Agreement with Brazil opens doors for MSU research

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A sweeping memorandum of understanding between Michigan State University (MSU) and Brazil opens doors to collaboration to understand complex global sustainability and food security challenges.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Mateus Batistella, a representative of Embrapa, the state-owned research arm of Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, signed the memorandum of understanding Oct. 18 on MSU’s campus.

The memorandum includes two initial specific project agreements to launch the collaborative research. One of them is about telecoupling while the other is about geospatial technology.

The telecoupling agreement will address “telecoupling of human and natural systems” – a new avenue ofEmilio Moran, Mateus Batistella and Jack Liu research that enables natural and social scientists across various disciplines to understand and generate information for managing how humans and nature sustainably coexist in different parts of the globe. It draws upon decades of research of two of MSU’s premiere sustainability scientists, Jianguo “Jack” Liu and Emilio Moran, in China, Brazil and the United States to now craft research projects that seek to understand how the three superpowers can best advance knowledge about food, trade and sustainability.

“Scientists across disciplines need new ways to really examine what happens environmentally and socioeconomically when people are increasingly sharing resources across the world,” Liu said. “The new telecoupling framework allows scientists to account for socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances simultaneously.”

Moran, who has done research in Brazil, particularly the Amazon rainforest, for decades notes that MSU’s formal agreement with Embrapa will open doors to Brazil’s considerable scientific resources.

“Embrapa is a national organization through which we can grow connections with any one of the 47 units across the country in Brazil,” Moran said. “Brazil is one of the world’s largest food exporter, and Embrapa units deal with major topics like genetics, informatics, satellite monitoring and agriculture. This memorandum opens many doors to strengthen MSU’s relationship with Brazil.”

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Fred Poston, College of Social Science DeanLiu, Buhler, Poston, Moran and Batistella Marietta Baba, and AgBioResearch Director Doug Buhler also participated in the signing.

Liu is Director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS), holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and is a University Distinguished Professor. Moran is a Hannah Distinguished Professor of Geography, a CSIS member and also contributes to the new Center for Global Change Science and the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations. Batistella is director of Embrapa Satellite Imaging in Campinas, one of the 47 units comprising the national Embrapa network.

Those wishing to develop research with Embrapa may initially contact Moran at or Batistella at

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