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Faculty Research Projects Receive Funding

By Upstate Institute on June 1, 2015

Three faculty-proposed research projects on the Upstate New York region will be funded by the Upstate Institute in the coming year.  These funded projects will promote community collaboration and civic engagement through the creation of knowledge and enhance community capacity throughout the region. Each year, the Upstate Institute chooses projects to fund in order to promote scholarly research that relates to the region’s social, economic, environmental, and cultural assets. Faculty receiving a research award share their research at the annual Upstate Institute Research Symposium.

James “Eddie” Watkins Jr, Associate Professor of Biology, will conduct research on the origins of the American Harts Tongue Fern.  This fern is found in Upstate New York, and only a few other places outside of Europe. Because there are fewer than 4,000 plants in nature, the fern is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as federally threatened, and it is one of only a handful of New York plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. While the Upstate region is the center of diversity for this fern, the species is experiencing widespread decline in the state. Watkins’ research will examine threats to this fern from various invasive species, and will allow other biologists to better understand the reasons for the species’ decline in the region.

Tim McCay, Professor of Biology and Environmental Sciences, will receive funding for his project, “Distribution and Habitat of a Native Earthworm, Eisenoides lonnbergi, in Upstate New York.” The majority of earthworm species in northern North America are not native to North America, and many species (including the common night crawler Lumbricus terrestris), were transplanted to North America in dry shipping ballast or in soil included with imported plants.  Although earthworms are well known for their positive role as decomposers of plant litter in agricultural systems, they can have negative effects on ecosystems in which they did not evolve. Central New York happens to coincide with the approximate northern boundary of native earthworm recolonization following glacial retreat. In McCay’s previous research in Madison and Chenango counties, he discovered two native species of earthworms in the area– alongside 13 exotic taxa from Europe and Asia. With this project, McCay will explore the distribution and habitat associations of Eisenoides lonnbergi in upstate New York in order to provide land managers and state wildlife biologists with information they need to incorporate the needs of this species into management plans and determine whether legal protection of this species and its habitat are warranted.

Jacob Mundy, Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, and Valerie Morkevicius, Assistant Professor of Political Science, are planning to organize a public symposium in the coming year on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” in Upsate New York, with funding from the Upstate Institute. The event will bring together experts who can speak to the nature of drone warfare, as well as community stakeholders who can bring their own lived expertise to the conversation. The federal government’s desire to increased the range and precision of counterterrorism targeting programs with drones means that drones are often operated from bases inside the United States, including Hancock Air Force Base near Syracuse. While there is already a rich debate over the effects of drone warfare on the areas it targets, the implications of drone warfare for communities that host such programs is poorly understood. Participants in this symposium will collectively explore the significant yet unexplored consequences of drone warfare on those who are exposed to it and those who wage it.

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