Robertson leads Grand Challenge research team in East Africa

October 5, 2016

A team of University researchers with expertise in animal health, nursing, agronomy, plant genetics, public health and environmental ecosystems will partner with colleagues in East Africa to explore the complex and inter-related threats brought by dramatic climate changes in the arid regions of East Africa.      

Cheryl Robertson, PhD, MPH, RN, from the School of Nursing, and Dominic Travis, DVM, from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota will lead the first phase of this project, funded by $96,000 from the University of Minnesota’s new Grand Challenge Grant program. The grant is one of 29 such grants awarded this year to jumpstart new research collaborations across the University that could grow into broad discoveries that address the most pressing problems facing Minnesota and the world.

With a long-term goal of understanding how to foster a holistic approach to supporting cultural sustainability in the face of changes caused by climate change, the first phase involves gathering and analyzing data from the people most directly affected. 

Robertson, who has more than 30 years of experience in public health education and research in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Liberia, has expertise in community recovery from displacement and armed-conflict.  She says the severe and gradual changes in climate can have extreme consequences for struggling communities.

“For people and cultures who have lived the same way, on the same land, for many centuries, a drought or flood that kills one-third of their livestock threatens their very existence,” she said. “Issues of water, food, ecosystems, land use, animal health, infectious disease and competition for limited resources rock the delicate balance for communities.”

The team expects the project to lead to important discoveries and research models that can be applied to communities around the world affected by climate change.

Research Team
  • Cheryl Robertson, PhD, MPH, RN, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota
  • Dominic Travis, DVM, MS, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota
  • Eunice Areba, PhD, RN, Assistant Clinical Professor, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota
  • Joel Hartter, PhD, Associate Professor and Associate Director for Professional Education, Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • Sarah Hoffman, PhD, MPH, RN, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota
  • Katey Pelican, DVM, PhD, Lead, Ecosystem Health Initiative; Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota
  • Carolyn Porta, PhD, MPH, MS, RN, Associate Professor, School of Nursing and School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
  • Paul M. Porter, PhD, Professor, Cropping Systems Agronomist, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota
  • Fred Rose, Co-Director, ACARA, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
  • Innocent B. Rwego, BVM, MSc, PhD; University Technical Advisor, USAID One Health Workforce; Makerere University, Uganda
  • Jacinta Mukulu Waila, (student) BScN-KRCHN, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  • Shamilah Namusisi, (student) BVM, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
  • Michael Mahero, (student) MS, MPH, University of Minnesota