Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment View this newsletter in your browser.
May 2014
People Spotlights People Spotlights
Research Highlights Research Highlights
Program Updates Program Updates
In the News In the News

Calendar of Upcoming Events
Environmental Forum
"Water Security in the Middle East"

His Excellency Hazim El-Naser, Minister of Water and Irrigation for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
» Read more ...
"Rethinking the Value of Forests for Clean Water, Free Time and Education"

Heather Tallis, Lead Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
» Read more ...
"Energy and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities"

Steven Chu, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University and former U.S. Secretary of Energy
» Read more ...
Environmental Forum
"Meeting the Global Agricultural Challenge in the 21st Century: Can Ecological Intensification Deliver?"

Tim Crews, Director of Research, The Land Institute
» Read more ...
Book Signing and Discussion
"The Oceans Today, From Environment to Narrative: A Conversation With Authors Iain McCalman, Stephen and Anthony Palumbi"

Authors Iain McCalman (The Reef), Senior Fellow Steve Palumbi (Biology) and Anthony Palumbi (The Extreme Life of the Sea) in dialogue with Buzz Thompson, Stanford Woods Institute Perry L. McCarty Director and Senior Fellow; and Margaret Cohen, Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature and Civilization
» Read more ...
Energy Seminar
"The Nuclear Fuel Cycle vs. the Carbon Cycle: Pu vs. C"

Rodney C. Ewing, Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford, Senior Fellow at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
» Read more ...

The Business of Sustainability

Corporations face a major challenge to their bottom line: responding to climate change and other environmental stressors. Global policymakers are responding. A new European Union law requires large companies to include sustainability information about their operations in annual financial reports. The Stanford Woods Institute is supporting corporate decision-makers in their efforts to meet these challenges through initiatives such as the Institute's inaugural Business of Sustainability Summit. We also are preparing academic researchers to more effectively collaborate with business through workshops such as a Leopold Leadership Program "learning lab" on engaging with the private sector. Read on for more about Woods' work to connect cutting-edge research to action on environmental challenges around the world.


Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director


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


People Spotlights

Tackling New Challenges

Stanford Woods Institute Executive Director Debbie Drake Dunne is moving on from the environmental institute she helped develop to lead a new interdisciplinary center focused on improving the quality of medical research and patient care. Dunne is leaving Woods after more than nine years of service and 25 years in the environmental field to become executive director of METRICS, a new center at the Stanford School of Medicine.

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Former EPA Chief Calls On Business to Lead Environmental Charge

The private sector can and should innovate and unleash a wide range of environmental solutions. That was the message Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, brought to Stanford for the second annual Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture in honor of the Stanford professor, Stanford Woods Institute senior fellow and world-renowned climate scientist who died in 2010.

Read more and watch video ...

Research Highlights

Learning to Live in a Time of Change

The future is now. That was the news at the heart of the recently released National Climate Assessment, which details climate change impacts – from increases in extreme heat and droughts to more polluted air and the spread of mosquito-borne viruses – already under way around the U.S. More than 300 experts, including Woods-affiliated researchers John Weyant, Mary Ruckelshaus and Susanne Moser, compiled the assessment. Its extensive data and online multimedia tools can empower decision-makers with regional and economic information they need to make wise adaptation choices. Leaders can also turn to recent research by Senior Fellow David Lobell (Earth Sciences, FSI) on U.S. corn yields' growing sensitivity to heat and drought, and a study co-authored by Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh (Earth Sciences) on changing patterns in South Asian monsoons.

Photo credit: NOAA

'Remaking' Polluted Places

For many Americans, there is a single word that elicits images of both enduring poverty and environmental degradation: Appalachia. Research co-authored by Center Fellow Nicole Ardoin (Education) paints a starkly different image by showing that people in this region are motivated to participate in cleanup projects if they see progress made by other volunteers' efforts. The findings about these "remade places" could help organizations elsewhere more effectively recruit and motivate volunteers.

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Large Animals Help Prevent Disease in Humans

Don't let their cute names fool you: The Mearns' pouch mouse and the delicate mouse can be dangerous. These and other rodents commonly harbor pathogens that can be deadly to humans. According to new research co-authored by Senior Fellow Rodolfo Dirzo (Biology), populations of pathogen-carrying rodents can explode when larger animals die off in an ecosystem, leading to a doubling in the risk of potentially fatal diseases spreading to humans. These findings about how human change can drive disease risk could help shape conservation strategies.

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Rethinking 'Natural' Habitat for Wildlife

Projections forecast that about half of Earth's plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to research co-authored by Senior Fellow Gretchen Daily (Biology). Daily and her colleagues suggest a new way of accounting for these landscapes and assessing ecological risks.

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Watching the Washers

One of the best defenses against infectious disease is one of the most simple: hand washing. Still, despite years of global public awareness campaigns, hand washing rates remain low. Caregivers of young children in low-income, developing world settings are found to wash their hands only 17 percent of the time after using the toilet. A new study co-authored by Woods Research Associate Amy Pickering and Higgins-Magid Senior Fellow Jenna Davis (Civil and Environmental Engineering) shows that video monitoring can provide important insights. When another person is present, for example, hand washing rates increase 23 percent. These findings could, in turn, inform the design, monitoring and evaluation of hygiene campaigns.

Read more ...

For more research, see the Stanford Woods Institute quarterly Research Digest.
Program Updates

Freshwater Security in the Middle East

Syria's civil war has driven about 600,000 refugees – a population the size of Boston – into Jordan. The influx has put into stark focus this arid land's struggles with freshwater scarcity. The Global Freshwater Initiative (GFI) is coordinating the Jordan Water Project, an international, interdisciplinary research effort aimed at developing new approaches for enhancing the sustainability of freshwater resources in Jordan and, ultimately, arid regions throughout the world. Senior Fellow Steven Gorelick (Earth Sciences) and the other GFI researchers will assemble in Jordan later this month to coordinate group model building activities and meet with water managers, policymakers and others in Jordan's water sector. Prior to the trip, His Excellency Dr. Hazim El-Naser, minister of water and irrigation for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, will come to Stanford on May 22 to give a talk on water security in the Middle East as part of the Woods Environmental Forum series.

Read more ...

Business as a Powerful Force for Sustainability

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell gave the keynote address at the inaugural Stanford Woods Institute Business of Sustainability Summit. The summit, a new Woods initiative to engage business on sustainability issues, brought together leaders from 47 companies, including CEOs and heads of R&D, engineering, global manufacturing, product development, innovation, finance, technology, public policy and government relations. The event represented a new chapter in the Institute's work to share ideas and perspectives on how organizations can advance sustainability on their own, with academic partners and by collaborating across sectors.

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Engaging With the Private Sector

Great ideas don't find success on their own. Whether it's a matter of refining a concept, reaching a market or scaling up, many environmental breakthroughs depend on effective collaboration with the business world. The Leopold Leadership Program recently brought together researchers from around the U.S. with directors of sustainability at companies such as Walmart and Ingersoll Rand to explore how the two groups can work together to forge solutions to complex problems. The multi-day "learning lab" was the latest in a series of trainings intended to help participants integrate science into decision making.

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Stanford Report Proposes Measures to Solve Groundwater Problem

The source of up to 40 percent or more of California's water supply is dwindling. A new report by Water in the West calls attention to the state's diminishing supply of groundwater and offers potential solutions built around empowering communities with new tools to regulate groundwater use as land use changes. The report summarizes findings from a Woods "Uncommon Dialogue" that brought together 30 groundwater managers, land use managers, water lawyers, consultants and academics. In a related event, water law experts, including Stanford Woods Institute Perry L. McCarty Director and Senior Fellow Buzz Thompson (Law), provided perspectives on the future of interstate water compacts in the American West during a panel discussion at Stanford.

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Learning How to Value Nature

Resource managers from 30 countries and 22 different U.S. states came to the Natural Capital Project annual meeting and training at Stanford to learn about the science and practice of incorporating ecosystem services – nature's benefits to mankind – into decision making. Scientists and policy experts demonstrated mapping and valuation tools, including a newly released version of Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) free software. Participants also learned skills ranging from making the business case for natural capital to communicating results to target audiences.

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Unmanned Aircraft vs. Pirate Fishing

As much as a third of the seafood Americans eat is caught illegally or without proper documentation, according to recent estimates. In May, Center for Ocean Solutions researchers joined experts from law enforcement, government, technology and nonprofit organizations for Ocean Agenda, a conference sponsored by Google Oceans and focused on "boosting protection of ocean life using new surveillance technologies." At Stanford, attendees watched a demonstration of an unmanned aerial vehicle that could someday be launched from an unmanned boat to monitor illegal fishing.

Read more and watch video ...

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

Inside the Sausage Factory

The Economist, May 10
Quotes Senior Fellow Chris Field (Biology, Earth Sciences, FSI) on the summary process with government officials for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports

Should Scientists 'Jurassic-Park' Extinct Species Back to Life?

CNN, May 2
Quotes Senior Fellow Paul Ehrlich (Biology) on the disadvantages of de-extinction science

Some Corals Can Adapt to Warmer Waters

The New York Times, April 28
Features study of heat-resistant coral by Senior Fellow Steve Palumbi (Biology)

New Study Challenges Old Thinking About Extinctions Worldwide

Christian Science Monitor, April 22
Refers to study on bat diversity co-authored by Senior Fellow and Natural Capital Project Director Gretchen Daily (Biology)

Want to Heal the Planet? Make Environmental Degrees Free

Time, April 22
Quotes Jeff Koseff (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Buzz Thompson (Law), Perry L. McCarty directors and senior fellows, on environmental education and employment opportunities

If Kids Think Someone's Watching, They're More Likely to Wash Their Hands

U.S. News & World Report, April 19
Describes hand-washing study by Higgins-Magid Senior Fellow Senior Fellow Jenna Davis (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Woods research associate Amy Pickering

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