DENIN addresses pressing research needs that are relevant to the environmental challenges facing the state and the nation. Research conducted through the institute informs decision makers by providing knowledge that can help create sound environmental policies. Our work focuses on the following core areas:
Processes at the Air, Land, Water Interface
Most of the life-sustaining processes on Earth exist in a narrow band close to the surface of the planet known as the Critical Zone. The Critical Zone is the heterogeneous, near-surface environment in which complex interactions involving rock, soil, water, air and living organisms regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources. An array of important physical, chemical and biological processes and reactions occurs in the Critical Zone over a range of spatial and temporal scales. These processes impact the mass and energy exchange necessary for biomass production, chemical recycling and water storage. They also control the transport and cycling of contaminants and nutrients and have critical effects on soil, air and water quality. They determine the health and sustainability of the ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Research in this area places special emphasis on the impact of biogeochemical interfacial reactions on the reactivity, transport and cycling of metals, nutrients, carbon and microbes in the environment. Policy simulations investigate and model complexities in the economic, engineering and ecological systems in order to provide robust insights into dynamic societal and environmental needs.
Working Groups: Water Quality & Sustainability; Air Quality; Nutrient & Metal Cycling
Environmental Forecasting and Remediation
Future climate changes will undoubtedly result in changes in physical, chemical and biological processes in the natural systems that we depend on for a variety of essential services. Monitoring these systems is critical to detect changes before they become irreversible and to understand the consequences of the changes that we detect. Acquisition of precise and accurate real-time data through monitoring, as well as transformation of these data into a fundamental understanding of environmental change, is essential to develop the predictive models and new strategies integrating science, engineering and policy that are required to respond to these challenges. Interactive research and educational partnerships among these disciplines are needed so we can detect, remediate and restore essential environmental and agricultural systems. Research in this area includes the development of novel sensors that will detect, predict and provide preemptive action against deleterious environmental events. The institute facilitates the necessary interplay of the observational science, the engineering required to make the observations and build the models, and the policy innovations to implement the necessary changes to meet these challenges.
Working Groups: Climate Change; Environmental Remediation; Environmental Monitoring & Modeling