Sustainability Research Development Grants

  • A project title and basic demographic information on student researcher(s)
  • A 200–250 word project abstract
  • A research proposal (1,500 words or fewer) covering plan of work, key objectives, methods, and timeline. In addition, include a budget and budget justification (not included in word count) and faculty sponsor’s departmental research account number
  • CV/resume of student researcher(s)
  • Faculty sponsor’s letter of recommendation

Applications close March 22

Apply now

Past grant recipients

  • Malaak Alqaisi: Avian window strikes across Bloomington: Working to unite the public and optimize solutions
  • Abigail Blish: Colonialism and the gut microbiome: A deep dive into the relationships within and between British colonialism, pesticide use, and the primate gut microbiome in Uganda  
  • Lucia Casiraghi and Eugene Kim: The role of public mediators in addressing climate change: Investigating the communicative actions of active publics with scientific information from climate scientists on social media 
  • Thuy Ho: Governing agrarian transitions in the Mekong Delta: How community-based management works
  • Isioma Nwayor: Standardized vapor pressure deficit
  • Nick Polak and Rahul Devajji: Environmental sensing for extreme heat 
  • Lindsey Rasnake: Harmful algal blooms in the Ohio River: linkages with dissolved silicon and nutrients

  • Diego Filipe Barbosa-Vásquez: Opera camp/laboratory: Clarifying sustainable solutions for the opera field
  • Felipe Bravo-Peña and Wesley Zebrowski: The influence of peers and advisors in small holding farmer agricultural practices: How does the social network influence sustainability?
  • Julie Marie Frye: Library leadership for sustainability praxis
  • Wyatt Reed: Shifting for safety: The impacts of COVID-19 on research and biological research stations in Costa Rica
  • Daniela Cala Suarez: Flux tower data as a verification and monitoring approach in carbon markets
  • Madeline Yozwiak: The true cost of "intermittency": Assessing the impact of renewable energy on electricity infrastructure investment

  • Michael Benson & Katilyn Beidler: Carbon allocation dynamics in elevated vapor pressure deficit environments: how will regenerating forests respond to climate change?
  • Alex Crookshanks: In-Situ Soil Water Potential Monitoring of Shifting Precipitation Patterns on Deep Soil Water Availability in an Oak-Hickory Forest
  • Daniel Fobi: Leveraging behavioral interventions to increase compost application in Ghana
  • Isabella DeMarco: Racial Equity in the Indiana Agricultural System
  • Molly Burhans: Climate Change Risk Perceptions: How Can We Better Understand, Engage With, and Prepare Rural Populations?
  • Stephanie Freeman Day: Impacts of governance on urban forest patch sustainability
  • Ben Bridges: Subsistence Livelihoods and Changing Markets - Sustainability in Southeast Alaska’s Native Art Scene

  • Annie King: Mapping, Monitoring, and Managing Invasive Plan Species on the IU Bloomington campus
  • Jeffrey Ashby: What Am I Breathing? Comparison of an Inexpensive, Open-source Air Quality Monitoring System with Commercial Equipment.
    • Collaborating Students: Will Smith, Victorya Valentine, Keegan Brown
  • Deidra Miniard: Bridging the Social Distance of Climate Change
  • Mitchell Korolev and Jane Williams: Species-specific phenological monitoring to provide insights into future forest sustainability
  • Lienne Sethna: Agricultural conservation practices, nutrient ratios, and the prevention of harmful algal blooms
  • Yankun Wang: Mixed methods study of drinking water insecurity, water risk perceptions and prevention and coping strategies of low-resource urban, semi-urban, and rural households in Monroe County, IN
    • Collaborating Students: Jelena Vinh-Tho Nguyen, Sierra Ford, Manuel Alvarez

  • Kristina Anderson: “Do Not Play” Outdoor Advisories: The Effects of Neighborhood Lead Pollution on Urban Families’ Risk Perceptions, Environmental Attitudes, and Outdoor Play Behaviors
  • Javier Cardona Otero: Global Stage, Local Classrooms: An Inquiry into Performing Sustainability Practices with Preservice Teachers Using Children’s Literature and the Arts
  • Renzo de la Riva Aguero: Opening the black box: Explaining the effects and mechanisms of municipal performance in climate change
  • Dan Myers: Hydrologic Modeling for Sustainable Management of Great Lakes Basin Rivers Impacted by Climate Change
  • Douglas Peach: Rising threats, Singing Responses: Sustaining Gullah Geechee Land Through Music
  • Justin Peters: Using machine learning generated open data to create an analytical toolset and sustainability assessment of properties at risk for flooding in Indiana local communities”

  • Jase Hixson: Characterizing Reach Scale Processes
  • Kathryn Lehman: Life, Labor, and Violence in the Transnational Amazon
  • Zhengyan Li: Regulatory Response and Justice in Environmental Information Disclosure Program
  • Victoria Lincort: Authoring Climate: The Interface Between Science and Policy in IPCC Draft Review
  • Esmeralda Martinez: The Cultivation of Opportunity through Food Sovereignty
  • Dan Quarooni: Cybernetic Gardens
  • Nabila Rahman: Whose Job Is It Anyway? The Politics of Trash Management in South Asia

  • Lia Bobay: Remediating Brownfields in Indiana: An Investigation of the Phytoremediation Potential of Indiana Native Plants
  • Lillian Brown: Tastes of the Sea in Monroe County: Examining New Dimensions of Social and Ecological Sustainability Through Seafood Choice
  • Molly Cain: Replumbing the Midwest: How Human Modification to Agricultural Drainage has Changed the Hydrologic Timescales and Fluxes
  • Michelle Graff: An Evaluation of How Vulnerable Populations Perceive the Sustainable Energy Transition Before and After the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
  • Thaddeus Grantz: Determining the Location of Food Hubs in the IU Eleven Region
  • Anna Groover: Algal Biofertilizer: Sustainable Landscaping for IU and Beyond
  • Daniel Lundberg, Janine Tang, Adam Swiatkowski: Understanding the Long-Term Misperceptions of Energy Savings Actions
  • Dikshant Uprety: Green Music: Sustainability Discourses and Practices within the Musical Industry in Kathmandu City
  • Konstantinos Stavriankis: The Contribution of Community Gardens to City Sustainability: Changing Behaviors via Family Intervension

  • Stefan Carpenter, Ursula Kreitmair: Conservation and Human-Wildlife Conflict: An Experimental Study of Collective Action Involving Discounting and Uncertainty
  • Alex Chambers: Oil Workers, Disappearing Wetlands, and Submerged Memory in Southern Louisiana
  • Natalie Christian: Elucidating the Mechanisms of Endophyte Symbiosis for Sustainable Agricultural Practice
  • Hamed Gholizadeh: Estimation of Aquatic Chlorophyll Concentrations Using Remotely Sensed Data
  • Michelle Lee: Making Sustainable Energy Policies Count: Modeling Consumer Behavior
  • Katherine Lind: Exhibiting Extinction: Negotiating Climate Change Education in Museums

  • Alex Badillo: Anthropological Investigation of Sustainable Practices on the Zapotec Frontier
  • Erica Bramlet: The Dynamics of Development Pressures and Sustainability in Lake Hovsgol National Park, Mongolia
  • Madeline Chera: Local Foods for All in South India?: NUS Promotion and Divergent Food Cultures
  • Kaeleigh Herstad: Deconstructing Detroit: An Ethnographic Investigation of Blight Management in the Motor City Introduction
  • Eric Knackmuhs: Implications of Herd Reduction on Humans and the Forest
  • Sanchayan Nath: Leadership and Governance: Sustainable Urban Water-Bodies in India
  • Kathleen de Onis: The Next Experiment: Liquefied Natural Gas, Puerto Rico, and the US Mainland
  • Kelsey Poinsatte-Jones: Mapping Mental Models of Water Supply
  • Qian Zhang: Laboratory and Modeling Studies of Weathering of Coal Combustion Products Used in Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation

  • Jacob Bower-Bir, Ursula Kreitmair

    Project: Groups, Dictators, and Natural Resources: An Experimental Study of Collective Action among Heterogeneous Groups
    Description: We aim to study, in a laboratory setting, how groups of individuals interact when managing a shared resource. Natural resources are finite, and individuals often overexploit these when they encounter other individuals that also have access to the resources in question. Collaboration and teamwork may help individuals overcome this overexploitation, allowing more individuals to enjoy resources equitably. But what happens when there are multiple teams; teams that do not necessarily have the same values or capabilities? It is possible that the benefits of teamwork might be undone when groups of cooperating individuals encounter other group. Our experimental treatments will allow us to better understand the limits of cooperation and the behavior of groups in strategic settings.

  • Scott Breen:

    Project: Groups, Dictators, and Natural Resources: An Experimental Study of Collective Action among Heterogeneous Groups
    Description: I am leveraging my internship in the Department of the Interior’s Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service to interview those that work on partnerships at the departmental level and at the bureau level, mainly at the National Park Service. The plan is to interview solicitors, partnership coordinators, park superintendents, and others who can provide insight into my research question. The hope is to better understand what legal authority exists to make partnerships and if there are any holes in that legal authority that impede the National Park Service from making innovative partnerships that would help further its mission. If sufficient legal authority exists, this will be an important finding for lawmakers as then they will know that no further legal authority needs to be given and the National Park Service should focus on changing its culture to better take advantage of their legal authority to form partnerships. Further, I also want to understand if the legal authority to form partnerships is adequately explained to those at the field level. If it’s too complicated, it may be that those at the field level do not make partnerships because it’s too big a barrier to take the time to understand what partnerships the legal authorities allow them to establish and what is required of both sides when forming a partnership.

  • Satoko Hirano:

    Project: Contamination, Risk, and Sustainability in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident
    Description: This ethnographic study intends to examine how individuals and social groups conceptualize radioactive contamination and evaluate the environmental effect and impact of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) accident. The 2011 Northeast Japan Earthquake and tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, and radioactive effluents reached and fell on farmlands in certain areas. In order to decontaminate the land, the city administration collected radioactive surface soil and forage grass. Concerned farmers and residents have been negotiating final disposal sites and processes for the collected wastes. This research aims to examine farmers’ on-going efforts to remedy the soil, ensure food safety, and sustain their livelihood in the time of uncertainty and ambiguity. It focuses on the complexity and dynamics of radiation risk assessment and communication at and between different levels of the Japanese society.

  • Liz Koziol:

    Project: The impact of different arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal species on the establishment of rare tallgrass prairie plants
    Description: My research will investigate whether different mycorrhizal fungal species vary in how they affect the establishment of a planted and seeded prairie community. My experiment will take place at Hilltop Gardens at Indiana University. Plots will be inoculated with one of six species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that have been isolated from natural prairie communities. Each plot will be planted with the same 23 native prairie plants that range from being easy to very difficult to establish in prairie restorations. Plots will also receive a diverse prairie seed mixture. Beginning in 2014 and continuing throughout my dissertation research, I will measure the survival and growth of planted species, the germination and growth of seeded species, and I will measure plot level community diversity. After multiple growing seasons, this research could provide insight as to whether mycorrhizal fungi aid the growth of difficult to establish prairie plant species. Additionally, this experiment could inform whether specific fungal species can be applied during restorations to increase the growth and survival of specific target plants.

  • Paul McCord, Jampel Dell' Angelo:

    Project: Agricultural systems in the Mount Kenya region: Sustainable practices, adaptation, and participatory learning
    Description: Environmental consequences stemming from climate change produce extensive livelihood adjustments, particularly for people in acutely vulnerable social-ecological systems.  Water scarcity resulting from climate change is a major global sustainability challenge.  Livelihood systems in the Mount Kenya region rely on small-scale agriculture and are directly dependent on water availability. However, climate change, population increase, and water scarcity make livelihoods particularly vulnerable. To cope with difficult environmental conditions, such as water-scarcity, poor soil quality, and high temperatures, farmers apply principles of sustainable agriculture, such as mulching and intercropping.  Effective water governance within the Mount Kenya region is increasingly important as population pressures increase and irrigation becomes more prominent.  Water management at the local and regional levels involves multiple actors and rules which ensure that water is used efficiently in times of both water scarcity and abundance.  This research investigates the water governance structure as well as the sustainable agricultural practices throughout the Mount Kenya region in an effort to understand systems that may be better equipped to cope with changing water availability.  The research takes a participatory approach where both researchers and farmers actively exchange ideas and knowledge through workshops, community meetings, and participatory video making initiatives.

  • Chris Miller:

    Project: States as Pilots and Peers: the Path to Sustainable Energy Policy
    Description: Issues of sustainability pose complex challenges to policymakers, and over the past two decades a majority of American states have enacted energy policy reforms attempting to address these issues. These reforms embody a wide range of innovative approaches to stewarding scarce resources, developing new ones, and averting unwanted environmental and economic impacts. At the same time, however, other states (including Indiana) have resisted this trend. Through a set of comparative state-level case studies, this research seeks to identify what characteristics identify states as “peers” most likely to facilitate the diffusion of one another’s energy policy innovations, and to identify the channels of communication through which policymakers inform themselves about the activities of those peers.

  • RAIN Initiative:

    Project: RAIN Initiative - Examining the Efficacy of Green Infrastructure 
    Team: Maggie Messerschmidt, Tim Clark, Jeffrey Meek, Raija Bushnell, Valerie Lonneman, Rachael Bergman, Micky Leonard, Alexandra Aznar, Bridget Borowdale, Krista Manstch, Allen Reimer, Amari Malone (formerly The Cutters)
    Description: The IU Championship Golf Course borders the IU Research and Teaching Preserve (IURTP) and large ravines and eroded areas have developed as a result of golf course runoff during rainstorm events. Our research tests the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning hypothesis that species diversity promotes enhanced functioning of ecological processes. We hypothesize that species-rich plantings will perform better than low richness plantings at trapping sediment, absorbing nutrients, and slowing flow velocity during storm events. Downstream water sampling sites will be established at each experimental ravine to monitor sediment yields, nutrient outfalls, and water flow as a function of diversity treatment.

  • Ryan Sullivan:

    Project: Understanding Spatiotemporal Variability of Fine Particulate Matter Concentrations and Human Exposure in Indianapolis
    Description: Both long-term and short-term exposure to elevated concentrations of atmospheric aerosol particles poses a significant threat to human health.  Marion county (in which Indianapolis is based), was nonattainment for the national air quality standard for fine particulate matter (solid or liquid particles less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers in diameter, referred to as PM2.5) from 2005-2012. Our research objectives are to: analyze spatiotemporal variability of PM2.5 in an urban environment; investigate sources of PM2.5 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and specifically try to differentiate the impact of local versus distant or regional sources; investigate causes of observed extreme concentrations; quantify the exposure of residents of Indianapolis to harmful air quality; and identify neighborhoods at particular risk for exposure to air toxins. Our research comprises two key experimental components:  Fixed site monitoring across the city and mobile sampling collected during bicycle transects of the city.  Fixed monitoring can only be conducted at a few specific locations. Mobile sampling will help to better understand the degree to which particle concentrations (and human exposure) vary across a city. In the longer term – through our close collaborations with the IUPUI Center for Urban Health, our colleagues, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, we hope to be able to identify measures that can be put in place to reduce human exposure to air toxins and thus to improve the sustainability of Indiana’s largest urban area.

  • Jess Vogt:

    Project: Evaluating The Outcomes of Neighborhood Urban Forestry
    Description: Our research evaluates the tree-planting programs of 5 nonprofit organizations in the eastern U.S. We're interested in discovering what types of ecological and social impacts collective tree planting and maintenance has on neighborhoods and individuals. For instance, our nonprofit partner organizations have noticed that some of the neighborhoods in which they plant trees then go on to do other types of group activities, like a neighborhood crime watch. But so far, these are just anecdotes; we're interested in putting real data behind the question to see what impacts tree planting has. Our project will collect data on the trees planted between 2009 and 2011 to measure survival rates and growth rates. We will also survey and interview people who live in neighborhoods where trees were planted as well as in neighborhoods that did not plant trees to measure the differences in neighborhood and individual characteristics such as trust and neighbor-to-neighbor familiarity. The IUOS grant funds will be added to almost $400K in existing project resources, and will specifically help increase the number of people we can survey in each city.

  • Burnell Fischer, Jessica Vogt, Matt Patterson:

    Project: Developing an Urban Site Index (USI) for Sustainable Urban Tree Planting Programs
    Description: Burnell Fischer, clinical professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, along with SPEA graduate students Jessica M. Vogt and Matt Patterson, will study the effectiveness of the Urban Site Index, a rapid site assessment tool used for analysis of tree planting strategies for urban areas. The USI scores a potential street tree planting site on four soil parameters and four street parameters. The team plans to perform detailed soil analyses and monitor mortality and growth rates of recently planted trees to determine how well the USI identifies suitable planting sites -- and in turn, its effectiveness as an urban sustainability planning tool.

  • Phaedra Pezzullo:

    Project: Bloomington, Indiana, PCB Oral History Project
    Description: Associate professor Phaedra Pezzullo of the Department of Communication and Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences, together with Communication and Culture graduate students Joshua Barnett, James McGuffey and Jacquelyn Shannon, will work to establish a public, digital archive of oral histories from people who have been most directly involved in the use, disposal, remediation and political controversies related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Bloomington. The collected personal histories of local residents involved in the PCB history will shed light on national and international discussions about toxic pollution and sustainability in ways that make evident the intertwined fates of environmental, economic and social equity relations.

  • Jennifer Brass, Sanya Carley, Ashraf El-Arini:

    Project: Collaborative Provision of Low-Carbon Distributed Energy in Developing Countries
    Description: Jennifer N. Brass and Sanya Carley, assistant professors at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), and Ashraf El-Arini, Master of Public Affairs/Master of Science in Environmental Science student at SPEA, will study the conditions for successful (and therefore sustainable) implementation of distributed generation programs in developing countries, looking at both program and country levels of analysis and the role of non-governmental organizations at both levels. With both tracks, the team aims to provide a better understanding about how complex problems of sustainable energy provision are being solved—or not—in poor countries and provide a baseline of knowledge for new scientific research in the future.

  • Burney Fischer, Sarah Mincey, Mikaela Schmitt-Harsh, Rich Thurau:

    Project: The Impact of Institutional Mechanisms on Sustainable Urban Development
    Description: SPEA professor Burney Fischer, joint SPEA and Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change graduate students Sarah Mincey, Mikaela Schmitt-Harsh and Rich Thurau and community affiliates Lee Huss (Bloomington city forester), Tom Micuda and Linda Thompson (Bloomington Planning Department), and Laura Haley (Bloomington city GIS) will employ spatial, institutional, and statistical analysis tools to assess how urban forest sustainability (via urban tree canopy cover) is influenced through municipal zoning ordinances. The broader impacts of this research lie in its relevance to urban planning and the development of institutions that promote the retention of urban canopy cover.

  • Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Michael Perkins:

    Project: Management and Ecosystem Composition in Mexico's Agroforestry Systems Rinku
    Description: Roy Chowdhury, assistant professor of geography, and Michael Perkins, Ph.D. student in geography, will study and characterize the diverse agroforestry management regimes in the community lands of southern Mexico, and document tree and associated soil microbiota species composition under the main management types. The research will lay the foundation for a larger, collaborative project investigating how landscape context and land manager decision-making shape agroforestry ecology and sustainability in southern Mexico and similar regions of the (sub) humid tropics.

  • Lisa Bingham, Evan Ringquist:

    Project: Evaluation of the Gifts In Kind International/Home Depot Framing Hope Product Donation Program on Sustainability: Energy Savings and Landfill Impact
    Description: SPEA professors Lisa Bingham and Evan Ringquist will evaluate whether Framing Hope has an impact on community sustainability by estimating material diverted from landfills and energy savings from this program.

  • Heather Reynolds, Roger Hangarter, Jim Capshew:

    Project: Exotic Invasive Remediation in Dunn's Woods: Integrating Research, Teaching & Outreach for Sustainability
    Description: Heather Reynolds, associate professor of biology, Roger Hangarter, Class of 1968 Chancellor's professor of biology, Jim Capshew, associate professor of history and philosophy of science, and Jonathan Bauer, biology master's student, supported by professional staff Mia Williams (University Architect's Office), Anthony Minich (Ph.D. student, Educational Psychology, IU Office of Sustainability) and Anita Bracalente (IU Art Museum), and community experts Ellen Jacquart (Nature Conservancy), Steve Cotter (City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation) and Spencer Goehl (EcoLogic Inc.), will develop an integrated program of research, teaching and outreach focused on mitigation of exotic invasive plant species and restoration of native biodiversity in IU's iconic Dunn's Woods, as a microcosm for promoting sustainable human-environment interactions.

  • Rick Wilk, Peter Todd, Sara Minard:

    Project: Quantifying and Combating Food Waste at IU
    Description: Rick Wilk, professor of anthropology and gender studies, Peter Todd, professor of cognitive science, informatics and psychology, and Sara Minard, anthropology Ph.D. student, will examine the institutional structures and individual choices that lead to food waste by student consumers on the IU Bloomington campus.

  • Burney Fischer, Sarah Mincey, Richard Thurau:

    Project: Studying the Sustainability of Urban Social-Ecological Systems through the Urban Forest: Development of the Urban Forestry Resources and Institutions (UFRI) System
    Description: SPEA clinical professor Burney Fischer and doctoral students Sarah Mincey and Richard Thurau will lead a project to develop and test a new methodology for assessing urban forest sustainability.

  • Kenneth Richards, Miranda Hutten, Steven Rayner:

    Project: Third Party Sustainability Certification: Does the Forest Sustainability Certification (FSC) Program Deliver?
    Description: SPEA associate professor Kenneth Richards and master's student Miranda Hutten, in collaboration with Steven Rayner of Oxford University, will investigate whether forestry certification programs increase the global application of credible sustainable forest practices.

  • Eduardo Brondizio, Francisco deSouza:

    Project: Sustainable Development Strategies in Western Amazonia: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Land Use, Livelihood and Institutions
    Description: Eduardo Brondizio, associate professor of anthropology, and SPEA doctoral student Francisco deSouza will evaluate changes in land use, livelihood and institutions under three land tenure types in Acre state, Brazil.

  • J.C. Randolph, Catherine Tucker:

    Project: Sustainable Land Use: An Assessment of Technology Transfer Programs in Rural Honduras
    Description: SPEA professor J.C. Randolph, assistant professor of anthropology Catherine Tucker, and SPEA doctoral students Monica Paulson Priebe and Carlos Gonzalez Jaimes will study the degree to which technology transfer initiatives by non-governmental organizations influence environmentally sustainable land-use practices, using the example of NGO interventions in the aftermath of Hurr.

  • Diane Henshel, David Good:

    Project: Transportation Sustainability at Campus Level: Students' Residential Location Choice and Transportation Mode Shift
    Description: SPEA associate professors Diane Henshel and David Good, master's students Yonghua Zou, Craig Harper, Max Jie Cui and Courtney Bonney, supported by adjunct advisers Kent McDaniel (IU Transportation Services), Rob Fischman (IU Maurer School of Law) and Nicole Schonemann (Office of Service Learning), will focus on the relationship between alternative transportation incentives and students' residential and behavioral choices and their impact on goals of transportation sustainability.