Seed Grant Projects


With support from Tufts University’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) by way of the Research and Scholarship Strategic Plan (RSSP), CREATE Solutions provides internal research funding in two areas: (1) seed grants for collaborative and interdisciplinary research that is likely to lead to new research grants from extramural sources; and (2) contributions to a flagship publication series that aims to be a “how-to” series for a range of climate-related topics. Currently funded projects are described below.

Seed Grant–Funded Research in Progress

The North American Offshore Wind Industry: Safety from the Start

PI: Professor David Gute

Team Member: Professor Beth Rosenberg

The offshore wind industry is new to North America and brings numerous safety hazards with it. High injury and fatality rates are inconsistent with the goals of green energy and growing the blue economy. Traumatic injury and deaths can be prevented through improved design of infrastructure, effective safety management systems and a well-trained workforce. The nascent North American offshore wind industry thus presents a unique opportunity to design in safety from the start. Our objective is to identify safety hazards, determine obstacles to safety (both physical infrastructure and organizational) and strategies to overcome them. The larger goal is to learn from the UK’s and the EU’s experience, through interviewing workers, managers, regulators, and other industry experts. This knowledge can inform infrastructure design, best management practices and training priorities for future offshore wind workers in the US.

The Politics of Algorithmic Conservation: Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Governance in a Changing Climate

PI: Professor Caleb Scoville

Team Members: Professor Elizabeth Crone, Professor J. Michael Reed, Professor Matthias Scheutz, Dean Peter Levine, Samantha Jo Fried, Professor Carl Boettiger, Melissa Chapman, Razvan Amironesei

The proposed project will explore how intelligence (AI) technologies are reshaping environmental conservation decision-making processes in a changing climate. Our emphasis is on the governance of ocean resources. Fisheries are central to policy responses to climate change. They are also a paradigmatic site for environmental conservation and natural resource management. Take, for example, the classic and idealized models associated with stakeholder fisheries management. In this model, a resource can be allocated optimally among several stakeholders with different interests through participatory mapping. This project centers on the ethical, political and policy dilemmas associated with the turn to algorithmic conservation. We will show how these dilemmas are operative empirically in ocean resource management in the context of climate change. Finally, we will propose policy solutions aimed at mitigating potential inequities in algorithmic conservation.

Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Urban Migration

PIs: Professor Karen Jacobsen and Professor Eileen Babbitt

Team Members: Professor Justin Hollander, Professor Amy Myers Jaffe, Bethany Tietjen, Hallie Westlund

We propose to unpack the relationship between climate change, environmental degradation, migration, and conflict as it plays out in cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our comparative city analysis will focus on migrant-dense areas – usually informal areas or slums in selected cities, and explore: 1) The extent to which these areas are already experiencing environmental and climate change impacts and how these impacts manifest 2) The extent to which migration into these areas puts strains on services such as water, energy and garbage 3) Whether conflict results from this strain 4) Whether and how the residents (both migrants and locals) of these areas are addressing these issues or mobilizing around them, and whether civil society protests and mobilization push city governments to act and 5) Whether and how city governments are addressing these issues and their plans for the future including engaging the business sector and commercial innovation. This is a woefully understudied part of the climate and migration story, one with significant policy implications for mitigating negative impacts on political, economic and social wellbeing.

Resilient Rural Development: Exploring the intersection of People, Energy, Forestry, and Agriculture

PI: Professor Colin Orians

Team Members: Professor Sean Cash, Professor Laura Kuhl, Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher

The livelihoods of  about 15 million Ethiopians depend on coffee production and the country is the largest producer in Africa and a global leader in the production of high-quality Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica). Coffee is native to Ethiopia where the climate and soils are ideal for its production. Importantly, as a subcanopy tree that thrives below a forested canopy, the production of “climate-smart” coffee has the potential to raise earnings, protect forests, and if combined with a build-out of renewable energy could increase rural livelihoods and help Ethiopia meet its climate goals. Yet solutions are complex. An increase in livelihoods depends on building farm and farmer resilience to climate stress and market volatility, and to ensuring that rural communities have access to renewable energy technologies that remove the pressures on forest biomass resources. Together with our in-country partners, our team proposes a scoping trip to identify key needs and scalable solutions that will form the basis for future work.

Flagship Publications in Progress

North American Readiness for Hydrogen Production and Distribution: Assessment and Statement of Needs

PIs: Professor Rocky Weitz, Professor Luke Davis, Professor Andrew Ramsburg

Team Members: Professor Barbara Kates-Garnick, Professor Amy Myers Jaffe, Professor Eric Hines, Professor Dan Kuchma

Our working group will explore essential questions about production and transport of renewable energy stored in hydrogen with the aim of establishing knowledge and research capabilities that enable Tufts to secure extramural funding in this area. Critical questions include: what hydrogen carrier(s) can be prepared at scale, at sea, and at distance; what hydrogen carrier(s) can align with existing or planned
shipping infrastructure; and to what extent can existing onshore infrastructure transport and distribute hydrogen carrier(s). Answers to these technical questions will establish a foundation for our team to evaluate and contribute to emerging technical and policy frameworks for offshore green hydrogen.

Completed Seed Grant–Funded Projects

The Impacts of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) in Income, Productivity
and Resilience [download the paper here]

PI: Professor Timothy Griffin

Team Members: Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher, Professor Jenny Aker, Jonathan Sanderman, Sabrina Andrews

Smallholder farms, numbering more than 500 million globally (Lowder, Skoet, & Raney, 2016), and their associated households represent a large proportion of the world’s poor. The vulnerabilities of this population are numerous, and include food, nutrition, and economic insecurity, and lack of resources to respond to economic or biophysical (production) shocks. They are also the agricultural population with the least capacity to respond to each of these challenges, and this is made more dire by climate change. There have been multiple recent efforts, typically captured by the term Regenerative Agriculture, that attempt to meet multiple, positive objectives simultaneously. Among the most prominent of these efforts is Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). We propose to undertake a review of evidence on the impacts of ZBNF. This assessment will benefit from the combined expertise at the Friedman School and the Fletcher School, and also from the Woodwell Climate Research Center. This publication is based on the premise that it is important to examine multiple impact areas from the implementation of ZBNF (rather than one), and the linkages between domains.

Pollinator habitat in human-dominated landscapes: A 21st-century agenda
for people and biodiversity [download the paper here]

PI: Professor Elizabeth Crone

Team Member: Nathaniel Murphy

In the 20th century, conservation biology focused on protecting our remaining natural lands. These efforts were laudable and should be continued, but they have not been sufficient. Many species are declining at an alarming rate, including formerly widespread taxa, such as insects and birds, that are not necessarily restricted to areas with little human influence. Our proposed paper will (1) Summarize the evidence that urban landscapes have high potential to maintain viable pollinator populations, (2) Outline ways in which urban land use decisions, which reflect the collective action of many independent landowners, differ from traditional natural areas management, (3) Identify key knowledge gaps about the ecological function of pollinator gardens, and (4) Highlight possible interactions and feedbacks between the social goal of making pollinator gardens popular and the ecological goal of creating high-quality habitat. These lead naturally to (5) Recommended actions to increase pollinator habitat in metropolitan areas.

Reaching 2050: Networks versus Lead Lines for Offshore Wind Transmission

PI: Professor Eric Hines

Team Members: Professor Barbara Kates-Garnick, Kelly Smith

This project envisions collaborative research between the PIs, the Tufts Power Systems and Markets Research Group, and industry partners focused on the electricity transmission systems required to get the United States to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Based on over two years of sustained discussion and collaboration, Tufts has developed a respected voice on offshore wind grid integration issues. Now is the time to strengthen this voice and amplify it at both state and federal levels. As an example, this team submitted Round 1 Comments to the Massachusetts DOER’s request for comments on offshore wind transmission on February 18, 2020, attended the technical conference on March 3, 2020, and submitted Round 2 Comments on April 21, 2020. This funding will enable the team to expand their work on the New England Grid to include New York and PJM, giving the work national relevance and making it an attractive candidate for DOE funding.