Harvard Salata Institute Seed Grant Program Funds 27 Climate Research Projects


The Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability is funding a new cohort of eight research projects through its Seed Grant Program, joining 19 other Harvard-based projects that have received funding this academic year.

The Seed Grant Program, supported by a gift from The Troper Wojcicki Foundation, funds up to $25,000 per project for early-stage sustainability research. The program has granted a total of $625,000 in funds across three cohorts of projects.

Salata Institute Director James H. Stock, who is also Harvard’s vice provost for climate and sustainability, wrote that the Seed Grant program prioritized projects that use novel or interdisciplinary approaches to combat climate change.

“Climate change is an all-hands-on-deck problem,” he wrote. “The Salata Institute’s Seed Grant Program encourages all Harvard faculty, even those who do not traditionally work on climate or sustainability topics, to explore nascent ideas that could develop into solutions.”


Both the third cohort, announced last week, and the second cohort, released in late February, highlighted projects covering a wide range of topics, including air captures, vegetation carbon stocks, food supplies, and climate migration.

One of the projects from the second cohort involves creating windows using materials that mimic animal skin.

According to Raphael M. Kay, a Ph.D. student who is working on the project, the researchers were inspired by the ability of animal skin to regulate internal temperature by reflecting, absorbing, and transmitting heat.

“Instead of doing all this climate control internally, what if we take a page out of biology’s book, if we look at biological organisms that all have all these really interesting ways of controlling heat and light directly at their skin?” Kay said.

“If we could rethink how we curate indoor climates, there’s a lot of potential to alleviate global warming stress,” he said.

Another project funded in the second cohort focuses on the relationship between increased emergency room usage and the activity of peaker power plants, which are typically located in lower-income regions and only turn on during peak energy demand time.

According to the project’s principal investigator, Harvard Medical School professor Ann-Christine Duhaime, their research may reveal that the health impacts of peaker power plants outweigh their benefits — a finding which she said has implications for renewable energy policy.

One project from the third cohort, led by Harvard Law School professor Gerald L. Neuman, focuses on African voices in international climate arbitration and justice courts.

Neumann’s team held a conference featuring academics, policymakers, and diplomats to “discuss a variety of these issues, to see what the common positions are, to see what refinements could be made, and to see where disagreements were among them.”

Another project, led by Harvard Graduate School of Design professor Hannah M. Teicher, is focused on climate migration. Though climate migration is increasing, “international legal frameworks have not at all kept up with that,” according to Teicher.

The pilot study, involving interviews with Solomon Islanders migrating to Canada, will provide much-needed data, she said.

“We need to figure out internationally how we can actually deal with this, and so this is an opportunity to get real lessons on the ground to then inform policy at multiple scales,” she said.

Teicher and the other principal investigators of these projects said they were grateful for the grant, which will enable them to scale up their projects.

“I really do see it as a seed because there's so much room to grow from here,” Teicher said.

—Staff writer Xinni (Sunshine) Chen can be reached at Follow her on X @sunshine_cxn.

—Staff writer Christie E. Beckley can be reached at Follow her on X @cbeckley22.