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Emilie Rex
IU Office of Sustainability

Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sustainability research grants focus on distributed energy, tree canopy conservation

June 28, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Office of Sustainability today announced the recipients of the Sustainability Research Development Grants for the 2011-12 academic year. Two teams of Indiana University faculty and graduate students will explore 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.

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

"The University Graduate School is pleased to support the Sustainability Research Development Grants for another year because the funding provides a golden opportunity for research in a burgeoning field of societal importance while also financially supporting graduate students with their research and training," said Dean of the Graduate School James Wimbush. "Last year we were thrilled with the level of enthusiasm these grants generated, especially the quality of the proposals submitted. We look forward to another successful round of competition, and to the research and support for graduate students that stem from it."

Last year's program resulted in the funding of four interdisciplinary faculty-graduate student research projects focusing on 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.

"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 two research initiatives will tap into our wealth of campus intellectual resources to enhance our knowledge of these critical systems. Research that utilizes our own campus and community as a lab for sustainability research provides opportunities to unite research, teaching and operations for maximum impact."

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

  • "Collaborative Provision of Low-Carbon Distributed Energy in Developing Countries." Jennifer N. Brass and Sanya Carley, assistant professors at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), and Ashraf El-Arini, Master of Public Affairs/Master of Science in Environmental Science student at SPEA, will study the conditions for successful (and therefore sustainable) implementation of distributed generation programs in developing countries, looking at both program and country levels of analysis and the role of non-governmental organizations at both levels. With both tracks, the team aims to provide a better understanding about how complex problems of sustainable energy provision are being solved -- or not -- in poor countries and provide a baseline of knowledge for new scientific research in the future.
  • "The Impact of Institutional Mechanisms on Sustainable Urban Development." SPEA professor Burney Fischer, joint SPEA and Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change graduate students Sarah Mincey, Mikaela Schmitt-Harsh and Rich Thurau and community affiliates Lee Huss (Bloomington city forester), Tom Micuda and Linda Thompson (Bloomington Planning Department), and Laura Haley (Bloomington city GIS) will employ spatial, institutional, and statistical analysis tools to assess how urban forest sustainability (via urban tree canopy cover) is influenced through municipal zoning ordinances. The broader impacts of this research lie in its relevance to urban planning and the development of institutions that promote the retention of urban canopy cover.

Each project will receive $15,000 that can be used for graduate fellowships, 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.

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.