ASU Wrigley Institute News

Aid agencies in unique position to integrate sustainable solutions

July 29, 2014

fnahziFron Nahzi, Global Business Development Director for Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, authored a recent article in The World Post titled “When Donor Driven Programs Work.” In the article, Nahzi discusses the importance of incorporating sustainability practices into government aid programs like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Nahzi posits that finding sustainable solutions to energy, water, transportation and livelihood quandaries ensures a better investment by the American taxpayer.

USAID is in a particularly favorable position to assume a sustainable approach to international development, according to Nahzi. Not only would doing so support changes called for by climate reports generated by both the United States and United Nations, but the organization already utilizes what Nahzi calls a system of “cross-cutting issues.” Additionally, the first Africa Leaders’ Summit is being held at the White House next week, presenting a great opportunity for USAID to incorporate sustainable solutions into its foreign aid programs.

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Program brings environmental education to disadvantaged children

July 24, 2014

alexis_lauren_homeward_bound1Ecology Explorers is a K-12 program run by Central Arizona – Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAPLTER) that focuses on environmental education outreach. By working with Homeward Bound, a residential community for families fleeing domestic abuse, Ecology Explorers provides educational enrichment to children that are not well-served by typical science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Over the past year, Ecology Explorers interns, student workers and graduate fellows designed and delivered lessons to groups of 10-15 children four times a semester. Fall lessons focused on urban ecology and microclimates, while the spring lessons ranged from understanding the water cycle to considering the effects of pollution on the environment. The lessons are intended to provide a foundation for future learning, as well as to help the children understand and appreciate the environment around them.

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Sustainability board member to chair international economic council

July 22, 2014

Bill McDWilliam McDonough, a world-renowned architect, educator and author as well as a member of the Board of Directors for Sustainability at ASU, has been appointed chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Circular Economy. The meta-council represents the forum’s multi-sector initiative to accelerate business-driven innovation in order to scale the circular economy. Rooted in restorative principles, a circular economy is achieved using thoughtful design to implement renewable energy while minimizing both toxic chemicals and waste.

McDonough is known internationally for his revolutionary Cradle to Cradle framework, which relies on the sustainable design of products and systems. As chair of the meta-council, he will oversee the forum’s effort to demonstrate the real-world application of a circular economy’s economic, social and environmental benefits. This will be done through targeted programs that aim to elevate the discussion to a global audience. With McDonough’s guidance and strategic insights, the Meta-Council on the Circular Economy will convene top-tier international companies, stakeholders, policymakers and other business influencers to identify systemic changes necessary for shifting to a sustainable global economy.

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Trail Magic: Why Trails Are Good for You, Your Economy, and Things that Matter

Thought Leader Series

July 20, 2014

Rick Heffernon Arizona Trail SustainabilityA Thought Leader Series Piece

By Rick Heffernon

Note: July is Park and Recreation Month, created in 1985 to celebrate and encourage parks, recreation, and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. In this essay, Rick Heffernon discusses the quality-of-life benefits of trails like the Arizona Trail, for which he has served as a trail steward for more than 15 years.

People need trails. Seriously.

Work, home, kids, plans, commitments, life — they’re all stressful. Even happy events, like vacations, promotions, marriage, graduation, and success can provide a potent lump of stress. Trails, however, offer a cure.

Healthy Benefits of Trails
Take a quiet energizing walk down a rambling trail lined by majestic trees and nodding flowers and you immediately feel a therapeutic break from the everyday. Trail walks soothe our bodies from head to toe, both physically and mentally. They can pull us back from the brink and reinvigorate our spirits. Plus, trails make us smarter. Stuck on a difficult problem? Just take a long walk and you’ll likely find a solution.

Trails also provide a litany of other happy benefits. Among these are improved fitness, access to clean air, reduced traffic congestion, preservation of open space, protection of natural resources, and the simple joy of self-propulsion.

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Weighing the benefits and costs of gene-modifying technology

July 17, 2014

jimcollinsJames Collins, a senior sustainability scientist and evolutionary ecologist at ASU, leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers studying the role of host-pathogen interactions in species decline and extinction.  Through a paper published in the journal Science, the team aims to initiate a conversation about the scientific, ethical and regulatory issues that could arise from the use of a genetic engineering technology called gene drives.

Using a new genome-editing tool, scientists can, in principle, accurately insert, replace, delete or regulate genes in many different bisexual species. The technology could be used to eliminate insect-borne diseases like malaria, eradicate invasive species and reverse pesticide and herbicide resistance. Nonetheless, there are concerns regarding unexpected and possibly harmful side effects.

Collins’ paper proposes instituting safety measures to control these possible effects. It suggests that gene drives be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the trait, species and ecosystem in question. Controlled testing in laboratories located in areas where target species can’t survive and reproduce, or development of an alteration-reversing version for every single gene drive are additional examples of precautionary actions.

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Scientist discusses wearable sensors at sustainable health forum

July 11, 2014

lee hartwellLee Hartwell, distinguished sustainability scientist and chief scientist for the Center for Sustainable Health, was among the speakers at the Forum for Sustainable Health, an annual event hosted by ASU’s Center for Sustainable Health. This year, the forum served as a formal kick-off the Center’s new “Project HoneyBee,” an endeavor to develop wearable sensors that improve patient outcomes while reducing costs.

According to Hartwell, who underscored the current technological challenges of the wearable sensors market, the task of will not be easy. “Within 10 years, every patient will be monitored by devices,” he says. “While there are lots of new discoveries, the translation into the clinic for utility is nearly zero. We need to create a process to make this technology reliable and useful, with new capabilities, to find out the best application that will have the greatest impact on medicine, and give patients control of their own health.”

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ASU-led study represents first step toward artificial photosynthesis

July 9, 2014

photosynthesisDepartment of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Petra Fromme and two distinguished sustainability scientists, Tom and Ana Moore, are among the authors of a study recently published in Nature. Through snapshots obtained using the world’s most powerful X-ray laser, the study presents the photosynthetic process as water is split into protons, electrons and oxygen.

This study represents a significant first step toward the development of artificial systems that not only mimic, but surpass the efficiency of natural systems. By revealing the mechanism of the water splitting process, researchers are closer to reaching one of the major goals of the ASU Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production: the creation of an artificial leaf.

This work builds on Fromme’s earlier work, which used the same X-ray laser to determine the structure of a protein. Named by Science Magazine as one of the Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2012, researchers used 178,875 individual laser pulses to generate a diffraction pattern that helped them to decipher the protein’s structure.

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DCDC co-director discusses Lake Mead’s historic drop on KJZZ

July 9, 2014

lake-mead-may-2009According to a report released by the Bureau of Reclamation, Lake Mead — the reservoir created by Hoover Dam — is expected to drop to a level not seen since it was initially filled in the 1930s. Because Lake Mead serves as a major source of the Southwest’s Colorado River water, the drop has certain implications for Arizona. Dave White, senior sustainability scientist and co-director of Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), discussed several of these during an interview with KJZZ “Here and Now” host Steve Goldstein.

“State and regional water resource managers deserve accolades for the last 100 years of water management and the effectiveness of those strategies to support the economic growth and development of the region,” White said. “What we need to do now is focus the conversation on the next 100 years, because there are new sets of problems ahead where our historical solutions will not be effective.”

The lake is anticipated to decline to a level of 1,081.75 feet during the week of July 7, and to 1,080 feet around November of this year. The Bureau of Reclamation says that water obligations to states like Arizona, California and Nevada will be met at least through next year.

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ASU engineering team is one of 16 selected for EcoCAR 3 competition

July 8, 2014

ecocar3_-_teamASU is one of sixteen universities selected to participate in EcoCAR 3, a competition launched by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Co. The competition represents an effort to bring the automotive industry into a cleaner energy future while providing engineering students with real-world training. Over the next four years, a team of automotive-engineering students from the Polytechnic Campus will work to transform a Chevrolet Camaro into an energy efficient vehicle that operates using fossil fuels.

According to a recent Arizona Republic article, each of the 16 competing universities will receive $63 million in the form of hardware, software and other funds. During the first year, the universities will use these funds to design prototypes using software and simulations. They will then assemble their prototypes during the second year, refine them during the third year and add any finishing touches while launching marketing campaigns during the final year. Abdel Mayyas, engineering faculty lead of the project, says that the EcoCAR 3 competition represents an opportunity for ASU to be recognized as a top automotive-engineering program in the western U.S.

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Seed grant engages citizens in Arizona water management

July 7, 2014

Monica_Elser_800pxMonica Elser, education manager for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, was awarded a Citizen Science and Engagement seed grant along with Dara Wald, a Center for Policy Informatics (CPI) postdoctoral fellow. The grant, presented by the Office of the Vice President for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will develop the project “Citizen Science to Forecast the Future of a Desert City,” which builds on current research efforts at both CPI and Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC).

The project aims to develop a web-based water-reporting site, MyFuturePhoenix, to engage citizens in water management efforts. Initially, high school students will track, classify and analyze personal water use data. Once connected to WaterSim, a water policy and management simulation model developed by DCDC, participants will be able to visualize the collective effect of water use decisions made today on the Phoenix area in the year 2050.

According to Wald, “This citizen science initiative has the potential to contribute data that is currently not available for university researchers, and to collect much more data than one agency or researcher could collect alone.”

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New energy certificate aims to advance solar expertise on global scale

July 2, 2014

biodesign-solararray-0033A new Solar Energy Engineering & Commercialization certificate aims to provide engineers like those leading renewable energy development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with the specialized training they require. The three-week program focuses on solar technologies with particular emphasis on their production and application. The curriculum also explores the social and environmental aspects of the industry, as well as project management, finance, economics and supply chain management.

An additional attraction of the program is that it can be customized to meet the specific needs of individual companies, agencies and other organizations. Through a partnership with Tempe-based First Solar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of thin-film solar cells, a custom version was developed to educate engineers with the Dubai Energy and Water Authority (DEWA). This partnership represents an effort to support the Green Economy for Sustainable Development Initiative launched by Dubai’s leaders, as well as an aspiration to advance solar energy expertise throughout the world.

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Partnership with US territory to transform energy use and education

July 2, 2014

Virgin IslandsAs an extension of its dedication to sustainability and global engagement, Arizona State University is partnering with the U.S. Virgin Islands to help the territory reduce fossil fuel consumption and transform renewable energy resource use. The partnership unites world-class ASU faculty with U.S. Virgin Islands leaders in the development of renewable energy practices, the invigoration of the renewable energy market and the expansion of energy education.

“We are excited to be partnering with the U. S. Virgin Islands and to help them develop new renewable energy practices and expand upon energy research and education,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “This collaboration is a great opportunity for the university to work side by side with the Virgin Island leaders, utilities and university to create solutions to sustainability challenges that face our communities locally and globally.”

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Sustainability scientist appointed Howard Hughes professor

June 30, 2014

anbar2014-editAriel Anbar, a distinguished sustainability scientist and biogeochemist, has been selected as Arizona State University’s first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. The Maryland-based biomedical research institute announced its 15 appointments, representatives of 13 universities, on June 30. This honor recognizes Anbar as a pioneer in his field and includes a five-year, $1 million grant to support his research and educational activities.

Since the inception of the institute’s professor program in 2002, and including the new group of 2014 professors, only 55 scientists have received Howard Hughes Medical Institute appointments. These professors are regarded as accomplished research scientists working to change undergraduate science education in the United States. Anbar was named an ASU President’s Professor in 2013 in recognition of his efforts to enhance online education. He is dedicated to developing the medium so as to better educate and encourage a generation that has grown up with the Internet.

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Scientist promotes conservation through worldwide workshops

June 30, 2014

pearsonAfter encountering a number of Latin American school children who were unfamiliar with the species native to their home countries, Dave Pearson — a sustainability scientist and research professor in the School of Life Sciences — found that such knowledge was key to grasping concepts like conservation. This motivated him to host his first biodiversity workshop, which occurred while he was working toward his master’s degree in Peru. Thirty years later, Pearson travels the world, holding frequent biodiversity workshops for children, adults and university students alike.

In mid-July, Pearson will host yet another workshop, this one at the Peruvian Amazonian Research Institute in Iquitos, Peru. Here he will teach dozens of university students about critical thinking, the scientific method and sustainable biodiversity. Such workshops are part of Pearson’s broader plan, which is to empower the people of each country he visits to solve ecological problems in their own way. He states that other conservation efforts have failed because foreign solutions do not necessarily work for everyone.

“…when I visit other countries…I work with them rather than tell them how things work,” Pearson says. “…these are Peruvian problems with Peruvian solutions, and they know their culture well enough to make the changes their way.”

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National business magazine cites ASU’s carbon neutrality efforts

June 27, 2014

carbon neutralityA testament to ASU’s carbon neutrality efforts, a cover story in the June 2014 issue of Business Officer magazine titled “Going for Zero” cites multiple examples of the university’s sustainability features. The article’s opening paragraph references the 78,000 photovoltaic panels on ASU property, which outnumber its 76,000 students. It also features numerous quotes from Morgan R. Olsen, ASU’s executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer, which highlight the value of these infrastructure improvements.

 “On the research front, one of the things we can contribute is the training of millions of people we educate every year to become leaders of tomorrow,” Olsen is quoted as saying. “While in some respects higher education has a small physical footprint compared to the rest of world, from an environmental standpoint we have an outsized ability to have positive impact through our education mission.”

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Student tracks drought conditions using cosmic-ray sensor

June 26, 2014

drought sensor 2Under the supervision of sustainability scientist Enrique Vivoni, ecohydrology graduate student Adam Schreiner-McGraw is examining the effects of land cover changes on water cycle, as well as possible consequences for ecosystem functioning, runoff generation and soil erosion. Using solar-powered sensors affiliated with a National Science Foundation-supported project called COSMOS, Schreiner-McGraw is measuring soil moisture in four Southwestern ecosystems.

The cosmic-ray sensors, which are roughly the size of a person and shaped like a space shuttle, are particularly useful because they provide a single soil moisture value for a large region. This average assists in the tracking of drought conditions and improves water management. Schreiner-McGraw hopes that the measurements obtained by these soil moisture sensors can be used to enhance watershed hydrology models, which commonly assess the impacts of land cover and climate change.

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Sustainable Agriculture: The Future is Biological

Thought Leader Series

June 19, 2014

Tony-Michaels-bioag-May14-smA Thought Leader Series Piece

By Dr. Anthony Michaels

Note: Dr. Anthony Michaels (Tony) is an internationally known environmental scientist who has been a leader in both academia and business. On May 15, 2014, Dr. Michaels became CEO of Midwestern BioAg, the industry leader in biological agriculture and one of the pioneers in sustainable food production.

Can We Feed Nine Billion People While Improving the Environment?
As the world population grows to nine billion people, we face many fundamental questions. How can we improve agricultural production to feed that many people? How can we improve farm economics? How can we reduce climate impacts, minimize the nitrogen runoff that creates dead zones in oceans and reverse soil erosion? How can we create nutrient-rich foods? I believe that a big part of the answer is biological agriculture.

Biological agriculture is an integrated farming system. It combines the best historical practices, honed over centuries, with the strength of the latest scientific discoveries. It promotes natural biological processes to dramatically improve agricultural yields and reduce farm costs.

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ASU awarded $20M to assess climate change risks and resilience

June 18, 2014

asu_nga_security_and_climate_change_foresight_initiativeIn an effort to anticipate and mitigate the national security risks associated with climate change, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has awarded Arizona State University a grant of $20 million. This five-year partnership known as the Foresight Initiative will examine how climate change affects resources and contributes to political unrest, as well as articulate sustainability and resilience strategies.

Leveraging computing and system modeling initiatives at ASU and with partner organizations, the Foresight Initiative will apply cloud technologies, advances in natural user interfaces and machine learning in order to address challenges driven by the volume and character of future persistent data flows. The resulting capabilities will not only allow analysts and decision-makers to interact with diverse data sets in a simulation environment, they will help them assess the effectiveness of plans, policies and decisions, as well. ASU departments that will be integral to this work include the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Public Programs, Decision Theater Network and Decision Center for a Desert City.

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ASU awards budding innovators at international Intel fair

June 17, 2014

kelly_with_winners1,700 high school students from more than 70 countries presented their sustainability-inspired innovations at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), held in Los Angeles from May 11-16. After standing before hundreds of scientists, professionals, professors and judges, five were presented with $2,500 ASU Sustainability Solutions Awards by Arizona State University’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.

The bright individuals honored for projects that go beyond academic boundaries to solve real-world issues are Lewis Nitschinsk from Australia, Hans Pande from Utah, Shreya Nandy and Kopal Gupta from India, and Naveena Bontha from Washington.

“We want to recognize these young leaders of our future to encourage them to pursue the solutions they create that address food security, climate change, health threats and more,” said Kelly Saunders, Sustainability Solutions Award presenter and project coordinator for the Initiative’s Sustainability Solutions Festival. “Our world’s future is represented by these students who want to make the world a better place.”

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Panchanathan appointed to National Science Board by President Obama

June 13, 2014

ASU Sustainability Scientist Sethuraman “Panch” PanchanathanArizona State University’s Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan has been appointed to the U.S. National Science Board, which serves as an advisory body to the U.S. President and Congress on science and engineering issues and establishes policies of the National Science Foundation.

Panchanathan, ASU’s senior vice president of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and the leader of ASU’s research, entrepreneurship and economic development efforts, is the first American of Indian origin to be appointed to this preeminent board.

“Panch exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and social responsibility that ASU aims to cultivate,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “It is fitting that he be on this important board so that his influence can extend to the benefit of the nation.”

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