2020 – 2021 Innovation Grants: Now accepting proposals

EarthLab is pleased to announce the second round of funding with the 2020 – 2021 Innovation Grants program! The Innovation Grants is an exciting opportunity to make an innovative idea or project come to fruition. Funding is intended to support new partnerships that address pressing environmental challenges and that are led by and with those most impacted by a particular environmental challenge. Those most impacted may refer to the people, communities, municipalities (e.g., a city planning for sea level rise), industries (e.g., agricultural industry facing increased flooding or drought), or other entities directly affected by an environmental challenge.

Any community partnerships with interdisciplinary academic teams are encouraged to apply!

Learn more

EarthLab funds first round of Innovation Grants

Providing resources for new approaches to environmental problem solving is the focus of the first EarthLab Innovation Grants funding. Projects funded in this first round of grants will support big ideas with high potential for impact and the ability to motivate change.

“I was blown away by the breadth of topics, the quality of the proposals, and the depth of engagement with community partners,” says Phil Levin, chair of the Innovation Grants review committee. “It was a great opportunity for me to really see the creativity of the faculty, staff and students here at UW, and I was excited to see  EarthLab serve as a spark for some amazingly innovative and impactful projects.”

During this round of funding, persistent themes emerged across proposed projects. These included the urgent need to partner with the communities that are most impacted by climate and environmental change and the importance of co-creating knowledge that is both usable and used. Project teams included faculty from a range of disciplines at the University of Washington, including public health, global health, environmental and occupational health sciences, engineering, environmental and forest sciences, and more. Partners from beyond the university included city, county and state agencies, local and regional non-profit organizations, and other universities.

“We were encouraged by the strong response to the request for proposals. There was a clear need for funding that supports collaborative, transdisciplinary projects,” says Anastasia Ramey, Grants Program Lead for EarthLab. “We are looking forward to supporting the grantees in this work. ”

The Innovation Grants Program, a signature initiative of EarthLab, seeks to achieve numerous outcomes. These include increasing capacity across the UW for innovative transdisciplinary scholarship, deepening engagement with diverse community partners, and funding research projects that address co-defined problems from multiple perspectives. The goal with all funded projects is to generate knowledge aimed at environmental problem solving that is useable and used, ultimately helping support peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

During this first year, the Innovation Grants Program will focus on first-mile funding to support convening and building teams in novel, sometimes high-risk, high-reward directions that may take a variety of forms. This funding will give teams the chance to test a concept, scope out a project or take the first steps in developing a larger team to tackle a collaborative project.

EarthLab leaders hope to learn from this first year of funding, and are approaching it as a pilot. From it, they hope to learn what investments are most effective and then apply that knowledge to future investments.

Funded Projects

Assessing Climate Driven Zoonotic Disease Risk in Washington State
In the State of Washington, West Nile virus, valley fever, hantavirus, and leptospirosis are a significant concern. This project will explore the relationships between climate conditions and these climate-sensitive disease threats to community health in Washington. A project goal includes generating seasonal maps that identify high-risk conditions for each pathogen, which can be an important tool for determining, managing and preventing risk of human and animal infections.
Principal Investigator: Cory Morin, Department of Global Health

Clean Safety & Health in Food Trucks Program (SHiFT)
This project brings together a multidisciplinary team to work with the food truck industry to promote best cleaning practices and technical assistance to shift toward safer chemical alternatives. The project team will include diverse and traditionally underserved communities, and small business owners not previously engaged in safe chemical transition and hazard awareness campaigns. A new toolkit will be introduced to food truck owners/operators/workers and other stakeholders so they can reduce their use of chemicals, their hazards to living systems and the risks to our waterways and the environment.
Lead Co-Principal Investigator: Nancy Simcox, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

Digitizing Holistic Environmental Studies
This project will collaborate with local community leaders and youth to integrate a Native American knowledge forming process to script digital stories. Stories will be action-oriented and visualize sustainable holistic solutions for complex and multi-disciplinary environmental problems. This project aims to develop a tool and platform to communicate and inform decision-makers what the intervention points of local environmental problems are by contextualizing the interconnectedness among multiple information streams.
Lead Co-Principal Investigator: Kristiina Vogt, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

From Risk to Resilience: Connecting Communities to Coastal Hazards through Interactive and Immersive Design
A collaborative team of researchers, including the UW’s Climate Impacts Group, recently released new projections of sea level rise for Washington state. In order to increase awareness and use of this science by Washington communities and decision-makers, the Climate Impacts Group, UW Reality Lab, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle-based data visualization company Tableau have teamed up to create two different interactive data visualization tools – an interactive tool of sea-level projections for 171 different coastal sites in Washington state, and creating several public-facing virtual reality experiences that showcase community-relevant impacts of future sea level rise to 2150.
Principal Investigator: Heidi Roop, UW Climate Impacts Group

Voices Unbound: Amplifying Perspectives of Disenfranchised Communities to Provoke Environmental Change
A considerable gap exists among the discourses of those who implement environmental policies and the underrepresented communities that disproportionally experience environmental issues. This project seeks to transform discourses of policymakers by directly incorporating underrepresented community members’ voices. Enviro-postcards will be distributed to communities that ask “what environmental challenges are most important to you” and “how are you coping with or surviving these challenges?” Concurrently, the project will pilot in-person science booths and a podcast series to amplify community voices. This will culminate in an eco-art gallery open to the public that will prominently showcase community perspectives and promote a novel blueprint for inclusive environmental engagement.
Co-Principal Investigators: Christopher J. Schell, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Tacoma; Robin A. Evans-Agnew, School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, UW Tacoma

2019 EarthLab + Population Health Initiative Grantee
In addition to the Innovation Grants, EarthLab jointly funded one award addressing environmental resilience in partnership with the University of Washington Population Health Initiative. The funded project, Ethnoforestry: Applying Traditional Ecological Knowledge for Ecosystem Sustainability on the Olympic Peninsula, focuses on applying traditional ecological knowledge of local people to forest management on public lands. Learn more on the Population Health website.

More information will be shared about the funded projects in coming weeks.

EarthLab and Population Health Partner to Fund New Interdisciplinary Research to Benefit People + Planet

EarthLab and the new UW Population Health Initiative announced the award of $50,000 to a new pilot project that aims to develop solutions to pressing environmental challenges at the intersection of human health. Ethnoforestry: Applying Traditional Ecological Knowledge for Ecosystem Sustainability on the Olympic Peninsula,” focuses on applying traditional ecological knowledge of local people to forest management on public lands. This results of this project are expected in late 2020.

Bernard Bormann, Environmental and Forest Sciences
Marc Miller, Marine and Environmental Affairs
Courtney Bobsin, Environmental and Forest Sciences

Project abstract
Across the Olympic Peninsula, widespread changes in forest management policy have altered rural communities over the last several decades. Many rural communities were hit hard by a decrease in available jobs due to a decline in timber supply from over-harvesting and spotted owl protections as well as mill modernization. Tribes have since suffered from a decline of some cultural keystone species adapted to early seral conditions precluded by efficient tree regeneration and late-seral reserves. In the aftermath of this, rural communities are left to rebuild with their primary sources of work and culture degraded.

We believe a key way to build community resilience and health is through ethnoforestry: using traditional ecological knowledge of local people and applying it to forest management on public lands. Applied ethnoforestry can put the space in between regenerating conifers over the first 15 years after harvest to work. Species that are culturally valuable to nearby communities will be planted, tended, and then harvested for personal or semi-commercial use. If successful, ethnoforestry will add new small businesses and jobs and boost the local economy.

Through this grant, we will work will tribal and non-tribal communities on the Washington Coast to determine what plant species they would like to see us bring back in nearby ecosystems. We will develop a research proposal to test the growth and success of these species in permanent plots. This interdisciplinary approach will not only enhance the resilience and health of the local community, it will also benefit the local ecosystem.

More information about the Population Health Pilot Grant program can be found here.

EarthLab launches first-ever Innovation Grants

EarthLab at the University of Washington envisions a world where nature and people thrive. To that end, EarthLab has launched an Innovation Grants program to provide funding for projects that are risky, new ideas with a high potential for impact and the ability to motivate change.

Through this program, EarthLab hopes to increase capacity across the UW for innovations in the application of transdisciplinary scholarship, deepen engagement with diverse community partners (e.g., practitioners, policy makers, tribes, community groups outside of UW), and fund research projects that address problems from multiple perspectives, ultimately generating knowledge that is both usable and used.

This is the pilot year for Innovation Grants. During this first year, EarthLab will invest in first-mile challenges—the envisioning, development or piloting of new projects. First-mile funding supports convening and building teams in novel, sometimes high-risk, high-reward directions that may take a variety of forms. This funding gives teams the chance to test a concept, scope out a project, or take the first steps in developing a team poised to tackle a large, collaborative project. EarthLab encourages proposals from all disciplines at the UW, even those that are not traditionally connected to sponsored research.

If you are UW faculty or an employee with PI status, and wish to pursue work in the co-definition of transdisciplinary research, scholarship and creative activity related to our most pressing environmental challenges, you are encouraged to apply. Deadline is January 30, 2019.