Use-inspired research with purpose and impact
The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability research is transdisciplinary, bringing together multiple disciplines and leaders to create and share knowledge.
Projects listed on this page represent a sampling of the work conducted by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, School of Sustainability, and our many sustainability scientists and scholars across ASU.
ASU conducts use-inspired research, developing practical solutions to pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges of sustainability, especially as they relate to urban areas. Over the last 10 years, ASU has emerged as the country’s fastest-growing research university among those with $100 million+ in annual research expenditures—ahead of Harvard, Yale, Duke and others. source: 2017 ASU in review – Inspiring the nation’s top innovators
This project investigates urbanization's impact on the ecological homogenization of the American Residential Macrosystem (ARM) in terms of plant biodiversity, soil carbon and nitrogen cycle pools and processes, microclimate, hydrography, and land cover.
Aquatic Fate and Toxicity of III-V Materials in the Presence of Nanoparticles Used in Industrial Polishing Processes
The growing application of III-V materials (e.g., gallium indium arsenide) in semiconductor and electronics manufacturing is expected to lead to generation of large volumes of wastewaters containing III-V metals (arsenic (As), gallium (Ga) and indium (In)) and metal oxide nanoparticles (SiO2, Al2O3 and CeO2). The potential that these engineered nanoparticles (NPs) may act as carriers of toxic III-V species and modify the reactivity of the NPs themselves is a concern. This project aims to quantify the adsorption of III-V materials by NPs and explore how these interactions impact the environmental fate, biological uptake, and aquatic toxicity of III-V species and NPs.
ASU NanoFab is a flexible nano-processing facility at Arizona State University that offers state-of-the-art device processing and characterization tools for university research and for external company prototype development. Established companies and innovative start-ups especially can benefit from using this advanced facility to accelerate their prototype development. We provide the facility, equipment and resources for a full range of operations—from the wet world of biosystems and chemistry to the dry world of inorganic materials, as well as the hybrid structures in between.
The Bob Ramsey Executive Education Program provides innovative professional development programs and customized services that build the capacity of people and organizations that serve the public. The Certificate in Public Administration for International Leaders includes topics such as leadership, collaboration, public-private partnerships, community conflict resolutions, pollution, urban challenges and opportunities, information technology, and electronic government practices.
Through interdisciplinary projects integrating natural sciences, social science, and engineering, the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project examines the effects of urbanization on a desert ecosystem and vice versa.
Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative leverages trans-disciplinary relationships to address complex global challenges in health, sustainability, security and education by creating entirely new technologies and novel solutions. This requires integration of diverse research disciplines across the University and building an extended network of global collaborations.
Connection One is a National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Center working closely with private industry and the federal government on various projects in RF and wireless communication systems, networks, remote sensing, and homeland security. The Center's mission is to develop the technology to enable end-to-end communication systems for a variety of applications, ranging from cellular to environmental and defense applications. One aspect of the research is the development of integrated RF and wireless circuits-on-a-chip to simplify and enable a small, portable, all-in-one communication device. An additional research focus is the development of efficient architectures and routing techniques for networked applications.
This CAREER award will support a promising early-career investigator's efforts to build key theories and techniques of a cyber-knowledge infrastructure that enhances access, search, and reasoning capabilities for using geospatial data across the ever-expanding Web.
The Decision Center for a Desert City conducts climate, water, and decision research and develops innovative tools to bridge the boundary between scientists and decision makers and put their work into the hands of those whose concern is for the sustainable future of Greater Phoenix.
The Decision Theater Network actively engages researchers and leaders to visualize solutions to complex problems. The Network provides the latest expertise in collaborative, computing and display technologies for data visualization, modeling, and simulation. The Network addresses cross-disciplinary local, national and international issues by drawing on Arizona State University’s diverse academic and research capabilities.
Decoupling Structure and Surface Chemistry Impacts of Carbon Nanomaterials on Environmentally Relevant Electrochemical and Biological Activity
Nanomaterials are engineered at the molecular level to modify their structure and functional properties, which in turn, enables the development of innovative nano-enabled technologies. However, these same property manipulations have the potential to influence the adverse impacts of these engineered nanomaterials. It is therefore, critically important to drive the development of safe and functional nano-enabled products.
This research will develop a biome classification system for streams to better understand how streams function and provide an ability to predict how streams will change from human and environmental factors.
Dimensions US-China: Collaborative Research: Phylogenetic, Functional, and Genetic Diversity and Ecosystem Functions in a Fragmented Landscape
This project - jointly funded with the Chinese National Science Foundation (NSFC) - will study the relationships among ecological/evolutionary measures of biodiversity, and ecosystem functions. In particular, the investigators will investigate the hypothesis that succession drives changes in biodiversity, which in turn causes altered ecosystem function.
The Drought-Net Research Coordination Network was established to advance understanding of the determinants of terrestrial ecosystem responses to drought by bringing together an international group of scientists to conduct three complementary research coordination activities: 1) planning and coordinating new research using standardized measurements to leverage the value of existing drought experiments across the globe, 2) finalizing the design and facilitating the establishment of a new international network of coordinated drought experiments, and 3) training highly motivated graduate students to conduct synthetic and network-level research through Distributed Graduate Seminars focused on drought.
EASM-3: Collaborative Research: Physics-based Predictive Modeling for Integrated Agricultural and Urban Applications
A collaborative and interdisciplinary team from Arizona State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research jointly develops integrated agricultural and urban models necessary to examine hydroclimatic impacts and economic and social benefits/tradeoffs associated with agricultural and urban land use/cover changes accompanying localization of food production within cities.
The "Urban Air" project studies the exchange of chemical elements between land and atmosphere in urban systems.
The Wells Fargo Regional Sustainability Teachers’ Academies brings together a high caliber group of passionate K‐12 teachers in order to develop sustainability projects in their local classrooms, schools, and communities. Through these workshops, the teachers learn about global sustainability issues and their role as sustainability change agents in their own community.
Effects of Flow Regime Shifts, Antecedent Hydrology, Nitrogen Pulses and Resource Quantity and Quality on Food Chain Length in Rivers
The study will provide fundamental information on how the timing of floods and droughts across years influences water quality (nitrate inputs to rivers), primary production, and the production of animals higher in the food web, such as fish. The researchers will produce a synthesis of research in hydrology and ecology to improve the management of arid land rivers.
Emergent Computation in Collective Decision Making by the Crevice-Dwelling Rock Ant Temnothorax rugalulus
In this project the PIs will utilize recently developed information-theoretic tools from complex systems research, typically applied to artificial life systems, to assess how a real biological system manages distributed information to perform a collective computational task. This research will provide new applications of mathematical and computational tools for use by scientists and will provide important insights in issues of broader concern such as colony collapse disorder observed in honeybees.
Empowerment for Peace through Leadership in Agribusiness and Sustainability; Eradicating Poverty in Rural Communities
Arizona State University (USA), Gandhi Research Foundation (India), and Jain Irrigation Systems, Ltd. (multinational company headquartered in India) have partnered to create EmPeace LABS (Empowerment for Peace through Leadership in Agribusiness and Sustainability), a training and leadership program committed to building a strong foundation for global peace by preparing young professionals for leadership in agri-business and sustainability. This unique project will create a global network that supports the realization of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by connecting agricultural and capacity-building organizations with community leaders from participating countries.
ESPI's objective is to to establish a strong program of research and policy engagement to understand and analyze the social dynamics of past, present, and future energy systems.
This collaborative project aims to adapt the hollow-fiber membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR), now used for water treatment, to deliver the low-solubility gases directly to a biofilm that grows on the outer surface of a hollow-fiber membrane and utilizes the gas as a substrate. The membrane-based biofilm avoids direct gas-liquid mass transfer, which normally slows the rate of H2 and CO delivery. The over-arching goal is to adapt the MBfR for the production of valuable chemicals from syngas.
Flexible Model Compositions and Visual Representations for Planning and Policy Decisions at the Sub-regional Level of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus
In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on the processes and interactions among food, energy, and water systems, or the so-called food-energy-water (FEW) nexus, and the resulting implications for sustainability, resilience, and security. Food represents agricultural trade and consumption and is a critical component of a region's economy. Energy is required to supply and treat water for agriculture, municipal, and industrial uses, as well as to mechanize agricultural activities. Water is used for human and industrial consumption, crop irrigation, and energy production. While the multifaceted interactions between food, energy and water are often framed as threats or stresses of one system upon the others, basic understanding of the feedback dynamics is necessary for identifying synergies and potential efficiencies. The overarching goal of this research is to develop basic interdisciplinary scientific understanding of food, energy, and water system dynamics to inform an integrated modeling, visualization, and decision support infrastructure for comprehensive FEW systems.
This project will complete a Life-Cycle Analysis (a technique used to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life) on the products coming from Upper Egyptian farmers. The analysis will help researchers to identify inefficiencies, inequities and opportunities for improvements throughout the life of the product.
Fostering Engineering Identity and Support Structures to Promote Entry and Persistence in Engineering for First-Generation Students
Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with the Maricopa County Community Colleges District and K-12 school districts along with industry partners, Honeywell, Intel, and Texas Instruments, and the Helios Education Foundation will implement an NSF Design and Development Launch Pilot to address the broadening participation objectives of enhancing entry and persistence of underrepresented groups in engineering.
Foundations of Social and Ethical Responsibility among Undergraduate Engineering Students: Comparing across Time, Institutions, and Interventions
This study responds to gaps in existing knowledge of social and ethical responsibility by asking the following research questions: 1) What do engineering students perceive as responsible (and irresponsible) professional conduct, and what do they perceive as socially just (and unjust) technical practices?, and 2) how do foundational measures and understandings of social and ethical responsibility change during a four-year engineering degree program, both in general and in relation to specific kinds of learning experiences?
The Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative (formerly the Consortium for Biosocial Complex Systems) generates fresh insight into global challenges and transforms their findings into real-life applications that improve the human condition. The mission is to develop and promote a new science of biosocial system dynamics that uses a complex systems paradigm, computational thinking and quantitative methods to forge a new and holistic understanding of life and society. Through dynamical discussions, visiting scholars, lecture series, major research projects and novel courses and degree programs, we are rapidly solidifying the science that holds the key to solving our most complex challenges. We are committed to fostering diversity in STEM education, and actively recruit students from diverse backgrounds who are strong on potential, but may be lacking opportunities and mentors.
The Global Ethnohydrology Study is a multi-year transdisciplinary project using data collected with local communities from around the globe. The goal is to better theorize how people understand and adapt to the everyday challenges of getting enough safe water, and to explicate the health and psychological impacts of that struggle.
GlobalResolve was established at ASU in 2006 as a social entrepreneurship program designed to enhance the educational experience for interested and qualified ASU students by involving them in semester-long projects that directly improve the lives of underprivileged people, and/or those in underdeveloped nations throughout the world.
This pilot project seeks to establish a model for other communities to employ as they consider the future of food in their regions.
Contributors, including senior academics, community members, and students, raise questions about the consequences of ecological transformation and control for wildlife, plants, and the human-nature relationship. They examine both traditional notions of stewardship (e.g., the idea of overlooking) and also cultural blindspots in traditional modes of interacting with nature.
Contributors to the archive of Hope and Cautionary Tales have undertaken to create a digital archive of stories about how scholars and community members are collaborating on projects that work towards increased environmental sustainability and social justice
NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Sites are NSF-funded entities established at universities whose purpose is to nurture and support multiple, local teams to transition their technology concepts into the marketplace. Sites provide infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training and modest funding to enable groups to transition their work into the marketplace or into becoming I-Corps Team applicants. I-Corps Sites also strengthen innovation locally and regionally and contribute to the National Innovation Network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors.
Increasing Learning and Efficacy about Emerging Technologies through Transmedia Engagement by the Public in Science-in-Society Activities
The primary goal of this project is to create, distribute, and study a set of three integrated activities that involve current and enduring science-in-society themes, building on these themes as first presented in Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, which will be celebrating in 2018 the 200th anniversary of its publication in 1818.
This project seeks to understand the migration dynamics of highly educated migrants. Using the "intellectual migration" framework and empirically connecting China and the United States, the research aims to understand the who, why, and where, of intellectual migration and examine how country-specific policies impact intellectual migration. This project will contribute to ideas about the movement of people between countries and what motivates them, and adds a geographical dimension to the understanding of the migration of the highly educated.
People living in cities in all regions of the world are experiencing increases in extreme events like floods and heat waves. Urban decision makers need help to develop ways to meet this challenge that are based in scientific understanding. This International Research Experience for Students (IRES) grant is linked to the Urban Resilience to Extremes (UREx) Sustainability Research Network (SRN). The grant will support three graduate students and one undergraduate student each year for ten weeks work in Valdivia, Chile (2017); Hermosillo, Mexico (2018); and in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (2019).
ASU LightWorks® is a multidisciplinary effort to leverage ASU's unique strengths, particularly in renewable energy fields including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics.
The primary objective of this project is to understand how long-term climate variability influences the structure and function of desert streams.
Multiscale Effects of Climate Variability and Change on Hydrologic Regimes, Ecosystem Function, and Community Structure in a Desert Stream and Its Catchment
This project focuses on using new statistical techniques that describe hydrological regimes, coupled with long-term measurements of stream structure and processes, to understand how shifts in climate and river discharge regimes on many time scales will influence the ecosystem.
The goals of the Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest are to build a Southwest regional infrastructure for nanotechnology discovery and innovation, to address societal needs through education and entrepreneurship, and to serve as a model site of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI)..
The objective of this project is to evaluate non-oxidizing biocides effectiveness in controlling harmful biological agents and pathogens in drinking water.
Humanities for the Environment is an international system of Observatories. ASU serves as the headquarters of the North American Observatory. The aim of the Humanities for the Environment (HfE) Observatories, funded in its first phase by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is to identify, explore, and demonstrate the contributions that humanistic and artistic disciplines can make to understanding and engaging with global environmental challenges.
This survey studies the relationships between people and the natural environment in the Phoenix metro area.
Challenges associated with a rapidly rising global population, that is increasingly food-insecure and lacks fundamental awareness of how to build tomorrow's sustainable cities, necessitate urgent study in light of a rapidly urbanizing planet. Unrelenting urban population growth -- an increase of more than 2.5 billion new urban inhabitants is projected by 2050, relative to 2011 -- requires considerable conversion of natural to agricultural (to meet increased food demand) and to urban (to meet increased commercial, housing, and transportation demand) landscapes. The overarching goal of this team, consisting of computational and climate scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, geoscientists, and social scientists, is to develop high-resolution physics-based, coupled, dynamic, and predictive capabilities that not only characterize current multi-scale environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with agricultural productivity within cities but also enable the prediction of future impacts.
Potential and emerging impacts of the changing institutional landscape on the global exchange of genetic resources for food and agriculture (GRFA)
This project, funded by the USAID Bureau of Food Security, aims to identify the potential and emerging impact of the Nagoya Protocol and other international policies on the global exchange and use of genetic resources for food, agriculture, and development. It is motivated by the simultaneous increase in demand for global research collaboration and the rise of institutional constraints over biological materials.
This project is to increase the participation of Native Americans within the engineering professoriate through better understanding of how and why Native American engineering students choose to pursue (or not) an academic career path.
The goal of this project is to understand the role of emergent response organizations in mitigating disaster risks during the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. To achieve this goal, the research team explores the development and subsequent role of emergent, volunteer response organizations like #RedNeckNavy in the disaster relief effort. Such organizations were constituted by communication on social media platforms such as Twitter and Zello.
Specifying how sugar moves to various tissues within the plant will allow scientists to develop strategies to optimize sugar translocation in crops that increase yield while reducing the environmental impacts of production agriculture.
The Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (MTBI) summer program trains undergraduates through cutting-edge research and intensive mentoring experiences in the applied mathematical sciences. This eight-week summer research program is open to college juniors and seniors who are interested in learning quantitative methods and carrying out research on intriguing applications of math to their day-to-day lives.
Over the past several decades, hundreds of glaciers in mountainous regions have been melting, leaving behind new glacier lakes holding millions of cubic meters of water. Usually contained by dams of loose boulders and soil, these lakes present a risk of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). As the number and extent of these lakes grows, so does the flood risk for communities downstream of them, potentially leading to extensive loss of lives and severe damage to transport infrastructure, hydroelectric power facilities and agriculture. This project will look at the factors that lead to GLOFs, and the measures that local populations can take to adapt to this increasing threat.
Small World/Big Bodies is a multi-year and multi-sited project tackling the complex question of how and why stigmatizing attitudes toward overweight and obese bodies are becoming more negative and spreading even as obesity becomes more common.
Arizona State University's Solar Power Lab serves a staging ground for the new technologies and ideas that will move us forward in our quest for a more sustainable society.
This project undertakes archaeological and paleoecological research in the Basin of Mexico to find out how political and environmental shifts shaped people's lives, as well as how people's responses to these circumstances contributed to regional change.
The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance is a nonprofit organization driven to innovate and implement solutions to the phosphorus challenge. Our mission is to be North America’s central forum and advocate for the sustainable use, recovery, and recycling of phosphorus in the food system.
The goals of this project are to determine which factors impede and facilitate Sustainable Procurement Policies adoption and implementation, recommend immediate actions in order for governments to advance their Sustainable Procurement Policies more effectively, and encourage state/local governments that lack Sustainable Procurement Policies to consider implementing them within their jurisdictions.
This research project is taking advantage of an ongoing outbreak of the South American locust (Schistocerca cancellata) to test the hypothesis that the ability for S. cancellata to attain a balance of nutrients optimal for growth limits their capacity to maintain persistent high populations over broad regions of South America. Locusts are a major challenge for food security globally, with outbreaks causing 80-100% crop losses. In the future, working collaboratively with government plant protection agencies, this research can be directly applied to strategies to improve livelihoods, human and environmental health, and global food security. Moreover, this award will support postdoctoral and student training, and cross-cultural exchange.
The Household Independent Power Project (HIPP) conducts investigations and engagement around personal and household-scale decisions, innovation, and behavior related to broader questions of sustainable energy system transition.
This project will address several fundamental issues in the statistical analysis of local processes through three types of multi-scale models that recently have been developed. Such research is important because all data collected in both biophysical and social environments results from a variety of processes, and a fundamental characteristic of many processes is the geographic scale at which they occur.
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is a global organization dedicated to improving the sustainability of consumer products.
Urban areas are vulnerable to extreme weather related events given their location, high concentration of people, and increasingly complex and interdependent infrastructure. Impacts of Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and other disasters demonstrate not just failures in built infrastructure, they highlight the inadequacy of institutions, resources, and information systems to prepare for and respond to events of this magnitude. The Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN) will develop a novel theoretical framework for integrating social, ecological, and technological system (SETS) dimensions for conceptualizing, analyzing, and supporting urban infrastructure decisions in the face of climatic uncertainty in a more holistic way.
The network, a consortium of academic institutions and key partners across the U.S., include research, engagement and educational programs that address challenges that threaten urban water systems. The mission of UWIN is to create technological, institutional, and management solutions to help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.
This study addresses the questions: How does precipitation affect the above/belowground partitioning of carbon? During drought periods, are above and belowground structures equally affected, or are roots affected less than leaves and branches? Finally, is the effect of precipitation on carbon allocation constant or does it vary from deserts to humid grasslands?