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Woods Wrapped 2023

Zombie forests, emissions from gas stoves and alternative meats captured our community's attention this year, along with 2023's climate-fueled "whiplash weather" and discussions on equitable climate solutions.  Read on for more about these top stories and events in our year-end wrap up.

Research with impact

The Woods Institute serves as a key interdisciplinary hub for environment and sustainability researchers at Stanford. This year, Stanford researchers revealed new insights about the intersection of climate change in natural systems, human health, and economics – and potential ways forward.

Warming weather makes zombie forests

A fifth of California coniferous trees are stranded in conditions that don’t suit them, making them more prone to being replaced by other species. The findings could help inform long-term wildfire and ecosystem management.

Cooking on gas stoves emits benzene

Gas stove with a blue flame.

About 47 million homes use natural gas or propane-burning cooktops and ovens. Stanford researchers found that cooking with gas stoves can raise indoor levels of the carcinogen benzene above those found in secondhand smoke.

Can alternative meat compete?

An analysis compares innovations and policies related to plant-based and lab-grown alternatives to animal meat and dairy in the U.S. and European Union. Its findings could help ensure legislation levels the food industry playing field.

Sparking conversation

The Woods Institute offers a broad array of conferences, webinars, and in-person briefings to ensure Stanford's environmental findings reach those who can use them. In these highlights, Stanford scholars discussed how to incorporate justice, equity, and Indigenous knowledge into climate and environmental solutions.

Stanford travels to the 2023 UN Climate Conference

A delegation of Stanford faculty, scholars, and students traveled to climate talks in Dubai to discuss topics ranging from sustainable blue food to youth climate activism.

Inequitable climate: The case of clean water

Stanford scholars and other experts  examined the challenges and potential solutions to ensuring communities across the United States have access to clean water.

Island cultures and environmental leadership

Senior fellow Peter Vitousek and Hawaiian scholar Kamana Beamer came together to explore what Pacific island cultures can teach us about sustainability.

Rapid response to winter storms

A barrage of storms starting in late December 2022 highlighted the dangers of “whiplash weather,” a pattern of swings between heavy winter rainfall and severe summer drought in the western U.S. In response, Stanford scholars and the public information manager for Sacramento County – an area that saw some of the heaviest damage from recent state-wide flooding – discussed the science behind the storms, implications for drought recovery, and tools to help communities mitigate future risk.

Cultivating the next generation

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment is equipping global leaders with the skills, knowledge and networks to move ideas into action and support informed decision-making.

Explore more student leadership and education programs

Rising Environmental Leaders Program

Past fellows assumed professional roles, were awarded prestigious science-policy fellowships, and were recognized for accomplishments drawing on their science backgrounds to improve environmental policy outcomes – demonstrating the effectiveness of the program.

Mel Lane Student Grants Program

A student leader and high schooler sit together at a table.

A group of Stanford graduate students in the Pre-Collegiate Opportunities Within Energy Research (POWER) club hosted local high schoolers on campus to learn more about pathways to careers in sustainable energy engineering.

Mentoring Undergraduates in Interdisciplinary Research

Participants presented their summer research alongside interns from the Sustainability, Engineering and Sciences - Undergraduate Research Program and the Summer Undergraduate Program on Energy Research in a new combined Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability undergraduate symposium.

Impact beyond campus

The Woods Institute seeks to extend its impact beyond academia through engagement with U.S. policymakers, stakeholders, collaborators, and local community groups.

Talking toward solutions

Thanks to a Woods Uncommon Dialogue, industry and conservation groups got past their differences to reach a landmark agreement advancing large-scale solar development while championing land conservation and local community interests.

Going behind the scenes

Step into the world of experimentation, intellectual discourse, and challenge that comes before published findings. Our new story series highlights the people, processes, innovations, and discoveries stemming from Woods-funded research projects.

Explore In Focus: Funded Research

Extreme-proof methane sensors

Stanford researchers are working across disciplines to measure emissions of a potent greenhouse gas in extreme conditions.

What do EV batteries have to do with health?

Stanford researchers combine epidemiology and management to confront a growing threat from lead-acid batteries.

Improving neighborhood well-being

Vehicles outfitted with sensors and other devices are collecting environmental data with an aim to improve living conditions in cities.

Uncommon Collaborators: Data science for clean water

A Stanford geophysicist and lawyer team up to use big data for water quality monitoring and governance.


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