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Michael Vega

Education: PhD ’22, Colorado School of Mines in Civil and Environmental Engineering
Cornell Adviser: Mathew Reid (ENG)
External Partner: Varunseelan Murugaiyan (International Rice Research Institute)
Themes: Increasing Food Security, Reducing Climate Risks

Effects of Alternate Wetting and Drying on Biogeochemical Couplings Between Nitrous Oxide Production and Inorganic Arsenic Mobilization in Rice Paddy Soils

Michael Vega is a 2023 Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellow. Michael is a biogeochemist interested in how microbial communities influence environmental problems such as water quality and climate change. At Cornell Atkinson, he will study how to improve rice farming sustainability through lenses of environmental engineering, geochemistry, and microbiology. Conventional rice farming is water intensive, releases methane, and can result in arsenic accumulation in rice, impacting food security in addition to climate risks. To minimize these effects, alternate wetting and drying (AWD) is a recently adopted irrigation method that decreases water use and methane production. Although successful by these metrics, AWD can increase nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas ~10 times more potent than methane, with limited effect on inorganic arsenic accumulation in rice. In collaboration with advisor Matt Reid (CEE) and external partner Varunseelan Murugaiyan (International Rice Research Institute), Michael will investigate how AWD intensity and fertilization timing can be managed to inform a practical rice farming strategy minimizing both nitrous oxide and methane emissions, in addition to arsenic rice accumulation and water use.

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