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Members of nascent consortium unite around global sustainability outcomes

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 26, 2016

Group photo of GCSO membersAt the first-ever meeting of the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes, ASU President Michael Crow described both the depth of the challenge at hand and his excitement to join forces with other universities to make sustainability both a value and an outcome.

The twenty men and women in the room, representatives of eleven universities around the world, had traveled to Tempe to do just that: work together to create sustainability outcomes on a global scale, and at a pace that our current challenges mandate. It was clear from the dialogue over the course of their two days together that this was the goal of every founding member.

The Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes is an international network that transforms ideas into action. By joining the consortium – a nonprofit, member-governed organization – members enjoy the benefits of collaboration, international connectivity and the catalytic effect that contributes to sustainability impact.


Sustainable energy versus natural landscape

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 18, 2016

Turbines on a green, open meadow overlooking oceanIn order to meet the energy demands of an increasingly industrialized world, renewable energy systems will require a lot of hardware. This hardware will inevitably become a part of our landscapes – a reality that doesn't please everyone.

That's why a cross-disciplinary team of five scientists – including Senior Sustainability Scientist Mike Pasqualetti – came together to write "The Renewable Energy Landscape: Preserving Scenic Values in our Sustainable Future." The recently-released book seeks to address the tension between conservation efforts and the need to develop sustainable energy alternatives.

The book takes care not to discredit landscape quality concerns, which are typically expressed by the people people living near technologies like solar fields and wind farms. Rather, it proposes a responsible compromise; if sustainable energy is a must, then the infrastructure can be built in a manner where its disruptive effect on the landscape is minimized.


US-Pakistan energy partnership welcomes second cohort

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 18, 2016

Professor stands in front of a banner displaying a wind turbineAs part of a larger effort to boost the development of solutions for Pakistan’s growing energy needs, the second group of graduate students from Pakistan recently arrived at Arizona State University to study energy engineering.

ASU is coordinating the graduate student exchange program – called the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy – in an effort to train students to be change agents in helping both countries improve their energy systems. Support for USPCAS-E is part of $127 million investment by USAID to improve Pakistan’s agriculture and food security, as well as access to water and energy.

Senior Sustainability Scientist Sayfe Kiaei, who directs USPCAS-E, believes that ASU is important to the program’s goals because, “The center is a link between ASU’s researchers and international development funding agencies, as well as implementers who are working in developing countries worldwide.”


Collaborating at the nexus of society's challenges

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 17, 2016

Group of one women and four men stand together, smilingHistorically, policies for agriculture, energy and water have been made in isolation of one another. In reality, these systems are all interconnected – an interplay called the food-energy-water nexus.

As demands on each sector of the nexus continue to grow, the siloed approach to policies involving limited natural resources impedes a sustainable future. That's what a transdisciplinary team of five ASU researchers – including senior sustainability scientists Dave White and Rimjhim Aggarwal – have set out to remedy with a $3 million award from the National Science Foundation.

The team conducts research to build decision support tools that look at the interdependence of these systems and help develop sustainable policies for the future. Each member brings his or her own area of expertise to define, analyze and visualize problems within the  nexus, creating a more complete understanding.


Going to court for the human right to water

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 13, 2016

Professors smile with a group of school girls in DelhiMarketplace solutions work for many needs, but not all of them — particularly some of the most basic ones. That’s what Rimjhim Aggarwal, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, found when she considered how affordable access to clean water could be guaranteed.

To find a viable alternative, Aggarwal and Senior Sustainability Scientist LaDawn Haglund began documenting the way court systems have been used to advance water rights in emerging economies with fairly well-developed legal systems: Brazil, South Africa and India. They chose this approach because courts can provide a space for citizens to see that their rights are protected.

By dissecting court cases and sharing what they find, Haglund and Aggarwal are shining light on the power that courts and human rights language can have in advancing the right to water.


Partnership to increase pool of plant biology experts

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News Biodiversity News

October 12, 2016

Two ASU faculty talking and walking on Desert Botanical GardenAlthough plants are an essential species in our ecosystem – sustaining us by contributing oxygen, food, medicine, materials and fibers – we experience a shortage of plant experts that can help conduct research to inform important biodiversity conservation efforts.

To address this shortage of experts, ASU's School of Life Sciences launched a new master’s degree program in plant biology and conservation in partnership with the Desert Botanical Garden.

“Plants are an incredibly important part of the ecosystem,” said Julie Stromberg, a senior sustainability scientist and director of the program. “Unfortunately, people don’t really think about the fact that plants contribute oxygen, the food we eat, the materials and fibers we use, as well as medicines. As a society, we need to look at plants as the key elements that sustain us, spiritually as well as in more tangible ways.”


Series serves as showcase of ASU's work on water

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 6, 2016

Aerial view of the Hoover DamTo capture the breadth of work ASU is doing with regard to water in the arid West, ASU Now divided its recent in-depth coverage into three thematic parts: the current situation and how we got herescience and research; and law, policy and challenges.

The series tackles a myriad of subjects, from the dropping levels of water in Lake Mead and the societal changes that mandates, to the merits and pitfalls of measures like desalination and reclaimed water. Along the way, the series features the expertise and research of numerous sustainability scientists and scholars, as well as ASU Wrigley Institute units like the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program and Decision Center for a Desert City.

The series concludes with a quote from sustainability scientist and hydrologist Enrique Vivoni, who says, “A place like the Global Institute of Sustainability and DCDC help to serve as a glue for all of us, so that our efforts are bigger than just one professor’s efforts. I think we’re starting to make inroads in increasing our reputation, and attracting great students and doing interesting projects and generating a niche that we can become world leaders in.”


Prospective sustainability leaders offered a financial boost

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 30, 2016

Group of smiling adults standing by a European riverfront Through funding provided by the Rob and Melani Walton Fund of the Walton Family Foundation, ASU will award a limited number of scholarships of up to $15,000 to professionals applying to the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program.

The online program, offered by ASU's School of Sustainability and administered through the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, centers on four specific themes: global context, strategy, communication and leadership. In doing so, it equips professionals from all ranks within an organization with the knowledge and real-world experiences needed to accelerate their careers in sustainability.

The admissions application deadline for those who wish to be considered for this scholarship is Nov. 30.


Mobilizing to address national security risks of climate change

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 21, 2016

Sun setting over ice sheets and oceanIn a recent report to Congress, the Department of Defense concluded that climate change will increase the risks of environmental degradation, refugee crises, political instability and social conflict.

These challenges are why Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative is building a new program in climate and national security. Not only will the program be a hub for critical research that will enhance resilience and enable adaptation to climate risks globally, it will also support U.S. national security interests. It will achieve these things by bringing together researchers from a range of disciplines and key partners from universities, national laboratories, think tanks and government.

As Senior Sustainability Scientist Dave White – a Global Security Fellow leading the planning for the new initiative – explains, “This effort will improve our ability not only to anticipate the impacts of climate change but also to develop specific tools and strategies, deploy resources more effectively, build local adaptive capacity, and reduce the risks of social conflict.”


Closing the loop on an essential but finite element

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 21, 2016

Lit match in front of black backgroundAccording to Senior Sustainability Scientist Matt Scholz, "Phosphorus is essential to life. It’s in your bones and it’s in your DNA, and it’s the energy currency for the cell."

It follows, then, that agriculture depends on phosphorus too. In fact, a large percentage of the element – typically mined in Morocco – is put into fertilizers used on farms throughout the world. The bad news is that the phosphorus-rich runoff from these farms contaminates waterways and can cause algal blooms, which stifle other forms of life.

The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance – an ASU initiative that Scholz now manages – strives to collect and recycle phosphorus before it reaches waterways. The hope is to make the phosphorus system cyclical by extracting the element from waste and selling it back to fertilizer companies, eliminating the reliance on a finite supply from other countries.


Microalgal biomass production in testbeds using wastewater in Mexico

LightWorks News

September 19, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In June 2016, Thomas Dempster, Research Professor and Laboratory Manager for the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), traveled to Queretaro, Mexico to install the two open-raceway ponds at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Institute of Engineering. These two ponds would support microalgal biomass production in testbeds using wastewater.

Through this new installation in Mexico, results can be analyzed and compared between the AzCATI ponds in Arizona using the same strain and under the same conditions. Both universities will research and measure bioremediation – the reduction of nitrates, phosphates and heavy metals from municipal and industrial wastewaters – as the primary sources of culture media.

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Secretary of Ag Vilsack is guest of ASU Wrigley Institute

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 14, 2016

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaking to a crowd at a USDA Fall Forum hosted by ASUAt a September 2016 forum hosted by the ASU Wrigley Institute, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressed that the country's continued food security is closely linked to its response to increasing climate volatility.

Vilsack and fellow panel members agreed that universities have a large role to play in protecting farms of the future against threats like intense storms, invasive species and droughts. In fact, the current administration has charged universities with ramping up research on climate and water issues, as well as on specific solutions like grazing patterns and drought-resistant crops.

Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Osvaldo Sala, a member of the panel, explained that universities have the capacity to work across disciplines to provide evidence-based solutions. He added that they are also aptly suited to mediate interests among the many stakeholders of shared resources.

Watch Secretary Vilsack's keynote and the first panel discussion from the Fall Forum.


ASU retains title as nation's most innovative school

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 13, 2016

Woman standing on mountain at sunset pointing toward the skyFor the second year in a row, the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report name Arizona State the most innovative university in the nation. The widely touted list compares more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics. ASU has taken the top spot in each year since the innovation category was created.

“We do things differently, and we constantly try new approaches,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Our students’ paths to discovery don’t have to stay within the boundaries of a single discipline. Our researchers team up with colleagues from disparate fields of expertise. We use technology to enhance the classroom and reach around the world. We partner with cities, nonprofits and corporations to support our advances as the higher-education economy evolves. This ranking recognizes the new model we have created.”


One of the 'coolest' schools in the US is in Arizona's desert

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 6, 2016

Students are working and/or interacting with other students in different learning environments and innovative spaces. These images should be natural and captured in the moment. It is very difficult to stage these type of pictures and doing so is easily picked up on by the viewer. Students enjoying class is a must. Moving up five spots from 2015, Arizona State University was named sixth in Sierra Club's annual "Cool Schools" ranking of roughly 200 colleges and universities.

The ranking lists schools based on a demonstrated commitment to upholding high environmental standards. A few of the categories ASU scored high in are bike facilities, organic gardens, undergraduate programs, student outreach and move-in/out waste reduction.

“For more than 10 years, ASU has demonstrated its fundamental commitment to sustainability,” says Christopher Boone, dean of ASU's School of Sustainability. “We are very pleased to be recognized by the Sierra Club for all of our hard work.”

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Three new partnerships promise better conservation outcomes

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

September 2, 2016

Two men and two women smile as an agreement is signedFurthering ASU's commitment to translating knowledge in action, its Center for Biodiversity Outcomes joined three powerful international partnerships over the summer of 2016.

The center's new partners include names you might recognize: the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List and Conservation International.

These partnerships respectively seek to promote sustainable development through the global business community, devise strategies for species conservation and biodiversity decision-making, and expand conservation science and training to the next generation of conservation leaders – aims that will put ASU's wealth of sustainability research and expertise to good use.


Making every day in the neighborhood a happy one

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 30, 2016

Tall, smiling man with bike next to smiling young woman outdoorsThere are three factors that promote happiness where we live, say School of Sustainability Professor Scott Cloutier and his colleague Deirdre Pfeiffer. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, they name these factors as access to open and green space, environmental design that promotes social interaction, and places that are safe and secure.

Cloutier and Pfeiffer conceived of the study after observing urban planning focused solely on improved physical health, leaving  mental and emotional health by the wayside. Now, the pair suggest strategies planners can use to measure all three “happiness” factors, and evaluate the extent to which their proposals would promote better health overall.

The researchers even developed a tool called the “Sustainability through Happiness Framework” that allows planners to collaborate with neighborhood residents on the creation of places where they'll be happy to live.


Innovative microgrid training boot camp at ASU

LightWorks News

August 24, 2016

asu-lightworks-microgridsGlobal capacity of microgrids is expected to grow by 500% over the next ten years for applications such as the military, remote villages, telecom, campuses and industrial parks, mines, communities, buildings, and commercial and industrial centers.

In May, LightWorks® – in collaboration with NEPTUNE’s Micro-Grid Project lead by Nathan Johnson – hosted a micro-grid boot camp for civilian and military application. This boot camp has trained 25 US Veterans to date, with plans to expand training to hundreds of people per year. The one-week program couples simulation-based design with hands-on integration to provide an “all-inclusive” approach to microgrid education. Two Veteran graduates from the program have been hired into Dr. Johnson’s research laboratory to work on design, fabrication and control of 1 kW to 100 kW micro-grids focused on providing power to 1.4 billion people without electricity.

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ASU helps national parks with sustainability dilemma

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 24, 2016

Researcher Dave White and students smiling at Yosemite National ParkAs the National Park Service marked its centennial in August 2016, the federal agency considered its twin mandates of preserving the most beautiful and historic sites in the country while ensuring that everyone gets an opportunity to see them. How can it accommodate growing numbers of visitors in a sustainable way?

Thankfully, the research of ASU sustainability experts like Megha Budruk, Dave White and Paul Hirt can help NPS better understand the natural systems it protects. These scientists – along with other faculty and students – have studied a range of questions including visitor use, the role of technology in saving the parks and the changing nature of interpretation.

Teaching water lessons on Main Streets across America

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

August 23, 2016

Birds sitting on a damThe "Museum on Main Street," conceived by the Smithsonian Institution, brings exciting exhibits to small towns throughout the United States. Among these exhibits is WaterSim, an interactive water management tool developed by researchers at ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City.

According to School of Sustainability Dean Chris Boone, “WaterSim America is a great platform to educate the broader public on what they can do as individuals and groups to manage water in ways that lead to positive change.”

WaterSim achieves this by simulating the impacts of factors like population growth and drought on a given state's water supply and demand. Users then respond to challenges by selecting policies that steady their state’s water system.


At the forefront of global biodiversity policy

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

August 20, 2016

Researcher sitting at the end of a boat looking out on the ocean where a whale tail is visible.As biodiversity is depleted, ASU oceanographer Leah Gerber – director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes – guides a United Nations panel that helps policy makers navigate scientific literature on the topic.

Gerber was named coordinating lead author of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a panel of scientists who will review the massive body of scientific literature around biodiversity and ecosystem services. The panel will organize the combined knowledge into a report that is both relevant and accessible to those who make decisions that impact plant and animal life.

The first authors’ meeting took place in Bonn, Germany, in August of 2016.