Laura Christianson, Ph.D., P.E. is the leader of I-DROP at the University of Illinois. She began her role as Research Assistant Professor of Water Quality in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois in September 2015, and transitioned into a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in November 2016. Her research and extension program focuses on economically thriving farms and clean water outcomes. With a background in agricultural engineering, she formerly worked on the design of woodchip bioreactors for removal of nitrate from point and non-point sources as a research engineer, studied options to improve ditch drainage water quality in the Mid-Atlantic, and has done research on drained dairy pastures as a Fulbright Fellow in New Zealand. Dr. Christianson serves as the state liaison for the North Central Region Water Network. She is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Illinois.
Reid Christianson, P.E., Ph.D. joined the I-DROP team at the University of Illinois in May 2017 as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences. Through funding from the Walton Family Foundation, his work will initially focus on the development of a tracking framework which Mississippi River Basin states will use to report progress to the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force about their non-point source nutrient loss reductions. He has extensive water quality experience in both the Mississippi River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay watershed through his previous work on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy science assessment team and by designing and modeling urban stormwater retrofits as a water resources engineer with the Center for Watershed Protection (Ellicott City, Maryland). Dr. Christianson’s Ph.D. is from Oklahoma State University in Biosystems Engineering, and he is a registered civil engineer in Illinois, Iowa, and Maryland.
Daniel Hiatt is a Water Quality Specialist who started with the group in July 2016. Daniel is an Illinois native nearing completion of a Ph.D. in Biology at Baylor University where he investigated the impacts of hydrologic processes and terrestrial-aquatic linkages on algal growth and nutrient availability in aquatic ecosystems. He holds an M.S. and B.S. in Biology from Eastern Illinois University. Within I-DROP, Daniel oversees day-to-day activities including laboratory analyses and general operations.
Jack Mrozek began his role as I-DROP’s field research technician in May 2017 immediately after completing his Bachelor of Science in Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. Jack brings hands-on experience with agronomic field research combined with an interest in agroecology. He is responsible for collecting data from field sites across the state, maintaining a wide variety of sampling equipment and data loggers, and data processing and analysis.
Niranga Wickramarathne is a water quality researcher who joined the I-DROP team in September 2017 after completing her M.S. in Natural Resources (emphasis on water quality) at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She holds a B.S in Agricultural Sciences and Management from Sabaragamuwa University in Sri Lanka and a M.S. in Crop Science from the Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Within I-DROP, Niranga will conduct field and laboratory drainage water quality studies and perform data analysis.
Shiyang Li is a visiting scholar studying advanced denitrifying bioreactor designs for I-DROP with both lab- and field-scale studies. He’s particularly interested in improving nitrate removal by incorporating a heating component into bioreactor designs and also in pairing phosphorus removal structures with bioreactors. He has a Ph.D. and a M.S. from Harbin Institute of Technology (Harbin, China), and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois since 2012.
Allan Hertzberger began a Master of Science specializing in Environmental Science in the Department of Crop Sciences in May 2016. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Crop and Soil Science (cum laude) from Illinois State University. His graduate research focuses on nutrient transport from agricultural systems contributing to water quality degradation and practices that impact nutrient loss or retention. He’s leading the “Dissolving uncertainty: A comprehensive evaluation of dissolved P in tile drainage” project.
Hannah Dougherty is studying for a Master of Science in the Crop Sciences Department beginning August 2016. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Crop Sciences and Agriculture Consumer Economics from the University of Illinois in May 2016. Hannah’s project will focus on the denitrifying bioreactor that is part of the ACES Dudley Smith Initiative project.
S. Bianca Bailey is a Ph.D. student in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) department and a Dewson Fellow at the University of Illinois. She is being co-advised by Dr. Richard Cooke in ABE. She has a passion for teaching and water purification which has led to her pursuit of a doctoral degree. She is creating a sustainable water filter system to clean phosphorus from tile drainage water. She received her M.S. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Howard University in Washington, DC. In 2011, Ms. Bailey was awarded the White House “Champion of Change Award for Women & Girls in Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEM)” for her work in implementing water filters in Kenya and work in Sudan.
Janith Chandrasoma joined the I-DROP team at University of Illinois in June 2017 as a PhD student in the Department of Crop Sciences. His graduate research work focuses on how drainage water management (DWM) and saturated buffers help reduce nitrogen loss in agricultural drainage water. His areas of interest include soil nutrient management, biochar, and GIS. He received his M.S in Natural Resources (Soil Sciences concentration) at the University of Missouri-Columbia and his B.Sc in Agricultural Sciences and Management from Sabaragamuwa University in Sri Lanka.
Giovani Preza Fontes started in the lab in May 2017. He received his B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil, and his M.S. in Agronomy from Kansas State University. His PhD research is focused on evaluating the agronomic and environmental impacts of cover crops and 4R nitrogen management on tile-drainage nitrate losses and soil nitrous oxide emissions in a continuous corn cropping system. His research site is the Dudley Smith farm near Pana, Illinois which aims to serve as a sustainable intensification research platform for corn production in Illinois. His areas of interest include soil fertility, precision agriculture, and crop and nutrient management practices applied to sustainable agriculture.
Lara Seek (coming soon)…
Christine Lepine is a Master of Science student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) program and an employee of The Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute. She graduated from Shepherd University (Shepherdstown, West Virginia) in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, with a concentration on natural resources management. As an undergraduate, Christine examined the use of denitrification bioreactors for treating aquacultural production wastewater. Continuing with this research for her graduate project, she is working to extend the lifespan of denitrification bioreactors given aquaculture wastewater’s unique water chemistries. Dr. Robert Hudson (NRES) will also be serving on her graduate research committee.
Teresa Tinta, current USDA NIFA intern through the HACU program (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities), recently graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor of Science in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Teresa originally hails from Peru, and is eager to undertake as many opportunities as possible to advance in her career and further her learning. She has previous GIS experience from working at the National Capital Planning Commission. As part of her USDA NIFA internship, Teresa will with working with I-DROP and the SERA 46 multi-state committee to help spatially represent trends across the Mississippi River Basin.