Burroughs Wellcome Fund invites applications for Climate Change and Human Health Seed Grants

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund serves and strengthens society by nurturing a diverse group of leaders in biomedical sciences to improve human health through education and powering discovery in frontiers of greatest need.

To that end, the fund is inviting applications for its Climate Change and Human Health Seed Grants program, which aims to stimulate the growth of new connections between scholars working in largely disconnected fields who could together change the course of climate change’s impact on human health. Over the next two years, BWF will dedicate $1 million to supporting small, early-stage grants of between $2,500 and $50,000 toward achieving this goal. The application deadline is April 11, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. ET

BWF is particularly but not exclusively interested in activities that build connections between basic/early biomedical scientific approaches and ecological, environmental, geological, geographic, and planetary-scale thinking, as well as population-focused fields including epidemiology, public health, and demography, economics, and urban planning. Also of interest is work piloting new approaches or new interactions toward reducing the impact of health-centered activities, for example, developing more sustainable systems for health care, care delivery, and biomedical research systems. Another area of interest is preparation for the impacts of extreme weather and other crises that can drive large-scale disruptions that immediately impact human health and healthcare delivery. Public outreach, climate communication, and education efforts focused on the intersection of climate and health are also appropriate for this call.

To be eligible, applicants must be nonprofit organizations or degree-granting institutions in the United States or Canada.

For complete program guidelines and application instructions, see the Burroughs Wellcome Fund website.

What to know about 5 big plans for U.S. carbon removal

A direct air capture (DAC) plant operated by Climeworks, a DAC development company. Photo by Julia Dunlop/Climeworks

Read the full story from the World Resources Institute.

The U.S. has a particularly large role to play in leading global development of carbon removal approaches and technologies. Given its outsized contribution to the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere (known as its “legacy emissions”) carbon removal will be needed not only to counter-balance residual emissions — or those that can’t be reduced or eliminated by mid-century, for example from long-haul shipping or aviation — but also to address these legacy emissions.

As the U.S. has emitted more carbon dioxide to date than any other country in the world, the country’s investment in scaling carbon removal could help contribute to greater equity in global climate action.

Nebraska part of multi-state ag effort to unwrap bioplastic benefits

Tomato and pepper plants that include bioplastic film grow on East Campus test plots. The film was developed by 15 researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Kansas State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Read the full story from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are part of a new $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop bioplastics for use in agriculture over the next four years…

The project aims to reduce the use of plastics, herbicides, fertilizers and associated environmental impacts in agricultural production by creating an all-in-one bioplastic system that can better manage weeds, add nutrients to soils, improve soil and plant health, and save water.

Women’s History Month: 5 groundbreaking researchers who mapped the ocean floor, tested atomic theories, vanquished malaria and more

Tu Youyou shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015. Claudio Bresciani/AFP via Getty Images

by Maggie Villiger, The Conversation

Behind some of the most fascinating scientific discoveries and innovations are women whose names might not be familiar but whose stories are worth knowing.

Of course, there are far too many to all fit on one list.

But here are five profiles from The Conversation’s archive that highlight the brilliance, grit and unique perspectives of five women who worked in geosciences, math, ornithology, pharmacology and physics during the 20th century.

Marie Tharp at work drafting a map at her desk
Marie Tharp with an undersea map at her desk. Rolled sonar profiles of the ocean floor are on the shelf behind her. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the estate of Marie Tharp

1. Revealing and mapping the ocean floor

As late as the 1950s, wrote Wesleyan University geoscientist Suzanne OConnell, “many scientists assumed the seabed was featureless.”

sketches of undersea features based on sonar
An illustration of Marie Tharp’s mapping process. (a) Shows the position of two ship tracks (A, B) moving across the surface. (b) Plots depth recordings as profiles. (c) Sketches features shown on the profiles. The Floors of the Ocean, 1959, Fig. 1

Enter Marie Tharp. In 1957, she and her research partner started publishing detailed hand-drawn maps of the ocean floor, complete with rugged mountains, valleys and deep trenches.

Tharp was a geologist and oceanographer. Aboard research ships, she would carefully record the depth of the ocean, point by point, using sonar. One of her innovations was to translate this data into topographical sketches of what the seafloor looked like.

Her discovery of a rift valley in the North Atlantic shook the world of geology – her supervisor on the ship dismissed her idea as “girl talk,” and Jacques Cousteau was determined to prove her wrong. But she was right, and her insight was a key contribution to plate tectonic theory. That’s part of why, OConnell writes, “I believe Tharp should be as famous as Jane Goodall or Neil Armstrong.”

2. Sympathetic observation of bird behavior

Margaret Morse Nice was a field biologist who got into the minds of her study subjects to garner new insights into animal behavior. Most famously she observed song sparrows in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Rochester Institute of Technology professor of science, technology and society Kristoffer Whitney recounted what Nice called her “phenomenological method,” acknowledging the obvious “affection and anthropomorphism” you can see in her descriptions.

“When I first studied the Song Sparrows,” Nice wrote, “I had looked upon Song Sparrow 4M as a truculent, meddlesome neighbor; but … I discovered him to be a delightful bird, spirited, an accomplished songster and a devoted father.”

Despite earning no advanced degrees and being considered an amateur, Nice promoted innovations like the “use of colored leg bands to distinguish individual birds,” gained the respect of her better-known peers and enjoyed a long, successful career.

3. A medical researcher in Maoist China

man and woman working at lab bench
Tu Youyou in a pharmacology lab with a colleague in the 1950s. Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

At the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, a young scientist named Tu Youyou headed a covert operation called Project 523 under military supervision. One of her team’s goals was to identify and systematically test substances used in traditional Chinese medicine in an effort to vanquish chloroquine-resistant malaria.

Emory University historian Jia-Chen Fu described how “contrary to popular assumptions that Maoist China was summarily against science and scientists, the Communist party-state needed the scientific elite for certain political and practical purposes.”

Tu followed a hunch about how to extract an antimalarial compound from the qinghao or artemisia plant. By 1971, her team had successfully “obtained a nontoxic and neutral extract that was called qinghaosu or artemisinin.” In 2015, she was honored with a Nobel Prize.

4. A mathematician who wouldn’t be diverted

Not everyone gets called a “creative mathematical genius” by Albert Einstein. But Emmy Noether did.

Rutgers University mathematician Tamar Lichter Blanks wrote about the roadblocks Noether faced as a Jewish woman who wanted to pursue a math career in early 1900s Germany. For a while, Noether supervised doctoral students without pay and taught university courses listed under the name of a male colleague.

All the while, she conducted her own research in theoretical physics, contributing to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Her most revolutionary work was in ring theory and is still pondered by mathematicians today.

Noether died less than two years after emigrating to the U.S. to escape the Nazis.

5. Testing nuclear theories one by one

Forever stamp with portrait of Chien-Shiung Wu.
A 2021 U.S. postage stamp featuring Chien-Shiung Wu. U.S. Postal Service

While sometimes called the “Chinese Marie Curie” in her home country, nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu is less well-known in the U.S., where she did the bulk of her work. Rutgers University-Newark physicist Xuejian Wu considered Chien-Shiung Wu (no relation) “an icon” who inspired his own career path.

As a grad student, Wu traveled by steamship to California in 1936, where she fell in love with atomic nuclei research at UC Berkeley, home of a brand new cyclotron. She worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

Among her many accomplishments, Wu’s careful experimental work discovered what’s called parity nonconservation – that is, that a physical process and its mirror reflection are not necessarily identical. Her colleagues who focused on the theoretical side of this breakthrough won the 1957 Nobel Prize in physics, but Wu was overlooked.

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.

Maggie Villiger, Senior Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Collaboration with Mexico will help conserve grassland birds

A lark bunting, one of the species being studied in the “Winter Ecology of Grassland Birds” project. Photo by Mike Ward

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Ensuring long term sustainability is the goal of College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) professor Mike Ward’s ongoing work to track and study grassland birds that migrate between the United States and Mexico.

Top 10 environment & sustainability books for youth: 2022

Read the full story at Booklist.

Wildlife appreciation is naturally a theme in this year’s Top 10 books on the environment and sustainability for youth, reviewed between March 1, 2021, and February 15, 2022, but the human impact on climate change is just as important to these selections.

From soldier to scientist

Read the full story in Nature.

Before her own career change, Nell Pates helped wounded soldiers to prepare for civilian jobs. Her military training still comes in handy.

Curated list of resources for advancing climate literacy

Read the full story at EEPro.

With the recently published assessment on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it’s clear climate education will play a critical role in addressing challenges and mobilizing collective support for action. In this curated list, find the resources you need to support and teach solutions-focused climate literacy.

Worker safety, environmental justice top priorities of NIEHS program

Read the full story at Environmental Factor.

Worker Training Program Director Sharon Beard spoke with me about climate-vulnerable occupations, disaster cleanup challenges, and more.

U.S. farm groups urge sowing on protected land as war cuts off Ukraine supply

Photo credit: Illinois Farm by rboed (CC BY 2.0)

Read the full story from Reuters.

Farm groups are urging the U.S. Agriculture Department to allow farmers the ability to plant on acres set aside for conservation, to help fill the absence of Ukrainian corn, wheat and sunflower oil amid Russia’s invasion of the country.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Wednesday, seven agriculture lobbying organizations representing U.S. farmers, feed producers, grain exporters, millers, bakers and oilseed processors asked the USDA to provide flexibility to farmers to plant crops on more than 4 million acres of “prime farmland” currently enrolled in the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) without penalty.