CCI Seed Funding Competition Year 2009 - 2010

In order to help achieve the goals of the CCI, a competition for project seed money was held. The CCI Steering Committee received 22 proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the CCI Steering Committee and 8 proposals were recommended for funding totaling $200,000. Information on the funded projects is below.

Contacts: Pietro Ceccato, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Monitoring Air and Land Surface Temperatures from Remotely-Sensed Data for Climate-Human Health-Agriculture Applications
Scope of Project: Climate change affects air and land surface temperatures with implications for i) climate sensitive human and animal diseases and ii) crop production around the world. In highland areas, East Africa and Latin America for example, changes in land surface and air temperatures will impact on the spatial distribution of risk for vector-borne disease. Monitoring changes in land surface temperature (Ts) and air temperature (Ta) is therefore important to assess and forecast risks in vector-borne disease distribution and crop yields. During daytime, monitoring is more complex due to different factors which influence these temperatures: i.e. solar radiation, soil moisture and surface brightness. Current data retrieval methods are not sufficiently accurate. A more promising approach is to derive maximum Ta from minimum Ta using diurnal cycle climatology model based on surface weather observations of Ta and cloud-cover information. This project will test this new approach over specific areas in Africa, Latin America and the New York area.
Contacts: Deborah Coen, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Barnard College
Title of Project: Witness to Disaster: Comparative Histories of Earthquake Science and Response. A Workshop at Barnard College
Scope of Project: The Witness to Disaster workshop, to be held in October 2009, will bring together a critical mass of scholars studying the history of modern seismology and earthquake response in North and South America, Europe, China and Japan. It will situate current questions about natural disaster investigation and management in comparative historical and cultural context, draw lessons from close examination of past disasters and also compare historical case studies of earthquakes in Lima, Lisbon, and Tokyo. The workshop will take the form of an intensive one-day meeting with pre-circulated papers, open to the public through pre-registration.
Contacts: Edward Cook, Doherty Senior Scholar, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Climate and Society In Bhutan: Helping a Buddhist Kingdom Cope With Future Climatic Change And Its Impact On Natural Resources
Scope of Project: An environmental education and research program will be developed between the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan and the Earth Institute, Columbia University. This program is designed to educate and prepare the people of Bhutan for the likely impacts of climatic change there. In addition, important research questions about past, present, and future impacts of climatic change over the Himalayas of Bhutan will be investigated, with answers applied to improving natural resources management in a sustainable way in light of expected climatic changes there and stewardship of the largely intact Himalayan ecosystem there.
Contact: Alessandra Giannini, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Sustainable development in the Sahel – learning from the recent greening
Scope of Project: The Sahel, the southern margin of the Sahara desert, is a region of high climatic variability and high socio-economic vulnerability to climate, and is renowned for being drought-prone. Remote sensing of vegetation started in the early 1980s, and a decade later the accumulated record of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) forced the realization that the margin of the Sahara desert is dynamic, and responsive to year-to-year rainfall variability. This project will bring together an interdisciplinary group to clarify the relative roles of physical and societal drivers of the recent environmental changes in the Sahel, in order to assess the potential for sustainable practices employed to combat land degradation in adaptation to climate change.
Contacts: Yochanan Kushnir, Doherty Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Quantifying Vulnerability of Civil Infrastructure and its Users to Climate Extremes
Scope of Project: Over the past several years, society has come to recognize that our climate is changing in a manner that affect our lives in dramatic ways compromising the support systems upon which we depend, and that the change is in part due to human influence. The purpose of the proposed project is to capture the relationship between these climatic events and the effects they have on infrastructure and its users in terms of compromising the resiliency of the infrastructure as a basis for design and operational changes that will reduce the damages.
Contacts: Jyotsna Puri, Associate Research Scientist, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: The determinants of Poverty in the Millennium Villages: The Impact of Improved Transportation and Access
Scope of Project: The project research will look to understand how poverty is correlated with and determined by transportation patterns. The hypothesis is that income level is a relevant factor in determining access to transport and that transport patterns in turn influence households’ welfare by impacting their access to employment opportunities, health services and education. The project team will try to measure the magnitude of these impacts with the purpose of creating a better understanding of the benefits of investments in infrastructure projects that improve access. Data from four Millennium Villages will be used.
Contacts: Sean Smukler, Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, and Shahid Naeem, Chair and Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology
Title of Project: Analyzing Tradeoffs among Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Landscapes in East Africa
Scope of Project: There is an urgent need for the development of innovative interdisciplinary approach to regional land-use planning in East Africa if the ecological and agricultural sustainability required to alleviate poverty and improve human well-being is to be sustained. To meet the demands of the growing population in this area, the conversion of wildland systems (e.g. forests and savannahs) to agricultural production is likely to increase. While this conversion may help to meet immediate needs, this land-use change puts at risk the long-term availability and equitable distribution of other ecosystem services such as water for drinking and irrigation, soil fertility, pollination, and fodder for grazing. Furthermore many ecosystem services that are attributable to wildland biodiversity may not be fully replaceable in agriculturally dominated landscapes. To ensure the continued existence of biodiversity and the availability of associated ecosystem services the tradeoffs among current and future needs in agricultural landscapes must be understood for better management. The goal of this project is to develop an interdisciplinary land-use decision tool for rural East Africa based on spatially explicit modeling to generate scenarios for analyzing the potential tradeoffs among agricultural development, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Contacts: Sylwia Trzaska, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute
Title of Project: Towards improved control of meningitis outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa
Scope of Project: The goal of this project is to foster research on epidemiological, environmental, demographic and socio-economic determinants of Meningococcal Meningitis (MM) outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa. The proposed research aims to build an Early Warning System for meningitis that will allow WHO and MVP to increase their epidemic preparedness and better scope preventive and reactive strategies with an increased time lead, given short time frames for interventions and limited resources, based on a wider range of relevant factors to expand current WHO strategies. An interdisciplinary approach is crucial for appropriate investigation of all the relevant factors and building the risk assessments.