AGNR Researchers Named in Six UMD Grand Challenge Grants

From a new global alliance to campus-wide collaborations and individual projects, recipients will be seeking solutions to the world’s complex problems.

February 17, 2023

The University of Maryland announced on February 16, 2023, that it had selected 50 projects to receive a total of $30M through the Grand Challenges Grants program. The largest and most comprehensive program of its kind ever introduced at UMD aims to address some of the world’s most complex problems, including climate change, global health, educational disparities, racial and social injustice, threats to democracy, pandemic preparedness, sustainability and many others.

Faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are included as named research team members or principal investigators of six awards that span the four Grand Challenge Grant Categories.

Institutional Grants provide up to $1M per year for 3 years to support new institutional initiatives.

Global FEWture: Food-Energy-Water Solutions for a Changing Climate is one of three new initiatives to be funded under the Global Challenges Grants. Led by Amy Sapkota in the School of Public Health, the new alliance will be an international collaboration that aims to take an interdisciplinary, holistic, systems-based approach to the interconnected issues around alleviating food and water insecurity, protecting environmental and global public health, and bolstering community resilience in a changing climate.
Stephanie Lansing, Professor, Environmental Science and Technology
Shirley Micallef, Associate Professor, Center for Food Safety and Security Systems and Plant Science and Landscape Architecture 

Impact awards provide up to $250k per year for two years to support cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Center of Excellence in Microbiome Sciences addresses the growing need to rapidly assess, characterize and manipulate microbial communities that are critically important in medicine, agriculture and the environmental processes humans depend on to grow food and live. These communities include soil microbiomes which nourish plants, degrade toxins and produce compounds with medicinal properties. This collaboration aims to advance microbiome science with cutting-edge and transformative interdisciplinary research, train future generations to develop expertise in microbiome sciences and support development of a regional innovation ecosystem that contributes to economic growth in microbiome-related industries in Maryland.
Shirley Micallef Associate Professor, Center for Food Safety and Security Systems and Plant Science and Landscape Architecture
Mostafa Ghanem Assistant Professor, Veterinary Medicine
Stephanie Yarwood Associate Professor, Environmental Science and Technology

Team Project Awards provide up to $500K per year for 3 years to support projects advanced by research teams.

UMD and MD Methane Waste Heat/Water Remediation is intended to be a student-centric project focusing on environmental and climate impact on campus and in the State of Maryland, with the intention to leverage results into a proposal for national-scale work. The project team will identify, map, and measure methane emissions and steam/heat/water waste on campus and conduct methane emission mapping within the state of Maryland. In coordination with campus and state authorities, participants will analyze the results to produce recommendations for the joint remediation of coupled environmental quality challenges and develop the basis for a national strategy.
Stephanie Yarwood Associate Professor, Environmental Science and Technology

Modeling Evolution of Avian Influenza Viruses for Pandemic aims to develop cost-effective culture models that can be used to study the interaction of avian influenza viruses with avian respiratory and intestinal tracts. Avian influenza viruses can place a significant burden on global health and economies, so it is important to understand how they evolve in their avian hosts, and to model the emergence of novel strains. But these viruses can be difficult and costly to study in live birds. To address this challenge, the project will establish intestinal organoid and 2D cultures and respiratory epithelial cultures at the air-liquid interface in chickens and ducks, and then study the replication and evolution of avian influenza virus in these cultures.
PI: Andrew Broadbent Assistant Professor, Animal and Avian Sciences
Younggeon Jin Assistant Professor, Animal and Avian Sciences

Individual Project Grants award up to $50,000 per year for 3 years to support projects by individual investigators 

Fetal Mammary Stem Cell Programming and Hormone Dysfunction will focus on understanding how negative external influences including abnormal testosterone levels irreversibly alter fetal mammary development and subsequent mammary function. The aim of this research is to provide insight into the mechanisms behind milk insufficiency and other breast pathologies that may originate in utero although they don’t manifest until adulthood.
Andrew Schiffmacher  Assistant Professor, Animal and Avian Sciences

Visualizing Urban Flooding Due to Climate Change will conduct scientific research to determine if and how 3D Virtual Reality is a more effective tool to advocate design solutions for the growing problem of severe urban flooding, which increasingly impacts low-income urban communities. The project will include workshops with stakeholders to assess 3D VR for communicating flood scenarios and design solutions, a laboratory experiment to test the strength and usability of the visualization technology for scientific evidence, and interviews with design professionals to assess current use of 3D VR.
Christopher Ellis Professor, Plant Science and Landscape Architecture