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Faculty Seed Grants

The Smith Center offers seed grants to teams from across UTIA for global engagement. These grants allow for the development of new teaching, research and Extension collaborations, materials, and trainings. The call for Global Seed Grant proposals takes place annually during the spring semester. Once awarded, the grants are implemented over the 18 month period, typically beginning in May of each year. (Due to COVID-19, this program was suspended in 2020).

For the 2021 program, the deadline for applications is Friday, July 9 at 5pm EDT. Applications will be reviewed in July, and funded seed grants will begin August 1, 2021, for a period of 18 months (until January 31, 2023).

For more details, please contact tomgill@utk.edu.

Previously Awarded Seed Grants

2018 Faculty Seed Grants for International Programs

Sustaining Women Agriculturists in Global Contexts: An Exploratory Journey of Women Trailblazers 
Stephens, Richards, Bumgarner and Jean-Philippe

Developing a 4-H Youth Development Program in Botswana
Richards, Jean-Philippe and Bumgarner

Establishment of International Partnership Between UTIA and Chinese Academy of Forestry for Developing Biofuel and Biomaterials from Biomass
Wang, Harper and Abdoulmoumine

An International Research and Extension Experience with Cooperatives in Developing Countries: The Case of Certified Coffee Cooperatives in Mexico

Trejo-Pech, C., Velandia, M. and Stripling, C.

This project addressed sustainable certified coffee production through cooperatives. The overall goal of the project was to support the development of sustainable Fair Trade and organic certified coffee production through cooperatives in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Mexico is a leading producing region of certified coffee in the world and the state of Veracruz produces 27% of total coffee production in Mexico. Recent research finds that cooperative coffee farmers in Veracruz confront market situations that may reduce their level of engagement with cooperatives and threaten the sustainability of the complete
supply chain. We established a collaboration with two leading agricultural institutions located in the state of Veracruz (Colegio de Posgraduados de Ciencias Agrícolas (ColPos), campus Córdoba, Veracruz, and Universidad Autónoma Chapingo (UACH) Huatusco, Veracruz regional center), to further investigate those factors influencing the grower-cooperative relationship, and producers’ engagement with cooperatives. We accomplished the proposed objectives via a study tour to the coffee producing region in Mexico in January 2019. We collected primary data through personal interviews and listening sessions. Hearing directly from coffee growers, cooperative administrators, processors or commercialization intermediaries helped the team expand research efforts in the area of coffee cooperatives in Mexico. We also met with ColPos and UACH faculty with partial Extension appointments to compare and contrast, in a mini-symposium format, diverse issues related to extension efforts in the U.S. and Mexico. In addition, the external collaborators (Dr. Arana-Coronado, Dr. Servin-Juarez, and Dr. Rodriguez-Padron) visited UTIA in Fall 2019. Their visit allowed us to discuss preliminary analyses of data collected in Mexico, to refine research questions, and to plan for additional data collection efforts. Dr. Servin-Juarez was able to stay at UT for a self-funded sabbatical. During the visit to UTIA, faculty from Mexico participated in the UTIA seminar presenting “Extension in Mexico: Serving Coffee Producers. History, Current Activities and Challenges, and Future Opportunities”.

Master Teacher Workshop for Faculty Members of East African Colleges of Veterinary Medicine

Souza, M., Lane, I. and Bailey, M.

We conducted a 4-day workshop focused on improving teaching skills for faculty members of East African colleges of veterinary medicine. The workshop was held in summer 2019 at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Twelve faculty members completed the workshop, including faculty Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This workshop was based on the content from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM) Master Teacher Program (MTP). Established in 2008, the MTP provides resources, programs, and leadership that support the highest quality of professionalism and instruction within the various educational missions of the UTCVM. The goal of the MTP is ongoing professional development toward mastery of teaching skills. A variety of MTP topics were covered with faculty members from East Africa. The workshop also included opportunities to develop and refine teaching and testing materials. The faculty members presented material at their home institutions in the hope of furthering the improvement of delivery of veterinary medical education across numerous East African countries.

2017 Faculty Seed Grants for International Programs

Initial Exploration of the Pest Supression, Organic Fertilizer, and Protein Benefits Provided by Cave-Roosting Bats in Cambodian Agroecosystems

Willcox, E.

Abstract — In Cambodia, karst caves and the bat species that rely on them for roosting are severely threatened by​ limestone mining. The bats occupying these caves may provide critical ecosystem services via pest suppression and fertilization of agricultural crops, as well as serving as a food source for local communities. However, human-bat contact, resulting from presence of bats on farms, collection of guano, and bat consumption, is not without risk, as bats may be potential vectors for disease crossover to humans. Karst mining will irreplaceably remove cave-roosting bat habitat from the landscape. Therefore, there is the need for immediate research to document the complexity of human-bat-agricultural interactions and to understand the opportunities for promoting karst and cave-roosting bat conservation in the country. Our goal is to collect pilot data documenting human-bat-agricultural interactions in Cambodia. Specifically, we will explore the ecosystem services provided by karst cave-roosting bats, especially with regard to arthropod pest suppression; the actual and perceived risk of disease transmission from karst cave-roosting bats to humans; and the potential for karst cave and associated bat conservation. We will conduct the fieldwork for this study in the karst region of the Kampot Province, Cambodia during July and August of 2017 and 2018. The study will utilize a combination of biological and human dimensions methods, including active bat capture and collection of guano, blood, and tissue samples; acoustic sampling of bats in agricultural fields; insect collection in agricultural fields, genetic analysis of insect and guano samples, as well as blood and tissue samples; and interviews and surveys with local community members. We will disseminate research findings to policy makers, NGOs, agricultural research groups, and the public through various extension activities and media.

Adaptive Resource Management in a Landscape in Transition: Understanding Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Among Forst-Dependent Communities of the Eastern Himalayas

Poudyal, N.

Abstract — Climate change is a major global issue affecting human and natural systems alike. Understanding impacts and educating people to adapt (i.e. learning to survive) in changing conditions is considered a viable solution. Recent studies have shown that adaptive social learning could be a powerful tool for vulnerable communities to deal with natural disasters. This project intends to develop a research and teaching program in the Eastern Himalayas, a fragile ecosystem that has witnessed early impacts of climate change. The region is going through a rapid climate change and has witnessed melting glaciers, shifting tree lines, warmer winter and spring seasons, extended periods of drought, more erratic rainfall patterns, reduced biodiversity, changes to ecotone, and the emergence and proliferation of invasive species. Consequently, the region’s globally significant biodiversity hotspots, agriculture and mountain tourism industry are all in peril. Mountain ecosystems across the world are considered fragile and significantly vulnerable to climate change. Hence, the adaptive lessons learned from the Himalayas will offer useful insights to inform mitigation and adaptation among communities across the world. With the help of this seed grant, the long-term goal of this project is to establish an active research and teaching program in the Himalayas. This project to be supported by seed grant in particular will conduct a rapid rural appraisal in select mountain communities around Sagarmatha National Park (home of the Mt. Everest) to investigate the community vulnerability, and adaptive capacity/strategy of forest-dependent communities in sustainably managing natural resources. Findings from this project will lead us to one or more peer-reviewed publications and generate preliminary data to strengthen our future proposals for extramural funding. The project will also support the UTIA’s teaching mission, as we anticipate outlining course curriculum and ground logistics for a new study abroad program in the Eastern Himalayas.

Sustainable Agriculture Internship in Beef and Forage Production between UTIA and Brazil UNESP/USP

Pohler, K.

Abstract — One billion people worldwide lack the necessary amounts of protein in their diet. In addition, FAO UN estimates that the world’s population will exceed 9 billion by 2050, resulting in an increased demand for food. In order to meet this task, the agriculture community must produce more pounds of animal protein with fewer resources. Cattle production makes up roughly 22-24% of total meat produced, but has the potential to drastically increase based on the ability of cows to convert forages into protein. Brazil is the second largest beef producer and the number one beef exporter in the world, therefore understanding how animal science and plant science communities of both the United States and Brazil fit into addressing the challenge of increased protein production with less resources is critical. Our long-term goal is to develop a successful, formal and long-lasting internship program between two large agriculture based universities in Brazil and UTIA (Animal Sciences/Plant Sciences). In order to do this our objectives are 1) recruit high quality Brazilian students to conduct a 6-month internship program at UTIA, and 2) develop a mechanism to share UTIA students as interns in these Brazilian Universities. Developing a formal internship program between partnering universities in Brazil and UTIA will help in not only addressing major challenges in regard to protein production, but also in helping meet the demand for training the next generation of young scientists. Outcomes from this proposed internship program include: increased international exposure for UTIA, recruitment of high quality students and development of a long-lasting internship program focusing in sustainable beef production.

The UTIA/Brazilian Partnership for Conversion of Renewable Materials to Chemicals

Bozell, J.

Abstract — Converting agricultural materials or forest resources to high-value organics (HVOs) ​​will be central to the success of the biorefining industry, but the level of knowledge available for biomass conversion lags far behind that available for petrochemical refining. The long-term goal for this proposal to establish key research collaborations with Brazil’s Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, and the equivalent of the USDA national lab system) and other Brazilian experts in biomass conversion that will enable greater global use of biorefiningand renewable raw materials as building blocks for chemicals and fuels. Our objectives which support the long-term goal, are to 1) sponsor a UTIA/Brazilian summit meeting for detailed discussion of scientific areas of expertise 2) work with the Embrapa and Brazilian universities to establish student/faculty exchange research opportunities, and 3) identify the best opportunities for funding a large, joint UT/Brazilian research program. This proposal requests funding to support participation in our summit meeting to identify complementary research activities and teams able to respond to long term funding opportunities in biorefinery development. The teams to arise from this summit will target transformative work that lays the groundwork for renewable HVOs to replace petroleum-based products. Such a program will provide societal impact by allowing the biorefinery to mirror the petrochemical industry through consumption of renewable carbon. The program will enable educational impact by allowing students to address problems of national and international significance through participation in “deep dive”, research driven education. Research resulting from this partnership will afford economic, energy and environmental impacts. Projections for renewable carbon show 78-96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petrochemical processes, and a savings of 10-18 tonnes CO2 equivalent/ha from lignocellulosic crops. Finally, the program provides impact at the graduate levels by providing a basis to recruit highly talented graduate students for participation in international programs addressing the need to find alternate sources of strategic raw materials.​

Grant Writing Training Workshop

Amissah, N., Klingeman, B., Ownley, B., Hadziabdic, D.

Abstract —​ Starvation, malnutrition, and food insecurity continue to plague Africa despite intensive agricultural research. To meet the current food challenge and address issues of nutrition and food security in West Africa, we need to educate global agricultural citizens about urgent hunger problems. The purpose of this project is to provide funding for four UTIA faculty to travel to Ghana to tour institutional facilities and farms, continue with existing and establish new collaborations, and initiate a scholar exchange program with the University of Ghana. The proposed planning trip will focus on developing an experiential learning-based program that will integrate a multidisciplinary approach and learner-centered educational model that utilizes indigenous crop species to address food security in West Africa. Our target audience will be advanced undergraduate and graduate students in food, agricultural, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences. The products of this grant will include (1) initiating new grant(s) that will develop a novel experiential learning program to promote the importance of international agriculture and preservation of indigenous species for global food security; and (2) recruiting a cadre of students capable of conducting research on cultivation and conservation of indigenous species. In addition, future grants submitted in collaboration with the University of Ghana will not only include underrepresented students in FANH disciplines with a focus on international agriculture, but will center on developing teaching modules related to scientific writing and grantsmanship, and scholarly products from student work in the program. Measurable outcomes include detailed plan for grant(s) submission that encompasses the following for our students: (i) increased knowledge of indigenous species and their cultivation, common pests, and conservation concepts; (ii) increased knowledge about research ethics and scientific writing; (iii) increased interest in graduate study and/or careers in FANH; and (iv) development of skills in team science, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving.

2016 Faculty Seed Grants for International Programs

International Biodegradable Mulch Study Tour: Assessing Barriers and Bridges to Adoption in the EU

Abstract — While using plastic mulch in specialty crop production has served to increase yields- often two- and even three-fold, its disposal has considerable environmental impacts. Sustaining or increasing existing levels of food production on ever-decreasing agricultural acreage without introducing environmental damage remains a key food security challenge. Biodegradable mulches (BDMs) potentially offer an alternative; however, adoption in the U.S. has been slow due to regulatory concerns and lack of appropriate evaluation metrics for on-farm degradation. In contrast, BDMs are more widely used in Europe. Here we propose a study tour to Italy and Spain for our transdisciplinary team in order to identify factors contributing to the difference in global adoption rates of biodegradable mulches and learn from industry and university cooperators with expertise in the long-term use and evaluation of degradation of BDMs. This study tour will contribute to the team’s transdisciplinary training, which includes both fully interdisciplinary research and the involvement of stakeholders in directing the research and building the knowledge base. To capture these outcomes, the team will develop Extension fact sheets, a journal article, and field day experiences for U.S. growers and other stakeholders where the focus is an exploratory assessment of the factors that contribute to differential BDM adoption rates in the U.S. and the European Union.

Improving Dairy Animals Productivity, Health and Hygienic Milk Production and Processing in Southern Ethiopia

Abstract — Foods of animal origin are sources of several critical nutrients for consumers and play a great role in the prevention of child malnutrition. Compared with meat, milk and dairy products are more accessible to rural households and thus provide a quick way of supplying nutrients for humans. Milk is particularly important in the diet of the rural people and can contribute more than 50% of the energy intake of families. In this regard, camel milk plays an important role in household food security of camel rearing communities of arid and semi-arid areas of East Africa. Especially, in such areas during dry periods, camel and goat milk play a great role in replacing cattle milk in the diet of pastoral families. In most areas of Ethiopia basic hygienic practices such as washing udders before milking, boiling milk before consumption and proper storage and transportation of milk to the market places are still unimproved and based on unhygienic production system. Risk factors for occurrence of milk borne diseases in pastoralareas include presence zoonotic diseases in the livestock population, high consumption of raw milk, absence of hygienic milking and milk handling practices, inadequate storage and transportation of milk to market places and low awareness level of communities. Therefore, the overall goal of this project is to improve availability of healthy and safe milk for human consumption in Southern Ethiopia. Specific Objectives: Introduce better management of savannah grasslands Training community members in hygienic milking and milk handling practices; Evaluate milk for presence of zoonotic and foodborne pathogens; Conduct a pilot surveillance study focusing on major production constraints of dairy animals (cattle, goat & camels) to identifying priority areas for future intervention.

Logan, J., Jagadamma, S., Eash, N., Lambert, D.

Abstract — The Global Climate Risk Index ranks the Dominican Republic fifth in the world, a reflection of the country’s very high vulnerability to changes in temperature stress, hurricane intensity, precipitation patterns, and ocean levels. It will be increasingly vital to protect the soil and land resources as well as the hydrological cycle, especially at the higher elevations where rainfall is greatest. Agriculture is seen as particularly susceptible to climate change threats and there is great concern about the future status of the important northern Yaque del Norte River which provides irrigation water for the entire Cibao Valley, a major production area of the country. Highly weathered soils on the farms in the headwaters of this river are characterized by low soil fertility and high soil erosion potential. There is a critical need for protecting these soils to improve and maintain the sustainable productivity of these managed ecosystems. Incorporation of biochar is a promising strategy which significantly reduces soil loss and increases soil organic carbon and aggregate stability. The goals of this project are: to promote sustainable agriculture and ecosystem services in the coffee plantations by teaching a workshop in the use of biochar as a soil amendment and to conduct several on-farm demonstrations of the benefits of biochar. We will also introduce and discuss the feasibility of various Payments for Environmental Services (PES) models, and the suitability of these models for Rio Yaque del Norte watershed. We propose to work alongside colleagues in the Plan Yaque office, as well as faculty, staff and students of two colleges that offer programs in agriculture and environmental science.

Establishment of international partnership between the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and Zamorano University in Honduras for the promotion and advancement of academic and research opportunities for sustainable solutions to global food security challenges

Myer, P., Morgan, M., Ader, D.

Abstract — The impetus behind the global food security challenge is direct, with the necessity to feed over 9 billion people by 2050, where the demand for nutritional and sustainable food will be approximately 60% greater than today. Developing a food-secure world, where people have access to safe, nutritious, affordable food, developed by sustainable and environmentally conscious agriculture is the principal goal of this challenge. In order to generate sustainable solutions to these challenges, collaborative international and interdisciplinary teams must be developed. The purpose of this proposal is for travel to establish an international partnership between the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and Zamorano University in Honduras for the promotion and advancement of academic and research opportunities for sustainable solutions to global food security challenges.

Willcox, A., Souza, M., Gerhold, R., Okafor, C.

​Abstract — The potential dangers of direct spillover of zoonotic diseases from hunted wildlife to humans have entered mainstream African media, but the perceived and actual risks of transmission are unknown. The recent Ebola outbreak in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and the unresolved spillover route have increased concern about zoonotic diseases regionally. Direct spillover of zoonotic diseases from hunted wildlife to humans occurs most frequently from bat and primate species, threatening food safety and security. Therefore, in African cultures like those in Central Uganda, where primate consumption is uncommon due to cultural norms, the risk of primate to human disease spillover should be minimal. However, it is rumored that hunters and meat sellers are butchering large primates into unidentifiable pieces of meat to disguise it as culturally acceptable species such as antelopes. This observation received further support from an impromptu discussion in fall 2015 with hunters at a free dog spay, neuter, and vaccination clinic sponsored by a local NGO in Gulu working with communities adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park. Our research goal is to quantify the perceived and actual risk of disease spillover from bushmeat to humans in Gulu communities adjacent to Murchison Falls. We will accomplish our goals by:

  1. identifying species and presence of zoonotic diseases from bushmeat in markets,
  2. analyzing hunting dog blood sampled from local veterinary clinics for disease pathogens, and
  3. surveying women to understand perceived food safety risks from preparing ​and serving bushmeat for their families

This research will result in several presentations and publishable manuscripts and provide pilot data to conduct this research at a larger scale. Ultimately, local communities can use our research to make informed decisions about bushmeat consumption by understanding species uncertainty in the market and actual zoonotic disease risk.