I3 seed funding goes to climate and language projects

Two interdisciplinary teams have been awarded seed funding through the Incubating Interdisciplinary Initiatives awards, known as I3 awards, which provide up to $50,000 to University of Oregon research teams.

The awards are given by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation and allow faculty members to pursue interdisciplinary research projects.

The first award goes to Scott Blumenthal and Elizabeth McGuire from the Department of Anthropology, and Ilya Bindeman, Jim Palandri and Martin Uwiringiyimana from the Department of Earth Sciences for their project “New frontiers in geochemistry and human origins research: Did aridity make us human?”

The project aims to solve a longstanding challenge in anthropology and earth sciences of reconstructing past climate change to understand how such change influenced the evolution of landscapes and organisms, including early humans.

The work has the potential to provide a novel evolutionary perspective on the climate conditions in which humans thrive, known as a climate niche. Researchers say that knowledge will be increasingly important considering global warming projections where billions of people may be exposed to conditions potentially beyond human tolerance.

The second award goes to Gabriela Pérez Báez, Spike Gildea and Julie Sykes from the Department of Linguistics, as well as Ryan Light from the Department of Sociology, partnering with Puyallup tribal members Zalmai Zahir of  the Puyallup Tribal Language Program and economist Jeff Zahir, for their project “Social networks and language revitalization: A transdisciplinary collaboration with the Puyallup Tribal Language Program.”

The project seeks to understand the key elements of the successful revitalization of the Lushootseed language. The tribe went from almost no speakers in 2014 to more than 230 speakers report using Lushootseed regularly today. The team plans to create a diagnostic model that will serve as a guide and support for other communities around the nation and globe as they work to revitalize their own languages.

The I3 award program encourages interdisciplinary research at UO and is open to faculty members from all academic disciplines. Because I3 is a seed grant, the program puts significant weight on projects that are likely to secure future external funding to continue the research that began with internal funds.

The proposals were evaluated by a large faculty committee made up of experts in the range of fields represented in the applications. Final funding decisions were made by Cass Moseley, interim vice president for research and innovation.

“The projects that received awards address both legacy and future problems humans face as societies and climate change,” Moseley said. “Both also provide a hopeful roadmap toward language recovery and building knowledge to aid in human adaptation to climate.”

Visit the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation’s funding opportunities website for more information on any of the UO’s research seed funding and other internal funding programs.

By Kelley Christensen, Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation