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MUIR Funded Projects

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Student: Bhumikorn Kongtaveelert
Faculty: Alison Hoyt
Research: Evaluating Alternative Rice Management Practices in California
Department: Earth System Science

Rice cultivation can be a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it currently contributes roughly 10% of the global methane budget. Recently, alternative cultivation strategies have emerged that offer the potential to mitigate the majority of these emissions, while minimizing reductions in yield. One of the most promising management strategies implements dry periods in the middle of the normally flooded growing season, a practice known as alternate wetting and drying (AWD). Research suggests that a single dry period can decrease seasonal methane emissions by as much as 60%. However, AWD can also cause a non-trivial loss of yield, typically around 5%. It is also more demanding of water infrastructure and resources, requiring multiple pulses of water throughout the growing season. These competing factors are particularly interesting in the Central Valley of California, having both aggressive GHG targets, and uncertain future water resources. This research project has two main goals: first, to inventory the methane emissions from rice in California’s Central Valley, as well as the potential for abatement with AWD; and second, to model the costs associated with various levels of intervention, ultimately producing an abatement curve for rice-associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This research would be a useful indicator for future policy decisions in food, agriculture and water resources.

Student: Laia Bent
Faculty: Elliott White Jr.
Research: Evaluating the Role of Nature-Based Coastal Vulnerability Solutions for Low-Income Residents in the Galveston Bay Area
Department: Earth System Science

The Galveston Bay Area (GBA) in southeast Texas has experienced many significant hurricanes since the turn of the century (i.e. Rita 2005, Ike 2008, Harvey 2017). Each of these storms have prompted significant investment in coastal protection infrastructure, which often are in the form of traditional engineered solutions (TES). TES often require large upfront investments with additional funds needed for long-term maintenance, however there is significant literature-based evidence showing that the community response and adaptation to coastal climate change is mediated by resource availability in the community. Nature-based solutions (NBS) offer a potential lower cost coastal protection option for marginalized, under-served communities. The low (or no cost) resilience of NBS compared to TES in the context of climate change increases their longevity, making them a viable solution for frontline communities. The large, socioeconomically diverse GBA presents a critical opportunity to look at the relative value of nature-based coastal protection solutions with a specific focus on marginalized and under-resourced communities. In this work, we will leverage the existing IRS designation of Opportunity Zones, low-income areas that may benefit from outside financial investment, as a proxy for locations that are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Next, we will use the NatCap InVEST Coastal Vulnerability Model to generate different scenarios of coastal protection aided by natural ecosystems. Finally, we will work with the community organization Bayou City Waterkeeper to disseminate the info.

Student: Piper Fleming
Faculty: Giulio De Leo
Research: Assessing the toxicity of traditional and virus-based sunscreens on marine larvae
Department: Oceans, Hopkins Marine Station

Despite recent progress and improved formulations, most sunscreens still contain ingredients that are harmful to marine life. In collaboration with the Bollyky lab in the Immunology department, we are working on the development of virus-based sunscreens that rely on UV absorption by DNA from inactive bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are viruses that only infect certain bacteria and are thus hypothesized to be safe both for humans and for marine life. In this project, the student will be conducting toxicology experiments on marine larvae in the lab to establish that bacteriophages are safe for key marine organisms.

Student: Claire Morton
Faculty: James Holland Jones
Research: Learning About Adaptation in Structured Populations
Department: Division of Social Sciences, SDSS

This project will build on forthcoming work from my lab (Turner et al. 2023, Phil Trans R Soc B) that shows that adaptations to changing environmental conditions in structured metapopulations characterized by a distinct minority subpopulation spread more rapidly and are more sustainable if they are innovated in the minority subpopulation. This paper provides a formal model that supports the predictions of the verbal model in Jones, Ready & Pisor (2021) wherein subsistence populations on the periphery of larger market-based populations could be a source of climate-change adaptation. 
For this MUIR project, we will explore the specific conditions that lead to this outcome using some newly-developed tools know collectively as "Scientific Machine Learning" (SciML). The minority advantage of candidate adaptations depends on the underlying network structure, specifically the fact that people in the same subpopulations differentially interact with like individuals but that minority populations necessarily have a greater fraction of their contacts with the majority. We will use SciML to systematically explore the model space in which this result emerges. Because of the combinatorics of networks, this space is enormous and the tools of SciML will allow us to efficiently learn about its properties. Basically, we will train a neural network on a very wide range of model specifications to allow it to make decisions about when the phenomena of scientific interest are possible/likely. We also hope to extend the model by incorporating zoonotic epidemics.

Student: Karen Liu
Faculty: Jane Willenbring
Research: Soil Nitrogen: Linking Lithology, Livestock, Locusts and Lives
Department: Earth and Planetary Sciences

In 2020, locust swarms devoured crops in East Africa and left tens of millions of people facing a severe food crisis. This project links two observations from disparate fields and connects lithology, livestock, locusts, and human lives. Cease et al. (2015) referred to connections regarding locusts as "telecoupling - a process in which land management practices like grazing have ecological feedbacks on locust populations, which in turn affects food security in distant regions due to the migratory capacity of locusts." For example, recent studies focusing on northeast China and in controlled lab settings revealed that reducing the nitrogen content in plant forage triggers the gregarious swarming behavior of desert locust Schistocerca gregaria. Soil degradation of this type (N loss) is thought to be triggered by overgrazing of livestock, presumed in the study to deplete nitrogen stocks in soils and plants. Such discoveries about the relationship between locusts and nutrients in plants and soils offers opportunities to better understand the locust risk associated with the global increase in beef consumption. The second observation is a discovery of a potential flaw in recent paradigm-shifting research that reassessed how much nitrogen in soil is derived from sedimentary bedrock (Houlton et al., 2018). We suspect that the nitrogen concentrations are an order of magnitude too high. This research would fix this erroneous assessment of natural nitrogen pools from rocks of certain lithologies.

Student: Emily Zhao
Faculty: Jim Leape
Research: Sustainable Financing Research to Support Ocean Resource Management
Department: Woods Institute for the Environment

The student will work with the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) to support ongoing engagements with partners throughout Micronesia through a project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). This work will increase awareness within COS of the relevant considerations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Republic of Palau (Palau) regarding sustainable finance mechanisms. This research has the potential to aid project partners involved in the development of a detailed fundraising plan to finance the goals of the Micronesia Challenge 2030. In particular, the student will focus on topics relevant to supporting partner efforts, including: Stakeholder Engagement Plans, Gender Action Plans, Strategic Action Plans, and Sustainable Finance Plans. The mutual area of interest for COS staff and the student is the broad topic of Sustainable Finance Mechanisms as they pertain to supporting regional governance of ocean resources for large ocean states. Ideally, this research can aid COS staff understanding of best-practice strategies to ensure that large ocean state governments have stable, long-term monetary support to implement and realize their conservation and community benefit targets.

Student: Roya Meykadeh
Faculty: Larry Crowder
Research: Local Traditions and External Drivers of Change Influencing Patterns of Marine Resource Subsistence use across the California
Department: Oceans, Hopkins Marine Station

This research will leverage recent award made by California's Ocean Protection Council, funding project entitled "Identifying Pathways to Distributive Equity in MPA Management in a Changing Climate." While significant effort has been made to engage commercial and sport fishers and tourism operators in California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the priorities of stakeholders from minority and low-income populations has received less attention. This project will address that gap, investigating the intersection of ocean ecosystems, MPAs, ocean access, and intertwined processes of social and ecological change for disadvantaged populations across the California coast. Combining qualitative and quantitative research methodology from sustainability science, applied ecology, and marine social science, the research will support the development of adaptive management strategies designed to enhance equity in MPA management and the resilience of diverse coastal communities impacted by climate change. Specific focuses will include shifting patterns of ocean access, use, and benefits associated with climate change, coastal gentrification, and socio-economic disruption (i.e., supply chain shocks). Within the broader initiative, the undergraduate researcher (Roya) will assist in a) identifying communities engaged in marine resource subsistence use across the central California coast b) characterizing target species and harvesting practices, c) documenting observations of shifting patterns of access and use d) identifying perceptions of future threats and vulnerabilities.

Student: Aditi Prakash
Faculty: Larry Crowder
Research: Who benefits from voluntary sustainability standards in seafood and why?
Department: Oceans, Hopkins Marine Station

There is an emerging consensus - supported by academic research - that the well-being of fishworkers (across industrial and artisanal contexts) who produce seafood does not meet globally accepted norms for fair living and working conditions. Efforts to intervene in the seafood sector to improve environmental outcomes have largely ignored or side-stepped these dynamics. Additionally, approaches such as - certifications, ratings, and other voluntary supply chain efforts ("voluntary sustainability standards" or VSS for short) have not accounted for the ways in which the benefits they seek to provide have been inequitably distributed, which may be resulting in real harm to fishworkers and communities. As a result, the seafood sector, and the suite of actors seeking to transform it, are arguably lagging with respect to other primary production sectors both in documenting and acting on the ways in which globalization, neoliberal market structures, and the legacies of settler colonialism and systemic racism structurally marginalize those with less power in the global corporate order. The proposed MUIR research will be conducted in partnership with Conservation International's Global Fisheries and Aquaculture Program, and the primary research questions include: (1) Who is incurring the costs and who is accruing the benefits from seafood production and voluntary sustainability standards? (2) What steps can be taken immediately, and by whom, to address inequities in costs and benefit accrual where they occur in voluntary sustainability standards?

Student: Christopher Shell
Faculty: Robert Dunbar
Research: Automated AI-driven marine perception and interpretation of underwater images in sensitive ocean environments
Department: Oceans, Earth System Science

For the research, the student intends to work with Tidal (at the X moonshot factory of Google). Tidal is the ocean moonshot company focused on protecting the ocean through technological development. Tidal's current project focuses on developing underwater camera and machine perception tools to gather insights into salmon farming to improve sustainability and efficiency. The research planned is largely dependent on Tidal's vision for the role but will likely center at the nexus between artificial intelligence, oceanography, and biology. More specifically, the undergraduate is interested in exploring the feasibility of deploying the salmon farm monitoring technology in other marine environments such as coral reefs or kelp forests. This research would involve building and iterating new models, researching potential environment insights gathered from the data, and proposing conservation solutions based on the data. Other research could center on exploring other new ocean-based opportunities for Tidal to consider next for development. It is important to note that the exact final product of the research will likely evolve with the needs and desires of Tidal.

Student: Aadya Joshi
Faculty: Rodolfo Dirzo
Research: Variance in impact of experiential learning
Department: Biology, Earth System Science

A major reason for biodiversity loss in urban areas is the decline in insect populations, which is a major food source for birds and other insectivores. A major reason for the decline in Lepidoptera populations in particular, is the replacement of their native host plants with exotic species which do not support them. Researchers have shown that planting the right mix of native host plants can rapidly bring back Lepidoptera populations and in turn bring back birds and other dependent biodiversity. This project will involve developing an education program for biodiversity restoration to spread awareness and drive change in planting practices in rural areas. Since the core of the problem is influencing the right plant species choice while planting a garden, a first step is to familiarize participants with plants native to their ecoregions. The second is to differentiate between native and non-native plants in their ability to sustain biodiversity. The third is to provide participants a list of native substitutions for commonly planted non-native species. 

Such a program will be conducted at multiple scales, therefore three formats have been developed each involving different cost and resource commitments, namely: a class room format, an outdoor garden format (with experiential learning), and an online format. This research project will assess the effectiveness of the educational program through different formats in delivering on the above objectives through post-session surveys. The data will be collected and analyzed to assess the post-session retention.

Student: Vanessa Chen
Faculty: Sarah Billington
Research: Embodied Forced Labor of Building Materials: A Case Study for Mass Timber
Department: CEE

Today there exists a growing body of work demonstrating that illegal logging and deforestation are often highly reliant on forced labor (Sakamoto 2009, Jackson et al,. 2020). While environmentally sustainable sourcing of timber and other building materials has become a priority in recent years with the rise of certifications such as LEED, social criteria have received comparatively less attention. Mass timber as a building material is gaining in popularity with recent building code changes in the U.S. allowing for 18-story buildings constructed with mass timber. With mass timber construction, environmental and social sustainability are intertwined. We aim to develop tools for structural engineers and architects to offer a new approach to social life-cycle analysis that account for impact measures such as forced labor. Furthermore, we are curious how these analyses can be used to communicate the embodied social impacts of buildings to those who occupy them. This research will involve working with existing data sets pertaining to timber extraction and imports as well as designing human subject experiments. Innovative technologies will be explored as novel mediums that challenge traditional certifications and plaques. Post-engagement variables such as level of interest in the social and environmental impacts of timber, and willingness to donate to relevant NGOs or charities will be measured in the long term.

Student: Liza Goldberg
Faculty: Stephen Luby
Research: Investigating and Addressing Psychological Climate Poverty Traps among India's Rural Youth
Department: Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

Climate change threatens to compound cycles of extreme poverty across low- and middle-income nations, eroding decades of progress in development outcomes. The physical impacts of climate change on impoverished communities have been well established, ranging from food insecurity to infrastructure loss and migration. However, the psychological impacts of climate change on decision-making and behavioral dynamics of the extreme poor remain largely unexplored. This study aims to investigate the pathway from climate impact exposure to temporal discounting, a critical poverty trap in which communities prioritize smaller, short-term rewards over greater, long-term ones. We propose to survey and conduct discussion groups among 3,000 students across rural Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, India, to gauge student levels of temporal discounting and broader psychological health quantitatively and qualitatively. We will then apply our results through designing and piloting a climate preparedness curriculum for 20,000 climate vulnerable students across the region. This research will inform political, economic, and mental health-based interventions to lessen the psychological stressors of climate change among the extreme poor, improving their long-term income trajectories and mental and physical wellbeing. Ultimately, we aim to both evaluate and address a rapidly compounding poverty trap for the next generation of among Earth's most climate vulnerable populations.

Student: Keona Blanks
Faculty: Tadashi Fukami
Research: Pollination and seed microbial ecology for sustainable agriculture
Department: Biology, Earth System Science

We will study the effect of flower-colonizing bacteria on seed development in buckwheat. In the experiments we recently conducted in Nagano, Japan, we found a large increase in the probability of buckwheat seed development when we inoculated flowers with Pantoea bacteria. This increase is likely due to the bacteria's ability to enter floral tissues from nectar and grow there, thereby suppressing fungal pathogens that would otherwise prevent the seed from properly maturing. Our work has also indicated that Pantoea bacteria colonize flowers via flower-visiting insects, particularly thrips. Given these findings, we are now pursuing the possibility of using Pantoea bacteria as biological control agents to control fungal pathogen and improve buckwheat yield. This summer, we plan to investigate how factors like inoculation density, organic fertilizers, and wild flowers in field margins affect the effectiveness of spraying of Pantoea onto buckwheat inflorescences to increase seed production. We expect such application of bacteria that are naturally present in agricultural landscapes to serve as a more sustainable alternative to the environmentally destructive application of pesticides and antibiotics. However, for application of microbial spraying to succeed, it is essential for researchers to build trusting partnership with local farmers, agricultural companies, and government officials. We have established such relationship, and will continue to collaborate with them on site. As such, this project is interdisciplinary in that it has biological and social components.


Student: Aisling Murran
Faculty: Tadashi Fukami
Research: Harnessing honeybee gut microbes for agriculture
Department: Biology

We will design and conduct a series of laboratory experiments to look at the effects of several bacterial strains isolated from honeybees on their health and efficacy as pollinators. In our previous work, we isolated these bacteria from the honey stomach and gut of honey bees. These bacteria have been suggested to enhance the bee's longevity and resistance to pathogens, but their effects depend on what other microbial species are also in the gut and how they interact with one another in the gut. The experiments that Aisling will work on with us will focus on understanding these interactions. The knowledge gained through this project will help to inform how we might supplement the sugar water that bee keepers often add to bee hives with beneficial bacteria to ensure honeybees are effective as pollinators in agricultural fields. Even though the research is biological, it is also interdisciplinary in the sense that the ultimate goal is to contribute to sustainable agriculture by making use of the biological knowledge of natural bee-microbe interactions that has not been considered before. We have had interactions with local bee keepers, and we hope to communicate with them about our research findings.

Student: Eli Hiss
Faculty: Stephen Luby
Research: Advancing an automatic coal feeder to reduce pollution from brick kilns
Department: Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

This project is part of ongoing work to ameliorate the environmental and public health effects of brick kilns in Bangladesh. Manual coal feeding in a typical South Asian brick kiln introduces a bolus of coal that far exceeds the available oxygen and so generates large volumes of partially combusted hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons generates substantial air pollution adversely affecting both climate and health. The black carbon generated by these kilns are major contributors to global warming. The particulate matter from brick kilns is estimated to result in 6000 excess deaths in Dhaka, the capital city each year. We have collaborated with undergraduate students enrolled in Mechanical Engineering 170 over the last two years to develop a prototype automatic coal feeder. This feeder continuously feeds a low dose of coal into the kiln and so improves combustion efficiency and should markedly reduce pollution. A prototype of the coal feeder constructed in Bangladesh according to plans developed by Stanford students is being tested in three brick kilns this winter. The students will take feedback from kiln operators and make some iterations during this winter brick kiln season. We envision that an automatic coal feeder that is robust to the working conditions in Bangladesh could markedly reduce air pollution and reduce coal consumption. We estimate that the savings in coal would cover the cost of the coal feeder within two months of operation. The savings on coal, could motivate widespread adoption of this approach across Bangladesh and so substantially reduce pollution.

Student: Sriram Narasimhan
Faculty: Rodolfo Dirzo
Research: If a tree burns in the scrub, does it leave a gap? An analysis of disturbance ecology and gap dynamics in Florida Scrub
Department: Biology

Climate change and human impact are driving ecosystems towards increasingly frequent and intense disturbance. These disturbances, such as wildfire, have severe consequences for biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human health. However, little is known about how disturbance shapes landscapes of vegetation growing under topographic gradients. Understanding how openings in vegetation cover (“gaps”) form and persist is critical for conserving diversity in a changing world. The Florida scrub is a superb system for studying such dynamics because of its variegated landscape and natural fire regime. The prevalence of extremely rare gap endemics in Florida scrub and the rarity of the ecosystem as a whole also puts the system at top conservation priority. This study compares the seed bank and current vegetation in/around several gaps using arial photographs and fire records to elucidate the relationship between fire disturbance and gap successional stage and plant species diversity and composition. This study will offer insights into conserving Florida scrub and for managing other ecosystems in the face of anthropogenic disturbance. Study contains three parts. First, identify and survey gaps to assess current vegetation communities and states of gap succession. Second, collect seed bank samples and historical aerial data to form a natural history of each gap. Third, use private and public burn records to correlate disturbance and community structure with current dynamics. 

Student: Patrick Monreal
Faculty: Jeremy Goldbogen
Research: Characterizing iron-binding ligands like siderophores in whale fecal matter to assess the bioavailability of excreted iron
Department: Biology, Hopkins Marine Station

Iron is an essential micronutrient and its availability is integral to microbial dynamics and phytoplankton physiology. Measured in nanomolar to picomolar concentrations, this trace metal limits phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean and thus is crucial to the ocean’s ability to uptake and store carbon. Large mammal excrement is not usually considered an important source of iron; however, some of the highest concentrations of iron ever reported in the marine environment are from whale fecal samples. Importantly, the bioavailability of that iron to marine organisms is largely unknown. The capacity of whale excrement to act as a marine fertilizer will remain elusive until its bioavailability is further clarified. This project represents an interdisciplinary collaboration between marine ecology and biogeochemistry to quantify the bioavailability of iron in whale excrement and serves as a capstone of the student’s undergraduate training at Stanford. With samples provided by our laboratory at the Hopkins Marine Station and instrumental facilities at the University of Washington, along with the expertise of Dr. Randelle Bundy, the student will make the first measurements of the concentrations of iron-binding ligands in whale excrement and characterize any siderophores present. Iron-binding ligands like siderophores are integral to the availability of iron to marine microbes. The goal is to constrain the role of baleen whales in iron cycling by comparing the suite of ligands in whale excrement to other sources of iron and putting this in the context of whale foraging behavior.

Student: Erika Hunting
Faculty: Barbara Block
Research: White Sharks as Ocean Sensors in the Subtropical Gyre off Hawaii
Department: Biology

The vastness of the ocean and the pace at which it changes make it difficult to observe and document. Recent advances in biologging technology have enabled the use of tagged marine animals to collect high-resolution, three-dimensional movement and oceanographic data at the same time. These biologging tags can sample pressure, light, temperature, salinity and chlorophyll while also measuring the animal’s position, biology, physiology, behavior, migration routes and habitat utilization patterns. As such, marine top predators such as white sharks can be used as oceanographers to study the distribution of commercially valuable and protected marine resources, manage human-wildlife interactions and enhance regional oceanographic data collection. The white shark is among the most iconic predators in the ocean. But for all their public exposure, the lives of white sharks remain shrouded in mystery. The most basic facts about their migrations and behaviors have come to light through the use of tags. Sharks act as “sentinel” species or indicators of an ecosystem’s response to changing environmental conditions. As they travel through ocean habitats, these animals integrate tag data from the bottom to the top of the food web over large spatiotemporal scales that reflect underlying ecosystem processes.  Our objective is to study the white shark in offshore realms such as Hawaiian waters where  sharks can spend 4-6 months and create efficient diagnostics methods/algorithms to detect coherent oceanic mesoscale eddies to discern if the sharks are foraging in such regions.

Student: Eva Jones
Faculty: Larry Crowder
Research: Supporting the Designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary
Department: Biology

This project will conduct research to support the designation of the proposed NOAA Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary (CHNMS). Designation of the sanctuary represents unique challenges surrounding issues including identifying potential models of tribal-federal co-management, identifying and supporting cultural uses of the ocean for local tribes and other coastal communities, and documenting and protecting culturally and biologically significant marine resources.

In partnership with the NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Dr. Jennifer Selgrath, this project will support the interdisciplinary process of sanctuary designation spanning governance, cultural, and biological dimensions. Research will focus on emerging topics that are driven by the designation process for the new sanctuary. For example, one potential project focus on a review of literature and historical archives (e.g. Santa Barbara Natural History museum records) that document traditional territories and coastal practices of the Chumash and Salinan tribes to develop a better understanding of what is known/documented about these cultural landscapes. A second identified focus of the summer project is to identify examples of tribal co-management in the United States and Canada which could serve as potential templates for the Chumash Sanctuary. Recent scoping meetings and tribal proposals for the sanctuary have called for co-management or collaborative management; however, which models would work are unclear for this context.

Student: Sheila Cochrane
Faculty: Eric Lambin
Research: Evaluating the conservation effectiveness of smallholder zero-deforestation agreements in the Colombian Amazon
Department: Earth System Science

The 2016 Colombian peace agreement has brought new opportunities for sustainable rural development and conservation, but also new governance challenges. Deforestation has recently surged in the country, fueled by the power vacuum left in the countryside and a complex dynamic of land grabbing and resource extractivism on the frontier. As part of a government pledge to halt deforestation in the Colombian Amazon by 2020, a program of conservation agreements was launched in 2017 that provides small farmers with technical support to produce sustainable forest products in exchange for a commitment not to clear forest on their properties. This new model of voluntary landholder commitments is currently being piloted across several thousand properties. It holds great potential for scaling up and integrating with other sustainable supply chain initiatives and enhancing smallholder inclusion in sustainability markets. The Land Use Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Eric Lambin has created a partnership with the Sinchi Institute, a national research center for the Colombian Amazon, that is currently managing and monitoring these conservation agreements. We are using remote sensing data, interviews, and quasi-experimental approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of these policies in slowing deforestation and improving smallholder livelihoods. Our analysis will explore the contextual socio-economic and biophysical factors influencing the outcomes of the program, with a particular focus on the antagonisms and synergies with other public and private interventions in the region.

Student: Anissa Foster
Faculty: Morgan O'Neill
Research: Earth System Science
Department: Stratospheric hydration due to midlatitude cyclones in a global mesoscale numerical model

The research question targets a large uncertainty in global radiative feedbacks: what is the role of midlatitude deep convection in hydrating the lower stratosphere, and what is the impact of that hydration of the radiative balance of the Earth? The primary stratospheric water source, the deep tropics, is much better studied and constrained than this secondary, extremely variable midlatitude convective source. Indeed, the water vapor that enters the stratosphere in the midlatitudes may cause almost twice the radiative feedback on climate sensitivity relative to water entering from the tropics (Dessler et al. 2013 PNAS). However, this water vapor source has received very little attention in the climate literature since that finding, in part because climate models typically have very coarse horizontal resolution and are overly diffusive in the upper atmosphere. This research exploits an under-utilized NASA simulation to explore the source of convective water vapor into the midlatitude stratosphere, and its relationship to large midlatitude cyclones. This is complementary to my ongoing work studying localized thunderstorm hydration of the stratosphere, and uniquely bridges the fields of severe weather, and climate science.

Student: Alyk Cheng Hui Moomaw
Faculty: Alison Hoyt
Research: Developing Low-Cost Tools to Measure Natural Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Department: Earth System Science

The natural environment is a major source of greenhouse gases, but its contributions are poorly constrained because existing instrumentation is expensive and difficult to deploy. Meanwhile, recent proof of concept work has identified low-cost sensors with potential to break open the instrumentation barrier for measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Building on conceptual work, this project seeks to develop an automated, scalable, and low-cost instrumentation for researchers around the world. This ambitious project will require an interdisciplinary team throughout the phases of design, development, and manufacturing. The operational field experience of earth scientists combined with the technical expertise from engineering will empower our team to produce a functionally useful and technically excellent product.

In particular, we are developing a version of a gas measurement tool called a flux chamber, which logs the buildup of gas concentration inside a closed chamber. One significant challenge of existing designs is the very expensive gas analyzer, which costs on the order of $50,000. Repurposing low-cost industrial gas sensors, we aim to develop a self-contained flux chamber system for under $100. Additionally, the low-power sensors we use will enable us to run autonomously on battery power and log data for at least a month at a time.

Student: Poppy Brittingham
Faculty: Fiorenza Micheli
Research: Data Analysis to Support Coastal Fisher Livelihoods
Department: Oceans

The student will work with the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) to support ongoing engagements with the Republic of Palau (Palau), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). This work will increase awareness within COS of the relevant considerations in those nations regarding small-scale fisher livelihoods and protected area management. This research has the potential to aid project partners in these large ocean states in the development of management strategies for areas of particular biological importance in accordance with the goals of the Micronesia Challenge 2030. In particular, the student will focus on: (1) Synthesizing survey responses from small-scale fishers in Palau that are engaging with a new digital platform to aid in pelagic fisheries management. (2) Researching management considerations for both coastal fisheries and protected areas to ensure policy alignment in FSM and RMI. (3) Helping COS staff prepare for, facilitate, and synthesize project meetings or workshops with partners throughout Micronesia. Ideally, this research can be adapted for the development of best-practice strategies to ensure the proper inclusion of fisher livelihoods in small island state coastal management practices.

Student: Erica Wood
Faculty: Rob Jackson
Research: Modelling U.S. climate policy
Department: Earth System Science

Student: Casidy Dalva
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Research: The Interface Between Policy-Makers and the Public on Climate Change
Department: Communication

Decades have passed while huge majorities of the American public want government to take aggressive action to reduce future climate change, but significant action has yet to happen.  President Biden made big promises in this regard and has been stymied, importantly by Senator Manchin, who has said he must vote in ways that respect his constituents' wishes and the best interest of his state.  For more than 20 years, the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford has been studying the public opinion side of this equation, but the time has come now to expand our scope by exploring the interface of government policy-makers with the public, to understand whether policy-makers understand public opinion, whether they care about public opinion, how they learn about public opinion, whether they differentiate between surveys done by different sponsors with different methodologies, and more.  This summer project will set the stage for such research by developing study designs and collecting as much data as possible, for analysis during the subsequent academic year.


Student: Enrique Flores
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Research: American Public Opinion on Global Warming
Department: Communication

In 2020, the Political Psychology Research Group conducted the 22nd national survey in its series (  The project got news coverage in the New York Times in four articles (including the focus of an editorial) plus 100 other articles world-wide.  This survey was the most in-depth we have ever done, and it illuminates many more aspects of public attitudes and beliefs and preferences on the issue.  As Biden takes office, this is the perfect time to illuminate the findings for policy-makers and thereby help Woods to achieve its current outreach goals.  The students working with us will work on these data and help conduct analyses and write up reports.  One such report will be a comparison of our results with a simultaneously conducted survey using our questions in Sweden.  In addition, we have stumbled onto a potentially major discovery: although large majorities of Americans now believe that warming has been happening, and large majorities believe that warming has probably been caused by human activity, that latter belief is not held with maximum possible certainty by everyone, and shifts in that belief seem to have been responsible for changes in judgments of the national seriousness of climate change during the last 23 years.  Thus, perhaps beliefs about human causal responsibility have been barriers impeding public endorsement of emissions reduction policies.  An innovative analytic method that we developed (called repeated cross section mediational analysis) supports this.  We will do experiments next to test the hypothesis.

Student: Dylan Schuler
Faculty: Scott Fendorf
Research: Defining the Contribution of Anoxic Microsites to Soil Carbon Preservation in Agricultural Soils
Department: Earth System Science

Enhancing soil carbon (C) storage improves soil fertility and offers a promising biological negative emissions strategy for carbon dioxide (CO2) removal from the atmosphere. However, the controls on soil microbial respiration, the central means of greenhouse gas emissions from soils, remain unresolved. Recently, anoxic microsites, zones of oxygen depletion, have been identified as an important soil C protection mechanism, slowing the rate of CO2 production from upland soils. This project seeks to determine the contribution of anoxic microsites to soil C preservation in managed soil systems. The objectives of this research are to deduce which soil characteristics (e.g., mineralogy, texture, climate) and management practices (e.g., tillage and organic C amendments) control oxygen-limitations and resulting C preservation within upland soils. 

To achieve these objectives, we will collect soils from five partner sites across the continental United States. These sites were selected in partnership with the Soil Health institute (SHI) and span a range of soil textures, clay mineralogies, climate conditions, and management practices. At all sites, we will perform a series of field and laboratory analyses to determine the role of anoxic microsites in enhancing soil C storage. We then will compare the contribution of anoxic protection across gradients in soil properties and management practices to uncover how each variable of interest influences anoxic protection of soil C in upland soils. The results of this work should inform land management strategies to maximize soil C storage in.

Student: Amanda Meyer
Faculty: Robert Dunbar
Research: Seagrass Meadow Mitigation of Ocean Acidification: Benefits of Large-Scale Protection
Department: Earth System Science

Seagrasses form large, shallow-water submerged meadows throughout the tropics, where they support biodiversity, provide foraging habitat for fish and marine mammals such as Dugongs, and contribute to improvement of water quality. As such they are often located near coral reefs and mangrove forests and likely engage in strong synergistic and mutually beneficial interactions with these other important coastal tropical marine ecosystems. With this proposal, Stanford undergraduate student Amanda Meyer (Biochemistry Major with environmental science and policy interests) will conduct field observations of carbon uptake and transformation within a tropical seagrass meadow in the Republic of Palau. She will explore the hypothesis that seagrass primary production removes more CO2 from seawater during daylight hours than it respires at night, producing a persistent reduction in seawater pH. Seawater circulating out of the meadow transports modified and higher alkalinity water to adjacent habitats, supporting enhanced growth of pH-dependent calcifying organisms such as stony corals, clams, oysters, and other commercially valuable species. If the chemistry and time-scale of mitigation of ocean acidification by seagrass meadows can be understood and modeled, this work will allow smarter site selection for shellfish aquaculture, coral reef protection, and new algal aquaculture farms. Given the known impacts of rising atmospheric CO2 levels on seawater, Amanda will contribute to understanding the effectiveness of a possible mitigation tool to be used in tropical coastal zones.

Student: Natalie Cross
Faculty: Jim Leape
Research: Ports as gateways and controls for illegal fishing
Department: Woods Institute for the Environment

This work is with the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) to support ongoing activities under the Addressing Illegal Fishing and Labor Abuses initiative in an effort to close the Pacific to illegal fishing. This work will focus primarily on developing a database of key port data for Pacific rim and Pacific island countries to better understand activities at port, risk of illegal fisheries activity and the opportunities ports represent as nodes of governance for better stewardship. 

Ports play key roles in the fishing industry. They provide vessels the opportunity to land their catches, load and access critical supplies, and move crew. As such they are also vulnerable locations to the smuggling of illegally traded wildlife, illegal drugs, illegal fisheries catches and human trafficking (especially of migrant workers). However, ports can also be hubs for positive change, as they are critical junctures to monitor and enforce legal frameworks that govern fisheries and trade activities.  

This work will build upon existing Stanford COS efforts looking at port risks of illegal fisheries activities and labor abuses. It will also support ongoing work focused on assessments of a port's susceptibility to illegal fishing through tracking and analysis of vessel dynamics via an ongoing partnership with Global Fishing Watch. More broadly, this research will inform the identification of potential policy and governance actions that could support the effective implementation of port state measures or the Port State Measures Agreement.

Student: Henri Stern
Faculty: Morgan O'Neill
Research: Statistical methods to understand atmospheric lightning distribution and intensity under climate change
Department: Earth System Science

Earth scientists produce a wealth of simulated climate data using climate models. These models have limited temporal and spatial scale, which necessitates limited physics, so they cannot accurately render several types of environmental phenomena, especially small-scale ones. A research question of recent interest is the change in lightning occurrence and intensity under climate change, which cannot be modeled in IPCC-class models. Changing lightning risk is particularly important to dry, vegetated climates, and this wildfire season, California tragically demonstrated the global impact of one bad storm. To address models' shortcoming, the project will use a gridded lightning frequency product and advanced statistical tools to better assess what climate models tell us about future lightning. Most of the studies of this type that are found in the literature are based on rudimentary statistical methodologies. So, there is an open opportunity to apply more modern, computationally intensive analyses to the model data that already exists. In particular, geometric and topological data analysis is well suited to climate questions because the models have a sense of "shape" that can be decoded and used to deepen our understanding of patterns and behaviors within the data.

Student: Rachel Miller
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Research: Measuring Collective Environmental Literacy in Local Communities
Department: Education

Issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic emphasize the complexity and interconnectedness of society, particularly the ways that collective action is required for effective solutions. This project seeks to understand how to define, foster, and measure collective environmental literacy in support of community action to address sustainability issues. This interdisciplinary project builds on prior work in our lab that has explored how environmental literacy is measured at the individual level and how collective constructs have been conceptualized and measured in a range of fields such as psychology, anthropology, sociology, and the natural sciences. We are developing instruments to measure collective environmental literacy. The measures include a survey and interview protocol. We will pilot measures in early 2021, with data collection and analysis in summer.

This project is the logical next step for this work. Our team will pilot test developed measures of collective environmental literacy. Working as part of research team, the student will identify a community of interest based on either a geographic connection or link to an environmental issue. Depending on skillsets and interests of the student and the needs of the community, the student will administer the developed survey, conduct interviews, or conduct some combination of surveys and interviews. Analysis of the data will help determine the efficacy of the measures and help pinpoint how communities build collective competencies and take collective actions to address sustainability issues.

Student: Chloe Gould
Faculty: Larry Crowder
Research: A cross-jurisdictional policy analysis of marine animal conservation in the North Pacific
Department: Biology, Hopkins Marine Station

Establishing successful policy that protects highly migratory marine animals can be challenging due to the vast distribution and habitat range of these animals. Recent research related animal tracking data of top Pacific marine predators to the geopolitical boundaries of Pacific countries, to identify the percentage of time that these highly migratory animals spend within exclusive economic zones versus in the open ocean. Despite the notion that these animals spend most of their time out at sea, where policy protections from harmful human interactions are virtually non-existent, it raises the question of how well these animals are protected during the times that they are within a country's jurisdiction. This research will build upon prior work to assess what commitments countries have made for the protection of these marine animals under various jurisdictions and policy frameworks. While these animals are found in many habitats and countries throughout their annual cycle, they may also face radically different protection levels that would be interesting to compare. Evaluating protection levels across areas of the Pacific can help in identifying areas where new or improved multilateral policy collaborations can have the greatest effects. This information is particularly timely given ongoing efforts to establish new policy frameworks for open sea areas. Outputs from this project will include a robust policy analysis of pre-existing management structures in various Pacific countries in relation to conservation of highly migratory marine animals, as well as provide information.

Student: Annabel Conger
Faculty: Dustin Schroeder
Research: Measuring Ice Sheet Shear Margin Temperature Using Bi-Static Radar
Department: Geophysics, Electrical Engineering

Student: Zachary LaGrande
Faculty: Elizabeth Hadley
Research: Tracking the Elephants of Garamba National Park: Using Radio Collar Data to Answer Spatial Questions Through GIS Analysis
Department: Biology, Earth System Science

Student: Diego Perez
Faculty: Fiorenza Micheli
Research: Data Analysis to Support Fisher Livelihoods
Department: Hopkins Marine Station

Student: Caroline Beckman
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Research: A national perspective on land trusts’ partnerships with academic institutions
Department: Education


Student: Douglas Klink
Faculty: Aditi Sheshadri
Research: Gravity wave signatures of intensifying tropical cyclones
Department: Earth System Science

The student will analyze high resolution balloon observations to identify gravity wave signatures of rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones. The proposed work is interdisciplinary and will apply data-driven methods to an urgent problem in atmospheric science. The research should lead to potential improvements in predicting the intensification of hurricanes.

Student: Willow Bowen
Faculty: William Gilly
Research: Ingestion of microplastic particles by California market squid hatchlings

Adult Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) ingest plastic fibers in the wild (Portner et al. 2019), but the significance and generality of this observation are not known. We will investigate ingestion of microplastic particles by developing paralarvae of the market squid, Doryteuthis opalescens, the target of the most valuable fishery in California. Hatchling squid will be raised from fertilized eggs in small acrylic spherical-tanks equipped with a filtered discharge to prevent loss of squid. Replicate tanks will include a control tank (T0) where squid are fed Artemia nauplii, one test tank (T1) where squid are fed Artemia previously mixed with fluorescent plastic microbeads of a specific diameter (e.g. 10-50 microns), and a second test tank (T2) where beads are added at non-feeding times at the same overall concentration and feeding schedule. Squid will be fed 4 times per day in all cases. Ingestion of plastic beads will be assayed using fluorescence microscopy from water samples collected in each tank and from contents of stomachs examined in several squid that are sampled each day during the experiment. Natural squid mortalities will be removed daily and counted. A typical experiment will last 2-3 weeks, so it will be possible to repeat and refine the experiment during one summer. Encounters of squid with prey and plastics will be captured with a video camera and analyzed to determine if behavioral modifications can be associated with plastic ingestion. The daily number of surviving squid will be back-calculated at the end of the experiment.

Student: Emma Dolan
Faculty: Patricia Bromley
Research: Educating for the Environment: Emphases on Sustainability in Citizenship Curricula
Department: Education

In an era of rolling back of progress on pollution regulation and decreasing public support for government spending on environmental protection, the growing activism of youth around the world about sustainable development is a source of hope for continued change. Starting from the assumption that what youth think about their role in protecting the environment it is important for the future, this research will examine the extent and nature of emphases on environmentalism and sustainability in U.S. high school curricula. Specifically, the study will focus on content in history and civics textbooks because these mandatory courses are where students learn most directly about their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Textbooks are important because they remain the most widely used instructional technology in classrooms, and have a well-documented relationship to student outcomes. Methodologically, the project will employ Natural Language Processing (NLP) using a toolkit for textbook analysis developed through a collaboration between Education and Computer Science at Stanford. A pilot version of the toolkit focused on identifying issues of gender and race/ethnicity in textbooks. Here, we will extend its uses to the environment and sustainability. The research will show: (1) how much high school citizenship textbooks emphasize topics of environmentalism and sustainability (e.g. as a percent of topics discussed), (2) what other concepts are linked to environmentalism and sustainability (e.g. social movements, human rights), and (3) the normative valence of relevant words.

Student: Katie Lu
Faculty: Eric Appel
Research: Upcycling waste struvite from wastewater treatment plants to engineer next-generation fire retardants for wildfire prevention
Department: MS&E

Struvite formation occurs in anaerobic digesters in wastewater treatment plants because magnesium (from hard water), ammonia (from urea and urine), and phosphate (from organic matter) come together in the plant's piping system. Struvite deposits can lead to inefficiencies within wastewater treatment plants due to clogging of the pipes, pumps and equipment, and must therefore be removed. Interestingly, ammonium phosphates are widely used as fire retardants in wildland fire suppression efforts. We aim to evaluate waste struvite as a potential active fire retardant in gel-based retardant fluids that can be used for wildfire prevention efforts. The poor aqueous solubility and high phosphate content of struvite make it well suited to use in retardant formulations for prevention efforts based on pre-treatment of landscapes subject to routine ignitions as this mineral will exhibit enhanced local retention and thus prolonged prevention of ignition. Upcycling of this waste struvite for this application has the potential to both reduce waste production from wastewater treatment plants and enhance wildfire mitigation strategies be enabling novel approaches to preventing wildfires at their source.

Student: Caroline Beckman
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Research: Bridging the Research-Practice Divide: Collaborating with Land Managers for Conservation Solutions
Department: Education

Our project endeavors to connect Stanford researchers with land managers working on applied conservation solutions in open-space preserves. Although land trusts and open spaces have conserved more than 56 million acres across the United States, limited resources often prevent managers from making data-based decisions. Concurrently, many university researchers seek nearby field sites and desire to make a local-scale contribution. This meeting of open-space needs with university capacity seems to be a win-win. 
Differing incentives and expectations conspire to prevent such partnerships, creating a gulf in this "boundary space" between research and practice. Yet, developing effective strategies to bridge the two is essential to employing data-based decision-making and applied solutions that leverage scholarship and create a platform for interdisciplinary collaborations. 
We focus on translational mechanisms that increase the likelihood of conservation impact and durable relationships. Driving questions include: What dimensions characterize successful university/land trust partnerships? What partnerships exist, and what supports are in place for those? When are university researchers well-poised to address land-conservation organizations' questions? 
To develop a more grounded understanding of these relationships, we piloted and studied an Open Space Management Practicum where students collaborate with San Francisco Bay Area open-space organizations. We have created storymaps of existing partnerships and attended conferences to share with others at this nexus.

Student: Julien Ueda
Faculty: Rodolfo Dirzo
Research: Assessing avian species diversity across an urban gradient after thirty years of development
Department: Biology

Earth's growing human population places enormous pressure on natural areas and the biodiversity these areas support. This is particularly true in California's San Francisco Bay Area, where the population has grown by 1.8 M people in the last three decades. However, some species may thrive in urbanized landscapes, while others survive in human-dominated suburbia. Assessing the impacts of urbanization on biodiversity and identifying conservation opportunities within urbanized landscapes presents a critical challenge to conservation efforts. This project will assess how local bird communities have changed over the last 30 years. In the early 1990s, Stanford PhD student Robert Blair conducted bird surveys at six sites along an urbanization gradient from Jasper Ridge to Palo Alto. Field surveys will be conducted at Blair's original study sites following his protocols to assess changes in avian communities. The student will study climate change through meteorological data and use remote sensing imagery to assess recent development. 

 The student will then examine his findings alongside the data from long-term local bird surveys to investigate how birds respond to the combined pressure of urbanization and global warming.
 The project will have important implications for the conservation of the general avian community and many emblematic California birds. We expect this research will identify recommendations for land managers and motivate us to use birds as a "canary in the coal mine" for understanding the biodiversity impacts of a growing human population.

Student: Audrey Bennett
Faculty: Larry Crowder
Research: Strength in Small Places: Mapping Coral Larvae in a Warming Ocean
Department: Biology

In August of 2019, the State of Hawaii entered ocean warming conditions that resulted in coral bleaching across at least five islands (Hawai'i Coral Bleaching Tracker, 2019). The Hawaiian heatwave, and other bleaching events worldwide, foretell a paradigm shift in ecosystem function, where severe disturbance is a regular condition. Scientists and communities are working across the archipelago to improve coral resilience during and after the event, and in years to come. A critical aspect of coral resilience is regrowth after bleaching, and coral reefs may rebound after a warming event if replenished by coral larvae from healthy areas. Larval movement has been mapped across ocean basins, but larval flow models seldom address local (~1 km scales), which are most relevant to conservation action.
Audrey will work alongside one of my graduate mentors (Rachel Carlson) who works in Hawaii ~7 months/year. Together, they plan to combine field surveys, remote sensing, and hydrodynamic modeling to map fine-scale larval travel and settlement across the vulnerable West Coast of Hawaii. They will use field data to test and validate larval models across a range of environmental conditions including freshwater outflow and habitat structure, and the student will specifically lead investigations on freshwater effects. Finally, they will use larval models to build a decision-support tool for examining impacts of management scenarios recommended by local conservation leaders. This project will combine disciplines of larval biology and marine ecology.

Student: Juan Spaventa
Faculty: Steve Monismith
Research: Developing UAS systems for Conservation and Research of Kelp Forest ecosystems in Baja, Mexico
Department: CEE

On the island Isla Natividad off the Pacific coast of Baja California there is a small community of fisherman. This community is almost entirely dependent on the kelp forests that surround the island for their food and source of income. However, climate change and illegal fishing are threatening the way of life for the inhabitants of this island. Traditionally, we've partnered with the community to do research that can help our understanding of how these ecosystems will change with the climate, and the community itself has undertaken the task of patrolling its waters to watch for poachers and illegal fisherman. However, with the recent exponential rise of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) technologies and correlated drop in cost, we hope to explore the potential of using commercially available systems to aid the community of Isla Natividad adapt to climate change. The research intends to use drone imagery to characterize the flow of water around the kelp forests to help understand how they will respond as fisheries and nurseries as climate change progresses. Furthermore, this project aims to trial the use of drones for monitoring illegal fishing activity with IR cameras. Traditionally, the islanders have had to patrol the waters themselves, a dangerous and costly responsibility to take on. If, however, villagers could avoid having to patrol at night or in bad weather by instead relying on drones with IR capabilities, this could save the community lots of money as well as minimize the risk to the rangers.

Student: Benji Reade Malagueno
Faculty: Jenna Davis
Research: Demand for and impacts of rural water infrastructure maintenance
Department: CEE

Water infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa has a high rate of failure, representing billions of dollars of lost investment while unreliable water supply remains a major barrier to improving health and livelihoods in the region. The purpose of this research is to experimentally measure the (1) willingness to pay of rural communities in Uganda for preventive maintenance of water supplies, and (2) financial and economic impacts of preventive maintenance for households, communities, and local governments. We are partnering with the nonprofit organization International Lifeline Fund (ILF - for this project. In Summer 2019, we collected baseline data in 152 communities. ILF is now providing its maintenance service to some of those communities, while other remain as controls. In Summer 2020, we will collect endline data to measure the impacts of the maintenance service.

Student: Jacqui Vogel
Faculty: Jim Leape
Research: Climate-conscious Management of Protected Areas in Micronesia
Department: Woods Institute

The student will work with the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) to support ongoing engagements with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). This work will increase awareness within COS of the impacts of impending climate-induced impacts on protected area valuation and management in these Large Ocean States (LOS). This research has the potential to aid the LOS themselves in the development of management strategies for areas of particular biological importance in accordance with the goals of the Micronesia Challenge 2030. In particular, the student will focus on enhancing the research team's understanding of climate impacts on biologically significant areas by addressing questions such as: (1) To what extent are Micronesian countries currently including references to climate change impacts in their protected area management plans? (2) What are the most effective strategies for preserving biologically significant areas that will be significantly altered by rising sea levels? (3) Within the context of ecosystem services and intrinsic biological significance, how can the eradication of certain ecological characteristics within a protected area be weighed against the potential appearance of new ones? (4) How do we determine the value of terrestrial vs marine protected areas when these designations are likely to become increasingly indeterminate? Ideally, this research can be adapted for the development of best-practice strategies to ensure the proper inclusion of climate impacts in protected area management plans.

Student: Hannah Huddleston
Faculty: Brian Knutson, Nik Sawe
Research: Using Psychology and Neuroeconomics Methods to Study Pro-Environmental Behavior
Department: Psychology

The student will assist in several studies over the summer that use a combination of approaches from psychology, economics, and neuroscience to study human decision-making on environmental issues. There is some flexibility and the student can choose which project they would most like to focus their efforts on. These include: (1) Design and analysis of cross-cultural survey work in collaboration with National Geographic, studying how the preferences for aspects of nature imagery change across cultures, as well as what aspects of nature imagery are most beneficial to elevate mood in people suffering from depression and anxiety across cultures (representative samples in US and India). (2) Studying ways to change commuter behavior to utilize public transportation options, using a combination of messaging, signed pledges, and incentives. This study, in collaboration with LBNL, will engage students in the design and analysis of a controlled behavioral intervention trial with survey and choice experiment components, as well as experimental design of a neuroeconomics experiment to investigate the neural mechanisms by which these interventions create behavior change. We are nearing completion of a large field experiment (several hundred participants) at LBNL, and this summer we will be running the FMRI subjects, and will follow their behavior longitudinally over the summer. (3) Research into unexplored opportunities to utilize behavioral economics approaches to reduce energy consumption.


Student: Devin Hagan
Faculty: Jonathan Payne
Research: Assessing climate change responses of California's intertidal marine invertebrates
Department: Geological Sciences

Global climate change is expected to facilitate range shifts, invasions, and extinctions on land and in the oceans. A few studies of California's intertidal communities have shown evidence of climate-related shifts in geographic range and abundance. These studies, however, are restricted to individual species or very small geographic areas;there are no studies documenting how the whole fauna is changing along California's coastline, which spans nearly 10º of latitude. In addition, several local studies have indicated that as the global climate warms, small-bodied marine species will survive at the expense of large-bodied species. The goal of this research is to test the hypothesis that, since 1970, the composition of California's marine intertidal communities has changed in species composition and ecological function. We will test this hypothesis by integrating a dataset of 87,643 timestamped and geolocated occurrences of 864 intertidal species with a species-level dataset of body sizes and ecological modes of life. The occurrence data have already been compiled from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The body size and ecological data will be derived from the published literature and compiled by Devin Hagan. Once these two datasets are integrated, temporal changes in geographic range size will be computed. Regression models will then be employed to determine if/how body size and functional ecological traits are associated with shifting geographic ranges.

Student: Lexi Neilan
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Research: Instructor Empathy and Student Experiences in Equity-Focused Nature Education
Department: Education

A key challenge in contemporary environmentalism is how to best increase the accessibility and inclusivity of early environmental experiences for youth, particularly youth of color. To fully address current environmental concerns, it is important that environmental messaging and behaviors are taken up by as wide a range of citizens as possible; such access often begins with environmental programs that reach students through school participation.

This project is a case study of one such environmental program in the Bay Area, and will explore the relationships and sense of place fostered by its instructors. This interdisciplinary project draws from the fields of environmental and place-based education, critical pedagogical theory, and social and developmental psychology. We will explore how the program instructors enact their goals of inclusive nature education, and the impacts the instructors seem to have on the students' sense of place and connections to environmentalism. We will explore these questions through qualitative interviews with instructors, students, and participating teachers; program observations; and analyses of educational artifacts provided by the program.

As a result of this project and the connections it makes between environmental education and youth development, we will better understand how environmental programs make those "first connections" and encourage environmental identities among youth of color. This research thus contributes efforts to widen the reach of environmental movements and messaging, especially among school-aged youth."

Student: Christopher Leboa
Faculty: Jason Andrews
Research: Environmental surveillance for enteric fever
Department: Medicine (Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine)

Typhoid fever infects 12 million people and causes 130,000 deaths annually, the vast majority in low income countries with poor sanitation systems. The planned research connects hospital and community based incidence studies with environmental surveillance measures to assess the burden typhoid infection in urban and rural Nepal. Nepal has long been a hotspot of typhoid infection and our research will help distinguish hot spots of disease transmission and provide foundation for possible interventions to reduce disease spread. The primary objective is to determine the utility of quantitative detection of Salmonella Typhi/Paratyphi DNA in water samples as a proxy for the typhoid/paratyphoid disease burden in the community and provide evidence for understanding disease hotspots and target areas for vaccination campaigns. This study will be done in one urban community (Kathmandu) and one rural community (Kavrepalanchok), where we have been conducting surveillance for enteric fever for the past five years. We have conducted a community survey of 25,000 households in these communities and will use this to draw a random sample of households for water sampling. Water will be filtered and DNA extracted using DNeasy PowerWater kits, and real-time PCR will be performed on site using Typhi/Paratyphi-specific primers. We will compare Typhi/Paratyphi detection frequency and abundance with local data on typhoid incidence. The overall goal is to determine whether this could be a useful for tool for assessing typhoid risk in resource-limited settings.

Student: Chloe Peterson-Nafziger
Faculty: Robert Dunbar
Research: Understanding a Guiding Light for Coral Reefs: Palau's Revolution in Marine Conservation
Department: Earth System Science

Societies that depend on coral reef systems develop their own unique relationships with their coastal environments and resources. Some of these relationships are sustainable while others are not. The Micronesian nation of Palau has caught the attention of conservationists worldwide with its dramatic activities designed to promote sustainable use of its coral reefs. Since 2015, Palau's 193,000 square mile National Marine Sanctuary has introduced ever greater restrictions on extractive activities. The National Marine Sanctuary, as well as a National Shark Take Ban and the creation of the Palau Protected Areas Network Act are all examples of leading conservation strategies designed with the help of multiple NGOs, conservationists, and scientists (including Stanford faculty and students) working with Palau's government. No other nation on Earth has implemented such dramatic and positive change in marine conservation, and we propose a MUIR project to understand what happened, why, and how. Palau's remarkably healthy reefs are regularly studied to learn more about the biology of corals as they once were. Romain will examine the state and drivers of Palauan reef health, but also examine the cultural, political, and economic practices that are impacted by (and in some cases led to) marine conservation. Romain will examine Palau's institutions as well as political and economic systems that encourage a healthy human-reef relationship in order to investigate how we might redesign our relationship with the ocean and its coral reefs.

Student: Noah Bennett
Faculty: Jenna Davis
Research: Assessing demand for and impacts of preventative maintenance programs for water infrastructure in Uganda
Department: CEE

Drinking water infrastructure in rural sub-Saharan Africa breaks down frequently and communities have long waits for repairs. Such breakdowns represent billions of dollars of lost investment, while unreliable water supply remains a major barrier to both economic development and public health protection in the region. A handful of social enterprises in East Africa have started developing preventative maintenance services to address this problem. The business model of these enterprises relies on regular payments from communities, as well as the support of local and regional government to offer services. In this project, we will (1) assess willingness and ability of rural communities in Uganda to pay for preventative maintenance service and (2) quantify the costs and benefits of this approach to households, communities, and local government. This research will fill a critical knowledge gap in efforts to improve water supplies in sub-Saharan Africa. We have partnered with the nonprofit organization International Lifeline Fund (ILF, for this project. ILF has piloted a preventive maintenance service in the Apac district of Uganda for the past several years. This summer we will collect baseline data in 150 Apac communities for a multi-year project that will include a price-randomized controlled trial of the ILF service during scale-up.

Student: Jasmin Dalsgaard
Faculty: Stephen Luby
Research: Stakeholder analysis of liquid propane gas distribution in a refugee camp
Department: School of Medicine/Woods Institute for the Environment

The proposed work is part of an interdisciplinary project that evaluates the large-scale distribution of liquid propane gas to replace firewood as a cooking fuel in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Until the initiation of propane distribution, >90% of refugees and host community households relied on firewood for cooking. Reliance on biomass for cooking not only results in elevated respiratory disease and deforestation, but also poses security risks. Obtaining and using firewood is also a major burden on household's financial and time resources. We will evaluate opportunities and barriers to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of LPG distribution following interviews with government, aid, implementation, and distributors stakeholders. Through focus group discussions with intended LPG users, we will also evaluate household's experiences with distribution, training, on-going support, and fuel use to identify institutional and behavioral mechanisms that facilitate high uptake. We will also measure human and environmental impacts of propane and firewood collection, such as time use, labor, security, household economics, indoor air pollution, respiratory disease, deforestation, water regulation, landslide risk, and elephant habitat. Finally, we will translate research into policy recommendations for stakeholders involved in energy provision and environmental protection in humanitarian crises. To facilitate dissemination of results, we will create a video documenting the study process and findings.

Student: William Chow
Faculty: William Tarpeh
Research: Producing and Characterizing Excreta-Derived Disinfectants
Department: Chemical Engineering

Lack of excreta collection and treatment endangers individual and community health across the developing world, particularly in rapidly growing urban centers. Through collaborative work at Stanford and in Dakar, Senegal, the proposed research aims to increase sustainable sanitation access, reduce diarrheal disease through disinfectant production from urine, and reduce environmental impacts of disinfectant production. Based on previous laboratory development and field trials, the research team will establish proof-of-concept of an electrochemical separation process to recover ammonia disinfectants from urine. Urine-derived disinfectant will be compared to conventional disinfectant in terms of bacterial inactivation rates and regrowth potential. The collaborative team will also compare local production costs and inputs for urine-derived and conventional disinfectants in Dakar. By combining molecular-scale laboratory investigations with real-world evaluation, this multidisciplinary effort leverages expertise at both scales to prioritize future optimization efforts and business model development. 

Student: Natasha Batista
Faculty: Jim Leape
Research: Identifying Strategies for Maintaining Food Security through Implementation of the Palauan National Marine Sanctuary
Department: Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

The student will work with members of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) and partners at the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) to support the Palauan National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) implementation through synthesis of knowledge and tools desired by government bodies and key stakeholders. This work includes synthesis of existing research relevant to interests of Palauan policy makers on addressing the maintenance of marine ecosystem health while meeting economic and food and nutrition security needs in a changing climate. In particular, the student will focus on enhancing the research team's understanding of food security and reef health by addressing questions such as: 
(1) What are the likely (direct and indirect) ecological, nutritional, cultural, and economic effects of protection of 80% of Palau's exclusive economic zone? 
(2) How will nearshore fisheries affect subsistence fishing practices and nutritional needs, tourism assets (reefs, sportfishing, megafauna), and the reef's resilience to climate risks? 
(3) What will be important to effective implementation of the PNMS, how will it be monitored, and how will success be measured?
Ideally, this research can be adapted for the continued management and governance development in Palau and the broader Western Pacific regions well as advance understanding of Pacific fisheries, food security, and sustainability under a changing climate.

Student: Kara Glenwright
Faculty: Tom Robinson
Research: Behavior and Energy Consumption Spillover from Girl Scout Family Participation in Energy or Water Reduction Programs
Department: Pediatrics and Medicine

A pilot study with four Junior (9-10 year old) Girl Scout Troops to investigate the possibility of behavioral and electricity use spillover from participation in a five-session energy reduction program or a five-session water use conservation program. This research extends the research of the successful, previously published, Girls Learning Environment and Energy program (GLEE). Over the summer, we will work with four Girl Scout troops and their families in Redwood City, California (Redwood City is selected because of the availability of hourly water data). Troops will be randomly assigned to receive either the water or energy program. In addition to surveys of behavior, families will be asked to give researchers one year of energy and water data - prior to the beginning of the project and at the end of the project. New to both programs will be the use of data visualizations of their energy and water use. These visualizations allow the introductions of concepts of load shape, peak load, base load, and stability of load shape over days, weeks, and months. Other pilot projects have studied the use of energy visualizations in energy behavior reduction curricula, activities have been created to help children garner insights into their home energy consumption and reduction. Water visualizations will be new and created over the summer.


Student: Anthony Moller
Faculty: Rob Jackson
Research: Impacts of shifting fire regimes on ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling and biodiversity
Department: Earth System Science

We are conducting a large-scale survey to investigate the effect of long-term changes in fire regimes on ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling and plant biodiversity across the globe. Fire frequencies are changing dramatically across the world, and increasing in frequency throughout most of the US; consequently, we hope to better understand the effect of changes in fire frequency on ecosystems. Our project contains collaborators in a number of organizations and our findings will have implications for how fire is managed in our research areas. Tony will be focusing his investigation on our work in National Parks, where there are a number of avenues to communicate our scientific findings to the broader community. We hope that our results will inform fire management policy to balance the need to conserve biodiversity, maintain healthy carbon and nutrient cycles, and reduce the risk of severe wildfire.

Student: Freya Chay
Faculty: Fiorenza Micheli
Research: Effects of ocean acidification on seagrass ecosystem structure and function
Department: Biology, Hopkins Marine Station

This project is a part of doctoral thesis work investigating the influences of ocean acidification on the structure, ecological interactions, and ecosystem function of a key coastal marine ecosystems associated with seagrasses. We are using low pH caused by natural CO2 venting activities (on Ischia Island, Italy) to examine how acidification may alter the composition and diversity of marine invertebrate species and functional groups, and the resulting rates of grazing and decomposition of plant material. We utilized pH gradients at vents to quantify seagrass litter decomposition rates in litter bag experiments, as well as the composition of invertebrates, microbes and fungi along the gradient. Physical variables and seawater chemistry are simultaneously characterized along the gradient. Ultimately, the project will increase our understanding of how ocean acidification will affect important ecosystem functions such as decomposition of organic matter and nutrient cycling.

Student: Hailey Deres
Faculty: Erik Sperling
Research: Effects of oxygen, temperature, and body size on the habitable range of red abalone
Department: Geological Sciences

Anthropogenic climate change has caused dramatic ocean warming and de-oxygenation. Marine ecosystems are fragile, and important fishery species like red abalone will likely experience a rapid decline in their habitable range. We will use the 'metabolic index' as a framework for mapping abalone habitable ranges. This is the first time this promising energetics-based approach has been used to predict future organismal habitability against high-resolution oxygen/temperature predictions for the U.S. west coast. These predictions of future habitable range will be have high utility in conservation and fisheries planning. We also plan to test the role of body size in temperature-dependent hypoxia. Smaller body sizes should be favored in low oxygen/high temperature environments due to a higher surface area/volume ratio. We hope that this project will show how oxygen thresholds vary with temperature in larval to adult abalone to test this physiological principle.

Student: Katherine Moldow
Faculty: Brian Knutson & Nik Sawe
Research: Using Psychology and Neuroeconomics Methods to Study Pro-Environmental Behavior
Department: Psychology/EIPER

This project will involve supporting several ongoing studies that use a combination of approaches from psychology, economics, and neuroscience to study human decision-making on environmental issues. These include: studying ways to change commuter behavior to utilize public transportation options using a combination of messaging, signed pledges, and incentives as part of a controlled behavioral intervention trial with survey and choice experiment components; using a suite of neuro-imaging experiments to predict the efficacy of campaigns by environmental nonprofits at fostering advocacy and conservation funding, the mechanisms that motivate species conservation, and what motivates the success of nature imagery on social media; and opportunities to utilize behavioral economics approaches to reduce energy consumption both in the residential and transportation sectors through the creation of materials for literature review.

Student: Kaylee Beam
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Research: Constructing nature, environment, and environmentalism in environmental education
Department: Graduate School of Education and Woods Institute

How we conceive of nature and what it means to be an environmentalist have the potential to influence our attitudes and behaviors with regard to the environment. Environmental and nature education experiences play a key role in shaping some of those conceptions for many of today's adolescents, and thus represent an important opportunity to affect the environmental choices of the next generation. This project combines qualitative methods (interviews, ethnographic observation, qualitative assessment of student writing samples) and quantitative methods (linguistic word count, implicit association testing, quantitative content analyses of student writing and mainstream media) from environmental education, social psychology, and linguistics, to explore (1) how educators construct 'environmentalist' and 'environmentalism'with students, (2) what opportunities students have to feel included in the environmental movement, and (3) how students more broadly construct their own individual relationships to nature.

Student: Lynée Turek-Hankins
Faculty: Katharine Mach
Research: Managing flood risk through land use policy
Department: Earth System Science

In this study, we will focus on the siting of hazardous industrial facilities, which are particularly dangerous because they may spill contaminants or toxins if flooded. By examining where flood-prone hazardous industrial facilities coincide with high levels of social vulnerability (e.g., agriculture-dependent, low-income, or otherwise disadvantaged communities), we will assess the spatial variation of high-risk communities (many flood-prone industrial facilities, highly vulnerable) and low-risk communities (few flood-prone facilities, low vulnerability). This project will combine the spatial analysis with an assessment of local land use regulations to determine if and how municipalities exacerbate or reduce flood risk from hazardous industrial facilities. Ultimately, the findings from the study will provide new insight into the consequences of flood risk management policy today, particularly for socially disadvantaged groups.

Student: Maceo Hastings Porro
Faculty: Kate Maher
Research: Determining trace metal distributions in vegetation and soils in a mining-impacted headwaters catchment
Department: Earth System Science

This research project will integrate field sampling of vegetation in riparian and floodplain environments with remotely sensed vegetation information. The sampling will focus on intra- and inter-species foliar chemistry across three adjacent watersheds in Colorado, located proximal to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). Two of the watersheds (Coal and Slate Creeks) are highly impacted by naturally occurring mineralization and historical mining activities, whereas one of the watersheds (East River) is relatively pristine. Coal Creek is the local water supply for the town of Crested Butte, CO and understanding metal distributions and release to surface waters is a central concern of the local community. This project seeks to first understand the distribution of metals across the floodplain and riparian vegetation in relation to stream and sediment concentrations. Assuming we find metal accumulation in plants growing in meta-contaminated sites, the project will then explore whether metal accumulation translates into a biochemical signature that is detectable at leaf-level and ideally, using airborne remote sensing. The ultimate goal of the project is to determine if airborne remote sensing data can be used to identify and map the distributions of metals in sediments using foliar chemistry or foliar response as an indicator. 

Student: Niza Contreras
Faculty: Jonathan Payne
Research: Estimating global extinction threat levels in Odonata (dragonflies & damselflies)
Department: Geological Sciences

Approximately 45% of the described species belonging to the insect order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) have been assessed for extinction threat. This is a relatively high percentage compared to other classes and orders of invertebrate animals, yet the threat status for the majority of species remains unknown, preventing a comprehensive conservation response. We will use the IUCN Red List threat statuses of 2716 assessed species of Odonata to create a logistic regression model of extinction threat status as predicted by four macroecological variables: body size, geographic range, habitat breadth, and sighting history. This model will then be applied to the remaining unassessed species for which we all have all four predictor variables. All four predictors variables are associated with extinction threat status in other living animal groups and with extinction versus survival in ancient extinction events recorded by the fossil record. The objective of this study is to rapidly evaluate the likely threat status for large numbers of species that have not been formally evaluated for threat status, thereby, quickly identifying the unassessed species most likely to be at risk of extinction and enabling more comprehensive conservation response at the landscape scale. The resulting list of estimated threat levels will complement the IUCN Red List and other formal assessment programs by providing a means for selecting species and geographic regions for highest priority.

Student: Zheng Yan
Faculty: Giulio De Leo
Research: Modern-day dodos: designing protected areas for the world's-largest, heavily-hunted land crab
Department: Biology, Hopkins Marine Station

Weighing in at over 4kg and spanning up to a meter across, the coconut crab (Birgus latro) is among the largest native land animals on many Indo-Pacific islands. This gargantuan, jungle-dwelling crab has been hunted for hundreds of years, but growth of human populations and habitat destruction have increasingly caused localized crab extinctions around the world. Despite its ecological, cultural, and nutritional importance to many island nations, we have a very poor understanding of the crab's ecology and population trends. An improved understanding of both the coconut crab's ecology and the impacts of traditional crab hunters are critical for assessing the threats that it currently faces and for tailoring effective conservation measures to meet these challenges. The primary objective of this project is to improve understanding of the critical habitat, home range, and current ecological challenges of the coconut crab (Birgus latro). Towards these goals, our ongoing project aims to a) analyze the movements of coconut crab using GPS tag data to understand their habitat preferences and b) assess anthropologically-informed interviews with indigenous coconut crab hunters to understand the magnitude of their impacts and the potential for alternate harvest strategies.


Student: Cheyenne Peltier
Faculty: Robert Waymouth
Research: Development of new catalysts for sustainable plastics
Department: Chemistry

The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to combine computational chemistry, polymer chemistry and material science to develop new catalysts and processes for generating biodegradable plastics. This research is working towards reducing the effects of plastics on the environment by establishing chemical design principles that will enable the development of practical technologies for inventing future fully recyclable polymeric materials and for recycling or creatively reusing important existing polymeric materials. Main components of the project include rationally designing new selective catalysts for generating biodegradable polymers as well as chemically recycling these materials at the end of their useful life.

Student: Sijo Smith
Faculty: Elizabeth Hadly
Research: Conservation Paleobiology in the Caribbean
Department: Biology

We propose to use recently excavated fossils (representing approximately 10,000 ybp to present) from the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, combined with climate records and modern species occurrence data, to forecast how climate change will impact the remaining native mammals. Previous studies by the Hadly lab have linked these extinctions to both climate change and human activities through the archeological record, but have yet to connect these patterns with concrete conservation planning. To accomplish this, we will produce maps of species/climate associations from the last glacial maximum, present, and 50-100 years into the future using IPCC projections.

Student: Geoffrey Oliver Lewis
Faculty: Scott Fendorf
Research: Understanding stresses of climate change and soil arsenic on rice yield
Department: Earth System Science

The goal of this project is to asses to what extent elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 affect the movement of arsenic from the bulk soil to the rhizosphere and ultimately into the rice root. To this end, the geochemistry of the soil and rhizosphere, specifically changes in arsenic speciation and mobility, and rice root physiology will help to understand the fate of arsenic within the soil-rice continuum.

Student: Gabriel (Gabi) Saiz
Faculty: Lisa Curran
Research: The effect of prescribed burns on Yurok & Karuk tribes and forests in Northern California
Department: Anthropology

We plan to assess tribal prescribed burning practices through ecological monitoring, interviews, and monitoring harvesting to evaluate if these practices alter resource abundance and access as intended. To expand this assessment, we combine aerial photographs (1944-2016) and satellite imagery to compare historical and current prairie characteristics throughout Yurok and Karuk ancestral territories. The aim is to evaluate how long-term fire exclusion may have altered fire-dependent ecological communities.

Student: Hannah Beutler
Faculty: Rob Dunbar
Research: Climate change impacts on subsistence harvesters in Arctic National Parks
Department: Earth Systems

The overarching goal of this research project is to characterize where, when, and how human subsistence users access marine resources within and near Arctic coastal National parklands and the effects of climate change on access. The proposed study is novel and interdisciplinary and will include multiple perspectives on the effects of climate change on coastal access through interviews of NPS staff and subsistence harvesters and analyses of existing data sets on climate change and subsistence harvest.

Student: Ali Hoffer
Faculty: Greg Asner
Research: Human impacts on ecosystem function in the Peruvian Amazon
Department: Carnegie Global Ecology

This project aims to examine how human activities in the Southeastern Peruvian Amazon influence ecosystem functioning. This project focuses on two common activities that take place in this region: agriculture and gold mining. We intend to first study soil microbial community composition and gene diversity in intact regions of the forest to serve as a baseline for soil community structure without human intervention.

Student: Michael Burnett
Faculty: Fiorenza Micheli
Research: Designing protected areas for the largest land crab
Department: Biology

The primary objective of this project is to improve understanding of the critical habitat, home range, and current ecological challenges of the coconut crab (Birgus latro). Towards these goals, our ongoing project aims to a) track the movements of coconut crab using GPS tags to understand their habitat preferences and b) conduct anthropologically-informed interviews with indigenous coconut crab hunters to assess the magnitude of their impacts and the potential for alternate harvest strategies.

Student: Anna Yang
Faculty: Kabir Peay
Research: How carbon & nitrogen flow change with environmental context
Department: Biology

This project will investigate the influence of belowground competition and N availability on resource trading in the EM mutualism. Using methods from engineering, chemistry, biology, and ecology, the student will use stable isotopes to track C and N flow in EM pine seedlings, varying the number of fungi on the root system and changing the amount of N available to examine the effects of competition and N deposition on resource trading in the system.

Student: Adam Stanford-Moore
Faculty: Dustin Schroeder
Research: Glacier velocity on Mt Baker, WA
Department: Geophysics

The project aims to measure subdaily fluctuations in glacier velocity on Mt. Baker, Washington state and connect these variations in velocity to changes in water flow underneath the glacier. Using a new technology, terrestrial radar interferometry (TRI), to monitor the subdaily fluctuations in ice speed of glaciers on Mt. Baker, we hope to fill this observational gap.


Student: Alexandra Nguyen-Phuc
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Environmental Stewardship and Literacy through Residential Education Programs in National Parks
Department: Education

This interdisciplinary research builds on a partnership between the Ardoin Lab (School of Education and Woods Institute) and NatureBridge, a national NGO that provides residential environmental education in national parks. The study explores the relationship between connection to nature, community-building, and stewardship behavior. There is also an art-based assessment to measure changes in environmental literacy during an environmental education program in Marin Headlands which will be adapted and re-implemented in Golden Gate and possibly Yosemite. We will also be working with a local school district whose classes have attended NatureBridge for the past 30 years. We will explore the relationship between in- and out-of-classroom science and environmental learning in this community.

Student: Ambika Acharya
Faculty: Stefano Ermon
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Closing the data divide: machine learning approaches for understanding livelihoods of the poor using unconventional data sources
Department: Computer Science

A deeper understanding of the drivers of poverty and hunger is one of the grand challenges of sustainability science. But progress on this challenge has been slow, mainly because data is scarce and with very limited spatial and temporal resolution. The project will involve mapping livelihoods in developing countries using large-scale machine learning models (graphical models and deep learning) and unconventional data sources. 

Student: Erin Pang
Faculty:  Janet Martinez
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Assessing the performance and effectiveness of past groundwater management experiences in California
Department: Law School

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), enacted by the state legislature in 2014, represents California's first statewide regime for groundwater management. The goal of this project is to assess the performance of a set of 16 case studies, including adjudications, special act districts, voluntary groundwater management plans, and county ordinances. This research will be used in conjunction with a related case study project investigating the role of geophysical data on groundwater management decisions and the governance structure(s) emerging under SGMA. Jointly, this work will be used to help local government agencies and water managers in deciding how to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) under SGMA, and in identifying policy alternatives to achieve sustainable management in each groundwater basin, as required under SGMA.

Student: Isabelle Smythe
Faculty: David Lobell
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Rapid monitoring of food price responses to environmental shocks
Department: Earth Systems Science

Environmental shocks, such as large-scale droughts or heat waves, can have important effects on food supply and food security. Responses to food market crises are numerous and complex, but can prove extremely effective, particularly when implemented immediately. The project will apply tools of computer science and data mining to the topic of food security, and any resulting methods would allow future study of responses to environmental changes in the region. 

Student: Johnny Caspers
Faculty:  Roz Naylor
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Using Lessons from Intensive Livestock to Guide Aquaculture Practices
Department: Earth Systems Science

This project examines the growth and geographical distribution of intensive livestock production in the U.S. since 1950. Our methods include spatial analysis using GIS, and discourse analysis using topic modeling and text assessment. We will assess the likelihood of aquaculture expansion following the trajectory of livestock expansion with its promises and pitfalls and identify environmentally sound practices.

Student: Jonas Kemp
Faculty: Giulio DeLeo
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Quantification and modelling of ecosystem services of native prawns in Senegal, West Africa, to fight schistosomiasis, a disease of poverty
Department: Biology

Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic infection affecting more than 220 million people in the developing world, especially where dams and water projects have greatly expanded freshwater habitat for snails, the parasite's intermediate hosts. The project challenge is to assess the long-term economic and ecological feasibility of a health initiative (Aquaculture Pour La Sante), and quantify the benefits to the environment, livelihoods, and health in Senegal, West Africa. We will assess the socio-economic impact of schistosomiasis as well as of other neglected tropical diseases. 

Student: Luke Miller
Faculty:  Steve Luby
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Exploring strategies to prevent lead exposure in rural Bangladesh
Department:  Medicine

As a potent neurotoxin, lead poses a serious threat to public health and human intellectual capital worldwide. This research allows us to collect additional samples of lead-soldered cans and their contents to determine lead concentrations. At the same time, we aim to explore strategies to reduce lead exposure among pregnant women and children by i) identifying potential government and political stakeholders to engage in long-term societal and policy change, ii) exploring alternatives to using lead solder among can manufacturers, and iii) identifying alternatives to current household food storage practices.

Student: Maria Marta Rey Malca De Habich
Faculty:  Greg Asner
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Deforestation and Private Land Concessions in the Peruvian Amazon
Department: Earth Systems Science

The student will participate in an interdisciplinary project supported by Stanford and Carnegie Institution for Science. This research seeks to understand under what conditions deforestation occurs in the Peruvian Amazon, using tools from global ecology to measure forest change, and using tools from political science to understand the underlying causes of that deforestation. We will also assess whether public sustainability commitments made by concession holders have an observable impact on deforestation rates at the concession level.

Student: Samantha Faul
Faculty: Rodolfo Dirzo
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Effects of agricultural intensity on biodiversity via analysis of species interaction networks
Department: Biology

This project will consider the effects of agricultural intensification on multiple species interactions by constructing plant-pollinator, plant-herbivore, plant-seed disperser, and bird-insect interaction networks. It will compare food resource diversity, wildlife diversity, and network structure between monoculture farms, diversified agriculture (farms that provide resources to wildlife through purposeful restoration techniques), and natural areas on the central California coast. This study's findings can be useful in designing effective agricultural management strategies for biodiversity conservation, and it will also provide a comprehensive dataset of multiple interaction networks, a scarce but vital resource for understanding ecological community dynamics. 

Student: Sarah Elizabeth Brickman
Faculty:  Eric Lambin
Year Funded: 2016
Research: Sustainable Sourcing Practices in the Food and Fiber Industries: Produce and Supply Chain Determinants
Department:  Earth Systems Science

We hypothesize that company, supply chain and product characteristics are all associated with the types of sustainable sourcing practices used by companies. We will use a representative random sample of food and fiber companies to evaluate corporate sustainable sourcing practices. This research will help characterize the recent rise in sustainable sourcing practices while also providing the first of its kind empirical dataset to allow for testing of a set of hypotheses proposed by the literature. 


Student: Ada Throckmorton
Faculty: Leonard Ortolano
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Business Leadership & Environmental Sustainability
Department: Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE)

Within this context of environmental sustainability and business, this project draws on theories and methods from multiple disciplines – including psychology, sociology, education, public policy, philosophy, and economics – to examine the integration of environmental sustainability within business management education. More specifically, this project will use data from in-depth qualitative interviews of business students to develop insights into three questions: 1) What and how business students are learning and thinking about sustainability issues in a corporate context?, 2) How is the social influence of their peers influencing their beliefs and behaviors?, and 3) What are the main barriers to changing these beliefs, and behaviors? These insights will inform the design of controlled behavioral intervention experiments to further test ideas about business students’ attitudes and behaviors towards environmental sustainability.

Student: Alan Wei
Faculty: Christopher Francis
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Simulating Seasonal Cycles of the Colorado River Basin: Nitrogen Cycling Insights and Implications for U(IV) Release
Department: Civil Environmental Engineering

Throughout the Colorado River Basin, uranium persists as a relic contaminant of former ore processing activities in fine-grained, organic-rich sediments found within the floodplain alluvium. We hypothesize that when seasonally elevated groundwater levels recede and the subsurface system becomes anoxic, nitrate diffuses into the reduced interiors of organic-rich sediments and becomes readily available for denitrification, the stepwise anaerobic reduction of nitrate/nitrite to dinitrogen gas. Using a series of diffusion-limited flow chambers with organic-rich sediment from Rifle, CO, this research will simulate seasonal groundwater trends observed in the field over an accelerated 12-week period in the laboratory.

Student: Ariel Bobbett
Faculty:  Peter Vitousek
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Uala Growth over a Climate Gradient: a Tool for Understanding Traditional Rainfed Agriculture in Hawaii
Department: Biology

Intensive rain-fed agricultural systems represented the foundation of the agricultural economies of the island of Hawaii and parts of Maui in the centuries before European contact. These systems largely were abandoned in the nineteenth century and our understanding of how they functioned as productive systems is sparse. Using the uala (sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas) as a model, we will compare how plantings in different climate gradients affected yields historically.

Student: Minjia Zhong
Faculty: Paul Ehrlich
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Predation Analysis of Checkerspot Butterfly Euphydryas gillettii Population at Gothic Colorado
Department: Biology

A population of Euphydryas gillettii translocated to Gothic, CO is a closely monitored case study depicting the effects of climate change on population dynamics. We will research how climate drivers may have an indirect effect by impacting egg clusters’ exposure to predation through the collection and analysis of predation data compared to earlier collection dates.

Student: Meghan Shea
Faculty: Rob Dunbar
Year Funded: 2015
Research: A Lagrangian Study of the Carbonate Chemistry in Coupled Mangrove, Seagrass, and Coral Communities in Palau
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science 

To gain insight into coral community metabolism and chemistry, we plan to study coral ecosystems in close proximity to mangrove and/or seagrass-dominated environments.  Using Lagrangian drifts to follow water currents and through utilization of temperature measurements and benthic sampling, we will show that coral living in these mangrove and/or seagrass-dominated environments exhibits both higher net community calcification (NCC) and net community productivity (NCP) than their more isolated counterparts.

Student: Nick White
Faculty: Giulio De Leo
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Assessing the socio-economic impact of Schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa
Department: Biology

Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic infection affecting more than 220 million people in the developing world, especially where dams and water projects have greatly expanded freshwater habitat for snails, the parasite’s intermediate hosts. We are investigating the viability and cost-effectiveness of a novel biological control approach based on the reintroduction of native crustacean predators (prawns) of snails in small aquaculture facilities.

Student: Nicole Bennet-Fite & Rosemary Mena-Wirth
Faculty: William Durham
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Research in Environmental Learning: Assessing SELAL in Osa, Costa Rica
Department: Anthropology

This project will assess the environmental learning of a supplemental education program (the “Stanford Environmental Leadership and Language Program,” SELAL) for high school students in Osa, Costa Rica. The program, based on a local needs assessment by INOGO in 2012, offered intensive summer-break training to high school seniors to foster environmental knowledge, leadership preparation, a strong working knowledge of English, and a sense of personal, community, and environmental responsibility.

Student: Rick Duenas
Faculty: Thomas Robinson
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Evaluation of disseminating an energy and environment intervention for Girl Scouts
Department: Pediatrics

The goal of this project is to continue ongoing research regarding the evaluation of a MOOC to prepare Girl Scouts leaders to deliver an energy and environment behavior change program. The intervention proved effective in changing home electricity and food and transportation behaviors in a randomized controlled trial in 4th and 5th grade Girl Scouts and their families (Girls Learning Energy and the Environment [GLEE])

Student: Sierra Kephart-Clary
Faculty: John Krosnick
Year Funded: 2015
Research: Public Opinion on Climate Change
Department: Communication & Political Science

In recent surveys, we found that when Americans are asked to guess the opinions of Americans on the issue of climate change, people underestimate the prevalence of green opinions and underestimate the gap between Republicans and Democrats.This project will explore one possible explanation: that news media coverage of public opinion polls has emphasized polls finding 50-50 splits of the public rather than polls finding majorities of green opinions.


Student: Amelia Farber
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2014
Research:  Social Ecological Approaches to PromotingEnvironmental and Stewardship Behavior: The Role of Environmental Education 
Department: School of Education

This project will enhance ongoing research on environmental education programs. Specifically, we will examine motivations for and barriers to environmental behavior among a range of audiences and in varying settings; program evaluation and adaptive management in informal settings such as parks and museums; the use of social strategies by non-governmental organizations to engage individuals and communities in decision-making related to natural resource management; leadership and training programs in natural resources and conservation; and the impact of “green” buildings and the built environment on environmental attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors.

Student: Ashley Jowell
Faculty: Thomas Robinson
Year Funded: 2014
Research: Online Dissemination of the Girls Learning Energy and the Environment (GLEE) Program
Department: Pediatrics

Our interdisciplinary team recently successfully developed and evaluated the Girls Learning Energy and Environment (GLEE) intervention, to promote energy conservation and environmental sustainability behaviors among 4th and 5th grade Girl Scouts and their families. We will work with the Vice Provost of Online Learning Office to create the
MOOC; produce training videos, structure the curriculum, and make the most of the edX platform.

Student: Corey Radis
Faculty: Scott Fendorf
Year Funded: 2014
Research: Testing the Feasibility of Using Sediment Accumulated in Searsville Dam as Agricultural Soil
Department: Earth System Science

This project will examine the potential usage of sediments found in the Searsville Dam as agricultural soil. Through testing for various compounds from carbon to arsenic to uranium and employing both biotic and abiotic processes, we will determine if the sediment contains toxins that would prevent its usage on products intended for human consumption. 

Student: Delaney Sztraicher
Faculty: Elizabeth Hadley
Year Funded: 2014
Research:  Modeling human arrival to South America and population density through the Holocene using archaeological data
Department: Biology

It is well established that the Earth is currently experiencing its sixth mass extinction due to the wide-ranging impacts of human activities, and these negative impacts on biodiversity are projected to further intensify under a growing population and changing global climate. To understand the role humans played in this past extinction, we will create a database of all available archaeological data from South America and create a metric for describing human population density at a given point in time and space.

Student: Kevin Baker& Meaghan Carley
Faculty: James Sweeney
Year Funded: 2014
Research: Counseling Energy Reduction: The Energy Reduction Motivational Interview
Department: Management Science and Engineering

As part of an ARPA-E cooperative agreement, we collected very high resolution, appliance specific electricity information in 30 local homes over a two-week period. While the ERMI allowed us to revisit the potential of face-to-face communication to change behavior when combined with home energy consumption over time and for many appliances, the MUIR intern(s) will perform the data analysis from this pilot study.

Student: Mark Carrington
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Year Funded: 2014
Research: American Public Opinion About Climate Change 
Department: Communication;& Political Science

In numerous surveys, our group has found that the vast majority of Americans are on the "green" side of the issue. But in recent surveys, we found that when Americans are asked to guess the opinions of Americans on the issue, people underestimate the prevalence of green opinions and underestimate the gap between Republicans and Democrats. This project will involve conducting content analysis and experiments to explore the impact of exposure to news stories on people's perceptions of public opinion.

Student: Olivia Cords
Faculty: Giulio De Leo
Year Funded: 2014
Research:  Public Health and Disease Ecology: the Global Control of Schistosomiasis 
Department: Biology

Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic infection affecting more than 220 million people in the developing world, especially where dams and water projects have greatly expanded freshwater habitat for snails, the parasite’s intermediate hosts. We are investigating the viability and cost-effectiveness of a novel biological control approach based on the reintroduction of native crustacean predators (prawns) of snails in hotspots of disease transmission.

Student: Roberto Guzman
Faculty: Fiorenza Micheli
Year Funded: 2014
Research: Assessing the magnitude and ecological effects of the seastar die-off in the Lovers Point State Marine Reserve
Department: Biology

Between September-December 2013, mass mortality of several seastar species was documented throughout coastal California. The die-off, likely caused by an unknown viral or bacterial pathogen, has affected intertidal species inhabiting rocky shores and kelp forests, including Pisaster ochraceus, the ocher seastar. We will conduct surveys of rocky shore habitat within the LPSMR and nearby sites and repeat past surveys utilizing identical methodologies in order to compare data to past assessments and evaluate possible changes in abundance, species composition, and size structure of sea stars.

Student: Smriti Sridhar
Faculty: Sally Benson
Year Funded: 2014
Research: Environmental Sustainability of Solar Fuels
Department: Energy Resources Engineering

There is growing interest in making liquid or gaseous fuels from solar energy, either directly using photoelectrocatalysis or indirectly using a electrocatalysis. This research project will perform systems analysis to evaluate and compare the environmental sustainability of these technologies from three perspectives: net energy, water intensity, and material demands.


Student: Adrian Berg
Faculty: Stephen Luby
Year Funded: 2013
Research: Sanitation, environmental fecal contamination, and child health
Department: Medicine

An empirical study to significantly advance understanding of fecal pathogen transmission and its association with child health will be conducted in rural Bangladesh. The proposed work will take advantage of an existing, large-scale, randomized intervention trial to draw inference about the effect of sanitation as a primary prevention measure, alone and in combination with secondary prevention measures such as water treatment and hand hygiene.

Student: Aldric Ulep
Faculty: Barton (Buzz) Thompson
Year Funded: 2013
Research: The interdisciplinary Water Energy Research Initiative
Department: Woods Institute for the Environment&  Law School

This project is jointly sponsored by the Woods Institute and the Precourt Institute for Energy and brings together policy and technical research to advance integrated resource management, regulation, and policy formulation across the water and energy arenas. A key focus of the Initiative will be monitoring, and bringing technical and process innovation research to inform, the drafting of the California Global Warming Solutions Act 2020-50 Scoping Plan Update across mitigation and adaptation measures, and research investments, targeting the water-energy nexus.

Student: Amelia Farber
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2013
Research:  Social Ecological Approaches to PromotingEnvironmental and Stewardship Behavior: The Role of Environmental Education 
Department: School of Education

This project will enhance ongoing research on environmental education programs. Specifically, we will examine motivations for and barriers to environmental behavior among a range of audiences and in varying settings; program evaluation and adaptive management in informal settings such as parks and museums; the use of social strategies by non-governmental organizations to engage individuals and communities in decision-making related to natural resource management; leadership and training programs in natural resources and conservation; and the impact of “green” buildings and the built environment on environmental attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors.

Student:  Darien French-Owen
Faculty: Kenneth Schieve
Year Funded: 2013
Research: Economic Interests and Individual Climate Change Policy Preferences 
Department: Political Science

The research question addressed in this project is what are the economic and political determinants of policy preferences about climate change policy and international climate change cooperation. The data used in the study will be original adult population surveys in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Student: Gabriela Leslie
Faculty: Eric Lambin
Year Funded: 2013
Research: Enhancing Smallholder's Livelihoods Through High Quality Cacao Varieties
Department: Earth System Science

Cacao is one of the most widely traded commodities around the world, produced by millions of smallholders in the tropics, however, most of the value is added in consuming countries, leaving many farmers in poverty. This study aims at evaluating the effectiveness of the three models—mainstream, bean-to-bar, and differentiated-within-mainstream—in improving farmers’ livelihoods and protecting cacao’s diversity.

Student: Isabel Cardenas
Faculty: Rodolfo Dirzo
Year Funded: 2013
Research: Incidence of sudden oak death disease at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve
Department: Biology

Sudden oak death (SOD) is the common name for a disease produced by the plant pathogen Phytophtora ramorum that kills oaks, tanoaks, and other species of trees in California and Oregon. Recent evidence indicates that P. ramorum has been found in bay laurel trees at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. The proposed research project is an analysis of SOD in bay laurels and oak trees at Jasper Ridge. 

Student: Jaclyn Phi
Faculty: Giulio De Leo
Year Funded: 2013
Research: Assessing the environmental externalities of the extractive and non-extractive uses of ocean and coastal waters
Department: Biology

The concept of “environmental externality” is the cornerstone of any cost-benefit analysis; yet, the quantitative assessment of environmental external costs generated by the extractive and non-extractive uses of oceans and coastal areas, though rapidly growing since the publication of the Millennium Assessment in 2005, is still in its infancy. The goal of the present project is to analyze how the concept of “environmental externality” in the exploitation of marine resources is treated in the scientific literature and to derive information on how is included in current regulations, policies and management approaches to account for, reduce and, possibly, eliminate the negative effects of ocean use.

Student: Nicole Rodriguez
Faculty: Peter Vitousek
Year Funded: 2013
Research: Talk Story about Traditional Hawaiian Healing
Department: Biology

This project explores traditional healing in Native Hawaiian culture, examining the relevance of ancient values and traditions in today's society. Student will journey throughout the Hawaiian Islands, presenting stories from Native healers who share their experiences in seeking truth, wisdom, and health. These stories delve into fundamental issues such as identity, balance, and nature, while showing how cultural complexity can be rooted in simple universal truths.

Student: Lauren McCune
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Year Funded: 2013
Research: American Public Opinion About Climate Change 
Department: Communication;&  Political Science

In numerous surveys, our group has found that the vast majority of Americans are on the "green" side of the issue. But in recent surveys, we found that when Americans are asked to guess the opinions of Americans on the issue, people underestimate the prevalence of green opinions and underestimate the gap between Republicans and Democrats. This project will involve conducting content analysis and experiments to explore the impact of exposure to news stories on people's perceptions of public opinion.

Student: Victoria Greenen
Faculty: Michael Tomz
Year Funded: 2013
Research:  Is Corporate Environmentalism Profitable? Experimental Investigations of the Effects of Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility on Consumption, Employment and Political Activity
Department: Political Science

Firms engage in environmental corporate social responsibility (ECSR) when they go beyond the requirements of current environmental law. We are conducting experiments to study how ECSR affects three types of behavior in the mass public: consumption, employment, and political activity.


Student: Alex Heaney
Faculty: Terry Root
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Emerging Influenza: The Role of Climate Change and Migratory Birds
Department: Woods Institute for the Environment

The overall research goal is to investigate the relationship between climate change and emerging influenza, using changes in birds as a connection between them. Wild migratory birds are the primary reservoir for influenza viruses and are known to infect domestic birds. One hypothesis that will be addressed is that spatial and temporal changes in wild birds have already and will continue to result in new contact occurring between wild and domestic birds. If true, this new contact has and will continue to broadening the number of infected domestic birds coming into contact with infected wild birds. Another hypothesis is that stresses, which can certainly lower the overall health of wild birds, will increase wild birds’ susceptibility to the influenza virus and also increase viral shedding. If true, wild birds would be circulating and likely transmitting a larger viral load in areas at the beginning, ending and along their migratory path.

Student: Belinda Tang
Faculty: Jenna Davis
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Reuse of Waste Stabilization Pond Treated Bio-solids in Uganda: Health Risks & Financial Gains
Department: Civil Environmental Engineering

This project explores the extent to which human excreta and bio-solids are reused for crop fertilization and the safety and cost- effectiveness of these practices. While preliminary work in Uganda demonstrates that small-scale farmers are using partially treated sludge for crop fertilization, an information gap still exists regarding the extent of these practices, current fertilizing techniques, and the potential economic gains resulting from the sale of the sludge. In collaboration with the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), this project aims to better understand the health risks and financial gains associated with the reuse of bio- solids.

Student: Claire Zabel
Faculty: Rob Dunbar
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs: Insights from Experiments at Palmyra Atoll
Department: Environmental Earth System Science

The oceans are currently experiencing both warming and increased acidification due to the effect of rising atmospheric CO2 levels. This project explores how these changes will affect the world’s low-lying coral atolls. Few actual measurements of organismal responses to ocean acidification are available; and fewer still from in-situ “natural” setting. Palmyra Atoll is uniquely situated in a setting that experiences large natural changes in seawater pCO2. In-situ field experiments will be used to measure actual rates of net community dissolution and precipitation of carbonate during the seasonal cycle that, at Palmyra Atoll, is accompanied by “natural” pH variability.

Student: Emma Broderick
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Evaluation Research on Konawaena Place-Based Environmental Education, Program and Hula Show Project
Department: School of Education

This project involves the development of tools needed to evaluate two culturally grounded environmental education programs in Kona, Hawai’i. One is a place-based education program in a public middle school, and the second is a hula performance designed jointly by local community members and Rachelle Gould a Stanford PhD candidate. The project goal is to explore the changes that the educational programs might engender in the students’ interrelated cultural and environmental knowledge and attitudes. Emma will conduct the post-test and analyze the data with consultation with the community partner. The post-survey results will be used to design an interview instrument to explore themes, questions, and ideas emerging from the survey work.

Student: Esther Oh
Faculty: Larry Crowder
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Social Science Research in Hawaiian Coral Reef Fisheries
Department: Center for Ocean Solutions

This project explores how social networks and socio-cultural factors mediate nearshore fishing and gathering activities at the community level in Hawaii. Both quantitative and qualitative data will be collected to gain more insight into both the social and kinship fishing networks as well as the socio-cultural benefits of seafood consumption in these communities. Specifically, the project team will assess: 1) fish-flow, and 2) the benefits of seafood consumption.

Student: Jeanette Lim
Faculty: William Durham
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Perceptions of Environmental Degradation and Mitigation in Tambopata, Peru
Department: Anthropology

This project will examine local perceptions of environmental degradation and mitigation in the Tambopata region of Peru, and study how these perceptions differ between community members, tourists, and tourism employees along the Tampbopata River. Understanding the views and behaviors of different stakeholders in one of the most ecologically sensitive and important regions of the world will improve collaborative conservation efforts built upon both scientific and sociocultural knowledge. This is a particularly critical time for such research to be conducted as it will prove useful in creating an open forum during the transition of Posada Amazonas Lodge from its current joint ownership to 100% local ownership. This research will help coming changes in management reflect current stakeholder views.

Student: Jen Ang
Faculty: John Krosnick
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Public Attitudes on Global Warming
Department: Communication & Political Science

This project examines the potential impact of natural scientists straying beyond their own areas of expertise when making public statements about global warming. Specifically, the project team will test the hypothesis that when natural science experts make recommendations about what political processes would be implemented to address climate change, the scientists reduce their own apparent credibility in the eyes of the public, because the scientists are willing to make assertions in arenas in which they are not expert. Additionally, the team will simulate the 2012 presidential election by showing participants videos of President Obama and Mitt Romney talking about climate change, to gauge the likely impact of the issue on voting.

Student: Jordan Pratt
Faculty: Noah Diffenbaugh
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Effects of Large-Scale Solar Installations on Dust Mobilization and Air Quality
Department: Environmental Earth System Science

The goal of this project is to study the effects of large-scale solar projects on regional dust mobilization and air quality.  To do this, the team will analyze aerosol product data from NASA's Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) at annual and seasonal time intervals near fifteen photovoltaic and solar thermal stations ranging from 5-200MW (12-4,942 acres) in size.  The stations are distributed over eight different countries and were chosen based on size, location and installation date; most of the installations are large-scale, took place in desert climates and were installed between 2006 and 2010.  The project will also consider air quality measurements of particulate matter between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (PM10) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitoring sites near and downwind from the project installations in the the U.S.  The team will use monthly wind data from the NOAA's National Center for Atmospheric Prediction (NCEP) Global Reanalysis to select the stations downwind from the installations, and then perform statistical analysis on the data to identify any significant changes in dust and air quality.

Student: Natalie Luu
Faculty: Brian Knutson
Year Funded: 2012
Research: Adapting Neuroeconomics Principles to the Study of Environmental Decision-Making
Department: Psychology

This project utilizes behavioral and fMRI research methods to adapt neuroeconomics principles to the study of decision-making on environmental issues. Specifically, this project addresses two broad questions. First, can neuroimaging inform our understanding of how people route and process information in decision tasks on environmental issues? Improved understanding of the neural basis of environmental valuation can improve the design of educational and policy initiatives that foster long-term ecological planning. Second, can neuroimaging help formulate a predictive model of population-level behavior in environmental valuation decisions? With this understanding, the team hopes to build a predictive model which allows us to predict choice based purely on neural data, using a new fMRI data analysis technique in Knutson's lab called regularized regression.


Student: Ernestine Fu
Faculty: Martin Fischer
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Global climate change and coastal infrastructure
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering

This project focuses on the impacts of climate change on global seaports. Seaports require special attention because of their economic importance as essential links in supply chains, their locations in the heart of sensitive estuarine environments and their reliance on waterfront locations. The research includes conceptual and predictive models of the likely impact of sea level rise and associated storm surge on coastlines in general and ports specifically; the structures and designs needed for varying degrees of protection; the environmental impact of such structures and their the cost-value ratio. Ernestine has been developing three hurricane climate change scenarios for the seaports of Gulfport, Providence, and Kingston. The scenarios consider hurricane impacts, the potential range of storm surge and statistics on the likelihood of Category 5 hurricane events. She will develop the scenarios during the summer by collecting field data at the three case study ports. By analyzing the nature and impact of uncertain local conditions and communicating with stakeholders, Ernestine will expand her scenarios to shape policy. This project will also allow her to develop a senior honors thesis on the impact of global climate change on coastal infrastructure.
Student: Felicia King

Faculty: Dmitri Petrov
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Effect of elevational clines on local climate adaptation in D. melanogaster
Department: Biology

The study of adaptation is at the heart of evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, after more than a century of rigorous empirical and theoretical developments, we still lack a comprehensive view of the mode and tempo of adaptive evolution. The migration of the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster from tropical Africa to more temperate climates is an excellent system for the study of adaptation. D. melanogaster has only recently colonized temperate climates, yet displays a well characterized set of traits and behaviors that promote survival under the stresses of winter. This aim of this project is to study the adaptation of D. melanogaster to temperate climates by investigating whether climate-adaptive traits and loci that are known to vary latitudinally along the East Coast of North America also vary in a similar faction along an elevational transect from the Central Valley up into the Sierra Nevada through one growing season (March to November). We will test the hypothesis that “Northernly” winter-adaptive genes and phenotypes will vary linearly with elevation and through the season, being most prevalent at high elevation and early in the growing season. Investigating whether or not such patterns exists will significantly contribute to understanding the mode and tempo of adaptation in D. melanogaster and will fill fundamental gaps in our knowledge of the ecology of the species.

Student: Jessica Eastling
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Non-monetary consideration in land-use decision analysis
Department: Education

Cultural Ecosystem Services (CES), often referred to as “non-use” values, are a key component of ecosystem management. These services are defined as “non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experience.” However, the intangible and often unprofitable nature of CES makes it difficult to incorporate into the standard decision process of free market tradeoffs. This project will assess individual landholder valuation of CES in land-use decisions to evaluate how their interpretations are being expressed in actual practice. Through studying the relationships between CES valuation and land-use, a clearer understanding of landholders’ decision-making can be developed to promote practices that ensure conservation of the land, and thus CES provided by the land.

Student: Kimberly Pham
Faculty: Chris Field
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Physiological mechanisms of climate-induced forest mortality
Department: Biology and Environmental Earth System Science

Trembling aspen is the most widespread tree species in North America. A recent and severe aspen mortality, termed Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD), has swept across Colorado, several other western states and parts of Canada. This project will attempt to answer how hydraulic failure builds up over multiple years in dying aspen trees, leading to forest mortality - specifically, whether changes in fine roots or stem properties mediate multiyear mortality pathways. Kimberly will measure several key plant physiological characteristics in aspen stands in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. Using a combination of pressurized water and sieves, she will extract fine root matter from the tree cores to assess if mortality of fine roots is occurring, if root mortality leads or lags canopy mortality and if it can build up over many years, potentially driving hydraulic failure. The combination of observational data about root density, physiological data of xylem tensions, and laboratory examinations of these tissues will provides a rigorous test of the long-term effects and processes of the hydraulic failure hypothesis.

Student: Lucia Hennelly
Faculty: Peter Vitousek
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Translating traditional ecological knowledge to modern environmental frameworks: Youth engagement in community-based natural resource management in Ha‘ena, Kaua‘i
Department: Biology

The aims and scope of this research project touch on Lucia’s three deepest passions: community organizing, active engagement of youth and environmental activism. In this project, she will examine the specific motivations that lead young people to become involved in the complex process of developing a co-management partnership. Her work will be grounded in the social, ecological, cultural and historical contexts surrounding Ha‘ena, with the aim of drawing lessons from this community that can be applied to engaging youth in similar collaborations across varying contexts.

Student: Nick Cariello
Faculty: Jenna Davis
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Rural water supply, nutrition and health in rural Mozambique
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering

The government of Mozambique is installing deep boreholes with hand pumps in several hundred rural communities of Nampula Province. Our team will be researching the impacts of this intervention, and will design and carry out a baseline survey in Nampula this summer. The impacts of the intervention will be quantified in terms of increases in quantity and quality of water, rates of school enrollment, and increased income and health improvements. Nick will investigate the process by which water supply projects are implemented in Mozambique, and how they impact communities. In addition to developing Portuguese language skills, he will help design and code data collection instruments for use in household surveys, train the Mozambican field teams and support in-country survey activities.

Student: Sabina Perkins
Faculty: Firoenza Michel
Year Funded: 2011
Research: Assessing the impacts of ocean acidification in natural CO2 vents
Department: Biology

Increased anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) is predicted to be a major driver of environmental change in the coming century. The oceans absorb a large proportion of CO2 from the atmosphere, which causes a reduction in seawater pH and carbonate ion concentration in a process called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is predicted to impact nearly all areas of the ocean and a wide range of species. Organisms that build calcareous structures are particularly sensitive and have shown reduced calcification, growth and survival to experimental CO2 enrichment. However, laboratory experiments have also shown wide variation in how marine organisms cope with low pH. It is critical to our understanding of responses and adaptation to acidification that we expand these laboratory studies to examine responses to long-term exposure under natural conditions. This project asks the important question of how marine organisms integrate the physiological effects of ocean acidification over time by quantifying potential differences in energy allocation between marine snails collected in extremely acidic waters in Ischia, Italy, and nearby ambient conditions by comparing their shell, reproductive tissue and somatic tissue mass. We hypothesize and that marine gastropods from the vents will have less energy for somatic growth and reproduction due to the energy demands for maintenance of calcification in acidified conditions. The proposed research is novel, because many of the organisms have been exposed to acidified waters throughout their life spans. The results from this study will provide insights on the physiological impacts of ocean acidification on a marine snail, and some of the first examples of how marine organisms integrate the effects of ocean acidification over time.

Student: Yibai Shu
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Year Funded: 2011
Research: The impact of news media coverage of climate change on American public opinion
Department: Communication and Political Science

During the last 10 years, we have conducted a series of national surveys tracking American public opinion on issues related to climate change. And during this time, Americans have come to accept the views of mainstream scientists on many relevant issues. At at the same time, there has been a growing split between Republicans and Democrats on this issue. While Democrats have been moving steadily in the direction of the views of mainstream scientists, Republicans have not manifested any notable changes in this direction. Why has this gap grown? To answer this question, we will do an in-depth content analysis of news media coverage of climate change, randomly selecting a set of major news media stories on the issue. Students will develop a set of procedures for implementing the content analysis, carry it out, evaluate the reliability of their results and conduct statistical analyses of their data.


Student: Elif Tasar
Faculty: Page Chamberlain
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Reconstructing terrestrial latitudinal temperature gradients of a high CO2 Earth - A test of GCM models
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science

One of the most useful techniques in predicting how the Earth?s climate will change in the future involves studying how it has changed in the past through the use of climate proxies. Traditionally, it has been thought that the Eocene epoch (55-34 Mya) was characterized by shallow latitudinal temperature gradients with significantly warmer poles and similar tropics compared to modern temperatures. However, climate models are at a loss to explain these shallow temperature gradients; the high concentrations of greenhouse gases needed to increase high latitude temperatures should also increase tropical temperatures. To date, no realistic feedback mechanism or theoretical ?thermostat? has been proposed that will stabilize tropical temperatures despite high greenhouse gas concentrations. This has one of two major implications. (1) Current models do not accurately represent climate feedback mechanisms such as latent heat transport, polar stratospheric cloud formation, or biological influences that would act as a thermostat to stabilize tropical temperatures while warming the poles. (2) Current interpretations of climate proxies have underestimated Eocene tropical temperatures and latitudinal temperature gradients. As such, this project will reconstruct Eocene latitudinal gradients using stable isotopic techniques.

Student: Evelyn Danforth
Faculty: Richard White
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Sustainable Grass-fed Livestock and Grassland Ecosystems
Department: History in conjunction with the Lane Center for the Study of the American West

The research involves compiling data and analyzing historical trends in Western livestock production methods in order to put the growing grass-fed production of beef, lamb, and bison into a larger historical and regional context. Danforth is mapping the data to gain a spatial understanding of the impact of grass-fed livestock on western rangelands. Her hypothesis is that while grass-fed, natural, and organic modes of production do not yet have a significant impact on overall meat production in the United States, they are beginning to have a significant impact on the management and health of grassland ecosystems in the West. Danforth?s research will examine to what extent alternative livestock production methods are economically viable in different regions of the West, which may depend on economies of scale, butchering, and distribution arrangements, and payments for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration. Danforth will also explore public land management institutions that provide incentives and barriers for these growing alternative modes of production. Her goal is to analyze the growth of these modes of production and their impact on the land, and predict what kind of growth will they see in the decade to come. Her end product will be a written report, if appropriate for peer-reviewed publication, and an interactive visualization to be developed with collaborators at the Lane Center demonstrating the spatial and temporal evolution of alternative livestock production that will be published online in the Center?s Rural West Project, and shared with media organizations.

Student: Helen Chen
Faculty: Peter Vitousek
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Streamwater Chemistry and Land Use on Kauai, Hawaii
Department: Biology/First Nations Futures Program

The student will sample streams that drain watersheds with contrasting land uses on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, and analyze those samples for a suite of major elements. The project is designed to relate land use - especially agriculture, housing, and golf courses - to water quality and ultimately to coastal marine resources. The intern will also work in collaboration with Mehana Vaughan, an E-IPER student who is from the area and who will be the intern's on-site mentor.

Student: Joseph Burg
Faculty: David Kennedy
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Water in the West
Department: History in conjunction with the Lane Center for the Study of the American West

This research project seeks to explore and jump start the use of data gathering, analysis, visualization, and mapping into the Joint Program on Water in the West. It also takes advantage of a collaboration between the Center and Sunset Magazine. Burg will analyze the survey and compare the results to surveys conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, the Gallup Poll, and a survey that is currently being conducted with Bay Area water managers by Richard Luthy?s group. Burg will then provide the analysis, along with compelling ideas for visualizing the data online and in the magazine, and connect them to other research results on the web sites of the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the Woods Institute. Burg will also be closely involved in the Water in the West?s research on metrics and performance measurement systems for moving toward sustainability in California and the West. He will work with the team, led by Jon Christensen, which will be gathering available data, identifying data gaps, and prototyping a "dashboard" for visualizing and mapping actionable data for citizens, decision makers, policymakers, and journalists.

Student: Kate Lowry
Faculty: Kevin Arrigo
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment (ICESCAPE)
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science

Research will include preparation beforehand and research aboard the icebreaker USCGC Healy from June 15- July 22, 2010. The goals of the Arctic cruise are to understand the physics, optics, biology, and biogeochemistry of the surface ocean and sea ice and how these might be responding to recent losses in sea ice cover. Changes in biological productivity in Arctic waters have been surprisingly large over the last decade and we would like to develop tools to be able to detect these changes using space-based satellite sensors. We will deploy optical instrumentation from a small boat at each station and also do surveys of the temperature, salinity, and water properties using instrumentation on board the Healy. In addition, we will sample sea ice where possible, focusing on its optical properties and its ability to harbor microorganisms that are important to the Arctic marine food web.

Student: Lucas Janson
Faculty: Bala Rajaratnam
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Uncertainty quantification of past climate reconstructions and future climate change forecasts
Department: Statistics

Despite the natural and obvious need for uncertainty quantification of past climate reconstructions and future climate change forecasts, a transparent and comprehensive methodology is not available in the literature. There is therefore an urgent need for a cross-disciplinary approach using hard scientific tools from the environmental sciences, statistics, and physics. This research project has two main objectives. First to develop statistical methods for the uncertainty quantification of past climate reconstructions. Second to develop physics and statistical methods for introducing randomness in general circulation models in order to be able to carry out uncertainty quantification of climate change forecasts.

Student: Sakshi Agarwal
Faculty: David Lobell
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Energy use in food systems
Department: Environmental Earth Systems Science/Woods Institute for the Environment

The goal of this research is to develop estimates of energy inputs into food production, transport, retail, and consumption, and to identify major opportunities to reduce fossil energy use in food. One outcome will be easily understood graphics of energy flows into agriculture, similar to GCEP exergy diagrams, and another will be publicly accessible databases to query or add numbers. This is an interdisciplinary project between food experts in FSE and energy experts in Precourt Institute for Energy.

Student: Stacey Aguilera
Faculty: Stephen Palumbi
Year Funded: 2010
Research: Variation of SNPs in PMCA Genes of Lottia gigantea from an Upwelling Acidic Monterey Bay Population Compared With a Non-upwelling Santa Barbara Population
Department: Biological Sciences/Hopkins Marine Station

This study intends on discovering if one of the common intertidal animals of the California coast, the limpet Lottia gigantea, varies in its genetic makeup of the plasma membrane Ca2+ ATPase (PMCA) in relation to the acidity of its environment. The PMCA protein functions in the calcification process of many organisms and in limpets, forms its protective shell. The goal is to find unique SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) of the DNA sequence of the Monterey population that are not found in the Santa Barbara population where upwelling does not affect pH severely. Answering this question of how the PMCA genes differ between a population of a higher acidic environment and a population of a lower acidic environment will lead to understanding how acidic environments influence their inhabitants now, as well as in the future when the majority of the ocean becomes an acidic environment.


Student: Ana Diaz-Hernandez
Faculty: Jenna Davis
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Evaluating the Sustainability of Multiple-Use Water Services in Developing Countries

Student: Andrew Rominger
Faculty: Mike Mastrandrea
Year Funded: 2009
Research: California Plant Ranges with 20th Century Climate Change

Student: Anne Lindseth
Faculty: Nicole Ardoin
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Bringing Buildings to Life

Student: Annika Ozinskas
Faculty: Rodolfo Dirzo/Don Kennedy
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Fauna Forever

Student: Bryce Golden-Chu
Faculty: Don Kennedy
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Climate Change and Conflict: What are the links and where is the evidence?

Student: Chris Seifert
Faculty: David Lobell
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Measuring Soil-Climate Interactions

Student: Justin Costa-Roberts
Faculty: Terry Carl
Year Funded: 2009
Research: The Paradox of Plenty the Environment and Conflict

Student: Kaitlan Halady and Hiyabel Tewoldemedhin
Faculty: Jon Krosnick
Year Funded: 2009
Research: The Impact of News Media Coverage of Climate Change on American Public Opinion

Student: Lee Anderegg
Faculty: Chris Field
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Sudden Aspen Decline: Detecting regeneration of climate-induced forest mortality in Colorado

Student: Leigh Hammel
Faculty: Steve Gorelick
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Remote Sensing of Salt-Marsh Vegetation Spacial Patterns

Student: Lindley Mease
Faculty: Gretchen Daily
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Ecological and Socio-cultural Services from Reforestation in Montane Hawai'i

Student: Sabine Bergmann
Faculty: Buzz Thompson
Year Funded: 2009
Research: Considering Ecosystem Service Valuation as a Framework for Environmental Impact Statements