Seeding Environmental Solutions

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Projects involving Glenn Flierl, Noelle Selin, Colette Heald, Shuhei Ono and Roger Summons are among nine selected to receive seed funding.

Read MIT News coverage here

Established in 2014 with the goal of focusing MIT's talents on today's pressing environmental challenges, the Environmental Systems Initiative, under the leadership of MIT's Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of atmospheric chemistry and climate science, Susan Solomon (EAPS), recently announced the recipients of its 2015 Seed Grants.

A total of 59 teams of faculty, research staff, and students responded to the first call for proposals, from which nine winners were announced on March 13, 2015. Among the recipients were five Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science (EAPS) faculty: Professor of Oceanography Glenn Flierl, Professors of Atmospheric Chemistry Noelle Selin, and Colette Heald, Professor of Geobiology Roger Summons, and Professor of Biogeochemistry Shuhei Ono.

The seed funding, designed to encourage new, cross-disciplinary research partnerships that advance progress and solutions on issues of environmental significance to humanity, was split across four categories: Sustainability, Metals and Mining, Healthy Cities, and Climate/Risk/Mitigation.

In the Metals & Mining category, Glenn Flierl teams up with Thomas Peacock, and Pierre Lermusiaux (Mechanical Engineering) for "Digging Deep: An integrated approach to assessing the impacts of deep-sea mining." Flierl brings insight and skill in analytical and numerical modeling of the physics, chemistry, and biology of ocean circulations to understand the environmental impact of mining the sea-floor.

In the Healthy Cities category, Noelle Selin (Engineering Systems Division and EAPS) partners with Valerie Karplus (Sloan) to seek answers to the question "Will New Limits on Coal use in China Reduce Toxic Air Pollutants across Asia?" Selin is deeply experienced in using atmospheric chemistry modeling to inform decision-­‐making strategies on air pollution, climate change and toxic substances including mercury and persistent organic pollutants.

In the same category, Colette Heald (Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and EAPS) joins Marta Gonzalez and Jesse Kroll (CEE), and Jinhua Zhao (Urban Studies and Planning, USP) on their project "">Clearer Skies in Beijing: Collecting and Interpreting Relevant Spatio-temporal Data for Air Quality Assessment." Heald, who works at the intersection of atmospheric modeling and observational analysis, brings her enormous experience combining observations from ground stations, aircraft campaigns and satellite sensors with global models of chemistry and climate.

Finally in the Climate/Risk/Mitigation category, Shuhei Ono and Roger Summons (EAPS) will work with Charles Harvey, Benjamin Kocar and Martin Polz (CEE) on a project entitled "Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Tropical Peatlands: Biogeochemical Processes and Mitigation Strategies." To this project, Ono brings his state-of-the-art expertise in stable isotope geobiology, an invaluable in unlocking isotopic signals for microbial, hydrothermal, and photochemical processes. Summons complements this with his expertise in the use of biomarkers as environmental indicators.

Read the complete list of seed fund winners at