2021 Living Earth Collaborative Seed Grants

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Posted by Talia Ogliore July 6, 2021


The Living Earth Collaborative at Washington University in St. Louis announced the recipients of its fourth round of seed grant funding, including associate professor Derek Hoeferlin and Iván Jiménez of Missouri Botanical Garden.

“This is a great set of projects,” said Jonathan Losos, the William H. Danforth Distinguished Professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and director of the Living Earth Collaborative. “We’re particularly thrilled at the institutional diversity of the recipients, spanning the breadth of Washington University and many local institutions beyond the Living Earth Collaborative’s three partner institutions.”

The 2021 seed grant investigators come from eight St. Louis area institutions, including researchers from six different departments or programs in five schools at Washington University.

Hoeferlin and Jiménez are leading the project Páramo biodiversity farms: A collaborative conservation project (Colombia). The project description notes:

"Páramos are high-elevation ecosystems in the tropical Andes Mountains in South America. Considered 'strategic ecosystems,' the páramos supply 80% of the water for agricultural, industrial, and domestic use in the area; for example, nearly all water for Bogotá is sourced from páramos. In Colombia, the government recently enacted laws that have generated tension between campesinos—individuals that live in the countryside and have livelihoods based on working the land—and the cities sourcing water from the páramos, raising concern that the rights of campesinos will not be considered in the efforts to conserve páramos.

"This Living Earth Collaborative seed grant project will help develop the idea of páramo biodiversity farms. Researchers will explore sustainable economic, architectural, and landscape design activities with low environmental impact that are consistent with campesino identity and interests related to understanding, valuing, and managing biodiversity. Campesino communities will play a centralrole in this exploration, as will the investigators’ efforts to decolonize biodiversity conservation and related disciplines."

The other seed grant projects and local recipients are:

- Biodiversity of freshwater mussels of the Upper Sangamon River (Illinois): Community science in action. Danelle Haake (National Great Rivers Research and Education Center); Sarah Douglass (Illinois Natural History Survey); Christy Edwards and Bob Coulter (Missouri Botanical Garden); Edward Spevak (Saint Louis Zoo); and Bruce Colravy (Upper Sangamon River Conservancy)

- Expanding the toolset for chelonian conservation: Understanding the diversity, distribution and dynamics of Terrapene microbiomes. Fangqiong Ling (Washington University, McKelvey School of Engineering); and Maris Brenn-White, Kathleen Apakupakul and Sharon L. Deem (Saint Louis Zoo)

- Forest Park Living Lab: Exploring the biodiversity and natural history of one of the world’s great parks. Joseph Steensma (Washington University, Brown School); David Webb and Carolyn Cosgrove Payne (Washington University, Environmental Studies program in Arts & Sciences); Anthony Dell (National Great Rivers Research and Education Center); and Amy Witt (Forest Park Forever)

- Origin and diversification of the flowering plants of the Gulf of Guinea archipelago. Patricia Barberá and Tariq Stévart (Missouri Botanical Garden); Joan Garcia-Porta and Michael Landis (Washington University, Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences); and Nathan Muchhala (University of Missouri-St. Louis)

- Socio-economic and cultural adaptation to biodiversity loss and climate change: Analysis and intervention efficacy study in three Madagascar subsistence communities. Armand Randrianasolo, Nivo H. Rakotoarivelo and Fortunat Rakotoarivony (Missouri Botanical Garden) and Judi McLean Park (Washington University, Olin Business School)

Learn more about the seed grant projects here.

The Living Earth Collaborative

The Living Earth Collaborative is a center for biodiversity built from a partnership among three leading institutions in the study of plant and animal science—Washington University, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Saint Louis Zoo.

Its mission is to celebrate the diversity of living organisms and promote further understanding of the ways humans can help preserve the varied natural environments that allow plants, animals and microbes to survive and thrive. The center exists as a hub that facilitates interdisciplinary research among scholars across a wide range of fields.

In four years, the Living Earth Collaborative has funded 29 projects involving collaborators from 11 local institutions. Within Washington University, investigators hail from six schools: Arts & Sciences, the Brown School, the McKelvey School of Engineering, Olin Business School, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, and the School of Medicine.