Competitive Research Grant

research grant
The ESPP Competitive Research Grant (CRG) is designed to support interdisciplinary student research at the intersection of environmental science and policy. We anticipate awarding two $4,000 grants to student researchers or research teams. Expenses should directly support the student’s research; allowable expenses include travel, software, instrumentation costs, and participant support costs. If travel is included, it must be approved prior to anticipated travel dates. Equipment (e.g., computers, printers, scanners) is not an allowable expense for these funds. Students may not combine these fellowships with other fellowships from the College of Social Science.


Applicants must be:
  • currently enrolled in a graduate program at Michigan State University,
  • and currently enrolled in one of ESPP’s graduate programs (i.e., Dual Major Degree Program, Master’s Specialization, or Modeling Certificate).
ESPP encourages submissions that:
  • will result in a demonstrable advance to thinking on environmental science and policy,
  • involve more than one student currently enrolled in an ESPP graduate program,
  • explicitly integrate thinking across traditional disciplinary lines,
  • address unique and timely research opportunities,
  • are actual — not pilot — projects with strong potential for publication at their completion,
  • and are submitted by students who have not previously received a Competitive Research Award or Summer Fellowship from ESPP.
Application Materials

To apply, students must send an email to with the subject line, “ESPP CRG Application”, and a single PDF containing the following information in the order noted below. The entire applicant team should be courtesy copied on the email. All application materials must be submitted by 11:59pm on November 15th, 2023.
  • Title Page with Research Team Names and Affiliations.
  • Short Project Narrative (approximately 1000 words). Applicants should describe the need for the research, their approach, how the work will advance environmental science and policy, and team that will conduct the work. As relevant, the description of the team should explain how the work will advance any involved students’ degree completion.
  • Project Budget. Applicants should submit an explanation of their planned use of the funds awarded. Budgets less than or in excess of the planned limit ($4,000) are permitted but should provide clear prioritization of the funds such that if the amount awarded is less than the total amount requested, it is clear how those funds would be used to ensure a successful project.
  • Current CV or resume. Applicants should provide a current CV or resume for each member of the research team.

Application Deadline: November 20, 2023

The ESPP Graduate Program Council will review proposals and make recommendations to the ESPP Director based on the encouraged criteria listed above. The ESPP Director will make final award decisions based on the reviews and availability of funding. Recipients will be notified by the 15th of December.

Project Report

Winners of this competition will be required to submit a project report by the end of the next Spring semester, which will give research teams about 15 months to conduct the proposed research.  The project report should cover all the major activities supported by the CRG including a brief summary on how the funds have been used to support the research.  Any major outcomes or achievements such as publications, conference presentations, datasets, software etc. should also be included in the report.  The report should be no more than 5-pages including figures and tables, and should be submitted to ESPP ( before the due date.

2023-24 Recipients

Xiang Yu (Fisheries and Wildlife)

Title: Impacts of Russia-Ukraine war on global environmentally sustainable development

Award Amount: $3,845

The Russia-Ukraine war has resulted in a series of environmental impacts far beyond war zones by causing shocks to global markets including food, energy, and fertilizer markets. These effects have significantly impeded progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) worldwide, particularly in some low-income and middle-income countries. However, there is a lack of spatio-temporal analyses of the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on the SDG targets. Here, I plan to analyze the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on global environmental sustainability through virtual materials flows accounting embedded in global trade post the Russia-Ukraine war. Principal component analysis will then be applied to distinguish the contribution of the war. Furthermore, the impacts on different types of countries will be compared under the metacoupling framework to uncover unexpected environmental interactions between different nations. This research will not only contribute to environmental sustainability and related policymaking but also provide references for understanding the environmental impacts of similar international disasters.

Abhinav Kapoor (School of Planning, Design, and Construction)

Title: Harvesting Highs: Effects of Cannabis Legalization on Agriculture, Investment, and Tourism in Thailand

Award Amount: $4,000

Thailand, one of the biggest tourist hubs in Asia, decriminalized consumption of recreational cannabis in 2022. This study analyzes the economic impact this move has had on the Thai economy. It examines the impacts of the legalization on small-scale farmers, traders, investors, and on the travel and tourism sector at large. Present economic theories suggest that fresh market opportunities may help farmers and traders by connecting them with foreign investors, that domestic investors may be drawn to the business by the promise of economic growth, and that cannabis tourism may help generate more tax revenue. To assess results for stakeholders, the study will make use of surveys, interviews, and secondary data analysis. Qualitative data from farmers, traders, investors, and tourists will provide firsthand perspectives. Quantitative analysis of economic indicators like income, assets, investments, and tourism revenue will also be conducted. The methodology integrates the Principal Investigators’ collective expertise in crop management, economics, urban planning, and development studies to evaluate this unprecedented change in the Southeast Asian economies. Findings from the study can inform stakeholder-focused policies that optimize Thailand's developing cannabis landscape. Performing a careful examination of the Thai experience can also offer a framework for projecting possible outcomes in other Asian nations that are thinking about legalizing cannabis use for recreational purposes.

Graham Diedrich (MSDS)

Title: Evaluating the Road to 2040: A comprehensive study of Michigan's new clean energy legistlation

Award Amount: $2,750

In November 2023, Michigan Legislature passed a series of climate and energy bills with the ambitious goal of significantly reducing the state's dependence on fossil fuels. The centerpiece of this legislative package is Senate Bill 271, which mandates a transition to 100% carbon-free energy by 2040, with an interim target of achieving 80% carbon-free electricity by 2035. A key aspect of these measures is the definition of "carbon-free" energy, which notably includes sources such as biomass, landfill gas derived from solid waste, gas from methane digesters using municipal sewage waste, food waste, animal manure, and energy-generating incinerators.

However, the inclusion of these sources as "carbon-free" has sparked controversy, especially considering studies that question the assumption of bioenergy's carbon neutrality. To assess the potential impact of Michigan's new clean energy standard on greenhouse gas emissions and related socio-economic concerns, researchers will employ the Low Emissions Analysis Platform (LEAP). This platform will conduct an in-depth analysis of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, contextualized within a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis framework.

The analysis will offer valuable insights into the composition of Michigan's energy mix, encompassing both renewable and non-renewable sources, up to the year 2040 and beyond in accordance with the recently enacted climate bills. By comparing two scenarios—one representing business-as-usual (BAU) practices and another parameterized based on the proposed clean energy standard (CES)—the research aims to elucidate the environmental and socio-economic impacts of Michigan's roadmap to achieving carbon-free energy by 2040.


2022-23 Recipients

Xin Lan (Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences)

Title: Long-term and seasonal trends of global freshwater temperature under climate change

Award Amount: $1,825

Yuean Qiu (Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences)

Title: Long-term and seasonal trends of global freshwater temperature under climate change

Award Amount: $1,825

Sampriti Sarkar (Agriculture, Food, Resource Economics)

Title: Water (un)affordability across the US counties and shrinking cities: A revealed and stated preference approach for Michigan

Award Amount: $4,200