ECU researchers to study farming in southwestern Jamaica

East Carolina University researchers Jeff Popke and Scott Curtis (Geography) received three-year funding of $275,000 for their project, “Vulnerability and Resilience Among Small Farmers in Jamaica: An Assessment of Climate Change, Economic Stress, and the Role of Water Management.”

In collaborative research with Doug Gamble of UNC-Wilmington, Curtis and Popke will study southwestern Jamaica to identify the vulnerability and resilience of small scale Caribbean farming in the face of climate change and economic transformation. The research team is addressing water as a mediator between vulnerability and local outcomes. Case study farms will be selected based on irrigation practices: hand watering, drip irrigation, pipe and sprinkler, and greenhouse delivery.

Popke

Curtis

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ECU professor collaborates on research to predict sea-level rise, flooding from hurricanes

East Carolina University researcher Dr. Reide Corbett will join a team of colleagues studying sea-level rise and flooding from hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, thanks to a 3-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Corbett

Corbett is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and a research scientist in ECU’s Institute for Coastal Science and Policy. He will work closely with the project’s lead investigator, Dr. Benjamin Horton, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Coastal North Carolina may see significant changes in the future due to rising seas and continued tropical cyclone activity,” Corbett said.

“To effectively adapt to a changing coast, we need to better understand the relationship between climate and sea level variability,” he said. “That is one of the main objectives of this study – using the past as a key to the future.”

The project draws upon research Horton, Corbett and other collaborators from ECU, Penn State, The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Finland’s Aalto University School of Engineering and Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have published during the last several years. The culmination of this work produced a landmark study that resulted in the first reconstruction of sea-level rise in North Carolina over the past 2000 years.

“The foundation of current models for sea-level projections is data from the 20th century, but we’ve started to be able to push further back in time,” Horton said. “This allows us to have a better understanding of the past relationship between climate and sea level and to make better predictions about the future.”

The team will combine sea-level rise scenarios with state-of-the-science hurricane and storm surge modeling at six study sites from Florida to Massachusetts. This will enable them to map coastal flooding for the current climate and the best- and worst-case climate scenarios of the 21st century. These scenarios will be integrated into strategic policy documents to make technical results more accessible for adaptive coastal decision-making.

This spring, the researchers will begin to meet with coastal managers to get input about how such sea-level and flooding projections might best be put to use. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Corbett said he believes that the public is more aware of the hazards along the coast and is likely interested in future flooding scenarios.

“It’s important that we present our scientific results and products to local communities,” Corbett said. “We will be providing information and products that will aid in future planning.”

For additional information, contact Corbett at 252-328-1367 or corbettd@ecu.edu.

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ECU Whichard professor awarded $240,000 NEH grant

 East Carolina University professor Dr. Gary A. Stringer received a $240,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his project, “An Edition of John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets and a Further Expansion of Digital Donne.”

Dr. Gary Stringer

The grant is the tenth since 1986 that NEH has awarded to support the Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne, which Stringer serves as general editor. The online Variorium provides a digest of scholarly and critical commentary on Donne’s poetry. The award includes an additional $30,000 in federal matching funds.

Stringer said he was pleased to have received the award. “It testifies to the confidence in what we’re doing shared by the agency and by our peers in the profession who reviewed the application, especially since it’s the tenth in a series of such awards that we’ve received. I think all of us in the Varirorum project are gratified by that kind of validation,” he said.

During the three-year period of the grant, Stringer and the Variorum staff will work on the three-part volume of Donne’s “Songs and Sonnets,” with plans to publish two of the three volumes during the grant period. They will also work on an expansion of the project’s web site DigitalDonne, the Online Variorum, at http://donnevariorum.tamu.edu.

Stringer, whose most recent appointment was research professor of English at Texas A&M University, joined the ECU faculty for the 2011-12 academic year as the David Julian and Virginia Suther Whichard Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, housed within the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, and as a visiting professor in the Department of English. The Whichard Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities is an endowed professorship made possible through a donation by the Whichard family in honor of David Julian and Virginia Suther Whichard of Greenville.

As part of the Whichard Professorship, Stringer will teach one course each semester in the ECU Department of English. This fall, he is teaching a graduate-level course on the satirical writings of John Donne. In the spring, he will teach a graduate-level course related to digital humanities.

Stringer received his Ph.D., M.A. and B.A. degrees in English from the University of Oklahoma. During his nearly 50-year academic career, he has held faculty appointments at the University of Oklahoma; Oklahoma State University; Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA; the University of Southern Mississippi; and most recently, Texas A&M University.

Stringer is the founding general editor of the Variorum, an 11-volume work drawing on the collaborative labors of nearly 40 American, Canadian, British, Dutch, South African and Japanese scholars. He has authored or edited 12 volumes, including four volumes of the Variorum, and he has published more than three dozen articles within his field of study. In addition, Stringer has presented nearly 50 papers at professional meetings and conferences in the U.S. and abroad.

Stringer has received faculty service awards and research grants from many of the institutions where he has taught. Also, since 1986, Stringer has been the recipient of grants totaling more than $1.5 million from the NEH.

For additional information, contact Stringer at stringerg@ecu.edu.

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Study examines effectiveness of electronic health messaging

 

Dr. Alice Richman (Photo by Chuck Baldwin)


By Kathy Muse

East Carolina University health education professor Dr. Alice Richman received a Merck & Company grant of $115,000 to study whether electronic reminders and educational messages might enhance HPV vaccine utilization, adherence and knowledge.

Volunteers will be culled from male and female students between 18 and 26 years of age who visit ECU Student Health Services for their first dose of the HPV vaccine.

“One group of randomly assigned students requesting the HPV vaccine will receive the current standard of care – paper cards with their next vaccination date written in,” Richman said. “Another group will receive electronic reminders and educational messages.”

The HPV vaccine consists of a three-dose series over a six-month time period. Students in the second group will receive either an electronic message via e-mail or a text message each month for seven months.

Funded by Merck & Company, the study begins in October and will continue for more than  a year.

Richman is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance.

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FoodMASTER program receives $1.27 million NIH grant

A $1.27 million grant to the East Carolina University FoodMASTER program will help middle school students learn mathematical and science concepts through activities based with food.

ECU nutrition science professors Melani Duffrin and Virginia Carraway-Stage will use the funds to create and test a FoodMASTER curriculum in seventh grade classrooms in eastern North Carolina. They will incorporate hands-on activities such as food preparation and handling to help students understand science, math and nutrition.

Duffrin said the new program will “help seventh grade teachers pull fresh math and science resources out of their bag.”

Dr. Melani Duffrin

“Food activities are a natural, fun way to help students apply math and science to their everyday lives,” she said.

The grant will also fund a FoodMASTER summer camp led by Jacqueline De Chabert-Rios (Hospitality Management), David Rivera (Hospitality Management) and Tammy Lee (Science Education).

Duffrin and Sharon Phillips, an Ohio elementary school teacher, created FoodMASTER in 1999, to bring difficult concepts to life through common household items such as measuring cups and spoons, cereal, fruits, vegetables and milk. A food-based curriculum for 3rd to 5th graders has already been developed.

The FoodMASTER program supports learning that stimulates interest in science and math, advances public understanding of health issues and encourages the next generation of health and science professionals. With an emphasis on reducing health disparities, the program’s K-12 projects target minorities and students in rural and underserved communities.

The grant funding comes from a 2011 Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources, a division of the National Institutes for Health.

The ECU Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, directed by Margaret Wirth, will support teacher training and outreach for the program. The North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research, led by president Suzanne Wilkinson, will support the project’s teacher training component.

Learn more about FoodMASTER at www.FoodMASTER.org. For additional information about the project, contact Melani Duffrin at 252-328-5698 or duffrinm@ecu.edu.

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ECU scientists awarded $314,000 NSF grant

A new research project at East Carolina University should lead to improved climate forecasting for North Carolina.

ECU geography professors Dr. Tom Rickenbach and Dr. Rosana Nieto-Ferreira will examine how changes in the atmosphere control the manner in which rain and snow falls in the state and how those changes affect the state’s current and future climate. The study is made possible by a three-year $314,000 National Sciences Foundation grant funded by the NSF Directorate for Geosciences’ Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division.

In their grant proposal, the researchers noted that precipitation is a primary source of water for North Carolina’s rivers, soils and groundwater reservoirs. They said that studying the manner in which the precipitation arrives will help scientists understand how increasing population, climate change and land use patterns are affecting the state’s climate.

“Scientists and engineers are constantly improving our ability to measure how much rain and snow reach the surface. What we don’t understand as well is the manner in which that water is typically delivered to us,” said Rickenbach.

“That missing piece of the puzzle is crucial to knowing whether precipitation reaching the ground will help or hinder us as we lead our lives. Knowing how a given amount of precipitation reached us – as gentle widespread daily showers, intense isolated but brief thunderstorms, or heavy snowfall – determines how we can best harness it for our needs and whether we must protect ourselves from its impacts.”

Nieto-Ferreira said that scientists do not fully understand how the state’s fresh water resource responds to changes in the environment; more research is needed. She said, “We may then better understand how these variations in precipitation impact our lives, such as agriculture, urban runoff, coastal development and flooding.”

The scientists will conduct their research in three steps. First, every precipitation system that occurred across North Carolina over a three-year period will be identified and characterized using newly available high-resolution precipitation and three-dimensional radar reflectivity data sets. Next, the mode of delivery of the precipitation will be placed in the context of the prevailing wind and weather patterns of the atmosphere, based on archived maps and analysis. Finally, the climatology will be applied, with the goal of improving the interpretation of state-of-the-art model simulations of future regional climates.

The University of North Carolina Renaissance Computing Institute and the National Climate Data Center will partner with Rickenbach and Nieto-Ferreira to construct and analyze radar-based datasets tailored to the project.

For additional information about this NSF grant, contact Rickenbach at 252-328-1039 or rickenbacht@ecu.edu, or Nieto-Ferreira at 252-328-0751 or ferreirar@ecu.edu.

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Making sense of the Civil War: Prokopowicz selected as local project scholar

East Carolina University history department chair Dr. Gerald Prokopowicz will serve as project scholar for the “Let’s Talk About it: Making Sense of the American Civil War” series at the New Bern-Craven County Public Library.

Prokopowicz

The series includes five public conversations centered on the Civil War, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. The New Bern Craven County Public Library is one of 65 libraries nationwide to receive the competitive grant.

Prokopowicz will facilitate the discussions, which will take place from February through April 2012. Each session will focus on a different facet of the Civil War experience, including such topics as imagining war, choosing sides, making sense of Shiloh, the shape of war and war and freedom. Three books will provide material for the discussions: “March,” by Geraldine Brooks; “Crossroads to Freedom: Antietam,” by James McPherson; and the anthology “America’s War: Talking About the Civil War,” edited by Edward L. Ayers.

Prokopowicz said the series affords an opportunity for members of the community to talk about the war and its effect on the world today.

“The war took place 150 years ago, but the underlying issues are still active in American culture and politics. Too often those issues are oversimplified for TV cameras or debated in classrooms where only scholars and students can participate,” he said.

“This project creates an opportunity for people to have a meaningful, in-depth conversation and to share the many meanings that the war still holds for people in eastern North Carolina.”

The grant provides to the library $3,000 for project-related expenses as well as 25 copies each of “March” and “Crossroads to Freedom” and 50 copies of “America’s War.” Prokopowicz and Joanne Straight, head librarian and project director for the grant, will receive funding to attend an October orientation workshop in Chicago, Ill.

For additional information about the series, contact Straight at 252-638-7800 or by email at jstraight@nbccpl.org. Detailed information about the ALA grant may be viewed online at http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/ppo/programming/civilwar/ltaicw_guidelines.cfm.

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Grant to bring learning innovations to eastern North Carolina schools

An East Carolina University partnership with North Carolina State University was one of 19 programs nationwide selected to share in $7 million in grants for new and innovative learning programs.

The partnership will lead to release of an intelligent game-based learning environment entitled “Crystal Island” to rural middle school students throughout eastern North Carolina.

In Crystal Island, students work to solve a science mystery as they learn about microbiology. The game will help students achieve Common Core State Standards, new North Carolina state guidelines that establish what students need to learn in each grade.

Initial tests with more than 1,000 students have demonstrated significant learning gains in both science and literacy with the program.

The partnership is a collaboration between the Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education in the ECU College of Education and the IntelliMedia Group at NCSU.

The grants are provided through Next Generation Learning Challenges, a collaborative program aimed at applying technological innovations to enhance learning and improve college readiness. Funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

ECU’s NGLC director Roger Conner said, “We believe learning technologies and next generation models can produce transformative change…for both teachers and students.”

For additional information on the Next Generation Learning Challenges, visit http://nextgenlearning.org/. Contact ECU’s NGLC director at 252-328-6922 or e-mail connerr@ecu.edu.

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Endowment supports ECU program for students with learning disabilities

A large endowment from the Harold H. Bate Foundation will support an East Carolina University program for students with learning disabilities.

The Harold H. Bate Foundation has pledged $333,000 over five years to endow a distinguished professorship for Project STEPP (Supporting Transition and Education through Planning and Partnerships) in the ECU College of Education. The program pools community and university resources to provide academic, social and life-skills support for students with identified specific learning disabilities who have shown the potential to succeed in college.

Dr. Sarah Williams, associate professor and Project STEPP director, said the program helps students “who have historically fallen through the cracks in terms of university access and retention.”

The program boosts STEPP students through guidance in the transition from high school to college. It includes courses in self-advocacy, time management, study skills and note taking. Participants have individualized plans including set study hall hours and assistance from a network of advisers, mentors, assistive technology specialists, tutors, counselors, instructors and other experts.

The extra attention is getting results, Williams said.  “The students…are holding their own and doing well.”

“We have a strong retention rate…stronger than the university retention rate in general, and remembering these students weren’t even supposed to be here, that’s saying something,” she said.

The program’s success has attracted attention in Chapel Hill. STEPP staff members have been asked to work with the UNC System to implement customized learning differences programs at other universities in North Carolina.

Beyond its success in student retention, the ECU STEPP program is unique because it is affordable.

Williams said that many university-level programs exist to help students with learning disabilities, “…whole colleges established and organized around teaching individuals with learning disabilities.” The problem is that “many of them are private colleges and very, very pricey,” she said. The ECU program is offered at no additional cost beyond the normal university fees and tuition.

“Nationally, we have not found other programs that provide this comprehensive level of support to students who are very deserving and very capable of being successful in the college setting without any additional cost,” she said.

“That piece, not charging students extra, is part of our foundation and not something we’re interested in compromising on.”

The Bate Foundation endowment will help keep the STEPP program from charging extra. The $333,000 commitment will translate to even more funding, because the State of North Carolina matches $1 for every $2 donated to endowed professorships. That could result in a $500,000 endowment for Project STEPP.

For additional information about the STEPP program, contact Williams at (252) 327-1101 or williamssar@ecu.edu. The program’s web site is available online at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-educ/stepp/index.cfm.

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The Bate Foundation has contributed more than $3 million to ECU. It was founded through the generosity of Harold H. Bate, a philanthropist, investor and retired lumber executive to enhance education, youth and recreation and quality of life for the communities of Craven, Pamlico and Jones counties and East Carolina University.

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