BE MUSES: Biocomplexity in the Bioeconomy: The Natural and Industrial Ecology of Biobased Products

Project: Research project

Project Details


This Biocomplexity in the Environment/Materials Use Science, Engineering and Society project focuses on modeling the ecological, economic, and social impacts of a large-scale transition to the use of biomass-derived feedstock for the production of energy, fuel and products. The United States has set ambitious goals of producing from biomass 25% of its chemicals and materials, and 20% of its transportation fuel by 2030. Such a shift to biobased production will have profound impacts throughout the coupled industrial, agricultural and social systems. Very little information is available on the material flow cycles of the envisioned bioeconomy, especially on how those cycles are linked together, and on what the implications of changes in those cycles might be for resource availability, economics, the environment, and options for government policy. This research will use an integrated set of local, regional and global models to study the implications of near- and long-term bioeconomy scenarios. In parallel with physical process and substance flow modeling, agriculture sector economic and environmental modeling, and social impact assessment will be used to explore market structure, production, and social drivers as influences on future material flows in the bioeconomy. Researchers at Dartmouth College and the World Resources Institute will participate on this project. In partnership with the Authentic Teaching Alliance (ATA) we will use interest in the bioeconomy to motivate basic science education by designing and testing learning modules for high school science classes around key biobased conversion and production concepts. It is expected that results from this project will allow us to better understand: (1) The flows of materials in the bioeconomy; (2) if biobased production requires trade-offs with water quality, climate change, and food production; and if so, the nature and extent of those trade-offs; (3) the ability of agriculture to supply the feedstock needs of large-scale bioproduction; (4) the coupling within the bioeconomy between water quality and climate change brought about by changes in the flow of nitrogen and carbon compounds; (5) the factors that influence farmers' willingness to produce for the bioeconomy; and (6) the impacts of policy mechanisms designed to promote the development of a bioeconomy. This award will be managed by program officers in CMS / ENG, ECS / ENG and DMII / ENG, reflecting the breadth of expertise brought to this broad multidisciplinary topic in biocomplexity.

Effective start/end date9/15/042/28/11


  • National Science Foundation: $1,848,869.00


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