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Sustainability News

ASU collaborates on virtual field trip to Makalawena, Hawai'i

July 3, 2019

Makalawena beachThanks to a partnership between Arizona State University and Kamehameha Schools in Hawai’i, people around the world can visit two of Hawai’i's natural and cultural sites without having to leave their computer.

ASU’s School of Sustainability and Center for Education Through eXploration (ETX Center) have collaborated with Kamehameha Schools on two virtual field trips (VFTs), including the recently released interactive and educational excursion to Makalawena. Makalawena is a beautiful, remote beach with many environmental and cultural resources located in West Hawai‘i.

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ASU urban climatologist reveals hottest and coolest spots on Tempe campus

View Source | June 14, 2019

Ariane MiddelUrban climatologists Ariane Middel (senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor with two schools at Arizona State University) and Scott Krayenhoff did a three-year study of the Tempe campus, mapping out the three coolest (and hottest) spots on campus, taking readings even during excessive heat and record temperatures and discovering what works best to stay cool.

The study’s findings give a look at how to best combine and place design features — green spaces, trees, and shade structures — to cool pedestrian spaces and can inform future construction and landscaping at ASU and in the broader community.

When roundworms lose, carbon emissions rise

June 10, 2019

Sala PNAS Nematode Experiment full imageSoil food webs play a key role in supporting grassland ecosystems, which cover about one-quarter of the land on Earth. Climate change poses a threat to these environments, partly because of the uncertainty of extremes in rainfall, which is projected to increase.

To learn more about the effects of these extreme events, a team of soil and plant ecologists, supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, studied nematodes, which play a key role in carbon and nutrient cycling and decomposition in soil.

Principal Investigator Osvaldo Sala is founding director of the Global Drylands Center at Arizona State University. We asked him about the study, out June 10, 2019, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Pervasive polymers of the deep blue sea

View Source | June 7, 2019

Plastic bag slowly decomposing and floating underwaterResearchers at Arizona State University are finding a particularly pervasive problem with the microplastics that originate from human everyday use. Senior Sustainability Scientist Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering and professor at ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and his team worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to analyze oceanic samples collected from vast vertical depths of seawater by the MBARI team.

The results were published June 6 in a Scientific Reports journal article titled, "The vertical distribution and biological transport of marine microplastics across the epipelagic and mesopelagic water column."

Refugees in Uganda learn agribusiness through online initiative

View Source | June 7, 2019

Refugees in Uganda taking online Agribusiness 250 courseA group of 30 people who live in a refugee settlement in Uganda are the first to take the online Agribusiness 250 course through Education for Humanity, an initiative of Arizona State University that is offering higher education to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Uganda and Rwanda. Education for Humanity is managed by EdPlus, the unit at ASU that creates technology and forges partnerships to develop new ways of teaching and learning.

More than 68 million people are displaced around the globe, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, and fewer than 1% have access to higher education. Education for Humanity is trying to address that need.

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ASU experts creating solutions and mitigation strategies for extreme heat dangers

View Source | May 24, 2019

Downtown Phoenix skyline with yellow skyIn recognition of Arizona Heat Awareness Week May 27 through May 31, ASU Now is highlighting a slew of projects and initiatives that are expanding our understanding and capabilities as they concern the inescapable environmental reality of scorching temperatures.

The article, "Summer in the City," highlights the work of several senior sustainability scientists and fellows: Mikhail Chester, Ariane Middel, David Hondula, Nancy Selover, Sharon Harlan and Matei Georgescu.

All of these faculty are affiliated with the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program, a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Study expands understanding of bacterial communities for global next-generation wastewater treatment and reuse systems

View Source | May 16, 2019

Digital image of BacteriaResearchers at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University and the University of Oklahoma led an interdisciplinary global study to explore wastewater microbial communities. The research expands the understanding of activated sludge microbiomes for next-generation wastewater treatment and reuse systems enhanced by microbiome engineering.

Developing a fundamental understanding of the biodiversity of the activated sludge microbiome in relationship to performance is critical to advancing and optimizing this key technology for maintaining environmental health.

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Sustainability PhD alumna working to make slums more connected

View Source | May 15, 2019

Top down Aerial view of slum neighborhoodSchool of Sustainability PhD alumna Christa Brelsford is part of a team working to improve the lives of slum residents by using topology — a method that allows the team to mathematically examine the slums’ spatial structures and networks.

“This method could determine, for example, the fewest streets that would need to be added to provide street access to everyone, and at minimal cost and with minimal disruption to the residents,” describes author Stephen Ornes, who wrote about Breslford’s work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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ASU awarded NASA grant for study on Colorado River water management

View Source | May 15, 2019

Aerial view of water canalAn interdisciplinary team of researchers at Arizona State University has received a $1 million grant from NASA’s Earth Science Division to provide long-range scenarios for water management for the Colorado River Basin.

“Water management is a pressing issue for Arizona,” said Senior Sustainability Scientist Enrique Vivoni, principal investigator of the project and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “This grant will assist in helping local, state and federal entities with their drought contingency planning.”

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Turning borderlands into an energy-water innovation zone

View Source | May 14, 2019

Graphic of the Castillo wallA bold proposal for the future of most of the nearly 2,000-mile stretch of land along the United States-Mexico border has been drawing attention.

The ambitious plan, called the Future Energy, Water, Industry and Education Park initiative, details concepts for developing the borderlands by bringing energy and water resources, education, farming, business opportunities and jobs to the region.

This innovation zone would consist of a series of industrial parks, focusing on the infrastructure development to support the testing, production and deployment of technologies and systems to meet growing needs for energy, water and food in both Mexico and the U.S. Along with private business enterprises and public facilities, the energy and water corridor would also include research and education centers.

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ASU ranks 2nd in US in Times Higher Education sustainability impact rankings

May 10, 2019

Old Main buildingArizona State University was ranked 2nd in the country and 35th in the world in the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2019. These inaugural rankings, which included 462 universities from 76 nations, are “the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” according to Times Higher Education.

The University Impact Rankings reviewed universities on 11 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and compared universities across three categories: research, outreach and stewardship. ASU’s top-ranked impacts were SDGs 12, 11, 5 and 17:

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School of Sustainability instructor using fellowship to develop booklet for sustainability practitioners

May 10, 2019

Nancy MancillaSchool of Sustainability instructor Nancy Mancilla is among nine American professionals selected by Eisenhower Fellowships (EF) to travel to China for one month as part of the 2019 Zhi-Xing China Eisenhower Fellowship Program. These dynamic fellows represent a diverse group of leaders across a broad range of fields, including emerging technologies in smart cities, diversity and inclusion, sustainable development and renewable energy.

“This year’s Zhi-Xing Fellows are forward-thinking innovators, addressing some of the most important issues of our times. We’re pleased to welcome them into the global network of Eisenhower Fellows,” said Robert Gates, chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships.

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Project Cities students continue to impress in end-of-semester spring showcase

May 8, 2019

Project Cities Student group photoAs the spring semester came to an end, Arizona State University students shared the work they had been doing with Project Cities in partnership with the City of Glendale and the City of Apache Junction. The Project Cities program works to connect local cities with ASU students, faculty directors and academic courses to research and propose solutions to sustainability challenges affecting the communities.

Students from four classes worked with the program this semester. Albert Brown, an instructor in The Polytechnic School's Environmental and Resource Management program, taught 39 students in ERM 401/501 Hazardous Waste Management to lead the development of a project outline and work plan for the City of Glendale involving above ground storage tank inventory and compliance.

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Why biodiversity matters

View Source | May 6, 2019

Young toucan standing on branchOn May 6 at the UNESCO world headquarters in Paris, the United Nations released a global assessment on biodiversity as part of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It is the first large-scale global assessment on biodiversity since 2005.

Arizona State University’s Leah Gerber, a professor in the School of Life Sciences, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and founding director of the ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, was one of the lead authors of the IPBES global assessment. In an interview with ASU Now, Gerber provides her thoughts on the assessment and what needs to be done to improve biodiversity of the planet.

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Sustainability scientist named an Emerging Scholar by the American Association of Geographers

View Source | May 4, 2019

Wenwen LiEach year, geographers from around the country and the world gather for the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Part of the meeting includes recognizing geographers for their work and achievements over the past year. Senior sustainability scientist Wenwen Li, associate professor with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University, was among those who were honored.

During the annual meeting, Li was named an Emerging Scholar by the Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group. The emerging scholar award honors early- to mid-career scholars who have made significant contributions to education and research initiatives that are congruent with the mission of AAG-SAM.

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Two sustainability scientists elected to National Academy of Sciences

View Source | May 3, 2019

Old Main buildingBeing elected to the National Academy of Sciences is one of the highest honors for a scientist, and it also means that members are qualified to inform the president and Congress about issues related to their expertise. Two Arizona State University sustainability scientists, Nancy Grimm and James Elser, can now add that accolade to their already celebrated resumes.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is an honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research dedicated to the advancement of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare of society. The academy announced Tuesday the election of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

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Carbon-capture technology moves to commercialization

ASU Now | May 2, 2019

Klaus Lackner examining machineArizona State University and Silicon Kingdom Holdings (SKH) have announced an agreement to deploy carbon-capture technology developed by Professor Klaus Lackner, director of ASU’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions.

The proprietary technology acts like a tree that is thousands of times more efficient at removing CO2 from the air. The “mechanical trees” allow the captured gas to be sequestered or sold for re-use in a variety of applications, such as synthetic fuels, enhanced oil recovery or in food, beverage and agriculture industries.

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Sustainability scientist Ariel Anbar to receive 2019 European science innovation award

View Source | May 2, 2019

Ariel AnbarArizona State University President’s Professor Ariel Anbar has been selected to receive the 2019 Science Innovation Award from the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG). This award recognizes scientists who have recently made a particularly important and innovative breakthrough in geochemistry.

Anbar is a scientist and educator interested in Earth’s past and future as an inhabited world and the prospects for life beyond it. He is on the faculty of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences and is a Distinguished Sustainability Scholar in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Anbar also directs ASU’s Center for Education Through Exploration, which is reinventing digital learning around curiosity, exploration and discovery.

ASU–Wells Fargo Earth Day broadcast reaches more than 1.7 million people

April 30, 2019

24 hour graphicThis year, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University celebrated Earth Day in a new way. Around the clock on April 22, the School of Sustainability's Facebook broadcasted a documentary series highlighting projects and people who are making an impact for a sustainable tomorrow. The successful “24 Hours of Sustainability” broadcast — presented by Wells Fargo and powered by ASU — reached more than 1.7 million Facebook users in 45 countries.

Each short video highlighted a sustainability story in one of five categories: sustainability leaders, students making a difference, conservation leaders at work, teachers inspiring action, and eco-heroes making an impact. Viewers could tune in at any time throughout the day to learn something new about sustainability.

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Watch Alice Waters's Wrigley Lecture about slow food culture

April 26, 2019

Alice Waters speaking at podium during Wrigley LectureOn March 27, Alice Waters — famed chef, author and founder/owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California — visited Arizona State University to deliver the year's first Wrigley Lecture, called "We Are What We Eat: Teaching Slow Food Values in a Fast Food Culture." In the lecture, Waters discussed the dangers of fast food culture and presented slow food values as the antidote.

Waters said that fast food is more than about just food — it's about values. A fast food culture, she said, encourages the insidious values of uniformity, speed, availability, cheapness, (meaningless) standards and dishonesty. On the other hand, a slow food culture fosters sustainability, seasonality, interconnectedness, responsibility, generosity and community.

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