School of Global Environmental Sustainability Names Global Challenges Research Teams, Resident Fellowship Awards

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University has named five diverse 2012-2013 Global Challenges Research Teams and five Resident Faculty Fellows from a competitive field of proposals submitted in January.

The awards are a way to encourage interdisciplinary understanding of complex global environmental issues.

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability, known as SoGES, funds research projects that are interdisciplinary in nature, involving faculty members and researchers from across colleges. These projects focus on at least two of the school’s research focal areas including climate change and energy; food security; environmental institutions and governance; land and water resources; sustainable communities; and biodiversity, conservation and management.

"SoGES is very excited about the diverse research ideas that we will be supporting next year with GCRT and Fellow seed funding," said Gene Kelly, SoGES associate director for Research and Development. "We chose Research Teams and Fellows that are addressing critical sustainability topics – through divergent disciplines – that will help create dynamic forums for collaborative problem solving and innovation on campus."

The 2012-2013 Global Challenges Research Teams:

  • Conservation Development, Principal Investigators – Liba Pejchar, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; and Sarah Reed, Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the Warner College of Natural Resources. The Conservation Development team exists to synthesize data on existing practice, establish a rigorous scientific basis for evaluating designs and policies, and engage with key practitioners to inform the design of future projects.
  • Environmental Governance in the Intermountain West, Principal Investigators – Michele Betsill, Department of Political Science; Tony Cheng, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship; and Pete Taylor, Department of Sociology. This team will focus on environmental governance issues in the areas of energy, water, forests and climate change in the Intermountain West, and will address governance challenges by building on existing strengths and ongoing research activities across several colleges and disciplines at CSU.
  • Reducing Vulnerability and Improving Sustainability to Natural Disasters at the Natural, Built, Social, and Economic Interface, Principal Investigators – Craig Trumbo, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication; Lori Peek, Department of Sociology; and Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. The purpose of this team will be to create an interdisciplinary, multidimensional understanding of how communities—in concert with the natural systems within which they interactively exist—may be made less vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters.
  • University Water Strategy for Global Issues, Principal Investigators – Brian Fugate, Department of Management; Neil Grigg, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; LeRoy Poff, Department of Biology; Melinda Laituri, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability; Reagan Waskom, Colorado Water Institute; and James Pritchett, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. This team will identify critical water issues and explore opportunities for the university to play a key role in future interdisciplinary research and management surrounding these topics.
  • Using Case Studies of Polarizing, Emotional and Politicized Topics: Addressing the Social Emotional Context of Controversial Environmental Issues, Principal Investigators – William Timpson, School of Education; Morris Burns, Department of Theater (retired); Rick Knight, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources; and Nathalie Kees, School of Education. The activities of this team will explore the use of case studies to address highly controversial issues such as climate change denial that typically attract intensely politicized, ideological and polarized debates.

“This year, our team is working across the colleges to focus on sustainability, energy, food production, and the water/society nexus,” said Neil Grigg, co-PI of the University Water Strategy for Global Issues team. “As we look into next year, we hope to work with SOGES to jumpstart new initiatives for CSU and to attract additional faculty members to these and related water issues.”

In funding these teams, SoGES acts a driver for new interdisciplinary partnerships and ideas for other funded teams.

“SoGES funding is absolutely critical to our research,” said Liba Pejchar, co-PI of the Conservation Development team. “The funds provide a catalyst to bring together faculty and students from diverse colleges and departments to come up with innovative ideas for research and outreach related to Conservation Development.”

Five new resident fellows also will receive support from SoGES to advance studies in global environmental sustainability:

  • Joe Champ, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication; research focus – contemporary relations between humans and nature in the western world
  • Eugene Chen, Department of Chemistry; research focus – sustainable paths to bioplastics by organopolymerization
  • Ursula Daxecker, Department of Political Science; research focus – fisheries depletion and maritime piracy
  • Robert Duffy, Department of Political Science; research focus – U.S. energy policy
  • Dave Theobald, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology; research focus – global land use emergent network

“As a resident fellow, I plan to continue my research on the effect of resource scarcity on maritime piracy. In particular, I will examine whether the depletion of states’ fisheries increases individuals’ incentives to engage in piracy,” said Ursula Daxecker, a SoGES Resident Faculty Fellow. “Funding as a resident fellow will make a major difference in the amount of time I can dedicate to collecting data for the project, carrying out the analyses and sharing my research with other scholars interested in the link between resource scarcity and security issues.”

About the School of Global Environmental Sustainability

The School of Global Environmental Sustainability is an umbrella organization that encompasses all environmental education and research at Colorado State University. The school positions CSU to address the multiple economic, environmental and societal challenges of global sustainability through broad-based research, curricular, and outreach initiatives. The school’s areas emphasis include food security, environmental institutions and governance, sustainable communities, land and water resources, biodiversity, conservation and management, climate change, and energy. This approach capitalizes on the University’s historic strength in environmental research and education, and builds upon the education and research that already exists within all eight colleges on campus – from the Warner College of Natural Resources to the College of Business. For more information, go to