AEDE Faculty Awarded 2013 OARDC SEEDS Research Grants

Feb. 21, 2013

AEDE faculty members Sathya Gopalakrishnan, H. Allen Klaiber, and Brian Roe have been awarded a 2013 SEEDS grant from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) to engage in new research on the environmental impacts of shale oil exploration in Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

In their proposal, Environmental Impacts of Shale Oil Exploration in Ohio and Pennsylvania: Capacity Building and Economic Analysis, the researchers note that the large reservoirs of domestic sources of energy offered by natural gas have the potential to fundamentally change the energy outlook for the United States and the global economy; however, though the public benefits of this gas are well understood, much less is known about the private and public costs associated with shale exploration, particularly the costs surrounding environmental impacts stemming from hydraulic fracturing techniques required to access this resource. 

Utilizing the SEEDS funding, the researchers seek to understand the perceived environmental risks and opportunities associated with shale drilling; use this knowledge to answer questions of immediate interest to those in the region; and address broader questions regarding the sustainability of shale gas as a U.S. energy source.

To do this the team will gather data to extend existing economic analyses of the impacts of Marcellus and Utica Shale exploration in Pennsylvania, as well as pursue new research in Ohio. The team of economists will assemble a novel dataset combining information on shale drilling, landowner risk perceptions, land use patterns, and land values to examine the economic implications of changes to land use, perceptions of water quality, and human behavior associated with shale exploration.

The research findings will provide independent information to guide landowners and policymakers as they tackle the challenges associated with the rapid expansion of shale gas activity in the region.

Additionally, Gopalakrishnan has been awarded SEEDS funding to pursue new research with Gajan Sivandran in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, as well as AEDE’s Brent Sohngen, on the linkages between agricultural output and water quality in the Upper Big Walnut Creek (UBWC) watershed, Ohio.

In their proposal, Linking Economics and Hydrology: A Coupled Model of the Physical Processes and Economic decisions that impact Non-Point Source Pollution and Water Quality in the Upper Big Walnut Creek Watershed, the researchers aim to develop a first-order coupled model linking agricultural decisions and the hydrological processes that determine the fate and transport of pollutants from a watershed to a receiving water body. Their model will be calibrated using economic and hydrology data, and using the assembled data as a baseline to simulate alternative climate and land use scenarios, the project will also examine the potential impact of climatic change on water quality in the Hoover Reservoir.

Through their analysis the researchers aim to provide insight for policymakers on long-term solutions for balancing the growing demand for agricultural output and sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems.

This project is specifically being funded by the SEEDS program as an interdisciplinary grant as it involves a multidisciplinary research team that will bring their individual perspectives and skills to seek answers to a shared problem.

Additionally, of particular importance to this collaboration is that Gopalakrishnan and Sivandran are both members of a new multidisciplinary OSU research and outreach initiative, The STEAM Factory, which aims to promote interdisciplinary collaboration in the OSU community across the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and to disseminate Ohio State knowledge through creative interaction with the public. The STEAM Factory currently engages with the Columbus community twice a month at the 400 West Rich Street market. The SEEDS grant awarded to Gopalakrishnan and Sivandran is the first officially funded interdisciplinary collaboration of members of The STEAM Factory. 

OARDC serves as the research arm of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. As the nation’s largest and most comprehensive agbioscience research center, OARDC is a pioneer of cutting-edge research and innovation.  SEEDS funds are used to explore creative ideas and to initiate novel research programs that are consistent with the mission of OARDC. Additionally, SEEDS grants enable Ohio State researchers to collect the preliminary data needed to give them a competitive edge in national programs and in industry partnerships.

Top image: AEDE faculty members Sathya Gopalakrishnan, H. Allen Klaiber (top), Brian Roe and Brent Sohngen (bottom).

Bottom image: Gordon Gee (center), President of The Ohio State University, visiting The STEAM Factory at the market at 400 West Rich Street in January 2013. Photo credit: Anna Gawboy, Assistant Professor, Ohio State Department of Music/The STEAM Factory.

February 21, 2013