The University of Wyoming will take part in a four-year, $6 million National Science Foundation project, along with Montana State University and the University of South Dakota, to determine if changes in commodity production and capturing carbon are sustainable, or even feasible, in the Upper Missouri River Basin.
The goal is to decrease atmospheric carbon through alternative agricultural and energy approaches, such as biofuels, and above- and below-ground carbon sequestration. The group includes more than 31 private, state and federal institutions and more than 50 people.
UW, along with the two other participating universities, will each receive $2 million. UW’s role is developing the economic models. Montana State University will study agriculture and biofertilizers, food security, clean energy, water supply and quality while the University of South Dakota focuses on land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment.
The Upper Missouri River Basin refers to the Missouri River and all its tributaries upstream of Sioux City, Iowa. The area includes all or parts of Wyoming, Montana, South and North Dakota and Nebraska, and more than 20 Native American reservations.
“The project is an investigation of what would be socially and technically feasible and what that might look like,” said Selena Gerace, UW Extension outreach coordinator for the project.
“If we were to do wide-scale bioenergy production, how much is that going to impact the amount of food being produced, and what are the economic, ecological and social trade-offs? Our piece of the puzzle is looking at what would happen at both the farm and regional scales,” she concluded.
Researchers across several UW departments and centers are involved. Ben Rashford, associate professor and head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, leads the UW effort in economic modeling. Others from the department are Professor Roger Coupal, Associate Professor John Ritten, research scientists Amy Nagler and Anna Clark, and graduate student Eilish Hanson.
Also involved are Windy Kelley, Regional Extension Program coordinator for the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub; Shannon Albeke, ecoinformatics research scientist with the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center; and Associate Professor Rob Godby and doctoral student Dayana Zhappassova, both in the Department of Economics