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Harvard Salata Institute Funds 14 New Climate Research Projects Through Seed Grant Program

Harvard established the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability through a $200 million donation in June 2022.
Harvard established the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability through a $200 million donation in June 2022. By Frank S. Zhou
By Isabella G. Schauble and Sabrina R. Hu, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability announced the first cohort of awards for its Seed Grant Program last week, funding 14 interdisciplinary climate projects across the University.

The Seed Grant Program, launched in April and supported by a gift from the Troper Wojcicki Foundation, awards grants of up to $30,000 to fund early-stage collaboration on new climate-related topics. This first round of recipients includes 19 faculty members across seven of Harvard’s schools.

Harvard Vice Provost of Climate and Sustainability James H. Stock said the purpose of the program is to allow faculty who are not as academically involved in climate and sustainability to explore research ideas in the area.

“We’re trying to make it a little easier for scholars around the university to take some risks, and try new ideas,” he said. “If you need some help and support doing that, then that’s what these programs are about, and maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t work out, but it could be really important intellectually in setting the stages.”

The selected projects in this cohort span many disciplines, from calculating the carbon footprint of fabricating computers, to designing the construction of a national agroforest, to investigating the impact of climate change on mental health.

Michéle Lamont, professor of Sociology, African and African American Studies, and European Studies, discussed her project, which seeks to recognize Indigenous claims for environmental justice.

“I really want to dig deeper into this and understand what different categories of people are thinking about when it comes to how the two are linked — dignity and the kind of injustice that various groups feel they are experiencing,” she said.

Another project led by Joseph H. Blatt ’70, senior lecturer at the Graduate School of Education, focuses on how to best communicate the benefits of climate action.

In an interview, Blatt highlighted the different disciplines that his team represents.

“My hope is that that constellation of expertise and skills is really the right group to come up with ways of changing people’s minds, which is really what the project is about,” he said.

Many of the projects involved in the grant also cover emergent topics in sustainability. Harvard School of Public Health professor Stéphane Verguet described how his focus on making healthcare more environmentally friendly and equitable covers a generally new area of study in sustainability.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of areas for new things, a lot of learning. And I think we’ll be able to provide evidence that could fill a void,” Verguet said.

Electrical Engineering assistant professor Gage Hills, who is leading a project focused on investigating the carbon footprint of future technologies, said that he hopes his research will someday be a normal part of the conversation in designing new technology.

“I think in the future, everyone will design their computing systems with the carbon footprint and the carbon efficiency in mind,” he said.

Physics assistant professor Carlos A. Argüelles-Delgado’s project involves using sensors buried in arctic ice to better predict sea-level rise — which is outside of their primary field of research.

“There is a community I hope gets bigger around this institute for people that are not fully doing climate research, but are interested in what’s going on and how we can help. Because it’s a problem that really affects all of us,” they said.

—Staff writer Sabrina R. Hu can be reached at sabrina.hu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sxbrinahhu.

—Staff writer Isabella G. Schauble can be reached at isabella.schauble@thecrimson.com.

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