U-M ‘catalyst grants’ address climate resilience, sustainability
Four newly awarded sustainability “catalyst grants” at the University of Michigan are piloting innovative ways to bolster climate resilience and sustainability.
Funded by the U-M Graham Sustainability Institute, these projects will explore renewable energy deployment in Nepal, climate justice in the Midwest, textile recycling innovation and equitable transportation planning.
Atiyya Shaw, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is the principal investigator of a project focused on addressing biases in transportation infrastructure planning, particularly the underrepresentation of marginalized groups in survey data. The project includes comprehensive analysis and collaboration with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan Department of Transportation.
“This project uniquely tackles challenges of accurate representation at the source, rather than after data collection,” Shaw said. “The catalyst grant has allowed us to initiate collaborations across campus and with regional transportation planning agencies, bringing together a strong methodological team alongside passionate, supportive external partners.
“We aim to extend this collaboration beyond the project, working toward reducing transportation data biases and advocating for more sustainable transportation options in the Detroit area and farther from home.”
Since 2017, Graham has provided sustainability catalyst grants to 40 projects, fostering small-scale, collaborative, interdisciplinary sustainability research to build partnerships and lay the groundwork for user-driven research. Sustainability catalyst grants are open to all faculty and researchers across U-M’s three campuses.
Each of the four featured research teams will receive $10,000.
“We’re so pleased to support these innovative projects through our sustainability catalyst grant program,” said Graham Director Jennifer Haverkamp. “The projects chosen for this round of funding wonderfully embody our commitment to advance sustainability by working together, thinking creatively and centering justice for high-impact solutions.”
The four newly funded projects are:
Rich in hydropower resources, Nepal is eager to pursue its dream of producing abundant hydroelectricity that will make it prosperous while maintaining sustainability goals. However, the hasty development of this renewable energy source across the country has sparked debate over its implications for society, the economy and the environment.
To shed light on the complex factors influencing the country’s energy transition, this research team will collaborate with the Nepal Electricity Authority, the country’s Ministry of Forest and Environment and other key stakeholders. Their aim is to highlight knowledge gaps and to co-develop a research agenda that will contribute to a just and equitable energy transition and align with national development and climate goals.
Project team: Pamela Jagger, principal investigator, School for Environment and Sustainability; Rajiv Ghimire, School for Environment and Sustainability; Uttam Sharma, Institute for Social Research; Noah Guberman, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
While the Midwest is often considered a potential haven in our changing climate, it is not immune to its effects—including increased heat waves, extreme precipitation, droughts and wildfires. This research team, which includes Until Justice Data Partners, will use community-based participatory research principles to advance climate justice in the Midwest.
The project will leverage UJDP’s national influence and local ties in Louisville, Kentucky, a federally designated refugee city, to help Louisville residents and leaders learn from their immigrant neighbors.
Project team: Natalie Sampson, principal investigator, College of Education, Health, and Human Services, U-M-Dearborn; William Lopez, School of Public Health, U-M-Ann Arbor; Monica Unseld, Until Justice Data Partners.
The use of surveys in transportation planning suffers from inherent bias, often underrepresenting people of color and those with lower incomes, who are significant users of eco-friendly transportation like public transit, biking and walking. This bias can lead to unnecessary road expansions and other misguided investments in infrastructure.
This research team, working with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan Department of Transportation, will produce a methodological guide to improve the integrity of transportation behavior data, conducting a quantitative investigation into national and state transportation household survey biases and a comprehensive comparison of sampling methods, instrument design and post-processing corrections.
Project team: Atiyya Shaw, principal investigator, College of Engineering; Joe Grengs, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Sunghee Lee, Institute for Social Research.
Textile waste in the United States has surged by 80% since 2000, making it among the fastest-growing waste streams. Inaccurate fiber content information, primarily caused by missing or erroneous labels, is one of the main obstacles to large-scale recycling. This research team proposes an integrated textile labeling system that provides accurate data on fiber content, dyes and chemicals to ensure seamless information transfer from yarn and fabric manufacture to an item’s end-of-use.
A version of the label has already been developed and is in the patent process. With this project, the team will prepare the label for widespread adoption by incorporating direct input from more than 150 industrial end-users and leveraging the insights of the team’s industrial partner, Patagonia.
Project team: Max Shtein, principal investigator, College of Engineering; Sean Ahlquist, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Alanson Sample, College of Engineering; Brian Iezzi, Parkdale Mills Inc.