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Wolfe, Smart receive Academic Venture Fund awards from the Atkinson Center

David Wolfe and Larry Smart are among the recipients of $1.2 million from Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF)’s Academic Venture Fund. The program funded 11 new projects selected from 37 proposals.

David Wolfe

David Wolfe


“We make seed grants to multidisciplinary teams with exciting ideas that address sustainability problems and opportunities. The process is very competitive and usually brings together faculty who have not previously worked together,” says Frank DiSalvo, Atkinson Center director and the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science.

Wolfe is part of the Ecological Calendars for Climate Change project. A time-tested tool for climate adaptation—ecological calendars—helped generations of indigenous and rural societies anticipate seasonal patterns for farming, herding, hunting, and fishing. These calendars rely on natural cues, such as the arrival of birds and nascence of flowers. This transdisciplinary team will use ecological calendars to guide communities as they adapt to climate change. Working in partnership with Great Plains Native Americans and rural communities near Oneida Lake, the researchers will identify key climate vulnerabilities, document existing ecological calendars, and revitalize or develop new calendars for local use by combining folk knowledge with cutting-edge climate forecasting. Other investigators in the project are Karim-Aly Kassam, Natural Resources/American Indian Program; Christopher Dunn, Cornell Plantations; Art DeGaetano, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Amanda Rodewald, Lab of Ornithology.

Larry Smart

Larry Smart

Smart is part of the Cornell Climate Plan Reflections project. Cornell has embraced a carbon-neutral campus by 2035. Establishing forests on campus lands and transitioning to biofuels are options for reducing carbon emissions, but the carbon calculation is not straightforward. Forests and biofuel crops could reduce the land’s surface reflectivity, or “albedo”—an important but complex climate feature—and the warming effect may counterbalance the biofuels’ benefits. The researchers will develop an accounting tool to assess the net climate benefits of land management plans with more accurate climate projections. By revealing the trade-offs in land-use decisions, this much-needed tool has the potential for broad application beyond Cornell. Other investigators in the project are Timothy Fahey, Natural Resources; Natalie Mahowald, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Christine Goodale, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;  and Peter Hess, Biological and Environmental Engineering.

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