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:

Rebecca Schneider Discusses State’s Response to Superstorm Sandy

DNR’s Rebecca Schneider recently participated in a panel discussion on anticipating the next superstorm, discussing New York’s response to Hurricane Sandy. The panel consisted of ecologists, academics, building experts, and insurance representatives. A consensus was reached that strict enforcement of building codes prevented extensive damage and injury during Sandy. Schneider explained that a trend with higher wind speeds will likely lead to more flooding along the coast.

Rethinking Coastal Development after Hurricane Sandy

Rebecca Schneider, DNR Associate Professor, wrote an editorial piece about development along our coasts and major natural disasters. Here’s a quote from this piece “This is the right time for our federal, state and local governments to take a different approach – a more sustainable solution that recognizes that shoreline habitats are naturally dynamic and resilient.” Click here to read the whole statement.

Cornell Biological Field Station Advisory Committee Meeting

The Cornell Biological Field Station (CBFS) Advisory Committee met on September 5, 2012.  Cornell members of the committee include Marianne Krasny, Dan Decker, Bill Fisher, Sarah Gould, Rebecca Schneider, Nelson Hairston, Max Pfeffer, and Peter Paradise.  External members are John Farrell (SUNY ESF), Jim Johnson (USGS) and Doug Stang (NYS DEC).  The CBFS leadership team (Lars Rudstam, Randy Jackson, JoAnne Getchonis, and Brian Young) presented an overview of the previous year’s projects as well as a look at current and future projects and goals. Peter Paradise, Director of Facilities for CALS Facilities and Operational Services, reviewed building projects on the CBFS campus.  Highlights included  research being conducted on Oneida Lake and the Great Lakes.  Detailed information on the CBFS program ( and the annual report for 2011 ( are available on the web.


CBFS Summer 2011 Staff and Students

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.

ClimAid report released

The NYSERDA ClimAid report on climate change impacts in NYS was released to the public yesterday! Many people within DNR contributed to this joint effort between Cornell, Columbia University, and Hunter College. The report was funded by NRSERDA.

Several articles were written about it, including an article in the New York Times. It can be expected to initiate some climate change related activities at the state government level. Congratulations to everyone who contributed!

Click here to view the full story covered by the Wall Street Journal.