PEGASuS grant recipients announced

On August 15, 2017, Future Earth announced the winners of the first round of grants for the Program for Early-stage Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS). The winning projects include topics such as the impacts of the cocaine trade on protected areas in Mesoamerica, the collection of indigenous knowledge of threatened native pollinators in Bolivia and sustainable farming in Malawi. They were selected through a global search that attracted dozens of proposals from over 50 countries.

The winning projects are:

“Drug trafficking and Central American protected areas: Focusing on participatory governance to conserve ecosystem services and biodiversity,” Bernardo Aguilar González (PI), Fundación Neotrópica
Sixty percent of total deforestation in biodiversity hot spots in Central America is linked to cocaine trafficking. The project will assess the impacts of drug transit on ecosystems services, biodiversity and environmental governance, and catalyze a regional observatory for continued monitoring of this alarming phenomenon.

“Farmer-led agroecological research in Malawi (FARM) for biodiversity,” Rachel Bezner Kerr (PI), Cornell University
The project will study the impact of agroecological farming methods on crop pest abundance and the biodiversity of beneficial insects and birds. If such farming practices increase wild biodiversity there are positive social and ecological implications for rural African communities.

“Toward biodiversity-related opportunities for sustainable development: A global social-ecological mountain comparison,” Markus Fischer (PI), GMBA and University of Bern
Mountains provide water to half of humankind, host one-third of terrestrial species and are home to more than 10 percent of the human population. This social-ecological research project will compare mountain ranges all over the world to identify opportunities for sustainable development related to mountain biodiversity.

“Nurturing a shift towards equitable valuation of nature in the Anthropocene (EQUIVAL),” Unai Pascual (PI), ecoSERVICES and Basque Centre for Climate Change
The state of biodiversity depends to a great extent on people’s behavior, which in turn is primarily determined by their perception of nature’s contributions to their well-being. The project will evaluate whether there is a positive relationship between equitable value articulation of nature and the effectiveness of nature conservation initiatives.

“Cross-pollinating knowledge systems: exploring indigenous local knowledge about native bee diversity and ecology,” Wendy R. Townsend (PI), University of Florida
Information is needed for planning and management of threatened Bolivian native pollinators because they service about 70 percent of tropical forest plants; losing the pollinators could negatively impact tree species diversity. The project will gather and analyze information about threatened native pollination systems in at least two indigenous territories in lowland Bolivia.

Project winners will receive a combined total of $600,000 in support from PEGASuS over a one-year period. The PEGASuS partners will announce a second round of grants, focusing on ocean sustainability, in the spring of 2018. A third round, addressing water, energy and food, is expected in early 2019.

The PEGASuS program is supported in part by the NOMIS Foundation. NOMIS funding ensures the inclusion of social scientists in these interdisciplinary projects.

The New York Times: Benjamin R. Barber, Author of ‘Jihad vs. McWorld,’ Dies at 77

NOMIS scholar Benjamin Barber has died at the age of 77. Barber was a political theorist, champion of decentralized democracy and author of several books, including “Jihad vs. McWorld.”

Barber was the founder and president of CivWorld, an initiative hosted by the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. From 2013 to 2015, NOMIS supported CivWorld’s pioneering efforts to establish a “global parliament of mayors” based on Dr. Barber’s book, “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities,” as well as various other research activities related to CivWorlds’s Global Interdependence Initiative.

Discussion papers from NOMIS’ first workshop series published

Led by Akeel Bilgrami, the Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, an international group of leading scholars and scientists have published the discussion papers resulting from NOMIS’ workshop series, Nature and Value. The workshop, which was held on three occasions between 2012 and 2016 in London, focused on two main questions: “How and when did the concept of nature get transformed into the concept of natural resources?” and “What is the significance of disenchanting nature by evacuating it of all intrinsic value and relating to it in entirely instrumental terms — what are its human outcomes, its economic consequences, its political implications?”

The Nature and Value workshop enabled the renowned scholars and scientists to identify areas in which they might collaborate in new interdisciplinary research to gain fresh insights into the complex relations between humans and their natural environment. Bilgrami said, “Though we have always taken from nature, in all social worlds prior to the modern period there were rituals to show attitudes of respect and restorative return to nature before cycles of planting, and even hunting. It is only in the last 300 years or so that we have come to think that we might take from nature with impunity.”

The authors of the papers are Bilgrami, David Bromwich, Bina Gogineni, David Kahane, Nicholas Kompridis, Anthony Laden, Kyle Nichols, Joanna Piciotto, Robert Pollin, Sanjay Reddy, Carol Rovane, the late Jonathan Schell, James Tully and Jan Zalasiewicz. NOMIS Workshop Series: Nature and Value Discussion Papers is available for download on NOMIS’ Nature and Value page.

Die Zeit: “Youth is in our blood”

German newspaper Die Zeit has published an article describing the groundbreaking research of NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Tony Wyss-Coray, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University, and Steve Horvath, professor of human genetics and biostatistics at UCLA. Their research shows how the biological age of cells can be told — and in some cases influenced — by observing and employing epigenetic processes.

The article (“Die Jugend steckt im Blut”) was published in the Mar. 5, 2017 edition of Die Zeit.

NOMIS is supporting Wyss-Coray’s continued research into identifying the circulatory factors that influence aging and using those factors to rejuvenate the aging or degenerated brain.

Future Earth Program for Early-phase Grants Advancing Sustainability Science

The increasing prominence of sustainability science stems from the realization that many of the most pressing global problems facing society are complex mixtures of economic, societal and environmental issues, and that solving the resulting problems will require collaboration among researchers from many different scientific disciplines. The reduced resilience of natural systems is creating coupled socio-ecological systems that need to be addressed on an appropriate level to allow natural, physical and social sciences to provide stronger predictive capacities and to point the way to solutions for the management of these systems.

Supported by the NOMIS Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (United States), the international research platform Future Earth has established the Program for Early-phase Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS). By bringing together teams of scientists that have a successful track record of building large-scale collaborative projects and by coordinating their efforts to develop interdisciplinary methods, PEGASuS aims to build effective research communities around three major themes:

  • Integration of water, energy and food management
  • Prediction of and adaption to rapid changes in ecosystems
  • Sustainable management of ocean resources

The winners of the first round of the program have been announced in August 2017  >> link

While the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is providing core support with a strong emphasis on natural and physical science, the NOMIS Foundation enables Future Earth to fully integrate social science researchers into PEGASuS projects.

PEGASuS is being led by Joshua Tewksbury at the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University.

NOMIS Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at eikones, Center for the Theory and History of Images

For over a decade, eikones, the Center for the Theory and History of the Image at the University of Basel, Switzerland, has been dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of images as instruments of human knowledge and cultural practice. Eikones has been examining the functions and epistemological value of images in different social, aesthetic and scientific contexts. Images are not merely understood as tools that complete certain tasks, but instead as systems of representation that differ from linguistic or mathematical systems because of their particular structure; they thus produce specific forms of knowledge.

The NOMIS Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports groundbreaking research projects related to how images act as models or paradigms in scientific and aesthetic contexts. In both settings, images often assume an exemplary character, aiding epistemic and learning processes. They fulfill evidential, didactic and symbolic functions, and thereby produce different forms of knowledge. Relevant topics of research might consider, for example, the history and theory of imaging techniques in the natural sciences; the ideals and stereotypes that shape social contexts and political discussions; or the formation and dissolution of canons, iconographies, character types and styles in the arts.

On the methodological side, the NOMIS fellows will be selected from different scientific fields, and reflect on the relationship between their individual discipline and image studies. Sebastian Zeidler and Ingrid Vendrell-Ferran are the first NOMIS fellows; additional fellows will be appointed in September 2018.

The NOMIS fellowships at eikones are being supervised by Markus Klammer and Ralph Ubl.