Four Atkinson Postdocs Launch New Program
The Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future welcomes the inaugural class of Atkinson postdoctoral fellows. The four scholars—an electrical engineer, a food systems ecologist, a geographer, and a hydropower engineer—will begin their two-year appointments in 2015.
The Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowships in Sustainability address pressing world needs in ACSF’s six core research focus areas. A unique feature of the new program is that the fellows link their research at Cornell, advised by ACSF faculty advisers, with nonacademic partners to advance on-the-ground application of the sustainable solutions they develop. The external partner organizations include ISO New England, a nonprofit energy transmission company; the World Resources Institute; and the Natural Heritage Institute.
The Atkinson postdoctoral program selects two to four new fellows each year. The next call for proposals will be in the spring of 2015.
We can’t control when the wind blows or when the sun shines, which makes renewable resources like wind and solar a challenge to integrate into the power grid. When the supply side is highly variable, how do we reliably procure and pay for power? Subhonmesh Bose’s research will develop a mathematical framework and simulation platform to answer this fundamental question. Working with faculty fellow Eilyan Bitar and team members at ISO New England, Bose will create software to balance demand and supply in the grid throughout the transition to renewable power and design fair payments for electricity market participants. The project will help ISO New England integrate renewable energy and serve as a model for system operations with renewable supply for the power industry at large.
Higher crop yields are a positive step, but do not necessarily lead to improved food security and nutrition for smallholder farmers’ families. Kathryn Fiorella studies the pathways that lead from food access to food security and better nutrition for rural households. Working with faculty fellows Chris Barrett and Sera Young and an organization that sustainably increases the yields of Kenyan farmers, she will analyze how environmental and market factors—such as rainfall, crop diversity, and food prices—influence farmers’ decisions about whether to sell or eat what they grow. The project will promote policies and programs that link sustainable yield increases with food and nutrition security for vulnerable rural households across the developing world.
In our high-tech world, researchers and policymakers are turning to public satellite-based technologies to help guide policy at the intersection of human health and well-being and the environment. Jenny Goldstein’s research asks how these remote sensing technologies produce certain types of environmental knowledge and how that knowledge reworks ecologies, communities, and capital. Working with faculty fellow Sara Pritchard and researchers at the World Resources Institute, Goldstein will analyze WRI’s innovative Global Forest Watch technology, currently being piloted in Southeast Asia. The project will provide new ways to understand and assess the sustainability of forest-based livelihoods, the impacts of forest fires on human health, and the sustainability of large-scale development of food and biofuel crops like oil palm.
The Mekong River is an epicenter of energy opportunity and environmental risk. The river basin is undergoing intensive hydropower dam development to meet the energy demands of a rapidly growing population, with approximately 30 large dams already operational and at least another 100 in the works. These dams could degrade the most productive freshwater fishing region in the world, which feeds 60 million people. Working with faculty fellow Patrick Reed and the Natural Heritage Institute, Thomas Wild will develop a decision support framework to identify and evaluate alternative dam siting, design, and operating policy options that could generate substantial hydropower, while minimizing impacts on valuable ecosystems. The researchers will partner with key government ministries in Laos and Cambodia to increase the project’s impact.
This program is made possible by generous gifts from David and Patricia Atkinson.