The 2022 Environmental Futures Forum held October 14th centered climate change as one of the most urgent challenges facing society and spoke about the ways in which the University of Virginia is responding.  

Provost Ian Baucom opened the event, by asking the audience to look ahead to a better future, and not to despair about the challenges of climate change.

He also made a request to attending faculty, students, alumni, and partners, asking everyone to pursue the mission of environmental resilience and sustainability as urgently as possible, working together across department and school lines.  

Following the Provost’s remarks flash talks were made by over a dozen faculty members from many schools across the University. You can read more about some of their research on the ERI web site projects page.

 

Grand Challenges Launch

The mission of the institute is to link interdisciplinary research with action on policy and practice to find solutions for climate and sustainability challenges.   

ERI’s Director Karen McGlathery remarked, “This is a great moment for UVA as new investments will bring faculty and practitioners together to find solutions to climate challenges that will lead to a better future.” In early 2023 ERI will be moving into a new office on the downtown mall. This will be a compelling and open environment that is a shared space for researchers, staff, faculty, and community partners to collaboratively learn together, advancing research towards action.  

Through the Grand Challenges investment, there will be a host of new resources available to support collaborative research and translation, and 15 new faculty hires across five schools. Below is a short summary of some of these opportunities:

 

Grand Challenges 

  • Climate Collaboratives ($10 million) – for place-based, solutions-focused projects that are interdisciplinary on climate adaptation and/or mitigation. Funding is available for 4-6 projects, ranging from $1-2 million over 3-4 years. A meeting will be held on December 1st, where we will describe the program components and invite feedback on what research questions are most critical and where UVA has opportunities to make an impact around the world. 

  • Practitioner Fellows ($1.5 million) – We are opening this up to the community to propose who would enhance research related to climate and sustainability, and better link the results of our research to the world of practice. This will be an open solicitation, and we will have a brainstorming session in November, to leverage other existing practitioner programs currently at the university. Applications will start in the Spring of 2023.  

  • Diversity Postdoc Fellowships ($1.5 million) – These fellowships are for researchers in any discipline focused on climate-related research. Projects can be designed either by faculty members or by the postdoctoral researchers themselves. The first round of applications will be due in January 2023. 

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Seed Funding 

  • Collaborative Research Grants (CoLabs) ($1 million) – We are increasing our investments from $30k to be between $60 - $200k, supporting interdisciplinary, collaborative research. There must be at least two faculty members from different disciplines. There are two deadlines per year and the next one is January 15th, 2023.  

  • Spark Grants ($30k) – these are $30k for one year and can be even one person who has a great idea and needs to bring people together. These could be workshops, or supporting student interns – any number of things geared towards building a team.  

  • Rapid Grants (up to $30k) – these are projects that are time sensitive. You don’t have to have a team, it can be an individual investigator, but you must be responsive to something whether it is data needs or a time-sensitive event, worthy of a rapid response. There will be an open solicitation, and you can submit a proposal any time. We will also look to the community to let us know if there needs to be a specific focus that we can turn into a campaign, as we did previously with hurricane season and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

Ongoing Opportunities  

  • Global-to-Community Postdoctoral Fellowship ($3.8 million) – This fellowship program is funded by UVA’s P2PE initiative and is focused on diversifying voices within climate science and bridging global-scale climate dynamics with community-scale processes. Post-doc positions will be for two years and are limited to STEM-focused researchers. They will also help to build a pipeline into three faculty positions in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Data Science, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  

  • Climate Restoration Initiative ($1.5 million) – Interdisciplinary teams are researching pathways for Virginia to reach net zero carbon emissions. These include natural and technological solutions, and consider policy and economic incentives and barriers. Teams will work with community members and practitioners to explore how different carbon reduction strategies can be deployed at both the county and state levels. One outcome of the initiative will be a web-based decision-support tool to help stakeholders determine the potential for carbon reduction across the state. 

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Town Hall 

The Forum concluded with a Town Hall where attendees provided feedback on ERI’s portfolio of research opportunities. To add your own ideas and feedback, please go to the ideasUVA platform – this will be open until November 15th.