MSU environmental activities and accomplishments, from sources on and off-campus. For additional information on MSU environmental work, see these sources.


Great Lakes' Viral Invaders

Viral invasions would make for a good plot in the next Spielberg blockbuster, but according to Michigan State University water researchers, it’s not a Hollywood fantasy. In fact, millions of tiny, dangerous microbes have been attacking native species in the Great Lakes for decades. These pathogens are hitching rides in ballast water – the water in the hulls of large ships that help stabilize them when on the move – which is then released into new environments when the ships dock at their destinations, according to Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research at MSU. More»


Septic tanks aren't keeping poo out of rivers and lakes
MSU Today

The notion that septic tanks prevent fecal bacteria from seeping into rivers and lakes simply doesn’t hold water, says a new Michigan State University study. Water expert Joan Rose and her team of water detectives have discovered freshwater contamination stemming from septic systems. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the largest watershed study of its kind to date, and provides a basis for evaluating water quality and health implications and the impact of septic systems on watersheds. More»


Researchers quantify nature's role in human well being
MSU Today

A team of researchers from Michigan State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are advancing new modeling technology to quantify human dependence on nature, human well-being and relationships between the two. The latest step is published in this week’s Ecosystem Health and Sustainability journal. The paper notes that people who depended on multiple types of ecosystem services – such as agricultural products, non-timber forest products, ecotourism – fared better than those who had all their earning eggs in one natural resource basket. “Quantifying the complex human-nature relationships will open the doors to respond to environmental changes and guide policies that support both people and the environment across human and natural systems,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. More»


New MSU Center tackles antibiotic resistance
MSU Today

The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year in the U.S. alone, 23,000 people die from resistant infections. Researchers at the Michigan State University Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture are on a mission to find strategies to deal with the impending global threat of antibiotic resistance. “We are pleased to announce the first research project to be funded by the Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture,” said Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor and CHIA Co-director. “The study will target antibiotics used in animal agriculture to find out how they find their way into the environment and what the ultimate impact on humans, if any, might be.” Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are able to acquire and develop resistance to the antibiotics that are used to fight them. The largest volume of antibiotic use today is in animal agriculture, and researchers plan to analyze soil and water samples from the environment to see if this use of antibiotics is having an effect. More»


Perennial biofuel crops' water consumption similar to corn

Dr. Stephen Hamilton’s team reports that the perennial system’s evapotranspiration did not differ greatly from corn – a finding that contrasts sharply with earlier studies that found particularly high perennial water use in areas with high water tables. Hamilton’s study, however, took place in Michigan’s temperate humid climate and on the kind of well-drained soil characteristic of marginal farming land. More»


Rose Water Fellowship awardee named
MSU Today

The Rose Water Fellowship has been awarded to ESPP student Kateri Salk, Michigan State University doctoral student for the 2015 spring semester. The award, endowed by Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in water research at MSU, is awarded to graduate level scientists seeking to advance the field of water science. Salk, who works under MSU professor Nathanial Ostrom in the department of zoology, specializes in environmental science and policy research. More»


Polar bears aren't only victims of climate change
MSU Today

From heat waves to damaged crops to asthma in children, climate change is a major public health concern, argues a Michigan State University researcher in a new study. Climate change is about more than melting ice caps and images of the Earth on fire, said Sean Valles, assistant professor in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Philosophy, who believes bioethicists could help reframe current climate change discourse. More»


MSU Engineering names three associate deans
MSU Today

Three associate deans have been appointed in the Michigan State University College of Engineering. Neeraj Buch will serve as the associate dean for undergraduate studies; John Verboncoeur is the new associate dean for research; and Thomas Voice will be the new associate dean for administrative affairs. More»

Social media should play greater role in disaster communication
MSU Today

When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines in 2013, thousands of people were killed, in part because they didn’t know it was coming or didn’t know how to protect themselves. Could an increased use of social media, particularly on the part of the nation’s government, have made a difference? While that question remains open, it is clear that social media should play a larger role in emergency preparedness, says Bruno Takahashi, a Michigan State University assistant professor of journalism who studies the issue. More»


Poulson recognized for decades of Great Lakes environmental journalism
MSU Today

The International Association for Great Lakes Research has recognized David Poulson, the senior associate director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, for a career-long dedication to inform and educate the public and policymakers on Great Lakes issues. The IAGLR board of directors recognized him with the John R. (Jack) Vallentyne award given for contributing substantially to education and outreach in the Great Lakes community for at least 20 years and with an impact beyond the awardee’s local community. The award recognizes people who bridge the gap between the science community and the public. Recipients can be engaged with any great lake in the world, including the North American Great Lakes and the African Great Lakes. “I always figured that environmental science is far too important, far too interesting and way too much fun to leave only to scientists, researchers and policymakers,” Poulson said. “I’m honored to receive this award and also pleased that the association recognizes journalism as critical to engaging the public with the environmental challenges of the world.” More»


MSU researchers publish article on the use of social media during natural disasters
Computers in Human Behavior

Dr. Bruno Takahashi, Journalism, has published "Communicating on Twitter during a disaster: An analysis of tweets during Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines" Social media in crisis situations, such as natural disasters, have been recognized by scholars and practitioners as key communication channels that can complement traditional channels. However, there is limited empirical examination from the user perspective of the functions that social media play and the factors that explain such uses. In this study we examine Twitter use during and after Typhoon Haiyan pummeled the Philippines. We tested a typology of Twitter use based on previous research, and explored external factors – time of use and geographic location – and internal factors – type of stakeholders (e.g. ordinary citizens, journalists, etc.) and social media engagement – to predict these uses. The results showed that different stakeholders used social media mostly for dissemination of second-hand information, in coordinating relief efforts, and in memorializing those affected. Recommendations for future research and applications in future crises are also presented. More»


MSU professor to serve as founding editor for science journal
MSU Today

MSU professor Patricia Soranno was named founding editor-in-chief of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography’s new journal, Limnology and Oceanography Letters. “Pat Soranno’s innovative ideas about publishing and research excellence make her a fantastic choice to be the founding editor of ASLO’s newest journal,” said Jim Elser, ASLO president. A professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Soranno has spent the past 20 years conducting research that integrates freshwater ecosystems into a landscape perspective from local to continental scales. More»

IPCC: Social Scientists are ready

Social scientists are ready to work as full partners with physicists and ecologists on climate-change assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), government agencies and other organizations More»


Quenching the thirst fore clean, safe water
MSU Today

It is estimated that one in nine people globally lack access to safe water. Michigan State University researchers are looking to fill that critical need and provide safe drinking water to the most remote locations in the world with a new foam water filter that significantly reduces dangerous pathogens in drinking water. “The foam filter is the first of its kind to address a wide range of the biological and economic factors that hinder development of remote water filtration systems,” said Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in water research and author of the study. “This filter is easier to use and more effective than traditional methods.” More»


Warren Wood: Loving Water But Working in the Desert
MSU Today

ecoming a hydrogeologist in the early 1960s seemed like a good fit. I loved all things water: sailing, canoeing, swimming, etc. Then while I was job hunting after graduating from MSU, I realized that my skills weren’t needed in water-rich environments. Instead, I found my calling in the exact opposite landscape: deserts and arid areas. I have worked in Australia, Botswana, China, Israel, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the western United States. More»


New perspectives on how ecological communities are assembled
MSU Today

Two Michigan State University professors published their results in the current issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and together they have come up with a new way to think about how evolution and ecology interact in community assembly. The MSU team is suggesting that a stronger focus should be placed on how species that evolved in in isolation eventually move across the landscape and can coexist in the same region, and the feedbacks between local and regional processes. Only then, they argue, can we fully understand community development and the importance of dynamic species pools. More»


Spreading the Seeds of Big Data
MSU Today

Michigan State University is spreading the seeds of big data to improve agricultural practices around the United States. Through a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, MSU will lead a team of scientists to develop big-data approaches to better manage water and fertilizers and to adapt to changes brought on by climate variability. “Our research shows the interactions between soil, crop, climate, hydrology and agricultural management, and determines their effects on crop yield and the environment,” said Bruno Basso, MSU ecosystems scientist. “This project links science with technology and big data analytics; we aim to help farmers better adapt to temperature extremes, droughts or excess water in fields so that they can make better decisions for the environment and maximize production and/or profits.” More»


MSU launches Water Science Network
MSU Today

More and more, academic institutions are being asked to form and nurture transdisciplinary teams of researchers to address society’s greatest challenges. Michigan State University after creating the Center for Water Sciences six years ago has continued it’s investment by establishing the MSU Water Science Network (WSN), a collaboration focused on the continued advancement of ground-breaking science to address the most important water problems facing our world today. More»


ESPP faculty publish new article on environmental decision-making
Environmental Sociology

Drs. Thomas Dietz, Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt, John M. Clements and Aaron M. McCright published the article "A behavioural measure of environmental decision-making for social surveys" in the inaugural issue of Environmental Sociology. There is great benefit in using measures of environmentally significant behaviour – rather than just behavioural intentions or self-reported behaviour – if we are to advance our understanding of the individual and structural factors that influence environmental decision-making. Along these lines, to supplement the use of behavioural intention and self-reported behaviour measures in environmental decision-making research, we identify and validate a simple measure of one form of environmentally significant behaviour: financial support for environmental movement organizations. Using the values-beliefs-norms theoretical framework, we conducted an experiment to examine the performance of this measure of actual behaviour. This behavioural measure meets multiple dimensions of validity – including face, concurrent criterion-related, and construct – as a measure of environmentally significant behaviour in environmental decision-making research. As would be expected, we find that actual donations are smaller than hypothetical donations; hypothetical donations overestimate what would actually be donated by approximately 27%. Also, while environmental beliefs better predict hypothetical donation and willingness to act, key values measures (i.e. biospheric altruism and self-interest) better predict actual donation. We suggest that scholars consider using actual behavioural measures such as the one we test here in future scholarship on environmental decision-making. More»


MSU Water Science Network announces the WaterCube Program
MSU Water Science Network

The MSU WaterCube Program stimulates new multidisciplinary collaborations and novel water research ideas with minimal investment of college funds and faculty time spent on developing internal grant proposals. The program creates tokens, each worth $20,000 in research spending over two years. The Colleges of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Communication Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Natural Science and Social Science, with matching funds from the Environmental Science and Policy Program, will be issuing tokens to their water faculty. Faculty members then form teams of at least three token holders, one of whom must be new to the team, to create a WaterCube. Each WaterCube is thus provided with at least $60,000 to be made available over two years to pursue the research idea. Written proposals are not required – if three researchers agree on a water project on which each are willing to spend $20,000, then the project is a go. WaterCubes are expected to show evidence of progress through annual WaterCube meetings and produce external grant proposals and peer-reviewed publications. More»

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