CCI Interdisciplinary Seed Grants

In conjunction with the establishment of the university-wide Clemson Caribbean Initiative (CCI) in 2017, the Steering Committee organized an interdisciplinary seed grant competition to foster interdisciplinary projects relevant to the Caribbean region and provide seed funding for potential scaling up of Caribbean-relevant projects in the future.

Successful projects were expected to be responsive to the core principles of the CCI, include Clemson University faculty from two or more disciplines (drawing from the sciences, arts and humanities, and/or professional and applied fields), and highlight any aspect of Clemson University’s land grant mission -- teaching, research and scholarship, and service. Projects including reports, datasets, grant proposals, curricula, exhibits, student engagement projects, or other materials were encouraged.

A total of $50,000 in funding was provided for the CCI Interdisciplinary Seed Grants by: Clemson’s Public Service and Agriculture (PSA), Office of Global Engagement (OGE), College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS), and College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences (CECAS).

The CCI review committee met in November 2017 and has awarded funding (up to $10,000) to each of the following five projects:

  • Biofortified Legume and Cereal Cropping Systems to Increase Food Security in Haiti

    Dil Thavarajah (PI), Associate Professor, Pulse Quality and Nutrition, Plant and Environmental Sciences, Clemson University – lead legume biofortification and nutrigenomics.

    Stephen Kresovich (Co-PI), Professor, Plant Breeding and Translational Genomics, Robert and Lois Coker Trustees Chair of Genetics – lead biofortification and translational genomics.


    Mr. Ricardo St. Aime, PES, Fulbright Scholar – lead local contact and future PhD candidate.

    Dr. Elliot Jesch, Assistant Professor, Food Nutrition and Packaging Sciences – lead human nutrition and physiology.

    Dr. Pam Mack, Professor, Science, Technology and Society, Department of History – lead cultural and social awareness of food security.

    Miss. Meredith Mcswain, PES, Undergraduate Student, Extension Intern – lead “Tiger Garden” concept for Haitian communities to access more fresh vegetables.

    Dr. Robert Polomski, Extension Professor, PES – lead extension, education, and service to smallholder farmers.

    Dr. Gael Pressoir, Executive Research Director, Vice Dean Research, University of Quisqueya, Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Haiti – lead Haitian research, extension, and service activities related legume/cereal biofortification. Dr. Pressoir has a team of colleagues including cereal/legume breeders, food technologists, soil scientists, and agronomists.

    Dr. Pushparajah Thavarajah, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Food Chemistry, PES – lead food processing and utilization for food insecure communities.

    Abstract: The Republic of Haiti is the most food insecure nation in the Caribbean. Food insecurity is a persistent issue – i.e., one third of Haitians are food insecure, and half of the children and women suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition. Iron, zinc, beta-carotene, and folate deficiencies are the most prevalent micronutrient deficiencies; indeed, more than half of Haitians are anemic, stunted, and wasted at birth. Women and young children are the most vulnerable groups with respect to micronutrient malnutrition or “hidden hunger”. The University of Quisqueya is one of the leading agricultural institutes in Haiti. Their team has established breeding programs mainly for cereals (sorghum and maize) and is planning to expand to include pulses (common bean, pigeon pea, and cowpea), mainly for mountainous regions. More than 60% of Haiti’s arable land is underutilized due to deforestation, drought, and the lack of farmer support. As such, vigorous research, education, and service programs are essential to improve Haitian cropping systems with highly nutritious food crops that can be adopted into local farming systems. We propose to establish a partnership with the sorghum and Jatropha breeding team from the University of Quisqueya to introduce a value-added legume and cereal cropping system approach to combat malnutrition. The objectives of this proposed seed grant are to: (1) determine current limitations in Haitian food systems and the nutritional quality of locally available food crops; (2) establish research focus areas and recruit qualified Co-PIs; and (3) develop a USAID/WFP proposal with a transdisciplinary, inter-institutional team of research and extension professionals to improve Haitian smallholder food and nutritional security through biofortified crop production.

    Caribbean location/s impacted: Haiti

    Read the progress report for this initiative. [PDF, 2.9MB]

  • Carbon Footprint of Hurricane Maria on Caribbean Islands

    Saara J. DeWalt (PI), Forestry and Environmental Conservation (CAFLS)

    Skip Van Bloem (Co-PI), Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science (PSA)

    Stefanie Whitmire (Co-PI), Biological Sciences (College of Science)


    Daniel Imbert, Universityé des Antilles et de la Guyane on Guadeloupe

    Marzieh Motallebi, Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Baruch Institute

    Alain Rousteau, Universityé des Antilles et de la Guyane on Guadeloupe

    Tamara Heartsill-Scalley, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Puerto Rico

    Abstract: We propose a Seed Grant to investigate the carbon footprint of recent hurricanes in tropical forests in the Caribbean; to build collaborations with partners in the Caribbean; and gather preliminary data necessary for obtaining funding for future work from federal agencies. The proposed research has grown out of our own interests in the role of Caribbean forests in the global carbon budget as well as pressing questions about the economic value of carbon sequestration by regrowing forests in the Caribbean.

    We propose to estimate above-ground carbon stocks in tropical dry and wet forests of Dominica, Puerto Rico, and Guadeloupe before Hurricane Maria (HM) and estimate loss of carbon due to HM. In the next year, we will measure carbon content of 190 tree species and recensus trees in long-term research forest plots that we or our collaborators manage on the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico, and Guadeloupe to determine the hurricane's carbon footprint. The proposed work leverages research in these long-term research plots; builds a new collaboration between a community ecologist (DeWalt), forester (Van Bloem), biogeochemist (Whitmire), and eventually a natural resource economist (Motallebi) at Clemson; strengthens ties with Caribbean partners (e.g. Heartsill-Scalley, Rousteau, Imbert); and helps promote Clemson's role as a leader in forest ecology in the Caribbean. We have already been involved with an effort led by collaborator Heartsill-Scalley in Puerto Rico to share tree inventories through the Caribbean Plot Network (1). Our team is perfectly positioned to take on this work.

    Caribbean location/s impacted: Multiple Caribbean islands

    Read the progress report for this initiative. [PDF, 437KB]

  • Clemson-Cuba Research Partnership Development: Sustainable Agriculture, Tourism and Sustainability Policy

    Lauren N. Duffy (PI), Assistant Professor, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, College of Behavioral, Social, and Health Sciences, Clemson University

    Sherry Aultman, Invasive Species Program Manager and the Organic Certification Program Manager, Department of Plant Industry, Clemson University

    Will Culler, Extension Agent/ Regional Agribusiness Development Agent, Clemson University

    Lori A. Dickes, Assistant Professor, Program Director of the Masters in Public Administration Program, Assistant Director of the South Carolina Water Resources Center, Strom Thurmond Institute, Clemson University

    Kelly Ann Flynn, Associate Coordinator for the Sustainable Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management Programs, Clemson University, USDA SARE South Carolina Model State Program Assistant

    Gwynn Powell, Associate Professor, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, College of Behavioral, Social, and Health Sciences, Clemson University

    Kendra D. Stewart-Tillman, Director for Diversity

    Abstract: The heart of this grant proposal is to fund a targeted delegation of Clemson faculty, staff, and extension agents for an action-oriented program to Cuba focusing on 1) the technical exchange of sustainable agriculture practices, and 2) the development of collaborations that connect aligning research interests related to sustainable agriculture, tourism, and sustainability policy. Framing this project is an explicit acknowledgement of the wealth of knowledge that Cuba and Clemson both bring to the table regarding these areas of research and practice. The partnership will be grown as one with reciprocal exchange of information and ideas that can lead to the development of stronger communities which is why this proposal emphasizes deliverables in the form of community workshops, curriculum development, and future collaborative research projects. The funded program to Cuba will focus on meetings with potential collaborators including Cuban faculty, cooperative farmers, and tourism experts. In addition to formal meetings, time in Cuba will be spent at the Organipónico Vivero Alamar, the largest urban organic farm in Havana, which will provide three days of educational sessions coupled with experiential learning through targeted service projects.

    Caribbean location/s impacted: Cuba

  • Disaster Narratives Informing Advancements in Understanding of Interdependencies of Social Networks and Built Environment in Crisis and Recovery

    Jennifer Ogle, Ph.D. (PI) – Associate Professor; Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences

    Cameron Bushnell, Ph.D. – Associate Professor and Director of Pearce Center, Department of English, College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

    Mark Small, Ph.D. – Professor and Chair, Department of Youth, Family and Community Studies, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

    Pam Murray-Tuitte, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Glen Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences

    Abstract: This project plans to use disaster narratives from residents of the Caribbean post-hurricane season 2017 to inform recovery and rebuilding efforts by developing a better understanding of the interdependencies of social networks and the built environment. This project plans to undertake a series of group and individual interviews in the near-term aftermath of the Category 5 hurricane. Interviews within the first few months of the natural disaster will become, we suggest, a key basis for the recovery efforts on the island, functioning as social capital in the form of collective and personal narratives that recount the national tragedy, the island-wide calamity and suffering, and the efforts at salvage and rescue of homes, artifacts, and lost routines of daily life.

    Caribbean location/s impacted: Dominica

    Read the progress report for this initiative. [PDF, 71KB]

  • Training trainers for climate-resilient agriculture in Haiti

    Juan Carlos Melgar (PI), Assistant Professor of Pomology. Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. 

    Sruthi Narayanan (Co-PI), Assistant Professor of Crop Science. Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.


    Ricardo St. Aime, Graduate Student. Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. Clemson University.

    Karl Arthur Daphnis, FAO-Haiti National Operations Officer

    Maxène Desir, Dean of University of Léogâne, Haiti

    Nathanael Hishamunda, FAO-Haiti Representative

    Brian Lawrence, Graduate Student. Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. Clemson University.

    Masson’s Farmers for Integrated Development Organization

    Leoganese Development Organization

    Farmers’ Association designated by FAO

    Abstract: Haiti’s economy is based primarily on agriculture but agricultural productivity continuously faces severe climate vulnerability as a consequence of Haiti’s location in the Caribbean hurricane zone, and chronic environmental challenges including land degradation and erosion. As a result, climatic events constantly put livelihoods of farmers at risk, and adversely affect food security for the entire nation. Through this project, we propose to foster educational and research opportunities between Clemson University and rural communities in Haiti through partnerships with Haiti-FAO, the University of Léogâne in Haiti, and two producer associations. Our objectives are to carry out educational workshops at local communities using a Farmer Field School approach to train trainers who work with producers on climate-resilient practices for increasing agricultural productivity. At the same time, this project will encourage and advise trainers and producers to create and maintain on-farm demonstrations exhibiting the effectiveness of these practices. Furthermore, we will engage with faculty and students at the University of Léogâne in Haiti and discuss potential relevant collaborative projects.

    Caribbean location/s impacted: Haiti

    Read the progress report for this initiative. [PDF, 33KB]

For more information, contact Dr. Jean McKendry (