Cornell Atkinson awards $1.1M to innovative projects

The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability has awarded seven Academic Venture Fund (AVF) interdisciplinary seed grants, totaling $1.1 million, for projects that engage faculty from eight Cornell colleges and 16 academic departments.

In its 13th year of providing grants, AVF serves as an incubator of innovation, according to David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of Cornell Atkinson.

“AVF awards catalyze the creation of new interdisciplinary research groups and fuel exploratory research on essential topics that are high risk,” he said. “Collaboration across disciplines is often critical to understanding and solving the complex problems that connect climate, energy, food and health.”

The AVF seed funding, Lodge said, will help faculty establish the viability of a research team’s ideas, and help the team be successful in competing for external funding from government or private sources.

The Office of Engagement Initiatives will work with AVF projects that incorporate undergraduate community-engaged research opportunities.

Cornell impacting New York State

The 2020 AVF projects are:

Training Dogs to Sniff Out New Pests: With infestations of the invasive spotted lanternfly – which damage grape vines and apple trees – reported in New York, state agencies are seeking new ways to intercept the pest. The scientists will conduct studies to learn if dogs can be used to detect spotted lanternfly.

Researchers: Carrie Brown-Lima and Angela Fuller, natural resources; and Ann Hajek and Greg Loeb, entomology.

Antibacterial Resistance in Drinking Water: Recent research reveals that disinfectants can increase antimicrobial resistance in drinking water systems. This project will investigate antimicrobial resistance in municipal drinking water supplies.

Researchers: April Gu, civil and environmental engineering; Mingming Wu, biological and environmental engineering; and Renata Ivanek and Craig Altier, population medicine and diagnostic sciences.

Reducing Agricultural Burning in India for Public Health and Sustainability: Each fall, burning fields of rice crop residues in the breadbasket region of Northwest India contributes to catestrophic levels of air pollution. In the impoverished parts of Eastern India, the practice is not yet common, but it has has doubled in the last decade. Researchers will combine satellite data with ground surveys to assess accelerating impacts on agricultural sustainability and public health. They will work with regional partners to find ways to reduce those practices.

Researchers: Andrew McDonald ’94, M.S. ’98, Ph.D. ’03, soil and crop sciences; Prabhu Pingali, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; Natalie Mahowald, earth and atmospheric sciences; and Peter Hess, biological and environmental engineering.

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