Announcing the 2022 AIR Resilience Grants Recipients

Nov. 1, 2021
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On October 28, 2021, the Arizona Institutes for Resilience (AIR) awarded Resilience Grants totaling nearly $400,000 to seven teams representing six UArizona colleges and 10 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 through Arizona sales tax revenues.

AIR’s call for Resilience Grant proposals brought in 23 unique submissions for projects 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 projects were also selected for their potential to bring new external funding to UArizona as a result of this work, and for training opportunities for students and/or community members.

The awardees’ projects ranged from building Indigenous resilience to vegetation’s role in mitigating climate change to borderlands river restoration to housing decisions related to disaster risk.

A project led by Elise Gornish in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, “Testing Media Lunas—a Cheap Technologically Simple Approach to Enhancing Soil Health and Resilience on Arizona Rangelands,” will test the effectiveness of easily constructed, half-moon-shaped, low-lying rock structures known as media lunas for managing dryland erosion.

The team will collaborate with a local conservation alliance to install media lunas of different sizes and examine the tradeoffs between labor efforts in constructing them (smaller ones are easier to build) and effectiveness in retaining soil water and nutrients in the soil. Their findings will be shared in a field trip and workshop with local rangeland managers and will provide preliminary data for USDA, NSF, and other grant opportunities.

Another awarded project, “Climate-Health Resilience Through Physician Education,” led by Julia Jernberg in the Department of Medicine, will “develop evidence-based portable learning modules focused on the climate effects upon health that can be used in both community and academic clinical training settings.”

The modules and an accompanying guide, developed in partnership with colleagues from the College of Public Health and Maricopa County Health Department, will be targeted to medical clinicians, who are front-line workers for climate-related illnesses but receive minimal exposure to climate education. While medical students and their supervising physicians will benefit from this project, according to the proposal abstract, “Because older and disadvantaged people are most vulnerable to heat- and environment-related injuries, these are the populations that will benefit the most.” The modules will be used as a basis for targeting several federal and private funding opportunities. 

Taking a community training approach to improve management of mesquite habitats, “Mesquite Artisan Training for Climate-Resilient Management of Mesquite Savannas and Woodlands in Southwestern Arizona: Creating Jobs for a Restoration Economy,” a project led by Gary Nabhan in the Southwest Center, will create training centers for underemployed residents of southern Arizona border counties and the Tohono O’odham reservation to learn to manage rangeland mesquites to reduce wildfire and flood risk while yielding healthier trees and habitat and marketable mesquite products.

The proposal abstract states that along with the training, “three mesquite habitats that have been pruned and supplemented with harvested rainwater will be compared with three controls to evaluate their capacity to sequester more carbon, yield more pods and honey, and serve as habitat for both wildlife and livestock during drought and heat waves.” This pilot training center is envisioned to serve as a model throughout the region for creating clean energy jobs and involving youth and underemployed residents in combating climate change.

With the funding from AIR, all seven funded projects will bring solutions to Arizona communities to help build resilience in the face of global climate change. They are all scheduled to be completed by the end of summer 2022.

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