MSU Faculty in the News Archive 2009
MSU environmental activities and accomplishments, from sources on and off-campus. We focus on ESPP-affiliated faculty and students. For additional information on MSU environmental work, see these sources.
Toward a More Virtuous Sustainability
“Society is a ship whose engine is technology and rudder is ethics,” Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs, Fisheries and Wildlife, Philosophy) and John Vucetich (Michigan Technological University) write in The Ecologist. They argue that critical questions remain unaddressed when sustainability is equated with “greener” products. More»
MSU study sheds light on microscopic flower petal ridges
Microscopic ridges contouring the surface of flower petals might play a role in flashing that come-hither look pollinating insects can't resist. MSU scientists and colleagues now have figured out how those form. The result could help researchers learn to enhance plants' pollination success and even could lead to high-grip nanomaterials and "green chemical" feedstocks. "Surprisingly, our work on plant surface biochemistry became a birds and bees and flowers story," said John Ohlrogge (Plant Biology). "It's a fundamental property of plant flowers, and we've discovered a basis of how these ridges are made." National Public Radio had the story. More»
ESPP affiliate edits book on ecological restoration in China
Much has been written about China's efforts to combat soil erosion, habitat loss and other ecological issues, but a new book edited by Runsheng Yin (Forestry) offers new perspectives on these restoration efforts. The book – "An Integrated Assessment of China's Ecological Restoration Programs" – "is extraordinary for its broad coverage and methodological rigor," according to Springer, its publisher. "It provides a substantial improvement over the conventional approach of simply reporting projects undertaken and accepting uncritically the government assessment, and thus fills an important knowledge gap of the restoration efforts being implemented upon a variety of ecosystems in China." ESPP affiliates David Rothstein (Forestry) and Jiaguo Qi (Geography) also contributed to the book. More»
Sustainability as Disputed Territory: Thompson Talk Maps the Boundaries
Greenboard (ESPP blog)
Conflicting ideas of sustainability were the focus of a talk by Paul Thompson, Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at MSU, in late November. Thompson’s talk kicked off a series of discussions of sustainability hosted by the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies (CARRS). More»
MSU economist tapped for national environmental policy committee
Jinhua Zhao (Economics and Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics) was recently appointed to a three-year term on the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board. As a member of the SAB, Zhao will advise the EPA on issues underlying EPA's policies and decision making, including the adequacy and scientific basis of agency programs, guidelines, methodologies, proposed regulations, as well as new information needs for research and development. Zhao's research on the economics of climate change focuses on designing the architecture for the next climate treaty that encourages voluntary participation, increases cost effectiveness and promotes monitoring and enforcement. The State News had the story. More»
Student's paper for ESP course becomes published article
A paper that David Bidwell wrote to fulfill a class requirement is now earning him some extra credit of sorts – it appears in the latest issue of the journal Society and Natural Resources. The article, "Bison, Boundaries, and Brucellosis: Risk Perception and Political Ecology at Yellowstone," applies theories he learned in ESP 802 to the controversial slaughtering of bison on the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park to prevent them from infecting livestock with the disease brucellosis. Bidwell, a doctoral student in sociology with a specialization in environmental science and policy, said the issue resonated with his experience as an educator at a zoo and as a dispute resolution consultant. "I was intrigued by some of the political ecology articles we read in the class, because the field tries to explain the underlying roots of environmental problems and how local ecological conditions are influenced by the larger economic and political landscape," Bidwell said. "Once I began researching the bison issues at Yellowstone, it all snapped into place." More»
SMEP video spotlights 'wicked problem' of sustainability
Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project
A new video from the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project offers insights on the meaning of sustainability and an overview of the project's mission. The 10-minute video uses interviews with numerous ESPP affiliates, animation and special effects to show that sustainability is a 'wicked problem' for which there is no single solution, but also a critical issue that must be addressed. For more on SMEP click here. More»
Alumni magazine highlights sustainability work
MSU Alumni Magazine
The fall issue of the MSU alumni magazine covers the university's efforts to make its campus greener, and shows how research here contributes to a sustainable economy throughout Michigan. There's also a roundup of green initiatives across campus. Many ESPP affiliates are featured, including Geoffrey Habron (Fisheries and Wildlife, Sociology); Robby Richardson (CARRS); Sarah Nicholls (CARRS, Geography); and Laurie Thorp (RISE). More»
ESPP affiliates featured on Greening of the Great Lakes
Talk 760 WJR
ESPP-affiliated scientists and other researchers have discussed their work on Greening of the Great Lakes, a radio talk show jointly produced by MSU and Talk 760 WJR. Recent guests include Lawrence Drzal (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), Julie Winkler (Geography) and David Skole (Forestry). The program airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on Fridays. Archives are available here. More»
Even the concrete is greener at MSU
College of Engineering
Ground waste glass can be used as a sustainable and environmentally friendly cement in the production of concrete, researchers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have found. Replacing about 20 percent of the cement normally used in concrete production with milled waste glass results in reduced cost and diminished energy usage. At the same time, it improves the strength and durability of the concrete. Now, this "green concrete" is springing up on several campus test sites, including the walkways and driveways of the new Surplus Store and Recycling Center on MSU's campus. More»
MSU to receive $83,000 grant for wind energy efforts
Detroit Free Press
Michigan State University is to receive $83,806 in stimulus money to measure wind speeds in five areas around the state. MSU will install anemometers on public safety communications towers in Gratiot, Delta, Antrim, Mason and Hillsdale counties. More»
CEE prof to lead team to India for workshop on sustainable infrastructure
College of Engineering
Venkatesh Kodur, MSU professor of civil and environmental engineering, will lead a research team of U.S. experts to India in December to attend a workshop called Innovative Materials and Structural Systems for Resilient and Sustainable Built Infrastructure. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and co-sponsored by the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, the workshop will review the state of the art and identify collaborative opportunities. More»
Dow donation to aid sustainable packaging research at MSU
A gift of more than $120,000 in laboratory equipment from The Dow Chemical Co. will assist MSU in establishing a planned Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability on campus. The equipment will help researchers associated with the center to develop technologies for improving the environmental impact of product packaging and production processes. "We are very grateful to Dow for this donation of laboratory equipment," said Jeffrey Armstrong, dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "It provides the cutting-edge tools needed to advance critical work that will have global implications for improving packaging performance and sustainability." More»
Project tackles thorny invader
Department of Geography
David Lusch (Geography), Doug Landis (Entomology) and collaborators from other universities landed a three-year grant for more than $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the role of common buckthorn, an exotic invasive shrub, as a keystone invader in the agricultural landscapes of the north-central region of the U.S. Common buckthorn invades natural areas where it serves as the primary overwintering host of the exotic soybean aphid, which negatively impacts the production of soybean and vegetable crops. More»
ESPP hosts a Copenhagen simulation
Greenboard (ESPP blog)
If an ESPP-sponsored Copenhagen simulation is any indication of the real climate negotiations in December, don’t expect an effective climate treaty to pass. Consulting with the least developed nationsFor three hours, students negotiated a climate agreement under the motivating force of ESPP faculty member Laura Schmitt Olabisi. The simulation exercise they participated in was developed at MIT and has been used nationally and internationally in preparation for the Copenhagen climate talks December 7-18. More»
Ethanol fuels hopes and a lot of debate
Capital News Service (MSU)
Could ethanol be the key to Michigan's renewable energy future? Ethanol has become more popular as a renewable energy source. It's promoted as an eco-friendly tool to reduce air pollution because it can be made from common crops such as sugar cane, potato and corn. ... The issue of greenhouse gas emissions from various renewable fuels is contentious, particularly with corn, says Steven Pueppke, director of the Office of Biobased Technologies at Michigan State University. "But there are very few people who would argue that we try to solve all of the country's energy problems by simply turning corn into ethanol," he says. "There's agreement, though, that second-generation fuels have significantly stronger greenhouse gas benefits." More»
MSU scientists unleash virus on tree-killing fungus
Detroit Free Press
Native chestnuts once accounted for one of every four trees in eastern forests from Maine to Georgia. ... Scientists first noticed the fungus, which entered the country on Asian chestnut trees in 1904. By 1950, the fungus had killed or stunted about 4 billion American chestnuts. Miraculously, hundreds survived in pockets of northern Michigan. At first, scientists thought the Michigan trees were disease-resistant. "I knew that wasn't likely," says Dennis Fulbright, plant pathologist at Michigan State University. He saw that the trees did indeed have the fungus, but they had something else: a virus that had attacked the fungus, weakening it. That allowed the Michigan trees to recover from the blight. More»
Carbon rules could damage Michigan's biofuel industry
Detroit News (op-ed)
Biofuels are one of several important options for reducing carbon emissions. But carbon credit legislation under consideration doesn't distinguish between different sources of biofuel carbon. This is a carbon accounting error that will hurt Michigan. ... Phil Robertson is university distinguished professor of crop and soil sciences at Michigan State University. More»
MSU begins Green Certification Program
Departments, programs and people at MSU now have the opportunity to be recognized for the work they do that helps reduce the university's environmental footprint. Units and on-campus students can earn green certification by completing an online form showing the steps they take to reduce MSU's impact on the environment through energy efficiency and conservation, waste reduction, water conservation and purchasing. More»
MSU, Michigan Tech sign contract with renewable resource company
Ensuring a sustainable supply of woody biomass for the state's first cellulosic ethanol plant is the goal of a research partnership between MSU and Michigan Technological University, supported by Frontier Renewable Resources of Kinross, Mich. "Each project is led by two researchers – one from MSU and one from MTU – and is aimed at ensuring the environmental, economic and social sustainability of biofuels in Michigan," said Raymond Miller, MSU forest biomass development coordinator. More»
Stimulus grant to help MSU team improve drug development from plants
Scientists at MSU are receiving nearly $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to uncover how several popular plants make medicinal compounds. The funding will provide scientists the resources to understand exactly which genes are involved in the synthesis of medicinal chemicals in several plants -- clearing the way for cheaper and more effective ways to produce drugs. "Many plants make compounds that we use directly as medicines or that we modify slightly to create widely used medicines, but in almost all cases we do not understand how the plants synthesize these compounds," said MSU biochemistry professor Dean DellaPenna, one of three principle investigators on the grant. The Associated Press had the story. More»
Michigan State collaboration spawns robotic fish to monitor water quality (With video)
Nature inspires technology for an engineer and an ecologist at MSU. They're developing robots that use advanced materials to swim like fish to probe underwater environments. Robotic fish – perhaps schools of them operating autonomously for months – could give researchers far more precise data on aquatic conditions, deepening our knowledge of critical water supplies and habitats.
Xiaobo Tan (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Elena Litchman (Zoology) recently won funding from the National Science Foundation to integrate their research.
Read more on the project at Great Lakes Echo. More»
Engineering student studies ocean debris
Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Gabrielle Kleber, a chemical engineering and materials science junior from Clarkston, Mich., spent this past summer on beaches around the world, including Hawaii, Australia, Singapore, the Maldives, England, and Iceland. However, it was not a glamorous summer boondoggle. This was serious research that combined Kleber's enthusiasm for the outdoors and her concern for the environment. She studied and collected data for the often overlooked issue of marine debris. The Detroit Free Press and The State News had articles about Kleber's trip. More»
Latest issue of Futures highlights "new research frontiers."
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station
The fall issue of Futures, published by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, highlights "new research frontiers," including the work of ESPP affiliates. The magazine features Gemma Reguera's (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) "palm-sized microbial fuel cell"; Stuart Grandy's (Crop and Soil Science) research on soil microbes; a long-running examination of bacterial evolution by Richard Lenski (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Zoology, and Crop and Soil Sciences); and microbial detective work by James Tiedje (Crop & Soil Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) and Syed Hashsham (Civil and Environmental Engineering), among other affiliates. More»
Students and Faculty Taking Action
ESPP affiliates and other environmental researchers at MSU are claiming federal stimulus dollars to conduct a variety of projects on topics including climate change, biofuels and pollution cleanup. Among the recipients:
- Alison Cupples (Civil and Environmental Engineering) was awarded $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to study bioremediation of contaminants from leaking underground storage tanks. Her research team will improve knowledge of the microorganisms used to remove contaminants that can migrate into drinking water.
- Andrew Finley (Forestry, Geography) landed $70,506 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop models for predicting the health effects of climate change. The project aims to boost public health planning by improving prediction of diseases in specific regions.
- David Hyndman (Geological Sciences) is using a $243,532 NSF grant to model the impacts of climate change and land use on the hydrologic cycle and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes basin. The project will explore the dynamics of interaction between plants and water across land cover types, and will have implications for climate models, biofuel crop development, land use policy and other topics.
- G. Philip Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) earned a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support biofuel sustainability research at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
- Randall Schaetzl (Geography) received $185,086 from NSF to use a new method for dating loess deposits, which will generate missing information about glacial and postglacial environments in the Midwest. The work will provide data on loess and sand deposits that have confounded soil scientists and geologic mappers.
- Julie Winkler (Geography) will work to fill gaps in knowledge about northerly and southerly jet streams in the lower atmosphere over the central United States, using a $421,610 NSF grant. The project’s results will be useful both for short- and long-term weather forecasting, in setting a baseline to assess climate disruption, and for assessing wind energy potential. Graduate, undergraduate and high school students will be involved in the research, including underrepresented minorities.
MSU receives $2.5 million DOE award to build advanced hybrid engine (With video)
MSU researchers have received a $2.5 million federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a prototype new engine and generator technology that can dramatically improve efficiencies and reduce costs of electric hybrid vehicles. The project, led by Norbert Mueller, (Mechanical Engineering) has the potential to increase automotive fuel efficiency by five times compared to internal combustion engine cars on the road today while reducing costs by 30 percent. More»
Simple measures can yield big greenhouse gas cuts, Dietz says
New technologies and policies that save energy, remove atmospheric carbon and limit greenhouse gas emissions are needed to fight global climate change – but face daunting technological, economic and political hurdles. The good news: Basic actions taken by everyday people can yield fast savings at low cost, according to MSU Professor Tom Dietz and colleagues, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See also: The Behavioral Wedge Web site. More»
Ancient, giant beavers didn't have a taste for wood
The extinct giant beaver, Castoroides ohioensis, was just one species of large animals, or megafauna, stalking the North American landscape near the end of the last ice age. Fossils indicate that the creature was about twice the size of its modern-day cousin and therefore weighed between 60 and 100 kilograms, says Catherine Yansa, a paleoecologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. More»
Miscounting bioenergy benefits may increase greenhouse gas release
A fixable error in the way carbon is counted in current U.S. climate legislation and in the Kyoto Protocol could undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using biofuels, says a premier group of national environmental and land-use scientists.
"The promise of biofuels made from biomass is huge, from both climate mitigation and economic perspectives," said Phil Robertson, MSU professor of crop and soil sciences and one of the authors of the paper "Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error" published in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Science. "But the promise could come up short if we don't pay attention to the details,” Robertson said. More»
Lenski featured in Nature for watching 40,000 generations of evolution (With video)
A 21-year MSU experiment that distills the essence of evolution in laboratory flasks not only demonstrates natural selection at work, but could lead to biotechnology and medical research advances, researchers said.
MSU professor Richard Lenski (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Zoology, and Crop and Soil Sciences) and colleagues document natural selection in their analysis of 40,000 generations of bacteria, published this week in the journal Nature. While Darwin’s theory is supported by other studies, it has never before been studied for so many cycles and in such detail. More»
MSU receives B grade for sustainability
The State News
The Sustainable Endowments Institute's 2010 college sustainability report card was released Oct. 7 and gave letter grades to schools across the country based on their campus sustainability. MSU received a B, something university officials say adequately reflects MSU. Jennifer Sowa, project coordinator in the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Operations, said she anticipates the grade improving in the future, but is not disheartened by the B. More»
Chronicle of Higher Education (paid subscription)
Spurred on by a shift in consciousness that has been going on for several decades, beginning with the environmental and social-justice movements of the 1960s and 70s, scholars are finding new ways to tackle "the question of the animal" -- or, more accurately, the flock of questions that circle around the term "animal." ... Michigan State University is edging closer. It has had an animal-studies graduate specialization for about a year now. Linda Kalof, professor of sociology, founded and directs the program. "We are the first doctoral specialization in animal studies anywhere in the world," she says. More»
NEPAD-MSU land $10.4 million to improve African agriculture
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development and MSU will use a five-year, $10.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to connect African biosafety regulators with advances in technology – an initiative aimed at reducing poverty through improved agricultural practices. MSU and NEPAD – a program of the African Union – will use grant money to convene workshops and provide regulators with the most current science-based information to regulate biotechnology while protecting farmers, consumers and the environment. Karim Maredia of MSU’s Institute of International Agriculture heads the university’s involvement in the project. More»
Scientists making solar more efficient (With video)
A collaboration of MSU chemists, mathematicians and engineers is driving to improve solar panel technology, backed by a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
"For renewable energy to succeed, it has to get to a point where it is economically competitive with current technology," said chemistry Professor James McCusker, the project leader. "This means we need totally transformational technologies."
The group is developing a solar cell based on a design that combines a dye with an inexpensive semiconductor -instead of silicon. Research team members include chemical engineer and ESPP affiliate Lawrence Drzal. More»
Michigan stakes claim in clean fuel race
The race to change the way Americans fuel their vehicles is propelling Michigan to the forefront in pioneering alternatives... For Michigan, whose second largest industry is agriculture, biofuels hold promise, although their growth in the marketplace has slacked in recent years because of limited infrastructure and too few fueling stations offering bio-based blends. Ethanol gasoline blends also are 30 percent less fuel-efficient than regular gasoline, even though cost per gallon is similar. "If we could build off some of the research it could be really good for Michigan economically," says Bruce Dale, chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University and a leading researcher on cellulosic biofuel. More»
MSU prof says Nobel winner helped others succeed
Lansing State Journal
Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics Monday. ... Tom Dietz, professor of sociology and environmental science at Michigan State University who collaborated with Ostrom on the 2002 book "The Drama of the Commons" and on a subsequent paper in the journal Science, says the honor was richly deserved. "Not only is her own scholarship of exceptional quality, but she's also spent a lot of energy creating the whole field," he says, "pulling people in, encouraging them in their own research and their own careers." More»
Study of climate’s effects on global industries (With Video)
A team of international researchers led by climatologist Julie Winkler (Geography) will conduct a first-of-its-kind study to measure the effects of climate change on global industries. Using the tart-cherry industry as an example, researchers will develop a system for conducting climate-impact assessments for international market systems, particularly those with long-term investments such as orchards. The new project could have applications for agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and other industries, Winkler said.
Other ESPP affiliates involved are Scott Loveridge (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), Jinhua Zhao (Economics and Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), Jeff Andresen (Geography), and Sharon Zhong (Geography).
The project is supported by a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s “Coupled Natural and Human Systems” Program. More»
Green walls taking root in green building design
The next big thing in green building design might be to turn an existing idea on its side. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. recently installed a green wall the size of two tennis courts on one side of its headquarters. Like green roofs — their perpendicular counterparts — green walls are covered in vegetation and provide the benefits of natural insulation and removal of air pollutants. ... Joanne Westphal, landscape architecture professor at Michigan State University and part of the school's Green Roof Research Program, says the biggest benefit to green walls is their ability to help cool buildings through shading. They also help capture rainwater and release it more slowly into the atmosphere and stormwater systems. More»
Fed grant a boon to bug collection
Lansing State Journal
Gary Parsons can't help but see the irony in it — hungry insects threatening to destroy parts of a Michigan State University insect collection. Pesky bugs called carpet beetles are finding their way into MSU's Albert J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection, feeding on and destroying about 10 to 20 specimens every year, says Parsons, the collection manager. A $187,632 National Science Foundation grant hopefully will help keep the pests at bay, says Anthony Cognato, associate professor of entomology at MSU. MSU will use the grant to update aging equipment and create an online database for the collection. More»
Staff profiles: Laurie Thorp (With video)
The Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment, or RISE program offers MSU students an opportunity to study environmental issues and earn a specialization in environmental studies. And for RISE director Laurie Thorp and her staff, it’s imperative to help the students succeed.
“This is a big institution which has lots of wonderful things to offer, but it also can be overwhelming for students and they can get lost very easily,” Thorp said. More»
Researchers hit the road to study air pollution’s health effects
A new mobile air research laboratory will help researchers better understand the damaging health effects of air pollution and why certain airborne particles - emitted from plants and vehicles - induce disease and illness.
Jack Harkema, (Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation), will deploy the new center throughout southern Michigan, including metropolitan Detroit.
"The mobile laboratory allows us to analyze ‘real-world' pollution in communities that may be at risk," he said. More»
Michigan initiates statewide groundwater modeling
Civil Engineering Magazine
An automated approach for cost-effectively analyzing groundwater data and rapidly defining recharge areas associated with wells is expected to soon revamp the way that Michigan protects its groundwater supplies. Created by Michigan State University in partnership with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the process relies on an immense network that draws on new and existing groundwater data and related environmental information...Michigan has approximately 1,100 large public groundwater supplies that are regulated as community water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal statute. Of these, only about 250 have had wellhead protection areas delineated for them, says Shu-Guang Li, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State. More»
MSU farms help feed local families
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
To study food growing you have to grow food, and as a leader in agricultural research, Michigan State grows lots of it. Thanks to a partnership with the Greater Lansing Food Bank, MSU is able to share that bounty - nearly 70,000 pounds of fresh produce each year - with families in need throughout the capital area. Learn more about the partnership from a new video available on the Web site of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. More»
MSU economist elected to international agricultural council
An international group of agricultural economists has elected Scott Swinton, a professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, to its policy-setting council. He was chosen by American members of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, of which he's been a member since 1988. "I am honored to have been elected," Swinton said, "and I look forward to active participation in this important association's governance." The group publishes Agricultural Economics: An International Journal and is, according to its Web site, "a worldwide confederation of agricultural economists and others concerned with agricultural economic problems, including problems related to the use of renewable resources and the environment."
International research team cracks potato genome
A global team of researchers has mapped the genetic code of the world's most popular vegetable — the potato. The draft of the potato genome released last week represents the work of more than 50 scientists from 16 institutions and will provide a starting point for other researchers to develop sturdier, more nutritious potatoes. That's important because the potato is widely grown and plays a central role in feeding the world's 6.3 billion people, says Robin Buell, plant biologist at Michigan State University who worked on the project. More»
Green roofs could counter global warming
United Press International
A Michigan State University study has determined "green roofs" — those covered with plants — could help fight global warming. The scientists, led by horticulturist Kristin Getter and Brad Rowe, horticulture professor at Michigan State University, found replacing traditional roofing materials with green plants in an urban area with a population of about 1 million, would be equivalent to eliminating a year's worth of carbon dioxide emitted by 10,000 mid-sized sport utility vehicles and trucks. More»
Michigan State works to advance perennial wheat
Steve Culman, researcher at Michigan State University, recently won a four-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further the development of a new type of wheat that would help reduce soil erosion while saving growers money, time and labor. It's a perennial wheat that wouldn't have to be replanted each year like annual varieties that die after harvest. Researchers hope to create a perennial variety that is productive for at least five to seven years. "There are lots of lines of perennial wheat that are showing very much promise," Culman says. More»
Archaeologists find ancient dune on campus (With video)
A team of MSU researchers and archaeology students has confirmed the existence of an undisturbed, prehistoric sand dune beneath a grove of pine trees between Demonstration Hall and Munn Ice Arena. The dune is one of the latest finds of the Campus Archaeology Program, said director Lynne Goldstein (Anthropology).
“The MSU campus is an odd place in Michigan to find a sand dune,” said Alan Arbogast, an MSU geography professor who helped determine the dune’s age. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen an inland dune this far south.” More»
MSU researchers lead the way in alternative energy research
Michigan State University's College of Engineering is working to improve the world's alternative energy future thanks to three grants totaling $141.5 million. "We think that no single solution is going to be able to address the energy problem we're confronting today," said Satish Udpa, dean of the College of Engineering. "So we feel we need to be working in several areas simultaneously. We have strong programs in thermoelectrics, biofuels and battery storage technology." More»
Faculty propose reconciliation of hunting with animal welfare ethics
Can hunting and animal welfare ethics coexist? Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs College, Fisheries and Wildlife, Philosophy) and Kelly Millenbah (Fisheries and Wildlife) take a shot at reconciling those often contentious points of view, as hunters around the country start thinking about heading back into the brush. They discuss how advocates for each side arrive at loggerheads, and propose a potential avenue to facilitate a more successful discussion, in an article published in the fall edition of The Wildlife Professional. More»
Researchers to look for Lyme disease while tracking ticks
Potentially debilitating Lyme disease doesn't afflict people everywhere that the ticks harboring it are found. At least not yet. A five-university consortium led by a Michigan State University researcher wants to find out why. "These ticks are on the move. As ticks expand into new areas, more people will likely become infected," said MSU fisheries and wildlife assistant professor Jean Tsao, who will lead the four-year, $2.5 million study. More»
Affiliates awarded fellowships for teaching excellence
Two ESPP-affiliated faculty members are among those awarded a fellowship for in recognition of their excellent teaching.
Kendra Cheruvelil (Lyman Briggs, Fisheries and Wildlife) and Volodymyr Tarabara (Civil and Environmental Engineering) will participate this year in the Lilly Teaching Fellows Program, which is designed to advance MSU’s continuing efforts to support excellence in teaching and learning. [Cheruvelil will investigate “Student Learning and Attitudes in Introductory Organismal Biology”; Tarabara is examining “Educating Globally Competent Scientists and Engineers.” More»
Project aids environmental decisions in the face of complicated trade-offs
Energy shortages, climate change, pollution - some of the world's most pressing problems weigh on the shoulders of some of the world's most hard-pressed people. Michigan State University researchers aim to help them sort out such complex problems. Doctoral student Delanie Kellon is doing field research in Costa Rica and collaborating with Joe Arvai, Robert Richardson and John Kerr, all colleagues from the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource studies. "The hope is whatever choices people end up making are a truer reflection of what really matters to them, as opposed to giving them information and hoping they consider everything," Arvai said, "and taking a leap of faith that researchers and policymakers really have a handle on what people care about." To read Arvai's posts from Costa Rica on ESPP's blog, click here. More»
Hoop houses extend urban farmers' growing season
Hoop houses are relatively inexpensive to build and often are unheated — relying instead on the sun or heat thrown off by compost heaps. With frames made of metal, flexible PVC pipe or wood, they work like greenhouses but are covered with plastic instead of glass. They can be small enough for a city back yard or 100 feet long. With them, farmers can extend a five- or six-month outdoor growing season to the whole year, says Adam Montri, outreach specialist with Michigan State University's Department of Horticulture. And hoop houses don't need heaters or the costly high-intensity lights often used in commercial greenhouses. More»
New MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center opens
Michigan State University recently celebrated the opening of the $13 million facility, which will accommodate three times the amount of materials as the former MSU recycling facility. A comprehensive recycling program, coupled with the facility, will allow the university to expand recycling collection in 553 buildings on campus. “The facility emphasizes the reuse and recycling functions that are critical to keeping waste out of the landfill,” said Ruth Daoust, manager of the facility. More»
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon: "Sustainability is in our DNA"
Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University, and WJR President and General Manager Mike Fezzey, came up with the idea that evolved into Greening of the Great Lakes. "The show is a terrific example of the MSU/WJR partnership," Simon says. "We share values that we hope make a difference for the state of Michigan." More»
Greening of roofs gaining popularity in U.S.
Greening of roofs by having plants on them is gaining popularity in the U.S., where their numbers have increased by 30 percent from 2006 to 2007. Benefits include improved storm water management, energy conservation, reduced noise and air pollution, improved biodiversity, and even a better return on investment than traditional roofing. Kristin L. Getter, horticulturist at Michigan State University, conducted a study to determine the effect of the soil depth on success of green roofs. The research focussed on Sedum, a variety of succulents known for its drought tolerance. More»
Chem building greenest at MSU
Four years of planning paid off in August when the Michigan State University Chemistry Building addition was awarded with the LEED silver level certification, making it the greenest building on campus. Being LEED certified means following a rating system set by the U.S. Green Building Council. ... "You want to start with (a) schematic idea and have to plan for it because of so much documentation," says Lynda Boomer, MSU energy and environmental engineer. "You want all players to know and all reviewing it with that goal in mind." More»
Research supports calls to study health benefits of nitrate and nitrite
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station
An MAES food science and human nutrition researcher is challenging health standards that consider nitrates and nitrites in food to be harmful. Norman Hord's research suggests that although there are negative health effects associated with the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and excessive nitrates in groundwater, nitrates and nitrites -- as they occur in plant foods -- may actually provide health benefits. More»
Blueberry virus strikes Michigan research center
The bloom could be off Michigan's $124 million per year blueberry industry after two destructive viruses infected bushes in three locations. An outbreak of blueberry shock is forcing scientists to destroy plants that represent two decades and millions of dollars of research. ... It will take years for new plants to mature so research can resume, says Annemiek Schilder, associate professor of plant pathology and blueberry researcher at Michian State University. Still, she says, "We can't risk having that spread its way through Michigan's blueberry industry. More»
Mark Hollis looks long term for sustainability in MSU athletics
Mark Hollis, director of intercollegiate athletics at Michigan State University, says he looks long term at sustainability in MSU athletics. "We've gone beyond recycling, which is great," says Hollis. "President Lou Ann K. Simon is driving an effort throughout campus that looks all aspects of the university where we can save dollars and have a positive impact on the environment." More»
Briggs students urge strong leadership on sustainability
Lyman Briggs College
Lyman Briggs College senior seminar students have produced a “Letter on Sustainability,” working with Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs College, Fisheries and Wildlife, and Philosophy). The letter calls for leadership and collaboration in addressing sustainability. The students originally addressed the letter to the Columbia River Quorum, a gathering of interdisciplinary scholars, communicators, and writers which “seeks to bring science and moral imagination together to communicate about climate destabilization.” The letter was originally delivered during the opening comments of the gathering. More»
Blogs cover environmental work on campus
Fisheries and Wildlife graduate student Jessica Kahler has added her voice to a growing chorus of MSU blogs. She recently launched "Field Notes: Exploring the people-wildlife nexus," where she writes about her ongoing research and experiences in Namibia. Kahler's research is centered around conservation criminology and the human dimensions of wildlife management.
The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has also launched a blog, which covers the college's research and events, along with extension information, and informal reports from the ANR communications team . In a July 14 post, ESPP affiliate Wes Everman (Crop and Soil Sciences) identifies weeds and discusses their impact on corn. Click here for other environment-related blogs and newsletters from MSU.
Organic foods: Big companies swoop in to capitalize on lucrative market
For years, Michael Potter has gotten regular offers to buy his organic foods company near Ann Arbor, although now, he says, he gets three or four every week. "Every food company you have ever heard of has tried to buy this company," says the founder, chairperson and president of Eden Foods Inc. ... Philip Howard, professor at Michigan State University, has studied the organic industry's consolidation, and he is dismayed. Howard designed a chart that has become an oft-used reference tool on the issue. He says that consumers are frequently unaware of the corporate name behind an organic product — what he has come to call "stealth ownership."
Howard's charts are available here. More»
Singapore honors MSU professor
Joan Rose, Michigan State University's Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, was honored recently by the Southeast Asian island city-state of Singapore with a Public Service Medal. The medal is awarded to individuals, including foreigners, who have given commendable public service. Rose’s award came from the Singapore Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. Listen to a faculty conversation with Joan Rose. She discusses her goal to help Michigan State University become the state's center for water science and technology. More»
Switch may boost environment
Lansing State Journal, Africa Leader
If biofuels have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, to allay our dependence on fossil fuels, they also have the potential to bring drastic changes to the landscape. By one recent estimate, if biofuels were to account for 10 percent of the fuel used for transportation, growing the crops to produce them could require 8 percent of the world's arable land, perhaps more. Those changes have the potential to be changes for the better, says Phil Robertson, professor at Michigan State University, who leads sustainability research at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. It depends on what crops are ultimately used for biofuel and how and where they're planted.
For a related story, see Roll Call
Companies faced with changing decades-old disposal method
Detroit Free Press
The companies that buy Michigan farmers' produce and turn it into dried, canned and frozen products have always sprayed their wastewater, year-round, on fields. It has been a relatively cheap, simple way to dispose of cherry cooling water, unusable fruit juice, cherry brine and waste from canning pie fillings. Now, they face having to change what they do. "We have to find new ways," says Steve Safferman, professor at Michigan State University studying ways to help processors do that. More»
Microbes provide solutions to energy issues
College of Natural Science
After three years of research, Gemma Reguera (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Crop and Soil Sciences) has developed a process that can be harnessed to produce clean, cheap electricity and fuel from plant biomass. Microbial fuel cells are attracting interest as they are inexpensive to manufacture and produce no harmful by-products. More»
Grant to expose teachers to research, translate excitement to classroom
Michigan State University has been awarded a three-year grant by the National Science Foundation to establish a first-of-its-kind Research Experiences for Teachers in Engineering Site program on Bio-Inspired Technology and Systems. The RET site aims to train a cadre of leaders of middle and high school teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by engaging them in cutting-edge research in diverse areas, such as artificial muscles, robotic fish, biosensors, biomechanics, biofuels, digital evolution and biomolecular engineering. More»
Birds are chirping over cellulosic biofuels
With palm oil plantations overrunning Indonesian rainforests and corn-based ethanol in the U.S. spurring new deforestation abroad, it may seem like biofuels and biodiversity don't mix. That's why ecologist Bruce Robertson at Michigan State University's W. K. Kellogg Biological Station and his colleagues wanted to know how birds and bugs would fare if the U.S. switches from corn-based ethanol production to cellulosic biofuels based on grasses. "Switchgrass production is going to have some measurable biodiversity benefits both for [insect] and grassland bird populations," Robertson said Tuesday at the Ecological Society of America meeting, held here this week. More»
Feeling the sting: Honey producers try to get back on their feet
Jackson Citizen Patriot
Bees, which create a honey of a sweet, are an essential ingredient in the growth of fruits and vegetables. And they have been under attack. ... In addition to mites, beekeepers have battled a problem called colony collapse disorder, or CCD, during the past few years; the disorder first appeared in the fall of 2006. According to Zachary Huang, associate professor of entomology at Michigan State University, CCD affects a large number of states, including Michigan. In an e-mail, he said CCD remained a problem last year and that it killed around 30 to 35 percent of bees across the nation. Huang said if bees were to disappear, "we will only survive on grains," which do not need bees for pollination. More»
Fisheries and Wildlife leadership transition
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Mike Jones has been named chairperson of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. His appointment became effective June 1, 2009, following a national search. Jones has served as acting chair of the department since February 2008, and succeeds William Taylor as department chair. More»
Chemistry professor receives $1.9M NSF grant for solar cell research
College of Natural Science
James McCusker has received a $1.9 million NSF grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This research proposes to develop efficient, solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells using a synergistic collaboration that couples mathematical modeling with synthesis and characterization of novel polymer-based materials for ion conduction. For more on MSU research funded by the stimulus package, click here. More»
MSU Student Team Wins Third Place in A&WMA Environmental Challenge
Building on a legacy of Spartan success, a student team from Michigan State University took third place in the Environmental Challenge International at the annual conference of the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) in Detroit.
The competition lets students assume the role of consultants in preparing and presenting an optimal solution to a simulated but complex and realistic environmental problem.
This year’s competition required participants to design a municipal solid waste management plan to address the waste disposal and energy needs of a hypothetical college city, Moochville, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Students were required to submit their proposed management scheme addressing the economic, social and environmental aspects of the problem prior to the conference, where they presented a poster detailing their plan.
This was followed by a final presentation at the conference that required them to incorporate an added complication, or tweak, to the problem. The tweak to this year’s challenge was the treatment of mercury-contaminated fly ash from the college’s coal power plant.
Members of the MSU team, GeoGreen Solutions, were Becky Larson, Indumathy Jayamani, Ziqiang Yin, Biao Chang and Felix Yeboah. They proposed a waste reduction and recovery initiative and a mechanical biological treatment technology, which had an added advantage of generating energy from solid waste via anaerobic digestion. They committed hours to research and evaluation of available technologies and efforts to address all the facets of the complex environmental problem, and attributed their success to hard work.
The students said the experience expanded their knowledge of sustainable solid waste management options and the complexities associated with real-life designs, which may not have technical solutions. They also found the opportunity to work on a common problem with colleagues from other academic backgrounds and interests very rewarding, as it challenged them to re-examine their perspectives and approaches to complex societal problems.
The students are thankful to ESPP and the East Michigan Chapter of the A&WMA for the financial support that made their participation in the contest possible.
Srivastava lands elite fellowship
Ajit Srivastava (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) has been named a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, an honor achieved by only about two percent of the society's members. Srivastava studies biological and agricultural engineering systems at the interface between machinery and agricultural materials. His research into food production and processing, postharvest engineering and bio-based renewable energy systems, among other topics, have greatly impacted programs at MSU and nationally. More»
Inside Higher Ed
Making people aware of the importance of sustainability is often half the battle. That's why Michigan State University decided to implement an environmental stewardship program among its faculty and staff as part of its Be Spartan Green initiative. "We wanted to look first at what we could do with faculty and staff because they tend to make more decisions that create waste," says Lauren Olson, project coordinator in MSU's department of sustainability and the initiator of the steward program. More»
The future of farming: Eight solutions for a hungry world
Fertilizer use has exponentially increased crop yields in the past 30 years. That fertilizer provides extra nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are essential for plants to build amino acids and cell walls. Soon, farmers may be able to get all the benefits of man-made fertilizer for hundreds of dollars less by using microbes instead. C.A. Reddy, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University, examined 300 naturally occurring soil microbes and assembled a cocktail that can simultaneously reduce the need for phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers, protect plants against pathogens, and boost yields in virtually every type of crop. More»
The wisdom of crowds
Given that changing behavior likely will be pivotal in any response to climate change, Nature magazine delves into the factors inhibiting contributions from the social sciences, quoting Tom Dietz, MSU's assistant vice president for environmental research.
See also the report from an NSF workshop on the topic.
Organic farming alive and well at MSU Student Organic Farm
John Biernbaum is actively involved with Michigan State University's renowned student organic farm. Biernbaum, a professor of horticulture, says organic does not mean the absence of chemicals and fertilizers. "There actually are certain chemicals and minerals that are used as fertilizers that are allowed in organic farming," says Biernbaum. "Organic is really all about the living soil and the health of the soil." More»
MSU project to help farmers go green, save green with perennial wheat
A research project at the Kellogg Biological Station explores the potential of growing perennial wheat as an environmentally friendly option for Michigan farmers. Unlike standard varieties that must be re-planted annually, perennial wheat springs up on its own each year, saving farmers precious time and money. It also holds promise for reducing soil erosion and storing carbon. The research team, led by MSU crop and soil scientist Sieg Snapp, also includes ESPP affiliate Scott Swinton (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics).
Additional coverage from Great Lakes Echo provides video and touches on the implications for cookies.
The Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station also had the story. More»
Nanocomposite developed at MSU could help automakers meet fuel efficiency standards
College of Engineering
Michigan State University researchers have developed a composite material modified with nanoparticles that is economical and could also help automakers meet the new fuel efficiency standards recently announced by President Barack Obama. The research was led by Lawrence T. Drzal, (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), director of MSU's Composite Materials and Structures Center and chief scientist at XG Sciences Inc., a start-up company headquartered in East Lansing. More»
Michigan researchers ponder science's future
Research into renewable energy, autism and stem cells could be the next great frontiers of science, Michigan researchers say as the 40-year anniversary of the man on the moon is observed today. ... To commemorate the anniversary, researchers from Michigan's leading institutions weigh in on some of the promising areas of scientific research in areas they think could be the next "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." Soji Adelaja, director of Michigan State University's Land Policy Institute, discusses renewable energy and Jack Lipton, professor of neurology at MSU's College of Human Medicine, discusses stem cell research.
Note: This story came from a feature by MSU University Relations.
Coastal communities gain help in planning for wind power
Great Lakes IT Report
Soji Adelaja (Land Policy Institute) has received grant funding to work with coastal communities to assess the consequences of wind energy development and evaluate policy options, in advance of development proposals. Adelaja received $140,000 from Michigan Sea Grant. More»
Catering to cows: Cushy conditions lead to increased production, experts say
Waterbeds in the stalls. Laser-guided, robotic milk machines. A back-scratching massage station. Lush pastures and a whenever-you-feel-like-it milking schedule. Michigan State University's $1.8 million Pasture Dairy Research and Education Center in Hickory Corners is pretty close to cow heaven. Mat Haan, project coordinator, says the revolutionary cow comforts in the new research facility are designed to help farmers make money. More»
Scientists, public differ in outlooks
In a Pew Research Center survey, 84 percent of non-scientists say science has a "mostly positive effect on our society," and 76 percent of scientists say these are "good times" for researchers. However, nearly half the scientists surveyed, 47 percent, say their colleagues are pursuing "projects that yield marketable products but do not advance science very much." ... "The major value of this survey is that it rebuts the frequent allegations that Americans are 'turning against' science," says political scientist Jon Miller of Michigan State University. More»
Environmental researchers earn university laurels
G. Philip Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) and Kay Holekamp (Zoology) were among the ten MSU faculty members named University Distinguished Professors in July. The title is among the highest honors that can be bestowed on a faculty member by the university. Those selected for the title have been recognized nationally and internationally for the importance of their teaching, research and public service achievements. More»
New protein leads the way in biofuels
Fueling a vehicle made with biofuel from a rutabaga may be in the future because of research breakthroughs by a team of scientists led by Christoph Benning (Biochemistry). More»
Food Comes A Long Way
Detroit Free Press
Detroiters, do you know where your food comes from? Chances are, it comes from pretty far away. Michael Hamm, the C.S. Mott professor of sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University, says that virtually all the food consumed by Detroiters at home or in restaurants comes from distant states and other nations -- fruits and vegetables from California, bananas from South America, and so forth. But Hamm said Detroit's vast vacant and abandoned spaces offer the possibility of growing more food here -- a lot more. A recent study conducted by one of his students found that Detroit has suitable vacant land to grow 76% of the vegetables and 42% of the fruits Detroiters need for a healthy diet. More»
'Genetic arms race' between bacteria, viruses subject of stimulus grant
The oceans teem with microscopic bacteria that produce much of Earth's oxygen as they absorb carbon dioxide greenhouse gas. But fast-mutating viruses also populate the seas, attacking marine bacteria in an ages-old evolutionary arms race. Jay Lennon (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) has received an NSF grant to examine that ancient dynamic against the backdrop of environmental and climate change, and the pivotal role played by aquatic bacteria in maintaining the Earth’s biological balance.
A conversation with Michigan's state climatologist Jeff Andresen
Associate professor of geography Jeff Andresen is the state climatologist for Michigan. Andresen is hosting his state climatologist colleagues from around the world at the American Association of State Climatologists annual meeting in Grand Rapids July 7-10. "Our goal is to look at the collection, analysis and dissemination of climate information, mainly back to the public," Andresen says.
Research on Mexican empire receives attention, funding
A recent NSF grant will allow Helen Pollard (Anthropology) to continue her 40 years of research into the emergence of the Tarascan Empire, an ancient enemy of the Aztec that held sway over much of western Mexico for more than a century before Spanish conquest of the region. Pollard and graduate student Christopher Stawski will use the funding to conduct archaeological and landscape surveys and environmental excavation with specialists in geoarchaeology, geography and geology. Her research is also highlighted in a recent article in National Geographic. Photo courtesy of Chris Fisher.
Biofuel expert Bruce Dale co-authors Scientific American cover story
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station
"Grassoline at the Pump," an article co-written by Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), is the cover story in the July 2009 issue of Scientific American.
Peer pressure plays major role in environmental behavior
National Science Foundation, ScienceDaily
People are more likely to enroll in conservation programs if their neighbors do - a tendency that should be exploited when it comes to protecting the environment, according to results of a new study. The research, to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, is the first to focus on the phenomenon of social norms in the context of China's conservation efforts, says Jianguo (Jack) Liu (Fisheries and Wildlife).
Additional news coverage: UPI
Wood harvest puts pandas at risk
Over the past 30 years, people living in rural communities have ventured ever deeper into prime panda habitat to collect wood to burn. That in turn significantly impacts wildlife habitats, which can become degraded and fragmented as trees are chopped down. Guangming He of Michigan State University led a team that examined how the collection of firewood has impacted panda habitat in the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, China.
NSF Gives $630 Thousand to MSU For Invasive Plant Studies
Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News (Calif.)
The National Science Foundation is giving $630,000 to a Michigan State University researcher to help uncover the genetic factors behind invasive plant infestations that can destroy native ecosystems. The four-year grant goes to Jennifer Lau, a plant ecologist with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. The university says the research will focus on two common annual plants from the California coast range.
For a related story, see Traverse City Record-Eagle
Genetic influences on invasive plant species probed with NSF support
College of Natural Science
With exotic invaders such as garlic mustard plants threatening Michigan forests and purple loosestrife crowding out native cattails, improving the ability to prevent damaging plant invasions is the aim of research spearheaded by a Michigan State University ecologist. Jennifer Lau (Plant Biology) has won a four-year, $630,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to explore how genetic variation in native and non-native plant species affects biological invasions. Additional news coverage: AP
Michigan United Conservation Clubs honors Jim Detjen as “Conservation Communicator of the Year”
Communication Arts and Sciences
Sportsmen and women from all over the state honored Jim Detjen (Knight Center for Environmental Journalism) this past weekend as he was awarded the Conservation Communicator of the Year Award at Michigan United Conservation Clubs’ 2009 Annual Convention.
Conversation with Jim Detjen.
Study highlights massive imbalances in global fertilizer use
An international team of ecologists and agricultural experts cautions against blanket solutions to global fertilizer pollution, considering that some regions still suffer greatly from lack of cropland nutrients.
In a report published in the the journal Science, Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) and colleagues warn against a "one-size-fits-all" approach to managing global food production.
Additional news coverage: New York Times, Monga Bay
Graphic depictions of the seed industry
The seed industry's consolidation over the past decade or so has been so monumental and complex that it would be nearly impossible to describe in text. Luckily, Phil Howard, agriculture professor at Michigan State University, has assembled several graphical representations that give an idea not only of how the biggest companies have been gobbling up smaller ones, but also of how much "cooperation" there is among them. Image courtesy of Phil Howard.
Therapeutic environmental design aims to help patients with Alzheimer's disease
Journal of the American Medical Association
By the time Alzheimer's disease has reached its end stage, the brain is riddled with plaques, tangles, cavities, and fissures and has lost a substantial percentage of its weight. However, most people living with Alzheimer's are not yet at this stage and still have a good portion of working neurons with which they can learn. ... Other environmental designers are turning to the ancient concept of the healing garden, which has seen a resurgence in the last few decades. Joanne Westphal, professor of landscape architecture at Michigan State University, bridges medicine and design to create gardens that provide such benefits as relieving stress and improving the sense of well-being for patients, as well as for staff and family members.
Microbes may be more networked than you are
Wired News (editorial)
When we think of networks, we think of humans and the cables we've run around the world to connect our species. Figuring out how to move electrons has transformed human society, but we are not the only species on earth that lives in a wired world. A few years ago, microbiologist Gemma Reguera of Michigan State University reported that a certain type of bacteria could use rust to grow electrically conductive appendages. Shortly thereafter, my lab showed that many more bacterial species also had the ability to grow nanowires...
Environmental engineers take state, national awards for "fresh ideas" on Michigan's water
A team of Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty and graduate students won multiple prizes for the poster they presented at the American Water Works Association's "Fresh Ideas" competition. The poster presents a collaboration between MSU and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that will help the state manage and protect its groundwater, using real-time visual analysis of Michigan’s groundwater systems and drinking water aquifers virtually anywhere in the state. The proposal took third place at the National AWWA meeting and first place at the Michigan AWWA meeting.
Amazon conservation policy working in Brazil, MSU-led study finds
Contrary to common belief, Brazil's policy of protecting portions of the Amazonian forest from development is capable of buffering the Amazon from climate change, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Robert Walker (Geography), lead researcher, contends that state and federal governments in Brazil have created a sustainable core of protected areas within the Amazon. Photography courtesy Robert Walker.
Ash trees' death rate from borers likely to rise
Lansing State Journal
In recent years, the emerald ash borer has swept throughout mid-Michigan, infesting ash trees, among the region's most common tree species, and experts say the area is reaching a point within the next year or two when residents will see ash trees die off in high numbers. "We are going to have a few years when we are going to be looking at an awfully lot of dead trees," says Deborah McCullough, professor of forest entomology at Michigan State University, who has studied the ash borer in the state. "It's really becoming apparent that we're in a heavily infested period. It seems there are two or three years when you will see a lot of tree mortality."
Photography courtesy Emeraldashborer.info
McDonald's USA to join new coalition to study U.S. hen housing sustainability, including cage-free
Life Science Weekly (Subscription)
McDonald's USA announced its participation with leading animal welfare scientists, academics, Non-Government Organizations and egg suppliers in a commercial-scale study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens in the United States, including cage-free housing. ... The research is being led by Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis. "A thorough understanding of the full range of sustainability factors regarding hen housing is an important goal of this project," says Janice Swanson, an animal science professor at MSU. "The coalition anticipates a multi-year study to factor in seasonal shifts, bird life cycles and other factors."
KBS hosts regional meeting of experts in new field: Biogeochemistry
Greenboard (ESPP blog)
Experts gathered last week at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station to discuss their work in the emerging field of biogeochemistry, which concerns the intersection of biology, geology and chemistry, and asks how organisms interact with their physical and chemical environments. Roughly 80 participants from all over the Upper Midwest attended the first annual Great Lakes Regional Biogeochemistry Symposium, which was hosted by KBS’s Eminent Ecologists program and the Biogeochemistry Environmental Research Initiative (BERI). Nathaniel Ostrom, co-director of the BERI, described questions biogeochemists are interested in, and why the field matters. [Video available.] More»
Study: Michigan mammals rapidly migrating north
Commonplace rodents such as opossums and white-footed mice are migrating rapidly northward in Michigan, suggesting climate change is taking hold in the upper Great Lakes region, says a newly released scientific report. ... The project was boosted by a treasure trove of records on mammal distribution in the area, including more than a century of field notes and specimen collections housed in research museums at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
Advocate for environment, scientist duo urges, as Michigan researchers seek greenhouse gas controls
Scores of MSU researchers urged Michigan’s congressional delegation to support strong federal policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The advocacy action coincided with publication of a paper by Michael Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs) and Michigan Tech scholar John Vucetich urging researchers to speak out on environmental policy. Their ethical analysis of environmental scientist advocacy appeared in the journal Conservation Biology.
Additional coverage: Grand Rapids Press, Great Lakes IT Report
For kids: Puberty gone wild
Breakouts, mood swings and sudden growth spurts: Puberty can be downright awkward. Even if you're not of the human species. Puberty is a period in which humans move from childhood to adulthood. During this transition, the body goes through many physical and emotional changes. But humans aren't the only creatures to experience dramatic changes as they mature. Jim Harding, wildlife information specialist at Michigan State University, says all animals — from aardvarks to zebra finches — go through a period of transition as they take on adult characteristics and reach sexual maturity, or the ability to reproduce.
Michigan scientists push legislation to fix climate change
Detroit Free Press, News Blaze (Calif.)
A group of 178 Michigan scientists from 11 universities have signed a letter backing legislation that would set up a national cap and trade system to curb greenhouse gases. ... "We came together as scientists to urge them to move forward," says Tom Dietz, director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University.
For a related story, see Grand Rapids Press. More»
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism Releases Spring issue of EJ Magazine
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
The magazine covers environmental issues on campus (e.g., an interview with outgoing sustainability coordinator Terry Link) and beyond, from White House interference in science to Michigan sand dunes, Great Lakes invasive species, and more.
The student-produced magazine has won more than 25 awards and was named one of the top three student-produced magazines in the nation in 2008 by the Society of Professional Journalists. More»
MSU-Malawi partnership on ecosystem services is awarded USAID grant
Anne Ferguson (Anthropology) is helping to lead a newly-funded project to address ecosystem services and develop a strategic plan to address uneven development, population growth and climate change and its effects on forest, fishery, soil and water in Malawi and the region.
Web Site Provides Resources for New Environmental Faculty
The Center for Water Sciences, Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project, and ESPP have launched a site aimed at new faculty interested in environment/ sustainability science issues. It provides a targeted, user-friendly overview of MSU resources. We're integrating feedback we've gotten and welcome more. Thanks also to Derek Moy for his design. More»
Conferences Highlight Diverse Efforts at MSU
ESPP’s blog covers recent events hosted by the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project, the Land Policy Institute, and Animal Studies, among others. More»
What can climate models tell cherry growers?
By Andy McGlashen
In the glacier-carved hillsides of northwest Michigan where half of America's tart cherries grow, buds that look like half-burst popcorn will erupt any day into brilliant white blossoms. But in that six-county area flanking Lake Michigan, climate change is already in full bloom. The state is two degrees warmer on average than it was 30 years ago, and it's generally wetter, says Michigan State University geographer Jeffrey Andresen, the state climatologist. More»
Michigan farms can move bio-energy development forward
Bio-energy, also known as agri-energy, is a growing industry that entails the use of farm and forest products and byproducts to create renewable energy sources such as motor fuel and heat. It is a growing industry in Michigan and across the nation. Dennis Pennington, bio-energy educator at the Kellogg Biological Station Land & Water Program at Michigan State University Extension, and Steve Pueppke, director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, talked to The Detroit News recently about the industry and what it means for Michigan farmers. More»
MSU to Host Federal Energy Frontier Research Center
The U.S. Department of Energy has tapped Michigan State University to lead a new $12.5 million Energy Frontier Research Center, one of 46 to be established nationwide. The Center focuses on thermoelectric energy conversion, which increases energy efficiency by converting energy currently lost as heat into electricity. Researchers in the College of Engineering and College of Natural Science are involved. More»
‘Green Technology’ Firm Based on MSU Science Lands $21M in Venture Capital
Draths Corp., a next generation chemical company founded on Michigan State University science, has raised $21 million in new venture funding to commercialize chemical intermediates used to make nylon and other products with renewable resources instead of petrochemicals. More»
ESPP Student Wins Geography Award
Carolina Santos (Geography and ESPP) won this year’s Potchen Award for Geography Graduate Student of the Year. Santos’ work involves documenting the transformation of natural forest into African oil palm plantations in a Colombian region considered a hotspot of biodiversity. She’s also building a model to see how the different drivers of change interact, and will eventually use scenarios to assess the probability of change and policy implications.
Animals + humans: conference examines link across species
Greenboard (ESPP blog)
“Animals: Past, Present, and Future,” an international conference held at MSU, highlighted the university’s strength in the emerging area of animal studies.
Animal studies examines relationships between humans and animals through an interdisciplinary lens. MSU has a graduate specialization in animal studies and “several faculty actively contributing to and shaping the field,” said conference organizer and ESPP affiliate Georgina Montgomery (Lyman Briggs College and History). More»
Sectors of promise for the Michigan economy
We've heard the news about the auto industry and foreclosures, but there are sectors of promise for the Michigan economy. What is Michigan going to be famous for next? ... "If we do in fact become a leading state in the installation of wind systems and in the application of wind toward energy we also have the potential of organizing our productive infrastructure to be able to support that," says Adesoji Adelaja, director of the MSU Land Policy Institute and a professor in the departments of Agricultural Economics, Geography, and Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies. Michigan also can become an exporter of equipment and expertise to other parts of the country, he says. More»
Search for unusual alien life on Earth and life that can survive on Mars
Questions such as "How to search for weird alien life?" and "Would Earth microbes survive if delivered to the surface of Mars?" are addressed in articles that are part of a collection of reports presented in the current issue of Astrobiology. Researchers from Princeton University, the Kennedy Space Center and Michigan State University exposed a bacterium that lives in the Siberian permafrost on Earth to the harsh conditions on Mars using a Mars Simulation Chamber. Low temperature and atmospheric pressure, and high dryness and ultraviolet irradiation flux characterize the surface conditions of present-day Mars. More»
Graduate Students Take Research to the Capitol
Michigan Graduate Education Day brought MSU graduate students to the State House to discuss their research. Students presented work in ecology, as well as the arts and the new Facility for Rare Isotopes Beams. More»
California Air Resources Board deadline nears
Forbes, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Business Times, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Earthtimes.org, and several other media outlets
The California Air Resources Board, an arm of the state's Environmental Protection Agency, will end its comment period next week on the merits of adopting the Golden State's proposed Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. With only days remaining before the comment period ends on April 24, increasing numbers of university professors, scientists, researchers and industry trade organizations have registered their opposition to adoption of the LCFS proposal in its present form. ... Bruce Dale, University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University, says "The report prepared by the staff at the Air Resources Board... is poorly completed and the conclusions that are reached are not supported by data from the scientific literature. The work is based on very few references... and at least one of the references listed in the appendix is incorrect or falsified." More»
New Michigan State University report urges focus on place in economic redevelopment
College-educated young workers who value quality of life issues above the availability of jobs and other factors will shape the new economy, a new report from Michigan State University concludes. The report from MSU's Land Policy Institute, titled, "Chasing the Past or Investing in Our Future: Placemaking for Prosperity in the New Economy," recommends that communities make themselves more attractive by investing in green spaces, redeveloping downtowns and connecting the economies of urban and rural areas. ... "Every place doesn't have everything," says Adesoji Adelaja, director of the Land Policy Institute at MSU. "But virtually every place has something that can appeal to certain segments of the population and create prosperity for communities."
For a related story, see Michigan Public Radio More»
Green roof can make house literally cool
Lansing State Journal
Michigan State University horticulture professor Brad Rowe gives a whole new meaning to reducing your carbon footprint with his Green Roof Research Program. Putting plants on a building's roof makes up for the vegetation lost during its construction. ... It's easier to put a green roof on a large industrial or commercial building than on someone's home, according to Rowe. "Residential homes tend to have sloped roofs which make installation of a successful green roof a little more challenging," he said. "Also, the cost tends to be higher on residential buildings due to economies of scale. Regardless, the building must be able to hold the extra weight." More»
NRC Study Says Decision Makers Need Climate Information
A new National Research Council report with input from MSU says government agencies base decisions – for example, how to build bridges, manage water supplies or implement zoning rules – on outdated information that fails to consider climate change.
Joe Arvai (ESPP associate director and CARRS) was part of the committee that wrote the report “Informing Decisions in a Changing Climate,” which recommends that the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies put more effort into producing relevant climate information and delivering it effectively to decision makers.
The NRC is the policy-advising arm of the National Academies. More»
Simon’s Latest Report Highlights Environmental Work
The 2008 President’s Report from MSU chief Lou Anna K. Simon highlights the university’s accomplishments in the last year, and includes short videos and news stories about research and outreach done by ESPP affiliates and others.
Available online, the report offers feature stories about, among other things:
- Chemical and mechanical engineers teaming up to grow biofuels for automobiles and build engines that burn them more efficiently.
- A project undertaken by ESPP affiliate Jennifer Olson (Telecommunications, Information Studies & the Media) and others that brought a student-designed, solar-powered Internet connection to a Maasai village in Tanzania where few people had ever seen a computer.
- Efforts by ESPP affiliates and entomologists Zachary Huang and Doug Landis to save the world’s honeybees from the mysterious and alarming Colony Collapse Disorder and attract other pollinators to Michigan.
Understanding Hawaiian Petrels through Stable Isotopes
College of Natural Science
Thousands of years ago, Hawaiian Petrels were so numerous they darkened the skies of the Hawaiian Islands. Today, they are endangered and nearly extinct. Peggy Ostrom and Anne Wiley (Zoology) are reconstructing the ecological history of the seabird, “reading their bones” to better understand the history of the bird and protect the remaining population. More»
As Easter approaches, cat owners should watch out for Easter lilies
Los Angeles Times
With Easter approaching, a word of warning to cat owners: Easter lilies are toxic to your feline friend. "Cats can be poisoned by ingesting one or two leaves or flowers," says Wilson Rumbeiha, assistant professor of pathobiology and diagnostic investigation at Michigan State University. "Easter lily poisoning is a problem of indoor cats and affects cats of either sex and all ages," he says. More»
Project GREEEN Funding Allows Scientists to Advance Plant-Based Agriculture
Project GREEEN is a cooperative effort between plant-based commodities and businesses, MSU, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Projects funded this year include these from ESPP affiliates:
- Constructed wetlands for treating food processing wastewater - Dawn Reinhold
- Understanding and managing insecticide resistance in the Colorado Potato Beetle - Edward Grafius
- Organic pest management for apples; disease and pollinator interactions in blueberries; and fruit pest mating - Matthew Grieshop
Inbreeding led to deformed bones in wolves
United Press International
Scientists say they've found extreme inbreeding of an isolated wolf population at a U.S. island national park has resulted in genetically deformed bones. Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich of Michigan Tech and their colleagues -- Jannikke Raikkonen of the Swedish Museum of Natural History and Michael Nelson at Michigan State University -- found 58 percent of the wolves on Isle Royale exhibit a congenital malformation in the lumbosacral region or lower back, and 33 percent display a specific deformity, lumbosacral transitional vertebrae.
For a related story, see the Associated Press. More»
Parrot custody battle
ABC News (Good Morning America Show)
A dispute between two women over a bird's ownership lands in court. David Favre, professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law, talks about the case. More»
Skole to Help Protect Planet and Poor with Carbon Count
The World Wildlife Fund has chosen Michigan State as its partner in an ambitious effort to develop an accounting system for carbon in the world’s landscapes.
Conceived by ESPP affiliate David Skole (Forestry) and colleagues and funded by a $5 million grant from the Global Environment Facility, the 18-month Carbon Benefits Project aims to allow even the remotest citizens of developing nations to participate in worldwide carbon markets. Through their land-use choices, participants could potentially lift themselves from poverty while protecting the environment.
“What they need is a tool to assess their carbon and climate impact, both positive and negative,” Skole said. More»
MSU Researcher Cuts Chemicals from Cancer Drug
A Michigan State researcher has discovered a “green” way to streamline the production process for a popular cancer-fighting drug.
Paclitaxel, better known by the brand name Taxol, was isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew in 1967, but more recently has been made with synthetic chemicals. But a method developed by Kevin Walker, an assistant professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, uses natural enzymes instead.
“Pharmaceutical companies could reduce the steps involved in making Taxol while cutting chemical byproducts,” Walker said.
The research was funded by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. More»
World's Largest Urban Farm Planned for the City of Detroit
A planned farm within the City of Detroit will use 70 acres of vacant lands and abandoned properties on Detroit's lower east side, announced John Hantz, CEO of Hantz Farms.
Hantz Farms is working with MSU to add MSU expertise on agricultural and soil sciences and consulting with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a national leader in community-based food systems. More»
MSU reduces energy use by 3 percent during event
The State News
Efforts to turn off nonessential lights and electrical devices resulted in a 3 percent reduction in campus energy Friday, university officials say. Students, faculty and staff members were encouraged to dim down their lights and electronics Friday from noon to 1 p.m. as a way to raise awareness about global climate change. "It was fantastic; it was a larger turnout than last year," says Lynda Boomer, energy and environmental engineer at the MSU Physical Plant. "We dropped about 1.5 megawatt, which is about a 3 percent (energy) drop for campus." More»
Moving new energy technology from the laboratory to the marketplace
San Francisco Chronicle
A plan to use algae to simultaneously treat wastewater and produce the raw materials for biofuels won the inaugural Clean Energy Prize on March 20. The competition was established by DTE Energy and the University of Michigan along with sponsors, Masco Corporation Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, to encourage entrepreneurship in Michigan and the development of clean energy technology. Team Algal Scientific Corp., comprised of business and engineering students from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, earned the top prize of $65,000.
For a related story, see Fox Business Network More»
A chat with Carole Gibbs
Greenboard (ESPP blog)
We sat down recently with Carole Gibbs, an assistant professor jointly appointed by Criminal Justice and Fisheries and Wildlife, to discuss her research, which includes carbon cap-and-trade programs and illegal export of illegal waste. Gibbs also talked generally about the exciting field that’s emerging where criminal justice and environmental policy meet. More»
Investment in Pest Prevention Research Yields Big Returns, Swinton Says
New MSU research shows that small investments in research on controlling the tiny but destructive soybean aphid will pay big dividends in years to come.
$17 million in federal and government funding have gone into soybean aphid research and education since 2003, said ESPP affiliate Scott Swinton (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics). That integrated pest management work should yield a net economic benefit of $1.3 billion – an annual return rate of 180 percent – over the next 15 years.
“This is an example of what a good payoff you can get as a result of long-term research,” Swinton said.
“There’s been a half century of research into integrated pest management. In the process a lot of techniques were developed and lots of understanding was gained about the relationships between crop and pest life cycles, infestations and the weather to decide when it’s necessary to control them without wasting money and creating health risks.” More»
Eating food that’s better for you, organic or not
New York Times, International Herald Tribune
In the six-and-one-half years since the federal government began certifying food as "organic," Americans have taken to the idea with considerable enthusiasm. Sales have at least doubled, and three-quarters of the nation's grocery stores now carry at least some organic food. A Harris poll in October 2007 found that about 30 percent of Americans buy organic food at least on occasion, and most think it is safer, better for the environment and healthier. ... "People believe it must be better for you if it's organic," says Phil Howard, assistant professor of community, food and agriculture at Michigan State University. More»
Insecticide linked to weight gain in women
Post Chronicle (N.J.)
Prenatal exposure to the insecticide DDT may play a role in increased obesity of women, Michigan State University researchers say. More than 250 mothers who live alone and eat fish from Lake Michigan were studied for their exposure to DDE — a breakdown of DDT. ... "What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women," says Janet Osuch, professor of surgery and epidemiology at MSU's College of Human Medicine, who was one of the lead authors of the study.
For a related story, see Michigan State University Relations More»
Michigan geography gets a much-needed facelift
Greenboard (ESPP blog)
Scientists’ understanding of Michigan’s geography has changed considerably in the decades since college textbooks on the subject were last published, so professors have had to use a hodgepodge of readings from various sources to teach their students about the Great Lake State. Now a new book born at MSU offers students a single, unified source of information on the state’s landforms, natural resources and economy. Geography and geological sciences professor Randall Schaetzl is the book’s editor-in-chief, and geography chair and fellow ESPP affiliate Richard Groop is its cartography editor. More»
Area to get bio boost
Lansing State Journal
The $410 billion federal spending bill signed last week by President Barack Obama includes more than $1 million earmarked for bio-economy research in mid-Michigan. ... "What this money does is it helps bridge the gap between a laboratory idea and an industrial process," says Lawrence Drzal, director of the Composite Materials and Structures Center at Michigan State University. "Once you start bridging that gap, then you can get private investment to come in and make use of it, scale it up. But that first step going from the university to commercialization is quite large, and it's just not something that is easily done without the resources." More»
Soji Adelaja: The economy should never be in conflict with the environment (with video)
Soji Adelaja leads Michigan State University's Land Policy Institute. "Our mission is research, public education, and direct engagement with communities in Michigan to bring science to bear on the important decisions Michigan needs to make about its future," says Adelaja. More»
Alan Arbogast: Development is biggest threat to Michigan's sand dunes
Michigan State University's Alan Arbogast is a national expert on sand dunes. He researches the geomorphic history of sand dunes, both in the interior of the state and along the shore of Lake Michigan. "The sand dunes along Lake Michigan are a vital resource and are very popular for a variety of reasons," says Arbogast. "About 3 million people a year visit the sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shore." More»
Link Leaving Post to Run Food Bank
Terry Link has been the face of environmental stewardship at Michigan State since September of 2000, when he became director of the newly formed Office of Campus Sustainability. It’s hard to imagine campus without him, but Link is stepping down to become Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank. For now, Link’s old duties will be split up among a handful of people, and it’s not yet clear who will replace him. Whoever steps in to shrink the university’s environmental footprint will have big shoes to fill. “Terry is marvelous at bringing people together from across campus to solve common problems,” said ESPP Assistant Director Maya Fischhoff, who has worked closely with Link on various projects. “He’s inspiring and a lot of fun.” To watch a video interview with Link, click here. Click here to read his final farewell post on ecoBlog.
Litchman Lands Prestigious Award for Young Teacher-Scholars
Elena Litchman (Zoology) has won a prestigious grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to young researchers who also excel at teaching. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award will fund a five-year project in which Litchman will investigate how factors like climate change and nutrient levels affect toxic algae blooms in lakes. CAREER awards are given “in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations,” NSF says.
More about Litchman’s work
More about CAREER
Abandon Hope, Nelson Argues
Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs College; Fisheries and Wildlife; and Philosophy) has an essay in the March issue of The Ecologist in which he argues that giving people hope for the health of our planet might keep them from taking real action to build a sustainable future. Nelson and co-author John Vucetich of Michigan Tech say that hope as a motivator is based on speculation about the future, and that we instead ought to be concerned with how to act virtuously now, regardless of what might lie ahead. “If we’re left with despair or hope, neither of which actually seem to be a motivator to do anything, we need another motivator,” Nelson said. “So we started thinking that this is really about doing the right thing, quite apart from whether it’s hopeful or not. This is about the decision to be a certain kind of person.” To watch a video interview with Nelson about the essay, click here. More»
Poulson Launches New Environmental Journalism Blog
David Poulson, associate director of MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, has started a new blog about the challenges of covering a rapidly changing planet in a rapidly changing media landscape. Poulson is a 22-year veteran of the newspaper business and has blogged for the Great Lakes Town Hall and The Poynter Institute. His new blog, Cover the Planet, revolves around the same basic questions he’s pondered on those sites: With newspapers tanking left and right, how can quality journalism continue? And how can reporters best communicate the often complex environmental risks we face? More»
ESPP Gearing up for 'America’s Climate Choices'
ESPP representatives will join the scientists, policymakers, business leaders and others gathering in Washington, D.C. at the end of March to discuss the changing climate. The National Academy of Sciences charged the Committee on America’s Climate Choices with producing a report on the challenges and importance of responding to climate change, and called for a summit to help define the committee’s research. ESPP Director Thomas Dietz sits on the committee, and is vice chair of the panel responsible for identifying the science of climate change. News writer Andy McGlashen will post reports from the summit on GreenBoard, the ESPP blog. ESPP students, faculty and affiliates are encouraged to e-mail Andy (email@example.com) if they plan to attend the summit, and are welcome to blog from Washington for GreenBoard. More»
Scriber and Rose Join Faculty’s Top Ranks
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station
A world-renowned butterfly expert and an advocate for safe drinking water were among the recipients of MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Awards in February. J. Mark Scriber (Entomology) was awarded for extensive work focused on how the genetics, morphology, physiology and behavior of North American swallowtail butterflies have responded to shifts in host plants, geography and climate. Joan Rose (Fisheries and Wildlife) earned recognition for her contributions to scientific understanding of the risks associated with waterborne pathogens. Her research and outreach efforts have improved water quality and public health in the United States and internationally. The awards recognize faculty members with a long-term record of excellence in research, teaching and outreach. More»
Funding for Agriculture Programs Essential for State’s Economy, Program Chiefs Say
A funding cut proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm would cost Michigan $500 million and 1,000 knowledge-based jobs, say the heads of two MSU programs on the chopping block. The 2010 budget proposal would combine the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station with MSU Extension and cut their funding in half to $32 million. MAES Director Steve Pueppke and Tom Coon, director of MSU Extension, told the Michigan House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee that the programs are key drivers of the state’s 21st century economy and bring in $2.33 for every dollar invested in them. Among other contributions, they support cutting-edge research into biofuels, alternative energy and food safety. More»
MSU Extension Cutbacks Will Hurt State, Critics Say
Lansing State Journal
Steve Tennes has nine acres of canola growing on a field that once sprouted pumpkins. He got a brand new canola press in December. This summer, he'll have canola oil to use as biofuel for his farm machines. And the Charlotte farmer has an $11,000 grant from the federal government that helped pay for it all. Which is part of the reason why he thinks Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal to merge Michigan State University Extension with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and cut their combined state funding from $64 million this year to $32 million next year is a step in the wrong direction. MSU Extension is essentially an educational outreach operation, providing a link between the expertise housed at MSU and local communities. Experiment station director Steve Pueppke says that while state funding is only a portion of the experiment station's budget, it's that money that makes it possible to bring in federal grant dollars. More»
Work on Monitoring Ecosystems Wins Faculty Member NSF CAREER Award
College of Engineering
Jongeun Choi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of electrical and computer engineering, received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award for his proposal, “Multi-Agent Systems and Gaussian Processes: Applications in Environmental Sciences.”
Choi studies how mobile sensing vehicles can perform specific tasks: for example, monitoring ecosystems. Applications include prediction and tracing of harmful algal blooms in lakes, toxic contaminants in public water systems, and pollutants in the air.
Jonguen Choi talks about his NSF award More»
MSU to Lead Rural Development in the Midwest
This summer Michigan State will become the hub of rural development and research in the Midwest, thanks to a nearly $2 million grant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service gave MSU the grant to host the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development for the next five years. The center, now housed at Iowa State University, is one of four in the nation that work to help land-grant universities develop and strengthen rural communities. MSU Extension, the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will jointly administer the center. Scott Loveridge (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), MSU Extension state leader for community and economic development, will serve as the center’s transitional director and will chair a nationwide search to find a permanent director. “Rural America serves as the steward for the majority of our nation’s natural resources,” Loveridge said. “An understanding of these resources is critical to developing programs and policies to improve the quality of life for rural people.” More»
College Science Requirements Keep U.S. Ahead of World, Researcher Argues
Science Daily, Michigan Messenger
Despite frequent warnings of the inadequacy of education in the United States, citizens here are still among the world's most scientifically literate. Jon Miller, John A. Hannah Professor of integrative studies and director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy at Michigan State University, for many years has conducted social research on scientific literacy around the world. "What makes the American market and society different," he says, "is that we have more science- and technology-receptive citizens and consumers, and as a society we're willing to spend money for basic science and have been doing that for years." More»
Kalof’s Animal Volumes Win Book Award
Animal Studies Program
Having edited more than 1,500 pages covering 4,500 years of the history of human-animal interactions, Linda Kalof (Sociology) and co-editor Brigitte Resl of the University of Liverpool deserved a serious pat on the back.They got more than that: The six-volume work, “A Cultural History of Animals,” was named a 2008 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice, a magazine published by the American Library Association. Bernd Hüppauf of New York University called the project “an invaluable contribution to our understanding… A combination of surprise and entertainment with serious research gives these volumes a place in the best tradition of accessible science.” Kalof is the founder and director of MSU’s Animal Studies Program. More»
Hitting the Redo Button on Evolution
People have always wondered why plants and animals are built the way they are. Charles Darwin, an Englishman who lived in the 1800s, was very curious about the shape of life forms, and did a lot of experiments to find some answers. He came up with the theory of evolution, which helps explain how life on Earth came to be in its many forms. A big part of Darwin’s evolution theory is a process called natural selection... But other scientists don’t agree. They think that if you hit the redo button, a small change somewhere along the line could produce very big changes later. Richard Lenski, evolutionary biologist at Michigan State University, is doing experiments with bacteria to find out who is right. More»
Ebert-May Lands $2 Million NSF Grant to Make Postdocs Better Teachers
Diane Ebert-May (Plant Biology) has landed a $2 million grant to get research-focused educators into teaching mode. The National Science Foundation awarded Ebert-May the four-year grant to establish the Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching, which will offer four-day workshops to postdoctoral researchers. The researchers will be mentored throughout the academic year as they implement the biology curricula they create at the workshops. “Many postdoctoral scholars are deeply involved in research and have few opportunities to develop their skills as teachers – yet many desire to do so,” said Ebert-May, who with Terry Derting of Murray State University will lead the program, the largest of its kind. The workshops will begin this summer at five biology field stations across the U.S., including MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station. More»
ESPP Affiliates Participate in Climate Teach-In
Office of Campus Sustainability
Scientists and environmentalists have the new president's ear on climate change, and MSU joined more than 600 campuses nationwide in an effort to spark solutions-based conversation during his first 100 days in office.
The teach-in on climate change, sponsored in part by ESPP, featured panel discussions on the developing world impacts, energy issues and the moral dimensions of our response to a changing planet, among other topics.
Rose, Dietz Opine in Detroit Dailies
Detroit News, Detroit Free Press
Joan Rose (Fisheries and Wildlife) and Thomas Dietz (ESPP) appeared recently on the opinion pages of Detroit's two daily newspapers.
Rose's piece called attention to the critical importance of safe, clean drinking water, citing a recent e-coli outbreak in Colorado as evidence of the need to update the nation's pipelines, and urging the new administration to invest in new infrastructure.
Dietz argued that the upcoming federal economic stimulus package should include major investment in a home weatherization program. Weatherizing all appropriate U.S. homes would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 300 billion tons per year, create nearly 400,000 jobs and save homeowners and renters an average $150 to $450 per year, according to Dietz.
Engineers Strive to Provide Clean Water for All
MSU's efforts to provide people everywhere with safe drinking water is the focus of the latest issue of Currents, the magazine of the College of Engineering.
Providing access to clean water has been called one of engineering's 14 Grand Challenges for the 21st century.
The story highlights work by Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty members who are also ESPP affiliates. It describes how:
Alison Cupples examines the effects of anti-microbial chemicals, which are concentrated in sludge at water treatment facilities, and often applied to farm fields as fertilizer.
Syed Hashsham studies microbial ecology, and develops an affordable, hand-held detector for pathogens in water.
Shu-Guang Li and Phanikumar Mantha build more sophisticated models of groundwater and surface water systems, which are useful in sustainable water use, as well as pollution prevention and cleanup.
Susan Masten improves membranes used in water treatment, and studies the oxidation of chemical contaminants.
Volodymyr Tarabara develops advanced membranes for treating drinking water, and plans to study the environmental impact of nanotechnology.
Irene Xagoraraki detects, quantifies and tracks viruses in water supplies, and studies pharmaceuticals in the environment.
Tom Voice studies how organic chemicals stick to soil, and how they're released into water. More»
Environmental Science Hampered by Knowledge Gaps, Dietz Says
Our understanding of the deterioration of ecosystems and the services they provide is constrained by fundamental gaps in scientific knowledge, according to a new analysis from ESPP Director Thomas Dietz and others.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment - which asked scientists to examine the services ecosystems provide humanity - showed that roughly 60 percent of ecosystems are being used unsustainably; Dietz and his co-authors sought to find out what science should do about the problem.
More long-term data and a better understanding of interactions between humans and ecosystems are needed, Dietz said.
The article appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was also featured on TreeHugger, a popular environmental Web site. More»
Michigan's Oldest Factories Could Become Modern Energy Generators
Grand Rapids Press, Detroit News, WLNS-TV
All those big empty factories dotting Michigan could be abuzz with energy products and power-generating technology if a new Michigan State University analysis attracts fans. On Tuesday, researcher Adesoji Adelaja, director of the Land Policy Institute at MSU, strode into the gleaming interior of an aging auto parts plant — most recently, Lear Corp.'s seating plant at 2150 Alpine Ave. NW. "As I walked into this facility, it just struck me. The world is changing so fast. Michigan needs to be in the forefront, and recognize these are huge infrastructures that could be leveraged for economic development," he says.
Related story in the Lansing State Journal
Related story in the Great Lakes IT Report More»
MSU Unwraps Sustainable Packaging Center
The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources announced the launch of its new Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability at a forum for packaging executives at the Kellogg Center.
The Coca-Cola Company provided $400,000 for the center, which will be housed in the School of Packaging and serve as a think-tank for reducing the environmental impact of product packaging.
With planned facilities in Dubai and Shanghai, the center is expected to have international reach.
ESPP video of the center's launch is available here. More»
Brownfields Hold Huge Energy Potential, Report Says
Land Policy Institute
By developing renewable energy on abandoned or underused industrial sites, Michigan could create 17,500 jobs and bring $15 billion in new investments to the state, all while creating enough electricity to power nearly half the state's homes, according to a new report from MSU's Land Policy Institute.
The roughly 44,000 acres of so-called brownfields where wind and solar power could be harvested offer "a prime opportunity to expand Michigan's renewable energy capacity," said LPI Director Soji Adelaja.
Converting the brownfields could help the state meet the target set last year of meeting 10 percent of its energy needs with renewables and increased efficiency by 2015. More»
Michigan State Patents Cellulosic Ethanol Process
Domestic Fuel, Checkbiotech, Smash Hits (India), others
Michigan State University has patented a process to pretreat agricultural waste products that would dramatically reduce the cost of making biofuels from cellulose. More»
Beech Bark Disease the Latest Concern For Trees
Spinal Column Newsweekly (Michigan)
There's a new disease infecting Michigan's trees and prompting concern across the state; and although slow in spreading, beech bark disease is a highly effective killer of American beech trees. "Currently, the biggest impact of beech bark disease is in the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula and the western side of lower Michigan, from Muskegon County to Manistee County," says Deb McCullough, professor of forest entomology at Michigan State University who has been studying the effects of beech bark disease in Michigan. "There are spots (with infected trees) in other areas of northern lower Michigan, but things haven't progressed that far yet." More»
Charles Darwin didn't know about genes and DNA. In fact, hardly anyone noticed when Gregor Mendel, a monk whose pea experiments eventually led to modern genetics, published his findings in an obscure journal a few years after Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" appeared in 1859. It would take nearly a century more before James Watson and Francis Crick deciphered the structure of DNA, the molecule that contains the manual for building an organism. Yet Darwin was still able to describe a mechanism -- natural selection -- for how evolution shapes life on Earth. That's like describing how a car works without knowing about the existence of internal combustion engines. ... But since it's impossible to turn back time and replay all of evolution again, scientists have devised other ways of investigating the issue. Richard Lenski, evolutionary biologist at Michigan State University, is among the scientists hitting the rewind button on evolution. More»
Greenhouse Emissions from Biofuels Overestimated, Study Says
Numerous studies have overestimated the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing biofuels, according to new research at MSU.
Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) and co-authors say past analyses have failed to account for variables like crop management, leading to an overly grim picture of biofuels' environmental role. More»
Affiliates Win Funding to Improve Animal Agriculture
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Three ESPP affiliates won a share of $350,000 in funding awarded by the Animal Agriculture Initiative (AAI) Coalition for 2009-2010.
The AAI is a partnership between MSU, livestock producers and industry organizations and the state's Department of Agriculture. The initiative has funded more than 190 research projects since its 1996 inception.
Among this year's nine recipients are:
Steven Safferman (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering)
Bark Filter Mound Treatment Technology to Treat Milking Facility Waste Water
Dawn Reinhold (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering)
Constructed Treatment Wetlands for Water Reclamation and Green Manure Production
Wendy Powers (Animal Science, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering)
Investigation of DDGS Feeding Effects on Sulfur Emissions from Swine Manure More»
Amazon Deforestation: Earth's Heart and Lungs Dismembered
Splintered, charred timber litters the outskirts of an expansive ranch that lies on recently cleared land in the Brazilian Amazon. On the newly planted pasture, cattle leisurely graze, occasionally lifting their heads to gaze past heaps of dead trees toward an island of dense vegetation that has thus far been spared. But it too may soon be cut down. ... "Probably 80 to 90 percent of all cleared land in the region (the Brazilian Amazon) is attributable to some form of pasture or ranching," says Robert Walker, geography professor at Michigan State University and an expert on land-use change in the Brazilian Amazon.
Note: This story was written by Matthew Cimitile, a graduate student at MSU's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. More»
New Civil and Environmental Engineering Site Showcases Water Work
The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has launched a new Web site highlighting its research in hydrology and water resources.
The site details the department’s hydrology research and facilities, as well as its outreach efforts to increase public understanding of water sources. It also features openings for faculty positions and assistantships under engineering professors, including ESPP affiliates Phanikumar S. Mantha and Shu-Guang Li.
Rush to Coal Could Be Hazardous to Michigan
Detroit Free Press (opinion)
The coal industry has launched a nationwide "coal rush" and Michigan sits at its heart, with eight new coal plants proposed for construction. As medical doctors conducting health research at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, we feel compelled to warn that construction of these plants would gravely impair Michigan's air quality and expose our communities to severe, even lethal health impacts. ... Kenneth Rosenman is chief of Michigan State University's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and is a professor of medicine at Michigan State University. More»