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How ASU went to space and keeps pushing boundaries

ASU Now | July 1, 2020

It’s a far cry from the '60s, when engineers fought scientists. Now they are in the same building, unseparated by distance or bureaucratic walls.

This is the story of how ASU's tiny geology program grew to become one of only seven U.S. institutions that can build interplanetary spacecraft. It's a story sure to instill Sun Devil pride.

It begins with the purchase of a meteorite collection, shoots to the moon with some Navy pilots who learned geology basics from an ASU professor, then turns to the hiring of sustainability scientist Phil Christensen, a self-described "accidental engineer."

The story includes interdisciplinary research and student experiences, investments in research facilities, years of hard work, hundreds of students, and an exceptional group of scientists including Christensen, Jim Bell, Craig Hardgrove, and sustainability scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, among many others.

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Cerveny certifies world-record lightning flashes

ASU Now | June 26, 2020

lightning over mountains with purple skyTwo new world records of lightning — the horizontal distance a bolt travels and the time duration of the flash — have been recorded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The new records for "megaflashes," verified with new satellite lightning imagery technology, more than double the previous records measured in the U.S. and France, according to the WMO.

“This will provide valuable information for establishing limits to the scale of lightning — including megaflashes — for engineering, safety and scientific concerns,” said Randy Cerveny, an Arizona State University professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the “chief rapporteur” of weather and climate extremes for WMO.

“It is likely that even greater extremes exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning-detection technology improves,” Cerveny said.

New mapping tool shows holistic view of water in Arizona

ASU Now | June 25, 2020

Water is a critical issue in Arizona, and a new water-mapping tool created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University has collected a vast array of maps and data sets to show a wide-ranging view of water in the state.

The Arizona Water Blueprint visualizes information on groundwater, rivers, agricultural irrigation, dams, ocean desalination, critical species and other concepts that are important not only to policymakers but also to any Arizonan concerned about water.

The first-of-its-kind map creates a holistic view of water in Arizona that was missing, according to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy.

Panch confirmed as director of National Science Foundation

ASU Now | June 23, 2020

Arizona State University Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan has been named the 15th director of the National Science Foundation, unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 18 after his December 2019 nomination by President Donald J. Trump.

During his six-year appointment, Panchanathan will be responsible for overseeing NSF staff and management, program creation and administration, merit review, planning, budget and day-to-day operations. He also will direct the federal agency’s mission, including support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, keeping the U.S. at the leading edge of discovery.

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Westerhoff, Herckes combine for COVID decontamination solution

ASU Now | June 15, 2020

As the novel coronavirus created urgent demand for personal protective equipment, a major hospital chain in Phoenix was seeking a solution that would allow hospital staff to sanitize masks themselves, rather than sending their masks off site for disinfection and possibly getting other people’s masks in return.

According to sustainability scientist Paul Westerhoff, “It’s potentially a life-and-death issue in the context of viruses because once an N95 mask is fit to someone’s face, it may not form a proper seal on anyone else’s face.”

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Hodge: Economy, public health in tug-of-war

June 12, 2020

Sustainability scholar James Hodge is director of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Center for Public Health Law and Policy. Hodge's expertise in public health law, emergency legal preparedness, global health law, ethics and human rights has attracted more than 500 inquiries from policymakers, health industry leaders, public health practitioners and nonprofits seeking guidance on public health law and policy issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center operates the Western Region Office of the Network for Public Health Law, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has addressed every imaginable issue related to COVID-19 law and policy concerns through federal and state officials, doctors, hospitals and others.

"All of our efforts are driven by our consummate goal of using law and policy as positive tools for intervention to prevent excess morbidity and mortality related to the pandemic," says Hodge.

In this new Q and A with ASU Now, Hodge addresses legal and policy issues related to COVID-19.

Public talk, global strategy for preventing the next pandemic

June 3, 2020

Illustration of the world with disease molecule insideASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber will be delivering a virtual talk on Thursday, June 11, 2020, titled “A Global Strategy for Preventing the Next Pandemic.”

This webinar will take place via Zoom at 12:00 p.m. AZ Time and 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (US and Canada).

While the media and the public are focusing on the wildlife trade as the main factor for COVID-19, Gerber believes it is only one part of the equation. During this talk, she will discuss her proposal for combating future infectious diseases by implementing a global body backed by science, which she calls the Zoonotic Disease Commission.

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Repeated hurricanes, risks and opportunities to flooding and water quality

June 1, 2020

Weather radar graph showing hurricane approaching North Carolina coastAs the 2020 hurricane season begins, a new study published today by The Nature Conservancy and Arizona State University's Center for Biodiversity Outcomes shows that Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, flood hazard maps underpredicted the extent of recent hurricane-induced floods, their effect on vulnerable human communities and consequential environmental damage in the North Carolina region.

This study, titled “Repeated Hurricanes Reveal Risks and Opportunities for Social-Ecological Resilience to Flooding and Water Quality Problems” was published in Environmental Science and Technology.

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Cheng, team win EPA award for green infrastructure project

ASU Now | May 28, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized Arizona State University as a winner of its eighth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national competition that engages college students in the design of on-campus green infrastructure solutions to help address stormwater pollution.

The ASU team, led by sustainability scientist Chingwen Cheng, assistant professor of landscape architecture in The Design School, was recognized for their project, titled “Ready! Set! Activate!” The team worked with Paideia Academy, a K-8 public charter school located in south Phoenix, to reduce local flooding during Arizona’s monsoon season and create a resilient, multifunctional space that effectively manages stormwater runoff and yields educational and ecological benefits.

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Karwat, Vanos talk air quality on KJZZ

May 13, 2020

Sustainability scientists Darshan Karwat of the School for the Future of Innovation in Sociaty and Jenni Vanos of the School of Sustainability were among several experts interviewed by local Phoenix National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ last month. The April 27 radio piece was titled Worse Air Quality In Phoenix Communities Of Color Could Mean Higher COVID-19 Risk.

Karwat’s research shows correlations between neighborhoods’ poverty levels, percentage of minority residents, and pollution levels. Vanos studies the influence of extreme heat, radiation, and air pollution on human health. With so many cars off the road as people stay home during the pandemic, Phoenix’s air has been much cleaner for the past few weeks, which the two see as an opportunity for shared research.

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Wutich recognized for outstanding mentorship

ASU Now | May 13, 2020

Every year Arizona State University Faculty Women’s Association recognizes exceptional mentors across the university with the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. This year, social sciences faculty members Amber Wutich and Tracy Spinrad from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were selected for the honor.

Sustainability Scientist Amber Wutich joined the School of Human Evolution and Social Change as an assistant professor in 2007 after initially coming to ASU as a postdoctoral student in 2006. Today she serves as the President’s Professor of anthropology, the director of ASU’s Center for Global Health and the associate director of ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research.

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Pijawka retires after more than three decades

ASU Now | May 8, 2020

After more than 35 years, David Pijawka, sustainable planning professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, is retiring as full-time faculty. Pijawka has been at the helm of interdisciplinary research at Arizona State University for more than three decades, bringing together policy, sustainability, geographical sciences and urban planning in novel and innovative ways and applying them to community work.

Arriving at ASU in 1982, Pijawka took on a range of critical roles and academic positions over the course of his career. He served as full-time faculty for the School of Public Affairs, the School of Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture, and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning — establishing a record of excellence in each.

In the mid-1990s, Pijawka served as interim director of the Center for Environmental Studies, predecessor to what is today the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. He took over after Duncan Patten's retirement in 1995 and was succeeded by Charles Redman in 1997. During Pijawka's tenure as interim director, the Center initiated several new interdisciplinary research and outreach programs, expanding relations with other ASU units.

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Anti-poaching device detects gunshot noises

May 8, 2020

Jaguar sitting on rain forest soilASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Faculty Affiliate Garth Paine developed a tool that tracks gunshots in rainforests to stop illegal poaching of wild animals.

This device identifies sonic characteristics of a gunshot from a mile away that reports the location of the shot to local authorities. Originally, wildlife conservationists used camera traps to document illegal poaching. However, if the perpetrators sighted the cameras they destroyed them.

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A reflection of my time at CGEST and CBO

May 1, 2020

Headshot of Nosizo LukheleWritten by Nosizo Lukhele

As an undergraduate student at Bennington College, which highly cultivates students to be multifaceted, I cannot imagine a better way to have spent the six weeks dedicated to my fieldwork term than at the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology and Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University.

Being at the centers and seeing researchers and staff with expertise in research, STEM, computer science, curriculum and education, and other interdisciplinary areas work together to manifest a project that showcases the transdisciplinary nature of STEM was nothing short of inspirational.

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Global body needed to prevent pandemics

April 25, 2020

View from space of Earth with sun rays behindASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber was interviewed by ASU Now regarding her recently published Issues in Science and Technology op-ed titled “A Global Strategy for Preventing the Next Pandemic.” In this publication, Gerber proposes a global body to monitor and enforce wildlife trafficking to prevent future pandemics.

Many scientists have found that past diseases have been linked to wild animal markets, including the recent coronavirus pandemic. Past evidence has predicted these outbreaks, but nothing has been done to prevent them from occurring.

Now is the time to act.

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Human activities kickstarted the decline in Caribbean coral reefs

ASU Now | April 25, 2020

Fish swimming in coral reefAccording to researchers, about half of Caribbean coral reefs have died since the 1970s, with the iconic elkhorn and staghorn corals being the hardest hit. However, climate change does not completely explain the loss of the reefs. So, in order to get a better picture of the drastic coral loss, Arizona State University researcher Katie Cramer has published a new paper in Science Advances.

"I am interested in going back to the scene of the crime when humans first began to significantly impact coral reefs centuries ago, to understand when, why and how much reefs have been altered by humans,” said Cramer, an assistant research professor at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and an Ocean Science Fellow at the Center for Oceans at Conservation International.

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ASU expert proposes a biodiversity-focused solution to prevent zoonotic diseases

ASU Now | April 24, 2020

Barbary ApeCOVID-19 may have jumped from a wild animal market in Wuhan, China, to people. If so, it’s not the first deadly disease to spring from nature. Middle East respiratory syndrome is said to have a source at a camel market in Saudi Arabia. In the United States, the H1N1 swine flu originated in factory farms where animals are held in extreme confinement. And Ebola likely had its start in a chimpanzee habitat in West Africa.

A rising chorus is calling for wildlife markets to be shut down across the globe.

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Coral decline began in the mid-1900s

April 23, 2020

Underwater coral reef viewASU-Conservation International Assistant Research Professor Katie Cramer recently co-authored a paper in Science Advances titled the “Widespread loss of Caribbean acroporid corals was underway before coral bleaching and disease outbreaks.

The publication presented evidence through fossil data, historical records and underwater data, that throughout the last 125,000 years, the abundance of staghorn and elkhorn corals began declining in the mid-1900s. This reveals new speculation that the corals began to decline from fishing and land-clearing, but warming oceans have impelled this deterioration further.

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New KEDtalk: Swimming in plastic

April 23, 2020

An unfathomable amount of plastic has made its way into our oceans, but Charlie Rolsky believes we can make small changes in our lives to turn the tide of plastic pollution for a cleaner world and healthier ecosystems. Rolsky is a PhD candidate in the Biodesign Institute's Center for Environmental Health Engineering.

Rolsky's talk is part of the ASU KEDtalks series. Short for Knowledge Enterprise Development talks, KEDtalks aim to spark ideas, indulge curiosity and inspire action by highlighting ASU scientists, humanists, social scientists and artists who are driven to find solutions to the universe’s grandest challenges. Tune in to to discover more.

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