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Last modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sustainability research grants focus on urban forestry, PCB impact

May 8, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Office of Sustainability has announced the recipients of the Sustainability Research Development Grants for the 2012-13 academic year. Two teams of IU Bloomington faculty and graduate students will engage in new collaborative research projects on topics related to environmental sustainability.

Urban Tree Planting

An urban forestry project is one of two selected for IU sustainability research funding for the 2012-13 academic year.

Print-Quality Photo

The grant program, jointly sponsored by the University Graduate School, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and the IU Office of Sustainability, provides opportunities for faculty members and students to develop externally funded research related to sustainability.

"These two research initiatives will enhance our knowledge of the critical interrelationships between human and natural systems while providing opportunities for our faculty and students to test their research ideas," said Bill Brown, IU director of sustainability. "Past awards have proven to be fruitful seeds for much larger, externally funded research."

Projects and researchers selected for the 2012-13 academic year awards include:

  • "Developing an Urban Site Index (USI) for Sustainable Urban Tree Planting Programs" -- Burnell Fischer, clinical professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, along with SPEA graduate students Jessica M. Vogt and Matt Patterson, will study the effectiveness of the Urban Site Index, a rapid site assessment tool used for analysis of tree planting strategies for urban areas. The USI scores a potential street tree planting site on four soil parameters and four street parameters. The team plans to perform detailed soil analyses and monitor mortality and growth rates of recently planted trees to determine how well the USI identifies suitable planting sites -- and in turn, its effectiveness as an urban sustainability planning tool.
  • "Bloomington, Indiana, PCB Oral History Project" -- Associate professor Phaedra Pezzullo of the Department of Communication and Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences, together with Communication and Culture graduate students Joshua Barnett, James McGuffey and Jacquelyn Shannon, will work to establish a public, digital archive of oral histories from people who have been most directly involved in the use, disposal, remediation and political controversies related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Bloomington. The collected personal histories of local residents involved in the PCB history will shed light on national and international discussions about toxic pollution and sustainability in ways that make evident the intertwined fates of environmental, economic and social equity relations.

Each project will receive $10,000 that can be used for graduate fellowships, data analysis, faculty research fund awards or summer faculty fellowships. Recipients are expected to develop new, collaborative lines of research that have the potential to grow into externally funded research projects.

"Sustainability science is a complex arena of research that requires a diversity of methodological and theoretical approaches to investigate the diverse issues affecting sustainability," said Tom Evans, associate professor of geography and faculty co-chair of the academic initiatives working group of the campus sustainability advisory board. "Indiana University has a rich community of scientists working on sustainability issues from many departments and units, and these projects represent the breadth of capacity we have on campus to address the social, environmental and ethical dimensions of sustainable resource management."

Applications for the grant were submitted in March and were reviewed by a faculty committee in April. Proposals were rated on the basis of originality, relevance to sustainability programs, research need, timeliness, feasibility, potential impact, coherence and potential for attracting external funding.

Last year's program resulted in the funding of two interdisciplinary faculty-graduate student research projects that explored the conditions for successful implementation of low-carbon distributed energy programs in developing countries and the use of policy tools to promote protection, conservation and development of the urban tree canopy.