Two Information Science faculty members are among recipients of venture funding for sustainability-focused projects.

Professors Gilly Leshed and Carla Gomes are researchers on separate Cornell-led teams that were recently awarded funds through Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Coffee: What is Fair?

Fair-trade certification gives consumers peace of mind that the products they are buying meet certain standards of fairness for the workers and growers who produced them. But that certification doesn't always guarantee a fair price for smaller producers, particularly coffee growers, who often bear many hidden expenses. Thanks to the Atkinson Center funds, a Cornell research team that includes Professor Gilly Leshed hopes to bring transparency to the fair-trade coffee industry and lead to more informed production decisions.   

Working with Fair Trade USA and coffee co-ops, the team – which includes Miguel Gómez and Joshua Woodard of Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management – will collect real-world production costs of sustainable coffee and build an online, "coffee calculator" to compare costs of production systems. According to the research team, this coffee calculator "will be a step toward informed production decisions and a more inclusive, environmentally sound coffee industry."

Hydropower and Ecosystem Services

Info Sci's Carla Gomes is one of five Cornell researchers looking into the cumulative environmental impacts of hydropower, particularly in light of rapid construction of dams in the Andean Amazon. The team has set out to design models to guide more sustainable dam networks that meet power needs while also preserving ecosystems.

Elsewhere, another CIS faculty member received funding: Kavita Bala, a professor of Computer Science, is one of three Cornell researchers who will develop software tools to model energy and climate impacts of hundreds of buildings at once, as opposed to single-building analysis. The "Building Better Cities" project will equip planners with easy-to-use tools to create more livable and sustainable cities.

Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future awarded the proceeds through its Academic Venture Fund, which provides more than $1 million annually to Cornell-based projects aimed at sustainable solutions. See all 14 funding recipients here.