Future Earth lands major grant for sustainability science

New awards from the Gordon and Better Moore and NOMIS Foundations will support interdisciplinary research around the topics of oceans, natural assets and the water-energy-food nexus.

This release is adapted from a version originally produced by Colorado State University, which manages the Colorado Global Hub of Future Earth together with the University of Colorado Boulder.

Future Earth has announced that it recently received a 2 million USD grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and additional funding from the NOMIS Foundation. The new grants create a partnership between Future Earth and the two foundations and will support sustainability research projects in areas central to the health of human populations and the planet.

The new effort will be called the Program for Early-phase Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS).

The increasing prominence of sustainability science stems from a realisation that many of the most pressing global problems facing society are complex mixtures of economic, societal and environmental issues, and that solving such problems will require collaboration among researchers from many different scientific disciplines.

“We haven’t spent a lot of time as scientists thinking deeply about our societal relevance,” says Josh Tewksbury, director of the Colorado Global Hub of Future Earth. “But the rapid global changes we’re experiencing have increased the need for science that can reach out into other sectors of society more rapidly and effectively than it has in the past.”

The award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation provides core support for bringing researchers together across geographies and disciplines to advance sustainability science. The programme focuses on three broad themes: natural assets, oceans, and food, water and energy research.

  • Integration of water, energy and food issues,
  • Predicting and adapting to rapid changes in ecosystems,
  • Sustainable management of ocean resources.

These three themes will support the work of Future Earth’s Knowledge-Action Networks for the Water-Energy-Food Nexus, Natural Assets and Oceans. The Colorado Hub is working closely on this project with the Global Biodiversity Center in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University and the Sustainability Innovation Lab at Colorado (SILC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Chris Funk, who directs the Global Biodiversity Center, is a co-lead on the grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Support from the NOMIS Foundation will allow Future Earth to fully integrate social science research into PEGASuS projects. Creating better links between the natural and physical sciences and the social sciences around global sustainability research is a key goal of Future earth.

Tewksbury, an ecologist and conservation biologist by training, sees sustainability science as an integrative community. “There’s a recognition that we need to support researchers who are bound together by their desire to work collectively to create innovative knowledge that’s useful to society,” he explained.

These researchers recognise that many of the most difficult sustainability challenges need to be tackled in an interdisciplinary way.

Science has typically existed to promote the economic prowess of nations. But Tewksbury said sustainability science is meant more to promote the improvement or survival of large parts of the world’s species, or species we depend on.

“This is science that will help all nations,” he said. “One of the goals of Future Earth and this grant programme is to support individuals who want to increase the societal relevance of their work without sacrificing the rigor of their science. This grant programme is a key part of making that possible.”

Future Earth will provide regular updates on this grants programme and how interested researchers can apply.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit www.moore.org or follow @MooreFound.

NOMIS supports innovative, basic and foundational research across all scientific disciplines. Visit nomisfoundation.ch.