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Discovery that Connects

From fundamental insights to better plants, sustainably grown, serving the world

Atkinson Center funds SIPS researchers

Five interdisciplinary projects involving SIPS researchers are included among the 2018 Academic Venture Fund Awards from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.


Opening the Door to Nature-Based Engagement: Young people today show greater rates of stress and anxiety, a trend that coincides with a growing recognition of the threats to the natural environment. Employing a One Health approach, researchers will examine how curricular programing that provides students more time in nature can lead to healthier populations and environments. The project will specifically focus on elementary schools serving low-income communities in urban and rural areas, and will identify curricular best practices and generate data to inform programs and state policy for long-term social and environmental impact. The project also received a Engaged Cornell supplemental grant. Co-sponsored by MPH.

Investigators: Gen Meredith, population medicine and diagnostic sciences; Don Rakow, horticulture; Nancy Wells, design and environmental analysis; Janis Whitlock, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research; Monika Safford, Weill Cornell Medicine; Samantha Hillson, Tompkins County Health Department.


The Future of Fibers May Be Local: Small flock fiber farmers struggle to survive in a global economy that favors standardization and commoditization of a narrow set of breeds and genetic stock to produce cheap material that must compete with synthetic, low-cost competitors. However, as interest in locally produced goods grows, small flock fiber farms may have an opportunity to thrive by influencing development of specialized textile markets. This project seeks to evaluate small flock-based fiber market value chains and connect rural and urban fiber-textile economies, growing rural economies and helping similar markets do the same. The project received Engaged Cornell supplemental grant.

Investigators: Mark Milstein, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Johnson; Miguel Gomez, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Dyson; Tasha Lewis, fiber science and apparel design; Anu Rangarajan, horticulture; Michael Thonney, animal science.


Sustainable Intensification and Conservation of African Rice: Three hundred years ago, the Saramaka people in Suriname escaped from plantation slavery to the rainforest interior of the country and lived in relative independence by hunting, gathering and growing African rice (Oryza glaberrima). But with increased population, rice self-sufficiency can no longer be guaranteed, and Saramaka leaders seek new sustainable solutions to increase rice productivity and protect its biodiversity. Researchers will work with farmers to characterize rice diversity and improve agronomic practices. They will also use genetic analysis to identify the origins of the Saramaka rice and assist communities in developing in-situ conservation strategies. Received a $5,000 Engaged Cornell supplemental grant.

Investigators: Erika Styger, International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Susan McCouch, plant breeding and genetics; Chelsea Specht, plant biology.


Sounds of Soil: Root-feeding insects reduce belowground plant productivity and disrupt soil carbon cycling, ultimately eroding plant and soil health. Current methods for monitoring these insects are time-consuming, cost-prohibitive and often unreliable. Researchers will develop inexpensive acoustic sensors to detect, monitor and characterize populations of soil-dwelling organisms, distinguishing them from other complex sources of acoustic signals belowground, while also assessing overall soil health. The result will be a reliable method for pest monitoring that is accessible and profitable to farmers, leading to more judicious pesticide use and enhanced agricultural sustainability and food security.

Investigators: Kyle Wickings, entomology; Johannes Lehmann, soil and crop sciences; Holger Klinck, Laboratory of Ornithology; Greg McLaskey, civil and environmental engineering.

Recycling Poultry Litter for Fertile Fields: As the world’s largest producer of poultry meat, the U.S. generates approximately 55 million dry tons of poultry litter ever year, resulting in expensive disposal costs and a large environmental footprint. This project seeks to achieve long-term food security by transforming nutrient-rich poultry waste into economically viable fertilizers. The team will couple innovative technology development with energy-environmental-economic systems analysis. The researchers’ partnerships with key stakeholders in the poultry industry and support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will maximize the impacts of the project. Received Engaged Cornell supplemental grant.

Investigators: Fengqi You, chemical and biomolecular engineering; Johannes Lehmann, soil and crop sciences; Xingen Lei, animal science; Jefferson Tester, chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Read a complete description of the awards:

Cornell Chronicle article
Atkinson web site

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