NSF grants research team $2.5 million for biodiversity project  

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University of Connecticut professor Lisa Park Boush and her research team have received an award of almost $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation for a project looking into the impact of climate change on functional biodiversity.  

The five-year research project, called the Lake Tanganyika Drilling Project, involves investigating three different parts of East Africa with varying climates, according to Park Boush.  

“Our team…is trying to look at three different [areas] where climate has been warmer and wetter, warmer and drier, and cooler,” Park Boush said in a recent interview. “We have these different scenarios we’re going to look at in the geological past.”  

The team consists of researchers from multiple universities in the U.S., including the University of Kentucky, University of Wyoming, University of Toledo, University of Arizona, Brown University and Purdue University.  

Lake Tanganyika, which is where the researchers will be collecting their data, is the oldest, deepest and largest lake in Africa, Park Boush says. The freshwater lake is a food source for millions of people in the region.  

According to Park Boush, the samples, or “sediment cores”, taken from the lake will provide data regarding the surrounding area’s climate for the past 12,000 years.  

“When we take these [sediment] cores, we take two plastic pipes [and] push tubes down into the mud, [which has] layers that are like pages in a book,” Park Boush said of the drilling process. “We can reconstruct the climate and look at the fossils in the cores.”  

Beginning Oct. 15, the project is expected to run for five years until Sept. 30, 2027.  

Park Boush emphasized the importance of analyzing past climate scenarios to predict future climate change.  

“The take-home message for this [project] is that by understanding how the past climate has impacted life, we can better understand future projections of what ecosystems will do in future warming scenarios,” she said.  

“What we’re trying to figure out is how…the lake will respond in the future due to global warming,” Park Boush added.  

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