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Sustainability News

Call for proposals: Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education

July 27, 2020

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's (AASHE's) virtual Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education is the largest stage to exchange effective models, policies, research, collaborations and transformative actions that advance sustainability in higher education and surrounding communities.

Humanity faces a series of intensifying and interrelated social and ecological crises. Solving these crises requires a holistic transformation: a shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. With a theme of "Mobilizing for a Just Transition," this year's Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education will be held October 20-22 and will focus on centering justice within this transformation and ensuring that it leaves no one behind.

Higher education has changed dramatically since AASHE closed its original call for proposals in early March. AASHE has opened a supplementary Emerging Issues Call for Proposals; proposals are due August 14.

Become a presenter and have your voice heard on vital topics such as the global pandemic, widespread protests against racism and the upcoming 2020 U.S. Election. Submit your proposal by August 14 to participate in AASHE's first virtual conference!

Skysong Innovations translates ASU research into tangible, scalable solutions

ASU Now | July 27, 2020

Skysong Innovations is ASU's intellectual property management company. Its goal is the rapid and wide dissemination of ASU discoveries and inventions into the marketplace, and so was created as a separate corporate entity to act as a proxy for ASU, which substantially increases flexibility and speed in deal-making and venturing activities. A recent article in ASU Now features the work of several sustainability scientists.

Zero Mass Water, led by sustainability scientist Cody Friesen, a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, creates SOURCE Hydropanels that use solar energy to pull moisture from the air, bringing clean drinking water to communities and residences well off the grid.

Skysong Innovations team identified and pushed forward 20 COVID-19 technologies: four vaccines, two therapeutics, three diagnostic tools, seven sterilization- and PPE-related pieces of equipment and four software technologies. Sustainability scientists have led several of these.

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Meet sustainability student and researcher Caitlyn Finnegan

July 27, 2020

Caitlyn Finnegan is a junior in the School of Sustainability who has spent her summer conducting research on fisheries with Assistant Professor Kailin Kroetz. Fisheries have always been a model for sustainable management, challenges, and discipline. They represent a relationship between humans and marine ecosystems.

“My interest in aquatic ecosystems and how anthropogenic activities interfere with their success drew me to assist Dr. Kailin Kroetz with her fisheries research. Fishery research is impactful because it represents a natural resource that continues to be negatively disrupted by human behavior globally.”

Read more from Finnegan in her Q&A. 

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Event: The overlooked role of tech in the sustainability movement

July 16, 2020

Background vector created by starline - www.freepik.comASU's Metis Center for Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering invites faculty to participate in a webinar discussion of a pedagogical framework for engineering education. The August 11 event will feature a presentation by sustainability scientists Braden Allenby and T. Agami Reddy; sustainability scientist Mikhail Chester will moderate.

Engineers today are increasingly asked to produce sustainable designs, products, and infrastructure. But what is meant by sustainability and sustainable development, and what is the role of the engineer in this domain which increasingly pervades all facets of human endeavor? This webinar, meant to provide a pedagogical framework for engineering education, will make the case that sustainability and sustainable development should evolve beyond its environmental and social origins.

Read more and register here.

Call for projects: Project Cities seeks solutions-focused class projects

July 15, 2020

Cities and towns face unprecedented challenges, even moreso now during to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unique issues local government agencies deal with demand a research-backed, multidisciplinary response. Leverage your classroom activity to add a meaningful applied learning experience for students that also makes a difference for local communities.

ASU's Project Cities manages contracts and relationships with city partners, facilitates site visits with stakeholders, offers a small budget and technology resources, and publishes project summary reports. Learn more and see the current project topic list.

Planned and continuing municipal sustainability projects incorporate some component of sustainability; economic, social, environmental, or a combination of the three. Many span multiple semesters and groups of students, allowing projects to take on big-picture, multi-disciplinary challenges. In addition, community partners seek assistance on applied projects centered around COVID-19, that examine local responses to the pandemic.

Project Cities' community partners will consider all ideas. Pitch projects via email to

Strengthening supply chain in Africa

W. P. Carey News | July 14, 2020

In many places around the world supply chain gaps prevent goods from reaching their intended market and the people who need and rely on them. Supply chains include the system of organizations, resources, and activities that move goods to consumers and gaps can create stresses for producers and consumers alike. When these goods are food and medicine, the results can be devastating — even deadly. A large body of research shows that efficient supply chains are crucial to local, regional, and national economic development.

That’s why the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), invested in this new project, via the Building Research and Innovation for Development: Generating Evidence and Training (BRIDGE-Train) program: to advance research, translation – quickly moving research findings into practice with practical solutions – and training in supply chain management (SCM).

With a $15 million investment from USAID, Arizona State University (ASU) is embarking on a catalytic partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and multiple public and private sector partners to establish the Center for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain-Africa (CARISCA). The project brings together faculty expertise in the Department of Supply Chain Management in ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and the KNUST School of Business. It’s the largest award in W. P. Carey’s history.

New paper: Modest water policy implementation could offset 30 percent of outdoor demand

July 14, 2020

A new paper in Sustainability Science finds that the use of alternative water supplies, such as rainwater harvesting and greywater use, could offset up to 30 percent of total outdoor water demand for the Phoenix Metropolitan Area under modest implantation of these policies.

The paper, Simulating alternative sustainable water futures, is the work of sustainability scientists David Sampson and Nancy Grimm, sustainability fellow David Iwaniac, UREX affiliate Elizabeth Cook and CAP LTER affiliate Melissa Davidson. The authors adapted ASU’s WaterSim tool to explore differences in water demand and supply, as influenced by runoff, rainfall, changes in land use and land cover, population growth and improvements in water use efficiency.

The abstract follows.

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Peace Corps, ASU partner to provide digital libraries across the globe

ASU Now | July 13, 2020

Fijian students pose with ASU faculty and studentsA new strategic partnership agreement will advance a shared interest in meeting the needs of learners in remote, offline communities globally by leveraging ASU’s innovative technology, SolarSPELL, a tool to build information literacy and to advance high-quality education. SolarSPELL is directed by ASU Sustainability Scientist Laura Hosman, Associate Professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

The Peace Corps and ASU have been working together since 2015 to pair SolarSPELL’s digital library with locally-based trainers, Peace Corps Volunteers and their resident teacher counterparts. ASU provides the tools and the training that empowers volunteers and local teachers to utilize SolarSPELL libraries in their schools and communities.

Through this new agreement, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) will advise on content specific to the locations of their postings. The PCVs are ideal liaisons because they spend two years at a posting, often in small, remote villages. The library content is hyper-localized, so having advocates embedded in the field can help determine the kind of information that is most helpful.

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With the help of ASU, city of Phoenix developing solutions to cool down

The Washington Post | July 10, 2020

Phoenix skyline at sunsetDavid Hondula, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, was interviewed by the Washington Post about the Heat Ready initiative, a project funded by Healthy Urban Environments.

“We talk about climate … as something mysterious and ambiguous that comes from the sky. But it is also something we are driving with the way we are paving our streets,” Hondula said in the article. “Urbanization is a critical part of the story.”

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More than words: Acknowledging Indigenous land

ASU Now | July 6, 2020

Arizona State University Library’s first Indigenous land acknowledgement is a five-sentence, 116-word statement about the place that the library and the university have inhabited for more than a century.

Under the direction of Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collections and strategy, the statement was crafted by graduate students Alex Soto and Brave Heart Sanchez, with input from Jacob Moore, associate vice president of tribal relations at ASU; Joyce Martin, associate librarian and head of the library’s social sciences division who led the Labriola Center for more than 12 years; and other key faculty and staff stakeholders.

Soto, an operations supervisor who manages the Labriola Center on the West campus, says the land statement does a good job of recognizing where we are as a university library, both figuratively and literally, and can serve as a launch pad for deeper conversations about how the ASU Library might integrate and prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems.

Li, Salon, Kedron investigate COVID-19 societal impacts

ASU Now | July 3, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to surge across the United States, there is little doubt that the pandemic has upended American life as we know it. From disrupting the way people move in the world, to exposing racial inequalities, to introducing new questions about surveillance and personal privacy in tracking the disease, the nation has been changed by this experience.

Arizona State University researchers in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning are studying these changes in the American public and the future impacts COVID-19 can have on individual lives.

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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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House Select Committee members release report

July 1, 2020

In November 2019, Arizona State University responded to a request for information from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, submitting a comprehensive, 70+ page response. The response incorporated input from nearly 50 faculty from across the university, drawn from our network of Sustainability Scientists, Scholars and Fellows, thus representing a truly transdisciplinary approach. This demonstrates ASU’s commitment to use-inspired science.

On June 30, members of the Select Committee released their report, Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America.

Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost for Global Futures says: "This comprehensive and bold new report, Solving the Climate Crisis, provides a detailed roadmap for the transformational change necessary to guide a transition to a more sustainable, resilient, just, and equitable society. The plan includes ambitious, and detailed, but achievable goals, based in sound science, along with specific policy recommendations for climate action. The plan is based on transdisciplinary, collaborative, and solutions-focused research produced by Arizona State University through its Global Futures Laboratory, which is committed to designing implementable options to sustain global habitability and improve well-being for all humankind. We applaud Representative Castor and members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis for their efforts to assert American leadership on the international stage and stand ready to support the federal government and its partners to implement the plan."

SOS student represents US youth in UN climate dialogue

June 27, 2020

On July 1, School of Sustainability master's student Hailey Campbell will be speaking in a virtual dialogue on the Role of Youth in Climate Action. The event is hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. Register online for this event, which takes place at 6:00 a.m. Arizona time.

Campbell, a 2020 Barrett, the Honors College graduate who majored in sustainability, represented Arizona State University during the 2019 U.N. Climate Convention (COP25) held in Madrid, Spain. It was there she became involved with YOUNGO, the Children and Youth constituency to the UNFCCC.

"I started contributing to official YOUNGO submissions to the UNFCCC, hosting meetings with the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Work Group, and working with my peers to make ACE the focal point of COP26," said Campbell.

"When the time came for this webinar, the UNFCCC Youth focal points invited me to be a participant for our region to share my climate action story," she said.

Vanos, Middel say shade is a solution to scorching playgrounds

ASU Now | June 26, 2020

Children playing outside during Arizona summers can face 100 days or more of temperatures north of 100°F. Too often playgrounds use heat-retaining, unnatural surfaces in the middle of parks with no shade, especially in Phoenix. These unshaded playgrounds can act as mini heat islands, which can disincentivize physically active play or even lead to burns.

ASU urban climate researchers Jennifer Vanos and Ariane Middel believe proper shading of playgrounds may be a solution.

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.

Meet sustainability alum and secretary of the CLFSA Maria Coca

June 25, 2020

Maria Coca Ascencio felt destined to study sustainability.

“I grew up surrounded by mountains, volcanos, calderas, trees, rivers, and dark skies viewing millions of stars with the naked eye,” Coca said. “Nature was my first love.”

Following her heart, she applied to the School of Sustainability and was accepted into the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program, from which she graduated in 2019. She is currently the Academic Senate Manager and Secretary of the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association (CLFSA). In the following Q&A, learn more about Maria, her passion for sustainability and her role on the CLFSA.

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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.

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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Philosophers of science and sustainability scientists unite!

June 9, 2020

An international group of philosophers of science (Michiru Nagatsu, University of Helsinki; Taylor Davis, Purdue University; C. Tyler DesRoches*, Arizona State University; Inkeri Koskinen, Tampere University; Miles MacLeod, University of Twente; Milutin Stojanovic, University of Helsinki; Henrik Thorén; University of Helsinki) recently wrote an article entitled “Philosophy of Science for Sustainability Science" on the nature and significance of sustainability science. This article is forthcoming in the journal Sustainability Science.

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