UM’s Graham Sustainability Institute announces new research grants

ANN ARBOR — Partnerships, co-production and research to practice. These themes define four projects recently awarded Catalyst Grants by the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute.

Led by multidisciplinary faculty teams, the projects aim to advance sustainability at local, state, national and international levels by engaging diverse communities on a range of contemporary problems.

“Catalyst Grants enable UM researchers to develop new and deepen existing partnerships with various stakeholders,” said Graham Director Jennifer Haverkamp. “We’re excited to fund these projects, which will fill knowledge gaps, support decision-making locally and abroad, and spur continued collaborations.”

The grantees were selected from 10 proposals submitted by 29 faculty members and researchers across 10 UM units: Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Ross School of Business; College of Engineering; School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS); School of Information; College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Ford School of Public Policy; School of Music, Theatre & Dance; Office of Research; and Office of the Provost.

Each selected proposal will receive $10,000 to support collaborative research activities that develop new partnerships or enhance the application of science.

The funded projects engage end-users and audiences in unique ways. For example, one project will share local plants on Instagram, allowing followers to learn and share how they view and manage the urban landscapes around them. Another project will convene a bipartisan cadre of state legislators to explore energy justice and policy research.

Two other projects directly involve end-users in the development of sustainability-oriented recommendations: improving Great Lakes ice forecasting and supporting agricultural extension activities in Ghana and Ethiopia. To find out more, see summaries below with links to the project web pages.

The Rustbelt Herbarium: Weeds, or spontaneous vegetation, get a bad rap. But how do they benefit urban ecosystems? This UM research team will work with community partners in Detroit to create a database of common urban plant species, map current landscape management practices, and co-develop maintenance strategies for a greener urban commons.

Co-principal investigators: Mark Lindquist, SEAS, and Tony Reznicek, Herbarium, Research Museums Center. Additional team members: Daniel Phillips, SEAS, and Kim Karlsrud, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Cut or Keep: How Farmer Perceptions Influence Tree Management in Forested Cocoa and Coffee Agriculture: Coffee and cocoa are important industries in Ghana and Ethiopia. However, farmers clear forests to plant these crops at the expense of the surrounding ecosystem. This international team will interview farmers to better understand their decision-making for crop and forest management, with the results informing extension agents on how best to work with farmers to retain trees.

Co-principal investigators: Ivan Eastin, Agun Agrawal and Rebecca Hardin, SEAS; Adam Simon, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, LSA. Additional Investigators: Patrick Brandful Cobbinah and Kwame Nkrumah, University of Science and Technology, Ghana; and Demis Mengist Wudeneh, University of Gondar, Ethiopia.

Better Communicating Great Lakes Ice Forecasts As extreme weather becomes more frequent with climate change, forecasts should be easy for the public to understand and use. This team of UM and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers will bring together stakeholders to co-develop an ice forecasting tool to better communicate critical information on lake conditions and strengthen key partnerships for the Great Lakes.

Principal investigator: Ayumi Fujisaki-Manome, Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, College of Engineering. Co-investigators: Maria Carmen Lemos and Devon Gill, SEAS; and Eric Anderson, NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Expanding the Renewable Energy Policy Initiative: Local and state policies can significantly affect renewable energy transitions, but to date there is little research on the combined effects of these policies. This multidisciplinary research team will convene state legislators at UM to communicate new findings and set a research agenda that addresses their needs and includes energy justice.

Principal investigator: Barry Rabe, Ford School of Public Policy. Co-investigators: Tony Reames, SEAS; Sarah Mills, Ford School of Public Policy; and Kristy Hartman, National Conference of State Legislatures. Additional team members: Stephanie Leiser, Ford School of Public Policy; and Michael Lerner, Ford School of Public Policy and LSA.

For more about Graham Sustainability Institute Catalyst Grants, visit

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