U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute awards four ‘catalyst’ research grants

ANN ARBOR—Four new research grants from the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute will address the challenges of safe drinking water, climate change vulnerability, sustainable livestock production, and the health and energy justice impacts of electricity generation.

Led by multidisciplinary faculty teams, these new Catalyst Grant projects will lay the groundwork for ongoing collaborations and develop tools and recommendations for decisions that advance sustainability.

“These projects have the potential to make a real difference,” said Graham Family Director Jennifer Haverkamp. “Working closely with government, nonprofit and community partners, these teams will provide analyses and tools that directly inform programs and strategies, and they will build new partnerships for future research that meets the needs of managers and communities.”

The four projects were selected from eight proposals submitted by 21 faculty members and researchers across nine units: the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; the Stamps School of Art & Design; the Ross School of Business; the College of Engineering; the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS); the Institute for Social Research; the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; the School of Music; and the School of Public Health.

Each of the selected proposals will receive $10,000 to support collaborative research activities. Project partners come from government, business, communities, nonprofit organizations and other academic institutions.

Linking Research and Management for Sustainable and Safe Water Supply by Drinking Water Utilities across International Contexts

UM researchers are collaborating with Ann Arbor water utility managers on water quality issues. What might this type of partnership mean in other areas of the world struggling to ensure safe drinking water? This project brings water utility practitioners and experts from Gabon to Michigan to build relationships, share insights, and lay the groundwork for a water utility-research collaboration to improve safe water access in Gabon.

Principal investigator: Lutgarde Raskin, College of Engineering. Co-investigator: Rebecca Hardin, SEAS. Additional team members: Matthew Vedrin and Melina Bautista, College of Engineering; Adelaide Nieguitsila, University of Science and Technology of Masuku, Gabon; Franck Binze Bi Kumbe, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

From Farmer to Institutional Procurement: Establishing a Southeast Michigan Sustainable Livestock Working Group to Increase Supply-Chain Capacity

There is an imbalance in the Southeast Michigan supply chain involving sustainably and humanely raised animal products. Demand from institutional purchasers and other wholesale buyers like universities, restaurants and stores far outstrips local supply. This team will work to build a diverse working group positioned to improve understanding around the sustainability impacts of this supply chain and, over the long term, increase production to meet growing demand for local, sustainable animal products.

Principal investigator: Jennifer Blesh, SEAS. Co-principal investigator: Joseph Trumpey, Stamps School of Art & Design and SEAS. Additional team members: Shannon Brines, SEAS, Alex Bryan, Michigan Dining.

Improving Frameworks for Assessing Social Vulnerability to Climate Change in Temperate Forest Regions: New Indicators of Adaptive Capacity

Policymakers and practitioners use frameworks to assess social vulnerability to climate change in order to target populations and geographic areas with adaptation programs and policies. However, current frameworks are limited in their ability to incorporate an important aspect of vulnerability: a community’s capacity to adapt. This team is working to develop robust, practical indicators of adaptive capacity to complete the framework used by the U.S. Forest Service, share it with partners, and ultimately improve agencies’ ability to target efforts toward vulnerable regions.

Principal investigator: Paige Fischer, SEAS. Co-principal investigators: Wayne Baker, Ross School of Business, John Kim, U.S. Forest Service. Additional team members: Matt Sehrsweeney, SEAS.

The Cumulative Economic Burden of Air Pollution Health Impacts and Energy Inefficiency under Different Energy Mix Scenarios in Southeast Michigan

DTE Energy has proposed changes to its energy mix and electricity rates. The overall and unequal distributions of air pollution health burdens in Southeast Michigan, as well as the potential for rate increases to impact the budgets of many Detroit households facing fuel poverty, may warrant consideration of more aggressive coal power phase-outs, renewable energy roll-outs, or weatherization and energy efficiency assistance. Using an energy justice framework, UM researchers and community partners will collaborate on analyses to inform the Michigan Public Service Commission’s decision on these proposed changes.

Principal investigator: Carina Gronlund, Institute for Social Research. Co-principal investigators: Tony Reames, SEAS, and Michelle Martinez, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition.

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