Fellowships Offer 'New Brand of Science' to Solve Issues

The new NatureNet Science Fellows Program is intended to help develop a new breed of interdisciplinary scientists with academic savvy, skills, and opportunity to solve real-world problems...


By Krishna Ramanujan via the Cornell Chronicle, 1/14/13

To meet 21st-century food, water and energy challenges, the world needs more women and men with interdisciplinary training and access to world problems on the ground.

As a result, Cornell and five other universities have partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to establish the NatureNet Science Fellows Program, which is intended to help develop a new breed of interdisciplinary scientists with academic savvy and skills and opportunity to solve real-world problems.

"Billions of people worldwide depend directly on nature for their livelihoods, and natural resources are the foundation for sustainable prosperity," said Peter Kareiva, chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy. "We're looking to develop a new brand of science that addresses meeting the needs of growing human populations while keeping natural systems healthy," he added.

Six fellowships will be awarded annually to postdoctoral candidates interested in expanding their research skills while focusing on issues that link conservation, business and technology. The fellowships will address a concern voiced by TNC that to tackle current challenges, modern science must integrate economics, business, engineering, technology and communications with conservation and ecology.

As part of the program, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell will host one postdoctoral fellow for two years and nurture their work with Cornell faculty, TNC researchers and cross-university collaborations.

Applications are due Feb. 15.

"This is the chance to bring academic innovation and excellence to bear on real-world sustainability problems at scale," said Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and associate director for the environment at the Atkinson Center. "The Nature Conservancy, with its science-based conservation and range of business and governmental partnerships, offers powerful opportunities for postdocs and Cornell faculty to engage in large scale projects," she added.

Each year, NatureNet science fellows will focus on thematic research areas to facilitate collaborations across universities and other institutions.

This year's themes are:

Agriculture -- pathways to expand sustainable food production systems: fellows will help develop or identify crop production systems, grazing systems or aquaculture, with the goal of delivering food without damaging ecosystems or causing loss of biodiversity. Securing clean water in ample supply: fellows will work to ensure that rural and urban people have access to ample, clean water via technology, mitigation, regulation, watershed management or pollution reduction.

Energy futures: fellows will examine such alternative energy sources as shale gas, nuclear, coal, oil and renewables for their potential to meet regional or national energy needs over the next 20 years while also meeting environmental and sustainability goals. "The goals of TNC and the Nature Net Program align perfectly with Cornell strengths and the focus on interdisciplinary work of the Atkinson Center," said Harvell.

Themes will change in subsequent years based on TNC and member university priorities.

Fellows will also be mentored and have chances to participate in TNC and international science opportunities.

University partners include Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

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