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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Research Rally celebrates prestigious award given to NMSU assistant professor

Students, faculty and staff gathered April 27 at a Research Rally to celebrate a New Mexico State University assistant professor whose work studying the effects of carbon dioxide in desert plants and soils has earned her a prestigious National Science Foundation grant.

Biology Assistant Professor Heather Throop discusses her research in soil organic carbon dynamics in response to long-term ecological changes in drylands during a Research Rally event held at Anderson Hall. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Heather Throop, with the Department of Biology, and her team of researchers received $858,614 through the Faculty Early Career Development Grant for their work, "Soil Organic Carbon Dynamics in Response to Long-Term Ecological Changes in Drylands: An Integrated Program for Carbon Cycle Research and Enhancing Climate Change Literacy."

"This is a very prestigious award," said Vimal Chaitanya, NMSU's vice president for research. "It is given to a faculty member who has shown great promise in not only performing research, but also integrating research with education."

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is one of the most critical issues faced by society today. The accurate prediction of future atmospheric carbon dioxide, hence future climate, requires a comprehensive understanding of the global carbon cycle.

Through this research and teaching program, Throop and her team are looking to enhance their understanding of the storage of carbon in dryland soils, and implement educational initiatives to enhance ecological and climate literacy in southern New Mexico.

"I'm really thrilled to be doing this work over the next five years, particularly with the opportunity to develop some collaborations within the university and externally - as well as providing some educational opportunities for elementary school (students) through graduate students," Throop said.

Educational outreach is an important component of this project. To help stimulate an interest in science, the departments of biology and education - as well as the local Asombro Institute for Science Education - are developing inquiry-based educational initiatives designed to enhance ecological and climate literacy in elementary-level students and teachers.

In part, this involves developing courses for teachers on innovative use of technology to more effectively engage students in ecology and climate science. The development of an elementary curriculum and field testing will provide science education support to local schools.

Barbara Couture, president of NMSU, said she was excited to recognize this achievement that has its eyes set on the future. From her years of experience in higher education, Couture said that even large research universities may go decades without receiving a faculty award of this caliber.

"This is a stellar achievement for New Mexico State University and I want to congratulate Dr. Throop on that accomplishment," she said.