PNGE Research Lab

An award from the National Science Foundation will allow a researcher from West Virginia University to better predict greenhouse gases and carbon storage under rising temperatures and changing environments.

Omar Abdul-Aziz, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will use publicly available data sets from around the world to identify the ecological similarities and emergent scaling laws of carbon, water and energy exchanges between the land and atmosphere. The three-year award is expected to total nearly $300,000.

Ecosystem greenhouse gas and energy fluxes have traditionally been predicted by using complex process models that are often highly uncertain and not transferrable to a different time or place. The proposed research will unravel their general patterns, which would help formulate accurate models that can robustly predict the GHG and energy fluxes at various times and places.

“By employing data analytics and empirical modeling to these data sets we will identify distinct environmental regimes of the ecosystem fluxes,” Abdul-Aziz said. “The regimes and scale-invariant patterns will be leveraged to develop simple models that can robustly predict the ecosystem fluxes at different time and place.

“This research,” Abdul-Aziz continued, “will promote environmental sustainability by contributing new understanding, broad knowledge and prediction tools for ecosystem fluxes. It will significantly advance ecological-water resources engineering beyond the conventional paradigm of streams, rivers and wetlands to expand on the engineering and management of land carbon, water and energy dynamics.”

Abdul-Aziz, who runs WVU’s Ecological-Water Resources Engineering Lab, has done extensive research in the area of human-natural systems and sustainability sciences and engineering. This current award comes on the heels of an NSF CAREER Award for his proposal, “Robust Modeling and Predictions of Stream Water Quality and Ecosystem Health.”

According to Abdul-Aziz, his research findings will be utilized to teach two new interdisciplinary courses at WVU—Ecohydrological Engineering at the undergraduate level and Ecological Engineering at the graduate level.

In addition to engaging graduate and undergraduate students in his research, Abdul-Aziz plans to involve high school students and teachers through a series of outreach activities.