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Sustainability News

Global Drylands Center director recognized for contributions to ecology

ASU Wrigley Institute News Global Drylands News

November 8, 2018

Argentina Meeting group pic Rachel TateOsvaldo Sala, distinguished sustainability scientist and founding director of the Global Drylands Center at Arizona State University, has been named an honorary member of the Asociación Argentina de Ecología (AsAE).

Honorary members are recognized for their extraordinary contribution to ecology as a science and to the functioning of AsAE. Sala was recognized at the XXVIII Reunión Argentina de Ecología in October in the city of Mar del Plata. The meeting, held biennially and organized by AsAE, included a symposium honoring Sala’s research legacy and commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of his 1988 seminal paper “Primary Production of the Central Grassland Region of the United States."

According to the organization's website, AsAE is an association that “brings together researchers, professors, fellows, professionals and students from all branches of environmental science." A primary role for AsAE is to promote Argentine ecological research. The association also addresses the application of ecology to environmental problems and contributes to the management of sustainable resources.

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Meet sustainability student Elyse Kats

School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

November 7, 2018

Woman with brown hair smiling in front of brightly colored wallElyse Kats left the Midwest for the Arizona desert and hasn’t looked back.

Kats, an Arizona State University School of Sustainability undergraduate student, is from Kansas but is happy she decided to move out of her comfort zone. And it’s good she did: Kats said she’s loving her college experiences, not only in her classes but also as a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, a founding member of Green Greeks and a research aide for the Decision Center for a Desert City. On top of her bachelor’s degree, Kats is pursuing a minor in parks and recreation management and a certificate in socio-legal studies.

“I hope that I can one day have a career that I can make a difference in my community with, and I know ASU is giving me the tools to do so,” Kats said.

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Meet sustainability alumnus Tyler Sytsma

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

November 6, 2018

Man with backpack hiking in mountainsTyler Sytsma has not one but two degrees from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability — a bachelor’s degree and an Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership. He graduated with his EMSL in January 2016 and quickly landed a job as a sustainability coordinator for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Sytsma answered a few questions for us about his journey in sustainability and his experience with the EMSL. Read his Q&A below.

What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?

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Salute to Service: Dynamic military couple part of ASU community

School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

November 5, 2018

Uniformed US Army couple wearing leis and smiling in front of US flagIf they weren’t so humble, active-duty Army Capts. Natalie and Ed Mallue could serve as the face of a major beer label’s advertising campaign and be dubbed “The Most Interesting Couple in the World.”

They graduated from the grueling U.S. Military Academy. They conquered Ranger school, the Army’s toughest feat of human physical and mental endurance. They returned recently from South Africa where they served as military advisers for a major on-location Hollywood movie production. And they made headlines when former President Barack Obama called them to apologize for disrupting their wedding in Hawaii.

The Mallues are a dynamic duo who have been “stationed” at Arizona State University since the summer of 2017, with Natalie pursuing a master’s degree with ASU’s School of Sustainability and Ed serving as an assistant professor of military science with Army ROTC. They represent the vast diversity and talent found within the ASU community and stand as a physical reminder of why the university organizes Salute to Service each year to recognize those who have served.

Read more about the Mallues in ASU Now.


Tempe Town Lake sends message in a bottle

ASU Wrigley Institute News CAP LTER News

November 1, 2018

Man and woman standing near lake holding a bottle of lake waterTempe Town Lake has been a part of the city's landscape for over 19 years, and Hilairy Hartnett's lab has been measuring and collecting data there for the past 13.

With over 1,200 samples of water, Hartnett's work with the Central Arizona Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program hopes to better understand what it takes to maintain the ecological health of a man-made lake in one of the hottest regions of the United States.

The associate professor in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences spoke with ASU Now about her decade-plus sampling Tempe Town Lake. Read Hartnett's interview on ASU Now.


Meet Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership alumna Antonia Castro-Graham

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 31, 2018

Woman with blond hair smilingAntonia Castro-Graham decided to pursue her Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership from Arizona State University after a careful search of different programs. It makes sense that she wanted to invest her time and money wisely — she already had a full-time job, an adjunct professorship at California State University, Fullerton, and a two-year-old.

“I wanted a degree that would propel me to the next level,” she said. “EMSL enabled me to broaden my skill set.”

In the Q&A below, Castro-Graham — who works for the city of Huntington Beach, California as the assistant to the city manager and the energy and sustainability manager — talks about her experience as an EMSL student and explains how the master’s degree has allowed her to become more successful as a sustainability professional.

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ASU, UNSW students innovate to create zero waste

School of Sustainability News Food Systems News

October 30, 2018

Three male ASU students standing and smilingStudents from opposite sides of the world found themselves competing on a unified front to create solutions to divert waste from landfills and drive new businesses.

A diverse group of 70 interdisciplinary students at Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney created teams at their respective universities as they took part in the inaugural PLuS Alliance Circular Economy ResourCE Hack. The innovation hack was designed to find zero-waste alternatives for transitioning to a circular economy. The winning team from each institution was then judged by an international panel of experts to determine an overall “world champion.”

The grand prize was awarded to ASU’s top team, Farmers’ Friend, composed of Jacob Bethem (PhD, sustainability), Andrew John De Los Santos (MS, sustainability) and Sudhanshu Biyani (MS, mechanical engineering). Their solution to reduce food waste involved developing an app connecting micro farmers in developing countries to consumers at places like schools, programs for the elderly, nongovernmental organizations or restaurants using a guaranteed pricing model. The team plans to apply for ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation’s Venture Devils program in January.

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Meet our 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award nominees

School of Sustainability News Alumni News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 29, 2018

Rob Melnick bestowing with the Outstanding Alumnus AwardOn November 2, during Arizona State University homecoming weekend, the School of Sustainability will bestow one alumnus with the 2018 Outstanding Alumnus Award. With so many incredible nominees, it’s going to be a hard decision to make.

If you’re an alumnus, we invite you to join us for the alumni reception mixer at Postino in Tempe from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., where we will announce the winner (please RSVP). But first, check out the seven nominees — in alphabetical order:

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Master of Sustainability student talks business on Innovations Happens podcast

School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 28, 2018

Sam Castaneda Holdren picture with quoteSam Castañeda Holdren is a Master of Sustainability Leadership student from the U.S. who's now living in Colombia, where he founded Out in Colombia, a travel agency focused on sustainable LGBT tourism.

Arizona State University's Innovation Happens podcast featured Holdren as its guest on Episode 20. In the podcast, Holdren talks about how he started Out in Colombia and continues to grow his business using what he has learned from his online sustainability degree.

Holdren says that Out in Colombia promotes sustainable travel by ensuring that its activities have positive environmental, economic and social impacts.

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Biomimicry Center planting inspiration with seed exhibit

ASU Sustainability News Food Systems News

October 26, 2018

whirlybirdStill most widely associated with the invention of velcro, ASU researchers are walking the talk of biomimicry with a newly renovated office space and a new seed exhibit they hope will capture the imagination of innovators seeking solutions for complex human problems.

"Seeds continue to offer a bottomless design and engineering trove for many other innovations," said Heidi Fischer, assistant director at the Biomimicry Center. "We hope that our exhibition can provide new models for some of these innovations."

Titled “Designed to Move: Seeds that Float, Fly or Hitchhike through the Desert Southwest,” the exhibit, opening Oct. 30 in the Design School South Gallery on ASU's Tempe campus is offering viewers an extraordinary look at the beauty of desert seeds as captured through the macro photography lens of Taylor James, an alumni of ASU’s Masters of Fine Arts program.


How NAFTA is affecting the long-term viability of Mexico's water supply

ASU Wrigley Institute News DCDC News

October 26, 2018

A small fence separates the densely populated Tijuana, Mexico (right) from the United States in the Border Patrol's San Diego sectorRed-tailed hawks can live to be up to 20 years old. If a fledging had caught a thermal in 1994 and spent the next two decades aloft above the U.S.-Mexico border, it would have witnessed some startling changes:

Mexican border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana ballooning as thousands streamed north to work in maquiladora factories, assembling products like garage door openers to be sold in the U.S. and Canada. Farmland around American cities morphing into suburbs. Mexican land being turned into agricultural fields.

What would not be visible from the air is the depletion of Mexican groundwater to grow the fruits and vegetables sent north.

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Making the most of conservation money

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News

October 25, 2018

black footed ferretOne of the balancing acts faced by conservation agencies is how to conserve and protect as many species as possible from extinction with limited funding and finite resources. In the U.S., conservation agencies are supported and guided by the Endangered Species Act, the seminal wildlife conservation law signed by President Nixon in 1973 that is currently being reviewed by Congress.

Over time, the number of threatened and endangered species added to the ESA has grown faster than the funding for their recovery. As a result, conservation agencies have struggled in making decisions about how to apply the available resources to the greatest effect.

The result of this inadequate funding has been that while the ESA has brought back many species from the brink of extinction, many of those species remain on “life support,” never fully recovering to independence once again. This adds fuel to the debate over the effectiveness of the ESA.

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Sustainability scientist named distinguished alumnus by alma mater

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 24, 2018

Headshot of Martin PasqualettiMartin Pasqualetti, professor with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, was recognized this weekend as a distinguished alumnus by the University of California, Riverside’s Alumni Association. Pasqualetti was bestowed the honor at the Chancellor’s Dinner on the university’s campus. Pasqualetti, who is also a senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, is known worldwide for his contributions to the field of geography, specifically in relation to energy policy.

With a 40-year career dedicated to studying the geographical dimensions of energy, Pasqualetti’s work has resulted in advancements in many areas: landscape change, issues of energy security and geopolitics, the sense of place, perceptions of energy provision and use, energy education, environmental costs of energy demand, public acceptance of renewable-energy landscapes and the spatial nexus of our need for food, energy and water.

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Meet sustainability alumnus Maximilian Christman

School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 23, 2018

Man in blue t-shirt petting elephant's trunkIt was in middle school that Maximilian Christman first thought about how people impact the environment, when his mom showed him an article from People magazine about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “While I wasn’t familiar with the term ‘sustainability’ at the time, I knew that I wanted my life and career to leave a positive mark on the world,” he said.

Fueled by this passion, Christman graduated from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability in 2014 with a bachelor of science focusing on sustainable energy, materials and technology. He later received a master of environmental management from Duke University. Since wrapping up his studies, Christman worked for two years as the sustainability specialist for the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s health department (UW Health), and he recently accepted a new position as the sustainability manager for the California Institute of Technology.

“We can follow different paths, but each of us sustainability professionals is forging our way ahead towards progress in our field and our world,” he said.

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ASU sustainability scientist discusses how sea-level change is affecting Bangladesh

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 22, 2018

Man paddles canoe on glassy riverBetween rising temperatures, melting glaciers and intense hurricanes, climate change not only has long-term effects but is also impacting our everyday lives.

According to NASA, sea levels will rise 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Sea rise combined with storm surges can cause flooding in many regions. A community’s economy and migration might be impacted by these environmental effects.

Arizona State University Assistant Professor Valerie Mueller, who's a senior sustainability scientist in ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and Joyce Chen from Ohio State University look into this topic in a recently published paper in Nature Climate Change titled “Coastal climate change, soil salinity and human migration in Bangladesh.”

Mueller, who is part of the School of Politics and Global Studies, spoke to ASU Now about about how sea-level change affects farming communities in Bangladesh. Read her Q&A on ASU Now.


Is it too late to address climate change?

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 20, 2018

foot against gas pedal in vehicleNo, but the risk is exploding.

by Bob Litterman

I spent the better part of my career assessing risk for major financial institutions and often used mathematical modeling to understand potential outcomes. More recently I have applied the same risk assessment methodology to ask how serious is climate change, and I find that the rate at which climate change risk is growing is startling.

And, of course, I am not alone. For example, the IPCC recently released a report calling for emissions reductions of a scale requiring unprecedented systems change. In other words, according to a global scientific consensus, it is time to slam on the brakes.

The reason it is time to slam on the brakes now is that the risk created by not doing so is exploding.

View a PDF of this article with graphics.

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How would Arizona respond to a natural disaster?

ASU Wrigley Institute News

October 19, 2018

dead trees in dusty landscapeNatural disasters are an increasingly common reality for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and as climate change and urbanization amplify the frequency and intensity of these events, the response by communities, governments and private citizens is more important than ever before, according to Brian Gerber, co-director of Arizona State University's Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

But academics, government agencies and volunteers are rising to the challenge — developing critical disaster responses, participating in full-scale exercises and harboring cross-sector partnerships for the inevitable day a disaster strikes.

Those partners came together Thursday at a Sustainability Series event titled "How Will Arizona Respond to a Major Regional Disaster?" The event was presented by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center.

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Meet sustainability alumna Alex Slaymaker

School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

October 15, 2018

Woman smiling and sitting by treeAlex Slaymaker is only 26, but she has already received a master’s degree (the Master of Sustainability Solutions at Arizona State University) and has worked in several sustainability fields in the U.S. and Europe, including zero waste, urban agriculture, climate adaptation planning, health, urban design and green building.

"I first learned about the complex opportunities and challenges around smart cities in a class at the School of Sustainability, and now I’m on a talented team leading the world in smart city innovation," Slaymaker said.

Currently, Slaymaker is working for Smart Columbus, a 50 million dollar initiative to reinvent transportation in Columbus, Ohio for a more sustainable future. Read Slaymaker’s Q&A below for more about how she got inspired to work in urban sustainability and how the School of Sustainability prepared her to take on big challenges.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?

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CAP LTER urban ecology work highlighted by Arizona PBS

ASU Wrigley Institute News Biodiversity News CAP LTER News

October 15, 2018

2 people making measurements in desert with city skyline in the backgroundThe Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program, a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, was recently featured in an episode of “Catalyst” by Arizona PBS. The episode, “Desert animals in urban centers,” discussed current research about how natural environments (including plant and animal life) are affected by urban development.

Sharon Hall, a senior sustainability scientist who works with the CAP LTER, said that some plant and animal life continues to flourish within or nearby Phoenix.

"There's all these hidden spots around the city that nature is thriving,” said Hall. “If we can think about finding those areas and protecting them — or at least understanding them a bit better, maybe then we can try to make our landscape a little bit more friendly to the types of animals that . . . are living among us all the time."

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Global Drylands Center affiliate wins 2018 American Geophysical Union Ambassador Award

ASU Wrigley Institute News Global Drylands News

October 11, 2018

Esteban JobbágyEsteban Jobbágy, an Arizona State University Global Drylands Center affiliate, has been named a 2018 American Geophysical Union Ambassador Award recipient. Recipients are chosen and recognized for their achievements in space and Earth science and also their dedication to science that benefits humanity.

AGU President Eric Davidson stated in a press release that “this year’s awardees exemplify AGU’s ongoing commitment to recognizing and promoting the best scientific research, education, and communication in the Earth and space sciences.” Honorees will be recognized at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C. this December.

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