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News Release 12-196

NSF Investments Develop a Workforce for Sustainability Research and Education

NSF awards 20 new grants to SEES Fellows working across a diversity of disciplines

Photo of a metal-rich acid-mine-drainage from a mine near Lake Fork Creek, Colo.

One Fellow's research examines metal-rich acid mine drainage from a mine near Lake Fork Creek, Colo.

October 15, 2012

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation's SEES Fellows program today announced 20 new awards that address research questions at the core of environmental and economic sustainability and human well-being.

The SEES Fellows program is part of an NSF portfolio called "Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability," or SEES. The awards will enable promising early-career researchers to establish themselves in independent research careers related to sustainability.

From the practicality of solar energy, the efficacy of biofuels tax policy, techniques in food sustainability and genome sequencing, to ways to promote the health of shoreline ecosystems and mitigate the health effects of understudied metals and their byproducts, this year's Fellows will embark on a diversity of research questions important for America's future.

The SEES Fellows program aims to facilitate investigations that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and address issues of sustainability through a systems approach, building bridges between academic inquiry, economic growth and societal needs.

A SEES Fellow's proposed investigation must be interdisciplinary and allow him or her to obtain research experiences beyond the researcher's current core disciplinary expertise. Fellows must develop research partnerships that advance and broaden the impact or scope of the proposed research and present a plan for their own professional development in the area of sustainability science and engineering.

The complete list of awards, primary institutions and principal investigators follow below:

Designing and Testing Quantitative and Spatial Measurements of Socio-Cultural Values for Sustainability Planning-- Kelly Biedenweg, Stanford University

This study will develop metrics and measurement tools for quantitatively and spatially capturing data on social and cultural human values that can be incorporated into environmental planning, urban development and other land-use decision-making contexts.

Atmospheric Water Transport from Mexico to the U.S. - A Holistic, Binational Approach to Reducing Vulnerability to the North American Monsoon-- Theodore Bohn, Arizona State University

This project will explore the impacts of changes in land cover and land use in northwestern Mexico on moisture recycling and transport to both the United States and other areas of Mexico using a coupled land-atmosphere model.

Optimization of Next-Generation Biofuel Energy Tax Credits under Market Distortions to Achieve Positive Environmental Outcomes-- Adam Christensen, Johns Hopkins University

This research will focus on integrating engineering, environmental, economic and policy concepts to biofuels tax policy. A detailed survey of biofuels producers will be used to collect information on the nature of existing market failures, applying models to verify and assess the effectiveness of various tax proposals at multiple scales.

Translating Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions Modeling Into Decision Making on Landscapes-- Sarah Collier, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This project will explore the relationship between soil, climate and production variables in predicting agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. swine production. Results will be incorporated into a nationwide life cycle assessment of the U.S. swine and pork industry.

Development of Luminescent Solar Collectors for Spectral Selective Energy Harvesting in Agricultural and Biofuel Production-- Carley Corrado, University of California-Santa Cruz

This research will develop solar windows consisting of semitransparent Luminescent Solar Concentrators with optimized efficiency for the utilization of electrical, chemical and thermal solar energy.

Socio-technical and Environmental Pathways to Sustainable Food and Climate Futures--Joshua Elliott, University of Chicago

This project will leverage high-performance computing to assess key challenges of climate change. The overall goal is to improve understanding of the interactions of climate and socio-economic changes on agricultural commodities, local land use and land cover, and regional and global food sustainability.

Sustainable Development of Shale-gas Resources in Pennsylvania: Bridging Science, Policy and Economics of Hydraulic Fracturing-- Brian Ellis, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

This research will address the regulation and economics of shale-gas development to develop an approach for choosing regulations that minimize risk to the environment while allowing for robust development of shale-gas reserves.

Re-localization and Sustainability: Linking Industrial and Political Ecology on Molokai and the Big Island, Hawaii-- Anjali Gupta, Yale University

This study will integrate the approaches of industrial and political ecology to assess re-localization efforts--a movement to encourage sustainable production and consumption of food, energy and goods--in Hawaii, and their implications for sustainability.

Developing Semi-parametric Models, Algorithms, and Tools for Ecological Analysis of Species Biodiversity-- Rebecca Hutchinson, Oregon State University

This project will develop statistical methods to enable ecologists to address critical problems in biodiversity modeling, to advance understanding of key aspects of species distributions that can guide conservation efforts.

A Bio-economic Study of an Introduced Biological Control Agent: Ecological, Evolutionary, and Economic Factors in Sustainable Agricultural Systems-- Yukie Kajita, University of Kentucky Research Foundation

This research will use advanced genomic sequencing techniques to investigate how biological control agents are established, undergo genetic variation, and adapt to novel environments.

Sustainability Begins at Home: Understanding Linkages Between Stewardship, Urban Yards and Biodiversity-- Susannah Lerman, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

This project will explore the motivations for and outcomes associated with the stewardship of so-called sustainable yard practices--that is, ways to reconcile urban environmental integrity.

Wastewater Treatment with Commodity Chemical Producing Cyanobacterial Biorefineries-- Andrew Markley, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This research will investigate a novel approach for converting environmentally-detrimental wastewater nutrients into fertilizing biomass and commodity chemicals.

Enabling Energy Efficiency Through Integrated Utilities: Technical and Social Challenges to Forward Osmosis Microbial Bioreactors-- Meagan Mauter, Carnegie-Mellon University

This study will probe the technical and social challenges of implementing a water reuse technology that integrates the processes of energy production, wastewater treatment and drinking water purification.

Sustainable Energy Infrastructure Planning-- Roshanak Nateghi, Johns Hopkins University

This project will assess the design of a new generation of policy incentives for sustainable modernization and expansion of U.S. electric power infrastructure, a climate resilient infrastructure that can meet society's projected future energy demands.

Sustainable Organic Solar Power from Printed Building-Integrated Panels-- Cody Schlenker, University of Washington

This research will explore the technological, environmental and socio-economic barriers to adopting solar power, now used to supply only about one-tenth of one percent of worldwide energy demand, despite its having the greatest potential of any sustainable resource.

Social-Ecological Resilience of Coastal Shoreline Ecosystems: Developing a Framework for Informed Decision-Making-- Steven Scyphers, Northeastern University

By studying the Narragansett and Mobile Bays, both large, densely-populated areas that have experienced dramatic declines in nearshore marine habitats, this project will investigate how social, ecological and engineering factors may contribute to coastal resilience.

A Heads Up View of Aquatic Ecosystem Sustainability: Understanding the Terrestrial Landscape Scale Impacts of Urbanization on Aquatic Biota-- Robert Smith, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

This research will assess the role of landscapes in maintaining and protecting aquatic resources while allowing for land development and examine how patterns of stream fish and insect community composition relate to land-use patterns at different scales.

Barriers to Soil Sustainability, Food Security and Biodiversity Conservation in the Albertine Rift-- Lisa Tiemann, University of New Hampshire

This study will explore how socio-economic and soil fertility factors interact to generate unsustainable agricultural practices in Uganda, how the trend of productivity loss might be reversed and how the reversal of productivity declines can be used to protect the Albertine Rift, including Kibale National Park, one of the Earth's most valuable biodiversity resources.

Hoahu, to Set Aside for the Future: Understanding Sustainability of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Through a Century of Rapid Land Use Change-- Mehana Vaughan, University of Hawaii

This project aims to expand understanding of how social-ecological systems adapt to change in terms of natural resource use, examining a model island system, the Hawaiian ahupuaa (a traditional Hawaiian unit of land division which organized human communities along watershed boundaries).

An Integrated Study of the Biogeochemical Cycling and Human Health Implications of In, Ga, Ge, and Te, Elements Critical to Emerging Energy Technologies-- Sarah Jane White, Harvard University

This research will address the need for the early assessment of novel industrial materials--understudied metals and their byproducts--that will be used in future semiconductors in order to prevent future adverse environmental and human health impacts.

Information on the FY 2013 SEES Fellows competition can be found on the program website. The proposal deadline is November 26, 2012.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:

Program Contacts
Larry H. Weber, NSF, (703) 292-8580, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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