Sustainability Seed Grant Program

Sparking Innovation & Transformative Sustainability Research Collaborations

The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) offers seed funding to advance inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research that can help eradicate inequity, enhance environmental and social justice, and build a more resilient future. The SES mission is to provide sound research outcomes that inform our collective future; and prepare our undergraduate and graduate students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, with a long-term view of helping to build a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable planet. We seek proposals that align with our mission.

SES seed funding is intended to spark new collaborations, research questions, and external proposal submissions. Up to $10,000 is available for each project. Funded projects will have some staff support and assistance in identifying funding sources.


SES is requesting proposals to spark new sustainability research on campus. The SES research fund was created to promote collaboration and advance meaningful transdisciplinary scholarship. We seek innovative, exploratory proposals linking the social and natural sciences and the natural and built environments in ways that create new knowledge enhancing sustainability and resilience. SES prioritizes projects that explore linkages between environmental and social equity and sustainability. Team composition should be experimental, bringing together diverse perspectives, worldviews, career stages, disciplines, backgrounds, ages, and genders.


Inter- or transdisciplinary research groups may request seed funding for up to $10,000. The funds are intended to support the development of a research proposal suitable for an identified off-campus funding opportunity. Typical expenditures might include on-campus meetings, expenses associated with preliminary data gathering, and travel support for off-campus collaborators. Expenditures are flexible, but they must follow standard University guidelines. SES seed grant recipients will ideally submit a proposal to an external funding agency, foundation, or another funding source within 12-18 months of receiving SES support.
Proposals must:

  • be related to the broad area of sustainability;
  • be inter- or transdisciplinary in scope; and
  • include at least three lead project proponents from three different departments (within or beyond SES departments and colleges).


Currently, SES is home to more than 120 faculty across two colleges (Natural Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences) and five academic departments (Environmental Conservation, Geosciences, Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, Microbiology, and Stockbridge School of Agriculture). Eight areas of excellence link member departments:

  1.     Biodiversity and Ecology
  2.     Built Environment
  3.     Clean Energy
  4.     Climate and Resiliency
  5.     Earth and Ocean
  6.     Food Systems and Security
  7.     Society, Community, and Culture
  8.     Soil and Water

Each of these areas is interdisciplinary by nature. The strong linkages between the areas represent transdisciplinary and convergent research opportunities - deeply integrating the natural and built environments with the human dimensions of equity, sustainability, and resilience. SES research and graduate training are strategically aligned with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and issues of national importance. Improving social and environmental equity is central to the SDGs, which include expanding educational opportunities, eradicating poverty, eliminating food and energy insecurity, improving health and general well-being, and building sustainable cities and communities.


All UMass faculty (tenure and non-tenure track) and staff are eligible and encouraged to apply. One faculty member will be identified as the lead coordinating investigator (CI), with at least two other co-CIs from two different departments. At least one CI should be from an SES department. Participants additional to the three coordinating investigators can be from any department. The proposed ideas, group makeup, and the number of faculty involved are flexible, but strong interdisciplinarity is required. Preference will be given to proposals that demonstrate the following:

  • A commitment to transdisciplinary collaboration with ongoing opportunities to partner on projects and initiatives.
  • A focus on new or developing research with a clear plan for extramural funding.
  • Engagement of faculty both within and outside of SES.


Proposals will be funded based on their perceived potential to lead to transdisciplinary research in the broad areas of equity, sustainability, and resilience. Potential applicants are encouraged to explore and connect their proposal to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the concept of convergence science at the National Science Foundation. Proposed groups should include expertise across multiple SES Areas of Excellence and demonstrate the potential for deep integration across those areas.

Successful proposals will:

  • Clearly connect their proposal to one or more of the SES Areas of Excellence and the UN sustainable development goals.
  • Include a highly diverse team representing multiple departments, colleges, and areas of expertise.
  • Articulate how the proposed research is distinct from existing work, how it is inter- or transdisciplinary, and how the team will integrate their research.

Expectations of Funding Recipients

SES provides support to teams, including but not limited to: organization and coordination, website visibility, assistance with off-campus grant proposals, and communications materials and support. We expect teams to stay connected and engaged with SES during the funding cycle.

Recipients must submit an annual report and a final report.  Any promotion of research, including publications, conference presentations, and posters need to acknowledge the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability sponsorship.  Ideally, an off-campus grant proposal will be submitted within 12-18 months of receiving the seed funds.  SES should be notified of any grant proposal submitted or awarded external funding that leverages work funded by the SES seed grant program.

More Information

Learn about previous projects funded by the SES Seed Grant Program, by clicking here.

Please feel free to contact Darci or Rob if you have questions or need additional information.
Darci Connor Maresca
Rob DeConto