Monday, September 08, 2008

UIS receives grant to purchase elemental analyzer

New equipment will boost research capabilities in several areas

The University of Illinois at Springfield has received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the addition of an instrument that will improve the quality of research, teaching and outreach in many of the university's science departments, including at UIS' Emiquon Field Station.

The instrument, called a Carbon-Hydrogen-Nitrogen (CHN) Elemental Analyzer, was obtained thanks to a grant proposal written by Drs. Hua Chen and Michael Lemke, assistant and associate professors, respectively, of Biology at UIS.

"It is very beneficial for our teaching and research to have this equipment," said Dr. Chen. "The departments of Biology and Chemistry can potentially use this instrument in several of their courses. Students will learn how carbon and nitrogen analysis is conducted, and they can then generate datasets."

Chen said that hands-on training on the CHN Elemental Analyzer will help students develop an appreciation of carbon and nutrient cycling, as well as enhance their skills in advanced environmental instrumentation analysis, all of which has implications for research in such fields as the effects of global warming and species change on ecosystems.

Faculty at UIS are currently conducting three state or federally funded research projects that require measurement of carbon and nitrogen content of soil and plant samples. Having direct access to the CHN Elemental Analyzer will mean that they will no longer need to send samples away for analysis.

"This will allow us to do analysis on additional samples for more comprehensive results," Dr. Lemke said. "We will also be able to use the equipment for outreach and train others to use it."

The equipment will benefit research going on at UIS’ field station at the Emiquon Preserve, one of the country’s largest river floodplain restoration sites located near Lewistown and Havana.

"One key topic here is restoration ecology," said Chen. "As Emiquon is transformed from a cropland back into a wetland, there will be many changes over time, and with our new piece of equipment, we will be able to examine the changes of carbon and nitrogen storage."

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