Kavita Bala and Carla Gomes were both PIs on winning proposals to the 2016 Academic Venture Fund competition run by Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. This incubator "seeds original, multidisciplinary research that is not likely to find funding elsewhere because the projects are novel, risky, need early data to establish traction, or involve new teams working together. The projects have real potential to involve external partners in industry, government, and nongovernmental organizations."
Here are the two projects:
"Building Better Cities", Bala's entry:
Cities are getting denser every day. Buildings currently produce one-third of the world's carbon emissions—so urban development is both a problem and an opportunity to mitigate climate change. Urban designers need next-generation modeling tools that move past single-building analysis to support master planning for energy efficiency, solar power, light, and ventilation. The researchers will develop software tools to model energy and climate impacts of hundreds of buildings together. These easy-to-use tools will help planners create more livable and sustainable urban habitats.
Researchers: Timur Dogan, architecture; Howard Chong, hotel administration; Kavita Bala, computer science.
"Hydropower and Ecosystem Services", Gomes' entry:
The Andean Amazon is in the midst of a hydropower boom. More than 150 new dams are proposed across several countries, with more already under construction. Environmental impacts are assessed for individual dams—but what is the combined cost of the hydropower explosion for biodiversity, fisheries, navigation, and other benefits provided by intact rivers? This multidisciplinary team will develop a framework for evaluating cumulative impacts in areas of rapid hydropower growth. The new models will guide design of more sustainable dam networks that meet hydropower targets while preserving key ecosystem services.
Researchers: Alexander Flecker, ecology and evolutionary biology; Carla Gomes, computing and information science; Patrick Reed, civil and environmental engineering; Gregory Poe, applied economics and management; Scott Steinschneider, biological and environmental engineering.
Cornell Chronicle article: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/06/atkinson-center-gives-record-number-seed-research-grants