New Investigator Award to Support Research on African Rangelands

Holly Welles ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) is pleased to announce the award of a New Investigator Grant on behalf of the Development Challenge. The award encourages research, teaching, and mentorship focused on multidisciplinary aspects of sustainable development, most particularly relating to the African continent. Robert Pringle and Corina Tarnita, assistant professors of ecology and evolutionary biology, will lead a team to research ecosystem spatial pattern and development opportunities in African rangelands.

“This research has the potential to enhance the ability of landowners to manage for multiple uses, simultaneously advancing sustainable livelihoods and wildlife conservation,” said Dan Rubenstein, professor and director of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the Development Challenge. “The project also provides the opportunity to involve undergraduates at all stages of their education, and in all facets of the work.”

The Development Challenge is one of three long-term research and teaching cooperatives currently being supported by PEI as part of the Grand Challenges program – a campus-wide initiative launched in 2007 to address complex global environmental challenges including scientific, technological, and policy dimensions. A critical component of the Grand Challenges Program is the integration of research with innovative undergraduate research supervision and undergraduate teaching, with outcomes including undergraduate research fellowships, mentoring of independent projects, and the introduction of new courses to the curriculum.

The overarching aim of the Development Challenge is to support research leading to the improvement of human livelihoods in ways that foster the sustainable use of natural and wild resources. Since the launch of the Development Challenge in 2007, nearly $2.0 million has been awarded to support 10 faculty-led research endeavors that address issues related to sustainable development on the African continent. Project areas have included biodiversity, conservation, climate science, climate modeling, the hydrological cycle, inter-species conflict and cooperation; governance, infrastructure development, and sustainable technologies. Recent awards include projects on land use, agriculture, and food security. More than 70 undergraduates have undertaken mentored research experiences on the African continent and the Development program has added 10 new courses to the undergraduate curriculum and influenced the expansion of Princeton’s Semester in Kenya program.

Additional information about the newly selected project and the team members is provided below:

Ecosystem Spatial Pattern and development opportunities in African Rangelands (Robert M. Pringle, Ryan A. Long, Tyler R. Kartzinel, and Corina E. Tarnita, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology). This research will investigate the strategic placement of cattle corrals to advance sustainable development in African rangelands by increasing the capacity of mixed-use landscapes to support high densities of both livestock and wildlife. The initiative will involve undergraduates by providing internship and senior thesis research opportunities in the field and in the lab. In addition, a new seminar course will be offered in the Fall of 2014, “Patterns in Nature,” that will explore a broad range of both natural and anthropogenic patterns, how they arise and persist, and their significance to ecosystem functioning and human society.

Featured banner photo courtesy of Robert Pringle.