The Program for Early-stage Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS) seeks to increase knowledge, promote innovation, and establish evidence-based solutions to the world’s most difficult sustainability challenges. PEGASuS brings together researchers from across borders and the natural and social sciences to take creative approaches to exploring the relationships between people and the planet. Our goal is to generate self-sustaining research projects that will have real impacts on the health and wellbeing of human societies.

PEGASuS is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Science Program and the NOMIS Foundation. PEGASuS is jointly administered by Future Earth and Colorado State University’s Global Biodiversity Center. It seeks to bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines to explore areas critical to the health of humans and the planet.

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Craig Starger

Research Enabling Lead

The first round of grants for the Program for Early-stage Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS) focused on biodiversity and natural assets.

In this phase, the programme supported five research projects, each of which examined critical questions around the relationships between humans and the environment. The winning projects covered a range of topics, including the impacts of the cocaine trade on natural areas in Mesoamerica and the sustainable farming of maize, pumpkins and other crops in Malawi. They were selected through a global search that attracted dozens of proposal from over 50 countries.

PEGASuS 2: Ocean Sustainability, is a partnership between  Future Earth, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), and Global Biodiversity Center at Colorado State University.

Our vision is to accelerate transformations to a more sustainable and equitable planet by drawing on collective knowledge. Recognizing that the research community on its own cannot adequately address these challenges, we are partnering to support two ocean sustainability working groups involving not only researchers, but also innovators in policy, business and civil society to generate research that meets society’s needs.

Project 1: Defining the observing system for the world’s oceans – from microbes to whales

A globally coordinated and sustained ocean observing system is urgently needed to systematically assess the status of the ocean’s biodiversity and ecosystems and how these are responding to increasing resource use, including coastal development under long-term climate change scenarios. Based on a set of measurable biological characteristics or “biological essential ocean variables” derived from the requirements of 24 multilateral environmental agreements, existing monitoring capabilities and scientific and societal impact, scientists at NCEAS will design a monitoring network to answer specific scientific questions on high priority global phenomena in response to calls for guidance from policy makers and managers. By mapping the current spatial extent of observations for these essential variables, from microbes to whales and coastal ecosystems to the deep sea, the scientists will identify how to capitalize on what is already being achieved and what remains to be done to develop a globally coordinated, fit for purpose, and sustained ocean observing system. Scientists will also develop a roadmap to ensure that products maximally support monitoring progress against the Convention on Biological Diversity 2050 Vision, Agenda 2030 and other critical international agreements including scientific platforms related to climate change, biodiversity, and ecosystem services as well as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The roadmap will include where current indicators can be updated to make better use of scientific information and impact the future development of scientific priorities.

Principal investigators: Nic Bax (University of Tasmania), Daniel Dunn (Duke University), Patricia Miloslavich (Simon Bolivar University)

Project 2: Managing Ocean Change and Food Security: Implementing Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary

One of the most acute challenges for ocean nations and coastal communities is food and nutritional security, including sustaining wild capture fisheries in a time of rapid and profound change in the oceans and in the global food sector. Palau’s commitment to protect ocean ecosystems and resources for its people, demonstrated in a policy to close 80% of its EEZ in 2020, provides an unprecedented opportunity to take a systems approach to tackling this complex and urgent challenge. The Government of Palau has asked us to convene a working group to synthesize existing research and create a portfolio of policy and management options supporting food security and marine resource sustainability in the context of the new closure. The proposed working group will be guided by a policy committee of ministers and other senior government policymakers from Palau and other Pacific Island nations to ensure that its work meets the needs and priorities of government decision-making, and develops avenues for impact at scale, within the broader western Pacific region.

Principal investigator: Fiorenza Micheli (Stanford University)