The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) is proud to announce the recipients of the 2022 SES Seed Grant Funds Program

SES created the seed grant program to advance transdisciplinary research aligned with the School’s mission of providing sound science outcomes, preparing students to meet the most serious environmental challenges of our time, and advancing solutions that build a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable planet. With funding support from the College of Natural Sciences, SES released the call for proposals last spring (before the pandemic hit our region).

The SES Seed Grant Funds Program received ambitious proposals from research teams with diverse representation from academic departments across campus. The three proposals selected for funding by the SES Research Task Force are “Sustainable Film Development”, “Sustainable Viticulture”, and “Transportation Resiliency”. Each funded team will receive $10,000 to carry out their work; a description of each awarded project is provided below.

We are inspired by the interest of all our sustainability-focused researchers and hope you will join in celebrating and supporting our colleagues who will be participating in this program! 

Sustainable Film Development - Grounds for Sustainability: Eco-Friendly Film Development from Coffee Waste

Grounds for Sustainability is a project that aims to promote sustainable film processing using this coffee-based developer, thus offering photographers and filmmakers a creative, ethical image-making pathway, which also produces unique image aesthetics. The project proposes to remediate this impact by testing and promoting an innovative formulation for photographic developing chemistry sourced from used coffee grounds. The chemistry research portion of the project answers the need for measurement and standardization in order for sustainable coffee-based film development to spread into general and viable use. In addition, the project will bring this research into the classroom, with Chemistry and Film Studies students participating in both the sample analysis and the handling of tested film stock. The project's intervention turns waste biomass into a useful good, which provides an alternative to costlier, more environmentally impactful chemical film processing by a traditional laboratory.

Lead Investigator: David Bendiksen, Lecturer in Film Studies, College of Humanities & Fine Arts

Co-investigators: Ruthanne Paradise, Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemistry; Timothy Randhir, Professor, Department of Environmental Conservation

Sustainable Viticulture - Adoption of Standards and Business Practices Among Sustainable Wine Producers in Western Massachusetts

Today's consumers process a lot of information when selecting food products, using sustainability as a decision criterion, and coordination mechanisms for collective action organizations for new sustainability standards and practices need to be explored. The proposed project aims to investigate the adoption of sustainable business practices among Western Massachusetts wine producers and the social and environmental factors that may impede the adoption of these practices. The project will collect qualitative data through interviews with local wine producers and industry representatives. The overarching questions that will guide this research include the legitimization of claims of sustainable food production, awareness of existing sustainable practices in wine production, the role of collective action organizations in the adoption of sustainable business practices, grape growing practices with respect to sustainable land use, and environmental planning and policy dimensions that impact local viticulture in terms of regional economic development. 

Lead Investigator: Bogdan Prokopovych, Senior Lecturer, Management, Isenberg School of Management

Co-investigators: Elsa Petit, Senior Lecturer, Stockbridge School of Agriculture

Transportation Resiliency - Pathways towards Transportation Infrastructure Resiliency in New England

This project aims to address transportation infrastructure resiliency challenges and climate change threats for communities across New England. The project's objectives are to understand the transportation infrastructure resiliency challenges faced by different communities and engage multiple stakeholders to identify research questions that can lead to resilient and sustainable transportation systems. The project includes developing surveys to understand the challenges affecting communities, organizing a virtual summit to discuss regional resiliency strategies, and developing problem statements for future research. This transdisciplinary research will follow a systems approach to ensure that demographics, social and cultural aspects, the built environment, and economic efficiency are considered when addressing transportation infrastructure resiliency.

Lead Investigator: Eleni Christofa, Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering

Co-investigators: Chengbo Ai, Assistant Professor of Chengbo Ai, College of Engineering; Camille Barchers, Assistant Professor of Regional Planning, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning; Michael Knodler, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering; Marta Vicarelli, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics & School of Public Policy 

2020 SES Seed Grant Funds Recipients

Energy Equity

Climate change and resource depletion drive the transition from polluting, fossil fuel-based energy to new clean energy solutions. Traditional energy sectors are governed by extreme concentrations of wealth and power, yet their pollution falls disproportionately on people of color and vulnerable communities. Energy transition offers a unique opportunity to increase equity and justice in the energy system. The team proposes to develop a framework for documenting energy equity. After developing a preliminary framework, the researchers will pursue external funding to implement the Energy Equity Report protocol and significantly expand the framework's scope, data collection, and community-based refinement.

Co-investigators: Michael Ash, Professor of Economics & Public Policy, Department of Economics & School of Public Policy; Erin Baker, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs and Professor of Industrial Engineering, Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Team Members: Dwayne Breger, Director of Clean Energy Extension and Extension Professor of Environmental Conservation and School of Earth & Sustainability; Anna Goldstein, Senior Research Fellow in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Photo Credit: Ben Barnhart

Establishing CeNAER

The high application rates of toxic agrochemicals used to increase agricultural productivity cause not only significant damage to the environment but also affect food safety and consumer health. Novel and sustainable platforms for soil, crop, and pest management are critically needed for increasing agricultural productivity and global food security and safety. CeNAER will leverage nanotechnology to address the inefficiencies in agrochemical delivery and use, with the goal of increasing sustainable global food production to achieve food security and safety. It also proposes to use nanotechnology for applications in food technology for nano-enabled delivery of active food ingredients and nutraceuticals as well as nanomaterials for wastewater purification and soil remediation.

Lead Investigator, Om Parkash Dhankher, professor of agricultural biotechnology, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and School of Earth & Sustainability, and his team propose to establish a Center of Excellence for Nano-enabled Agricultural and Environmental Research (CeNAER) at UMass Amherst. This proposed Center will unify a unique multi-disciplinary team of investigators that will develop and implement novel agro-nanotechnolgy research.

Co-investigators: Baoshan Xing, Professor of Environmental & Soil Chemistry, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and School of Earth & Sustainability; Lili He, Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Nanofabrication and Detection, Department of Food Sciences; Dhandapani ‘DV’ Venkataraman, Professor of Material Science and Nanomaterials, Department of Chemistry; D. Julian McClements, Professor of Food Nanotechnology, Department of Food Sciences; David Reckhow, Professor of Nanomaterials and Wastewater Treatment, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering; Jason White, Adjunct Professor, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Director, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven; Jaime Pinero, Extension Associate Professor of Entomology and Integrated Pest Management, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and School of Earth & Sustainability; Hang Xiao, Professor of Food Nanotechnology, Food Science