The Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability has awarded four mini grants to recipients dedicated to continuing research and scholarly activities at Wake Forest University and globally.

Chaired by Robert Erhardt, assistant professor of statistics, the CEES Research Committee selected the recipients based on the proposed project’s merit, and its dedication to the mission of building a community of scholars dedicated to effecting meaningful change in the areas of energy, environment, and sustainability.

The 2017 spring CEES mini grant awardees are:

Dr. Paul Thacker, Political Ecology of Land Use in Portugal. Dr. Paul Thacker, associate professor with the Department of Anthropology, received $3,546 to document the fundamental human decision-making causes of the current environmental crisis in rural Portugal. More specifically, Paul will examine the production of long-term forestry trend data to create a baseline for planning sustainable environmental and economic development organizations and will construct visuals to accompany the environmental anthropology text he is currently writing. Paul’s Rio Maior land use project provides a unique opportunity to create significant scholarship within a larger project of environmental and social relevance.

Dr. Miles Silman, Remotely Sensed Ecosystems in Belize. Using airborne imaging of terrestrial systems, Dr. Miles Silman, professor of Conservation Biology, was awarded $4,000 to establish baselines and monitor benthic environments in Belize reef ecosystems. Ultimately, this study aims to assess the patterns of terrestrial plant diversity and basic ecosystem properties as sensed from tree canopies and to generate maps of benthic ecosystems such as love and dead coral cover, sponge cover, seagrass density, algal turfs, and non-living benthos. To conduct this research, Miles will establish a series of vegetation inventory plots on Long Caye, Half Moon Caye, and other approved marine areas. For the last five years, Lighthouse Reef Atoll has and continues to be a teaching and research site for Wake Forest undergraduates and graduate students.

Dominique Tucker, Recuperation of Soil Nutrient Cycling. Dominique, a current biology undergraduate, has been awarded $2,227 to study the effects of gold mining on plant stores of macro and micronutrients in the heart of Madre de Dios, Perú. As artisanal and small-scale gold mining continues to be a significant cause of environmental deforestation across the Amazon basin, Dominique’s research seeks to determine how the environmental disturbances from gold mining affect the nutrient cycling and decomposition of plants.

Alessandra Von Burg and Lauren Formica, Refugee Crisis in Europe. Using their award of $2,227, Alessandra Von Burg, associate professor with the Department of English, and Lauren Formica, program coordinator with the Center for Global Programs and Studies, will travel to Italy to continue their study of the impact of climate change on human migration from African nations. In June of 2016, the pair spent two weeks talking with migrants in Italy and refugees in Greece about their stories, experiences in the camps, and their thoughts on how their situation has been handled by government authorities. During this trip, Alessandra and Lauren will build on their current research with a focus on environmental degradation as droughts, lack of clean water, and a scarcity of resources have helped create the current migration crisis.