Texas Tech University

Davis College launches new Grand Challenges Catalyst Grant Program

Norman Martin

June 28, 2023

Administration leaders with Texas Tech University's Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources took a moment this week to recognize an important and innovative line of new research within the college. Known as the Grand Challenges Catalyst Grant Program, the effort is made possible through a generous contribution from Gordon W. Davis, a longtime supporter and former faculty member within the Davis College Department of Animal & Food Sciences.

In 2022, Davis and his wife, Joyce, gave a $44 million donation to the college, which represented the single largest philanthropic donation to Texas Tech in school history and one of the largest investments in people and programs in an agricultural college in the U.S. College officials utilized some of that money to create the new competitive grant program aimed at addressing critical challenges faced by the region, state and nation. It is divided into two components.

One, a catalyst grant program focused on identifying multi-year and multi-disciplinary research programs that addressed grand challenges in a scientific, systematic way. The second is a planning grant program where smaller, one-year programs foster creation of new research teams, collect preliminary data, and aid in the preparation of larger grants for external funding in the near future.

“The Gordon Davis contribution is critical to the future of our college,” said Clint Krehbiel, Dean of the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. “The program offers Davis College faculty the opportunity to pursue regionally important research, build innovative and dynamic research capacity across the college through integrated, multi-disciplinary teams, and provide momentum for the college to reach for aspirational strategic objectives that will place Davis College at the top of colleges of agriculture and natural resources nationally.”

“I'm grateful to each PI and collaborator, whether funded or not, who took the time to think broadly and boldly about making a positive impact on the future of agriculture, natural resources, and landscapes,” Krehbiel added.

This inaugural year there were eight catalyst grant proposals submitted and nine planning grants submitted, with three catalyst grants and five planning grants ultimately funded based on reviews and availability of funds.

Six members of the Davis College Advisory Committee reviewed the proposals and provided feedback to the leadership team. For catalyst grants, the primary focus for review was on the significance of the proposed project and its potential to provide measurable evidence of impact in scholarship of teaching, research, and/or outreach and engagement.

Other considerations were the quality and feasibility of the proposed plan of work, along with the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration involving multiple segments of the university (e.g., faculty, staff, and students) among other criteria. Planning grants were evaluated with more of a focus on the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration involving multiple segments of the university (e.g., faculty, staff, and students).

“This grant program highlights some of our premier researchers in broad areas and is building capacity and programs from our up-and-coming stars in research across the college,” said Darren Hudson, Davis College's Interim Associate Dean for Research. “The planning grants program has real promise to tap some research potential that is innovative and will allow our faculty to build new teams to maximize the problem-solving potential of our research programs for issues that are emerging and critical for our college and Texas Tech.”

Among the funded projects were:

Catalyst Grants

I Love West Texas: Assessing the Needs of Rural Communities, their Perceptions, and Challenges Across the South Plains. PIs: Jason Headrick and Erica Irlbeck, Agricultural Education & Communications, along with Kelly Williams and Ryan Williams from the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine

A collaborative trans-disciplinary network for exploring novel ideas and developing next generation workforce for water conservation. PIs: Krishna Jagadish, Joey Young, Sanjit Deb, Glen Ritchie, Rupinder Saini, and Impa Somayanda, Plant & Soil Sciences; Aaron Norris, Cade Coldren and Caitlyn Cooper-Norris, Natural Resource Management; Whitney Crossland, Animal & Food Sciences; Donna McCallister, Agricultural & Applied Economics; Amy Boren-Alpizar and Rudy Ritz, Agricultural Education & Communications; Muntazar Monsur, Landscape Architecture

Advancing biodiversity research to support trans-disciplinary conservation innovation in Texas' ecosystems. PIs: Scott Longing and Brenden Kelly, Plant & Soil Sciences; Nancy McIntyre, Biological Sciences; Amanda Laubmeier, Mathematics & Statistics; Aaron Pan, Texas Tech Museum

Planning Grants

Davis XR (Extended Reality) Innovation Center: Envisioning A High-Tech Facility to Advance Transdisciplinary Collaborations in Davis CASNR and Beyond. PIs: Muntazar Monsur, Daniel Phillips, and Cade Cook, Landscape Architecture; Modhurima Amin and Syed Badrudozza, Agricultural & Applied Economics; Angela Shaw, Animal & Food Sciences; Courtney Meyers, Agricultural Education & Communications; Scott Collins, Natural Resource Management; Catherine Simpson & Krishna Jagadish, Plant & Soil Sciences

A Transdisciplinary Study of Agronomic Biofortification of Vegetables. PIs: Carlos Carpio, Agricultural & Applied Economics; Catherine Simpson, Plant & Soil Sciences; Leslie Thompson, Animal & Food Sciences

Math and Ecology Synthesis for Agriculture (MESA) Network. PIs: Matthew Barnes, Natural Resource Management; Amanda Laubmeier and Angela Peace, Mathematics & Statistics; Nicholas Smith, Biological Sciences

Flight for Survival: A Bold Leap Towards the Revitalization of North America's Aerial Insectivores through Interdisciplinary Outdoor Education, Outreach, and Engagement. PIs: Blake Grisham, Natural Resource Management; Jerod Foster, College of Media & Communications; Lindsay Kennedy, Department of Agricultural Education & Communications; Gina Childers, College of Education

Investigating Opportunities for a Community-Based Service-Learning and Outreach Center in the Texas Tech Department of Landscape Architecture. PIs: Jared Horsford, Leehu Loon, and Kathryn Nelson, Department of Landscape Architecture

Other proposals were:

Catalyst Proposals

The Mesquite Mile: Catalyzing Urban-Rural Resilience in Semi-arid Regions Through Tactical Urban Afforestation and Green Stormwater Infrastructure. PIs: Daniel Phillips, Landscape Architecture; Travis Neal, School of Art, Daniel Hirmas and Scott Longing, Plant & Soil Sciences

Addressing bovine leukemia virus prevalence in Texas and novel mechanisms of immune dysfunction in infected dairy cows. PIs: Oscar Benitez, Michael Ballou, and Clarissa Streider-Barbossa, Veterinary Sciences; Awosile Babafela, School of Veterinary Medicine; Dale Woerner & Tate Kendrick, Animal & Food Sciences

Integrating UAV and Satellite Remote Sensing for Enhanced Climate Resilience in Agroecosystems: Towards Climate-Smart Agriculture, Biodiversity Conservation, and Fire Risk Mitigation. PIs: Nathan Gill and Carlos Portillo, Natural Resource Management; Wenxuan Gou, Plant & Soil Sciences

Examining the Impact of Dollar Store Expansion on Over-the-Counter Medication Purchases Via Deep Learning and Virtual Reality Experiments. PIs: Modhurim Amin and Syed Badrudozza, Agricultural & Applied Economics; Muntazar Monsur, Landscape Architecture

Understanding the contributory role of phenotypic plasticity and genetic adaptation in the ecology and invasiveness of silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium). PIs: Rosalyn Shim, Plant & Soil Sciences; Cade Coldren, Natural Resource Management

Planning Proposals:

Fundraising Initiative for a modern cattle feeding system and world class sustainable feedlot research facility at the TTU New Deal farm. PIs: Ryan Rathman, Brad Johnson, Jhones Saturi, Whitney Crossland, Kristen Hales, Dale Woerner & Chance Brooks, Department of Animal & Food Sciences

Graduate Certificate in Career & Technical Education Program Leadership and Administration. PIs: John Rayfield, Agricultural Education & Communications; Karen Alexander, Family & Consumer Science

Building resilient communities through positive youth development and agricultural education. PIs: Amy Boren-Aplizar, Agricultural Education & Communications; Paulina Velez and Sara Dodd, College of Human Sciences

Dual Credit Courses in Agriculture Through Davis College for High Plains Students. Chelsea Hatch and Rudy Ritz, Agricultural Education & Communications


This story was first published in the Davis College NewsCenter. See the original article here.