Funds for Interdisciplinary Teams (FIT)
University of Idaho faculty research teams have been awarded $80,000 in grant funding by the Funds for Interdisciplinary Teams (FIT) program.
The FIT competition was created by Stephen Mulkey, director of the university's Environmental Science Program, to stimulate interdisciplinary activities by teams of researchers in the areas of environment, sustainability, global change, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and related concerns.
FIT-funded programs must include a broadly inclusive, interdisciplinary team approach, and must emphasize the long-term financial sustainability of the teams’ research programs. Each team is expected to produce a proposal for major extramural funding, in addition to the typical products of research, scholarship and outreach.
The Environmental Science Program plans to release the next FIT Request for Proposals in fall 2010.2009 FIT Awards
“Enhancing communication in public health research and practice”
Award amount: $20,000
PIs: J.D. Wulfhorst, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, and Michael O’Rourke, Philosophy
Team members: Carolyn Hovde Bohach, Stephen Crowley, Ruth Dahlquist, Shannon Donovan, Sanford Eigenbrode, Sara Pepper, Daniel Schmidt, Lori Stinson, Andrew Turner Project Description
: Public health needs are increasing and are strikingly complex, given soaring population rates, economic constraints, and the spread of pandemic diseases. Cross-disciplinary approaches to public health research and practice have arisen in response to these needs. Our own experiences as collaborative researchers and practitioners highlight the need for effective communication across disciplinary divides. With this in mind, we have designed and tested a novel, philosophically based approach to enhancing cross-disciplinary communication within collaborative scientific research. The goal of our proposed project is to extend our existing research into the public health domain, thereby enhancing coordination, communication, and collaboration among public health professionals. With support from a FIT grant, we will:
• Organize a representative team to re-engineer a philosophy-based “toolbox” instrument and approach for cross-disciplinary, public health collaborations
• Pilot-test the newly designed toolbox application with teams of public health professionals in the Pacific Northwest region
• Use pilot data in writing grant proposals to the National Institutes of Health and other funding sources to disseminate the toolbox application regionally and nationally.
Overall, we aim to enhance our existing cross-disciplinary research program significantly by fostering new expertise in public health, an important area where this approach will be applicable. “A study of the eco-social system of an amenity-driven, urbanizing environment in the Inland Empire”
Award amount: $20,000
PIs: James Gosz, associate dean for Research and Graduate Education (CNR), Troy Hall, Conservation Social Sciences, and Mark Hoversten, dean of College of Art and Architecture Project Description
: The University of Idaho and Washington State University are forming interdisciplinary research teams to collaborate on a proposal to develop an Urban Long Term Research Activity (ULTRA) program for the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene corridor. The long-term support for this activity would come from incorporation of this program into the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. We will design a program that develops an understanding of the environmental and human influences on urban system structure and function, and how structure and function of the urban ecosystem affects societal issues. We will use the FIT support to identify key research topic areas as the basis for integrating different disciplines to address questions associated with the urbanization process. Experience in the NSF funded LTER Network shows that these sites leverage core funding several-fold with programs of state and federal agencies and complementary research programs. A successful strategy in the LTER program has been to develop research questions/themes and form integrated teams around each of them. With support from FIT, principal investigators will coordinate necessary outreach with external stakeholders (Hoversten & Hollenhorst), University of Idaho scientists (Hall), and Washington State University (Gosz). FIT funding will support workshops and travel needed to develop the ULTRA proposal. "Establishing a long-term interdisciplinary research and education program focused on biodiversity conservation in the Ecuadorian Andes"
Award amount: $20,000
PI: Lisette Waits, Fish and Wildlife Resources
Team members: Alex Fremier, Karen Guilfoyle, Janet Rachlow, David Roon, Sandra Pinel, David Tank, Lee Vierling, Patrick WilsonProject Description
: This proposal builds and expands on existing projects and strengths to develop a long-term collaborative research and education program on biodiversity conservation in the Ecuadorian Andes. We propose to initiate an international undergraduate research program, two interdisciplinary research projects spanning biological, social and physical science, and international collaborative research opportunities for University of Idaho (UI) faculty. Our interdisciplinary team-based research is focused around the PhD research of two Ecuadorian students who are also faculty members at the Universidad de Tecnica Particular de Loja (UTPL). These dissertation projects address interdisciplinary research questions in ecology, phylogeography, landscape genetics, conservation policy and planning for two carnivore species in the Ecuadorian Andes mountains. Our short-term goal is to support interdisciplinary PhD research and facilitate the collaboration among faculty advising these projects. The long-term goal is to develop a UI/UTPL collaborative interdisciplinary teaching and research program targeting biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development. Outcomes of this funded project will include two interdisciplinary PhD degrees, multiple coauthored collaborative publications, a series of grants submitted to the National Science Foundation and other organizations, scientific capacity building within Ecuador, and improved international research, education and training opportunities for UI faculty, undergraduate and graduate students.“An interdisciplinary research program advancing commercial processes for converting organic waste to chemical commodities”
Award amount: $10,000
PIs: Erik Coats, Civil Engineering, Armando McDonald, Forest Products, and Larry Makus, Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Project Description
: If we are to realize a sustainable society wherein we negligibly impact our natural environment, we need to view all wastes as resources for commodity production, and upcycle waste to the highest value commodities. To that end, the core group of interdisciplinary investigators on this proposal has a vision to grow at UI a research program with a central focus of systematically developing and advancing commercial processes for maximizing conversion of waste organic material into chemical commodities. As a first step, we will expand our dairy manure-to-bioplastics process into a comprehensive manure-to-commodities process to maximize resource recovery. The research will be completed through four objectives, each of which will address critical gaps in the broad-based commodities process. In the near term funding of this research program will facilitate the investigator’s securing new extramural funding to advance the manure-to-commodities process. Over the long term, funding of this research will put in place a critical foundation for an interdisciplinary team that can strategically assess any industrial/municipal waste stream and develop a plan to commercialize commodity production. We anticipate that this research program will ultimately generate significant extramural funding from various federal/state agencies and the private sector; significant IP will also be developed. "Ecologically Sustainable and Socioeconomically Responsible Production of Biofules and Bioproducts"
Award amount: $10,000
PI: Matt Morra, Soil Biochemistry
Team members: Aurelio Briones, Levan Elbakidze, Armando McDonald, Priscilla Salant, Jon Van GerpenProject Description
: Our goal is to decrease the U.S. dependence on petrochemical fuels and feedstocks by producing multiple, high-value materials from agricultural and forest materials in a manner that enhances economic viability of rural communities and minimizes negative environmental impacts. Our work has relevance to global issues such as carbon sequestration and climate change. We have divided our long-term program into four major thrust areas including: 1) methane generation and co-products from animal waste; 2) cellulosic ethanol production from field crop residues and woody species; 3) biodiesel, biolubricants, and bioproducts from oilseed crops; and 4) multiple biofuels and bioproducts from agricultural polycultures. Travel expenses are requested to pay for UI personnel to attend meetings within the region for the expressed purpose of generating ties with communities and business leaders. We will establish an advisory group that will include representatives from feedstock producers, biofuel manufacturers, and
consumers to ensure input from a wide range of stakeholders. A science writer will be hired to 1) compile and summarize a literature review on bioenergy/bioproducts needs and opportunities, 2) assist with proposal writing and development, and 3) produce summary documents that result from planning, stakeholder, and advisory board meetings.