Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekend Motie News Linkspam: Sustainability and food news from Michigan's research universities for the week of April 3-9, 2011

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It's the weekend, which means it's time for me to select this week's news from midwestern universities about food and sustainability. Once again, Michigan State University has pride of place as the first Michigan university mentioned with the only two food stories.


Michigan State University: MSU class building a better popcorn kernel

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A group of Michigan State University students is taking a course this semester that has the official title of “Science of the Foods we Love.” But most everybody knows it as the “popcorn course.”

That’s because in addition to teaching the students the finer points of scientific research, and how the worlds of science and industry come together, another result of the course might be a better kernel of popcorn.

With the help of a gift from ConAgra Foods, the maker of, among other things, Orville Redenbacher popcorn, the class is studying different aspects of popcorn (e.g., explosivity, hull thickness and kernel size distribution) as they relate to the overall quality of a popped bag of microwave popcorn.

Later this month the class will travel to ConAgra headquarters in Omaha, Neb., to present their findings to the company’s scientists.
As I wrote in one of my early linkspam posts:

The flip side of Purdue's concern with food is that it's very much in the pocket of industrial agriculture, and this article shows that relationship in unapologetic detail. Honestly, I find Michigan State University, where there is a program in organic agriculture that was created by student demand, to have a more progressive perspective, and MSU is also a land-grant agricultural college.
They may be more progressive, but they are still strongly connected to industrial agriculture.

Michigan State University: Oxygen sensor invention could benefit fisheries to breweries

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Monitoring oxygen levels in water has applications for oil spills, fish farming, brewing beer and more – and a professor at Michigan State University is poised to help supply that need.

The concept of oxygen sensors isn’t new. The challenge, however, has been manufacturing one that can withstand fluctuations in temperature, salinity, carbon dioxide, phosphates and biological wastes. Ruby Ghosh, associate professor of physics, was able to overcome those obstacles as well as build one that provides real-time data and is relatively inexpensive.
Constantly testing dissolved oxygen is critical in industries such as:

  • Aquaculture – where fish are raised in oxygen-rich, high-density environments.
  • Beverage manufacturing – which constantly monitors dissolved oxygen levels during the fermentation and bottling processes.
  • Biomedical research – which could use probes to further cancer research by detecting changes in oxygen dependence in relation to tumor growth.
  • Petroleum manufacturing – to monitor ocean oxygen levels and detect/prevent oil leaks in rugged, saltwater environments.
To test her prototypes, Ghosh and her students worked with Michigan’s fish farmers to see how they would hold up in a year-round, outdoor environment.

“My lab focuses on solving real-life problems through our technology,” Ghosh said. “Raising trout for recreational fishing is economically important to Michigan, and our prototype proved that our sensor performs well in the field and could help that industry thrive.”
Since the most read posts this month so far has been Detroit Food and Sustainability News for 4/4/11 and its popularity has been driven by Google searches for people searching for the news story about Russ Allen of Seafood Systems in Okemos and his proposal to raise shrimp in Detroit (Let's see what that phrase does for this post's Search Engine Optimization--muahahahahaha!), I decided to put this story about aquaculture above the fold as a food story.

News stories about sustainability, science, economy, politics, and law after the jump.


General Sustainability

University of Michigan: U-M's CCTC named 'Project of the Year'

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The American Public Works Association Michigan chapter has awarded the University of Michigan/AATA Central Campus Transit Center its "Project of the Year" award in the category of intergovernmental cooperation less than $5 million.

The Project of the Year award promotes excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the partnership between the university, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA/TheRide), the consultant/architect/engineer, and the contractor who, working together, complete public works projects.

"We are pleased to be honored by the APWA of Michigan for the work done on the CCTC project," said Marina Roelofs, executive director of Architectural, Engineering & Construction at U-M. "This is a great award for the university and the CCTC project team."

Awards were judged on the following criteria:
• Demonstrated awareness for the need to protect the environment during construction.
The transit center, located along North University Avenue, was designed to help meet the growing needs for public transportation in the Central Campus area. U-M and AATA buses serve this very vibrant facility.

The project added shelters for bus riders, bicycle lanes along North University, bicycle racks, an improved pedestrian walkway across North University and a new handicapped-accessible entry to the Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building.

In addition to being a collaborative effort, the $4.5 million project was designed to fit with the university's commitment to sustainability, Dolen said. Porous paving bricks, used in some areas, will help with water drainage, and the translucent roofs on the shelters will reduce daytime lighting needs.
Michigan State University: MSU earns ‘bike friendly’ campus award

EAST LANSING, Mich. — With more than half of its roads equipped with bike lanes and more than 20,000 bicycle parking spaces, the campus of Michigan State University has long been “bicycle friendly.”

That status was recently confirmed when the League of American Bicyclists named MSU a Bicycle Friendly University Bronze Award winner.

The honor recognizes colleges and universities that create environments in which bicycling can thrive and provides technical assistance to create great campuses for biking.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve been selected for this award,” said Gus Gosselin, director of building services at the MSU Physical Plant and co-founder of the MSU Bike Project. “MSU has long been a national leader in the promotion of alternative transportation and this award is confirmation of that.”
University of Michigan: U-M to sponsor 4th annual e-waste recycling event

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan's Office of Campus Sustainability and the Ann Arbor Public Schools are sponsoring a free e-waste recycling event designed to help area residents, small businesses and non-profits dispose of electronics in an earth-friendly way.
Dates, times and logistics for equipment drop-off are:

• General public: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. May 7 at Pioneer High School. Enter from Main Street at the corner of West Stadium Boulevard.

• Local businesses and nonprofit organizations: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. May 5-6 at the U-M Tennis & Gymnastics parking lot, 2250 S. State St. Registration is encouraged to ensure adequate staffing but is not required:
E-waste is the fastest-growing type of waste in the country and frequently contains hazardous materials like lead and mercury, which can adversely affect the environment. Everything from laptops and desktops, televisions and telephones are collected at the event. Following the event, equipment is properly disassembled, shredded and recycled into raw materials to be reused to manufacture new items.


University of Michigan: Biodiversity improves water quality in streams through a division of labor

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Biologically diverse streams are better at cleaning up pollutants than less rich waterways, and a University of Michigan ecologist says he has uncovered the long-sought mechanism that explains why this is so.

Bradley Cardinale used 150 miniature model streams, which use recirculating water in flumes to mimic the variety of flow conditions found in natural streams. He grew between one and eight species of algae in each of the mini-streams, then measured each algae community's ability to soak up nitrate, a nitrogen compound that is a nutrient pollutant of global concern.

He found that nitrate uptake increased linearly with species richness. On average, the eight-species mix removed nitrate 4.5 times faster than a single species of algae grown alone. Cardinale reports his findings in the April 7 edition of the journal Nature.

"The primary implication of this paper is that naturally diverse habitats are pretty good at cleaning up the pollutants we dump into the environment, and loss of biodiversity through species extinctions could be compromising the ability of the planet to clean up after us," said Cardinale, an assistant professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Why are more diverse streams better pollutant filters? Niche partitioning, Cardinale said.
University of Michigan: U-M faculty members awarded Guggenheim Fellowships for research

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Five University of Michigan faculty can add the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to their list of honors and awards.
The U-M fellows are Arun Agrawal, professor and associate dean for research, School of Natural Resources and Environment; Jeffrey Gardner Heath, professor of linguistics; Mark Mizruchi, professor of sociology and business; Endi Poskovic, artist and associate professor of art and design; and Jennifer Ellen Robertson, professor of anthropology.
Agrawal's project "Poverty and Adaptation" will focus on how the poor have adapted for many years to climate change, as well as the effects of the reckless extravagance of the rich and the apathy of the powerful.
Mizruchi is writing a book, tentatively titled "Power Without Efficacy: The Decline of the American Corporate Elite." He argues that in the post World War II period, American business leaders exhibited a relatively moderate, pragmatic approach to politics that included general acceptance of (if not support for) government regulation and management of the economy, the rights of workers to organize, and the need to address social problems such as poverty and urban blight. The corporate elite of today, however, is either unwilling or unable to act collectively to address any of the pressing economic and social issues of our age, he says.
Robertson will conduct research on service robots, focusing on their safety, security, and convenience in relation to the political economy of Japan. Most of her fieldwork, she says, will be based in Kodaira City (Tokyo).


University of Michigan: Revitalizing Innovation in Michigan for Clean Energy Manufacturing

Continuous innovation in manufacturing is essential for maintaining U.S. economic leadership in an intensively competitive global market. Innovations in the production of advanced batteries, motors, controllers, lighting devices, wind machines, photovoltaic modules, and other clean energy products are critical to meeting U.S. energy and environmental goals.

"Revitalizing Innovation in Michigan for Clean Energy Manufacturing" is a two-day workshop that brings together industry pioneers, political leaders and students to explore the creation of a pilot Innovation Ecosystem throughout the state and discuss ways to revitalize the innovation infrastructure in Michigan to take maximum advantage of new investments.

Keynote speakers include: U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and Henry Kelly, acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.
This is an Earth Day event to be held April 21st and 22nd in the Michigan League Ballroom.

Michigan State University: Report: Lack of business loans stifling economic development

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Small businesses – the primary source of new jobs in Michigan – need better access to loans in order to grow and spur economic growth, according to a new report from Michigan State University’s Center for Community and Economic Development.

The number of small business loans under $100,000 dropped nearly 20 percent between 2007 and 2010 in Northern Lower Michigan, the study found. While the report looked specifically at a 21-county region, it’s relevant to all rural areas in the state, said project director J.D. Snyder.

Among the report’s recommendations: Banks should relax lending restrictions that were tightened in the wake of the financial meltdown and economic downturn of 2008-09.
In addition to relaxing lending requirements, recommendations in the report include:

  • Small business owners should get more help with loan applications. Snyder said help is available at Michigan’s Small Business and Technology Development Centers, located around the state, but many new businesses aren’t aware they exist. Staffing at the centers was doubled recently under the federal Small Business Jobs Act, he noted.
  • Loan application procedures through the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should be streamlined.
  • A state loan fund should be considered for business lending. This state-backed program could include loans for riskier businesses and loans that can take longer to start paying back. Snyder said North Dakota runs a state loan fund.
University of Michigan: New report finds racial wealth gap with young children widening

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The wealth gap in the United States between white and black households with children nearly doubled to $47,000 between 1994 and 2007, according to a new report.

"Diverging Pathways: How Wealth Shapes Opportunity for Children," written by University of Michigan researcher Trina Shanks and released today (Thursday) by the Insight Center for Economic Development, found that the percentage of black households with no net worth or living in debt is on the rise.

In 2007, about 70 percent of Latino and black households with young children were poor and 40 percent had no financial assets—more than twice the respective rates for white households.

The widening racial gap in wealth—what a family owns versus what it owes—has significant consequences for children's health and thought development, such as problem-solving and decision-making, Shanks says.

"The vastly changing demography, where the majority of children will no longer be white, can bring new energy and creativity to our nation," she said. "Yet, right now, many racial and ethnic groups find themselves living in the same country but inhabiting completely different economic landscapes, both literally and figuratively."

Politics and Law

Wayne State University: University presidents including WSU's Gilmour, senators discuss importance of scientific research to economy

Washington D.C. - University leaders and U.S. senators gathered for a roundtable discussion on March 31, 2011, at the U.S. Capitol on the vital role university-based scientific research plays in fueling innovation and sparking economic growth.

The event was organized by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, chaired by Sen. Mark Begich (Ark.), and included participation by Sens. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Bernard Sanders (Vt.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), as well as the following university leaders: Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University in Boston; James Clements, president of West Virginia University; Daniel Fogel, president of the University of Vermont; Allan Gilmour, president of Wayne State University; Michael Johns, chancellor of Emory University in Atlanta; Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland; Samuel Stanley, president of Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y.; and Randy Woodson, chancellor of North Carolina State University. The universities are members of The Science Coalition.

The university leaders discussed the many ways in which their institutions, as centers of federally funded research, help fuel the economy - from being local economic engines to driving industrial innovation to enabling America to compete in the global economy.
University of Michigan: Did Obama's election kill the antiwar movement?

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Since 2003, the antiwar movement in the United States has had much to protest with Americans fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, but the movement—which has dropped off sharply the past two years—may be more anti-Republican than antiwar, says a University of Michigan researcher.

A new study by U-M's Michael Heaney and colleague Fabio Rojas of Indiana University shows that the antiwar movement in the United States demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, first with Congress in 2006 and then with the presidency in 2008.

"As president, Obama has maintained the occupation of Iraq and escalated the war in Afghanistan," said Heaney, U-M assistant professor of organizational studies and political science. "The antiwar movement should have been furious at Obama's 'betrayal' and reinvigorated its protest activity.

"Instead, attendance at antiwar rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement have dissipated. The election of Obama appeared to be a demobilizing force on the antiwar movement, even in the face of his pro-war decisions."
University of Michigan: Researcher: Right-to-work laws endanger workers

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Right-to-work laws not only hurt labor unions financially, they also may jeopardize worker safety, says a University of Michigan researcher.

New research by Roland Zullo of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy shows that right-to-work laws result in the underfunding of safety training and accident-prevention activities.

Right-to-work laws, which currently exist in 22 states, enable workers at union companies to forgo paying union dues if they object. These workers, however, still enjoy the same benefits and protections that dues-paying union members receive.

"Several states are currently considering adopting right-to-work laws, but passing these laws may have the unintended consequence of elevating workplace fatalities," Zullo said. "States attempting to reduce worker fatalities should consider encouraging trade union growth and repealing right-to-work laws."
Wayne State University: Prestigious panel examines impact of white collar crime

DETROIT - The impact of white collar crime on the American economy and on individuals has been enormous, and its effect as an issue of citizenship has not been fully explored.

Now a prestigious panel including Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan; Harold Gurewitz, attorney with Gurewitz and Raben, PLC; and Peter J. Henning, Wayne State University Law School professor, will discuss the nature, impact, and challenges of white collar crime in a free public forum. "Corporate Citizenship and White Collar Crime in the Age of Enron and Madoff" that will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, 2011.
As examples, in recent years the depredations of Bernard Madoff made near-paupers of many individual investors who trusted him with their savings, while at a corporate level energy company Enron disrupted state economies, made a mockery of energy trading networks, and stymied attempts to plan vital energy infrastructure. The housing bubble that led to the worst national recession since the Great Depression has been fueled, in part, by white-collar crime at many levels.
And that concludes this installment of the food and sustainability news linkspam.

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