Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The University of Iowa Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) has awarded $159,929 in seed grants to researchers at the UI and Luther College. Awarded studies will focus on the identification and measurement of harmful algal blooms, viral and bacterial pathogens, and lead. 


CHEEC supports and conducts environmental health research relating to environmental toxins. Its mission is ‘to determine the levels of environmental contamination which can be specifically associated with human health effects”.


CHEEC seed grants are intended for pilot studies that stimulate the growth and development of innovative lines of environmental health research. The program seeks to fulfill the education and research missions of Iowa colleges and universities by promoting the involvement of students in research activities.



Harmful Algal Bloom Detection at Ultra-High Spatial and Temporal Resolution Using Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Corey Markfort and Greg LeFevre, both Assistant Professors in Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, and Mary Skopec, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Geographical and Sustainability Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa.


Researchers at IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering and Iowa Lakeside Laboratory will develop new drone-based technology for water quality measurements to provide rapid and high-resolution detection of potentially harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Iowa lakes and reservoirs. This pilot study will utilize infrared and multispectral camera instruments mounted on a heavy payload octocopter Unmanned Aircraft System or drone to characterize atmospheric boundary layer winds and terrestrial surface properties including vegetation, to detect HABs.


Rapid Characterization Approach of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Cyanobacteria in Iowa Waters

Susie Dai, Associate Director;  Mike Schuller, Assistant Director; Michele Yacopucci, Environmental Laboratory Scientist; Wade Aldous, Senior Associate Lab Director and Disease Control Division Director; Ryan Jepson, Clinical Lab Supervisor; and Nancy Hall, Environmental Microbiology Manager.


Investigators at the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa will study the major HAB species in Iowa by analyzing samples from the current State Beach Monitoring Program. Data collected will be used to develop a rapid strain identification test and a cyanobacteria library.  Findings from this study will help facilitate environmental risk management and develop mitigation strategies to reduce human and animal health risk.


Quantifying viral and bacterial pathogens in Iowa’s karst landscape for a quantitative microbial risk assessment

Eric Baack, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies program director, and Jodi Enos-Berlage, Professor of Biology, Luther College.


Researchers from Luther College will collect data on viral and bacterial pathogens from wells and surface water in Winneshiek County. Data collected will provide information on exposure risks, in particularly through contamination of well water and contact with recreational surface waters.


Engaging Iowa citizens to measure and understand lead in their drinking water

Drew Latta, Assistant Research Scientist/Engineer, and Michelle Scherer, Professor, both in Civil and Environmental Engineering in the UI College of Engineering; and Kajsa Dalrymple, Associate Professor in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


Investigators from the College of Engineering and School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa will work with community partners in Iowa to evaluate whether lead test kits can be used by citizens to accurately detect and measure lead in their drinking water and to understand knowledge of lead in drinking water and attitudes towards drinking water quality.


Since 1989, CHEEC has awards $3.3 million for seed grant research. This investment has attracted more than $24 million in external funding for additional research. Seed grant funding provides hands-on learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, enhancing their educational experience and preparing them for their professional lives.


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The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover


Media Note: Media interested in interviewing grant recipients or arranging to shoot photos or video of some of the activities involved in these projects, most notably the use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) to monitor water quality, should contact Stephen Pradarelli, Strategic Communications Director, in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development at 319-384-1282, or