Atkinson Center announces venture fund awards
From identifying threats to biodiversity in the Finger Lakes to formalizing property rights in Tanzania, 10 interdisciplinary projects have been chosen for spring 2011 academic venture fund awards from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF). The awards were announced May 29 and total $705,318.
Initiated in 2008, the academic venture fund is designed to stimulate original, cross-disciplinary research at Cornell in sustainability science, particularly work with the potential to involve external partners such as industry, government, foundations and nongovernmental organizationss.
Of 33 proposals submitted in this round, nearly 80 percent included investigators from more than one college or school, and 70 percent encompassed two or more of ACSF’s sustainability themes of energy, environment and economic development. More than 30 percent included faculty from three or more colleges or schools.
The projects receiving funds are:
- New Sales Approaches for Improved Cookstoves: Researchers from applied economics and management, crop and soil science and development sociology will test a new approach to encourage use of safer, more sustainable cook stoves in developing countries.
- Threats to Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Finger Lakes: With communities and management agencies, researchers from natural resources, plant pathology, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and ecology and evolutionary biology will create a network of two-hectare deer-free zones to assess the effects of white-tailed deer on local ecology.
- Developing a Soil-Based, Sustainable Specialty Crop Greenhouse Industry in the Northeast: Researchers from applied economics and management, civil and environmental engineering, and biological and environmental engineering will use modeling to test whether an integrated approach to production practices, energy use and market access can contribute to the development of a sustainable specialty crop greenhouse industry in the Northeast. The researchers will also develop models to identify production-commercialization systems that take into account greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
- Harnessing Genomics to Advance Biodiversity and Conservation Research: Researchers from natural resources, ecology and evolutionary biology, microbiology and the Vet College will work to reoptimize bioinformatic algorithms for applications in non-model taxa. The researchers will also promote further interactions among biodiversity and conservation scientists and model system genomicists in various disciplines across campus.
- Ecologically Sustainable Disease Management for Emerging Bioenergy Crops: Investigators from plant pathology and horticulture will work toward developing sustainable disease management strategies for potential biofuel feedstocks, such as willow and switchgrass, in the eastern United States.
- Property Formalization and the Role of Technology in Tanzania: Researchers from city and regional planning and the Law School will examine the possibilities and obstacles for using Geographic Information Systems in formalizing and incorporating customary tenure in Tanzania. The research will also examine the role of technology in the development process and consider ways in which public participation could play a role toward developing a more comprehensive understanding of land ownership and access.
- Implications of Methane Production Related to Natural Gas Extraction From Shale: Researchers in ecology and evolutionary biology, civil and environmental engineering, applied economics and management, and earth and atmospheric sciences will quantify methane released by shale gas development, reassess the global methane budget, and explore the economic ramifications of fugitive methane emission.
- Sustainable Pest Management and Yield Increase Strategies: Researchers from entomology, applied economics and management, and plant biology will develop a sustainable pest management strategy for smallholder Andean farmers, using local resources to make the target potato crop unattractive for tuber moths, provide an alternate trap crop to attract the moths, and harness natural plant responses to increase yield.
- School Gardens — Improving New York State Youth Ecological Literacy, Diet and Physical Activity: Researchers in design and environmental analysis, applied economics and management, nutritional sciences, horticulture, and civil and environmental engineering will study the efficacy of school gardens in terms of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning outcomes, diet, physical activity and connection to nature. The researchers will also organize a workshop of experts and stakeholders to build an interdisciplinary statewide network.
- Developing Meaningful Evaluations of Sustainability: Indicators for Agrarian Development: Researchers in development sociology, government and the Law School will develop the Cornell Indicator of Agrarian Development, a framework for evaluating development, well-being and environmental health in agrarian societies. By combining qualitative and quantitative information, the framework will measure sustainability, security, sustenance and sovereignty.