Seed grants helping to grow Virginia Tech’s transdisciplinary capacities, contributions

Congratulations to several GCC faculty affiliates collaborating on transdisciplinary teams across campus!


Virginia Tech’s transdisciplinary communities, including several Destination Areas (DA), Strategic Growth Areas (SGA), and research institutes, have provided seed grants to eight research teams in an effort to foster collaborative work throughout the campus.

These grant awards are designed to enhance the competitiveness for defined external support in areas that address issues related to rural health (e.g., socio-economic, environmental, health needs of rural populations) and infectious disease.

Transdisciplinary communities at Virginia Tech are composed of faculty, staff, and students working collaboratively to address complex problems that impact the human condition. Teams are working across disciplinary boundaries to address challenges in areas such as rural health, infectious disease, coastal mitigation and security.

Grants totaling $130,000 were recently awarded to research teams that included a number of DA and SGA cluster hires, and other junior and senior researchers. In addition to the funding, recipients will have an opportunity to participate in workshops during the spring semester that offer an opportunity to further build and leverage their transdisciplinary capacities. Awardees will also have an opportunity to present their preliminary findings and plans for securing additional funding at an open symposium planned for May 2019.

Teams receiving seed grants and the research they are engaged in to address issues in rural health are as follows:


Ecology and Geography of a Prion Disease in Virginia

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an infectious disease of wildlife. CWD is part of the group of prion diseases which are caused by a proteinaceous infectious agent termed prion. In this project, the team will determine which landscape conditions and deer densities are more suitable for CWD infection and where these conditions are present in Virginia. This information will be crucial to inform surveillance plans, advancing the status quo of prion monitoring and will help justify landscape modification to reduce CWD transmission in Virginia and globally.

  • Luis Escobar (PI), Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
  • Emmanuel Frimpong, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
  • Steven Winter (Graduate Student)
  • Joy Flowers (Undergraduate Student), Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
  • Megan Kirchgessner, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
  • Jens-Christian Svenning, Department of Bioscience Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World, Aarhus University


Public Inspired Science for a Healthy Exposome in Rural Environments

This project will aim to reduce disparities in water and foodborne exposures to contaminants of concern in order to improve rural quality of life while ensuring ecosystem security. Rural food and water systems will be examined within an exposome framework, a new holistic approach used to evaluate microbial and chemical aspects of water and food quality affected by anthropogenic activities, their interrelationships, and combined risks to human health.

  • Leigh Anne Krometis (PI), Biological Systems Engineering
  • Susan Clark, Horticulture
  • Marc Edwards, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Ellen Gilliland, Mining and Minerals Engineering
  • Korine Kolivras, Geography
  • Amy Pruden, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Nino Ripepi, Mining and Minerals Engineering
  • Kang Xia, Soil, Crop, Environmental Science


The effects of temperature on bat fungal disease dynamics

This research merges cutting-edge mathematical modeling approaches with empirical data collection to address questions central to the intersection of Global Systems Science and Data and Decisions. This team will use a combination of laboratory techniques and novel mathematical modeling approaches to understand how temperature influences the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of bat white-nose syndrome. The team will use these data to motivate future work exploring the effect of temperature on pathogen replication and host behavior across emerging and endemic disease scales.

  • Kate Langwig (PI), Biological Sciences
  • Leah Johnson, Statistics
  • Lisa Belden, Biological Science
  • Joseph Hoyt, Biological Sciences
  • Steffany Yamada, Langwig Lab
  • Team of undergraduate Virginia Tech researchers


View the full article with all awarded teams.