The University of Maryland has launched a cutting edge research center to develop novel policy solutions for today’s most pressing environmental challenges. Principally funded by a $27.5 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the multidisciplinary UMD center will bring together the expertise of environmental, social, and computational scientists, engineers, economists, public policy experts and others from around the world.
The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, known as SESYNC, will be home for collaborative research on such critical issues as water availability, sustainable food production and the interaction between human activity and healthy ecosystems. The grant is the largest NSF award ever received by the university.
"There are some challenges that are so large we can only tackle them by working together," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "The Chesapeake Bay is vital to all around it, but the health of this national treasure is threatened by our use of the land, the water, the air and energy around the bay region. The new center's approach to environmental challenges of developing collaborative science-based responses drawing from many disciplines and factoring in human and ecosystem needs is exactly the approach that the bay needs and which our administration is taking in our efforts to restore it."
Reflecting the state, national and international reach needed to address 21st century environmental challenges, the center will be located in the Maryland state capital of Annapolis, located less than 40 miles from the U.S. capital. The center will receive additional support from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit research organization, and the state of Maryland.
“The enormity of today’s environmental problems requires a new approach to how we conduct research,” said Margaret Palmer, a University of Maryland entomologist and environmental scientist who serves as the executive director of SESYNC. “There is a fundamental mismatch between the specialization required for research excellence and the integrated nature of today’s global challenges. This center will bridge that divide, in effect ‘synthesizing’ knowledge, data, and methods from divergent disciplines with the unifying goal of creating effective, workable solutions."
Science, public policy and engineering faculty from the University of Maryland, environmental economists from Resources for the Future, and social scientists from the University of Michigan will lead activities of the center, which will also draw experts from around the world.
The first major project of SESYNC is to analyze the impact of grand population shifts on the environemnt.
For more information, visit www.sesync.org.
January 30, 2012