Environmental science

Cornell Atkinson Awards Bolster Research, Drive New Efforts by Emerging Scholars

The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability Postdoctoral Fellowships provides a rich training environment for the next generation of sustainability scholars focused on increasing food security, reducing climate risks, accelerating energy transitions, and advancing one health.

“We’re thrilled to welcome these four creative interdisciplinary scholars to work with Cornell faculty and external partners to advance sustainability scholarship and impact,” said Christy Goodale, Cornell Atkinson Faculty Director for Student and Postdoc Programming and the Frank HT Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (A&S).

The 2022 Cornell Atkinson Postdoc Fellows:

Maia Dedrick: Forest Conservation and Sustainable Rural Livelihoods in Yucatán, Mexico

Maia’s research considers historical trajectories that have shaped the sustainability of agricultural livelihoods and landscapes. As an archaeologist, she has found that centuries of colonialism in southeastern Mexico undermined food systems and sustainable livelihoods, and late colonial reforms set into motion dynamics that continue to play out in contemporary processes of globalization.

The research will identify strategies to mitigate climate change, promote and evaluate biodiversity, and ascertain long-term trends in human settlement, plant cultivation, and climate to detect management strategies that were successful in the past. Maia will collaborate with advisor John Zinda (CALS) and external partner Organization U Yits Ka’an in Mexico. The farmers of Tahcabo will then consider these examples as they craft a conservation management plan. This project will be conducted with and for Tahcabo community members and will center on the voices of town residents throughout the research process.

Marwan Osman: The Emerging Threat of Multidrug-Resistant Enterobacterales in Refugee Camps

Marwan is a medical microbiologist and molecular epidemiologist focused on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), evidence-based medicine, and one health intervention. Due to the inappropriate use of antibiotics, multidrug-resistant (MDR) infections are increasingly reported in both clinical and non-clinical settings in Lebanon, including Syrian refugee camps. These infections have driven the overuse of last-resort antibiotics, which led to the emergence of recalcitrant MDR bacteria; making otherwise uncomplicated infections life-threatening.

Marwan’s research will help stakeholders to better understand the dynamics that drive infections and AMR, improve conditions to mitigate transmission of infectious diseases, implement surveillance systems for high-priority bacteria, promote appropriate use of antimicrobials, and strengthen capacities to tackle AMR in the human, animal, and ecosystem levels, with special emphasis on vulnerable populations and their environment.

As importantly, the outcome/solutions that will be delivered in this project are scalable, beyond addressing AMR in refugees only in Lebanon, and will provide sustainable intervention such as educational material that will be readily available to stakeholders globally.

Marwan will collaborate with Kevin Cummings (VET), Kathryn Fiorella (VET), Issmat I. Kassem (University of Georgia), and Khaled El Omari (the external partner Organization “Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of Tripoli and North Lebanon” ).

Subhashree Navaneetha Srinivasagan: Putting Farmers in the Driver Seat for On-Farm Research: Scalable Precision Agriculture Technology for Adaptive Management

Subha will partner with Cornell’s Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP), led by Quirine Ketterings (CALS), to evaluate sustainable nutrient management practices and alternatives by analyzing yield data and building tools to create more accessible on-farm research.

Research results will include a user-friendly cloud-based spatial analysis tool to analyze crop management alternatives using yield monitor data and remotely sensed images. Yield monitor data will allow farmers to develop yield stability maps specific to their farm to evaluate management alternatives.

“On-farm research allows farmers and farm advisors to evaluate management practices and make decisions that improve the farm’s agricultural profitability while protecting the environment,” said Quirine Ketterings, Professor of Nutrient Management in Agricultural Systems and Director of the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program. Subha will work with farmers, farm advisors, and policy makers in New York as well as partners in ADAS in the UK, the Great Lakes Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), and the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network to develop practical on-farm research approaches. This project’s outcomes will make on-farm research easier to do and more meaningful, taking away a major barrier to scientifically sound farmer-led research, for improvement of agricultural sustainability and climate resilience.”

Andrew N Stillman, Achieving resiliency through effective fire management: scaling up assessments of fire impacts on biodiversity.

Andrew’s interdepartmental project will assess the impacts of recent fire and forest management on biodiversity and predict responses to fire under various climates forest conditions and land management scenarios. Working with Viviana Ruiz Gutierrez (Lab of Ornithology) and partners at the USDA Forest Service, the project builds on his multi-year collaboration with agency biologists and conservation practitioners across the US Research outcomes will include composite maps of fire occurrence, fire severity, and forest management interventions across two fire-impacted regions (the southeastern and western US). Andrew will use the data from eBird, a global citizen science project based at Cornell, to estimate the impacts of fire regimes and fire management on bird abundance and population trends.

Andrew will develop a partnership between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Learning Web in Ithaca to use citizen science as a tool for diversity and inclusion. His outreach program will include job shadowing opportunities and local research experiences for high school students, as well as STEM career development for underserved students in Ithaca.

“Wildfires are increasing in severity and frequency, and profoundly impacting social and ecological systems,” said Viviana Ruiz Gutierrez, Assistant Director, Center for Avian Population Studies.

“We are very excited to work with Andrew on this opportunity to leverage continental-scale, high-resolution avian community science data to predict outcomes for biodiversity based on future fire management and climate scenarios.”

Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellows choose a Cornell faculty mentor and an advisor from a partner external organization, which is a formative influence on their career development, research, and future partnerships and teaching. “Postdoctoral fellowships allow early career scholars to focus on research unencumbered by other professional duties,” said Beth Fox, Cornell Atkinson’s Director of Postdoctoral and Student Programs. “Combined mentorship from Cornell faculty and an external organization uniquely positions Cornell Atkinson postdocs to rapidly translate their research into solutions for the world’s most urgent needs for a sustainable future.”

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