The Environmental Change Initiative supports and catalyzes interdisciplinary environmental research through a variety of mechanisms. As ECI faculty generally hold appointments in primary tenuring departments and face teaching and service obligations there,  ECI aims to offer an expanded scope of resources, staff support, and  intellectual community with modest and flexible new obligations.

Large/Complex Grant Support

ECI staff are experienced in submitting and managing large, complex, international and interdisciplinary grants. ECI grants typically involve multiple departments and schools within Brown University and often entail international travel and subcontracts with other institutions. Training grants are a particular specialty. Please contact Bonnie Horta for additional information on submitting proposals through ECI.

Voss Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Associates

Each year, ECI solicits applications from the best and brightest graduating PhDs  in the nation and the world for positions as Distinguished Postdoctoral Research Associates. Each applicant develops a research project that connects their own prior work to that of two Brown or MBL faculty mentors from different fields. The postdocs earn the rare chance to pursue an interdisciplinary project of their own design and work closely with outstanding Brown faculty. In the process, they strengthen their professional networks and develop a signature research specialty. The faculty gain a junior colleague with the expertise and motivation to help them build bridges across fields. 

Learn more about the Voss Postdoctoral Associates:

ISES Small Grants

The Institute for the Study of Environment and Society invites faculty and researchers to submit proposals for the ISES Small Grant to address questions of sustainability, environmental change and stewardship, natural resources, ecosystem functioning, governance, equity and human health and well-being.

Learn more about the ISES Small Grants that have been awarded here:

Katherine Smith, ISES Small Grant Proposal Awarded March 2014

Effects of Climate and Land-Cover Change on Human Infectious Disease Outbreaks 

Katherine Smith

 Infectious diseases continue to threaten global public health, economies and national security, and many believe it is only a matter of time before a pandemic overwhelms medical infrastructure [1-4]. Predicting the origin, spread and impact of novel diseases are among the most important and challenging tasks for the coming century [4,5]. Advances have been made theoretically and for specific diseases [6-9], but the paucity of spatiotemporal data documenting past and present distributions of many unique pathogens impedes our ability to effectively forecast the global disease-scape. We developed new data to help close this important research gap. With ISES support we will use a novel spatiotemporal dataset of human infectious disease outbreaks to identify the effects of climate and land-cover change on disease.

Rebecca Ryals, ISES Small Grant Proposal Awarded March 2014

Sources and solutions of reactive nitrogen pollution from intensive animal agriculture 

Rebecca Ryals, Meredith Hastings, Dawn King, Jim Tang 

Human activities have fundamentally changed the nitrogen cycle at local to global scales, resulting in consequences to both environmental and human health1. The intensive production of livestock and the grains used to feed them is a major contributor to reactive nitrogen, including nitrous oxide (N2O, a potent greenhouse gas), ammonia (NH3, a contributor to acidification and coastal dead zones), and nitrogen oxides (NOx, a precursor to smog, acid rain, and freshwater pollution). Chicken is the most consumed meat in the US, and production continues to intensify rapidly around the world2. Chicken manure is typically applied in its raw form to croplands that are in close proximity to the highly spatially concentrated chicken production facilities, resulting in manure nutrient hotspots3. Despite this, manure is a valuable resource for crop production. Innovative solutions, such as composting or gasifying manure to produce biochar, have the potential to stabilize the nitrogen in an organic form, thereby reducing the chances of nitrogen pollution. Our preliminary work suggests that amending agricultural soils with biochar from manure significantly reduces soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions while boosting crop production. However, the net effect of biochar on reactive nitrogen cycling is not well known. Our work aims to couple a nitrogen lifecycle assessment of biochar with an analysis of policy opportunities and barriers to its widespread adoption.

James Kellner and Dov Sax, ISES Small Grant Proposal Awarded March 2014

Rapid Climate Change and Species Range Shifts: Advancing Frontiers in Biology and Geography 

Jim Kellner and Dov Sax

Climate change over the remainder of this century is expected to become the single largest threat to the conservation of species and ecosystems. Indeed, estimates of species extinction from climate change are projected to be as high as 40% of species worldwide (Thomas et al. 2004). From past episodes of climate change and the paleontological record, we know that some species shifted their geographic distributions by as much as a couple thousand kilometers in response to just 5 degrees change in global mean surface temperature (Lomolino et al. 2011). Similarly, over the course of the Pleistocene species extinctions were rampant worldwide, but particularly so in regions where species distributions were inhibited from shifting by natural barriers to dispersal, e.g., blocked from northward expansion by East-West running mountains in Europe (Gill and Sax, in prep.). Indeed, nearly half the tree species in Europe were lost over this time period. In the present era of human transformation of landscapes, many species will now be blocked from shifting, not just by natural barriers to dispersal, but by human landscapes themselves. 

Working Groups/Seed Funding

ECI provides funding, administrative, and communications support to groups of faculty seeking to develop new research areas, test promising new techniques, or advance potential collaborations. From 2006-2013, available funding was on the order of $10K-$15K per project.

Voss Environmental Fellows (undergraduate)

The Voss Environmental Fellows Program is a different kind of independent research experience, introducing undergraduate researchers to the dynamic interface between environmental scholarship, policy, and practice. Student-faculty-practitioner teams develop research projects to meet shared objectives – directing scientific discovery into channels that will inform current and future management choices.  The program connects outstanding Brown students and faculty engaged in environmental research with scientists, policymakers and other practitioners from the public, nonprofit and private sectors. The fellowship program explicitly seeks to inspire and encourage user-driven research and application of scientific knowledge to answer socially relevant questions. 

Event Support

ECI does not currently sponsor a speaker series. Instead, we work with departments and centers to identify, invite, and promote speakers with cross-disciplinary appeal. If you are interested in bringing a speaker to campus who falls within ECI's mission, please contact ECI Director Amanda Lynch. If your department is hosting a speaker of interest to the environmental research community, please contact Bonnie Horta to cross-promote.