Fulfilling Needs and Aspirations of Our World for Present and Future Generations
By Daniel Hada Harianja ’18
The Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) is renowned for supporting cross-disciplinary research on sustainability through grant programs and activities. Currently, 415 faculty fellows spanning 11 Cornell colleges and more than 75 departments/units are affiliated with ACSF.
The Center unites three pillars—energy, the environment, and economic development—and prioritizes six research focus areas: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, Energy Transitions, One Health, Sustainable Communities, New Materials, and Computational Sustainability. The ACSF also partners with external organizations to achieve research goals and to promote national conversations. Current partners include The Nature Conservancy, Oxfam, CARE, and the Environmental Defense Fund.
“Our vision is to help create a world in which people can meet their needs and pursue their dreams without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same,” says Frank DiSalvo, Chemistry and Chemical Biology.
The Academic Venture Fund (AVF) is ACSF’s flagship funding program. It channeled $1.2 million toward pioneering high-risk, high-reward sustainability research in 2015. One example, Healthy Living in Smart Cities, will design a complete information infrastructure of networked sensors to inform citizens and policymakers of real-time environmental quality. It is a collaboration between professors across departments, including H. Oliver Gao, Civil and Environmental Engineering; John Cawley, Policy Analysis and Management; Susan Christopherson, City and Regional Planning; and Johannes Gehrke, Computer Science.
ACSF’s Rapid Response Fund (RFF) provides smaller, focused support for time-critical projects or preliminary work necessary to secure larger funding. During the widespread starfish deaths along the North American West Coast in summer 2014, Ian Hewson, Microbiology, and Drew Harvell, Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology, secured a timely RRF grant to identify the culprit, a sea star–associated densovirus (SSaDV). The deaths captured worldwide attention, and the project expanded to include partner universities, student networks, and citizen scientists.
The Impact through Innovation Fund, established with CARE-USA, supports projects on sustainable food systems and food security. The projects are bearing tangible fruits: Faculty Fellows Johannes Lehmann, Crop and Soil Sciences; Garrick Blalock, Applied Economics and Management; and Dawit Solomon, Crop and Soil Sciences, discovered that bone char from recycled animal waste is comparable to commercial phosphorus fertilizers. The researchers are now working in Ethiopia with CARE workers, local farmers, waste collectors, and pyrolysis entrepreneurs to implement the low-cost alternative fertilizer.
Other grants, fellowships, and internship opportunities are available to students. The ACSF further extends its research efforts through policy briefings, lectures, and forums.