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University of Iowa News Release


June 17, 2009

Obermann Center grants support interdisciplinary research

This month, teams of researchers at the University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies will study community response to natural disasters, how ecosystem changes affect breeding birds, and Spanish language acquisition. The research is supported by Obermann Center Interdisciplinary Research Grants.

"These grants -- with their distinctive emphasis on collaborative work -- were the first of their kind in the nation when they were established more than a decade ago," said Obermann Center Director Jay Semel. "UI projects funded by these grants have resulted in numerous jointly authored articles and books, along with federal and foundation grants totaling more than $6 million."

One team will look at sandbagging patterns during the 2008 flood to understand the community response from both geographic and sociological perspectives.

"There's growing recognition that understanding the human dimensions in disaster response is vital in learning how to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on communities," said UI Assistant Professor of Geography Kathleen Stewart. She is partnering with two UI colleagues on the project: Associate Professor of Sociology Jennifer Glanville and Assistant Professor of Geography David Bennett.

Another study examines the effect of ecosystem variability on the number and distribution of bird species. The study involves combining national datasets of remotely sensed satellite imagery with breeding bird surveys.

"It's an important topic because human alterations to the landscape and climate threaten distribution of wildlife communities worldwide," said Mark Linderman, assistant professor of geography at UI, who is working on the study with Christopher Lepczyk, assistant professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii.

The third study focuses on how native, heritage bilingual speakers and adult English learners of Spanish learn Spanish. Collaborating on the project are the UI's Jason Rothman, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes, senior lecturer of modern languages at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

"Our research will be important to those who study language acquisition from a cognitive science perspective, to applied linguistic practitioners, and to curriculum-makers," Rothman said.

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies provides an environment and resources conducive to the exchange of ideas. Scholars from a broad range of disciplines and institutions interact to create and disseminate new knowledge. Obermann Scholars have published numerous books and articles and have been awarded many external research grants and fellowships for projects launched at the center. For more information on the center, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Diana Baculis, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 319-335-4360,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,