Environment Initiative Grants

Georgetown Environment Initiative Impact Program Fall 2015 

The Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI) is excited to announce our awards for the Fall 2015 cycle of the Georgetown Environment Initiative Impact Program.  GEI supports and connects faculty and staff across Georgetown’s campuses – from business, foreign service, the humanities, law, medicine, public policy, the sciences, and the social sciences – as they contribute Georgetown’s scholarship to the Earth’s stewardship.  Through the GEI Impact Program, we seed new directions and new collaborations for environmental research, seminar series, educational programs, and outreach programs that show significant potential for attracting external financial support for their future expansion.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)–Georgetown Law Global Environment & Sustainability Law Fellows Program

Peter Byrne, Law Center
Edith Brown Weiss, Law Center
Sara Colangelo, Law Center
Joanna Lewis, STIA
Mark Giordano, STIA

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)–Georgetown Law Fellowship will give public sector lawyers in Africa or in other developing countries an opportunity to earn an LL.M. in environmental law at Georgetown Law. The program commences a unique international collaboration between UNEP and Georgetown Law to strengthen the environmental capacity of lawyers from developing countries. Lawyers selected for the program will take courses in residence at Georgetown Law’s campus in Washington, D.C., engage in research, and gain practical experience in the practice of environmental law. The fellows will also engage collaboratively in Georgetown’s Science Technology and International Affairs (STIA) program in the School of Foreign Service. The fellowship will cover the full cost of tuition, travel and provide a modest stipend for living expenses.  The program will welcome fellows beginning in the summer of 2017.


“Georgetown Law is thrilled to be partnering with UNEP in making its world class environmental law program available to African lawyers in the public sector, who will be addressing many of the planet’s most challenging ecological and resource problems,” said Dean William Treanor.  


Additional information about Georgetown Law’s Environmental Law program can be found at http://law.georgetown.edu/academics/academic-programs/graduate-programs/degree-programs/environmental/index.cfm.


Establishing the Climate History Network at Georgetown University
Dagomar Degroot, Department of History

Support provided by the GEI Impact Program has brought the Climate History Network (CHN) to Georgetown. Co-founded by environmental history professors Dagomar Degroot (Georgetown) and Sam White (OSU), the CHN is an organization of scholars who reconstruct past climate changes and connect those changes to events in human history. This interdisciplinary scholarship can reveal how modern climates are shifting relative to past climatic averages, and suggest adaptive strategies that might work – or fail – on a warming planet.

The CHN has more than 150 members on five continents, and its websites – ClimateHistory.net and HistoricalClimatology.com – together receive approximately 200,000 hits per year. The sites provide extensive, freely accessible resources for academics, policymakers, and the general public. GEI support will help the CHN connect scholars of past climate change in ways that will expand the frontiers of climate history. It will fund annual Climate History Workshops at Georgetown, in which internationally renowned scholars provide practical instruction on the fundamentals of a technique they use in their research. It will also fund a major Conflict and Climate Change Conference. Academics and military professionals will explore how past, present, and projected climate change has influenced, and may influence, the origins and conduct of wars around the world. The conference will result in an edited manuscript that will be the first dedicated to connections between climate change and conflict from the deep past to the future.


GEI Case Studies in Environmental Policy
Arik Levinson, Department of Economics

This project develops a quantitative case study focused on a current environmental issue and designed to be used by masters students, public policy students, and upper-level undergraduates. The material for the case study will be derived almost entirely from one of the Regulatory Impact Analyses (“RIAs”) that federal agencies complete to comply with Executive Orders 13563 and 12866 for rulemakings that are “economically significant.” These RIAs are massive documents, hundreds or thousands of pages long, with enormous detail about the environmental and economic costs and benefits of the proposed regulations. The case study will distill the RIA into 25 or 30 pages of key material that can be used to inform classroom discussions. After reading the case study, students will first write a two-page policy memo to the relevant decision-maker suggesting a course of action and then meet as a class and debate the various proposals.


Climate hindcasting and forecasting: building infrastructure to make rigorous predictions about how systems will respond to global climate change
Leslie Ries, Department of Biology

Global climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our society today.  In order to support policies to combat climate change, we need to be able to understand how systems will respond to a changing climate and how much certainty we have in those predictions.  With the support of the GEI Impact Grant, we will support two activities:  1) convening a workshop for Georgetown faculty and a network of outside researchers whose work relies on understanding global climate models and connect those researchers both within and outside the university and 2) use global climate models to predict how the iconic migratory monarch butterfly will respond to projected changes in climate.  The models focused on monarch responses to climate will combine two key sources of uncertainty:  uncertainty relative to the predictions of climate models and uncertainty relative to our ability to predict how monarch populations respond to different climate profiles.  In advancing these efforts, we will begin to build the infrastructure necessary to leverage global climate models to help understand environmental change, a resource that may be widely useful within the Georgetown community.  These efforts will be led by Naresh Neupane, a postdoctoral researcher in Leslie Ries' lab.


Iron(0) Nanoparticles in Polysiloxane Matrixes for Remediation of Chlorinated Pollutants in Water Supplies
Richard G. Weiss, Department of Chemistry

Used for many industrial applications, chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as trichloroethylene (TCE), have infiltrated and are polluting surface and subterranean water supplies in the US and around the world. Exposure to TCE affects the central nervous, immune, and endocrine systems of humans and other mammals.  Efforts to mitigate the threats posed by chlorinated hydrocarbons, although ongoing, have been thwarted by the lack of a general, simple method to detoxify them and their continued use in many industrial processes. Extensive laboratory and field studies demonstrate that iron(0) nanoparticles are effective for the transformation of a wide array of common environmental contaminants, including chlorinated hydrocarbon, into much more benign materials. The problem with their use is the lack of a good means to deliver them to the pollutants. We believe that polysiloxanes, a class of polymers that are used in even medical devices, can be the delivery agent for iron(0) nanoparticles—polysiloxanes are able to absorb very high concentrations of chlorinated hydrocarbons and are insoluble in and less dense than water (they float on it). This research seeks to produce sufficient data to determine the mechanism and efficiency of dechlorination of environmental pollutants, especially TCE, by iron(0) nanoparticles embedded in a matrix of inexpensive, environmentally benign, and easily retrievable polysiloxanes (PSil) that are easily modified for the purpose.


“We Are Skipping the Bad Stuff”: Jesuit Sustainable Livelihood Initiatives in the Highland Communities Outside Cusco, Peru
Andria Wisler, Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service
Kevin O’Brien, SJ Mission & Ministry

Now in its second year, the Magis Global Immersion Program provides eight Georgetown faculty and staff participants an opportunity to investigate and reflect on the meaning of work and life at Georgetown as a Catholic and Jesuit university by exploring and learning from the justice-oriented work of the Society of Jesus and its partners elsewhere in the world. This year the GEI Impact Program will enable a Georgetown faculty or staff member with research or programming expertise in environment-related issues to participate. Ray Shiu (Associate Director for the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service) and Father Joseph Lingan, SJ (Jesuit Rector at Georgetown) will co-lead the intensive ten-day program that will introduce participants to the history and impact of the Jesuit community in Peru; immerse them in the current economic, educational, and societal challenges that the country faces; and engage with efforts of local businesses, non-profit organizations, and religious communities collaborating to promote the common good in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Environment Initiative 2015 Faculty Grant Recipients

Understanding the socio-environmental drivers of disease transmission among bottlenose dolphins
Shweta Bansal, Department of Biology
*Inaugural joint Massive Data Institute-Georgetown Environment Initiative grant

Modeling species differential responses to disturbances in the Congo Basin forests
Mahlet Tadesse, Department of Mathematics

Environmentally Friendlier Chiral Syntheses - A Crystal Surface Approach
Jennifer Swift, Department of Chemistry

Cleaning Holy Waters: Toxic Tanneries and Treatment Plants on a Sacred River in India
George Shambaugh, School of Foreign Service

Creating an institutional coalition for the development and implementation of medical education curricula on the health implications of climate change
Caroline Wellbery, Department of Family Medicine

Exploring Russia’s Environmental History and Natural Resources: An International Network
Catherine Evtuhov, Department of History

Environmental metals and nuclear receptors
Elena Silva, Department of Biology


Information on Environment Initiative Grants

2014 Grants

2013 Grants

2012 Grants