Project in China Helps to Restore Arid Soils

In Ningxia, China, the average annual rainfall in only about 6 inches. Associate professor Rebecca Schneider, along with professor James Lassoie, senior research associates Stephen Morreale and Ruth Sherman, and Crop and Soil Science professor Harold van Es, have made several trips to Ningxia in the past two years to help improve the dry, sandy soils in China. They have developed a method to sequester water and add components into the upper soil layer to maximize the use of limited rainfall to contribute to soil fertility and carbon sequestration.

A research plot in China

Last August, the researchers prepared a test field using compost materials from the white poplar tree (Populous alba). They will now look at alternative soil types to improve plant growth. In addition to the research effort, the project has been expanded into an extension site for policymakers and the public. Eventually, it will be brought into a Chinese “harmonious village,” where residents relocated from rural areas can learn how to apply the soil enhancement technique in their own gardens.

This project is located at the Ningxia Forestry Institute’s State Key Laboratory of Seedling Bioengineering, working with Li Changxiao, a professor at the Southwest University in Chongqing, China, and a former Humphrey fellow at Cornell, in a three-year collaborative project between the Chinese government and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rebecca Schneider

As part of a two-year INTEL science internship program, Steven Kalayam worked with Schneider to develop his own small-scale project testing the efficiency of organic matter amendments in reducing water run-off. Kalayam used a native species of aspen similar to the poplar grown in Ningxia so his results are relevant to the evidence Schneider is collecting to present to the local people.

Check out these articles to read more about the project:

DNR and K-12 Students Success Stories

Several Department of Natural Resources Faculty and staff have been fostering engagement with K-12 education. See below for several examples of this engagement.

  • For the past two years, Dr. Rebecca Schneider has served as one of the science mentors for students at Briarcliff High School in Briarcliff Manor, NY.  The INTEL science internship program, lead by Ms. Kim Dyer, pairs each student with a researcher, either university or industry based, and over a 2 yr period, the researcher works with a student through the different steps of a research project.
  • Dr. Rebecca Schneider has been working with Steven Kalayam (now a graduating senior) investigating how improving desertifying soils with organic matter amendments will reduce water runoff. This project is a small offshoot of a project that a broader Cornell team is conducting in the Ningxia Autonomous Region of China. Specifically, Steve Kalayem measured and compared runoff curves from a soil microcosm containing soils with and without organic matter at 0 and 5% slopes. The project was aided by the generous loan of the rainfall simulator/ Robert Schindelbeck dripper from Dr. Harold van Es’s lab.
  • China soil team members include Drs. Rebecca Schneider, Harold van Es, Steve Morreale, Ruth Sherman, James Lassoie at  Cornell and Dr. Changxiao Li and Director Jian Li in China
  • Steven Kalayam’s project:

a) was the Grand Prize Winner at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair,

b) won the US Stockholm Junior Water Prize Regional Award,

c) won the NOAA regional “Taking the Pulse of the Planet” award, and

d) also won honorable mention at the International Sustainable World (Engineering, Energy & Environment) Olympiad in Texas.

Ruth Sherman Wins Bronze at UCI Masters World Cyclocross Championships

Ruth Sherman, a Research Associate in the Department of Natural Resources, competed in the Women’s 50-54 2012 UCI Masters World Cyclocross Championship Race held in Louisville, KY, Jan. 12-15, the first time they’ve been held in the U.S. and took home the bronze medal.

If you’ve never heard of cyclocross, it is a fun, crazy bike race that is somewhere between road racing and mountain bike racing. The sport originated in Belgium as a way for bike racers to keep in shape in the fall and winter when the weather started getting too cold and rainy for road riding. The races are hard and fast and consist of many laps on a short course (2.5 -3.5 km) that typically are 30-60 minutes long. The courses feature pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills, and obstacles that require the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike through/over the obstacle (barriers, sand traps, stairs, mud pits) and remount in one motion. It’s a very spectator friendly sport – spectators ring cowbells, heckle the riders, and sometimes wear costumes- it’s generally a very festive environment.

There’s an article on Ruth’s race and photos here:

And more photos of the 4-day race event here: