In addition to research carried out in our four constituent departments, the Institute sponsors interdisciplinary research spanning several departments.
Mathematical modeling to study how to sustainably manage our environment and ecological systems, using methods from theoretical ecology and environmental and resource economics
Using optimization models to determine how to cost-effectively restore or conserve ecosystems.
Insect reproduction; pest control without pesticides by manipulating crops, biological control, releasing sterile males
co-evolution of defense mechanisms in plants and their insect herbivores
improving pollination efficiency by manipulating honey bee behavior; conservation of native bees
symbiosis between insects and microorganisms; honey bee decision making; molecular mechanism of aging
insects as bio-indicators for global climate change; molecular basis of insect olfaction
genetic manipulation of agricultural pests and vectors of disease
Environmental Economics and Management
Environmental economics - valuation of ecosystem services and health damage; spatial analyses of waste management; economic viability of biological pest control; optimal means for preserving biodiversity; and water reclamation and ruse and environmental regulations.
Natural resource economics – conceptual and empirical models for optimal management in the water, waste and energy sectors; estimating demand and supply of natural commodities and inputs; and assessing the lobbying power of interest groups in relation to resource regulations.
Risk and decision-making under uncertainty – estimation of risk aversion and moral hazard; insurance mechanisms in agricultural systems; hazards associated with extraction of natural resources; social effects of risk perception and risk taking; experiential learning; risk-reducing marketing tools.
Macroeconomics and development – assessment of links between inequality and growth; inflation and price variability; globalization effects on labor markets in developing countries; impacts of natural resource discovery in federal regimes; decomposition of inequality indices.
Tourism management and sharing economy – trust and reputation in the sharing economy; the link between agriculture, tourism and the optimal size for rural tourism villages; price premium in the online hotel market; measures of the recreational value of agricultural landscape.
Plant Pathology and Microbiology
Microbial activities strongly influence agricultural production, the health of the natural environment, and the interplay between them. The department studies:
How pathogenic microorganisms attack plants; how plants defend themselves, how microorganisms help them help themselves against pathogens and how they survive on plant surfaces.
How microbial communities assemble and work to provide beneficial or detrimental outputs, how specific microbial players function to affect processes affecting plant health or wastewater purification and organic waste degradation.
How these processes are affected by microbe-microbe interactions like cell-cell communication to create coordinated responses, how bacteria and fungi fight each other with molecular weapons or prey on each other.
How fungi and bacteria grow, their genetics, physiology and the molecular mechanisms controlling them, using high throughput sequencing and –omics approaches, bioinformatics, high-end microscopy and mathematical modeling
Soil and Water Sciences
Soil physics and hydrology studies physical, hydraulic and thermal properties and processes in soil, addressing the dynamics of physical soil components in all phases. Specific studies include physical properties and processes of soils, water movement and retention, irrigation, soil structure and aggregation, solute transport, spatial variability of properties and processes, evapotranspiration, and mathematical modeling of water and solute transport.
Soil chemistry deals with the chemical composition, chemical properties, and chemical reactions of soils, including the chemical interactions between all soil components: nutrients, minerals, water, organic matter and gas. Chemical reactions between the soil solids and the soil solution influence both plant growth and water quality. We study the impact of inorganic and organic contaminants in water and soil on plant, animal, and human health; and the treatment, quality and impact of reclaimed water used for irrigation.