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 Tuesday, July 14, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Innovative seed grants give life to bold ideas
by Kenna Bruner, University Communications

Associate Professor Mark Amerika of the department of art & art history challenged perceptions about how artwork is made by producing a feature-length art film shot entirely on a mobile phone.

Using GPS signal reflections, aerospace engineering sciences Professor Kristine Larson measured near-surface soil moisture and its change over time as a way to improve agricultural yields and to mitigate the impact of drought.

Anthropology Professor Payson Sheets uncovered an ancient and previously unknown Maya agricultural system, which is the first and only evidence of an intensive manioc cultivation system at any New World archaeology site.

Their research may differ, but what these faculty members share in common is having received funding grants from the CU-Boulder Innovative Seed Grant Program (IGP), which helped to launch their projects. The campuswide seed grant program is designed to stimulate innovative research and creative work.

Grants of up to $50,000 are awarded for new projects that have the potential to lead to significant future projects. IGP-funded projects take a variety of forms and can come from any discipline at the university, although interdisciplinary work is particularly encouraged. Nineteen grants were awarded in 2009.

“The Seed Grant program was started based on evidence that it would provide a great stimulus to seed sometimes high-risk, high-impact, but certainly innovative and interdisciplinary research that many federal agencies don’t have funding mechanisms to support,” said Russell Moore, interim vice chancellor for research. “These grants allow faculty to embark on new areas of discovery and are not intended to fund someone’s existing line of inquiry.”

Since its inception in 2007 more than $2.8 million in IGP seed grants have been awarded to 72 faculty researchers and their teams. The grants are funded by the offices of the vice chancellor for research and the provost.

In addition to important research findings, numerous publications, exhibits, and seminars, the program is already financially successful as well. As of June, IGP recipients have garnered more than $3 million in larger state and federal awards due in part to their IGP-funded work.

One of the 2009 grant recipients is geological sciences Associate Professor Jason Neff, whose project based on carbon management on public lands takes an interdisciplinary approach to position CU-Boulder as a leader in adaptive biogeochemical management of federal rangelands and forests.

Using remote sensing information from satellites and on-the-ground field sampling, Neff and his research team will develop spatial maps of carbon in southwestern Colorado that will show the type of vegetation and soils present in the area.

The San Juan Collaboratory, which includes CU-Boulder as a member, develops research and education efforts in southwestern Colorado and is working in concert with the San Juan Public Land Center, a Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service center, to make southwest Colorado a demonstration site for federal carbon management policy.

“As management of the global carbon cycle becomes a major public policy issue due to concern about carbon’s potential impact on climate change, people have become more interested in how much carbon is moving between the atmosphere and the ecosystems,” said Neff. “The seed grant will allow us to develop maps of carbon and we can then suggest ways in which federal and state agencies might practice environmentally responsible management and sequester carbon at the same time.”

The next IGP deadline is Nov. 30, 2009.

 

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