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Leung Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Tania Leung has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. She and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

Tania Leung Head Shot
Tania Leung, PhD candidate at Iowa State University.

Leung’s proposed research encompasses harmful algal blooms and cyanobacteria in Iowa’s waters. It is titled ‘Determining the Effects of Co-Nutrient Availability on Harmful Algal Blooms Across Varying Lake Types’.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research. Ms. Leung’s research investigates a question that water professionals in this region posed during a recent public discussion on harmful algal blooms.”

“I’m most looking forward to are the results of this research,” Leung says. “For example, do iron concentrations vary from lake to lake? And if so, why? Is it geologically impacted or not? And if these iron concentrations do vary from lake to lake, then the next question: Do these harmful algal blooms also vary in terms of how intense they are? And if they are very intense, do the toxins vary?”

Miller says, “This is an excellent example of the value of creating feedback loop between the research community with professionals and engaged citizens in order to rapidly respond to pressing issues.”

Get to Know Tania Leung, PhD Candidate at Iowa State University

Leung is from a small town in southern Florida about 5 or 6 hours north of Key West called Lauderhill. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida Atlantic University.

During her master’s, Leung discovered her passion for water quality and decided to pursue this interest with a PhD in geology and environmental sciences at Iowa State University (ISU).

“I always knew I wanted to do a PhD, but I just didn’t know where. So, I started my research by looking for professors who shared similar interests as me regarding water quality,” says Leung. She found what she was searching for.

Tania Leung and Research Work
Leung conducting field research.

“There was a professor at ISU who had a project that was looking into harmful algal blooms. She was trying to see if the iron content or concentrations in the lake water contribute to harmful algal blooms.”

Coming from Florida, Leung was familiar with widespread harmful algal blooms along the coast. However, she hadn’t heard of these blooms being inland until she came to ISU. She says this inland perspective in Iowa has given her, “new insight.”

Leung’s adviser, Elizabeth Swanner, saw on Twitter back in September a tweet about the IWC’s Graduate Student Research Competition. Swanner then ran the idea by Leung.

“Well I never thought a tweet of all things,” Leung says. “Normally I think we as graduate students look for agencies that are looking for grants that we can apply to, but this is interesting that my adviser saw something on Twitter. That was a fun and surprising moment when she told me that.”

One of Leung’s favorite hobbies is cooking. “I took up cooking during my master’s. I love trying new recipes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” Leung says.


For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/


0Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.

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