Announcing the 2021 AIR Resilience Grants Recipients

Feb. 12, 2021
A photo of lettuce and prickly pear cacti overlayed by illustrated images of insects

On February 1, 2021, the Arizona Institutes for Resilience (AIR) awarded Resilience Grants totaling $823,101 to 13 teams representing six UArizona colleges and 14 departments or units. The grants are funded by the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF), administered by the Office of Research, Innovation & Impact and AIR and supported by a small portion of Arizona sales tax revenues.

AIR’s call for Resilience Grant proposals brought in 31 unique submissions for activities that advance the institute’s mission of supporting interdisciplinary groups, including off-campus partners, to develop practical, applied solutions that further resilience in our natural and human communities.

The awardees’ projects ranged from building Indigenous resilience to refining buffelgrass management to field studies in writing to co-locating solar panels and agriculture.

A project led by Laurel Bellante in the Center for Regional Food Studies (CRFS), “Building Resilience in Southern Arizona’s Local Food System,” will take on the question of how, and how much, the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing climate change has affected Arizona’s food systems.

In August 2020, the interdisciplinary team began researching the “overlapping impacts of the pandemic and climate events on local food producers, distributors, processors, and restaurants in southern Arizona’s food system as well as their responses to these impacts,” as stated in the proposal abstract. “This research seeks to understand how local food systems pivot in moments of crisis and identify the factors and best practices that can further strengthen this system into the future.”

The team will present their findings in a series of public talks in spring 2021.

Another awarded project, “Proof of Concept: Using DNA Barcodes to Identify Arizona's Insects of Importance to Agriculture, Natural Areas, and Human Health,” led by Wendy Moore in the Department of Entomology, will “produce resources for rapid, reliable species-level identification necessary for research on insect pest management, invasive species, medical and veterinary practice, food security, and effects of climate change in the Southwest.”

The project will involve students at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona in the process of obtaining and publishing the data, broadening the impact of their efforts. The Resilience Grant funding will help to foster “resiliency by enhancing undergraduate education experiences (especially for underrepresented groups), building community connections, and training Arizona’s future workforce.”

Taking a systems approach to dust mitigation, “Developing biological solutions for Arizona dust hazards,” a project led by Joseph Blankinship in the Department of Environmental Science, “integrates soil physical, chemical, and biological properties with native plants to eco-engineer life in arid landscapes.”

The proposal abstract states, “Barren lands devoid of vegetation and with damaged soils are responsible for 60-95% of dust emission in arid regions. Besides loss of precious topsoil by erosion, dust pollution harms human health and safety, including deadly automobile accidents on Arizona highways.” The team’s research and implementation “will help conserve and restore soil stability in arid ecosystems, thus enhancing human resilience.”

With the funding from AIR, all 13 funded projects will bring solutions to Arizona communities to help build resilience in the face of a global pandemic and global climate change. They are all scheduled to be completed by this summer.

See the Water, Environmental & Energy Solutions (WEES) website for a full listing of the AIR Resilience Grant awardees.