"We have modeling components that relate the two," Daniels said. "For example, we can look at how crop pricing influences land cover, which then influences water runoff and groundwater recharge, which then influences the amount of water flowing to the rivers, which then influences how fish are able to reproduce that year. To really understand this complexity requires a broad range of expertise, ranging from political science to hydrology, and one of my most important roles as project leader will be to coordinate between these disciplines."
The interdisciplinary team comes from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering.
Four researchers -- including Caldas; Joe Aistrup, dean of Auburn University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and former associate dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of political science at Kansas State University; Jason Bergtold, associate professor of agricultural economics; and Jessica Heier Stamm, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering -- will develop land-cover change and human decision-making models developed from an extensive survey of landowners and water users in the basin. The scientists will interview landowners to better understand what is driving land-use decisions and how water scarcity influences those decisions. For example, they want to understand why and when a farmer may switch from rain-fed crops to center-pivot crops.
Biologists David Haukos and Martha Mather -- both adjunct associate professors in the Division of Biology and researchers with the Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit -- will investigate how water level changes affect fish, plants and wildlife in streams and wetlands of the Smoky Hill basin.
In the College of Agriculture, Bergtold will work with the other social scientists to model how economic forces, such as crop prices and fuel prices, influence land- and water-use decisions.
In the College of Engineering, Aleksey Sheshukov, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, will further develop a land-use and hydrologic model for the Smoky Hill Watershed. He will refine precipitation inputs to better simulate climate variations, such as intense storm events. Heier Stamm will take efficiency models that companies use to streamline manufacturing and apply them to policy-making processes to reach sustainability quickly.
"This project is a great example of collaborative work among K-State faculty from different departments," Caldas said.
The research grant also will support several graduate student researchers in various colleges and departments.
"The project brings funding from a high-profile competition to advance K-State's reputation as a top-quality research institution," Daniels said.