Cornell CALS, EDF Partner on Three Environmental Projects

Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have announced three new research projects with researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) that focus specifically on urgent environmental issues. The projects, along with two others outside of CALS, are part of a three-year collaboration made possible by a $1.7 million grant from Cornell alumnus and private investor David Atkinson ’60 and his wife, Patricia Atkinson.

The joint research program, which leverages Cornell’s scientific research and EDF’s leadership in the environmental policy arena, has funded 13 projects to date and continues to engage new researchers at Cornell and EDF.

The three new CALS projects funded are:

  • Sardine Harvest Control for the Philippines: Sardine fishing is vital for food security and livelihoods in the Philippines. As a step toward harvest control for all of the nation’s fisheries, EDF is working with Filipino fishery managers, scientists and industry representatives to develop new science-based harvest rules for the sardine fishery. Cornell CALS researchers Aaron Rice of the Bioacoustics Research Program and Suresh Sethi of the Department of Natural Resources, as well as EDF researcher Rod Fujita, will work together to evaluate and test acoustic monitoring as a cost-effective method for estimating sardine biomass, a measurement of total adult stock that allows fishery managers to calculate optimal annual catch limits. The project aims to support adaptive fishery management, improve fishing yields and profits, and protect ecosystem services in the western Pacific.
  • Financing Sustainable Fisheries: Fishery reform is a big investment – but we know from experience that recovered, well-managed fisheries can deliver significant financial returns to fishers, coastal communities and the many businesses that bring seafood to the table. This project aims to make sustainable fisheries an investment opportunity that meets the risk-return expectations of mainstream capital providers. Jumping off from successful business models in comparable sustainable business sectors, Cornell CALS researchers John Tobin of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and Suresh Sethi of the Department of Natural Resources, together with EDF researchers Tim Fitzgerald and Phoebe Higgins, will develop, explore and characterize best practices for project development in the emerging area of sustainable fisheries financing. The team’s findings and outreach will help stimulate investment in sustainable seafood production, marine biodiversity, and global livelihoods and food security.
  • Agricultural Sustainability Data Hub: Farm databases collect mountains of useful data about farming practices and environmental conditions – information critical for agricultural and environmental policy research and sustainability initiatives, but anonymized data is largely inaccessible to researchers. This project will design and map a secure Agricultural Sustainability Data Hub at Cornell supported by the Ag-Analytics data platform developed by the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business’ Joshua Woodard. Cooperating with agricultural and food industry partners and grower associations, the digital hub would serve as a focal point for ag-data sustainability activities, incorporating anonymized data sourced from agricultural service providers, food producers, merchandisers and retailers. This secure data warehouse will inform sustainability research and provide practical tools and analytics.

“The projects funded this year address some of the biggest challenges facing our planet today – including how to feed people with sustainable fisheries and farms, and how to ensure access to clean power and healthy air,” said David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center. “Bringing a collaborative approach to pressing questions like these will allow Cornell and EDF to achieve new insights and have a greater impact than either organization could achieve alone.”

The two projects outside of CALS are Mobile Sensing of Volatile Organic Compounds and the Power Huron Project.

Sheri Englund is a writer for the Atkinson Center. Kate Frazer is a freelance writer for the Atkinson Center.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.