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Research projects

We're always looking for more people to help with our research. If you’re involved in any the fields below, and you’re interested in helping us address any of these questions, please contact us. We can provide you with a more comprehensive list of actual research projects.

If you’re a student, David Denkenberger and Joshua Pearce could potentially co-advise or advise on some projects, if a suitable local advisor cannot be found for a thesis. Both David and Joshua have a strong track record of generating peer-reviewed publications from their projects, even undergraduate ones.  

Engineering and agricultural science

Our engineering and agricultural research is where we come up with some of the most creative resilient food sources. Some of the questions related to our research include: 

  • How can we get calories and nutrients from plant sources that humans can’t digest, such as leaves or wood? 
  • How can we develop alternative sources of nutrients if sunlight is reduced and we can’t grow traditional food staples at global scales? For example, from how many different sources can we produce and scale single cell protein, which is an alternative protein source in some vegan and vegetarian options today?
  • If we have to grow crops in new regions because of climate impacts, such as reduced sunlight, farmers in those regions will likely need new equipment and require time for a learning curve as they get used to the new crops. How will this affect crop yields, and what can we do to improve crop production in such scenarios?
  • How can we use GIS to better identify which regions are most at risk from different types of catastrophes and to develop potential distribution solutions for different catastrophes? 

We’ve also begun looking at other, bigger questions that may not be about food specifically, but will still be necessary for humanity to survive a global catastrophe. For example: 

  • How can we get water to people if we lose electricity and/or industry? 
  • How do we transport goods if we lose electricity and/or industry
  • What are the costs of various solutions, especially to develop the different solutions at scale?

Biology and nutrition

In a catastrophe, foods will be reduced for humans and animals. We need to do comprehensive research to understand what resilient food combinations can be fed to humans and animals to ensure adequate calories and nutrition. Some questions we’re considering include:

  • What resilient food combinations will best provide the most variety of nutrients and how can we ensure people around the world have access to this level of variety?
  • In a scenario of reduced sunlight, which species are most at risk of extinction due to loss of food, and what interventions might help reduce species extinction?
  • What are all of the crops that can be grown in different regions if sunlight is reduced, and what would it cost to produce and distribute them? (We’ve begun answering this question, but there’s more work to do.)

Economics, business, and finance

Among the biggest hurdles to overcome in order to ensure we have resilient food options ready in the event of a catastrophe are the costs associated with research, development, and planning. In many instances, solutions might be more affordable as a result of partnerships with business and industry. Some options may include catastrophe bonds, insurance, and more; however, we need to do more research to understand the best resilience solutions. Some of our questions related to business and economics include:

  • What do economic models of food production look like for different cooperation scenarios between governments in a catastrophe?
  • What do models predict prices will be for resilient foods during a catastrophe? 
  • What impact would different catastrophes have on existing weak points and bottlenecks in food production and the associated supply chain?
  • What are the most compelling business cases for industry involvement?

Social sciences: political science, communications, psychology, and sociology

Ultimately, feeding people during a catastrophe won’t just be about identifying, producing, and distributing resilient foods, it will also be about the people. Surviving a global catastrophe will require governments to work together, communities to support each other, leaders to successfully communicate information about resilient foods, and individuals to modify their behavior. There are already many researchers outside of the resilient foods community who look at some of these individual issues as they relate to more localized disasters. We need to better understand how the existing research can apply to global catastrophes, and we also need to answer other questions that are specific to feeding everyone after a catastrophic event, including:

  • What can we learn from existing research on conflict and cooperation during disasters, especially at regional scales, to make informed suggestions regarding resilient food production and distribution in specific countries?
  • How will mental health after a catastrophe affect how people respond to the recovery period? Will there be unforeseen impacts that make it harder to cooperate and/or to have a willingness to eat uncommon foods?
  • How will existing inequalities impact who has access to resilient foods, and how can we overcome these?
  • How can we ensure that government officials and the general public have the information they need to develop and access resilient foods before, during, and after a catastrophe? How can we do this if we lose electricity?

These are just a few brief summaries of the many research questions we’ll need to pursue to ensure we can feed everyone, no matter what, in a global catastrophe. If you’re interested in learning more about some of our specific research opportunities, please contact us.

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