The Carbon Mitigation Initiative Young Investigator Award is given to recently matriculated Princeton Ph.D. students who are independently continuing their research as postdoctoral research fellows at Princeton. This award is granted only under special circumstances.
Under the CMI Young Investigator Award, Zhong will focus on developing new reduced-order transport models for energy and environmental problems. Using a combination of theoretical modeling, laboratory experiments, and numerical simulations, the goal of his research is to increase our fundamental understandings and control capabilities of multi-phase fluid flows and soft materials. He also explores the possible applications to energy and environmental processes such as geological CO2 storage, geothermal energy recovery, shale gas recovery, underground energy storage, and sea ice dynamics.
One of the greatest uncertainties surrounding climate change is the future of the carbon sink in tropical forests and whether it will be constrained by nutrients. In particular, it is unclear whether nutrients limit tree carbon accumulation and new nitrogen inputs from symbiotic nitrogen fixation as tropical forests recover from disturbance or in response to rising atmospheric CO2. During her year as a CMI Young Investigator, Sarah Batterman laid the groundwork to experimentally test this question by establishing a nutrient fertilization experiment at a lowland tropical rainforest in Panama. A collaboration with Lars Hedin at Princeton University and Jefferson Hall at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the experiment is the first large-scale test of the interactions between nutrients, tree biodiversity, symbiotic nitrogen fixation and tropical forest carbon storage. In addition, Batterman worked with a large dataset of tropical forest biomass and biodiversity (RAINFOR) from across the Amazon Basin to test biogeochemical theory about the constraints on nitrogen fixation in tropical forests and the organization of biodiversity. She is collaborating with scientists at Princeton University to incorporate findings into a global dynamic vegetation model to better predict the future of tropical forests. Batterman now holds a tenure-track position as a University Academic Fellow and Natural Environment Research Council Independent Research Fellow at University of Leeds, U.K.