FY2019 CoRE Projects

In FY2019, fourteen CoRE teams with members representing over 100 UNH faculty and staff from across the university, as well as 20 external partners, were awarded $425K in funding.

Supporting Large, Complex Proposal Development provides funding (up to $100,000 for one year, to be matched by a minimum of 25% non-OSVPR funds) to shape and position major, interdisciplinary external grants with an annual budget greater than or equal to $3.5M for success.

Implementing a UNH Strategy for Arctic Research and Scholarship

Leads: Larry Mayer, Katharine Duderstadt, Jack Dibb, Ruth Varner, and Cameron Wake

Abstract: This Arctic-focused initiative will propel the collective vision of the UNH Strategy for Arctic Research and Scholarship into action. The University of New Hampshire aspires to address the emerging question, “What do changes in the Arctic mean for human communities?” We will build upon existing UNH research strengths to develop and submit a set of large convergent research proposals related to two broad themes: 1) Arctic Feedbacks: Humans, the Water Cycle, and Carbon Cycles and 2) Where People Live: Land-Coastal Connections. Recently the National Science Foundation designated Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) as one of the 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments for the coming decades, with Arctic change identified as one of six research areas requiring a convergent approach to address critical societal challenges. The University of New Hampshire, with decades of experience in the Arctic and having recently convened an NSF-sponsored workshop on Preparing for a Northwest Passage: The Role of New England in Navigating the New Arctic, is poised to become a national leader in Arctic research and scholarship. Our vision is to build a more vibrant and interdisciplinary network of Arctic researchers at UNH and increase UNH visibility within the national Arctic dialogue.


Pilot Research Projects seed-funds (up to $30,000 per project for one year) collaborative research projects with strong potential to attract future funding from external sources, and/or with outstanding commercial potential.

Development of a High-Throughput Fish Authentication Technology to Reduce Seafood Mislabeling

Leads: John Bucci and Semra Aytur

Abstract: The worldwide seafood trade is valued at approximately $140 billion and demand is growing. According to the U.S. FDA, the problem of seafood fraud occurs when a less expensive fish is sold in place of a more expensive species. The U.S. is among the top seafood producers worldwide and groundfish in particular are economically valuable. However, substitution is increasing due to a lack of species authentication. The Congressional Research Service has determined that the level of fraud is significant and that more technologically advanced tools are needed to reduce its prevalence. As a result, there is a critical need to develop a more accurate and low-cost method to prevent widespread mislabeling and protect public health. Our team’s CoRE pilot research project will leverage advancements in next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics to demonstrate “proof of concept” by developing a prototype fish DNA technology (FDAT). The key innovation of the proposed technology is that it will contain many robust and novel species-specific markers integrated into a single assay. The resulting diagnostic test can be used with a number of high-throughput platforms. Our project will initially focus on the more commonly substituted groundfish species (i.e., Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, pollock, Pollachius spp. and haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus). The goal is to build capacity specified by the UNH 2020 Strategic Plan to deepen research, commercialization and innovation. This project also builds on UNH’s strengths in fisheries research through the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and forges an important connection to public health research and policy. 

Establishment of a Unique Coastal Field Site for Marine Boundary Layer Characterization

Leads: Glenn Shwaery and Meg Greenslade

Abstract: The University of New Hampshire has extensive experience in ocean and atmospheric measurements in and near the marine waters along the NH seacoast.  A core of UNH faculty and staff have teamed with subject matter experts at the University of Melbourne and Spectral Sciences Inc to establish a unique coastal field site from which to measure air/ocean interface effects on directed energies used in navigation, communication, and/or weapon performance within the first few meters above the ocean surface. This Pilot Research Partnership team will develop and instrument a site from which to collect atmospheric data near the ocean surface along a horizontal plane. To date, models of atmospheric effects on energy propagation have been built to describe transmission in a vertical plane, such as from a satellite to earth surface or plane to ship trajectories. No reliable data exists to build atmospheric models along the horizontal path in the near-surface boundary layer and the impact on naval and commercial maritime activities listed above. The university is well positioned to interrogate this marine environment as it has relocated over $500,000 of atmospheric measurement equipment from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport RI through a government-academic partnership agreement. Given the on-campus scientific expertise and that of our international and industry partners, we are now well suited to take on such a complex set of experimental challenges that will serve as a first-step opportunity to provide valuable proof of concept data to measure and model turbulence-driven effects on systems performance for our Navy contacts. Discussions with Department of Defense and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program offices and the recent release of solicitations that are targeting closely related research topics put us in a position to have a sustainable effort here on the coast of NH and at the UNH.

Quantifying Kinematic Fidelity of Therapeutic Exercise using Wearable Sensors: Machine Learning Meets Therapeutic Service Delive

Leads: Momotaz Begum and Dain LaRoche

Abstract: The project will develop a mechanism to simultaneously track a therapist’s demonstration of an exercise and a patient’s performance using low-cost, body-worn electronic sensors, and analyze these two motions for agreement. The motion tracking technology exists, but is hampered by software that is unable to learn and recognize exercises and evaluate their quality.  The system will be able to provide the same range of motion measures routinely recorded by therapists, but will do so during dynamic movements, in real-time, simultaneously for each joint.  This information could assist therapists in customizing rehabilitation exercises to address the specific limitations of movement that would otherwise be difficult to identify.  This technology will have immediate application to conditions where proprioception or motor control are compromised such as stroke, surgery and injury rehabilitation, peripheral neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord lesion, and traumatic brain injury. The software also has applications for coding natural movements to bionic prosthetics or teaching robots human tasks using the learning from demonstration (LfD) paradigm.

Regional Analytical Center for Emerging Contaminants and their Metabolites

Leads: Kevin Gardner and Paula Mouser

Abstract: If you read the newspaper in Southern New Hampshire, you have likely read about per- and polyfluorinated alkyl chemicals (PFAS), sometimes referred to as PFCs, that have been discovered in numerous drinking water wells across NH and around the nation.  PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals that affect human health and the health of organisms in the environment. They do not break down in the environment readily, so persist for years and are able to be transported through the environment to drinking water sources, rivers, and estuaries. This Pilot Research Partnership is aimed at 1) developing a collaborative group of faculty at UNH, UMaine, and collaborators in the NH State laboratory to develop the capacity to measure these compounds in fish, mussels, water and soil; 2) producing preliminary data to use in proposal submission, and 3) developing relationships with experts across the nation who are working with these complex chemicals. 

Structure and Function of Brain-Specific Calcium Channel Splice Variants

Leads: Arturo Andrade and Krisztina Varga

Abstract: Voltage-gated calcium channels (CaVs) are key for neuronal activity, and cardiac muscle contraction. These channels have been widely studied because of their therapeutic potential. An example of this is that current pharmacological treatments for hypertension include agents that block calcium channels. Similarly, calcium channel blockers are currently used in clinical trials to treat Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore numerous variants and polymorphisms in calcium channel genes are  linked to neurological disorders including schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder. All this supports the importance of these channels as potential targets for conditions associated to the heart and brain. However, current drugs that block calcium channels often have undesired effects related to the blockage of calcium channels that are outside of the target area. Therefore, it is imperative to design calcium channel blockers that only target the ones expressed in the brain but not the ones in the heart, and vice versa. In this project, we seek to determine the structure of calcium channels that are uniquely expressed in the brain, but not in the heart. We expect that our results will inform strategies to design more specific drugs that will help to treat various conditions associated to the heart and the brain.

Surveying the Anthropocene through Geochemical, Genetic and Geospatial Analyses (SAG3A)

Leads: Meghan Howey and Michael Palace

Abstract: The majority of scientists agree that human activities are having drastic impacts on the Earth and its systems, creating the human-dominated geological epoch that we are now living in, the Anthropocene. To understand the Anthropocene, we must learn about the social, economic, and ideological processes that led to these potentially catastrophic impacts on Earth. Our Surveying the Anthropocene through Geochemical, Genetic and Geospatial Analyses (SAG3A) Pilot Research Partnership focuses on the ‘forensic’ tracking of the deep-time coupled human-natural systems and socioecological processes through the use of integrative humanities and social science perspectives together with trace element and isotope geochemical expertise, genetic analysis, and geospatial modeling. We highlight this long-term goal through a specific research project that focuses on overfishing and cod biodiversity loss in the Gulf of Maine. Using cod remains from three distinct periods, precontact (ca. 6000 BC to 1500/1600), historic (ca. 1500 AD to 1920 AD) and contemporary (ca. 1920 to today) we plan to link changes in cod population, distribution, and ecosystem functions to changes in human settlement patterns, fishing exploitation practices and technologies over the 8,000-year period. There are two main activities of the PRP proposal: 1) Isotopic and elemental sampling of paleomaritime and historic cod remains and riverine outputs into the Gulf of Maine to gain a spatial signature of cod migration and overfishing and 2) To learn and develop a modeling appraoch (Agent Based Modeling) that will let us expand on the interaction and feedbacks between communities and their extraction of resources, specifically cod fishing grounds, over time. Throughout this research project, we aim to submit a prospectus to the National Science Foundation, revise and expand an NSF Coupled Human Natural Systems Dynamics Proposal on the cod project, and publish at least two peer-reviewed interdisciplinary collaboratively authored journal articles. 

The Neurobiology of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Treating Chronic Pain

Leads: Don Robin and Semra Aytur

Abstract: Chronic pain is a significant public health problem that impacts up to 40% of the population in the US. The financial cost of chronic pain is $560-$635 billion per year. The negative consequences of chronic pain include reductions in quality of life, emotional well-being and memory function. Critically, patients with chronic pain have a high risk of illicit drug use (e.g., opioids). Further, chronic pain conditions are present in the case history of 61.5% of opioid-related deaths.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a non-drug, cognitive therapy intervention that emphasizes mindfulness to improve pain sensation, memory, decision making and emotional well-being, resulting in increases in quality of life and overall well-being. This study uses functional resonance imaging (fMRI) before and after therapy to investigate ACT-induced brain changes in patients who suffer from chronic pain. Brain data will allow us to understand how ACT creates positive, experience-based brain changes which in turn will allow for refinement of the treatment and expansion of its utility in other conditions such as anxiety, addiction and stress. 

TIGERS II: Transformative Investigations of Geospatial, Environmental, and Social Sciences

Leads: Jeannie Sowers and Michael Palace

Abstract: Geospatial data and modeling offers transformative approaches to studying critical topics in environmental studies, peace and conflict studies, and cultural heritage protection. The TIGERS II Pilot Research Partnership, which brings together faculty from COLA, CEPS/EOS, and Duke University, integrates social science and historical approaches with geospatial analysis, remote sensing interpretation, and atmospheric science. The team builds upon work done by the TIGERS I Interdisciplinary Working Group in AY 2017-2018. The TIGERS II team will focus their efforts on preparing external grant proposals to push forward three areas of interdisciplinary, international research: the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Middle Eastern conflicts; analyzing air pollution, conflict, and political economy in the Middle East; and digitizing and documenting lost monuments and heritage sites in Mosul, Iraq to assist with humanitarian and heritage protection efforts. 

Watershed Informatics: Integrating Big Data to Understand Watersheds in a Changing World

Leads: Adam Wymore and Laura Dietz

Abstract: Environmental science has entered a new era where data can be collected at extremely high frequency and across multiple spatial and temporal scales. These advances in real-time and high volume data collection are the result of new technologies and new methods in data retrieval, data analytics and computer programming, and novel statistical approaches. The ability to read the environment in real time offers many benefits and applications for improving our understanding of the environmental processes that form the basis for effective environmental management and policy. While these data and new techniques offer great promise, challenges exist in using them in meaningful ways. Across departments at the University of New Hampshire, researchers have taken on the challenge of big and real-time data in an effort to better understand issues of environmental sustainability and public health. The Watershed Informatics Pilot Research Partnership is an innovative transdisciplinary collaboration that deliberately works across colleges at UNH to answers fundamental questions in watershed science by taking advantage of the big data revolution. We define watershed informatics as the use of voluminous data to study inputs of energy and matter into watersheds, their internal cycling and the balance between solute retention and export. Understanding fluxes of elements, solutes and sediment has major implications for environmental sustainability and resource management including forest productivity, soil fertility, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas production, water yields, and surface and drinking water quality. 


Interdisciplinary Working Groups support groups of faculty (up to $15,000 for projects lasting one year) to convene around research topic areas to build awareness and relationships across disciplines, allow for cross-fertilization of ideas, identify potential collaborative research opportunities, and provide a venue for finding partners.

Connecting STEM Education and Outreach Across UNH

Leads: Ruth Varner and Carmela Amato-Wierda


Interdisciplinary Working Group on Integrated Assessment and Research of Wildlife Disease, Health and Ecology

Leads: David Needle and Cheryl Andam

Abstract: The Interdisciplinary working group of wildlife disease health ecology and toxicology will move to 1) establish and solidify means for increased and prioritized wildlife disease ecology and toxicology surveillance in NH and neighboring states, and 2) to leverage the unique biological samples acquired in this pursuit to enhance the applied and basic science research at UNH and partnering institutions. The IWG will bring together participants from the NHVDL, UNH COLSA departments NRES and MCBS, UNH CEPS, UNH CSPP, the Hubbard Genome Center, NH Fish and Game, USDA-APHIS wildlife services. This diverse group of committed contributors will share their ongoing work as it applies to wildlife and ecological health disease and toxicology, and establish a pipeline and network for prospective work. The WDHET IWG will bring outside investigators and stakeholders to meetings to share their experiences and perspective, and to establish additional collaborations. Three members of the IWG will attend national meetings to further network and gather techniques and insights for cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. Outcomes of the WDHET IWG will be commitment of participants to future collaboration and periodic meetings, expansion of the collaborative network within and outside of UNH, and initiation of pilot research projects to generate preliminary data for future grant proposal preparation. This IWG and the pipeline and collaboration we hope it will establish will make UNH a hub of One Health research for New England, connecting the wild animals and lands to research that will work to ensure the continued health of both. 

UNH Behavioral Health Initiative Research Development Team

Leads: JoAnne Malloy and Don Robin

Abstract: Nearly one in five children, youth, and adults has an active behavioral health condition and half of them have a co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder.  In addition, the state is ground zero of the opioid epidemic.   The University of New Hampshire has engaged in a Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) over the past 2 years, bringing together scholars, researchers and staff to create a multi-pronged plan that cuts across multiple disciplines including social work, education, and psychology. Our UNH Behavioral Health Research Initiative (BHRI) will continue the great work begun by the BHI by supporting the development of 2 or 3 major interdisciplinary research proposals and sponsoring several campus-wide symposia.

UNH Interdisciplinary Safe and Sustainable Aquaculture & Seafood Production Working Group

Leads: Erik Chapman and Stephen Jones

Abstract: There is a growing importance of sustainable seafood production and aquaculture to our economy to supply local and specific aquaculture products and address trade deficits. These needs are reflected in several existing federal funding agency initiatives and more related initiatives are being discussed. Rapid development of new technologies holds promise for significant increases in food production by using a variety of approaches of which UNH has existing expertise. At the same time, efforts to rapidly increase coastal and offshore food production could have unintended consequences that will require planning and strategies to minimize undesired ecological (habitat and biodiversity degradation) and socio-economic impacts, and to ensure human and ecosystem health and safety, while optimizing food production and efficiency. Our overall goal is to cultivate and build an integrated community of researchers, educators, stakeholders and end users, representing a wide range of disciplines related to aquaculture. This will enable us to build effective research teams and conduct workforce development discussions that are responsive to needs and funding opportunities related to our Theme at local-to-global scales. Our approach will be based on the idea of “convergence”, i.e., integrated, interdisciplinary research driven by specific scientific questions or societal needs. We plan to hold several meetings, organize small groups, and hold a symposium to bring together people at UNH and in the region that are interested in conducting interdisciplinary research related to our Theme.