HomeNewsWater, ecosystems, equity: Announcing ambitious new collaborations addressing critical societal challenges

Water, ecosystems, equity: Announcing ambitious new collaborations addressing critical societal challenges

Clean water. Sustainable ecosystems. These are some of the grand challenges the Institute on the Environment seeks to solve every day. And for this reason, IonE is pleased to announce – in partnership with the University of Minnesota Provost’s Office – the second round of Grand Challenges Research grants and appointments, designed to seed ambitious, world-changing collaborations.

These awards represent the second phase of the Provost’s GC Research Initiative, a University effort to foster interdisciplinary research addressing critical societal challenges – and to advance the research goals of Driving Tomorrow. With this round of awards, six teams will receive grant funding of $2.96 million over two years in the focus areas of “fostering just and equitable communities” and “assuring clean water and sustainable ecosystems.” In addition, 12 UMN faculty will receive new half-time appointments as GC Research Scholars (2018–19), working in six-person interdisciplinary collaboratives.

Investing in this kind of boundary-spanning, solutions-driven work is one of IonE’s founding priorities – which is why partnering with the Provost’s Office was such a natural fit, says IonE Director Jessica Hellmann. “We saw an opportunity to contribute – and amplify – not only our financial resources, but also our intangible ones, such as our unique community of practice.”

IonE’s contribution of $750,000, drawn from its discovery grants program, expanded existing funds available to researchers in the water/ecosystems focus area, enabling the creation of an interdisciplinary team drawn from the pool of applications responding to the GC Research call for proposals. As the Provost’s partner, IonE – in conjunction with the Institute for Advanced Study and the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change – will house the research-scholar collaboratives. IonE will also serve as a steward and resource for all teams working in the water/ecosystems area.

Those research projects include:

Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems via Improved Agroecological Management

Co-principal investigators Lawrence P. Wackett (College of Biological Sciences, IonE Fellow), Carl J. Rosen (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, IonE Fellow), and William R. Harcombe (CBS) will examine the effect on water of many of the major nitrogen inputs used in agriculture and develop microbial management practices to decrease runoff. The goal is to protect billions of gallons of water from contamination, while improving agricultural efficiency.

Water and Equity: Co-developing Research and Engaged Approaches to Transforming Environments (WE CREATE)

Bridging both focus areas, WE CREATE is a cross-college program designed to address grand challenges at the nexus of water and equity. Co-PIs Kate Derickson (College of Liberal Arts, IonE Associate), Susan Galatowitsch (CFANS), Sarah Hobbie (CBS, IonE Fellow), and Stephen Polasky (CFANS, IonE Fellow), along with IonE’s Bonnie Keeler (Natural Capital Project) and Fred Rose (Acara) will launch research projects in the United States and internationally, while also creating a new interdisciplinary graduate fellowship program – training the next generation of scholars in developing salient, credible, legitimate partnerships with communities and practitioners.

Wild Rice in Minnesota and the Great Lakes Region: A Flagship for Environmental Preservation and Indigenous Resource Sovereignty

Wild rice (manoomin, psiƞ, Zizania palustris) is central to both diet and cultural identity for many Native peoples around the Great Lakes. Co-PIs G.-H. Crystal Ng (College of Science and Engineering), Mark Bellcourt (CFANS Office of Diversity and Inclusion), Mae Davenport (CFANS), Daniel Larkin (CFANS, IonE Associate), Amy Myrbo (CSE), and Cara Santelli (CSE, IonE Associate) will seek to generate new understanding of the co-production of ecological knowledge and policy among tribes, academic researchers, and state agencies.

Learn more about the phase-two Grand Challenges Research awards, including the teams working in the just and equitable communities focus area and the new GC Research Scholar collaboratives.

Julie Hanus

Senior Communications Strategist

hanus018@umn.edu

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