2017

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.
 

2016

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.

2015

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.

 

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