Mason Launches New Global Environment and Natural Resources Institute

Posted: April 8, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: April 9, 2013 at 6:48 am

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By Tara Laskowski

Image from Flickr Creative Commons, http://www.flickr.com/people/sjoe/

The new institute will provide interdisciplinary research, education and training on global agriculture, water and other natural resources to help preserve the environment and ecosystems for future generations. Image from Flickr Creative Commons, http://www.flickr.com/people/sjoe/

George Mason University launched a new institute focusing on sustainable solutions for natural resources. The Global Environment and Natural Resources Institute (GENRI) will be housed in the College of Science and directed by Professors John J. Qu and Ray Motha.

GENRI will provide interdisciplinary research, education and training on global agriculture, water and other natural resources to help preserve the environment and ecosystems for future generations. GENRI will collaborate with other Mason programs to develop place-specific sustainable solutions to globally interdependent problems.

“GENRI has the potential to become a vital global resource for research and education on water security, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity preservation,” says Vikas Chandhoke, dean of the College of Science. “Some of the most influential environmental researchers and policy experts in the world are part of our faculty, and they will contribute unparalleled expertise to this international, interdisciplinary collaboration.”

University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy Thomas Lovejoy will chair the institute’s Executive Advisory Board.

Motha believes that this center is especially important in today’s changing climate.

“Severe droughts and floods in the United States and other major crop areas have caused multibillion-dollar crop losses and famine, and deepened a global food crisis,” he says. “Agriculture and water security are global interconnected issues that include protecting and preserving our land, water and air for future generations. The security of universal natural resources is an aspiration for all, and its absence is an affront to human dignity.”

The institute hopes to conduct research that both embraces ecologically sound practices and biodiversity and also the vast experiences and local customs and practices of indigenous people in order to cope with climate extremes and their impacts on agriculture and water security, says Motha.

“A wealth of knowledge in these areas already exists in institutions of academic and research excellence around the world, and much research has been done on the issues of managing the increasingly scarce water resources, preserving fragile ecosystems, promoting better land management and improving agricultural productivity,” says Qu.

“At Mason, GENRI will be an integral partner of an international consortium that will offer academic studies and research opportunities in the interlinked thematic scientific areas of an ecosystems approach to agriculture production and marketing, and sustainable use of water resources.”

The key goals of the institute will be to

  • Broaden academic programs on international and institutional perspectives on agriculture and water security
  • Promote research on the application of science and technology to both agriculture and water security
  • Advance the fundamental importance of environment, ecosystems and biodiversity to sustainable agriculture and water security
  • Develop new synergistic approaches to water and agriculture security

“Today’s agriculture sector faces major challenges, and natural resources and ecosystems and water supply systems will be at even greater risk in the 21st century due to climate extremes,” says Motha. “We hope that GENRI will be a world leader in solving some of these global issues.”

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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