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Kent State University professors focus research on the environment with grants totaling $890,000
Date:11/25/2009

Two Kent State University assistant professors recently received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue research beneficial to understanding the environment. The three grants total $890,000.

Christopher Blackwood, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, was awarded grants to support two separate research projects.

His first project, titled "Assembling Litter Decomposer Communities and Functions from the Leaf to the Landscape," will examine fungi that degrade leaf litter from trees. The three-year grant that runs through July 2012 is for $329,404. Blackwood's second research project, "Microbial Control of Litter Decay at the Cellulose Lignin Interface," will investigate a similar topic using different methods in the field and laboratory. Kent State's portion of this grant is $160,783, running through September 2012.

Blackwood said the process is important to understand because the fungi recycle nutrients needed by plants. The fungi also determine the fate of the carbon locked up by the leaves during photosynthesis. Fungal activity can return some carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but it can also form soil humus from the leaves. According to Blackwood, carbon stored in soil humus may not return to the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years.

"This research is trying to understand the importance of the fungal community during leaf decomposition," Blackwood said. "Specifically, we're examining the implications of having few fungal species versus many different fungal species, and how important it is to have particular fungal species present. We know the diversity of fungi is enormous, but we just don't understand how important it is in environmental processes."

Andrea Case, also an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, was awarded $400,000 in funding from NSF for her research project, "What factors regulate the frequency of females i
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Contact: Christopher Blackwood
cblackwo@kent.edu
330-672-3895
Kent State University
Source:Eurekalert

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