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
"Earth Matters: Feeding the World in the 21st Century"

William Wrigley Senior Fellow Rosamond Naylor (Environmental Earth System Science) will demonstrate how food security, in its broadest form, is tied to security of many other kinds: energy, water, climate, health, the environment and national security.
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"Imaging Saltwater Intrusion Along the Monterey Coast"

Speakers, including Woods Senior Fellow, by courtesy, Rosemary Knight (Geophysics), will discuss their work to map saltwater intrusion threatening groundwater aquifers.
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"New Directions for U.S. Water Policy"

Speakers, including California Gov. Jerry Brown (invited); Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook; Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations; and Woods-affiliated researchers, will discuss how market forces, innovation and global warming affect water resources.
» Read more ...
"The Climate Conversation You Haven't Heard"

Lesley Stahl, correspondent for 60 Minutes, will moderate a discussion with speakers, including Woods Senior Fellow Chris Field (Biology, Environmental Earth System Science), on how we can alter and adapt to the trajectory of climate change.
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New Approaches to Old Impasses

The story of the American West is largely a story of water. The precious liquid – and lack thereof – has played a pivotal role in shaping the region's environment, economy, politics and culture. As a record-setting drought grinds on in California, the need for innovative solutions has never been greater. That's where Water in the West, a joint program of the Stanford Woods Institute and the Bill Lane Center for the American West, comes in. Earlier this summer, the program released a multimedia visualization package – deemed "invaluable" by Andrew Revkin of The New York Times – that illustrates major groundwater challenges in California and potential solutions. The California legislature subsequently voted to create the state's first groundwater management system and Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, a monumental step toward water sustainability. Beyond the West, Woods-affiliated Professor of Political Science Kenneth Scheve took a humorous approach to advancing a possible fix to climate treaties' contentious international tangles - just in time for a United Nations climate summit. Read on to learn about more novel approaches to environmental challenges.


Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director


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


Research Highlights

Groundwater: Ignore It, and It Might Go Away

Because groundwater is hidden beneath the earth's surface, for many Californians it's a matter of "out of sight, out of mind." Residents often take groundwater for granted and do not realize that it is a critical resource, providing 40 percent of the state's water supply during normal years and as much as 60 percent during dry times – like now. Stanford researchers with Water in the West recently announced a new project to help Californians understand the importance of groundwater in the state, the problems caused by groundwater overdraft and potential solutions for addressing those problems. Their website, "Understanding California's Groundwater," offers new research findings, interactive graphics and a synthesis of existing knowledge on groundwater in California, all designed to advance public understanding of this critical issue.

Photo credit: Chris Austin

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Breaking Through to Global Sustainability

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment is celebrating a Decade of Solutions. Join us on Nov. 11 for a 10th anniversary symposium reflecting on progress made and pathways forward to a sustainable future for people and planet. In panels moderated by journalist Paul Rogers and Woods Senior Fellow Pam Matson (Earth Sciences), Woods- affiliated researchers and others will discuss overcoming barriers to innovation and collaboration and the next generation of environmental solutions.

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Environmental Risk and Resilience: A Learning Experience

Climate change is reshaping the world as we know it. How will this dynamic force affect life support systems? What unforeseen risks are emerging, and what strategies for social-ecological resilience will succeed? How can we accelerate awareness – especially among decision-makers – that natural and human systems are inextricably intertwined? Decision-makers can explore these questions in "Environmental Risk and Resilience," an exciting new course offered by Worldview Stanford in partnership with the Stanford Woods Institute and the School of Earth Sciences.

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Biologist Warns of Mass Extinction's Early Stages

Although currently high, biodiversity on Earth may be reaching a tipping point. That's the consensus reached by an international team of scientists led by Senior Fellow, by courtesy, Rodolfo Dirzo (Biology). The team cautions that the human-caused loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet's sixth mass biological extinction event. Potential solutions include immediate and carefully tailored reductions in rates of habitat change and overexploitation, as well as raising awareness of the situation to spur change.

Photo credit: Claudia Paulussen/Shutterstock

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A Clean Energy Roadmap for California

Imagine a smog-free Los Angeles, where electric cars ply silent freeways, solar panels blanket rooftops and power plants run on heat from beneath the earth, howling winds and the blazing desert sun. A new study led by Senior Fellow Mark Jacobson (Civil and Environmental Engineering) finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert California's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by clean, renewable energy. The plan shows the way to a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that could create tens of thousands of state jobs and save the state billions of dollars in pollution-related health costs.

Photo credit: BrightSource Energy

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Protecting Lagoons Could Be Key to Saving Manta Rays

Manta rays – graceful, winged marine animals – are in danger of becoming extinct in the wild. The key to saving them may lie in new knowledge about their habitat preferences, according to a recent Woods-funded study. Researchers, including Senior Fellow Fiorenza Micheli (Biology), found that manta rays return again and again to lagoons. This gives conservation policymakers a concrete goal for protecting rays and other wide-ranging sea creatures.

Photo credit: nicolas.voisin44/Shutterstock

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

Stanford Scientist Named to New U.S. Food and Agriculture Foundation

Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute, was appointed to a board newly created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation and partnerships critical to boosting America's agricultural economy. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and its 15 board members, who were selected from lists of nominees provided by the National Academy of Sciences and by industry.

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Honoring a Sustainability Hero

Art Sterritt, the founding executive director of Coastal First Nations in British Columbia and a critical player in establishing and protecting the 21-million-acre Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, has been selected as the second recipient of the Stanford Bright Award. The $100,000 prize is given annually to an unheralded individual who has made significant contributions to global sustainability. Buzz Thompson, Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute, chaired the nomination committee. Sterritt will visit Stanford on Oct. 2 for the formal award ceremony and a public event co-hosted by Woods in which Sterritt will be interviewed by New York Times National Environmental Correspondent Felicity Barringer.

Photo credit: Courtesy Coastal First Nations

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Former WWF Director Takes Stanford Position

Awed by the wonders his naturalist grandfather pointed out during walks in the Vermont woods, Jim Leape dreamed of being a park ranger. That changed when Leape joined his high school debate team. "I decided I really liked being an advocate and set my sights on becoming an environmental lawyer," said Leape, a newly appointed consulting professor at the Stanford Woods Institute and the School of Earth Sciences. Leape, the former director general of WWF International, brings decades of experience in the conservation and sustainability fields. In his role with Woods, he will work on a range of global sustainability issues. Through research, writing and direct engagement with private and public sector leaders, Leape will focus on how to broaden business leadership on sustainability globally, and particularly in China.

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Program Updates

Reducing Climate Change Risks

Climate change took center stage recently following the largest-ever public demonstration on the subject leading up to the UN Climate Summit on Sept. 23. As international delegates negotiate strategies for reducing the emissions driving climate change, others charged with safeguarding public safety, health and property are assessing the dangers posed by global warming, while looking to identify strategies for response and preparation. A Stanford Woods Institute-organized panel of experts led a robust dialogue on those topics at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. during the panel discussion "Climate Change Impacts: The Risks and How to Reduce Them."

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Seeking Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow

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. 10.

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Global Recognition for Stanford Freshwater Solution

Water is wealth. Wherever access to freshwater is scarce, food production, human health and education – economic underpinnings – generally suffer. Ending water poverty – more than 750 million people lack access to clean drinking water – is the only way to level the playing field. During World Water Week in Stockholm recently, the Stanford Woods Institute's Water, Health and Development Program (WHD) won a $15,000 prize and international recognition for its efforts to develop an affordable, sustainable solution. The project involves the design of a community-scale, fully automated chlorine dosing device that can be installed on shared water points in low-income urban settings. The device requires neither reliable electricity nor 24/7 supply to function consistently.

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

Water Underfoot

Public Radio Exchange, Sept. 7
Woods Senior Fellow and Perry L. McCarty Director Buzz Thompson (Law) discusses the historic California drought and water conservation as part of a Commonwealth Club panel discussion

California drought: Why doesn't California build big dams any more?

San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 31
Woods Senior Fellow David Freyberg (Civil and Environmental Engineering) comments on the history and prospect of building dams in California to increase water storage

Study Finds Alarming Level of Lead in Pregnant Women

Dhaka Tribune, Aug. 25
Discusses study conducted by Woods Senior Fellow Stephen Luby (Medicine) showing high levels of lead in pregnant women in rural Bangladesh

The Future of Virtual Reality

KQED, Aug. 25
Woods Senior Fellow Jeremy Bailenson (Communication), founding director of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, talks to Michael Krasny on KQED's forum

Opinion: Water Level Is Low; Info Is Too

Los Angeles Daily News, July 28
Quotes Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Water in the West, on the lack of information about groundwater in California

Climate Change May Reduce Corn, Wheat Crop Yields

Bloomberg Businessweek, July 25
Discusses research by Woods Senior Fellow and Center on Food Security and the Environment Deputy Director David Lobell (Environmental Earth System Science)

Where Have all the Animals Gone?

Washington Post, July 24
Feature story on extinction study by Senior Fellow, by courtesy, Rodolfo Dirzo (Biology)

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