Poster Presentations

This year we have 16 posters to share with you at the Water Resources Conference. Posters will be set up on the ballroom concourse, in front of the Grand Ballroom. This year we will be featuring poster highlights during the Tuesday luncheon session. You can also check out the posters during breaks and at the Tuesday evening reception. Learn more about the posters and authors below.

Bailey Tangen, Anna Cates, Bill Lazarus, Gregg Johnson, Jeff Vetsch, Emily Krekelberg

Soil Health Management systems, with reduced physical disturbance, are touted to improve soil hydraulic functions. Here, we investigated the response of soil aggregates to rainfall under different agricultural management systems. Rainfall can cause physical slaking of aggregates, but it’s not clear how quickly they may re-form, or whether pore connectivity and microbial activity promoted in soil health systems, can minimize breakdown. Mechanisms aside, this process is of avid interest to farmers in temperate regions, where soil health farmers often claim they can get into the field earlier after a rain due to improved soil structure. During 2020 and 2021, we worked with 3 on-farm pairs representing conventional and soil health systems in southern Minnesota and at Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, MN on clay loams and silt loam soils. We monitored moisture content and soil aggregate distribution 24 hours before, 24 hours following and 3 days following several rain events. Long-term on-farm soil health systems had consistently more large aggregates, while aggregate distribution did not differ across replicated tillage and cover crop treatment plots at the Southern Research and Outreach Center. Response to rainfall varied across sites, but in some treatments, microaggregates and unaggregated particles were increased after rain compared to pre-rain samples. Further analysis will include potentially mineralizable carbon, permanganate oxidizable carbon, infiltration data, and pore distribution. Using these metrics, we hope to link soil health indicators to meaningful soil functions, finishing the analysis in Spring 2023.

Claire Simmerman, John Baker, Pam Rice

Microplastics are an emerging environmental threat to wildlife and human health. It is widely known that urban areas are large contributors to plastics in the wild, but what is less known is the potential contributions from agricultural lands due to certain practices including the use of plastic mulch and encapsulated pesticides. In this study, microplastics were analyzed in daily water samples using an automated ISCO sampler, and in monthly wet/dry deposition samples using a commercial deposition sampler in an agriculturally dominated watershed in Southeastern Minnesota. Annual average loads to the watershed through the atmosphere were calculated, as well as annual average loads exiting the watershed through river outflow from 2020–2022. Annual average loads were used to calculate the change in storage of microplastics within the watershed. Dry deposition was revealed to be the largest contributor of microplastics, and the result of the water balance equation revealed a high amount of storage within the watershed on an annual basis.

Kimberly Musser, Dr. Anne Sawyer

Many conservation partners are working across the state to engage farmers and encourage soil health practice adoption. Currently, there is no resource available to help them understand what approaches have been successful in other parts of the state. By aggregating and sharing tips for advancing cover crop adoption, local partners will be able learn directly from peers about proven tactics.
The project goal is to aggregate advice from groups across the state who have successfully increased cover crop adoption in their region. Case study interviews will profile diverse, proven approaches with detailed, workable steps that can be taken to accelerate soil health practice adoption. Examples will include pooling multi-county resources for speaker tours, county soil health demonstration farms, self-guided tours, roadside interpretive signage, video profiles, and tips for supporting farmer-led networks. This advice will be summarized into short case studies and compiled into a booklet that will be available online. More detailed resources will also be included where available. This suite of diverse approaches to increase soil health practice adoption will be shared with other conservation partners, farmers and soil health leaders. The collective advice will be communicated broadly in order to improve information flow and share stories about successful approaches to increase cover crop and conservation tillage practice adoption. Research findings will be housed online in multiple locations including the emerging Watershed Engagement Programming (WEP) Hub.

Kade Flynn, John Baker, Brent Dalzell, Ryan Felton

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers incentives to take agricultural land out of production to help improve water quality. GIS-based toolkits like the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) can support CRP efforts by targeting placement of conservation practices where they are most effective. To support wider adoption of these efforts, there is a need to measure the impact of CRP on water quality. These measurements are lacking, largely because it is difficult to take spatially resolved measurements of surface water quality in low-order agricultural streams.
In this study, we employ a novel sampling platform based on a light-weight kayak equipped with high-frequency sensors, an automated discrete sampling system, and a GPS unit to take spatially resolved measurements of surface water nitrate and phosphorus concentrations. In 2021, multiple sampling campaigns were performed in High Island Creek Watershed (HIC). Preliminary results indicate that the sampling platform identifies changes in stream water quality at a resolution sufficient to distinguish between subcatchment nutrient additions and inform on the role of wetlands at mediating in-stream nutrient concentrations. We have identified sections of HIC that contain adjacent subcatchments with contrasting amounts of CRP land. Ongoing field work will include these stream segments with the goal of determining whether field-based conservation practices can be linked to downstream trends in water quality. Additionally, we will complement watershed monitoring with ACPF-recommended practices to identify further opportunities for water quality improvement.

Reed Jacobson

Aquatic biofouling is the attachment of unwanted organisms to a submerged surface. This causes many issues such as increased drag on vessels, biocorrosion, and the transmission of aquatic invasive species. Aquatic biofouling is largely dependent on bacterial communication in a process called quorum sensing, where the bacteria communicate with small molecules leading to biofilm formation. This creates a matrix for larger organism attachment and progresses the biofouling process. Current control methods often utilize toxic paint additives to prevent biofouling which can cause collateral damage to untargeted organisms and ecosystems. This project aims to incorporate enzymes that catalyze bacterial communication molecules into aquatic coatings and prevent bacterial communication in a process called quorum quenching. This will reduce bacterial biofilm buildup on the coatings leading to reduction in overall biofouling. The objectives of this project are to study the changes in overall biofouling and biomass accumulation with enzyme paint additive, observe changes in microbial community structure associated with enzyme paint additives, and search for potential links between shifts in microbial community structure and the attachment of larger fouling organisms. To accomplish these aims, small plastic sheets are painted with coatings of various additives and placed in diverse natural bodies of water for up to two years. The samples are then removed and the resulting biofouling is quantified via biomass attached, microbial community structure is assessed via DNA sequencing, and attached invertebrate organisms are identified and classified. Reduction in overall biofouling has been seen in submerged enzyme paint samples when compared to coatings without additives and coatings with added copper. The enzyme coating has also been shown to be effective in preventing the attachment of zebra mussels when compared to controls. The expected completion date of this project is 2023.

Mariel Jones, Xue Feng

Across the Upper Midwest, the timing and magnitude of spring streamflow are changing due to decreases in snowfall and rapid spring warming caused by climate change. In the flat, peatland-dominated, headwater catchments of Minnesota, the complex flow paths within the watersheds help wetlands mediate the effects of climate change by creating storage components that control the flow of water through the watershed. In this project, we use extended hydrological records from the Marcell Experimental Forest near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, to analyze the feedback between precipitation, snow, water table elevation (WTE), and streamflow in a landscape with abundant peatlands. We use long-term trend analysis and statistical models to demonstrate the dynamic connectivity across different peatland landscapes. Results show that there have been decreases in both WTE and streamflow, caused by declines in spring recharge. By pulling out key water events during the transition between winter and spring (e.g. the date of snow disappearance or the date of the first streamflow peak), we demonstrate the flow path that precipitation takes from snowpack to water table to streamflow. Finally, using a statistical regression model we show that one storage mechanism, soil frost, is important in predicting the magnitude of total annual streamflow and likely influences the partitioning of precipitation and snowmelt into plant-available soil water and overland runoff. These findings demonstrate inherent complexity in headwater systems and show the need for increased study of the physical mechanisms of frost under long-term climate change scenarios.

Karina Weelborg, Tadele Haile, Udai Singh, Joe Magner, Bridget Ulrich

Urban stormwater carries a myriad of pollutants that can degrade the quality of receiving waters. Biofiltration systems are often used in stormwater treatment to prevent such degradation. Using different types of adsorptive filter media has the potential to remove multiple contaminants from runoff but finding the correct media materials for comprehensive removal of said contaminates is still a challenge. Waste-derived biochar is a cost-effective media with great potential due to its large surface area and microporous structure. This study investigates the performance of MN-sourced and produced, waste-wood derived biochar as a biofiltration media amendment for comprehensive contaminant removal in the field. Three demonstration-scale filters at MWMO contain sand, biochar-amended sand, or iron-enhanced sand (IES) media. Filters are under evaluation for suspended solid, nutrient, E. coli, trace organic, and trace metal removal. Data from the first field season, a conditioning phase, has been collected. The biochar-amended media showed the greatest moisture content followed by IES and sand media at 0.150, 0.058, and 0.056 g/g respectively. Porosity values were highest in the IES media followed by biochar-amended and sand media at 0.500, 0.461, and 0.439 respectively. Infiltration tests show the highest Ksat in IES media followed by biochar-amended and sand media at 55.85, 39.95, and 35.4 in/hr respectively. Preliminary water quality data suggests a combination of biochar and iron-containing materials will likely be necessary for comprehensive contaminant removal. For example, biochar-amended media showed enhanced nitrogen removal but reduced phosphorus removal relative to sand-only filters, while IES filters showed enhanced phosphorus removal but did not impact nitrogen removal. To further understand removal processes with mixed filter media, a mesocosm study will be conducted to evaluate simultaneous nutrient removal in combined biochar and iron-oxide material media.

Anne Sawyer, Anne Nelson

Successful conservation-oriented outreach and education requires practitioners to navigate complex topics in both one-on-one and public settings. Local entities that work with private landowners to voluntarily adopt conservation practices have incredible technical expertise, but often lack support and funding for communications training or for dedicated outreach staff. Furthermore, the pressure to complete projects on the ground makes it challenging to prioritize outreach program development. Therefore, as part of an Extension Foundation Fellowship project, we are building an online Watershed Engagement Programming (WEP) Hub to support these outreach and education needs in Minnesota and beyond. The WEP Hub will be a one-stop-shop for program and planning resources, including a clearinghouse for topical materials. To inform our process, we had conversations, convened focus groups, held a virtual chat, and designed a needs assessment and resource-gathering survey in Qualtrics. The survey, conducted from February through April, 2022, used a “network” approach, with personalized emails sent to those we knew, and then to others recommended by them, and so on. In preliminary results, 100% of respondents indicated that a virtual hub and clearinghouse would likely improve the efficiency and success of outreach efforts. The most useful resources identified by participants included templates for outreach materials, educational information for local and elected officials, program planning and evaluation resources, and tools for audience analysis. Several respondents also shared materials for the clearinghouse. Our poster will describe the needs assessment process, the survey results, and give a sneak peek of the WEP Hub.

Xiating Chen, Xue Feng, Faith Breeden, Diana Karwan, Mirae Guenther, Lucy Rose

Urban trees are widely valued for their aesthetics and their functional benefits (e.g., regulating temperature and hydrology), gaining prominence as a climate adaptation strategy across the United States. However, largely due to the costliness, accessibility, and instrumentation complexity of long-term monitoring, we know little to quantify either the horizontal or the vertical extents of urban tree canopies’ diverse benefits.
To understand how urban canopies function with respect to water, we proposed a paired natural experiment using a low-cost, Arduino-based sensing system. Through multiyear monitoring before and after the ash removal at a tree and plot-level, we want to gain insights into plant-soil-water dynamics, urban canopy’s interception capacity, and the interaction between hydrological and climate processes. We will measure evapotranspiration rate (via lab-assembled Granier-type sap flux probes) and canopy interception in trees (via throughfall, the precipitation passes directly through a canopy), root-infiltration-runoff dynamics in soil (via soil moisture at multiple depths below and away from the canopy), and ambient air temperature and relative humidity.
Here, we will demonstrate our proposed experimental setup, discuss the advantages and limitations of our urban tree sensing network, and present preliminary data from monitoring campus trees on University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus and park trees in Saint Paul. We also discuss the importance of municipal partnership in urban hydrology research. We anticipate that the results from this study will quantify urban trees’ ability to reduce stormwater runoff and to mitigate urban heat island effects, and inform multi-component regional natural resource planning by integrating urban forestry planning and water resources planning.

Faith Breeden, Xiating Chen, Mirae Guenther, Diana Karwan, Lucy Rose, Xue Feng

Due to the rapid growth of large and densely populated cities, urban municipalities are increasingly searching for green solutions to manage pollution. Expansion of urban tree cover has been popular among cities in an effort to mitigate air pollution and manage stormwater. While this growth of urban forests has had positive environmental impacts, little is known regarding the interactions between precipitation and canopy cover and tree canopy influence on nutrient fluxes. Previous studies have shown variability in atmospheric deposition between urban and forested areas, which has been attributed to wind direction and speed, as well as distance from pollution sources. In addition, throughfall composition has also been shown to differ by tree species as well as canopy structure. In order to address research gaps centered around the interactions between precipitation and urban canopies, we collected throughfall under multiple Fraxinus sp.(ash) trees after each rain event for one growing season and analyzed for nutrients to determine rates of wet deposition under tree canopies. We designed collections around trees as part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Long Term Ecological Research Program (MSP LTER) with the goal of better understanding the role of urban forests on nutrient pathways to stormwater and surface water. This presentation will outline our collection strategies and present data results of throughfall water and nutrient fluxes.

Henry McCarthy, Emily Resseger, Erik Herberg

Description: In early 2022, the Metropolitan Council adopted a Priority Waters List. This new list builds on the Met Council’s Priority Lakes List that was last updated in 2015. In addition to the inclusion of rivers and streams in this iteration of the list, new categories, datasets, and methods were used to evaluate the more than 950 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams in the region.
Waterbodies were scored in seven quantifiable categories: Drinking Water Protection, Recreation and Tourism, Healthy Habitat, Tranquil Connection, Equity, Industry and Utility, and Science and Education. A waterbody qualifies for the list if it is a drinking water source, has a high Recreation and Tourism Score, a high Healthy Habitat score, or a high “well-rounded” score, which is an average score of all seven categories.
Over 70 datasets were used (and in some cases developed) to score waterbodies in the seven quantifiable categories. Many of those datasets are publicly available regional or state datasets, including local, regional, and state parks; public water access sites; biological indicators; regional, state, and national monitoring locations; and drinking water management areas.
This poster will highlight three datasets used in the draft Priority Waters List to evaluate a waterbody’s accessibility by public transportation, its regional visitation, and its proximity to historically disinvested or discriminated against communities. These datasets were used to calculate waterbody scores in the Recreation and Tourism and Equity categories. The use of these datasets contributes to a more holistic and inclusive evaluation of waterbodies in the region.

Zachary Aanerud, Fabian Fernandes

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is one of the most important inputs for crop production worldwide. Nitrogen fertilizer usage is also linked to major forms of contaminants to the environment including nitrate leaching, nitrous oxide, and ammonia emissions. While many nitrogen studies in the past have focused on the economic optimum N rate (EONR) for corn production, relatively few studies have focused on understanding the linkage between N rate and these contaminants. Of those relatively small number of studies devoted to linking N rate to environmental N losses, most are only focused on one contaminant at the time. Studies that evaluate crop response to N rate concomitantly with the various environmental N loss mechanisms are almost non-existent. Understanding the effect of N rate on both crop production and environmental impact at, above, and below the EONR is needed to truly come to understand the total cost-benefit of crop production and a healthy environment. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of N rate on corn grain yield and profitability, soil and plant N removal, N balance, and N losses [nitrate (NO3-), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ammonia (NH3)]. This field experiment was conducted at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN during the 2021 growing season. The EONR calculated at a nitrogen to corn price ratio of 0.1 ($0.80 per lb of N and $8 per bushel of corn) was only 79 lbs acre-1 and the grain yield at the EONR was only 100 bu acre-1. The 2021 growing season was unusually dry. The EONR and grain yield reflect that moisture, not N, was the limiting factor. Because of the drought there were only two flow events in the fall and both flow events produced minimal drainage. This limited the amount of data on nitrate in addition to nitrous oxide and ammonia measurements are currently being analyzed and will be presented. This study will be repeated over two additional growing seasons.

Jessica Wilson, Martha Burket, Noah Gallagher, Owen Turner, Karina Anderson

The City of Edina is experiencing rapid redevelopment, and infiltration is a key strategy for managing the associated stormwater. There are many technical reasons (e.g., high water table, low hydraulic conductivity) why infiltration may fail. There are also other reasons (e.g., protection of drinking water sources, policies, environmental justice) why infiltration in some areas is not responsible. The goal of this project is to identify areas where stormwater infiltration is both responsible and technically feasible within the City of Edina. A GIS-based model developed by University of Minnesota researchers (Tecca et al. 2021) was implemented for the area. The original model from Tecca et al. used publicly available data from the MnTOPO elevation dataset and the Web Soil Survey. The Web Soil Survey data had insufficient information for portions of Edina, so local data supplied by the City of Edina was used as well. Several manuals, plans, and datasets were reviewed to determine where infiltration practices would not be responsible. These sources were developed by groups including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the City of Edina, and the Metropolitan Council. Based on the results of the project thus far, it is possible to perform a citywide analysis of infiltration feasibility. However, this analysis must be tailored to a specific city because of the variability in data availability and local policies/plans. The process of performing the analysis, along with the results for the City of Edina, will be discussed.

Elizabeth Boor, Jack Distel, Sondra Larson, Sara Heger

This study will examine how Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) in septage move through and interact with soil, groundwater, and plant tissue. Crop field conditions will be replicated in a soil column model and CEC will be quantified with triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. The results of this study will show how CEC from septic tank septage mobilize and break down in crop field application.

Adrian Potter, Delaney Moberly

A few years before George Floyd was murdered, SRF created its DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Committee. The committee is devoted to ensuring SRF's workplace culture reflects our desire to minimize barriers, fosters a deeper understanding of each other, and promotes inclusive values. During the summer of 2020, SRF realized we also needed to provide a safe environment for staff to discuss challenging topics; and so the Courageous Conversation program began. Courageous Conversations are hour-long, company-wide discussions focusing on important, relevant topics, using videos, articles, or other resources as starting points for dialogue. Prompted by George Floyd's death and the anguish and unrest that followed, this program sparked discussions of topics within our industry that were built on a history of systemic injustice. Adrian and Delaney will share how SRF utilizes these Courageous Conversations to form a foundation of awareness among employees and the positive impact these discussions have had on our company.

Michaela Neu, Gretchen Engstrom

The Mississippi River Green Team, created in 2008 by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, is an employment and conservation program for teens from North and Northeast Minneapolis. Program goals include diversifying the environmental workforce, inspiring environmental stewards, and improving community capacity for environmental protection. The program provides an opportunity for participants to have a mentored job experience, learn about environmental careers and acquire new skills. As part of their two-year, year-round commitment, participants work to complete projects like removing invasive weeds, installing raingardens, and planting trees and prairie plants. Participants also receive professional development trainings and after completing the program, are connected to an alumni network that offers support in pursuing internships, educational programs and career goals. Survey results have illustrated that this program has influenced participants overall environmental knowledge and behavior, and in some cases, results in environmentally-focused career choices.