International Division, IRIS award seed grants for interdisciplinary research

The Bike Friendly Bahir Dar project that brings design and planning to the Ethiopian cities was among those funded by the International Division and IRIS.
The Bike Friendly Bahir Dar project that will improve safety for bicyclists and improve quality of life in the Ethiopian city was funded by the International Division and IRIS.

A version of this story appeared first on the International Division website.

Global health was well represented when the International Division and the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) awarded incubator grants to six interdisciplinary research projects that blend place-based scientific inquiry with international expertise.

These projects focus on Africa, South Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America, in fields as diverse as public health, child development, civil engineering, climate science, archaeology, genetics, virology, and environmental studies.

Offered this year for the first time, the grants are aimed at bringing together faculty in STEM fields who are conducting place-based research abroad with experts from regional and area studies centers within IRIS.

“These grants are based on the idea that scientific inquiry will improve through collaboration with regional experts, while area specialists will benefit from working with colleagues in the physical, biological, and quantitative social sciences.”— Richard Keller, associate dean of the International Division.

Funding for these awards, of up to $50,000 each, comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other International Division funds.

The six projects were selected by a committee of senior faculty from a range of disciplines from among proposals submitted by 18 teams of faculty and academic staff from across the UW–Madison campus. The proposals covered all continents except Antarctica.

The selected projects, with principal investigators and brief descriptions, are:

The 2013-15 Ebola Outbreak and Child Development: Measuring the Impact among Child Survivors and Peers, and Identifying Opportunities for Care (Maureen Durkin, Population Health Sciences; Claire Wendland, Anthropology. Both are members of the Global Health Institute (GHI) Advisory)

The Ebola epidemic of 2013-15 was the worst in recorded history, with repercussions likely for generations. Children especially are vulnerable to the effects of disaster and trauma, but the nature of these effects in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak is unclear.  The researchers intend to address the impacts of the epidemic on child development and wellbeing in Sierra Leone by generating knowledge that can be used to guide plans for clinical and community intervention. They intend to use the grant to gather preliminary information that will enable to them to pursue larger funding opportunities.

Exploring Miletus: Archaeology & Science at the Interface of Europe, Asia, and Africa (William Aylward, Classics; Caitlin Pepperell, Medical Microbiology and Immunology)

This project combines methodologies in archaeology, molecular biology and genetics to gain insight into historical human populations, specifically examining diet, demography and infectious disease. Miletus, an ancient city on the Aegean coast of southwestern Turkey, represents over 4,500 years of human settlement at the intersection of three continents. With the newly-opened ancient DNA (aDNA) and mass-spectrometry facilities in the UW–Madison Biotechnology Center (UWBC), as well as the expertise of the Molecular Archaeology Group, the researchers are able to recover preserved biomolecules, including DNA, proteins, and lipids, to reconstruct historical human environments.

Connecting Landscapes in the Greater Guadalajara Socio-Ecological Ecosystem: An International Studies Action Research Partnership for Sustainability (Constance Flanagan, School of Human Ecology; Paul Zedler, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies)

The researchers have proposed an interdisciplinary partnership between UW–Madison and the University Guadalajara (UDG) to focus on environmental sustainability.  This project will include planning joint activities with the new, interactive UDG-affiliated Museo de Ciencias Ambiental (MCA), and an action research effort to implement UW–Madison’s Earth Partnership Program (EP) in conjunction with MCA and in collaboration with the surrounding community.

Mapping Hot Spots: ‘One Health’ and the History of Infectious Disease Research in Uganda (Neil Kodesh, History; Tony Goldberg, School of Veterinary Medicine; Josh Garoon, Community and Environmental Sociology. Goldberg is a GHI associate director, )

This project aims to inaugurate an interdisciplinary program that bridges the biological sciences and history to address a variety of questions about certain countries and regions that have emerged as epicenters of poor health and “hot spots” for infectious diseases. The researchers intend to use the seed funding to establish a novel collaborative infrastructure at UW–Madison for exploring how science, history, and culture intersect in Sub-Saharan Africa to establish and perpetuate modern concepts of health, disease, and their ecological linkages.

Bike Friendly Bahir Dar (GHI Director Jonathan Patz, Population Health Sciences and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies; David Noyce, Civil and Environmental Engineering.)

This project – a partnership between UW–Madison and municipal leaders in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia – aims to bring design and planning knowledge of transportation systems to this rapidly growing regional capital. The goal is to increase the capacity for accommodating urban growth and mobility, while preserving safety and quality of life. The participants are seeking to position Bahir Dar as a leader for smart, healthy urbanization within the region and throughout Africa.

Poles apart? An Interdisciplinary Approach to Studying Climate Vulnerability in the Himalayas (Stephen Young, Geography; Tristan L’Ecuyer, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences; Anne Sophie Daloz, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences)

The main objective of this project is to examine the impact of climate change on the behavior of farmers in the Himalayas, while also attempting to understand the impact that migrant youth from the region have on household vulnerability.  According to many reports, climate change will induce major transformations in the landscape over the next few decades. These biophysical changes will clearly interact with socio-economic processes that include changing rural livelihoods and land use strategies.

By Kerry G. Hill/ April 8, 2016