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


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»


Study corrects misconceptions of Great Lakes evaporation

"Understanding how lake levels are changing is very important to our region," said Thomas Dietz, MSU professor of environmental science and policy and co-director of GLISA. "This affects shipping, recreation and infrastructure on the lake shore." More»


Gearing Up
MSU Today

One of those researchers is Bruce Dale, MSU University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science. Dale is focused on making much larger amounts of ethanol—fuel made from corn grain that accounts for about 10 percent of the gas currently used in cars—from corn stover and other nonfood crop residues and purpose-grown energy crops referred to collectively as “cellulosic biomass.” More»


More to biofuel production than yield
MSU Today

In the current issue of the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers show that looking at the big picture allows other biofuel crops, such as native perennial grasses, to score higher as viable alternatives. “We believe our findings have major implications for bioenergy research and policy,” said Doug Landis, MSU entomologist and one of the paper’s lead authors. “Biomass yield is obviously a key goal, but it appears to come at the expense of many other environmental benefits that society may desire from rural landscapes.” More»


Single gene separates queen from workers

A team of scientists from Michigan State University and Wayne State University unraveled the gene’s inner workings and published the results in the current issue of Biology Letters. The gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees’ ability to carry pollen. “This gene is critical in making the hind legs of workers distinct so they have the physical features necessary to carry pollen,” said Zachary Huang , MSU entomologist. “Other studies have shed some light on this gene’s role in this realm, but our team examined in great detail how the modifications take place.” More»


Cities weigh options, costs of fighting ash borer

"There's no reason for a landscape tree to die now if someone is willing to put some money into it," said Deb McCullough, a Michigan State University forest entomology professor who helped test the pesticide before it went on the market. "(But) some cities have a tough time allocating money from a municipal budget to protect trees when they're trying to keep firemen and policemen on the job." More»


Study provides comparison of biomass crop growth in the Midwest
Ethanol Producer Magazine

Dennis Pennington, bioenergy educator at Michigan State University Extension, recently reviewed a study on regional biomass feedstocks from the University of Illinois. More»


Telecoupling Shows Global Impact of China's Forestation Efforts
Asian Scientist

As China increases its forests, a Michigan State University (MSU) researcher asks: if a tree doesn’t fall in China, can you hear it elsewhere in the world? In the journal Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, MSU professor Jianguo “Jack” Liu dissects the global impact of China’s struggle to preserve and expand its forests even as its cities and population balloon. More»


EPA Should Retain Ethanol Requirements
Lansing State Journal

Past federal energy legislation, culminating in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), has been very successful in encouraging an expansion in the production of ethanol and biodiesel. Practically all of the ethanol has been derived from corn grain. About half of biodiesel production has been derived from soybean oil, the remainder from recycled restaurant grease, corn oil from distillers’ dried grain (a byproduct of ethanol production), animal fat and other vegetable oils. Ethanol production doubled between 2007 and 2013 from 6.5 billion to 13.2 billion gallons. Biodiesel production increased from 0.5 billion to 1.7 billion gallons. More»


Michigan State researchers propose water-conservation plan to protect Ogallala Aquifer
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Michigan researchers propose water-conservation plan New conservation methods and restrictions on use will help protect the Ogallala Aquifer, according to recent study conducted by scientists at Michigan State University. More»


Controlling fire blight without antibiotics in organic apples goal of new USDA project

A team of Michigan State University (MSU) researchers has begun investigating organic methods for controlling fire blight, a devastating apple and pear tree disease. The three-year project, under the direction of MSU AgBioResearch plant pathologist George Sundin, is funded by a $464,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). MSU AgBioResearch scientist Matt Grieshop is also involved in the project. More»


Saving the Great Plains Water Supply
MSU Today

In the current issue of Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Michigan State University scientists are proposing alternatives that will halt and hopefully reverse the unsustainable use of water drawdown in the aquifer. The body of water, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, spans from Texas to South Dakota and drives much of the region’s economy. - See more at: More»


Home teams hold the advantage
MSU Today

In the current issue of the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers and their collaborators found that plant adaptation to different environments involves tradeoffs in performance. More»


Study identifies obstacles to aquaculture expansion
Great Lakes Echo

Better rules for sustainable fish farms could provide the state with a $1 billion a year industry, according to the Michigan Sea Grant, a coastal conservation research group. More»


MSU's environmental engineering degree program attacts growing interest
The State News

MSU’s environmental engineering degree program is in its third year and is attracting growing interest from students. The first bachelor of science degrees in environmental engineering were awarded in December of 2011, so it’s a relatively new opportunity, civil and environmental engineering professor Rick Lyles said. “We’ve had an environmental engineering option as part of civil engineering for a long time, but now it’s a separate program,” Lyles said. “It was a logical progression.” Environmental engineering is a branch of engineering in which principles of biology and chemistry are used to develop solutions to environmental problems. More»


Freedman named Director of MSU Knight Center
MSU Today

Pulitzer Prize-winner Eric Freedman has been named Knight Chair and director of the John S. and James L. Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University. More»


Smart meters are easier to read by spark privacy concerns
Great Lakes Echo

As Michigan power generators begin to switch to digital smart meters, some people are concerned that they step too far into customers’ private lives. The state’s two major utilities have been replacing electric meters with smart meters across Michigan. The advantage is that they can be read remotely instead of having to send someone to read the meters directly. More»


No peak in sight for evolving bacteria
MSU Today

There’s no peak in sight ­– fitness peak, that is – for the bacteria in Richard Lenski’s Michigan State University lab. Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, has been running his evolutionary bacteria experiment for 25 years, generating more than 58,000 generations. In a paper published in the current issue of Science, Michael Wiser, lead author and MSU zoology graduate student in Lenski’s lab, compares it to hiking. “When hiking, it’s easy to start climbing toward what seems to be a peak, only to discover that the real peak is far off in the distance,” Wiser said. “Now imagine you’ve been climbing for 25 years, and you’re still nowhere near the peak.” Only the peaks aren’t mountains. They are what biologists call fitness peaks – when a population finds just the right set of mutations, so it can’t get any better. Any new mutation that comes along will send things downhill. More»


Bacteria Power Social Lives of Hyenas
National Georgraphic

Bacteria residing in the scent glands of spotted and striped hyenas appear to play a crucial role in producing the smelly chemicals the animals use to communicate, according to a new study. “Most mammals have scent glands somewhere on their bodies—it can be on their head, shoulder, feet, flanks, or back,” said study co-author Kevin Theis, a postdoctoral student at Michigan State University in East Lansing. More»


Putting Harmful Waste to Good Use
MSU Today

Phosphorous—ever present in human and animal waste—is a hidden danger lurking in bodies of water, from suburban Michigan ponds to lakes and streams across the nation. While it’s regulated in many states, runoff still occurs, often making water unsuitable for recreation and causing toxic algae growth. But an MSU environmental engineer is working on a solution with multiple benefits. Partnering with a private-sector firm, associate professor Steven Safferman is developing a nano-filter capable of removing phosphorus from wastewater and capturing it so that it can be reused in fertilizer products. More»


Bringing Perennial Grain Crops to Africa
MSU Today

MSU AgBioResearch scientist Sieg Snapp is leading a research project studying the potential benefits of introducing perennial grains to African farms. Snapp has been researching perennial grains in Michigan for six years at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station. Her work will span five African nations – Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia – to test the viability of perennial grain growth across varied African ecosystems. The five nations were identified as “priority countries” by the U.S. Agency for International Development. - See more at: More»


Basso Named 2013 ASA Fellow
MSU Today

Bruno Basso, associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, has been named a 2013 American Society of Agronomy Fellow. Basso was honored with 17 other fellows at the 2013 ASA annual meeting on Nov. 5 in Tampa, Fla. Basso, who also is affiliated with the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, was recognized for his research on crop modeling systems and land use sustainability. He leads the soil initiative for the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project. The project is an international effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve climate, crop and economic modeling by providing communities with cutting-edge technology. Basso received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Naples, Italy, and his Ph.D. from MSU. More»


Discussing Global Food and Water Crisis
MSU Today

The United Nations’ has named 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. In response to the U.N.’s initiative, Michigan State University has organized a cross-disciplinary, educational conference titled “Water, Food Security and the Developing Global Crisis.” More»


Habitat research methods give a new peek at tiger life with conservation
MSU Today

Twelve years ago, a team led by Jianguo “Jack” Liu at Michigan State University showed that China needed to revisit how it was protecting its pandas. Now research on tiger habitat in Nepal, published in Ecosphere journal of the Ecological Society of America, again shows that conservation demands not only good policy, but also monitoring even years down the road. More»


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