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Ecosystem Services Grants


Twelve interdisciplinary research projects on ecosystem services were awarded by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Spring 2012.  Each was awarded to support interdisciplinary research on ecosystem services, the benefits that people obtain from nature.  The 12 projects chosen represent a variety of approaches to such research, which was the subject of the ninth annual Futures conference held last November.

"We received far more high-quality proposals than funds available," said Stephen R. Carpenter, director of the Center for Limnology, and S.A. Forbes Professor of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison.  "We scored the grants based on their interdisciplinarity, relevance to ecosystem services, riskiness/boldness, and the importance and potential impact if the grant is funded.  We believe that the group of collaborations selected will result in the most 'generative' findings."

These competitive seed grants aim to fill a critical gap in funding for research on new ideas.  Major federal funding programs do not typically provide support in areas that are considered risky or unusual.  The Futures grants allow researchers to start recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows, purchasing equipment, and acquiring preliminary data -- all of which can position the researchers to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.

The award recipients and their grant research topics are (primary investigators (PI) listed first, then co-PIs):

BRIAN ALLAN, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
JOEL COHEN, Rockefeller University
RICARDO GÜRTLER, University of Buenos Aires
New molecular, ecological, and mathematical analyses of the domestic and sylvatic transmission cycles of Chagas disease in the perspective of ecosystem services and disservices - $50,000
This project will combine ecological, molecular, and mathematical approaches to improve understanding and control of the complex transmission cycles of Chagas disease, a neglected major source of human morbidity and mortality.  These three approaches will be united through an ecosystem perspective on the habitats where Chagas disease occurs.

KATE BRAUMAN, University of Minnesota
TAYLOR RICKETTS, University of Vermont
Healthy ecosystems and healthy people: Bridging disciplines to understand health impacts of environmental change - $100,000
Changes in the environment, from wildlands to local parks, can both directly and indirectly affect human health. Understanding the linkages between ecosystems and health allow landscape, air, and water management to reduce the burden of disease.  These researchers will create a novel framework to incorporate existing research into a new analysis of these relationships.

ROBERT COSTANZA, Portland State University
IDA KUBISZEWSKI, Portland State University
AUSTIN TROY, University of Vermont
LISA WAINGER, University of Maryland
Interactive games to value ecosystem services - $75,000
These researchers propose a prototype system to combine elements of choice modeling, ecosystem modeling, and interactive multiplayer games to better understand and value ecosystem services.  Research results will enable an estimation of ecosystem service values by observing the informed trade-offs that individuals and groups are willing to make in a simulated environment.

GAUTAM DANTAS, Washington University School of Medicine
MIKE BEMEN, University of California, Merced
FRANCIS DE LOS REYES, North Carolina State University
CATHERINE FEBRIA, University of Maryland
MARGARET PALMER, University of Maryland
Microbial ecosystem services: Identifying global solutions from genes to communities - $50,000
Experts from across the medical sciences, engineering, and ecology will synthesize the state of the knowledge on microbial ecosystem services that includes a framework of transferrable hypotheses, priority research questions, and opportunities for interdisciplinary innovation.  The outputs from this workshop will include synthesis publications and communication resources needed to move this emerging field forward.

KIMBERLY GRAY, Northwestern University
GAYATHRI GOPALAKRISHNAN, Argonne National Laboratory
The energy highway: Marginal land and the effects of heavy metal contamination on energy crop production - $100,000
This research evaluates the feasibility of using an overlooked land resource -- roadway buffer strips -- to produce energy crops sustainably while simultaneously providing ecosystem services such as habitat establishment, water resource protection, and greenhouse gas mitigation.  A specific aim of this research is to evaluate the unintended consequence of metal uptake on plant growth.

CAROLYN KOUSKY, Resources for the Future
The challenges and opportunities for integrating ecosystem services into federal policy: A case study of flood mitigation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - $100,000
There are economic, institutional, and biophysical barriers to using ecosystem services for flood risk reduction.  This project will identify these barriers and strategies for overcoming them in Corps of Engineers projects to better operationalize the concept of ecosystem services for policy and improve integration of ecosystem-based approaches into federal decision making.

CLAIRE KREMEN, University of California, Berkeley
ELENA BENNETT, McGill University
HOLLY GIBBS, University of Wisconsin, Madison
NATHALIE WALKER, National Wildlife Federation
Assessing the sustainability of agricultural commodity chains: Contrasting ecosystem service impacts of small-scale agriculture and large-scale agribusiness - $100,000
Creating sustainable food production systems requires mitigating environmental impacts of agriculture as food is produced, transformed, and distributed.  By analyzing data on how smallholder agricultural production and large-scale agribusiness affect ecosystem services along commodity chains, this research will inform international policies to meet global food security needs without sacrificing the environment.

SHAHID NAEEM, Columbia University
JANE CARTER INGRAM, Wildlife Conservation Society
Establishing an open access global science standards for payment for ecosystem services projects - $100,000
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) projects are a promising new face of conservation and sustainable development, but they lack scientific coherency.  This project will bring together NAKFI scientists and PES practitioners to develop global, science-based standards for PES programs that will aid in the design and success of programs worldwide.

LYDIA OLANDER, Duke University
TODD BENDOR, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
WILLIAM MCDOWELL, University of New Hampshire
JAMES SALZMAN, Duke University
LISA WAINGER, University of Maryland
Ecosystem services as an alternative foundation for development, urban planning, and water infrastructure in the U.S. - $100,000
Through a series of interconnected and multidisciplinary working groups, this project explores the new ideas, approaches, and applications involved in placing green infrastructure and ecosystem services at the foundation of urban and regional planning processes, and the potential for better environmental and social outcomes.

JEAN RISTAINO, North Carolina State University
LINDA HANLEY-BOWDOIN, North Carolina State University
LOUISE JACKSON, University of California, Davis
JAN LEACH, Colorado State University
SALLY MILLER, Ohio State University
Ecosystem services modeling to manage the emerging infectious plant diseases of Africa - $75,000
Emerging plant diseases plague African food crops. Introduction of pests and pathogens with trade between countries requires improved diagnostic capabilities and deployment of resistant varieties.  These researchers will develop a research network, hold a conference on "Ecosystem Services and Emerging Infectious Plant Diseases of Africa," and educate African women in research.

DIEGO ROSE, Tulane University
FABRICE DECLERK, Bioversity International
BRIAN LUCKETT, Tulane University
Econutrition within REACH: Incorporating an ecosystems approach into the United Nations' Partnership to End Child Hunger - $100,000
This project will develop a conceptual framework and produce a decision-making strategy integrating ecosystem services into the U.N. REACH's program for ending child hunger and undernutrition.  The strategy will address agrobiodiversity, dietary diversification, and other aspects of the multifaceted role that ecosystem services can play in improving nutrition.

OSVALDO SALA, Arizona State University
ELENA BENNETT, McGill University
B.L. TURNER II, Arizona State University
Woody-plant encroachment: Degradation or a shift in the portfolio of ecosystem services? - $75,000
Grasslands, shrublands and savannas cover 50 percent of Earth's land surface and are home to 30 percent of the human population.  A large fraction of these ecosystems are shifting from grasses to woody-plant dominance.  This project will assess changes in the portfolio of ecosystem services (ES) that result from woody-plant encroachment.