ASU Wrigley Institute News

Sustainability scientists receive $12M to lead urban resilience network

July 22, 2015

Ariel view of Indian Bend Wash in Arizona
The Indian Bend Wash in Scottsdale (pictured) is an example of safe-to-fail resilient infrastructure – the focus of the ASU UREx SRN. By contrast, the LA River is an example of fail-safe infrastructure. Image credit: Nancy Grimm.

Extreme weather events – like the rain and subsequent floods in the Phoenix metropolitan area in September 2014 – are occurring more frequently and can cripple crucial infrastructure that enables transit, electricity, water and other services. To tackle these challenges and change the way we think about urban infrastructure, the National Science Foundation awarded a transdisciplinary team of three ASU researchers $12 million to lead the international Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN).

Anthropologist Charles Redman, ecologist Nancy Grimm and engineer Mikhail Chester will evaluate the social, ecological and technical systems related to infrastructure, recognizing the values of all stakeholders – from city decision-makers to the citizens who will use and be affected by infrastructure. They will also work to understand the natural environment in which infrastructure operates and evaluate available infrastructure technology. The result will be a suite of tools supporting the assessment and implementation of urban infrastructure that is resilient, tailored to a particular city and safe-to-fail – versus fail-safe, which can be a dangerous illusion.

“By bringing this all together, I think we may be able to really talk to people who build the future,” says Redman. “From the first day of designing something like highways and power grids, we’re going to talk about how Earth’s systems work and how human institutions react. And we’re going to build for that. We’re going to build infrastructure to be more resilient and equitable and not just more efficient.”

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Vows and Values: Our Sustainable Wedding Story

July 17, 2015

Smiling bride and groom on sunny spring day
Photo by: Leanne Young of Leanne Michelle Photography

by Katie Peige Baker
School of Sustainability Alumna

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
our wedding was green
and sustainable too!

Brad and I met at Green Drinks, a networking group for environmental professionals. We both graduated from ASU’s School of Sustainability but never met during our undergraduate studies. Now, we are both sustainability professionals; I work for the Decision Center for a Desert City as the education and community outreach coordinator and Brad works for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality as a hazardous waste compliance officer.

We wanted to practice what we preach, teach and enforce while making a green statement by having an Earth Month wedding. So we pledged to have as little impact on the environment as possible within our budget, which ended up actually saving us a bunch of green.

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ASU among world’s top 50 universities for patents granted

June 16, 2015

Cover of Top 100 worldwide universities granted patents in 2014A new report from the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association – based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – ranks ASU among the world’s top 50 universities for the number of patents in 2014. The 48 patents issued to ASU researchers that year tied it for 44th, just ahead of Duke University. The ranking reflects the university’s dedication to conducting use-inspired research and building innovative technologies that contribute to our communities.

“The granting of 48 utility patents continues to demonstrate that our faculty and students are on the frontiers of science and at the forefront of developing new and meaningful technologies that extend to Arizona and beyond,” said sustainability scientist Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “As a rapidly growing research enterprise, these patents recognize the uniqueness of the work performed at ASU and the direct societal impact it has on the nation at large.”

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Urban Planning director named dean of social sciences

June 15, 2015

Wentz wearing an orange top and smiling Beginning July 1, Elizabeth Wentz – a professor and director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning – will assume a new role as dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

As a senior sustainability scientist with the ASU Wrigley Institute, Wentz is interested in restructuring cities to be more effective in the face of global climate change, as well as in the factors influencing single-family water demand. Her modeling efforts are reflected in the Decision Center for a Desert City-developed decision tool WaterSim, designed for use by local water managers. She also examines the tradeoffs between residential water and energy use.

“As a New American University, ASU is focused on being a global leader in elevating the stature of the social sciences as an integrative science,” said President Michael M. Crow. “Our teaching and discovery contributions range from global climate change to digital humanities, the geologic anthropocene and engineering solutions. All of which require comprehending and communicating human behavior, social dynamics, cultural differences and political interactions across broad geographic and time scales. Dr. Wentz has the background and experience to move us toward our goal.”

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Scientist recognized for collaborative approach to construction

June 10, 2015

sustainable-engineering-Mounir-El-AsmarMounir El Asmar, a senior sustainability scientist, has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his outstanding contributions to construction management and engineering.

El Asmar was presented the ASCE Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize on June 9 at the International Construction Specialty Conference in Canada for his research to quantify the performance of emerging construction project delivery systems. The ASCE award was based on the results of a project he led and reported on in a paper written with two colleagues, which was published in the ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.

“My work is about improving the performance of our built environment,” El Asmar says, “and our study shows this new approach offers real potential for major improvement in the industry.”

El Asmar is an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

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ASU experts advise World Bank Group on climate change investment

June 8, 2015

world-bank-investment-climate-workshopTo determine how investment in the developing world can impact and be impacted by climate change, the World Bank Group and its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, traveled to Arizona State University for expert sustainability advice.

On May 18, 2015, a diverse global cohort of 30 World Bank and IFC members gathered in Tempe for a two-day workshop. Here, seven prominent scientists from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability presented their research and insights on climate change. Specialized lectures, panels and discussions explored how the World Bank could contribute to climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, as well as how climate change findings would affect the operations and priorities of the bank.

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Scientist assists Navajo Nation in improving land-use planning

June 4, 2015

sustainability-navajo-land-planningDavid Pijawka, a senior sustainability scientist and professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has been awarded $80 thousand by the Navajo Nation to continue his work with its planning community.

The award comes after Pijawka and a team of researchers evaluated the processes, quality and outcomes of the Community-Based Land Use Plans developed by the Nation’s chapters. The team found that updates were needed, and recommended that they be guided by the latest technical planning knowledge, tools, methods and professional practices. In response, the Nation asked Pijawka to spearhead the effort.

The award will cover the production of two guidance documents, as well as training for the Nation’s regional and chapter planners. Training will occur both on-site and at a  ten-day workshop held in June 2015 on ASU’s Tempe campus, which will feature topics like community visioning and participation, geographic information systems, legal issues, and cultural and sovereignty considerations.

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ASU partners to improve Pakistan’s energy production

June 4, 2015

Solar Panel in SunOn June 3,  leaders from Arizona State University joined a ceremony in Islamabad to launch a five-year energy studies partnership with two leading Pakistani universities: National University of Science and Technology and the University of Engineering and Technology-Peshawar.

The $18-million project, known as the Partnership Center for Advanced Studies in Energy, was awarded to ASU by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It will work to improve power production in Pakistan, a nation that British economist Jim O’Neill said could be the 18th-largest economy in the world by 2050.

To achieve this, ASU staff will work with Pakistani counterparts on growing capacities in governance, curriculum, applied research, exchanges and scholarships, and institutional sustainability. The driving force will be graduate education and research.

Ultimately, project organizers envision a highly functioning center operating as seamlessly as possible between the two universities so they, in turn, can continue to find innovative and coordinated ways to boost Pakistan’s energy production.

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Walton Initiatives award students for sustainability solutions

June 4, 2015

Students pose with awards at Intel fairAt last month’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives presented six high school students with Walton Sustainability Solutions Awards. The awards recognized the students’ innovative solutions to societal challenges, including ebola prevention, waste management and carbon emissions.

“Our winners demonstrated how combining multiple disciplines can develop creative solutions to global challenges,” said Kelly Saunders, a program manager for the Walton Initiatives. “They don’t see some barriers experienced researchers see; it frees them to develop out-of-the-box solutions. They are relentless and resilient in the face of challenges.”

Each of the students will receive a prize of $2,500 to further their research and development.

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Two sustainability scientists receive ASU’s highest faculty honor

June 4, 2015

ASU sign shines in the sunSustainability scientists Edward Kavazanjian and Janet Franklin were among the four ASU professors named Regents’ Professors for the 2014-2015 academic year – the highest faculty honor at the university. This title recognizes full professors who have made exceptional achievements that have brought them national and international distinction.

Kavazanjian is particularly well known for his work on analysis, design and construction of landfills and waste-containment systems, especially under earthquake loading. His contributions in earthquake engineering have crucial importance to catastrophic events that occur with frequency.

Franklin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in April 2014 for her pioneering work employing geospatial data and spatial analytical tools to examine the evolving biodiversity of ecosystems over time, as they relate to the physical environment, ecological processes and human influences. Her research in spatial analysis using remote sensing and geographic information technologies has led to new discoveries concerning the changing landscape of the earth.

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Experts present plan to green Albania’s education system

June 4, 2015

Gary Dirks presents green schools study to Albanian audienceOn June 4, ASU Wrigley Institute Director Gary Dirks presented a plan – based on a study authored by sustainability scientist Mick Dalrymple – to transform Albania’s education system. The transformation would take place through a series of innovative, sustainable improvements to that nation’s 3,300 schools, could generate more than 220,000 new jobs and increase Albania’s gross domestic product by $880 million.

Among those in attendance during Dirks’ presentation, given in Albania’s capital of Tirana, were Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Education and Sports Lindita Nikolla.

Albanian leaders initially approached ASU’s sustainability experts for help in making its schools safe, stable and energy efficient. ASU’s Global Sustainability Solutions Services – a program within the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives – evaluated the opportunities, challenges, impacts and costs for “greening” Albania’s school buildings before developing a multi-tier approach to improving energy efficiency, air quality, indoor and outdoor facilities, and other design elements.

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Student Spotlight: Sharyn Tom

June 4, 2015

Senior Sharyn Tom presenting the “School of Sustainability’s Student Survival Guide.”

Sharyn Tom is a Spring 2015 graduate of the School of Sustainability, having earned a Bachelor of Science in the Economics of Sustainability track. She also obtained a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Prior to graduating, Tom shared her sustainability story with us. We look forward to hearing where her curiosity and passion for problem solving take her next!

Why did you choose to major in Sustainability?
Because I’m a dual citizen between Canada and the U.S., I would go to Vancouver, B.C. every summer to visit family. I was constantly inspired by the city’s sustainability advances in transportation, First Nations Law, urban planning, policy and conservation. I wanted to be part of the revolution that brought those wonderful things to Phoenix, and I saw the sustainability program at ASU as an opportunity to become knowledgeable in the field.

Why did you choose the Economics of Sustainability track?
I was completely inspired by ECN 360: Economic Development – a class I took with Todd Schoellman. It remains one of my favorite economics classes because it opened my eyes to new ways of applying my sustainability knowledge for good. Understanding key elements of economics – such as supply and demand, market movements and financial incentives – became a powerful part of building the business case for sustainability.

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Forum co-hosted by ASU asks “Should Phoenix exist?”

June 3, 2015

Panelists at Sustainability ForumOn June 2, Arizona State University-affiliate Zócalo Public Square hosted a sustainability forum titled “Should Phoenix Exist?” The forum examined how Phoenix came to be a thriving metropolis despite its desert location, the consequences of its rapid growth and what citizens should do to ensure its continued success.

Among the forum’s panelists were Sarah Porter, director of ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy at the Morrison Institute, and Andrew Needham, a New York University historian and author of “Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest.” According to Needham, Phoenix’s urban transformation came largely without an understanding by most people of the distances crucial resources must travel to get to a city in the middle of the desert.

All panelists agreed that the key to sustaining the Valley, in addition to strong and innovative leadership, is an informed population.

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Summer reading suggestions from sustainability experts

June 2, 2015

Summer-Reading-Sustainability-BooksAmong the summer reading recommendations shared by faculty and staff from across ASU in a recent ASU News article are several from the ASU Wrigley Institute.

Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Chuck Redman believes it is important to have a deeper understanding of poverty (for those of us lucky enough not to have experienced it firsthand), and suggests several books that could contribute to this. He was seriously moved by “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich, a writer who attempted to adopt the lifestyle of the working poor herself.

Redman adds that there are a variety of books on climate change that have reached the mass market and are quite readable. A bit more academic is Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers,” which tries to put the history, science and future into context. A bit less academic is Thom Hartmann’s “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.”

Brigitte Bavousett, a student recruitment and retention specialist for the School of Sustainability, requires Sustainable Cities students to read David Orr’s “The Nature of Design.” Although 13 years old and a “classic” in the field of sustainability, Bavousett says it is very thought-provoking and relevant to current concerns. The variety of topics ranges from “slow knowledge” to “loving children.”

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ASU, Argonne partner to tackle country’s greatest challenges

May 28, 2015

Argonne-ASU-SustainabilityTo facilitate a broad portfolio of research, Arizona State University has signed a five-year memorandum with the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.  The memorandum will establish a structure for ASU and Argonne to pursue novel research in areas including decision making based on climate variability and uncertainty; the impacts of global population dynamics and urbanization; the challenges of renewable energy practices; and creating innovative solutions to problems in energy, education and sustainability.

It became apparent that the two institutions shared a belief in the power of interdisciplinary and cooperative research during ongoing work on the Foresight Initiative. The $20 million, five-year project brings together knowledge and capabilities from a variety of organizations, including Argonne’s Global Security Sciences Division. Led by sustainability scientist Nadya Bliss, it aims to develop an integrated computational platform that will enable decision makers to explore how climate change and future resource contention could contribute to political unrest and instability.

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Developing tangible solutions through transdisciplinary collaboration

May 26, 2015

Innovation-Space-design-sustainabilityMuch like the plot of a superhero-team comic, many of today’s greatest challenges can only be overcome when the unique strengths of the resolute are combined.

Arizona State University’s InnovationSpace®, a yearlong product-design and -development program intent on tackling societal challenges, recognizes this.

That’s why the program – initially a venture among ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, W. P. Carey School of Business and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering – opted to diversify its disciplinary profile even further by including the School of Sustainability this past academic year.

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Sustainability scientist named vice provost for inclusion, engagement

May 26, 2015

Rebecca-Tsosie-Sustainability-ScientistRebecca Tsosie, a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist and Regents’ Professor in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, has been appointed vice provost for inclusion and community engagement.

In her new role, Tsosie will help the Arizona State University community further understand and learn how to address complex issues associated with race, gender, ethnicity, religion and other forms of diversity. She will offer guidance to university administrators and work in collaboration with campus organizations, such as the Committee for Campus Inclusion and the Faculty Women’s Association, in order to operationalize ASU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Tsosie is committed to transdisciplinary research and treasures her broader connections to other academic units on campus. She hopes to develop a transformative model of inclusion and community engagement that will set an important standard for leadership in higher education.

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ASU scientists gather in D.C. to tackle phosphorus sustainability

Institute Press Releases

May 18, 2015

sustainable-phosphorous-conferenceTempe, Ariz. — Researchers from Arizona State University, along with more than 40 other scientists, engineers, technical experts and policy makers from around the world, are convening in Washington, D.C. May 18-21 to study ways to create a sustainable phosphorus (P) fertilizer system.

The use of phosphorus, a key component of fertilizers, is increasing around the world. As a result, the runoff of phosphorus from farms and cities is creating noxious algal blooms, which often lead to “dead zones” in rivers, lakes and coastal oceans.

Furthermore, the price of phosphate rock used for fertilizer production is increasing and uncertainty surrounds the long-term reliability of these rock supplies, as they are distributed from just a few countries. Many experts believe humanity’s phosphorus use has already exceeded “safe boundaries” and are calling for solutions both to protect water quality and assure long-term reliable supplies of P for fertilizer.

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Engineers report upgrades needed to climate-proof power supply

May 18, 2015

Climate-Change-Power-EnergyAccording to research by ASU engineers Mikhail Chester and Matthew Bartos, electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the Western United States must be “climate-proofed” to diminish the risk of future power shortages.

In their article in the current issue of Nature Climate Change, the researchers say expected increases in extreme heat and drought events will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity. They report that the current infrastructure of power stations makes them particularly vulnerable to these conditions and that, unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies, their energy-generating capacity could be significantly constrained.

The researchers are examining alternative technologies like hydroelectric, wind and combustion turbines, steam and photovoltiacs because renewable energy sources are generally less susceptible to climate change impacts.

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Sustainability professor joins board of national foundation

May 14, 2015

DSC7499bsWASHINGTON, DC – NEEF (the National Environmental Education Foundation) announced today the appointment of Dr. George Basile to its Board of Directors.  Dr. Basile is a Professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University (ASU), a Senior Sustainability Scientist in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and Affiliate Professor in the School of Public Affairs.  He was recently the Swedish Knowledge Foundation’s Distinguished International Guest Professor of Sustainability-Driven Innovation.

Dr. Basile’s work has reframed sustainability as a “decision space” and focuses on how to plan, lead, and act strategically for emerging sustainability opportunities and challenges.  Dr. Basile has been the executive director of the ASU Decision Theater, a unique systems exploration and application center. He has also served as a faculty affiliate and advisor to The Sustainability Consortium, a global nonprofit organization working to transform the consumer goods industry by developing tools and strategies that address environmental, social and economic imperatives.

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