More about CEAE

CEAE works with collaborators across the country.
Using the scientific process of laboratory control and replication to study the critical causal relationships of economic behavior and to design improved policy, markets, and products that benefit individuals and society. To learn more about our research, follow the link above.
View these videos using the link to the playlist above.
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Find our lab
Townsend Hall

Our lab is located in Townsend Hall, room 025 on South Campus. Enter Townsend Hall and go to the lower level. The lab is in the center of the building, you will see numbered room signs. Turn in the hallway with the elevator and 025 will be straight ahead.


Since 2016, UD and a group of researchers led from the University of Maryland have been investigating the use of nontraditional and sustainable water use.

Climate variability is placing severe stress on high-quality agricultural irrigation sources such as groundwater. As a result, water reuse and exploring nontraditional irrigation water sources (e.g., recycled water) have become national priorities for agricultural water security and the sustainable production of our food supply.  At the same time, the recent Food Safety Modernization Act is shifting the focus of food safety from responding to foodborne contamination to preventing it. This places great responsibility on agricultural producers, who must meet stricter guidelines for the quality of irrigation water used on food crops. This presents a significant new gap: new sustainable on-farm solutions are needed so that agricultural producers can conserve groundwater through the safe use of nontraditional irrigation water sources.

We are addressing this need through CONSERVE (COordinating Nontraditional Sustainable watER Use in Variable climatEs): A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food, and Health. CONSERVE research, extension and education activities are developed by a leading team of bioscientists, engineers, economists, social-behavioral scientists, law and policy experts, extension specialists, educational media developers and computer scientists. We extend our findings to stakeholders, including farmers, communities, educators, students, and federal, state, and local governments through outreach and engagement.

For additional information on the full project, visit


Professors Kali Kniel and Kent Messer CONSERVE faculty
Kali Kniel and Kent Messer, are members of a multidisciplinary team that is dedicating itself to developing innovative, safe and sustainable ways to irrigate food crops in variable climates.

CONSERVE team members from the University of Maryland College Park, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Delaware, the University of Arizona and the USDA Agricultural Research Service will lead the study, determining the microbial, physical and chemical constituents of reused water to understand what is required to make the water acceptable and safe for irrigation.

The CONSERVE Center of Excellence links experts from the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest to identify the best nontraditional water sources and new water treatment technologies that farmers can safely use on food crops without compromising public health.

The center’s focus will be on developing water reuse solutions to safely irrigate vegetable and fruit crops that are generally consumed raw, which therefore require the highest quality, contaminant-free water during the irrigation process.

Read more on UDaily

Over the course of this project, we’ve had a number of talented researchers involved in this series of projects. Some of the key players and their roles while involved in the project are listed below.

  • Dr. Kent Messer, CONSERVE Project Co-Director
  • Dr. Maik Kecinski, CONSERVE International Project Lead
  • Dr. Tongzhe Li, Postdoctoral Researcher (former)
  • Dr. Olesya Savchenko, Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Dr. Ahsanuzzaman, Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Dr. Sean F. Ellis, Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Sean F. Ellis, PhD Candidate & CONSERVE Scholar (Class of ’19)
  • Huidong Xu, Masters Student & CONSERVE Scholar (Class of ’17)
  • Alix Schmidt, Masters Student & CONSERVE Scholar (Class of ’18)
  • Francesca Piccone, Research Associate (former)
  • Julia Parker, Undergraduate Student & 2017 CONSERVE Summer Intern (Class of ’19)
  • Julia Kesselring, Undergraduate Student & 2018 CONSERVE Summer Intern (Class of ’20)
  • Ebunoluwa Oni, Morgan State University Undergraduate & 2019 CONSERVE Summer Intern (Class of ‘21)
  • Melissa Langer, Undergraduate Student & Research Intern (Class of ’18)
  • Sam Furio, Undergraduate Student & Research Intern (Class of ’18)
  • James Geisler, Undergraduate Student & Programmer (Class of ’18)
  • Carlos Estrada, Undergraduate Student & Programmer (Class of ’18)

Ellis, S.F., O.M. Savchenko, and K.D. Messer. 2019. “What's in a name? Branding reclaimed water.” Environmental Research. 172: 384-393.

Link to article:

Kecinski, M., and K.D. Messer. 2018. “Social Preferences and Communication as Stigma Mitigation Devices – Evidence from Recycled Drinking Water Experiment.” Water Resources Research 54 (8), 5300-5326.

Link to article:

Li, T., J.J. McCluskey, K.D. Messer. 2018. “Ignorance Is Bliss? Experimental Evidence on Wine Produced from Grapes Irrigated with Recycled Water.” Ecological Economics 153: 100-110.

Link to article:

Savchenko, O., M. Kecinski, T. Li, K.D. Messer, and H. Xu. 2018. “Fresh Foods Irrigated with Recycled Water: A Framed Field Experiment on Consumer Response.” Food Policy, 80: 103-112.

Link to article: 

Savchenko, O., M. Kecinski, T. Li, and K.D. Messer. 2019. “Reclaimed water and food production: Cautionary tales from consumer research.” Environmental Research 170: 320-331.

Link to article:

Whiting, A., M. Kecinski, T. Li, K.D. Messer, and J. Parker. Forthcoming. “The Importance of Selecting the Right Messenger: A Framed Field Experiment on Recycled Water Products.” Ecological Economics.