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2022 Projects

WRRI-supported researchers explore a wide range of topics in water resources, from emerging contaminants, to flooding, to stormwater management, community engagement, and more. Read on to learn about funded projects for 2022. If searching for Faculty projects, visit the 2021 Projects page.

Graduate Projects

Advancing Understanding of Flood Water Quality Distributions and Drivers through Statistical Modeling

Researcher: Emine Fidan, NC State University
Advisor: Natalie Nelson
Focus Area: flooding; surface water quality

This project was jointly funded by North Carolina Sea Grant.

This project focuses on modeling flood water quality from Hurricane Florence. Hurricanes bring a lot of rainfall with them, which typically carries pollutants from the land with it. These pollutants have the potential to harm environmental health and negatively affect people who come into contact with floodwaters, so her goal is to analyze what is in the water and understand what factors influence the flood water quality.

Determining the Relative Contribution of Nuisance Flooding to the Risk Profiles of Estuarine Communities under Current and Future Climate Conditions

Researcher: Lauren Grimley, UNC Chapel Hill
Advisor: Antonia Sebastian
Focus Area: flooding; climate change

This project focuses on improving flood hazard and risk Information in coastal communities in eastern North Carolina. Grimley determines where and how deep flood waters are using water level measurements from storm drain sensors and a physics-based flood model that considers multiple drivers of flooding (e.g., streamflow, rainfall, tides, and storm surge). Using the flood model and climate projections, she is investigating how increased precipitation and sea level rise can impact the frequency and severity of nuisance and extreme floods to identify who (or what) is exposed to flooding now and will be in future climate conditions.

PFAS Removal from Natural Water through Electrodeionization Equipped with Novel PFAS Selective Resins

Researcher: Holly Haflich, UNC Chapel Hill
Advisor: Orlando Coronell
Focus Area: PFAS removal; drinking water

This project was funded by the Urban Water Consortium.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of toxic, anthropogenic chemicals that are present in natural water sources throughout North Carolina. Conventional drinking water treatment methods do not selectively remove PFAS from water sources which leaves PFAS present in treated drinking water. Haflich’s work proposes the development and synergistic use of novel membranes and sorbents, or absorbent materials, for the selective removal of PFAS from water.

Assessing Water Quality in the Upper Cape Fear Aquifer, a Potential Alternate Drinking Water Source for Chemours-Area Residents

Researcher: Tiffany VanDerwerker, NC State University
Advisor: David Genereux
Focus Area: PFAS contamination; drinking water; groundwater

This project was jointly funded by North Carolina Sea Grant.

Elevated per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) concentrations have been observed in thousands of private drinking water wells near a fluorochemical manufacturing plant in Fayetteville, NC. This study will assess deep wells in or below the Upper Cape Fear Aquifer as a potential alternate source of high-quality, PFAS-free drinking water. In her research, VanDerwerker will collect groundwater samples from deep private drinking water wells in the area and analyze samples for a wide range of constituents to evaluate water quality in these wells.

Evaluating Oyster Reef Restoration Configurations for Optimizing Ecological Success Wave Attenuation Against the Threat of Sea Level Rise and Boat Wakes

Researcher: Georgette Tso, East Carolina University
Advisor: Siddharth Narayan
Focus Area: oyster reef restoration; climate change

Tso studies oyster reefs and their potential for providing coastal protection benefits as well as ecological benefits. Using DIY low-cost wave gauges, she measures wave attenuation across oyster reefs in Taylor’s Creek, North Carolina. The study results will inform design and deployment guidelines for optimizing oyster reef performance in protecting shorelines. 

Community Collaborative Research Grant (CCRG) Projects for 2022-2023

The CCRG program is supported by NC WRRI in partnership with North Carolina Sea Grant and the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science (KIETS). These projects use a collaborative research approach that couples the knowledge of community stakeholders with scientific experts to address pressing water and coastal issues.

Understanding Plastic Contaminants in Western N.C. Headwaters

Scientific lead: Jerry Miller, Western Carolina University
Local knowledge expert: Eric Romaniszyn, Haywood Waterways Association
Focus Area: plastic pollution; youth engagement

The primary goals of this project are to 1) gain an understanding of the transport dynamics of plastic particles in selected headwater streams of the Southern Appalachians and 2) provide hands-on learning experiences for high school students and community members to demonstrate the significance of plastic contamination in freshwater ecosystems, and the need for sound management around recycling and disposal.

Building Agents of Change in Mecklenburg County through Youth Education, Career Awareness, and Citizen Science

Scientific lead: Olya Keen, UNC Charlotte
Local knowledge expert: Eboné Lockett, Harvesting Humanity, LLC
Focus Area: youth engagement

This project consisted of recruiting five local high school students to co-design and participate in hands-on water research that included elements of laboratory research and field sampling. Over the course of the project, the students will discover, explore, and work to mitigate issues related to water cycling throughout homes, schools, businesses, and neighborhoods. Each student presented a scientific poster of their research at the 2023 NC WRRI Annual Conference. View abstracts here.

Reinforcing Resilience: Gleaning Knowledge from the Land and Water of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe

Scientific lead: Eric Britt Moore, UNC Wilmington
Local knowledge expert:  Ashley Patrick Lomboy, Waccamaw Siouan Tribe, Waccamw Siouan STEM Studio
Focus Area: Indigenous engagement

The primary goals of this project are to 1) Combine academic knowledge with Traditional Ecological Knowledge in order to create an integrated view of soil and water health in the Waccamaw Siouan communities; 2) Provide the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe with data from the project that will help them assess soil and water contamination and identify areas that require remediation; and 3) Build a model for dispersing scientific information to Tribal communities that prioritizes feedback-sharing and reciprocal communication.

HAPs and HABs: Investigating Associations between air and water quality through community collaborations in eastern North Carolina

Scientific lead: Hans Paerl, UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences
Local knowledge expert: Colleen Karl, Chowan Edenton Environmental Group
Focus Area: HABs; air quality; water quality

This project will work with multiple communities to investigate associations between harmful algal blooms (HABs) and air and water quality. Findings will benefit local high-school science classrooms, the Albemarle Regional Health Services system, state agencies, academic institutions, and the general public.