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Sustainability News

Sustainability scientist honored for energy contributions

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 29, 2015

Mike Pasqualetti speaking about energyMartin “Mike” Pasqualetti — an ASU sustainability scientist, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning professor and energy expert — will be awarded the 2015 Alexander and Ilse Melamid Memorial Medal by the American Geographical Society at its annual fall symposium. The medal is conferred on scholars who have done outstanding work on the dynamic relationship between human culture and natural resources.

Pasqualetti has conducted research concerned with energy education, the nexus of energy and society, energy security, the social acceptance of renewable energy, and the recognition and remediation of energy landscapes for more than 40 years. According to AGS Honors and Awards Committee Chairperson Douglas Sherman, Pasqualetti was cited for substantial and sustained contributions to our understanding of the geography of energy.

"While the medal may be in recognition of my individual contributions to the geographical study of energy," says Pasqualetti, "Much of my work would have been impossible — and certainly not as pleasant — without the enthusiasm of my students, the camaraderie of my colleagues or the leadership of Gary Dirks, director of GIOS®, and ASU President Michael Crow. I am therefore particularly pleased to be able to say that I am associated with ASU, my academic home since 1977.”


Weather extremes could hinder human food production

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 28, 2015

Scientist studies effects of extreme weather on grasslandsToday's online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences featured the findings of a six-year study conducted by ASU researchers. The study, which measured the effects of climatic variability like droughts and floods on desert grassland, revealed that  overall ecosystem productivity declines. This is because grasses - an important component of the human food system - tend to diminish while shrubs flourish.

“We found that not all species could respond effectively to extreme weather events including both dry and wet conditions,” said Osvaldo Sala, a distinguished sustainability scientist and professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences. “Grasses don’t fare as well as shrubs, which is really important to know because cattle ranchers depend on grasslands to graze their herds. Humans could see a reduction in the production of food — mostly cattle for meat — as the provision of ecosystem services like this one change.”


Sustainability scientist named to Popular Science's Brilliant 10

Uncategorized Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 23, 2015

Cease smiling and holding a locustEach year, Popular Science accepts nominations for the brightest young minds in science and engineering, then identifies what it refers to as the "Brilliant 10." Among those in its just-released 2015 cohort is Arianne Cease, a sustainability scientist and assistant professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability.

Cease is cited for her investigations into what transforms individual locusts into ravenous swarms that devastate crops and threaten livelihoods, and her work identifying strategies to stop the insects from swarming.

“We are working to address the age-old challenge of locusts and locust plagues, which are a problem around the world for food security,” said Cease. “We are working to understand what causes plagues so that we can address the problem in a new way, by incorporating local farmers and human communities into the equation.”


Smart city designs earn ASU sustainability students grants

Board Letter School of Sustainability News

September 18, 2015

Aerial view of Uptown PhoenixLast fall, ASU’s School of Sustainability teamed up with Verizon to offer a groundbreaking new course — the Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge. Students spent the semester learning about the latest in smart technologies, and brainstorming how they could be applied to cities for the benefit of urbanites. They molded their ideas into business propositions, which were carefully considered for generous grants from Verizon.

Now, the challenge’s three winners have been announced. First-place winner Alex Slaymaker's waste-reducing proposition, PHXflow, is a vibrant online waste networking platform created for small- and medium-sized businesses interested in selling, donating, purchasing or exchanging unwanted materials with other businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Christopher Frettoloso, the second-place recipient of $2,000, conceived BetR-block, LLC — a manufacturer of sustainable, low-cost building materials from recycled paper and other cellulosic materials. Alex Cano is the challenge’s third-place recipient of $1,000 and the innovative mind behind BISTEG-USA. His proposition tackles the aesthetic concerns associated with current solar technologies, which are often relegated to out-of-sight places like rooftops.


Fiction contest invites writers to imagine climate futures

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 18, 2015

Students seated in a classroomThe Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, invites writers to submit short stories that explore climate change, science and human futures in its first Climate Fiction Short Story Contest.

Speculative fiction stories have the power to take policy debates and obscure scientific jargon and turn them into gripping, visceral tales. The emerging subgenre of climate fiction helps us to imagine futures shaped by climate change - a gradual process that can be difficult for people to comprehend.

"Merging climate science and deeply human storytelling, climate fiction can be a powerful learning tool,” said Manjana Milkoreit, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Walton Initiatives. “Taking the reader into a possible future, a story can turn modeling scenarios and temperature graphs into meaning and emotion. It can help us make sense of and respond to this incredibly complex problem."

The submission deadline is Jan. 15, 2016, and contest entry is free.


ASU receives two top sustainability awards from Arizona Forward

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 18, 2015

Men tending to a flower bed at ASUAt Arizona Forward's 35th Environmental Excellence Awards gala, ASU was recognized for projects focused on improving sustainability in Arizona. This year’s gala featured eight awards categories that included more than 120 entries from across the state. ASU took home two of the 17 first-place Crescordia awards and one of the 31 Awards of Merit.

ASU’s redevelopment of College Avenue on the Tempe campus took top honors in the site-development category, while ASU Facilities Management Grounds/Recycling received the SRP Award for Environmental Stewardship. The Downtown Phoenix Sun Devil Fitness Complex also received an award of merit in the buildings and structures category.


Compromise may be part of a sustainable solution to whale hunting

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

September 18, 2015

Leah and grad student examine a sampleThe past 30 years of the International Whaling Commission’s conversation has been stalled by disagreement on the ethics of killing whales, according to sustainability scientist Leah Gerber. Gerber, who is founding director of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, floated the idea of a compromise with whaling nations in the September issue of scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Changing course and allowing Iceland, Japan and Norway to legally hunt under regulations and monitoring might break the current stalemate. Currently, Japan whales under a loophole allowing for scientific research. The other two countries hunt whales commercially in protest of the ban.

“If our common goal is a healthy and sustainable population of whales, let’s find a way to develop strategies that achieve that,” Gerber said. “That may involve agreeing to a small level of take. That would certainly be a reduced take to what’s happening now.”


Distinguished sustainability scientist awarded prestigious Hull Prize

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 17, 2015

Headshot of MaienscheinThe International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology has given its top award, the David L. Hull Prize, to ASU Regents' Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Jane Maienschein. The prize honors an extraordinary contribution to scholarship and service, and promotes interdisciplinary connections between history, philosophy, social studies and biology.

Maienschein’s contributions to the fields of history and philosophy of science include serving as the founding president of the International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology; on the governing board of the Philosophy of Science Association; and as vice president and president of the History of Science Society. Maienschein is the current director of ASU’s Center for Biology and Society.


ASU LightWorks commits to brighter future in Ethiopia

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News

September 17, 2015

Yellow solar tulip among upturned solar panelsWith the aim of transforming Ethiopia into a carbon-neutral middle-income country by 2025, ASU LightWorks, Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, and Adama Science and Technology University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AORA Solar - a leading developer of solar-biogas hybrid power technology.

The memorandum seeks to expand the three academic institutions’ common interest in promoting mutual cooperation in the area of education and research. In this instance, the goal is to promote academic cooperation for the development and advancement of renewable energy technologies to support the implementation of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy.

Collaboration will include joint activities for research park development, in addition to the development and strengthening of renewable energy curricula for solar electric, solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind and sustainable fuel technologies


Seeing the full picture: save nature, live better

Thought Leader Series ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 16, 2015

A Thought Leader Series Piece

By M. Sanjayan

M. Sanjayan wearing an orange jacketNote: M. Sanjayan is a leading ecologist, speaker, writer and Emmy-nominated news contributor focused on the role of conservation in improving human well-being, wildlife and the environment. He serves on Conservation International’s senior leadership team as executive vice president and senior scientist, and is the host of the 2015 PBS TV series, Earth – A New Wild.

When asked to visualize nature, we tend to picture a rain forest, coral reef or African savannah – a place busy with countless plant and animal species. But there’s something missing from that picture, something that profoundly influences every one of those scenes. The missing piece is people.

What does the real picture of nature look like? In my recent PBS project EARTH: A New Wild, we took what was essentially a natural history series and deliberately brought people into the frame. The point was to help show the essential connections between nature and the people who live with it.

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Cities managers trying to reduce emissions should think small

Board Letter ASU Sustainability News

September 14, 2015

Cars on a highway at duskIn a recent commentary published in Nature, ASU sustainability scientists Kevin Gurney and Nancy Grimm, both with ASU School of Life Sciences, along with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s Mikhail Chester, state that cutting carbon emissions by putting more electric cars on the road or generating more clean energy only fixes a small percentage of global urban CO2 emissions.

Instead, the researchers say, city managers should handle emissions the same way they handle regional development, transport planning and waste disposal — at the scale of a house or road. Doing so would make it much easier to see where a city’s “carbon hot spots” are, allowing city officials to focus their efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions on areas that are contributing most to the problem.


ASU named nation's most innovative campus in annual rankings

ASU Sustainability News

September 8, 2015

ASU sign with Wrigley Hall in the backgroundIn its newly-released college rankings for 2016, which compare more than 1,500 institutions on a variety of metrics, U.S. News and World Report listed Arizona State University at the top of its “most innovative schools” list.

The category is new to the news magazine's widely-touted rankings, and the front-runners were determined through a survey of college presidents, provosts and admissions deans throughout the country. These peers nominated up to 10 colleges or universities based on what they perceive to be the most innovative improvements to curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.

Following ASU on the list were Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Maryland – Baltimore County and Georgia State.


Study examines risk of Himalayan glacial lake outburst

Board Letter ASU Wrigley Institute News

September 1, 2015

Imja Lake Milan Shrestha, an ASU anthropologist and School of Sustainability lecturer, has joined a team of scientists analyzing the risk posed by a lake in the high Himalaya. A melting glacier has engorged the lake, which is positioned above five villages that are more than 300 years old.  An event like an avalanche or rockslide could burst the natural dam containing the lake and devastate the settlements downstream.

The interdisciplinary team is made up of of water-resource engineers, a glaciologist, an anthropologist and a mountain geographer. During the three-year study, which is funded by a recent $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Shrestha will act as a liaison between the earth scientists and the Sherpa.

“Our job is to study what (the Sherpa) want,” Shrestha says. “That’s why they asked an anthropologist to be a part of this.”


Nature magazine highlights urban ecology at ASU

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 26, 2015

Building in BaltimoreAccording to a recent article in Nature magazine, urban ecology - which approaches cities and the organisms within them as ecosystems - is a field gaining in both acceptance and interest. At the most recent annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, for example, there were around 450 presentations, posters and events that touched on urban issues - roughly 10% of the conference total.

The article quotes CAP LTER Director Nancy Grimm, who told conference attendees that urban ecology's findings are becoming increasingly important as the world's growing population urbanizes, and as cities seek resilience to the effects of climate change.

It goes on to highlight the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, a project headed by Grimm and supported with a $12-million grant from the National Science Foundation.


ASU offers dual masters of journalism and sustainability

School of Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 26, 2015

Wind Turbine and Blue SkyThe Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Sustainability have partnered to offer a Master of Mass Communications and a Master of Sustainable Solutions. The offering caters to students interested in careers reporting on environmental issues and alternative energy - as well as to those working in sustainability sciences who communicate with journalists - allowing them to pursue the separate degrees in less time through streamlined admissions procedures and course requirements.

“One of the critical aspects of moving toward a sustainable future is helping people understand why and how sustainability is relevant to their lives, and how best to communicate those ideas,” said Christopher Boone, dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability. “This dual-degree opportunity with the Cronkite School will provide our School of Sustainability students with a versatile skill set to effectively reach and engage a broad audience on the very best solutions for building a sustainable future.”

The partnership marks the fifth dual-degree offering of the School of Sustainability.


Arizona needs sustainability now, writes institute directorate

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 25, 2015

Downtown Phoenix SkylineIn a recent opinion piece in the Arizona Republic titled "Our Turn: Hotter Arizona must find sustainability," the directorate of the ASU Wrigley Institute - Rob Melnick, Gary Dirks and Christopher Boone - discusses the global rise of sustainability and its significance for our collective future.

Highlighting unsettling trends such as the rapid warming of our planet, acidification of our oceans and depletion of our natural resources, the authors stress that the time for action is now - particularly in a climate like central Arizona - if we are to prosper.

The authors go on to emphasize the role of universities in producing solutions to the sustainability challenges we face. They point to the impressive employment rates of ASU School of Sustainability graduates as evidence that business owners also recognize the need for solutions.

The piece concludes, "ASU is applying its talent and its resources to helping Arizona cities, businesses and communities understand, become resilient to and solve local and global sustainability challenges."


Carbon Nation director talks cows, soil and carbon capture

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 24, 2015

Cows at PastureIn a recent GreenBiz article titled "The rise of the soil carbon cowboys," sustainability scientist and film director Peter Byck discusses the merits of adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing -  a method that benefits the soil, animals and ranchers alike.

Byck explains how AMP contributes to climate change mitigation by sucking carbon dioxide from the air and sending it deep into the soil, where it can be stored for centuries. He contends that getting oil companies on board heightens this benefit.

"What if these oil companies used their money to help ranchers transition to AMP grazing, and then shared in the credits for the carbon being stored in the soil?," he writes. "What if those soil carbon storage credits were cost effective for the oil companies to buy, while that same soil carbon increase helped the ranchers reduce operating costs due to a more robust ecosystem on their land, where nature takes the place of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides?"

Byck and a whole systems science research team continue to explore the benefits of AMP grazing, particularly with regard to slowing climate change.


ASU Wrigley Institute offers improved experience to web visitors

Uncategorized ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 22, 2015

Homepage of new websiteOn August 21, 2015, the ASU Wrigley Institute launched the latest version of its website. The new site not only serves as a portal to all things sustainability at ASU, but offers an improved experience to visitors. This is most apparent in its flattened, streamlined navigation, which allows visitors to browse with ease; adaptable and mobile-friendly layout; and new expert search function.

Additionally, the new site provides greater visibility to the institute's numerous units and initiatives, as well as to its latest Prospectus and 2014 Sustainability Highlights magazine.

The site's launch coincides with that of multiple sub-sites, including Decision Center for a Desert City and the newly-established Living Wisdom: The Global Program for Traditional Knowledge and Sustainability. Such sub-sites will gain Google's favor through improved search engine optimization as a result.



DCDC to expand scope, impact of water research with NSF award

ASU Wrigley Institute News

August 21, 2015

hoover-dam-lake-meadThanks to a new $4.5 million National Science Foundation award, water managers and decision makers from cities in the Colorado River Basin can take greater advantage of Decision Center for a Desert City - a research unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute.

This four-year award, the third made to DCDC in its 10-year history, allows the center to expand the geographic scope of its work to cities in states like Colorado, Nevada and California. As a result, DCDC researchers can better explore the transformational changes necessary to sustain water supplies well into the future.

Given the mounting sustainability challenges we face - including long-term drought, a warming climate and large-scale land-use change - the grant comes at a critical time.

Says DCDC Director Dave White, “It comes with a greater sense of urgency and a greater sense of understanding of the scale and scope of the changes that are likely necessary to transition the cities and the region into a more sustainable state over the next several decades.”


Forecasts of lizard resilience to climate change too optimistic

ASU Sustainability News

August 18, 2015

Lizard with blue belly in sunA team of biologists led by ASU researchers has discovered that - when subjected to a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, even for a few minutes - lizard embryos die. In addition, the researchers learned that previous studies on lizard resilience to warming temperatures ignored early life stages like the embryonic, producing overly optimistic forecasts.

Even if a lizard survives the embryonic stage, repeated exposure to above-average but not lethal temperatures can negatively affect a lizard’s physiology and behavior. Given this information, many more places in the United States could become uninhabitable for lizards than previously expected - an occurrence with far-reaching consequences.

Sustainability scientist Michael Angilletta says, “Because lizards are prey for animals such as birds, snakes and mammals, the harmful effects of climate change on embryonic lizards could also negatively affect other species.”