NSF grants research team $2.5 million for biodiversity project

University of Connecticut professor Lisa Park Boush and her research team have received a nearly $2.5 million award from the National Science Foundation for a project addressing the impact of climate change on functional biodiversity .

The five-year research project, dubbed the Lake Tanganyika Drilling Project, involves studying three different parts of East Africa with different climate zones, according to Park Boush.

“Our team… is trying to look at three different ones [areas] where the climate was warmer and wetter, warmer and drier and cooler,” said Park Boush in a recent interview. “We have these different scenarios that we’re going to look at in the geologic past.”

The team consists of researchers from several universities in the US, including the University of Kentucky, the University of Wyoming, the University of Toledo, the University of Arizona, Brown University and Purdue University.

According to Park Boush, Lake Tanganyika, where the researchers will collect their data, is the oldest, deepest and largest lake in Africa. The freshwater lake is a source of food for millions of people in the region.

According to Park Boush, samples, or “sediment cores,” taken from the lake will provide data on the surrounding climate for the past 12,000 years.

“If we take these [sediment] Cores we take two plastic pipes [and] push pipes in the mud, [which has] Layers that are like pages in a book,” Park Boush said of the drilling process. “We can reconstruct the climate and look at the fossils in the cores.”

From October 15, the project will run for five years until September 30, 2027.

Park Boush emphasized the importance of analyzing past climate scenarios to predict future climate change.

“The take-home message for it [project] is that by understanding how past climates have affected life, we can better understand future projections of what ecosystems will do in future warming scenarios,” she said.

“We’re trying to figure out how… the lake will respond to global warming in the future,” Park Boush added.

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