December Research Awards

November and December were busy research months. Check out some of our recent research awards and grants:

Unearthing the interacting nontuberculous mycobacterial, environmental and host determinants of lung disease in the islands of Hawai’i

The main objectives of this proposal are to fill current gaps in knowledge of nontuberculous mycobacteria ecology and disease transmission using the Hawaiian Islands as a model to understand the critical factors that influence how NTM inhabiting water and soil environments become infectious agents responsible for a recalcitrant lung disease. The specific aims are to conduct island-wide environmental sampling and use genomic profiling, soil and water analyses and climate data to survey the environmental and epidemiological factors associated with the frequency and diversity of NTM in Hawai’i; conduct a comprehensive comparative analysis of matched Hawaiian environmental and clinical NTM isolates to identify species of NTM and to link environmental influences and patient behavior with prevalence of NTM infection; and build a predictive model of NTM transmission to understand disease dynamics in the Hawaiian Islands. This model may then be used to study bacteria and associated lung disease with results that are likely generalizable to other areas of the world.

  • Sponsor Name: University of Colorado – Denver, National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • PI(s) Name: Jamian Pacifici, Forestry and Environmental Resources
  • Budget: $20,183

PIRE: Confronting Energy Poverty: Building an Interdisciplinary Evidence Base, Network and Capacity for Transformative Change

Sub-Saharan Africa is the epicenter of the global challenge of energy poverty, with the absolute number of energy poor projected to increase through 2030. Energy poverty has implications for climate, environmental sustainability, human health and well-being, with negative impacts realized at individual and collective-scales, and in local, regional and global contexts. The complex socio-environmental challenge of energy poverty requires contributions from the basic, applied, and social sciences, and integration of evidence and learning using robust interdisciplinary frameworks.

We will partner with and facilitate the networking of academic, practitioner and policy communities in the U.S. and Southern Africa to fill critical gaps in the theoretical and empirical evidence base regarding mitigating energy poverty. International partnership is critical to the identification of important and representative energy poverty innovations to study, to creating a network of institutions using common frameworks, research design and empirical strategies, and to cultivating long-term interdisciplinary energy poverty research capacity in the Southern Africa region.

Our aim is to build an interdisciplinary evidence base and network focused on energy poverty in Southern Africa, building capacity for transformative change. We will center our research and capacity building around three themes: technology and incentives; space and place; and population and environment dynamics. We will measure the air quality, land use, and human welfare impacts of a representative set of technology and behavioral interventions designed to mitigate energy poverty. Based upon knowledge generated, we will test new approaches for using and integrating appropriate technology and incentives to address energy poverty. In the second theme, we will investigate the spatial dimension of energy poverty by analyzing neighborhood effects as determinants of energy poverty, and consider the question of optimal scale of implementation of energy poverty interventions for maximizing environmental benefits and social welfare outcomes. Finally, we will investigate sustainable wood energy systems as a potential strategy for coping with the challenge of population and environment dynamics in the region, and analyze the associated environmental and economic synergies and trade-offs.

This PIRE is innovative for several reasons. First, we use rigorous quantitative interdisciplinary impact evaluation as the anchor for our research and training program. We seek to study what works, why it works and over what spatial and temporal scale. Second, the study of energy poverty is highly fragmented across a large number of disciplines with very little cross-fertilization or engagement with interdisciplinary frameworks including complex socio-ecological systems and population and environment dynamics. We use these important theoretical lenses to shed new light on this highly intractable problem, and to guide a coherent body of empirical research. Third, despite facing a looming crisis, energy poverty in Southern Africa is dramatically understudied. Broader Impacts Research findings from this study will provide new theoretical and empirical knowledge on energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa to academics, practitioners, and policy makers. We will build new networks and promote collaborative research and exchange among over 50 scientists, graduate, and undergraduate students across the U.S. and Southern Africa, with the aim of creating a robust interdisciplinary network of scholars. To facilitate this, we will coordinate a series of regional training workshops focused on interdisciplinary energy poverty research.

A central component of the PIRE is continuous engagement with policy makers and practitioners. We will organize a series of regional policy workshops that will take place at regular intervals during the life of the Energy Poverty PIRE. We propose several innovations in teaching and scholarship that will benefit the academic community including: development of a Graduate Certificate in Impact Evaluation; new education and study abroad research opportunities for undergraduate students, development of K-12 curriculum on energy poverty in developing countries; and development of training materials for communicating science. All of our training materials, data collection instruments, and data will be made publicly available on the UNC-CH FUEL Lab website. We will produce several scholarly journal articles and publish them in open source journals so that they are available to the global community.

Implementing the Prescribed Fire Strategy: 2016 Coordination

NC State will continue implementation of the Prescribed Fire Strategy. This work will include coordination for the SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Work Group to ensure successful and timely implementation of the Strategy. These priorities are to ensure sufficient, consistently available resources for prescribed fire, to increase the number of trained, qualified and experienced burners, to minimize landowners risk of liability associated with prescribed fire, and to minimize smoke impacts on air quality, public health and safety. Under this scope of work, NC State will continue to provide this coordination support to better ensure implementation of the Prescribed Fire Strategy. NC State will lead, with support from Texas A&M University, the coordination and outreach support for the SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Work Group. Work will include coordinating SERPPAS Prescribed Fire Work Group calls, collaborating with fire and forestry professionals, managing social media sites and maintaining a newsletter.

  • Sponsor Name: Texas A & M University, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, US Army Corps. of Engineers
  • PI(s) Name: Robert Bardon and Jennifer Evans, Forestry and Environmental Resources
  • Budget: $30,000