Professor Earns Two Major Environmental Research Grants

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Dr. Mark Bush, Florida Tech professor of biological
sciences and chair of the department’s ecology program, has earned two recent grants. One is $177,000 over three years through the Gordon (Intel founder)
and Betty Moore Foundation and the other is a $22,500 subcontract award from the National Science Foundation.
The Moore Foundation grant is part of an $860,000 award shared with Wake Forest University, the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, and the University of
California at Los Angeles. The researchers will investigate the historic carbon balance of Andean vegetation and soils.
Under the first installment of the funding, Bush’s lab will use fossil pollen and charcoal evidence from lake sediments to reconstruct past changes in
vegetation and determine fire. From these analyses they will evaluate the potential for carbon sequestration in Andean ecosystems. Carbon sequestration is
long-term storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, underground or in oceans, which reduces the buildup of carbon dioxide — principally greenhouse
gas — concentration in the atmosphere. The funding supports Dunia Urrego, a Florida Tech post-doctoral fellow leading the research under Bush.
The National Science Foundation subcontract through the University of Florida is also for fossil pollen and charcoal analysis. Bush’s team, led by
Alexander Correa, a Florida Tech doctoral student, will investigate fossil pollen in a sediment core raised from Lake Peten-Itza in Guatemala. Other
university partners in the project are the University of Basel and University of Zurich.
The lake is familiar to tourists who visit the island of Flores on their way to the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. Lake Peten-Itza is the deepest water body
in Central America, and the lake sediment holds a detailed history of climate and vegetation change over the last 100,000 years.
“The goal of this project,” said Bush, “is to provide a high-resolution record of climate change in Central America across the last glacial cycle and to
resolve climate changes that sparked the Mayan collapse.”

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