Two WFU engineering professors win water quality research grant

Assistant professors of engineering at Wake Forest University, Courtney Di Vittorio and Kyana Young, together with professors from two institutions in the region, received a grant of $ 250,000 for environmental improvement (EEG ) over three years from the Attorney General’s office.

Courtney di vittorio

The grant and two others were announced Oct. 20 by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein at the Fort Interdisciplinary Research Center on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. Leila Hashemi Beni, Assistant Professor in the College of Science and Technology at NC A&T, and Christopher M. Zarzar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences at North Carolina Central, join Di Vittorio and Young on the grant. University.

Entitled “A Comprehensive, Low-Cost Water Quality Monitoring System for North Carolina Lakes,” the project will develop low-cost lake water quality monitoring systems using drones and satellite data and will train volunteers in a community program to collect water quality. The data.

Kyana Young

Kyana Young

Stein said this year’s process was very competitive, with particular priority given to applications emphasizing environmental justice. “For too long, communities of color have borne the burden of pollution, and I am proud to use these projects to help remedy this unfortunate history,” he said, adding that nearly 3 million grant dollars will be awarded.

“It’s about improving the quality of the water and the quality of the environment around us,” said Stein. “With Wake Forest, it’s a partnership with A&T and Central and with the non-profit organization Yadkin Riverkeeper. They have a wonderful element where there’s an existing program called Girls as Citizen Scientists, and they’re going to hire these school kids to help follow up for them and in the process sow enthusiasm and creativity for a future generation of scientists. , let’s hope so. “

The EEG program began in 2000 with an agreement between the Attorney General’s office and Smithfield Foods whereby Smithfield provides $ 2 million per year to the state, which the attorney’s office allocates among environmental projects. Since its inception, nearly $ 37 million has been awarded to more than 190 projects.

Di Vittorio, University Fellow and Community Engagement (ACE) via Wake Forest’s Civic and Community Engagement Office, told the press conference that she “has a tremendous sense of responsibility to do a good job of implementing the award.”

Wake Forest’s program, Girls as Citizen Scientists, is led by Young and J. Denise Johnson, associate professor and mid-level program coordinator at Winston-Salem State University.

“We take middle-aged girls to a lake near our campus to collect water samples, and they come back to our water quality lab, analyze them and look at the water quality indicators.” , said Di Vittorio. “This excitement it brings to them… they just feel a sense of empowerment to be able to collect data and analyze it and help inform this ongoing dialogue.”

Miller said the collaborative effort is essential because data is needed to enable officials to advocate for cleaner water. “This project will help us better control the water quality of High Rock Lake, and this is important because we are trying to set a new standard for chlorophyll a for the lake,” he said. “This will provide more data and help us both implement this standard and hopefully enforce it ultimately.”

Working with students is also important, he said.

“We… worked on youth education projects and tried to get a new generation of volunteers to help us go out and sample the water quality, both on the lake and in the swimming areas. popular around the basin, ”he said. “I think kids like to go outside and find it fascinating to be able to collect data and see the results of their work.”

College Dean Michele Gillespie is excited about the grant.

“I am delighted to hear that the North Carolina Attorney General has announced funding for the Waterways Watch Project involving Wake Forest Assistant Professors Courtney Di Vittorio and Kyana Young,” she said. “It’s great to see how two of our rising star engineers are having such a positive impact on our local environment, and that they are so sensitive to the justice issues that surround them. “

Other grants Stein announced on Wednesday were $ 133,000 to Renzun Zhao, assistant professor of environmental engineering at A&T, and $ 87,000 to the Southwest Renewal Foundation at High Point.

To interview Di Vittorio or Young, please contact media @nowfu.edu or Laurie D. Willis at willisla @nowfu.edu, 336.549.1994.

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