Jonathan Winter Wins NSF CAREER Award for Research, Teaching

The assistant professor researches climate change and the future of irrigated farming.

Assistant Professor of Geography Jonathan Winter has won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, which recognizes junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher and researcher and who have the ability to integrate the two.

The award provides $500,000 in funding over five years for Winter’s project investigating how climate change and water scarcity will affect the future of irrigated agriculture in the United States.

Professor Christopher Sneddon, chair of the Department of Geography, says, “Jonathan Winter is a superb example of an early-career scholar who combines thorough investigation of biophysical systems with pressing environmental and social concerns.”

Winter’s project will create and improve computer models that simulate irrigated agricultural production in the U.S. over the next 30 years, factoring in the effects of changing climate and water resources. Winter will then use that data to develop strategies for enhancing future irrigation management in the U.S.

“The questions are, for the irrigation we have in the U.S. today, will it be there in the future, and if it’s not, how might that impact the global food supply?” Winter says.

The project also has a strong teaching component. In addition to a graduate student, Winter’s team will include five undergraduate researchers from the Women in Science Project over the five years of the grant.

“The undergraduate researchers working on this project will be directly involved in the development and evaluation of agricultural models, as well as have the opportunity to present their research at national academic conferences,” Winter says.

In the later years of the grant, Winter and his team will develop a simplified version of the agricultural model for use in high schools. The team will work with a Vermont high school science teacher to integrate the simplified model into high school science curriculum and offer training for high school teachers to help them incorporate the simplified model into their classrooms.

“This grant’s educational component will inspire a new generation of young climate scholars as they begin their academic careers in science and technology,” says Sneddon. “The geography department is thrilled to have such a broad-minded teacher-scholar in our midst and anticipate great accomplishments in the future.”

Winter says he is grateful for the opportunities the CAREER award provides. “It’s rare to have a grant that not only funds a comprehensive research effort, but also supports extensive teaching activities and engagement with the broader community.”

William Platt can be reached at [email protected].