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

Calendar of Upcoming Events
"Meeting the Climate Adaptation Challenge in Agriculture"

Woods Senior Fellow David Lobell (Environmental Earth System Science) will discuss food security and climate change.
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"Water Underfoot"

Water experts, including Woods Co-Director and Senior Fellow Buzz Thompson (Law), will discuss groundwater issues exacerbated by California's historic drought.
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"Climate Change 2014: The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report"

Senior Fellow Chris Field (Biology, Environmental Earth System Science) will discuss United Nations climate change consensus report.
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Washington, D.C. Panel Discussion
"Climate Change Impacts What are the Risks & How to Reduce Them?"

Panelists, including Senior Fellows Noah Diffenbaugh (Environmental Earth System Science), David Lobell (Environmental Earth System Science), Buzz Thompson (Law) and Jeff Koseff (Civil and Environmental Engineering) will discuss latest research findings on climate change impacts and risks.
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Catalyzing Environmental Solutions

This year, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment marks a decade of pursuing breakthrough environmental solutions. One initiative has been absolutely central to our efforts: the Environmental Venture Projects seed funding program. Launched in 2004, the EVP program was designed to catalyze solution-oriented research. Its seed grants would enable interdisciplinary teams to pursue innovative research considered "high-risk" – with correspondingly high potential for solving problems. In the decade since, Woods has awarded more than $9 million to 60 interdisciplinary research teams working in more than 20 countries. These projects have garnered more than $39 million in follow-on funding for collaborative research among experts from every school at Stanford. In this newsletter we're delighted to announce our 2014 EVP recipients. Four new collaborations among Stanford faculty will receive grants totaling $800,000 during the next two years. We're looking forward to the solutions that result. Meet this year's EVP teams and catch up on more summer news below.


Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director


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


Research Highlights

Environmental Venture Projects Awarded

Cleaner air, fewer parasitic infections, new knowledge about disease pathways and powerful environmental education through virtual reality. These are the potential solutions embodied by the Environmental Venture Projects announced recently by the Stanford Woods Institute. The annual grants are awarded for interdisciplinary research aimed at finding practical solutions to major environmental and sustainability challenges.

The 2014 Environmental Venture Projects (principal investigators in bold):

  • Tracing Zoonotic Disease Risks and Immunological Adaptations in Bats, Humans and Human Commensals Across the Central American Countryside - Elizabeth Hadly (Biology), Scott Boyd (Pathology)
  • Simultaneous Reduction of Energy Consumption and Contamination of Drinking Water Supplies From Amine-Based CO2 Capture Technologies - Adam Brandt (Energy Resources Engineering), William Mitch (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • Quantifying Ascaris: Changing the Game in Sustainable Agriculture and in the Fight Against Parasitic Intestinal Diseases - Sindy Tang (Mechanical Engineering), Craig Criddle (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Stephen Luby (Medicine), D. Scott Smith (Microbiology and Immunology)
  • Natural and Virtual Realms: An Integrative Approach Towards Understanding Natural and Anthropogenic Drivers of Animal Behavior and Energetics in Marine Ecosystems - Jeremy Goldbogen (Biology), Jeremy Bailenson (Communication), Steven Litvin (Biology), Jody Beers (Biology), Ketaki Shriram (Communication)

Photo credit: Jeisson Figueroa

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Tapped Out?: Understanding California's Drought

In the midst of an unprecedented drought, California faces an even thirstier future without proactive measures to protect its most precious liquid asset. In a recent Stanford magazine feature story, experts, including four Woods-affiliated researchers offer insights into California's record-breaking drought and potential solutions for meeting water needs. Among the potential fixes discussed: trading water rights, adopting tiered pricing systems and instituting stricter requirements for fixtures such as toilets and showers.

Photo credit: Michael Kelley

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Oil Palm Plantations Threaten Water Quality

If you've gone grocery shopping lately, you've probably bought palm oil. Found in thousands of household products, palm oil is a multibillion-dollar industry with major environmental consequences, including damage to freshwater streams that supply drinking water for millions of people, according to a new study co-authored by Woods Senior Fellow Lisa M. Curran (Anthropology). In addition to surprising findings about the intensity and persistence of these freshwater impacts, the paper highlights potential management solutions such as maintaining natural vegetative cover next to streams and designing oil palm plantations so that dense road networks do not intersect directly with waterways.

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New Tool Offers Near Real-Time Info About Marine Species

Controlling invasive species and saving endangered ones are among the many applications of a new set of monitoring tools that use DNA shed by animals into the environment by animals. A recent paper co-authored by scientists with the Center for Ocean Solutions proposes using emerging environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling techniques to assess marine ecosystem biodiversity. This approach could prove easier, more affordable, less invasive and more comprehensive than traditional sampling methods.

Photo credit: Robert Kennedy

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Hot Cities: Climate Change May Lead to Climate Stagnation

Pollution management will become increasingly important as climate change contributes to atmospheric stagnation, in which still air lingers over a region, and air quality worsens, according to research by Stanford scientists, including Senior Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh (Environmental Earth System Science). The finding suggests that population centers in several regions could experience more frequent pollution exposure that may, in turn, increase the public health risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

Photo credit: Eric Parker, Flickr, Creative Commons

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Breakthrough Provides Picture of Underground Water

Superman isn't the only one who can see through solid surfaces. In a development that could revolutionize the management of precious groundwater around the world, researchers including Senior Fellow, by courtesy, Rosemary Knight (Geophysics) pioneered the use of satellites to accurately measure levels of water stored hundreds of feet below ground. Their findings could help develop useful groundwater models, availability predictions and water budgets.

Photo credit: USDA

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

Stanford Scientist Makes California Hall of Fame

Along with Kareem Abdul Jabar, Joan Didion and Francis Ford Coppola, former Woods Senior Fellow Stephen Schneider (Biology) will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, Gov. Jerry Brown announced recently. Schneider, who died in 2010, was well known for his emphasis on science communication and was a world expert on interdisciplinary climate science. He was a leader in the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and he was part of the three groups of IPCC authors who shared (equally with Al Gore) the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In announcing the awards, Brown said of Schneider and the other six inductees, "These talented pioneers represent the very best of California. Their determination, intelligence and creativity continue to inspire us."

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CDC Honors Luby

A team of researchers, including Senior Fellow Stephen Luby (Medicine), was awarded the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's 2014 Charles C. Shepard Science Award, the agency's highest award for a scientific publication. Their study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, presented compelling evidence for the use of an influenza vaccine in countries that have been reluctant to adopt it.

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Program Updates

How to Feed the World

Local, national and global priorities and policies often conflict with one another and can thwart solutions to hunger. To shed light on the complexities of feeding the world, 19 Stanford experts, including 13 Woods-affiliated researchers, joined forces in The Evolving Sphere of Food Security (Oxford University Press, August). Edited by William Wrigley Senior Fellow Rosamond Naylor (Environmental Earth System Science), director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, the book draws on the authors' wealth of experience in fields including agricultural and developmental economics, environmental and earth science, law, medicine, engineering, education and public policy.

Photo credit: Center on Food Security and the Environment

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Big Data for Energy and Environment

In the energy, environment and materials fields, big data plays an increasingly influential role. Combined with sophisticated analytical techniques, it is opening new opportunities for electricity generation and distribution, manufacturing, oil and gas, and sustainability. Attendees of the spring conference of the Energy & Environment Affiliates Program (EEAP), a partnership between member industrial firms and Stanford, learned from Stanford faculty and students about cutting-edge research, tools and techniques to solve industry challenges with big data.

Read more and watch video ...

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

Maps From Google and Green Group Make Pavement-Level Pollution More Concrete

Bloomberg, July 16
Quotes Woods Senior Fellow Robert Jackson (Environmental Earth System Science) on results from a pilot project by the Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach that measures climate pollution in American cities from methane leaks

Underwater Meadows Might Serve as Antacid for Acid Seas

NPR, July 15
Includes comment by Mark Carr, a Leopold Leadership Program fellow and biologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, on the important role that coastal reserves play in nurturing young marine life

The Water Crisis in the West

The New York Times, June 30
Features Senior Research Scientist Newsha Ajami (Water in the West), who focuses on the water-energy connection as part of a "Room for Debate" discussion in the Opinion section

Study: Salamanders in the Appalachians Are Smaller

Associated Press via Washington Post, June 29
Quotes Senior Fellow Paul Ehrlich (Biology) on the possible link between climate change and the diminishing size of salamanders in the Appalachian Mountains

A Stanford Professor Is Revolutionizing Science With $1 Microscopes Made Almost Entirely of Paper

Public Radio International, June 18
Interview with Woods-affiliated Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Manu Prakash about his inexpensive Foldscope, which he hopes will allow everyone to have a microscope

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