestrial record can help us understand how global climate changes affect terrestrial biota. This goal of this project is to learn sample preparation methods for isotope analyses and how to analyze samples with the isotope ration mass spectrometer (and associated peripherals). The student will be assigned a section of sample for which they will prepare, analyzed, and interpret data. The data will be added to the growing set of isotope records from this area.

Dr. Hongjie Xie (hongjie.xie@utsa.edu)

Mapping Lake Level and Temperature Changes of the Buchanan Lake Using ICESat and MODIS Data

NASA’s ICESat data (from 2003-2009) provide important elevation data of earth surface and are particularly used to map and monitor polar ice sheets, sea ice and their changes. They are also found very useful to map lake level change. One of the successful case is the study of Glacier lakes in Tibetan Plateau by my student. Water level in Buchanan Lake, one of the biggest lakes in Texas, is of course affected by precipitation, drought, and lake water management. The project will have three objectives: (1) Learn to process ICESat and extract all elevation information and remove errors; (2) Learn to process MODIS land surface temperature data and remove errors; (3) use the existing lake gauge data (if any) to validate the ICESat elevation data and MODIS temperature data; and 4. analyze the lake level change in considering the lake water management, precipitation and temperature changes in the region.

Lead Analysis of Arctic or Antarctic Sea Ice Using NASA's Operational IceBridge Data Collected during 2009, 2010, and 2011 Campaigns

NASA's IceBridge is a program of airborne remote sensing measurements designed to fill the gap in measurements between the end of the ICESat-1 mission (early 2009) and the launch of the ICESat-2 mission (2016) for both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice and ice sheets. This project will use one of the remote sensing datasets, the very high spatial resolution DMS (digital mapping system) images, to map the open leads of sea ice, in terms of lead dimension (width and length), primary extension direction, and fraction in different areas and years.

Mapping and Analyzing the Martian Highlands Bedrocks (Outcrops)

Numerous exposures of bedrocks (outcrops) have been identified using THEMIS data in a variety of southern highlands terrains, including crater floors and intercrater plains. This study will use THEMIS, and other high spatial and spectral resolution images available (MOC, HRSC, HiRISE, OMEGA, CRISM) to characterize the composition, thermophysical properties, and morphology of these rocks. The purpose of this study is determine the mineralogical composition of the rocks, and detail spatial relationships between defined units, and evaluate possible igneous and sediment processes to recover the Martian history of evolution.

Jon Zeitler (Jon.Zeitler@noaa.gov)

Identification of Mexican Free-Tailed Bat Emergence in South Central Texas Using Dual-Polarization Radar

The National Weather Service WSR-88D radar at New Braunfels, TX, will be upgraded to dual-polarization from March 15-30, 2012. The completion of this upgrade coincides with the return of Mexican Free-tailed bats to the caves and other nesting locations (e.g., the Congress Street Bridge in Austin). The bats have been detected by the WSR-88D since it's installation. However, dual-polarization offers an opportunity to more clearly separate radar returns generated by the bats from those generated by ground clutter, dust, insects, and precipitation. The project will be in collaboration between UTSA and the National Weather Service office in New Braunfels, primarily consisting of data acquisition, importing into ArcGIS, and generation of statistics and analyses of the daily and seasonal bat emergence patterns.


Summer 2011

Prof. Steve Ackley (stephen.ackley@utsa.edu)

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Distribution from Airborne and Satellite Lidar

Satellite and airborne lidar are instruments that bounce a laser beam off a surface and are used to measure the elevation of the surface above a reference surface, in this case the portion of the sea ice and snow cover that is above sea level. From buoyancy we know that the amount of ice and snow above sea level is proportional to the ice thickness. In order to determine that exact relationship between them and determine the ice thickness from elevation data alone, we will use data from several campaigns that drilled thousands of holes in the Arctic sea ice cover to determine the ice thickness and elevation. Statistics will be developed to estimate from this data what the errors are in estimating ice thickness, only knowing the surface elevation. Some samples from a recent NASA campaign in the Arctic using airborne lidar will be used to predict the ice thickness, determine the feasibility of monitoring changes in ice thickness from repeated campaigns of airborne lidar and compare with earlier estimates of Arctic ice thickness obtained from submarines cruising below the sea ice.

A Comparison of Antarctic Sea Ice Properties from Summer and Spring

Two expeditions to the Antarctic using ice coring devices to directly sample the sea ice. The sea ice properties show some differences because of the warmer conditions seen in summer compared to spring when winter temperatures are still dominant. We will look at the core profiles of salinity and use temperature data from remote buoys implanted at the sampling sites to estimate the changes in brine volume, permeability and the possibility of fluid flow within the sea ice. These exchanges can contribute to nutrient flux within the sea ice and fuel the growth of sea ice algae, which we can also estimate from other instrumentation on these same remote buoys.

Dr. Samer Dessouky (samer.dessouky@utsa.edu)

Using Shredded Waste Tires for Development of Light Weight Cement Concrete

Waste tires have been a disposal problem in the past and are continuing to accumulate throughout the U.S. today. Recent figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that over 279 million waste tires are being added annually to the estimated 2 billion tires currently stockpiled around the country. Using shredded waste tires as a light weight aggregate in making portland cement concrete is a beneficial approach to make use of this waste product. The shredded material is very elastic, porous, contains good vibration damping properties, and is easily compacted. A substitution of virgin aggregates with shredded tire can lead to develop an environmental friendly concrete for the construction industry.

An Innovative Approach to Evaluate the Specific Gravity Properties of Porous Granular Materials

Specific gravity is one of the main physical properties of granular materials. It is a major input in many mixtures design sush as, asphalt pavement concrete and portland cement concrete. The significant of this property has also a major impact in porosity determination for soil engineering and petroleum engineering fields. Current process to determine specific gravity developed by the American society of testing materials (ASTM) is by using the submerged weight method. It was proven that this method has high variability for highly porous granular materials such as sandstone and limestone. While such variability in the ASTM method can lead to significant change in the mix composition weight or volumes there is a need for developing a practical, accurate and repeatable alternative. This project is entitled to use the paraffin coating method to determine the precise specific gravity for crushed granular materials and compare to the current methods to select the most promising approach.

Dr. Judy K. Haschenburger (judy.haschenburger@utsa.edu)

Channel Bars in Braided Rivers

Braided riverbeds are comprised of numerous channel bars that divide flow into multiple channels. The aim of this project is to investigate the nature of bar types in a single braided river. To address this aim, observations from aerial photography will be interpreted and analyzed in a GIS. This is a good project for students with interests in rivers, remote sensing, and GIS.

Characteristics of Floodplain Sediments

The San Antonio River builds its floodplain by overbank vertical accretion. The aim of this project is to investigate the grain size characteristics of sediment deposited by recent overbank flows. To address this aim, sediment samples will be analyzed and interpreted in relation to flood frequency. This is a good project for students interested in rivers.

Dr. Jie Huang (jie.huang@utsa.edu)

The Influence of Moisture Infiltration on Strength the Lime Stabilized Subgrade Soil

Unsuitable subgrade soil often needs to be treated to provide a competent support for the pavement. Expansive soil, characterized as high plasticity index (PI), is the primary unsuitable soil in the state of Texas. Chemical stabilization, especially lime stabilization, has been successfully used to minimize the swell/shrinkage of the expansive soil when moisture changes. Tests have proved the moisture infiltration would not have significant effect on the volume change of the lime treated soil. However, the influence of moisture infiltration on the strength of the lime stabilized soil has been rarely studied. This study is designed to study the influence of moisture infiltration on lime stabilized soil. The objective of study is to identify the optimum lime content to achieve the desirable strength under moist conditions.

Prediction of the Additional Stress Induced by Pressure Grouting

Pressure grouting is one the most widely used ground improvement methods to improve the strength, reduce the permeability, mitigate liquefaction, or even fill the sinkholes. When pressure is applied to the liquid/semi-liquid grouting material to allow it to penetrate porous medium - soil, some of the pressure will be transferred to soil skeleton. This pressure will induce the stress increase in the soil mass. The increase of stress could lead to serious problem especially there is structures adjacent to the grouting point. This study is aimed at evaluating the stress increase associated with the grouting pressure, including the magnitude and the range. As a result, the guideline for the exercise of pressure grouting can be developed based on the results of this study.

Dr. Lance L. Lambert (lance.lambert@utsa.edu)

Phyletic and Paleoecologic Analysis of Micro-Ornamentation in the Conodonta

This project will analyze whether various forms of micro-ornamentation on conodont fossils are adapted to particular paleoenvironments, and to what degree their distribution is controlled by evolutionary relationships. This project should appeal to students interested in fossils, paleoecology, and complex pattern recognition.

Cladistic Analysis of Selected Lower-Level Conodont Taxa

The analysis of conodont relationships by cladistic methods has only recently begun. Most studies have focused on higher-level taxa to understand major evolutionary relationships. This project will focus on species-level taxa to better understand population variation and dispersal patterns. This project should appeal to students interested in fossils, diversity, and computer-assisted analysis.

Ammonoid Preparation and Preliminary Analysis Techniques

Before fossils can be studied, matrix materials must be removed and the specimens prepared for analysis. This project will focus on getting ammonoid fossils out of rock and preparing them for study, and then doing basic statistical analyses of the specimens. This project should appeal to students that like to get covered in dust and dirt, like to work with their hands and simple machines, and that are patient enough to work fossils out of harder rocks.

Dr. Xiaofeng Liu (xiaofeng.liu@utsa.edu)

Best Management Practices (BMPs) of Storm and Surface Water Management in Texas

BMPs are used to protect the beneficial uses of water resources through the reduction of pollutant loads and concentration as well as discharge reduction to control stream channel erosions. The aim of this project is to investigate the current status of BMPs for storm and surface water management in the state of Texas (with emphasis on the most populated metropolitan areas, such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, etc).

Flood Control for the City of San Antonio

The objective of this project is to conduct research to synthesize the flood control practices in San Antonio. According to San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the watershed we live in is a populated area with severe flooding problems. Through literature review, a detailed description will be written on the flood control history, ongoing structural controls and river restoration projects.

Dr. Ruoting Pei (ruoting.pei@utsa.edu)

Environmental Fate and Ecotoxicity of Engineered Nanoparticles in Soil

Nanomaterials are being widely used in consumer, industrial and military products. Though the social and economic benefits of nanotechnologies are promising, a great deal is still not understood about how nanoparticles behave after they are released into the environment and how their toxicity is modified by the environment. So far, scientific evidence shows that some nanoparticles have toxic effects under laboratory conditions, but practically nothing is known about their mobility and uptake in organisms under complex environmental conditions such as soil. In this study, we plan to assess the impact of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) as pollutants ending up in the soil in the following aspects:

  1. Mobility: transport in various soils
  2. Ecotoxicity: toxicity to microorganisms (mainly bacteria and protozoa) in soil
  3. Modification: how and to what extent ENPs are modified by contact with the environment and soil and the consequences of such modification on ecotoxicity and mobility

A Live Cell-Based Bioassay for Detection of Trichothecenes and Other Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites of fungi including more than 300 compounds such as aflatoxins and trichothecenes found in contaminated food products and damp indoor environments. Mycotoxins are well known to negatively affect human and animal health. A live cell-based bioassay is proposed. The bioassay is based the PI’s findings that trichothecenes, either pure or in fungal extracts, induced a robust expression of interleukin (IL)-8 mRNA in human monocytic THP-1 cells. Therefore, the IL-8 gene expression response in THP-1 cells to trichothecenes can be used to detect the presence of trichothecenes. Because detection of IL-8 expression using real time quantitative PCR takes days and is time consuming, genetic engineering of the THP-1 cells will be performed to incorporate a luciferase gene under the control of IL-8 promoter. In response to trichothecenes, the genetically modified THP-1 cells will express luciferase, which can be easily detected within minutes. Taken together, the proposed research will develop a live cell based-bioassay for trichothecenes. The bioassay can be expanded to detect other mycotoxins upon identification of suitable responsive genes.

Dr. Hatim Sharif (hatim.sharif@utsa.edu)

Flood Fatalities in Colorado

This study will review information related to the events that lead to flood fatalities in the state of Colorado in the approximately past 52 years. Information on these events and the flood fatality victims will be obtained from the National Climatic Data Center Storm Data reports. The data collected will include the date, time, gender, age, location, and weather conditions. The analysis will include detailed description of flood events and incidents, e.g., time, location, type of the event, setting of occurrence, activity involved, e.g., driving into flood water. The results will be presented in a spread sheet format together with summary graphs and tables.

Flood Fatalities in Louisiana

This study will review information related to the events that lead to flood fatalities in the state of Louisiana in the approximately past 52 years. Information on these events and the flood fatality victims will be obtained from the National Climatic Data Center Storm Data reports. The data collected will include the date, time, gender, age, location, and weather conditions. The analysis will include detailed description of flood events and incidents, e.g., time, location, type of the event, setting of occurrence, activity involved, e.g., driving into flood water. The results will be presented in a spread sheet format together with summary graphs and tables.

Flood Fatalities in Mississippi

This study will review information related to the events that lead to flood fatalities in the state of Mississippi in the approximately past 52 years. Information on these events and the flood fatality victims will be obtained from the National Climatic Data Center Storm Data reports. The data collected will include the date, time, gender, age, location, and weather conditions. The analysis will include detailed description of flood events and incidents, e.g., time, location, type of the event, setting of occurrence, activity involved, e.g., driving into flood water. The results will be presented in a spread sheet format together with summary graphs and tables.

Dr. Blake Weissling (blake.weissling@utsa.edu)

Antarctic Sea Ice Physical Assessment from Orthorectified Camera Imagery

Digital camera and imagery analysis systems designed for research ships in polar environments provide for a visual record of ice conditions for ships cruising through sea ice. Techniques have been developed specifically for these camera systems to orthorectify the imagery to provide for "bird’s eye" views of the pack ice, much like that provided by aerial or satellite platforms. This project will give the student experience in converting oblique-view imagery obtained during the recent Antarctic sea ice expedition (Oden 2010-11), to birds-eye view using pre-built processing scripts as well as to apply image analysis techniques to extract important sea ice physical parameters, such as sea ice concentration, and floe size.

Dr. Hongjie Xie (hongjie.xie@utsa.edu)

Mapping Lake level Change of the Canyon Lake Using ICESat Data

NASA’s ICESat data (from 2003-2009) provide important elevation data of earth surface and are particularly used to map and monitor polar ice sheets, sea ice and their changes. They are also found very useful to map lake level change. One of the successful case is the study of Glacier lakes in Tibetan Plateau by my student. Water level in Canyon Lake, one of the biggest lakes in Texas, is of course affected by precipitation, drought, and lake water management. The project will have three objectives: (1) Learn how to process ICESat and extract all elevation information and remove errors; (2) use the existing lake gauge data (if any) to validate the ICESat elevation data; and (3) analyze the lake level change in considering the lake water management and precipitation pattern in the upper Guadalupe River Basin.

Arctic Sea Ice Study Based on Data Collected in Summer 2010

Dr. Xie participated the Arctic trip from July to September 2010 and collected many geophysical properties of sea ice and snow in the Pacific Arctic Sector. Several projects can be set up based on those data. Project 1, thermal emission of snow, sea ice, and sea water based on the instrument mounted on the ship bridge; project 2, solar radiation change based on radiometer mounted on the ship’s bridge; project 3, optical properties of snow and ice based on in-situ and helicopter based spectraoradiometer measurements; and project 4, the sea ice thickness based on in situ EM31 measurements.

Mapping and Analyzing the Martian Highlands Bedrocks (Outcrops)

Numerous exposures of bedrocks (outcrops) have been identified using THEMIS data in a variety of southern highlands terrains, including crater floors and intercrater plains. This study will use THEMIS, and other high spatial and spectral resolution images available (MOC, HRSC, HiRISE, OMEGA, CRISM) to characterize the composition, thermophysical properties, and morphology of these rocks. The purpose of this study is determine the mineralogical composition of the rocks, and detail spatial relationships between defined units, and evaluate possible igneous and sediment processes to recover the Martian history of evolution.

Dr. Mijia Yang (mijia.yang@utsa.edu)

Innovative Joint Design for Improving Earthquake Resistance

Multi-element structures are connected by joints. For steel and concrete structures, joints are especially important for the safety of structures under dynamic forces. In this project, an innovative joint design method is suggested to optimize the resistance of structures under dynamic forces. The generalized joint includes linear springs, rotational springs, as well as slip elements constructed with direct correspondence with the physical joints. Linear springs are calibrated with the normal stiffness of joint elements, such as the bolts in a bolted connection or welds in a welded connection. Rotational springs are calibrated with the bending stiffness of a beam-beam or a beam-column connection. Slip elements are calibrated with the friction between bolts or plates with the connected beams or columns.

 


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