CCI Seed Funding Competition Year 2007 - 2008

CCI Seed Funding Competition Year 2007 - 2008

In order to help achieve the goals of the CCI, a competition for project seed money was held. The CCI Steering Committee received 16 proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the CCI Steering Committee and eight proposals were recommended for reduced funding totaling $200,000. The following provides information on the funded proposals.


Contact: Casey Brown, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Title of Project: Water, growth and poverty in Africa - Quantifying the role of climate variability for targeted development assistance

Scope of Project: Recent studies by the World Bank and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society have provided striking evidence of the link between the economic development of nations and the variability of their climate. These results imply that economic development can be hampered by high levels of hydro-climatic variability (e.g. high frequency of floods and droughts, dramatic seasonal variations). Such variability marks the African continent more than any other region in the world, yet is often an overlooked impediment to economic growth and seldom discussed in country assistance strategies. Climate change is expected to produce increased variability. This proposal will bring together a multidisciplinary team of Earth Institute researchers and development agency professionals from the World Bank and IUCN to create an indicator for use in development planning that quantifies the effect of climate on development.


Contacts: Florence Kondylis, Earth Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and Liqiang Sun, Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

Title of Project: Integrated assessment of vulnerability in rainfed agriculture: Drought impacts, coping and understanding/use of forecasts

Scope of Project: Climate variation and water scarcity are major pressing international development problems. Rainfed agriculturalists are the most vulnerable in Ceará, Brazil, and make up 40% of the population. Further they proxy well for large populations in the other eight states in Brazil’s Northeast region while resembling, in production processes and outcomes, many semi-arid inhabitants worldwide. This proposal will combine the University of Arizona anthropologists’ research methods and experiences in rainfed areas with the methods of:  IRI rainfall modelers, who have already shown forecast skill in the region, Columbia anthropologists who have long studied the details of ENSO-forecast communications and micro-economists studying vulnerability to water of irrigated agriculture in Ceará as well as coping and human capital accumulation in Africa and India. The outcome of greatest focus is learning about how to increase forecast understanding and use. That knowledge permits better forecast communication and, if the information is useful for these households for investment, production and coping decisions, also permits higher rainfed welfare.


Contact: Marc Levy, Deputy Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)

Title of Project: Building a scientific community around environment-security linkages

Scope of Project: There is a clear, growing awareness among Columbia University faculty and students regarding the linkages connecting climate change, resource degradation and scarcity, poverty, habitat loss, and conflict. This interest is mirrored in high-level scholarly and policy deliberations in the world at large concerning such linkages. However, there is little coordination across disciplines at Columbia on this matter. This proposal aims to foster the nascent scientific community at Columbia around the issue of environment-security linkages, in order to promote more creative interdisciplinary research, to provide a mechanism to meet the growing demand for policy advice, and to open up new educational opportunities on this topic.  The specific activities include the (1) creation of an interdisciplinary geospatial database integrating data on conflict, climate, natural resources, and biodiversity, (2) formation of a cross-unit working group on environment and security linkages, and (3) holding a seminar series on environment-conflict linkages.


Contact: Deborah Salon, Earth Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Title of Project: Does urban public transit give the poor better access to jobs? Evidence from Bogota, Colombia

Scope of Project: One of the main challenges facing city planners is to organize urban areas such that all city residents have access to the jobs, schools, services, and activities they need to live productive and happy lives. This physical organization is a combination of land use and transportation systems in a city. In 2000, the city of Bogotá embarked on a grand land use and transportation system experiment. The specifics of the transformation of Bogotá include taking back the sidewalks for people, building approximately 350 kilometers of bicycle paths - many of them through poor neighborhoods - and building the TransMilenio bus rapid transit (BRT) system. This proposal asks whether TransMilenio is improving job access for the poor. The effect of TransMilenio on transit decisions and thus on labor market outcomes is not obvious, and ultimately can only be resolved empirically. The proposed research would provide the first direct test of this hypothesis: by reducing commuting times and thus expanding the radius within which the poor can search for jobs, BRT systems help improve matching between people and jobs.


Contact: Colin Stark, Doherty Associate Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

Title of Project: ShakeNet: Mitigating the effects of the next Himalayan mega-earthquake

Scope of Project: This proposal plans to design very low-cost, “smart” strong-motion sensors for widespread deployment in seismically active regions with high earthquake risk and limited financial resources. The main goal of the smart sensor networks will be to furnish aid agencies with rapid assessments of shaking and structural damage in the immediate aftermath of a disastrous earthquake. Amid the chaos that inevitably follows such an event, the ShakeNet data will provide a vital, reliable reference to guide relief efforts. In the years prior to a disastrous event the networks will gather key vulnerability data from smaller earthquakes. Deployment will center on schools, community centers, and public facilities to help promote awareness of seismic risk and to encourage development of earthquake resilience in the most vulnerable areas. Our regional focus is the Himalayan front, where a great earthquake (M>8) may strike at any moment.


Contact: Madeleine Thomson, Senior Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

Title of Project: Epi-Meteorology - Towards a new discipline in the service of global public health

Scope of Project: The overall goal of this proposal is to create and set in motion a new interdisciplinary teaching and research discipline at Columbia focused on the complex influences of climate on human health at the population level. This project addresses a critical gap in the interface of health and climate science and practice – with a strong focus on developing countries. It aims to develop a process whereby the Earth Institute makes a major contribution to addressing a current disciplinary gap – that of epi-meteorology. Whereas the field of bio-meteorology is chiefly concerned with physiological responses of human and biological systems to meteorological parameters, the new discipline of epi-meteorology will link the tools of epidemiology with those of climate science to study interactions between climatic factors and human health at regional and population scales. Our aim is explicitly to address the data, methodologies, analysis and research required to create tools of direct relevance to the public health sector for dealing with climate-sensitive health issues in the context of current climatology, climate variability and climate change.


Contact: Maria Uriarte, Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology

Title of Project: Development of an interdisciplinary program on land use/land cover change (LUCC), forest transitions, and sustainable development

Scope of Project: Changes in land-use and land-cover in the tropics are persistent, and when aggregated at a global scale affect key aspects of the earth system functions including global, regional, and micro-climate, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Such changes also determine the vulnerability of places and people to climatic, economic, and socio-political perturbations. Land cover change studies in the tropics are not limited to deforestation; they expand to other complex transitions such as agricultural expansion, pasture development, and secondary vegetation re-growth. Understanding land-use transitions in the tropics at a global scale is a challenging task due in part to the unique and complex socio-ecological context of the region. Yet, doing so is essential to the ecological, economic, and social sustainability of development initiatives. This proposal will begin to develop an integrated-multidisciplinary research and training program on land use transitions in the tropics that would bring researchers from earth sciences, environmental biology, agricultural, and social sciences together with the dual goals of developing a general theoretical framework to understand land-use transitions and offering recommendations for sustainable landscape management.


Contacts: Maria Uriarte, Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Art Lerner-Lam, Doherty Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), and Suzana Camargo, Associate Research Scientist, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)

Title of Project: Assessing risk of landslides from increased hurricane activity in the Caribbean: Linking physical, biological and human processes

Scope of Project: The precipitation associated with hurricanes is an important triggering mechanism for destructive landslides and other mass-wasting events, which in turn may be amplified by variations in vegetation or land use and are themselves agents of ecosystem change. The systemic, impulsive perturbations caused by hurricanes afford one of the few observational opportunities to examine the time-dependent, cross-cutting relationships among climate, geomorphology, ecosystems, and land-use. The increasing intensity of hurricanes and the growing awareness of the importance of ecosystems to human well-being call for an evaluation of the effects that hurricanes have on ecosystems on which humans depend, the relationships between ecosystem changes and landslide potential, and the development of appropriate mitigation strategies. This proposal aims to (1) provide a state-of-the-art model of landslide occurrence that integrates the recently observed increase in hurricane activity and resulting changes in precipitation and wind, with topography, soils, vegetation transition, and human effects on land use cover, (2) test critical aspects of this model in Puerto Rico using both existing land cover data and vegetation plots spread across a range of storm exposure and land cover classes, and (3) evaluate the relationship between tropical cyclone activity and human land use under present and potentially changing hurricane regimes, and provide land management recommendations that can minimize property damage and loss of life.