With $500,000 in funding from the OVPR Interdisciplinary Scholars awards program, an interdisciplinary team will start work on a new project at the intersection of climate, the environment, and health. The award is sponsored by the Research Development Office within the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The project team includes researchers from the College of Public Health, Carver College of Medicine, and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Hans-Joachim Lehmler, professor of occupational and environmental health and director of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, leads the project.

“The Interdisciplinary Scholars program is a useful tool for fostering cross-collegiate, interdisciplinary research within the University,” said Aaron Kline, director of the Research Development Office. “Interdisciplinary approaches push the boundaries of scientific research and are vital for finding solutions to ever-pressing societal challenges. These awards provide our researchers a mechanism for ambitiously catalyzing and/or coalescing campus researchers to undertake societally impactful research together.”

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The team will investigate the effect of the diverse environmental stressors affected by climate change on the unique health challenges of rural people.

“Climate change compounds existing environmental health challenges and disparities facing rural populations,” said Lehmler.

Through recruitment and mentorship, the team will assemble a diverse group of scientists interested in climate change and health research. Together, they will establish an administrative structure to advance and assess thematic activities, integrate data, and translate research knowledge toward improving health in Iowa and the nation.

The project’s leadership team includes:

  • Lori Adams, associate professor of instruction, Department of Biology
  • Josep Comeron, professor, Department of Biology
  • Hans-Joachim Lehmler, professor, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Veena Prahlad, associate professor, Department of Biology
  • Donna Santillan, research associate professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Mark Santillan, associate professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

“In the last few months, the northern hemisphere has been baking under unprecedented heat,” said Kline. “This award is an important, and timely, investment in research aimed at identifying evidence-based solutions for addressing health outcomes associated with unprecedented climate events such as extreme heat,” says Kline. “I’m excited that we are able to provide support to these types of impactful projects that seek solutions to 21st Century societal challenges.”

“Funding for this initiative was made possible through the University’s utility public-private partnership (P3),” said Marty Scholtz, vice president for research. “This program helps sustain growth in the research enterprise through strategic investments, while at the same time strengthening the University’s reputation as a destination for research and scholarship.”

The Interdisciplinary Scholars program is part of the OVPR’s Seeding Excellence Initiative (SEI), a two-year program that provides competitive pilot funding in four strategic areas: 1) community engaged research and scholarship, 2) diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), 3) early career scholars, and 4) interdisciplinary research. 

Another call for proposals for the OVPR Interdisciplinary Scholars program will be announced no later than September 1, 2022. The request for proposals will also focus on the climate-environment-health nexus. The maximum award amount will be $100,000.