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


Calendar of Upcoming Events
Oct.
16
Environmental Forum
"The Emergence of Marine Conservation and Local Governance Among Small-Scale Fishers, Global Implications for Biodiversity Conversation"

Xavier Basurto, Marine Science and Conservation, Duke University
» Read more ...
Oct.
18
Environmental Forum
Joint E-IPER Seminar and Stanford Woods Environmental Forum featuring Janine Benyus

Janine Benyus, Co-Founder and Board President, Biomimicry 3.8.
» Read more ...
Oct.
21
Energy Seminar
"Panel on Ethics in an Energy Crisis: What Should We Do When Current Needs Conflict With Long-Term Sustainability"

Mark Bryant Budolfson, Blake Francis, Hyunseop Kim, Stanford University. Moderated by Debra Satz, Professor of Ethics in Society, Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts
» Read more ...
Oct.
24
Environmental Forum
"Biophysical Processes Shaping Bacterial Life in Solis: An Unexplored Universe Under Our Feet"

Dani Or, Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
» Read more ...
Oct.
28
Energy Seminar
"Energy Data: Big Decisions, Miniseries Part 2 of 3: Creating an Energy-Efficient Future Through Data-Driven Decision Making"

Philip Farese, Vice President of Engineering, Advantix Systems
» Read more ...
Oct.
30
Symposium
Joint EESS Seminar and Stanford Woods Environmental Forum featuring Tracy Van Holt

Tracy Van Holt, Geography, East Carolina University
» Read more ...
Oct.
31
Environmental Forum
"Advanced Technologies for Affordable Low-Carbon Energy"

"Hand Washing Promotion in Low-Income Countries: Progress, Barriers and Research Questions." Stephen Luby, Medicine, Center for Innovation in Global Health, Stanford Woods Institute
» Read more ...
Nov.
4
Energy Seminar
"Environmental Impacts of Renewable Electricity Generation Technologies"

Garvin Heath, Senior Scientist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
» Read more ...
Nov.
7
Environmental Forum
"Frontiers in Disease Ecology"

James Jones, Anthropology, Stanford Woods Institute
» Read more ...

Thinking Differently About Solutions

From the start, it was something entirely new. Since its founding five years ago, the Center for Ocean Solutions - a unique collaboration among scientists, engineers and lawyers - has been making measurable impacts ranging from rapid pathogen-detecting technology that promises safer swimming to novel legal analyses that show policymakers how to increase coastal ecosystem resiliency. "Because of the work of the Center for Ocean Solutions and others, we were able to get real-time data," Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker said during a recent roundtable discussion held for the Center's fifth anniversary celebration. We were able to show very specific job connections and linkages between economic drivers and the environment." That, Ranker said, resulted in millions of dollars of state funding for ocean acidification research and related initatives. Other Woods-related work is getting noticed, too. Senior Fellow David Lobell was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his pioneering research to understand how climate change and other environmental factors affect crop yield and global food security. Read on to learn more about the innovative approaches that Lobell and other researchers are taking to find solutions to pressing environmental challenges around the world.

Sincerely,

Debbie Drake Dunne
Executive Director

Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director

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



Research Highlights

Electricity From Sewage

Scientists, including Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Craig Criddle (Civil and Environmental Engineering), have developed a microbial "battery" that produces electricity by digesting the plant and animal waste dissolved in sewage. Criddle and his fellow researchers hope the battery will be used in places such as sewage treatment plants, or to break down organic pollutants in the "dead zones" of lakes and coastal waters where fertilizer runoff and other organic waste can deplete oxygen levels and suffocate marine life.

Photo credit: Xing Xie

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Bats Spreading Deadly Virus

The Nipah virus, spread by Pteropus bats, is killing people in Southeast Asia and could pose the threat of a global pandemic, says Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Stephen Luby (Medicine, FSI). If the virus adapts to more efficient human-to-human transmission, it could spread rapidly across international borders, Luby writes in a recent commentary. To avoid this outcome, Luby suggests a range of measures and broadly urges the global community to do a better job of estimating and managing the risk. He calls for a stepped-up study of how the virus is transmitted, closer observation of infected people and consideration of vaccinations for at-risk communities.

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Global Warming to Increase Severe Thunderstorm Risk

Severe thunderstorms are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States. New climate analyses led by Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh (Earth Sciences) suggest a substantial increase in the conditions that produce these types of storms. Sparse historical data describing the atmospheric conditions that cause severe thunderstorms has limited scientists' ability to project the long-term effects of global warming on storm frequency. Diffenbaugh and his fellow researchers used complex, physics-based climate models to produce comprehensive projections of severe storm conditions for the next century.

Photo credit: Sean Waugh/NOAA/NSSL

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New Approach Reveals Coral Secrets

The rain forests of the ocean, coral reefs support incredible biodiversity and sustain millions of people. Understanding how these critical ecosystems will respond to the challenges of climate change and ocean acidification is an environmental and socioeconomic imperative. A recent study co-authored by environmental earth system science Ph.D. student Lida Teneva, Center for Ocean Solutions Early Career Fellow Jamie Dunckley and Senior Fellows Rob Dunbar (Earth Sciences) and Woods Co-Director Jeff Koseff (Civil and Environmental Engineering) makes exciting findings about a novel experimental framework for nondestructive reef field studies. The new approach can help gather unprecedented high-resolution physical, chemical and biological information from coral reefs. This discovery holds the promise of pinpointing factors that make reefs resilient to climate change.

Photo credit: Sean Waugh/NOAA/NSSL

Read more ...

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

David Lobell Wins MacArthur 'Genius' Award

Agricultural ecologist David Lobell (Earth Sciences, FSI), a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute, was honored with a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship for research on the impact of climate change on crop production and food security. Lobell was cited "for unearthing richly informative, but often underutilized sources of data to investigate the impact of climate change on crop production and global food security." His research focuses on identifying opportunities to increase yields of crops, including wheat and corn in major agricultural regions, with projects currently under way in Africa, South Asia, Mexico and the United States. Lobell is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report chapter on food security, to be published in 2014.

Photo credit: L.A. Cicero

Read more ...

Clean Energy on Late Night

Who knew David Letterman installed geothermal heat pumps under his house? Letterman discussed his green retrofit with Senior Fellow Mark Z. Jacobson (Civil and Environmental Engineering), on the Oct. 9 episode of "Late Night With David Letterman." The two had a wide-ranging conversation centered on studies Jacobson has led showing the feasibility of converting global, national and state energy infrastructures to all-renewable sources. “There’s no technological or economic limitation to solving these problems,” Jacobson said. “It’s a social and political issue, primarily.”

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Bringing Climate Science to Congress

Climate change has a human cost. To illustrate that cost, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, recently invited citizens affected by climate and extreme weather events to speak before members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh (Earth Sciences) was the only climate expert invited to provide a scientific perspective. The meeting of the Safe Climate Caucus, an informal group that Waxman heads, came a day before the House energy panel was set to question Cabinet members about the President's Climate Action Plan and a few days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was set to release carbon dioxide rules for new power plants.

Read more ...

Program Updates

Linking Nature to Human Well-Being

It's one thing to understand biodiversity and ecosystem services, how land and water meet society's needs. It's another thing to put that knowledge into real-world decision making. A paper co-authored by Natural Capital Project researchers, including Woods Senior Fellow Gretchen Daily (Biology) and Woods Consulting Professor Mary Ruckelshaus, offers lessons from pilot demonstrations on how to apply new approaches and tools for quantifying biodiversity and ecosystem services. Among their findings: training local experts is key, decision makers want other metrics in addition to monetary values, and more needs to be done to link biodiversity changes to changes in livelihoods, health, cultural values and other metrics of human well-being.

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Seeking Future Environmental Leaders

Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from all seven of Stanford's schools are encouraged to apply for the Stanford Woods Institute's Rising Environmental Leaders Program. The year-long program, which includes a one-week boot camp in Washington, D.C., helps participants connect research to action and build partnerships and leadership skills. It features perspectives from government, NGOs, think tanks and business leaders. The application deadline is Nov. 11. Twenty fellows will be selected by mid-December.

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Global Freshwater Initiative Analysis Honored

A groundbreaking analysis co-authored by Global Freshwater Initiative researchers won the 2012 American Geophysical Union's Editor's Choice Award. The paper, published in the October 2012 issue of the journal Water Resources Research, is the first to systematically analyze and classify water crises around the world. It finds that water systems have a limited set of patterns, or "syndromes," which can be classified into one of four categories and which have their root causes in just a few factors. The finding challenges long-held views that freshwater issues require highly individualized solutions. The award was given to recognize "technical significance, novelty, originality, presentation and broader implications of the publication."

Read more ...

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

Sea Change: The Pacific's Perilous Turn

The Seattle Times, Sept. 15
Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Stephen Palumbi calls for action on ocean acidification to avoid "train wreck"

Global Warming Update: Record Heat Is 4 Times More Likely Now Than in Pre-Industrial Times

Popular Science, Sept. 6
Quotes Woods Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh on increased likelihood of extreme weather due to greenhouse gas emissions

The Truth About GMOs

Boston Review, Sept. 6
Rosamond Naylor, Stanford Woods Institute senior fellow and Center on Food Security and the Environment director, argues that genetically modified crops can help prevent hunger

Climate Change to Bring More Sizzling Summers, Study Says

USA Today, Sept. 5
Cites extreme weather research by Woods Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh

Wildfires and Climate Change

The New York Times, Sept. 4
Quotes Woods Senior Fellow Chris Field, who is director of the department of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, on the increased risk of wildfires

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