The Gund Institute for Environment at UVM today announced six research projects supported by the Gund COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund. 

From an analysis of risks facing global refugees to an investigation of how environmental beliefs influence infection rates, these projects target the social and ecological impacts or drivers of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The six projects to receive Gund COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund support are: 

Studying three of the largest refugee camps in the world, Pablo Bose (CAS) and colleagues will explore the relationship between environmental risk factors and public health. Using spatial analysis and public and private data, the team will catalogue the environmental risks facing refugee camps, evaluate how these factors affect refugee camps’ responses to public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and create the first publicly-available dashboard to characterize environmental risks in humanitarian settings worldwide. Collaborators include Kelsey Gleason (LCOM) and Brendan Fisher (RSENR).

Rachelle Gould (RSENR) and colleagues will study how nature is helping individuals cope with social-ecological upheaval during the COVID-19 crisis. The study will explore the role of nature across many factors, including demographics, geography, and access to nature, and will be the first study to document how people’s values regarding nature change in response to a large-scale societal crisis. The project will first focus on Vermont, but is anticipated to grow nationally, and globally, in scale. Collaborators include RSENR students Tatiana GladkikhDiana HackenburgMaggie LeeEliza Merrylees, and Joshua MorseLearn about Professor Gould's project.

Chris Koliba (CALS) and colleagues will study how and why people comply with social distancing and other public health measures during an active pandemic, with a focus on the role that pro-environmental attitudes and outdoor activities play in shaping compliance behavior. Expanding on experimental simulation games and surveys from the Social Ecological Gaming and Simulation (SEGS) lab, the team will create a new model for COVID-19 infections that takes into account the variation in individual compliance based on environmental attitudes. Collaborators include Scott Merrill (CALS), Asim Zia (CALS/CEMS), Trisha Shrum (CALS), Nicholas Cheney (CEMS), and Eric Clark (CEMS). Learn about Professor Koliba's project.

Building on an initial rapid-research survey, which suggested that food insecurity among Vermonters has increased by 33% since the first positive COVID-19 test in the state, Meredith Niles (CALS) and colleagues will study impact of COVID-19 on food systems in Vermont and beyond. Using multiple surveys, the team will collect information on Vermonters’ food security and access, changing eating behaviors and food sustainability habits, and COVID-19 challenges and experiences. The survey will provide a robust understanding of food insecurity and dietary shifts, including sustainable purchasing behaviors, during COVID-19 and lay the groundwork for collaborative additional research. This research is first focusing on Vermont but is also being replicated nationally and across many other states. Collaborators include Farryl Bertmann (CALS), Emily Morgan (CALS), and Erin Biel and Roni Neff (Johns Hopkins University). Learn about Professor Niles' project.

Bindu Panikkar (RSENR) and colleagues will examine the barriers to essential services in diverse and low-income communities during the COVID-19 crisis across three New England States. The study will also explore challenges to inclusion and participation in state-based policy programs. Using online surveys, interviews, and existing health data, the study aims to analyze the link between policy, health, and environmental justice during emergencies. Collaborators include Ingrid Nelson (CAS), Kelsey Gleason (LCOM), Alaka Dev (Dartmouth), Marianne Engelman-Lado (Vermont Law School), and colleagues from the Center for Whole CommunitiesToxics Action CenterCVOEO Mobile Homes Program, and Migrant Justice

Easton White (CAS) and colleagues will examine the effects of COVID-19-related shutdowns on fisheries and fish populations. Using existing data on fish landings and the fish market, the team will analyze how measures taken in response to COVID-19, such as shortened fishing seasons, fishery closures, and restrictions on specific types of fishing, have impacted the global fish market and fish populations. This research will first focus on fisheries within the United States but is anticipated to grow to an international scale. Collaborators include Brendan Fisher (RSENR), Julia Baum (University of Victoria), and James Robinson (University of Lancaster). Learn about Professor White's project.

In total, $50,000 in Gund seed grants will support interdisciplinary research by 25 UVM faculty and students from five colleges and nine departments across campus, in collaboration with 15 research partners from six universities, and four external organizations.

Gund Rapid Research Fund proposals are evaluated on four criteria: relevance to the theme of socio-environmental dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic, potential for scientific and societal impact, potential for growth into a longer-term research project with sustained impact, and the interdisciplinary nature of the longer-term research program envisioned. 

Learn more about the Gund COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund and watch Gund experts discuss the coronavirus pandemic. Proposals for a Gund Catalyst Award on rural health and the environment are due August 3, 2020. 

The Gund Institute for Environment  catalyzes research, develops real-world solutions to global issues, and connects the University of Vermont with leaders in government, business and beyond. The Gund Institute is comprised of over 200 researchers and students who collaborate widely, focusing on environmental issues at the interface of  four pressing themes: climate solutions, health and well-being, sustainable agriculture, and resilient communities.