Srijan Aggarwal awarded NSF ‘10 Big Ideas’ grant

Srijan Aggarwal, associate professor of environmental engineering in the College of Engineering and Mines, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant from the foundation’s Navigating the New Arctic program, one of the NSF’s 10 Big Ideas program. The research under this award will look at the impacts of the changing climatic patterns on water quality in Alaska communities. This NNA award involves fundamental convergence research across the disciplines of environmental engineering and social science that addresses the intersection of natural, social, and built systems.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Texas at Austin, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and tribal members. The National Science Foundation awarded the project $3 million, with nearly a third of that going to UAF. Aggarwal’s UAF team includes Yuri Shur, a professor in the College of Engineering and Mines, and Mikhail Kanevskiy, a research assistant professor in the Water and Environmental Research Center.

Findings from this research will help us understand the current and impending impacts of a warming climate on water quality in Alaska Native communities. As the climate warms, environmental changes will likely exacerbate water contamination problems by releasing entombed microorganisms, ancient organic carbon, nutrients, and metals through the thawing of permafrost and melting of glaciers. While Alaska communities are highly vulnerable to such changes, they also hold valuable Indigenous knowledge about their water resources.

The project aims to merge current scientific knowledge with Indigenous knowledge of water to better understand these changes in water quality over time. The award builds on Aggarwal’s ongoing research funded through the NSF CAREER award in 2018, which examines water quality in the drinking water distribution systems specifically looking at ways to control the proliferation of bacterial biofilms housed on pipe walls of the distribution network.

Other team members on this new NNA award include Navid Saleh and Mary Jo Kirisits, both associate professors in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin; Knik Tribe member Theo Garcia; Laura Eichelberger, senior epidemiology and health research consultant with the National Tribal Water Center; and Henry Huntington, an Alaska-based researcher who studies Arctic policy, human-environment interactions and traditional knowledge in Native communities.

For more information, contact Srijan Aggarwal at saggarwal@alaska.edu.

The public award can be accessed here.