SESYNC, USDA Partner to Catalyze Data-Driven Research on Food Systems Resilience to Climate Change

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Jul 29, 2014

Annapolis, Md — In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) announces the “Data to Motivate Synthesis” Program for early career scientists and researchers at the agriculture, environment, and social nexus to identify and understand the factors that influence food systems resilience to climate change.

The program, launched in support of the White House’s Climate Data Initiative, builds on efforts to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely available climate-relevant data resources to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate change preparedness. The Obama Administration is today unveiling the Initiative’s “Food Resilience” theme, aimed at empowering America’s agricultural sector and strengthening the resilience of the global food system in a changing climate.

The SESYNC–USDA Data to Motivate Synthesis Program will include a series of workshops for selected early career scholars, who will participate in a highly interactive and dynamic process of real-time data discovery, analysis, and visualization, leveraging in part a centralized repository of data, tools, and maps launching July 30 by the USDA’s Food Resilience Team. Under guidance from SESYNC and USDA computational experts, the program will provide a unique opportunity for young scholars to co-develop data-driven research projects in a lively and interactive data exploration process with the cyberinfrastructure support needed to understand and predict food systems resilience under a changing climate.

“Through his Climate Data Initiative, President Obama is calling for all hands on deck to unleash data and technology in ways that will make businesses and communities more resilient to climate change,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor. “The commitments being announced today answer that call by empowering the U.S. and global agricultural sectors with the tools and information needed to keep food systems strong and secure in a changing climate.”

“The interactions between food, health, the environment, and society are extremely complex, but are central to the long-term sustainability of people and ecosystems. In the face of climate change, it is more critical than ever that we engage emerging scholars in research to understand that complexity and provide science that is useful to policy makers,” said Kay Gross, Distinguished Professor of Biology and W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Director at Michigan State University. She is also a member of SESYNC’s External Advisory Board.

Following the SESYNC–USDA workshops, participants will be invited to submit proposals for interdisciplinary team projects at SESYNC. SESYNC will fund up to six early career scholar teams and will provide logistical, travel, and cyberinfrastructure support for each team to meet multiple times over a two-year period. SESYNC will also hire a postdoctoral fellow with expertise in food systems research to undertake and help coordinate research for the program.

“The data-rich, massively-scaled problem of food systems resilience—which is inevitably tied to global economic, social, and environmental forces—requires a new mode of problem-solving,” said Dr. Nicholas Magliocca, computational research scientist at SESYNC. “We hope the program will build the capacity of young scholars to conduct this type of collaborative, data-driven research by accelerating their data literacy and computational skills.”

Additional details about the SESYNC Food Systems Postdoctoral Fellowship are available on SESYNC’s website at:

Additional details on the Data to Motivate Synthesis Program will be made available on SESYNC’s website at and via SESYNC's e-newsletter.

Media contact:

Melissa Andreychek, Communications Coordinator
(410) 919-4990


The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through a National Science Foundation grant to the University of Maryland, is a research center dedicated to solving complex problems at the intersection of human and ecological systems.

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