July 28, 2014

Message from the Director

June 5, 2012

The Brown-MBL Partnership is thriving and continues to expand as faculty develop new research projects, take on new graduate students, and incorporate Brown-MBL students into their research programs.

Our IGERT and PIRE graduate training grants are in full swing. These programs, in reverse ecology and African agriculture, cut across multiple departments at Brown and the Bay Paul and Ecosystems Centers at MBL. The IGERT project addresses the question at the boundary of genomics and ecosystem science—how does the make-up of microbial communities influence key ecosystem processes such as sediment recycling of mineral nitrogen cycling or the production of methane. The PIRE tries to evaluate how a rapid increase in the amount of fertilizer in African agriculture can help farmers but at the same time lead to environmental problems. Four Brown-MBL IGERT and PIRE students are now developing doctoral research projects advised by combinations of Brown and MBL scientists.

The Partnership now hosts 20 PhD students. They continue to do innovative and exciting science. Shelby Hayhoe-Riskin was the latest to defend her dissertation, on May 30. Shelby compared multiple small watersheds in forest and in soybean fields to understand how the expansion of soybean agriculture in the Amazon is affecting both the amount of water that runs off into streams and the export of soil nutrients in streamwater.

The Partnership also involves a growing number of undergraduates. A record ten Brown undergraduate students are working in MBL laboratories and on MBL projects this summer, including two Beckman Foundation scholars. The Partnership also helps to support two post-doctoral scholars who work on joint Brown-MBL research projects in microbial ecology and tropical biogeochemistry and a third will arrive at the end of the summer. MBL and Brown faculty collaborated to teach eight new courses since 2010.

The common denominator in all of this work is that the collaboration across MBL and Brown, in teaching and research, allows scientists to tackle problems in innovative ways and to break new scientific ground that would not be possible at one institution alone.

Managing the biosphere and safeguarding human health in the face of accelerating environmental change will take new ways of thinking about problems across disciplines, new analytical tools brought to bear on big questions, and new ways of collaborating across the US and across the nations of the world. Partnership students and research projects are rising to those challenges.

Christopher Neill, Director
Brown MBL Partnership