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


Empowering the next generation of fisheries professionals
MSU Today

Michigan State University’s Bill Taylor has received numerous awards and honors befitting an internationally recognized expert in Great Lakes fisheries ecology with a 35-plus-year career full of researcher discoveries and professional service. - See more at: More»


CSIS member contributes to land change synthesis paper

Much of what we know about how humans use land, and how those practices change over time, is informed by local case studies. But determining whether individual case studies are merely anecdotal—or if they can be scaled up to help explain regional or even global land use patterns—can be a challenge. To reconcile local information with regional–global knowledge, researchers who study land change must also reconcile the diversity of disciplines involved in land change science. From urban economics to geophysics and ecology to geography, each brings with it disparate data types and research questions. The research approach of synthesis—which “draws upon and distills many sources of data, ideas, explanations, and methods in order to accelerate knowledge production beyond that of less integrative approaches”—is especially useful in this context. “People who study land use change are often dealing with both quantitative and qualitative data, due to the human component of the field,” said Nicholas Magliocca, computational research associate at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “If you’re trying to integrate, for example, satellite remote sensing imagery with farmer surveys, your synthesis techniques will necessarily vary from those used for highly-controlled and standardized field experiments.” More»


Of Fish, Monsoons and the Future
The New York Times

“The central message of Chans is that humans and nature are coupled, just like husband and wife,” says Dr. Liu, director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University. “They interact, work together, and the impacts are not just one way. There are feedbacks.” More»


How much fertilizer is too much for the climate?
MSU Today

In a new study published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in the soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs. Nitrogen-based fertilizers spur greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating microbes in the soil to produce more nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas, behind only carbon dioxide and methane, and also destroys stratospheric ozone. Agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of human-caused nitrous oxide emissions worldwide, which have increased substantially in recent years, primarily due to increased nitrogen fertilizer use. “Our specific motivation is to learn where to best target agricultural efforts to slow global warming,” said Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program and senior author of the paper. “Agriculture accounts for 8 to 14 percent of all greenhouse gas production globally. We’re showing how farmers can help to reduce this number by applying nitrogen fertilizer more precisely.” More»


New Technology Turns Manure into Clean Water

Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management. Technology that has its roots firmly planted at Michigan State University is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. And then some. Known as the McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, it takes an anaerobic digester – a contraption that takes waste, such as manure, and produces energy as a byproduct – and couples it with an ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system. More»


Michigan's top 3 universities pour $300M into water research over 5 years
The Detroit News

Michigan’s three largest public universities are using the water resources of the state and the Great Lakes region as a tool for research and promoting economic development, according to a report to be unveiled today on Mackinac Island. “The state of Michigan is surrounded by water but within it are scientist researchers who are using very sophisticated techniques to understand health and safety to impact the day-to-day lives of people,” MSU President Lou Anna Simon said by phone as she was preparing to board the ferry to Mackinac Island. “Michigan is an international leader in water and water-based research.” More»


New, Fossil-Fuel-Free Process Makes Biodiesel Sustainable
MSU Today

A new fuel-cell concept, developed by an Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors. More»


MSU researchers: Ash borer may have arrived in North America in 1990s
The Detroit News

It took several years before the ash borer population grew large enough to kill trees, so the researchers concluded in the study, released Tuesday, the beetle was in the area at least since 1992 or 1993. The insect native to Asia was detected in southeastern Michigan in 2002. “There were probably only a few live beetles that arrived, but ash trees are common in urban landscapes as well as in forests,” Deb McCullough, a professor of forest entomology, said in a statement. “When they emerged, there were likely ash trees nearby, providing food for the beetles and their offspring. More»


Climate Debate Isn't So Heated in the U.S.
The New York Times

Polls have shown that Americans are far less concerned about global warming than people in the rest of the developed world and rarely cite environmental issues when asked to name important problems facing the country. Why is that? Featuring ESPP faculty Dr. Aaron McCright More»


MSU Study Shows Changes in Farming Practices Could Help Environmental Stability
MSU Today

By changing row-crop management practices in economically and environmentally stable ways, U.S. farms could contribute to improved water quality, biological diversity, and soil fertility while helping to stabilize the climate, according to an article in the May issue of BioScience. The article, based on research conducted over 25 years at Michigan State University and the university’s Kellogg Biological Station in southwest Michigan, further reports that Midwest farmers, especially those with large farms, appear willing to change their farming practices to provide these ecosystem services in exchange for payments. And a previously published survey showed that citizens are willing to make such payments for environmental services such as cleaner lakes. The article is by G. Philip Robertson and six coauthors associated with the MSU Kellogg Biological Station, which is part of the Long Term Ecological Research Network. The research analyzed by Robertson and colleagues investigated the yields and the environmental benefits achievable by growing corn, soybean, and winter wheat under regimes that use one third of the usual amount of fertilizer—or none at all—with “cover crops” fertilizing the fields in winter. More»


MSU Plant Biologist Receives Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship
MSU Today

Nathan Swenson , MSU assistant professor of plant biology, has received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. This prestigious award is given to mid-career professionals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. “It is an extraordinary honor to be named a Guggenheim Fellow and I cannot thank the foundation enough,” Swenson said. “The fellowship will allow me to continue my fundamental research interest of linking the evolution of plant form and function to the present-day distribution, abundance and co-existence of species. More»


MSU Academy for Global Engagement names first nine fellows

The newly created Michigan State University Academy for Global Engagement has named its first nine fellows. The goal of the academy: To build a growing cohort of faculty members who will participate in global activities and view their scholarship through a global lens. Among the fellows is ESPP faculty member Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi. More»


Spartans feed the world

Michigan State University researchers are increasing their presence throughout Africa, Asia, and Central America—key food-producing regions—and are working directly with farmers, policy makers, and government entities to increase agricultural productivity, improve diets, and build greater resilience to challenges like climate change. More»


Common ground fosters climate change understanding
MSU Today

In a presentation today during the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University systems ecologist and modeler Laura Schmitt-Olabisi shows how system dynamics models effectively communicate the challenges and implications of climate change. More»


Population bomb may be defused, but research reveals ticking household bomb
MSU Today

In the current edition of Population and Environment, Jianguo “Jack” Liu, director of the Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, and former MSU students Mason Bradbury and Nils Peterson present the first long-term historical look at global shifts in how people live. One large shelter for many people is giving way across the world to ones holding fewer people – sometimes young singles, sometimes empty nesters, and sometimes just folks more enamored with privacy. More»


Environmental Engineering Student Wins Research Award
MSU Today

Claudio Calderon, a graduate student in MSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has received the 2013 Exemplary Summer Research Citation. The award is given annually by the National Center for Institutional Diversity and Institute for Social Research. More»


Research: It's more than just the science
MSU Today

When putting together a team of scientists to work on a problem, it makes sense to bring together the best and brightest in the field, right? Well, maybe not. In a newly published paper, a team of researchers from institutions across the country, including Michigan State University, outline not only why it’s important to pursue science collaboratively, but how to create and maintain science teams to get better research results. Lead author Kendra Cheruvelil, an associate professor in MSU’s Lyman Briggs College and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, said equally important to team members' scientific knowledge is whether they can communicate well, are socially sensitive and emotionally engaged with each other. “In other words, better science gets done when people put their egos aside, when they like each other, when they come from a wide range of backgrounds, and when they know how to effectively talk to each other,” she said. “This may sound obvious to some, or not important to others. But based on the studies that we compiled, these factors are quite critical to the success of many types of teams.” More»


New scientific field looks at the big picture
MSU Today

Big data is changing the field of ecology. The shift is dramatic enough to warrant the creation of an entirely new field: macrosystems ecology. “Ecologists can no longer sample and study just one or even a handful of ecosystems,” said Patricia Soranno, Michigan State University professor of fisheries and wildlife and macrosystems ecology pioneer. “We also need to study lots of ecosystems and use lots of data to tackle many environmental problems such as climate change, land-use change and invasive species, because such problems exist at a larger scale than many problems from the past.” To define the new field and provide strategies for ecologists to do this type of research, Soranno and Dave Schimel from the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Lab co-edited a special issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. More»


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