UMD & Smithsonian 2014-2015 Seed Grant Program

Minimum Dynamic Area Revisited – How do large disturbances affect the distribution of ungulate species in arid and semi-arid ecosystems
Joseph Owen Sexton and Ralph Dubayah (UMD Department of Geography) and Peter Leimgruber and Melissa Songer (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)

Large scale natural catastrophes, such as drought or snow storms, can have devastating effects on wildlife populations, leading to dramatic die-offs and sometimes local extinctions. Understanding the frequency and size of such catastrophic disturbances is critical for the design of protected area system, and to ensure that protected wildlife will survive over the long term. The area required to sustain wildlife and biodiversity even in the face of irregular, large-scale disturbances, is called the minimum dynamic area. An interdisciplinary team of geographers, remote sensing experts, and wildlife ecologists from the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian is using satellite mapping and GPS animal tracking to answer these critical questions, by comparing patterns in the arid lands of the western U.S. and the steppes of Mongolia.

Development of a microfluidic gas-liquid interphase 3-D tissue explant culture chip for fertility preservation
Don DeVoe (UMD Department of Mechanical Engineering) and Budhan Pukazhenthi (Smithsonian Conversation Biology Institute)

The overall goal of the proposed research is to develop a microfluidic system to support growth and differentiation of testicular tissue explants from neonate donors. If successful, this approach would allow the rescue of genetic (gonadal tissue) from rare and endangered ungulates that may die unexpectedly or euthanized for medical reasons. 

Development and Characterization of a Graphene-Based THz Mixer
Thomas Murphy and Martin Mittendorf (UMD Institute for Research in Electronics & Applied Physics) and Paul Grimes, and Lingzhen Zeng (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

Graphene, a single atomic layer of hexagonally ordered carbon atoms, exhibits many unique features that have been extensively investigated over the past decade. As well as very high mechanical strength, graphene has exceptional optical and electronic properties which make it an ideal material for making novel devices for a wide range of applications. The aim of this new cooperation is to exploit the electronic properties of graphene to develop a new type of very high frequency radio-wave detector, primarily for astronomical applications that will improve the capabilities of submillimeter-wave radio telescopes. This project combines the expertise in the fabrication of graphene-based devices at the University of Maryland with the expertise in very high frequency radio detector design and characterization at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Developing a Dataset and Analysis on Intentional Targeting of Cultural Heritage during Armed Conflict
Paul Huth (UMD Department of Government and Politics) and Corine Wegener (SI Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture)

Why is cultural heritage targeted by combatants during intrastate conflict? Cultural heritage represents the physical manifestation of the culture and history of a social group or region; its intentional destruction is designed to erase the presence of a people in history. Such policies are likely to occur at the same time as other large-scale abuses towards civilian populations. Little systematic theoretical and quantitative research currently exists on the destruction of cultural heritage sites. This project draws upon cultural heritage experts at the Smithsonian and conflict studies experts at the University of Maryland’s Center for International Development and Conflict Management. Through this collaboration we will develop and test a theory about the causes of deliberate heritage destruction using a new dataset on the characteristics of cultural heritage sites and the occurrence of targeting in Syria and Iraq.


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