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Shakira Hobbs awarded NSF Grant to Develop Analytical Methods for Detecting Pesticides

January 26, 2021

The NSF EPSCoR Track 4 grant funds proposals that will positively impact and potentially transform the principal investigator’s individual career trajectory.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide and there is evidence that suggests both glyphosate and its main metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) may pose a risk to human health, as well as cause adverse effects in the environment.

Shakira Hobbs, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, has been awarded a National Science Foundation EPSCoR Research Infrastructure RII Track 4 Research Fellows grant to develop rigorous techniques to detect polar pesticides at low concentrations. She will serve as the principal investigator. The goal of the study is to develop novel analytical methods for analyzing glyphosate and AMPA. The new analytical methods will support a long-term collaboration focused on detecting and quantifying polar pesticide occurrence and creating sustainability assessment tools for agroecosystems.

The NSF EPSCoR Track 4 grant funds proposals that will positively impact and potentially transform the principal investigator’s individual career trajectory. Professor Hobbs and Ph.D. student, Pedro Martin, will be hosted by Professor Lee Blaney, associate professor and associate director of Sustainability Engineering at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Professor Blaney is a leader in environmental engineering and will collaborate with Prof. Hobbs to develop new analytical methods for glyphosate and AMPA, including sample preparation by solid-phase extraction and quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe extraction (QuEChERS) followed by pesticide measurement via liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Analytical results will be used to evaluate potential environmental and human toxicity impacts and phosphorus fertilizer reduction associated with the use of glyphosate in agroecosystems.

“This study will catalyze the development of my research group’s, Hobbs Lab, capabilities and create new knowledge that will expand research capacity to scientific discovery, innovation, learning and knowledge-based prosperity,” Hobbs states.

Blaney adds, “This award is testament to the promise of Prof. Hobbs’ research direction, and we are looking forward to collaborating with her and Mr. Martin on this important project. I expect that the results of this research will advance not only understanding of pesticide occurrence in water and sediment, but also human and ecological health.”

Hobbs’ lab has already collected samples from Belize River Watershed, drinking water systems in Belize, as well as Cane Run Royal Springs in Georgetown, Kentucky.

This proposed research not only develops transformative techniques for detecting glyphosate and AMPA at low concentrations but also provides real-world methods for safeguarding sensitive species and human health.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 2032938. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.