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Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010

Sustainability research development grant recipients announced for 2010-11

May 24, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Four Indiana University research projects -- examining topics that include agroforestry in southern Mexico, the impact on community sustainability of Home Depot's product donation program with Gifts In Kind International, remediation of exotic invasive species in Dunn's Woods and food waste at IU -- have been awarded Sustainability Research Development Grants for the 2010-11 academic year.

Dunn Woods

Photo by Chris Meyer

A proposal for research, teaching and outreach on invasive plants in iconic Dunn's Woods was awarded an IU Sustainability Research Development Grant.

Print-Quality Photo

The grant program, jointly sponsored by the University Graduate School, College of Arts & Sciences, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Center for Research on Energy & the Environment and Indiana University Office of Sustainability, provides opportunities for faculty members and students to develop externally funded research related to environmental sustainability.

"The projects selected have the potential to make important contributions to our sustainability efforts here at IU as well as abroad," said James Wimbush, dean of the University Graduate School. "The funded proposals apply an innovative collection of interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability analysis and demonstrate how collaborations among campus units can generate opportunities for doctoral students and faculty to solve critical real-time problems while also advancing science. The University Graduate School is thrilled to play a major role in supporting this initiative."

The grant program grew out of a pilot initiative developed during the 2008-09 academic year as a collaboration between the IU Task Force on Sustainability and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and is consistent with environmental science and sustainability research priorities developed by IU President Michael A. McRobbie. Last year's program resulted in the funding of five interdisciplinary faculty-graduate student research projects focusing on topics that include forest management in the U.S., land use patterns in Brazil and Honduras and student transportation choices in Bloomington (

"One key to sustainability is developing a better understanding of the interrelated economic, social and environmental systems upon which we depend," said Bill Brown, IU director of sustainability. "These four research initiatives will tap into our wealth of campus intellectual resources to enhance our knowledge of these critical systems. I am particularly pleased with the proposals that use our own campus as a lab for sustainability research -- providing opportunities to unite research, teaching and operations for maximum impact."

Projects and researchers selected for the 2010-11 academic year awards include:

  • "Management and Ecosystem Composition in Mexico's Agroforestry Systems." Rinku Roy Chowdhury, assistant professor of geography, and Michael Perkins, Ph.D. student in geography, will study and characterize the diverse agroforestry management regimes in the community lands of southern Mexico, and document tree and associated soil microbiota species composition under the main management types. The research will lay the foundation for a larger, collaborative project investigating how landscape context and land manager decision-making shape agroforestry ecology and sustainability in southern Mexico and similar regions of the (sub) humid tropics.
  • "Evaluation of the Gifts In Kind International/Home Depot Framing Hope Product Donation Program on Sustainability: Energy Savings and Landfill Impact." SPEA professors Lisa Bingham and Evan Ringquist will evaluate whether Framing Hope has an impact on community sustainability by estimating material diverted from landfills and energy savings from this program.
  • "Exotic Invasive Remediation in Dunn's Woods: Integrating Research, Teaching & Outreach for Sustainability." Heather Reynolds, associate professor of biology, Roger Hangarter, Class of 1968 Chancellor's professor of biology, Jim Capshew, associate professor of history and philosophy of science, and Jonathan Bauer, biology master's student, supported by professional staff Mia Williams (University Architect's Office), Anthony Minich (Ph.D. student, Educational Psychology, IU Office of Sustainability) and Anita Bracalente (IU Art Museum), and community experts Ellen Jacquart (Nature Conservancy), Steve Cotter (City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation) and Spencer Goehl (EcoLogic Inc.), will develop an integrated program of research, teaching and outreach focused on mitigation of exotic invasive plant species and restoration of native biodiversity in IU's iconic Dunn's Woods, as a microcosm for promoting sustainable human-environment interactions.
  • "Quantifying and Combating Food Waste at IU." Rick Wilk, professor of anthropology and gender studies, Peter Todd, professor of cognitive science, informatics and psychology, and Sara Minard, anthropology Ph.D. student, will examine the institutional structures and individual choices that lead to food waste by student consumers on the IU Bloomington campus.

Each project will receive $10,000 that can be used for graduate fellowships, faculty research fund awards or summer faculty fellowships. Under Sustainability Research Development Grant guidelines, recipients are expected to develop new, collaborative lines of research that have the potential to grow into externally funded research projects.

Applications for the grant were submitted in April and were reviewed by a faculty committee. 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.