Wright Lab’s James Nikkel awarded seed grant from Yale Planetary Solutions Project

April 8, 2022

The Yale Planetary Solutions Project has awarded James Nikkel, research scientist and director of the Wright Lab Advanced Prototyping Center and his collaborators a seed grant for their project “The New Haven Harbor Living Laboratory”.

The newly established grants, awarded to 21 proposals, support the Yale community’s work in addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, and climate-linked health and justice issues.

The project description, provided by Nikkel, is as follows: “A newly formed group seeking to create an ecological laboratory in New Haven’s harbor has recently received a seed grant from Yale’s Planetary Solutions Project. This grant will initiate a collaboration between the Yale School of the Environment, the Wright Lab Advanced Instrumentation Development Group, and the New Haven Sound School by contributing to the expansion and enhancement of the Sound School’s artificial oyster reef project. Oyster reefs are critically important for improving and maintaining water quality and reducing turbidity through nutrient uptake, sequestration, and filtration. They also create valuable habitat for other species and improve coastal resiliency through wave attenuation. Finally, they offer local ‘green’ economy jobs. The creation of this artificial reef will provide a living laboratory that both Sound School and Yale students and scientists will use to study the impacts of artificial reef building on CO2 chemistry, biodiversity, and eutrophication in the New Haven Harbor.”

The principal team members of “The New Haven Harbor Living Laboratory” collaboration are Nikkel; Peter Raymond, professor of ecosystem ecology at Yale; Peter Solomon, aquaculture science teacher at The Sound School-New Haven Public Schools; and John Buell, chair of the Sound School-New Haven Harbor Foundation.

Nikkel said, “This is a pretty exciting project for us, and really highlights how diverse the scope of our work tends to be.  At the APC, we will be developing the sensor and camera instrumentation network that will monitor the health and progress of the reef.  This will involve integrating a variety of different systems, implementing a mesh network, and hosting a remote database to store and serve the data in near real-time.  We will also be coordinating the grant related work between Yale and the New Haven Sound School. “

The broad Planetary Solutions Project framework of “Mitigate, Adapt, and Engage” served as a thematic lodestar for applicants, each of whom addressed one or more of its 10 pillars. Interdisciplinary collaboration is a hallmark across the grantees, with representation from 18 departments across Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) — from economics to psychology, physics to history, mechanical engineering and materials science to ecology and evolutionary biology — and nine professional schools. Some partnerships might bridge adjacent fields, such as chemistry and chemical engineering, allowing investigators to approach their shared knowledge in new ways. Others engage disciplines as disparate as psychiatry, public health, and energy systems to solve multi-faceted problems.

More information about the seed grants and the award process can be found in the April 5, 2022 Yale News article “Yale awards nearly $1.5 million for projects seeking ‘planetary solutions’”. 

​​The Yale Planetary Solutions Project aims to raise awareness of climate and biodiversity work across Yale, and to spark new approaches. It aspires to connect people whose ideas, when combined, might unlock novel solutions. And as part of the project, we will lead by example, using our campus as a laboratory to implement the best technologies, policies, and ideas.

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