Messer - Research

  • Image of a creek with trees

    Messer Research Group


Current Projects 

1. Photodegradation of Insecticides in Rivers Adjacent to Agricultural Intensive Regions: A Novel Water Quality Monitoring Approach

PIs: Tiffany Messer (PI, UNL), Dan Snow (co-PI, UNL), and Martin Doyle (co-PI, Duke University)

Funding Agency: USDA-NIFA

Worldwide chronic levels of insecticides in rivers continue to rise, which have significant human health and food security implications. Insecticides, once in the environment, are exposed to a range of environmental conditions, resulting in degradation and formation of potentially harmful byproducts. The overarching goal of the proposed work is to quantify the potential role of river geomorphology on photochemical transformation fate and degradation rates of two insecticides that are contaminants of emerging concern (CECs): Imidacloprid and Clothiandin. Path-specific environmental conditions of two agricultural impacted rivers in the Midwest and Southeast will be assessed. Objectives include three coupled field/laboratory research schemes: 1. Sypnotic, 2. Eulerian, and 3. Lagrangian. Each objective will incorporate the development of alternative field and sensor-based approaches for studying rivers in agroecosystems. The novelty of the proposed work is we will conceptually and methodologically follow variable conditions experienced by a water particle as it travels through a river using passive drifting sensors, ultimately providing a more accurate picture of CEC fate and transport.

The proposed work will address two goals of the BNRE Program: 1. Foundational research to advance scientific understanding of processes and interactions of CECs in agricultural systems and 2. Development of CEC fate and transport models for agricultural regions. Expected deliverables include: 1. Provide realistic recommendations for minimizing environmental impacts of these insecticides, 2. Improve current fate and transport methodology that will be transferable and scalable to other questions in rivers adjacent to agrosystems (e.g., nutrient retention), and 3. Provide undergraduate and graduate training.

The overarching goal  of the proposed work is to quantify the potential role of river geomorphology on photochemical transformation fate and degradation rates of two neonicotinoid insecticides that are contaminants of emerging concern (CECs): Imidacloprid and Clothiandin. Path-specific environmental conditions of two agricultural impacted rivers in the Midwest and Southeast will be assessed. Research Objectives include:

Research Objective 1:  Use synoptic field sampling to characterize river reach conditions in terms of light, temperature, and photochemically-important water quality parameters.

Research Objective 2:  Simulate spatially 'static' conditions (i.e., no variation associated with movement), but simulate the effect of changes at one river location through time using laboratory mesocosms and in situ, field mesocosms.

Research Objective 3:  Measure environmental conditions of a transported water parcel via Lagrangian observations and then recreate those conditions in laboratory mesocosms.

2. Managing Water Resources at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center

PIs: Aaron Mittelstet (Lead), Tiffany Messer, and Troy Gilmore

Funding Agency: ARD

The overall goal of this project is to identify water inputs and outputs of the tributary flowing throughout the site to better manage irrigation water quanitiy and quality. The specific objectives are: 

  • Measure flow throughout the entire stream system
  • Determine the origin of water throughout the system (percent rainfall vs discharge of treated groundwater into the creek) 
  • Measure seepage and evaporative losses 
  • Identify potential management scenarios for the Research Center to implement (e.g., timing of water releases; lining sections of channel) 
  • Collect water quality samples to aid in the development of future external grant proposals

Peer-Reviewed Publications

        1. Messer, T.L., M.R. Burchell, and F. Bírgand. 2017. Comparison of Four Nitrate Removal Kinetic Models in Two Distinct Wetland Restoration Mesocosm Systems, Water, 9:517.
        2. Messer, T.L., M.R. Burchell, F. Bírgand, S. Broome, and G. Chescheir. 2017. Nitrate Removal Potential of Restored Wetlands Loaded with Agricultural Drainage Water: A Mesocosm Scale Experimental Approach, Ecological Engineering, 106: 541-554.
        3. Messer, T.L., M.R. Burchell, J.K. Böhlke, and C.R. Tobias. 2017. Tracing the Fate of Nitrate through Restored Wetlands: A Mesocosm Scale 15N Enrichment Tracer Study, Ecological Engineering, 106: 597-608.
        4. Wiseman, J., M.R. Burchell, G.L. Grabow, D.L. Osmond, and T.L. Messer. 2014. Groundwater nitrate concentration reductions in a riparian buffer enrolled in the NC Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Journal of American Water Resources Association, 50(3): 653-664.
        5. Messer, T. L., M.R. Burchell, D.L. Osmond, and G.L. Grabow. 2012. Groundwater Nitrate Reductions within Upstream and Downstream Sections of a Riparian Buffer. Ecological Engineering, 47: 397-407.