Image courtesy Dr. Jane Southworth.
Image courtesy Dr. Jane Southworth.

The Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant of $1.6 million to  study the impacts of land transactions and investments on agricultural production, ecosystem services, and food-energy security in Ethiopia.

Dr. Jane Southworth, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of Florida is leading the project in collaboration with Dr. Arun Agrawal and Dr. Daniel Brown from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan.

The grant will provide the resources to study the economic, social, and environmental impacts of large-scale land transactions in the African nation of Ethiopia—a region that has witnessed thousands of land transactions, or “land grabs,” which allow foreign investors, including those from the United States, to develop large-scale farms. The research will focus in particular on the outcomes of the investments on agricultural, ecological, and food and energy security. The project will generate new data that will be available for use by other scholars and researchers, build greater research capacity among international collaborators, and produce findings that will support decision making by government agencies, NGOs, and donor organizations.

“This work is vital in our understanding of how international development affects those regional environments and communities especially vulnerable to external control of their resources,” Said Dr. Arun Agrawal. “Our research will provide information that can contribute in real ways to policy decisions that produce more sustainable outcomes.”

“We are using a combination of satellite images, ecological field work, and social surveys to identify when large-scale land transactions generate positive versus negative outcomes,” said Dr. Jane Southworth. “We hope to discover generalizable knowledge about the impacts of land tenure changes on farm-level processes, ecological dynamics, and community well-being to help inform future land use policies.”

“It’s exciting to conduct this study in a region where our findings have the potential to make a real impact,” said Dr. Dan Brown, “ and I am pleased that the importance of this research is recognized by NSF, and in addition, a similar project previously awarded funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).”


The start date of the CNH grant is September 2016, with an estimated end date of August 31, 2020.

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Hurricane Matthew. Image courtesy WikiMedia Commons.

Hurricane Matthew’s near miss of Florida may result in more widespread damage than a direct hit – according to UF’s Dr. Corene Matyas – who was quoted in an October 7th Tampa Bay Times article. Dr. Matyas’ National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research focuses on rainfall from tropical cyclones.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

“But Florida’s near miss may simply have spread the damage and flooding over a wider swath of the state than a direct hit, warned Corene Matyas, a UF associate professor of geography who investigates the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

Matthew knuckled along the coast for hundreds of miles, increasing the areas exposed to tropical storm-force winds, storm surge and rainfall, she said.

“The complete picture of damage has yet to emerge,” she said.

Dr. Matyas clarifies that the “Hurricane Matthew tracking parallel to the coast has increased the areas exposed to tropical storm-force winds and water rise from storm surge and wave energy, plus rainfall.”

Read the entire article at the Tampa Bay Times.

Ryan Lab Fall 2016. Image courtesy Dr. Sadie Ryan.
Ryan Lab Fall 2016. Image courtesy Dr. Sadie Ryan.

This summer, Geography’s Ryan Lab and the Emerging Pathogens Institute were proud to host Lauren Fregosi as a summer research intern working on Dr. Sadie Ryan‘s National Science Foundation’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (NSF EEID) grant. The internship, which was offered through the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, was focused on modelling approaches on the effects of climate, land use, and socioeconomic conditions on vector-borne disease transmission.

Ms. Fregosi is a native of Long Island’s south shore, and is a rising senior at Syracuse University (class of 2017), pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology, with a minor in Applied Statistics, and conducting research at SU’s Falk School of Public Health. She was excited to work with the Ryan Lab because of her passionate interest in vectorborne disease control. This work built on her existing experience working on a project analyzing biting rates of different mosquito species and urbanization in Ecuador, at the Falk School of Public Health. Fregosi has enjoyed learning multiple strategies for organizing, analyzing, and describing datasets, in R, developing models in both R and GARP, and becoming well versed with GIS, and ArcGIS model builder.

When not polishing her GIS skills, Ms. Fregosi donates her free time volunteering at Syracuse’s Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital and Habitat for Humanity. She also organizes phlanthropic activities, community projects, and fundraisers for her sorority.

The Department of Geography thanks Lauren for all of her hard work this summer, and wishes her luck in her continued studies!

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Aedes Aegypti mosquito, jentavery, (CC BY 2.0)

GAINESVILLE, Florida — Dr. Sadie Ryan (Assistant Professor of Medical Geography in the Department of Geography and UF’s Emerging Pathogen Institute) and colleagues, have just received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program rapid response, or RAPID grant to study the socio-ecology and climate responses of Zika virus transmission by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in southern coastal Ecuador. By analyzing blood samples, deploying climate sensors, and conducting socio-ecological surveys, the researchers will gain insight into the spread of Zika as climate, altitude and socioeconomic levels change.

The research team has extensive experience studying vector-borne illness in Ecuador. Lab work will be based at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE), which was recently ranked as Ecuador’s top research institution in Nature Publishing Group’s 2016 Annual Index.

The collaborative research team includes experts in epidemiology, public health, ecology, entomology, mathematical modeling, and geography: co-principal investigator Sadie Ryan (University of Florida), lead investigator Anna Stewart Ibarra (SUNY Upstate Medical University), co-principal investigator Marco Neira (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE)), and Timothy Endy (SUNY Upstate Medical University). The work expands upon Dr. Ryan’s prior work with the Center for Global Health & Translational Science at SUNY-Upstate Medical University.