I'm a second year Master's student working with Dr. Alan Knapp on issues relating to climate change in the Great Plains of the United States.
One of our major projects is called the Extreme Drought in the Grasslands Experiment (EDGE). It consists of 6 sites over 5 states spanning the gradient from desert grassland to tallgrass prairie. Rainfall will be manipulated to simulate Dust Bowl-like conditions for 4 years and a suite of environmental and biological characteristics will be measured. We hope to discover which grassland systems will be most sensitive to drought and how that sensitivity comes about. Extreme events like the drought we plan to impose are projected to become more frequent as climate change becomes more intense. We hope that our research will help us better understand the pressure put on natural systems and how they can be managed to maintain diversity and ecosystem services.
My master's project is along similar lines but of a more analytical bent. My project is based out at the Konza Prairie Long Term Ecological Research site near Manhattan Kansas. I'm combining basic Bayesian modeling with field data. The goal is to construct a model of above ground biomass production, based on the long term datasets for biomass, precipitation, fire and soil nitrogen and then test it. During the summer of 2013 I conducted a precipitation manipulation experiment that include both additions of water and precipitation exclusion. I plan to use this data to test how accurately my model responds to changes in precipitation.