Research with a public purpose

Complex problems require complex solutions. 

Our experts collaborate across disciplines to ensure that holistic approaches address deep rooted social inequalities that affect every aspect of human and natural worlds. 

Faculty in the field

Our faculty take their knowledge and experience to the field, connecting with stakeholders to build resilient, inclusive communities and tackle real-world problems.

New York State, USA

Agricultural Floodplain Rice Farming as Adaptation to Climate Change

Researchers propose paddy rice farming on agricultural floodplains as a potential scalable climate adaptation to increasing flood risk in the Northeast US, while enhancing the profitability and sustainability of agricultural production. Research objectives include: 1) map the floodplains that are suitable for rice farming in NYS; and 2) examine the synergies and tradeoffs in the provision of different ecosystem services in the potential rice farming sites. Extension objectives include: 1) understand the barriers and opportunities for small farm owners to adopt rice farming; and 2) set up demonstration sites to show the technology and feasibility of rice farming for local farmers.

  • Faculty lead: Chuan Liao
  • Funder: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch Smith-Lever Grant
  • Partners: Jenny Kao-Kniffin (SIPS) Susan McCouch (SIPS) Wendong Zhang (Dyson)

Weather hotspots across Zambia

Bridging the spatial and cognitive dimensions of farmer climate adaptation

This project examines the extent to which Zambian farmers rely on past climate experiences and cognitive heuristics to make maize seed choices in the context of the ‘choice overload’ that emerged out of seed market liberalization. Researchers develop a methodology to bridge the spatial and cognitive dimensions around seed selection. Using a multi-scale modeling approach that combines physically based high-resolution land surface modeling with satellite data and machine learning, they identify hot spots of soil moisture variability and precipitation extremes. They then use satellite data of observed maize growth periods in these hot spots to create maps of sowing dates, growing season length, and yield outcomes for climate adaptive maize varieties. Combining these data products with surveys of smallholder farmers allows researchers to examine why farmers choose different seed varieties and sowing dates.

  • Faculty lead: Kurt Waldman
  • Funder: National Science Foundation
  • PartnersJordan Blekking, Postdoc in Global Development; Dr. Meha Jain, University of Michigan

Belgium, Benin, Chad, Guinea, Nigeria, USA

"Junkers": Regulation and Repair in West Africa

This project traces the flows of secondhand cars from the US and Europe to West Africa, while seeking to contribute to debates about the social and environmental consequences of the used car trade and how to regulate it. Most narratives assume these cars are “junkers” and their displacement, like the north-south displacement of other secondhand goods, constitutes “dumping.” Instead of relying on pre-formed categories, this project looks at the creativity and ingenuity required to keep cars on the road and at how different forms of value are prioritized through cases of breakdown and repair in Benin, Chad, Guinea, and Nigeria – West African countries with different regulatory regimes and used car inventories.

  • Faculty lead: Lori Leonard
  • Funder: National Science Foundation

Morogoro, Tanzania

Binti Shupavu ("Courageous Daughters")

 Assessing the relationship between agency and education outcomes for girls

Binti Shupavu is a cluster randomized control trial combined with a qualitative process tracing study evaluating the impact of the Binti Shupavu girls' club program on adolescent girls' empowerment and education outcomes. The study has two main aims: first, to understand how and why the Binti Shupavu program works to improve girls' agency; and second, to causally identify and understand the relationship between agency and educational attainment and achievement for rural secondary school girls in Morogoro Tanzania.

  • Faculty lead: Aubryn Sidle
  • Funder: The Spencer Foundation - Research Practice Partnerships Grant
  • Partners: Brenda Oulo (Visiting Lecturer, Cornell University); Dr. Eugenia Kafanabo (University of Dar Es Salaam); Monica Swai (GLAMI: Girls Livelihood & Mentoring Initiative); Asimwe Suedi (Amplify Girls)

Manhattan Chinatown, New York, USA

Exploring Knowledge about Poor Air Quality

Among Manhattan Chinatown Residents to Develop Community-driven Foundations for Clean Air Advocacy

A retrospective analysis of 85,328 patients tested for COVID-19 at New York City's public hospital system between March 1 and May 31, 2020 revealed that Chinese patients had a mortality rate of 35.7%, the highest of all racial and ethnic groups. Could poor air quality be the main course? Despite the disproportionate pollution that East Asian immigrants face in NYC, they are among the least involved in environmental protection initiatives. Using data collected through interviews, surveys, content analysis of news reports, and ethnographic observation, researchers explored Chinatown residents' awareness of the severity of the issue and how cultural differences in perceptions about the role of government have affected people's willingness to engage in self-advocacy initiatives to improve living conditions in the community.

  • Faculty lead: Connie Yuan
  • Funder: Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability
Man in wheat field
Two men look at maize crop
spare car parts
Girls classroom in Tanzania
City streets of Chinatown in Manhattan

Student Research Spotlight

Woman stands in field
Group walks over bridge

More research projects in Global Development

two women examining wheat plants in a greenhouse

The BGRI is a global community of hunger fighters committed to sharing knowledge, training the next generation of scientists and engaging with farmers for a prosperous and wheat-secure world.

2 men weeding in a NY rice field

To improve tropical smallholder farming systems for greater productivity and resilience to climate change through ecological approaches

Researchers in a field

ILCI equips National Agricultural Research Institutes with the power to define their unique goals and drive advancement in crop improvement to reduce malnutrition, hunger and provide equitable benefits to women and youth.

Man harvests brinjal in a field.

IREP accelerates the application of a proven biotechnology to enhance food and nutritional security in Bangladesh and the Philippines while protecting the health of farmers and the environment.

A group poses in a field in Africa

GREAT delivers training to agricultural researchers from sub-Saharan Africa in the theory and practice of gender-responsive research, seeking to increase opportunities for equitable participation and the sharing of benefits from agricultural research and improve the outcomes for smallholder women farmers, entrepreneurs, and farmer organizations.

Muhogo Bora logo shows cartoon person holding cassava roots

Meaning “Better cassava” in Swahili, Muhogo Bora supports the development and expansion of cassava seed systems in Tanzania with targeted outreach to the Western Zone, Central and Southern Highlands regions.

A man working in a rice field on a sunny day.

SRI-Rice seeks to advance and share knowledge about the System of Rice Intensification, to improve the technical implementation of the SRI methodology, and to support networking among interested organizations agencies, and individuals around the globe.

photo of group outside during the rain with bridge

Rust2Green generates innovative community development strategies and solutions for addressing the opportunities and challenges unique to Upstate NY’s Rust Belt cities