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


Calendar of Upcoming Events
Sept.
23
Energy Seminar
"Energy in Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials"

Eric Pop, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford
» Read more ...
Sept.
24
Seminar
"Eliminating Carcinogen Emissions During Carbon Capture from Power Plants"

William Mitch, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, will speak as part of the Energy and Environment Affiliates Program New Faculty Seminar Series. Registration required.
» Read more ...
Oct.
8-9
Symposium
"Advanced Technologies for Affordable Low-Carbon Energy"

"Advanced Technologies for Affordable Low-Carbon Energy"
Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project presents scientific innovations in clean energy research, and thought leaders discuss the transition from university lab to product launch and the need to create ultra-affordable, low-carbon energy technologies for the developing world. Speakers include Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellows Chris Field and David Lobell.
Registration required.
» Read more ...

Factoring People into the Equation

Too often, science overlooks a crucial factor affecting environmental issues: people. Unlocking answers to threats ranging from deforestation to sea level rise depends on improving our understanding of human behavior. That's why two Stanford Woods Institute fellows – an epidemiologist and an anthropologist – are studying social networks to better understand how bird flu is transmitted, and Woods-affiliated political science Professor Kenneth Scheve is examining how climate treaties can be designed to maximize public support. These are just two examples of innovative approaches that Woods researchers are taking to find solutions to the world's most pressing environmental challenges. Read on to learn about these and other cutting-edge research projects.

Sincerely,

Debbie Drake Dunne
Executive Director

Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director

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



Research Highlights

Using Social Networks to Track Bird Flu

Who gets sick from bird flu? Who dies of it? How do they catch it? Senior Fellow Stephen Luby (Medicine, FSI), is part of a team studying how the virus is transmitted between people. To do so, Luby is focusing on human social networks - specifically, the dynamics among people who spend time on farms and in poultry markets - using methods pioneered by Woods Senior Fellow James Holland Jones (Anthropology). Some people serve as bridges connecting otherwise separate subgroups. These human connectors may be the best targets for medical interventions like vaccinations or antiviral treatment.

Photo credit: Norbert von der Groeben

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A New Approach to Making Climate Treaties Work

Why can't global leaders agree on a broad, effective climate change pact? The path from futility to progress likely lies in the way that climate change agreements are designed, according to a new study co-authored by Woods-affiliated political science Professor Kenneth Scheve (FSI). The study found that architects of global climate treaties can significantly increase public support – even among those who generally oppose international climate cooperation – by adopting features that resonate with people's perceptions of reciprocity and fairness, such as maximizing country participation and including enforcement mechanisms.

Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey

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Rethinking Urban Water Systems

Water crises increasingly threaten our health, security and economic livelihoods. Effective solutions must include not only innovative technology but consideration of institutions, according to a new paper co-authored by Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow and Co-Director Buzz Thompson. In the U.S. and elsewhere, outdated water infrastructure groans under growing demand, climate change and other pressures. Decades have passed without the implementation of large-scale, paradigm-shifting technology, management approaches or efficiency techniques. The problem isn't just a matter of innovation, but a failure to fully consider and act on political, cultural, social and economic factors, Thompson argues.

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New Source of Arsenic Threatens Groundwater in Vietnam

In Southern Asia an estimated 100 million people have been exposed to risks from groundwater contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic. The tainted water, used for drinking, agriculture and industry, has resulted in a variety of serious health risks, including cancer. Drilling deeper wells – a common way to search for clean water – may not be the solution, according to new research by environmental earth system science doctoral student Laura Erban, Woods Senior Fellows Steven Gorelick and Scott Fendorf (both professors of environmental earth system science), and Woods-affiliated Professor Howard Zebker (Geophysics). They found that a previously unsuspected process may be contaminating deep wells in the Mekong Delta with arsenic.

Photo credit: Laura Erban

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

Woods Appoints and Promotes Faculty

The Stanford Woods Institute welcomes three scholars to its research community. Their wide-ranging experience and expertise will further broaden the interdisciplinary collaboration that is the institute's hallmark. Woods recently appointed Jeremy Bailenson and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar as senior fellows and Leon Szeptycki as professor of the practice. David Lobell and Noah Diffenbaugh, both associate professors of environmental earth systems science, were promoted from Woods center fellows to senior fellows. For a full list of scholars who have been approved by the faculty for terms as Woods fellows this fall, visit our faculty and researchers listing.

Photo credit: Boora

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Mark Jacobson Honored

For his "dominating role in the development of models to identify the role of black carbon in climate change," Senior Fellow Mark Jacobson (Civil and Environmental Engineering) was among five scientists honored with the American Geophysical Union's 2013 Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award. The award goes to exceptional mid-career scientists who have demonstrated excellence in research and leadership in the fields of atmospheric climate sciences. Jacobson is also a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Read more about Jacobson's research ...

Program Updates

Water and Energy Study Reveals Missed Opportunities

Water managers are missing substantial opportunities to save energy and money, according to a report by Water in the West , a joint program of the Stanford Woods Institute and the Bill Lane Center for the American West. Co-authored by Cynthia Truelove, a Woods visiting scholar, the study also identifies significant gaps in knowledge about the amount of water used to extract resources such as natural gas, oil and coal, and to generate electricity. The report is a comprehensive survey of publications by the academic, government and nonprofit sectors between 1990 and 2013 that analyzes policy, along with scientific and technical research, on the connections between water and energy.

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Taking Groundwater Policy From Paper to Pump

If you live in the Western U.S., chances are good that some of the water you use comes from under the ground. Despite its importance to people and the environment, groundwater is often managed ineffectively. Many proven effective innovations in groundwater management have yet to become widely adopted. A new report compiled by Water in the West Program researcher Rebecca Nelson sheds light on solutions to major challenges to sustainable water management. The report, based on a two-day workshop that brought together groundwater experts from Australia and the United States, discusses the participants' experiences and lessons learned. Among the report’s findings: agencies should invest more in stakeholder communications and remove obstacles to trading water rights.

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Irrigation Waters More Than Crops in Africa

Only 4 percent of agricultural land in sub-Saharan Africa is currently irrigated. Localized irrigation systems, when made affordable through financing, have potential to grow food, economies and development in Africa, according to a new study by Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE) researchers including FSE Fellow Jennifer Burney and Woods Senior Fellow Rosamond Naylor (Earth Sciences, FSI). These systems have the potential to use water more productively, improve nutritional outcomes and rural development, and narrow the income disparities that permit widespread hunger to persist despite economic advancement.

Photo credit: Jennifer Burney

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

The Threat from Antibiotic Use on the Farm

The Washington Post, Aug. 22
Senior Fellow, Emeritus, Donald Kennedy (president, emeritus; Biology, emeritus) discusses the need for federal guidelines on antibiotic use in livestock

Increased Flooding May Cost the World $1 Trillion by 2050

CNBC, Aug. 19
Quotes Woods postdoctoral scholar Katie Arkema (Natural Capital Project) about the role of coastal habitats in protecting people and property

Virtual Cow Experiment Aims to Teach Empathy

USA Today, Aug. 14
Video shows virtual reality experience by Senior Fellow Jeremy Bailenson (Communication) that lets people experience life as a cow, complete with cattle prod zaps, with the emphasis on whether VR can have positive effects

Timing a Rise in Sea Level

The New York Times, Aug. 12
References study by Senior Fellows Noah Diffenbaugh (Earth Sciences) and Chris Field (Biology) that finds human-caused emissions have sped up climate change faster than at any point since the extinction of dinosaurs

The Climate Is Set to Change 'Orders of Magnitude' Faster Than at Any Other Time in the Past 65 Million Years

The Atlantic, Aug. 2
Cites research paper by Senior Fellows Noah Diffenbaugh (Earth Sciences) and Chris Field (Biology) on acceleration of climate change

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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.

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