Rural Alabama teens, bovine-biting flies, type 2 diabetes, endangered beach mice, west Alabama shrimp farming and an invasive grass some call the “weed from hell” are among the subjects targeted for study in 22 Auburn University research projects that have been awarded a total of $803,232 in funding through a new Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) competitive grants initiative.

The projects approved for funding were selected from among 78 research proposals that AAES researchers in five AU colleges and schools submitted to the AAES Foundation Grant Program, established this year in an effort to help the AAES contend with the most serious funding crisis it has faced in its 120-year history.

“These are primarily seed grants,” said Kira Bowen, research coordinator, AU College of Agriculture. “They will allow researchers to conduct pilot studies and generate preliminary data they can use to go after additional funding from sources outside of Auburn University.”

The review committee gave priority to proposals that showed the strongest potential for leading to extramural funding from government agencies, private companies, foundations or individuals, Bowen said.

The AAES's financial problems have been steadily mounting since the mid-1980s, when federal support for agricultural research programs began to decline even as the AAES faced rising salaries and increasing operation and maintenance costs. The AAES Foundation Grant Program is “a move to begin rebuilding the foundation, the funding base, of the Experiment Station before the trend becomes irreversible,” AU interim Provost John Pritchett said.

Pritchett credited State Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, for his legislative leadership in securing continuing funds to make the program a permanent part of AU's annual appropriation.

The AAES Foundation Grant awards are capped at $40,000 annually for projects involving more than one researcher and $20,000 for single-investigator projects. The grants are awarded for up to three years, but second- and third-year funding will be contingent on productivity. Bowen said researchers in the multi-year projects will be required each year to document their accomplishments and the progress they have made toward obtaining extramural funding.

The funded projects involve AAES researchers in the colleges of Agriculture, Science and Mathematics, Human Sciences and Veterinary Medicine and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

For information on the 22 projects awarded AAES Foundation Grants, go to http://www.ag.auburn.edu/exmurfund/aaes_fg_report.html.