Listed below will include this year's winning competitors, after they are announced.
Boise State University
“Improving Hispanic family caregiver projects: identifying how unique barriers and cultural values influence service utilization and caregiver roles”
Aging populations in the United States are growing more diverse every year with the largest growth seen within Hispanic populations. Hispanic caregivers to loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias experience unique barriers in accessing public health services including much needed healthcare. This paper aims to identify how public health programs have successfully implemented public health interventions within Hispanic populations. This literature review utilizes peer-reviewed articles and grey literature on Hispanic caregivers and diverse caregivers to identify unique barriers experienced, such as socioeconomic status, language, cultural competence, immigration status, transportation, insurance coverage, and healthcare cost, that contribute to reduced healthcare access and reduced utilization of formal caregiver services. Successful public health interventions and similar caregiver programs must consider barriers and cultural values unique to Hispanic communities in their development and implementation. This research paper contributes to the documented need for additional research on programs that assist Hispanic caregivers.
Adrian Rodriguez is a Master of Public Health student.
Boise State University
“How are urbanization and climate affecting irrigation water demand in the Lower Boise River Basin?”
Regions across the western US are rapidly urbanizing, causing substantial land use and land cover change in historically agricultural areas. In the Lower Boise River Basin of southwestern Idaho, this change in land use has caused subsequent shifts in irrigation water usage, resulting in water that was historically used to irrigate crops now being spread across lawns and parks. Simultaneously, climate change is producing rapid warming, variable changes in precipitation, prolonged drought, and increased rates of evapotranspiration. Water managers currently do not have the information as to how both land use change and climate variability is impacting the irrigation water demand in the Lower Boise River Basin, which limits their ability to plan for future irrigation seasons as population growth continues. The goal of this study was to analyze surface water irrigation diversions in the Lower Boise River Basin to inform water management on the extent that land use change and climate are impacting annual irrigation deliveries.
Bridget Bittmann is a master’s student in Hydrologic Sciences.
University of Idaho
“Use of hyperspectral remote sensing to detect forest soil phosphorus and wildfire ash metal content”
Remote sensing has many applications and benefits in earth science. Visible (350-750 nm) and near-infrared (750-2500 nm) wavelengths can measure environmental data more efficiently than traditional laboratory methods, and in this thesis, a hyperspectral sensing system is used to predict phosphorus (P) in soil and heavy metals in wildfire ash. Ex-situ reflectance was measured with an ASD FieldSpec 4 instrument on 282 soil samples collected from the Lake Tahoe Basin (California, USA). Soil phosphorus was measured using conventional laboratory tests and predicted based on Random Forest and Partial Least Squares Regression. Similarly, models were built to predict heavy metal concentrations in 40 wildfire ash samples collected across the Western US. The data and findings support the development of field-based remote sensing systems that can assess forest watershed P loading potential and the risk of heavy metal contamination in wildfire ash.
Paul Tietz is a PhD student in Soil and Water Systems at the University of Idaho.
Jeremy Van Driessche
University of Idaho
“The influence of tusklessness on foraging behavior of female African elephants (Loxodonta africana)”
Anthropogenic disturbance in the form of human harvest can exert tremendous pressure on wildlife populations. By exploiting populations at high levels and targeting specific traits in ways that do not mimic natural predation, human harvest of wild populations can generate rapid evolutionary changes in harvested species. Yet, the behavioral consequences of rapid, human-induced changes in animal morphology or physiology remain poorly understood.
For example, although intensive poaching for ivory has led to an increase in tusklessness among some female African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations, no studies have investigated the impacts of tusklessness on elephant behavior. We studied elephant behavior in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, and our findings suggest that tuskless females use foraging habitat differently than their tusked counterparts, which could dramatically alter the structure and function of entire savanna ecosystems. This research directly supports the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, which focuses on overcoming the global biodiversity crisis.
Jeremy Van Driessche is a PhD student in Natural Resources-Fish & Wildlife at the University of Idaho