CALS Academy for Team Science Announces Three Projects Selected for Funding

The Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is proud to announce the selection of three innovative projects for funding through the CALS Academy for Team Science (CATS) program. These research teams and their programs exemplify the college's commitment to empowering people with the skills and knowledge to improve global food security, protect the planet’s resources and agricultural capacity, and navigate a broad array of social challenges to the benefit of Iowa, the nation, and the world.

Project 1: Seeding Collaborations in Environmental Justice 

Led by Irene Jacqz, assistant professor of economics, Katie Dentzman, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, and Sam Mindes, adjunct assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, this project aims to foster a deeper understanding of how environmental policies and regulations impact rural communities and disadvantaged groups in terms of environmental protection, human health, and community well-being. Through a series of workshops, the team will bring together early-career researchers from Iowa State University and other institutions in the social sciences. The workshops will facilitate networking, strengthen research networks, and build capacity to seek external funding. Additionally, the project will foster connections with funding agencies to better understand their needs and priorities, ultimately enhancing research outcomes and addressing disparities in environmental policy impacts.

Project 2. Team Building for Agrivoltaics Expansion at ISU

Matt O'Neal, professor of plant pathology, entomology, and microbiology and Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture, Ajay Nair, associate professor of horticulture, Amy Toth, professor of ecology, evolution, and organismal biology, and collaborators Tom Brumm, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, Amy Kaleita, professor and chair, agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Mary Wiedenhoeft, professor and interim chair, agronomy, aim to expand on a new public-private partnership to explore the potential of integrating agriculture with solar energy production. During the summer of 2023, Allaint Energy is constructing a solar farm on CALS land. This site is designed to explore various aspects of agrivoltaics- the practice of farming in and around solar panels. Initial funding has been secured from the Department of Energy (DOE) to explore an initial subset of horticultural crops and beekeeping at this site. Many additional questions can be addressed, including novel crops that were not part of the initial DOE grant. The expanded CATS project efforts will generate preliminary data on configuring solar panels, identifying profitable crops, assessing operational costs, and understanding the impact on energy production. By building a larger, multidisciplinary team and leveraging existing programs for student engagement, the team aims to attract future funding and contribute to research, extension, and teaching in the field of agrivoltaics. 

Project 3. MARANSI: Genetic Resources for Grain Amaranth to Ensure Food & Nutrition Security in Uganda

This project, led by Thomas Lübberstedt, professor and K.J. Frey chair of agronomy, Dorothy Masinde, associate teaching professor of horticulture, and David Brenner, curator for the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, along with collaborators David Acker, CALS Associate Dean for Global Engagement and professor of agricultural education and studies, and Richard Edema professor for Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement and his team, focuses on addressing food and nutrition security in Uganda. The team aims to harness genetic resources for grain amaranth, an important crop with high nutritional value and potential for sustainable agriculture. The project will be kick-started with a stakeholder symposium at the ISU Kamuli campus in Uganda. By utilizing genetic diversity and developing improved varieties, the team seeks to enhance food security and promote the cultivation of grain amaranth in Uganda.

"These three projects exemplify the CALS Academy for Team Science's commitment to fostering collaborative research efforts and addressing pressing challenges in agriculture, for the environment, and for community well-being," said Carolyn Lawrence-Dill, CALS associate dean for research and discovery. "The CATS program provides crucial support to interdisciplinary teams, enabling them to explore innovative solutions and make a lasting impact on society."

For more information about the CATS program, visit the CATS Request for Proposals via the ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website.