Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment View this newsletter in your browser.
February 2013
Research Highlights Research Highlights
People Spotlights People Spotlights
Program Updates Program Updates
In the News In the News


Calendar of Upcoming Events
 
February
25
Energy Seminar
"Extreme Environment Sensing for Smart Power and Propulsion Systems"

Debbie Senesky, Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford
» Read more ...
February
26
Environmental Forum
"The Quiet Revolution: How Neo-Liberal Economic Theory Contributed to Greater Maori Independence"

Te Maire Tau, FSI-Humanities Center International Visitor
» Read more ...
February
28
Environmental Forum
"The Impact of Contaminated Water and Soil on Child Development in Bangladesh"

Stephen Luby, Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases & Geographical Medicine,
Director of Research at the Center for Innovation in Global Health, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
» Read more ...
March
4
Energy Seminar
"Sustainable Materials: With Both Eyes Open"

Julian Allwood, Cambridge University, Low Carbon and Materials Processing Group
» Read more ...
March
7
Environmental Forum
Title TBD

Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science and Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
» Read more ...
March
11
Energy Seminar
"Entrepreneurship Mini-Series, Part II: Recent Stanford Graduates in Energy Start-Ups"

Max Kelman, Manager of Materials & Print Development at Innovalight, Inc./Dupont, and Jacob Woodruff, Senior Scientist at SunPower Corp
» Read more ...
March
13
Stanford
Event
"Earth Matters Distinguished Lecture: Chris Field"

Chris Field, Professor of Biology and Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University, and Senior Fellow with Stanford Woods Institute
» Read more ...

From Labs to Leaders

Solar-power irrigation, land-improving fires and wastewater treatment plants that produce energy are among the innovative environmental solutions advanced by the Environmental Research Projects (EVP) program at Stanford Woods Institute. Since 2004, we've awarded $7.3 million to 44 EVP projects involving faculty members from all of Stanford's seven schools. Half of these EVPs have earned additional outside investments totaling $38.3 million. But finding answers is only part of our work. We're also focused on connecting our breakthrough research with leaders in government, the nonprofit world and business to translate those answers into action. That's why we're pleased that major news outlets are recognizing the value of EVP research - including publications such as Forbes and Wired and National Geographic. We're currently reviewing the newest round of EVP proposals and will be announcing the 2013 EVP grants in June. Stay tuned.

 

Sincerely,

Debbie Drake Dunne
Executive Director

Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director

Barton H. Thompson, Jr.
Perry L. McCarty Director



 
Research Highlights

Considering Social Drivers in the Study of Earth Systems

Earth System Science, the field of inquiry that seeks to develop a global understanding of the functioning of Earth as a system, has long overlooked a crucial component: social drivers and their consequences for human impact on earth systems. However, obstacles to incorporating social sciences are gradually being overcome, according a study co-authored by Senior Fellow Hal Mooney (Biology). The study looks at trends in Earth System Science assessments, as well as basic and applied science programs, to glean lessons that should be considered in emerging research programs such as Future Earth, a new initiative involving thousands of scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders that aims to provide global sustainability solutions.

 

The Future of Solar Power

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations have proliferated rapidly in recent years. A study co-authored by Senior Fellow Stefan Reichelstein (Business) provides a comprehensive assessment of the cost competitiveness of this electric power source. Reichelstein and his colleagues conclude that utility-scale PV installations are not yet able to compete financially with fossil fuel power plants, but will be able to compete at current wholesale electricity prices by the end of this decade if recent industry trends continue and current tax subsidies remain in place. Furthermore, the study projects that commercial-scale installations, which are already competitive with retail electricity rates paid by many U.S. commercial customers, are on track to achieve full "grid parity" in about 10 years even if current federal tax incentives expire at that point.

 

Coral Reefs and Human Well-Being

Coral reefs, among the planet's most diverse ecosystems, are disappearing. Despite general recognition of the human role in the plight of coral reefs, the vast majority of related research has focused on ecological, rather than human dimensions, limiting our understanding of social relationships with these environments as well as potential solutions for reef recovery. A study co-authored by Senior Fellow Larry Crowder (Biology), science director at the Center for Ocean Solutions, finds that specific frameworks for understanding human-coral reef interactions can help illuminate key social relationships and related environmental outcomes. The study suggests cross-disciplinary approaches that researchers can use to analyze the complex linkages among human well-being, coral reef ecology and the services reefs provide.

For more research, see the Stanford Woods Institute quarterly Research Digest.
 
People Spotlights

Terry Root Featured in Documentaries

Have you seen Chasing Ice? Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Terry Root (Biology) is featured in the acclaimed documentary about photographer James Balog, a one-time climate change skeptic who set out to document our changing planet. The film follows Balog and his assistants as they deploy cutting-edge time-lapse cameras in unforgiving arctic climates to document disappearing glaciers over the course of several years. It's "full of stunning images in addition to being timely ... as watchable as it is important," according to The New York Times. The film will be shown on Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in CEMEX Auditorium on the Stanford campus and will be followed by a panel discussion with the film's producer and director, Stanford alumnus Jeff Orlowski, as well as Root and Stanford Woods Fellows Noah Diffenbaugh (Environmental Earth System Science), Michael Wara (Law). The program is open to the public; admission is free.

Root is also featured in Bidder 70, a documentary about a college student who used civil disobedience to disrupt a controversial oil and gas lease auction of Utah wilderness land.

 

A Call to Realign Human Activity and Natural Systems

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy and other disasters, Senior Fellow Paul Ehrlich (Biology), a world-renowned ecologist and demographer, states that the decoupling of human and natural systems could lead to the collapse of civilization. Realigning these systems should be considered a greater priority, Ehrlich told an audience at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "Humanity is faced with the most serious crisis in its 200,000-year history," he said, "but society remains focused on relatively trivial problems such as the overblown debt 'crisis' and unemployment, rather than attacking the perfect storm of environmental problems that could bring down civilization."

Read more ...

 
Program Updates

National Geographic Honors Solar Market Garden Project

A project that started with funding from the Stanford Woods Institute's Environmental Venture Projects was named to National Geographic's list of Five Most Hopeful Energy Stories of 2012. The Benin solar market garden project, which aims to bring solar-powered drip-irrigation systems to arid regions with endemic food shortages, was heralded as a "solution in the developing world." The project is led by Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE) Fellow Jennifer Burney and Senior Fellow Rosamond Naylor (Earth Sciences, FSI), the FSE's director. Burney and Naylor hope to help researchers understand the success of novel technological interventions such as solar electrification in improving livelihoods in rural Africa.

Read more ...

 

2013 Leopold Leadership Fellows Selected

Twenty environmental researchers from across North America were recently awarded Leopold Leadership Fellowships. Based at the Stanford Woods Institute, the Leopold Leadership Program provides outstanding academic environmental researchers with intensive leadership and communications training to help them engage effectively with leaders in the public and private sectors who face complex decisions about sustainability and the environment. This year's fellows come from 17 institutions in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. They are doing innovative research in a range of disciplines, including ecology, marine science, economics, behavioral science, entomology, engineering and planning.

Read more ...

 

MUIR Program Accepting Applications

The 2013 Mentoring Undergraduates in Interdisciplinary Research (MUIR) program is now accepting proposals. The program provides Stanford undergraduate students with outstanding opportunities to work closely with Stanford faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to perform interdisciplinary research in environmental fields. Summer research fellows receive stipends of up to $5,600. Interested students need to ask a faculty member who is willing to apply on their behalf. Proposals are due Monday, March 4.

Read more ...

 
In the News
Selected media coverage of the Stanford Woods Institute and its
fellows, affiliated scholars and supported research.

Understanding Climate Change, With Help From Thoreau

NPR, Jan. 17
Senior Fellow Terry Root (Biology) comments on climate study related to historical records of Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold.

 

Burning Fuel Particles Do More Damage to Climate Than Thought, Study Says

The New York Times, Jan. 16
Quotes Senior Fellow Mark Jacobson (Civil and Environmental Engineering) on his black carbon study

 

Societal Transition Needed to Address Climate Change

Sacramento Bee, Jan. 16
Senior Fellows Pam Matson (Earth Sciences), Franklin Orr (Earth Sciences) and Jon Krosnick (Communication and Political Science) write about the social changes necessary for society to shift to an alternative energy infrastructure.

 

Scientists See Big Impacts on U.S. Ecosystems From Global Warming

The New York Times, Dec. 19, 2012
Features study co-authored by researchers including Stanford Woods Consulting Professor Mary Ruckelshaus, managing director of the Natural Capital Project

 

30 Under 30

Forbes, Dec. 17, 2012
Stanford postdoctoral scholar Yaniv Scherson is named to a list of rising energy sector stars for his work on technology that removes nitrogen from sewage and uses it to generate clean power - originally an EVP project.

 

Finding New Ways to Think About Water

National Geographic News, Dec. 7, 2012
Article discusses work on anticipating California's future water needs by Senior Fellow Richard Luthy (Civil and Environmental Engineering).

 

The Best Scientific Figures of 2012

Wired, Dec. 5, 2012
Features graphic from a study of aboriginal burning practices by Woods-affiliated Senior Research Scientist Doug Bird and Stanford Associate Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Bliege Bird - originally an EVP project - honored for "visual clarity, information density and insight"

 
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The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment online newsletter is published each month except for July/August and December/January, when issues are combined.

Past issues can be found online. For more information about the Stanford Woods Institute, visit our website, or email us at environment@stanford.edu.