Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sustainability news from midwestern research universities for the week ending July 9, 2011

I made these programming notes in part one.
Part two tomorrow, but not before another Swim post.
I've posted not one, but three posts since I wrote that, The Oak Park Outlaw by The Bard of Murdock, Portland is watching "The End of Suburbia", and Paul Krugman swims against the Chicago School, which means that I'm two days overdue for part two. Time to post!

General Sustainability

University of Wisconsin: Benson appointed sustainability research and education director
by Jill Sakai
July 7, 2011
Craig H. Benson, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of geological engineering and civil and environmental engineering, has been named the first director for sustainability research and education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In this new role, Benson is charged with the primary goal of developing and coordinating a campus-wide effort to align UW-Madison teaching and research on sustainability with campus operations. He will also play a critical role in building a UW-Madison Office of Sustainability, a key element of the ongoing cross-campus Sustainability Initiative, which he will co-direct with Faramarz Vakili.

"The goal is to make sustainability a philosophy of operation for the entire university," says Vakili, the campus director for sustainability operations. "Our products are the students we graduate and the research we produce. It's important for these to come together with how the university operates to maximize the sustainability of the campus."
I applaud the University of Wisconsin for doing this. It shows what a high priority sustainability is for them.

Environment, including science and technology

Purdue University: Laser, electric fields combined for new 'lab-on-chip' technologies
July 5, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers are developing new technologies that combine a laser and electric fields to manipulate fluids and tiny particles such as bacteria, viruses and DNA for a range of potential applications, from drug manufacturing to food safety.

The technologies could bring innovative sensors and analytical devices for "lab-on-a-chip" applications, or miniature instruments that perform measurements normally requiring large laboratory equipment, said Steven T. Wereley, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering.

The method, called "hybrid optoelectric manipulation in microfluidics," is a potential new tool for applications including medical diagnostics, testing food and water, crime-scene forensics, and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Just like in part one, I start the science section with a discovery that can improve the manufacturing economy. Hey, we're the industrial midwest. We build things here.

University of Wisconsin: Old and new insect pests begin bugging Wisconsin
by David Tenenbaum
July 7, 2011
The mosquitoes are back, the Japanese beetles are starting to devour the 300 species of plants they call "food," and a flock of invasive insects are poised to make headlines in Wisconsin, says Phil Pellitteri of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab.

Some "insect problems" are minor, says Pellitteri. People who pull out a spray can to kill millipedes may not realize that they may be annoying, but are not harmful.

The Japanese beetle, which attacks a wide range of cultivated plants, including roses, shrubs and grapes, is more serious.

"Japanese beetles are like a superstar in an amateur league," says Pellitteri, due to their broad taste in host plants, their ability to fly half a mile, and their two-month feeding season. "Many insects are around for only a few weeks, so these have an impact on gardeners unlike anything else."
That reminds me. I haven't mentioned the discovery of khapra beetles in Michigan yet. Fortunately, they were intercepted at the border and haven't become established yet. If they ever do, they'll be a disaster for the farm economy. Their favorite foods are corn, soybeans, and wheat, which just happen to be the top three crops in the U.S.

Purdue University: Purdue scientist writes comprehensive turfgrass fungicide book
July 6, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University turfgrass expert Richard Latin has compiled more than a decade of work into a comprehensive guide for golf course superintendents and professional turf managers.

Latin, a professor of botany and plant pathology, said fungal diseases are the among the most serious problems on golf course turf throughout the United States, especially in the eastern part of the country, where regular precipitation favors disease outbreak. His book, "A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides," explores how fungicides work and why they sometimes don't.
This was too boring to include in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday, but it deserves a mention here.

Remember this from part one?
Finally, this article doesn't connect all that strongly with anything in this post, but it will connect with an article in part two. Watch for it.
Here it is.

Indiana University: Sex, as we know it, works thanks to ever-evolving host, parasite relationships, IU biologists find
July 7, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It seems we may have parasites to thank for the existence of sex as we know it. Indiana University biologists have found that, although sexual reproduction between two individuals is costly from an evolutionary perspective, it is favored over self-fertilization in the presence of coevolving parasites. Sex allows parents to produce offspring that are more resistant to the parasites, while self-fertilization dooms populations to extinction at the hands of their biological enemies.

The July 8 report in Science, "Running with the Red Queen: Host-Parasite Coevolution Selects for Biparental Sex," affirms the Red Queen hypothesis, an evolutionary theory who's name comes from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland text: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." The idea is that sexual reproduction via cross-fertilization keeps host populations one evolutionary step ahead of the parasites, which are coevolving to infect them. It is within this coevolutionary context that both hosts and parasites are running (evolving) as fast as they can just to stay in the same place.

"The widespread existence of sex has been a major problem for evolutionary biology since the time of Charles Darwin," said lead author Levi T. Morran. Sex does not make evolutionary sense, because it often involves the production of males. This is very inefficient, because males don't directly produce any offspring. Self-fertilization is a far more efficient means of reproduction, and as such, evolutionary theory predicts that self-fertilization should be widespread in nature and sex should be rare. However, as we all know, this is not the case.

The Red Queen Hypothesis provides one possible explanation for the existence of sex.
That previous article would make me have to re-evaluate my dissertation. On the other hand, this research merely reinforces my dissertation findings.

Purdue University: Termites' digestive system could act as biofuel refinery
July 5, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - One of the peskiest household pests, while disastrous to homes, could prove to be a boon for cars, according to a Purdue University study.

Mike Scharf, the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology, said his laboratory has discovered a cocktail of enzymes from the guts of termites that may be better at getting around the barriers that inhibit fuel production from woody biomass. The Scharf Laboratory found that enzymes in termite guts are instrumental in the insects' ability to break down the wood they eat.

The findings, published in the early online version of the journal PLoS One, are the first to measure the sugar output from enzymes created by the termites themselves and the output from symbionts, small protozoa that live in termite guts and aid in digestion of woody material.
One of Barry Commoner's Laws is "Nature knows best." Here is a "Nature knows best" solution to breaking down cellulose to turn it into sugar and then ethanol. Quite elegant, really.

University of Wisconsin: Bascom Hill elm tree set for removal
by Liz Beyler
July 5, 2011
Dutch Elm disease is a lethal fungal disease. The fungi that cause it came into the U.S. early in the 1900s on elm logs from Europe. The fungi can be spread by elm bark beetles, root grafts, and human activities.

The American elm was once the premier street tree. In 1851, two years after the opening of the University of Wisconsin, more than 700 elm trees were planted on the new campus, including two rows along the Bascom Hill walkways.
Most of this article is not very noteworthy if one doesn't live and work in Madison, but the above two paragraphs explain why this disease is important.

University of Wisconsin: Indoor air pollution linked to cardiovascular risk
by David Tenenbaum
July 8, 2011
An estimated two billion people in the developing world heat and cook with a biomass fuel such as wood, but the practice exposes people — especially women — to large doses of small-particle air pollution, which can cause premature death and lung disease.

In a study just published online in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have associated indoor air pollution with increased blood pressure among older women.

In a remote area of Yunnan Province, China, 280 women in an ethnic minority called the Naxi wore a portable device that sampled the air they were breathing for 24 hours. The Naxi live in compounds including a central, free-standing kitchen that often has both a stove and a fire pit, says Jill Baumgartner, who performed the study with National Science Foundation funding while a Ph.D. student at UW-Madison.

"I spent a lot of time watching women cook in these unvented kitchens, and within seconds, my eyes would burn, it would get a little difficult to breathe. The women talk about these same discomforts, but they are viewed as just another hardship of rural life," Baumgartner says.
In Sustainability in unexpected places: archeology 1, I pointed out that indoor air pollution has been with us for a long time. This article explains why. People thinking that a lower level of technology will really reduce air pollution at the level of the human lung will be very unpleasantly surprised.

Indiana University: IU researcher awarded NSF grant to study effect of forests on air pollution
July 7, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Science Foundation has awarded a $760,000 grant to Indiana University Bloomington atmospheric scientist Sara C. Pryor and a colleague for research to improve understanding of the relationship between forests and pollution.
Atmospheric aerosol particles represent one of the largest uncertainties in understanding the forces that influence climate, both historically and possibly in the future, Pryor said. A key process in determining concentrations is the removal of such particles by surfaces, known as dry deposition.

"Forests are particularly effective in removing particles from the atmosphere, but the rate of removal and the physical and biological controls on removal rates are rather uncertain," Pryor said. "This project will help to determine exactly how effective forests are at removing particles and thus will help to build better models capable of making better climate predictions."
I'm glad to see the contest between sustainability and austerity was settled in sustainablity's favor with this research.

Purdue University: Purdue ROV team excels at international competition
July 7, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University student team earned second place in an international competition to design and build a remotely operated underwater vehicle and perform a simulated mission to cap a leaking offshore oil well.

"We've had a phenomenal year," said Seth Baklor, team captain and a junior in industrial engineering. "Our second-place finish puts Purdue ahead of many top-ranked institutions such as Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Arizona State and teams from Russia, China, India, Egypt, the UK and Canada."

The team competed in the 10th annual Marine Advanced Technology Education Center's International ROV Competition on June 16-18 at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"The challenge this year was to create and deploy an oil cap, collect biological specimens and collect a non-diluted water sample," said Baklor, who led the Purdue IEEE ROV Team.
This is the lead out from science to society because it's an education article. That tipped it over from being an economiics article. Education articles about economics go to the end of the society section.

Society, including culture and politics

University of Wisconsin: Movin’ Minds promotes academic and physical health
by Aimee Katz
July 5, 2011
About 100 middle-school students will participate in Movin' Minds, a program organized by Precollege OPTIONS in Education Outreach and Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Movin' Minds, which runs from July 18-22, allows students to exercise their bodies and minds.

Movin' Minds is a partnership between Education Outreach and Partnership in the School of Education and Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton. Hamilton was originally involved with College for Kids giving presentations to groups. She was approached four years ago, however, to start another camp with the university.

"[Movin' Minds] is an initiative to get kids healthy and fit. It's about both [fitness and academics], incorporating a balance in kids' lives," Hamilton says. "Academics come first, but your body should also come first. Both should be tied together."
Public health is a sustainability issue, and obesity and lack of exercise are major public health problems.

University of Wisconsin: OHR: Impact of budget, budget repair for benefits and collective bargaining
July 6, 2011
Below is a memo from Bob Lavigna, director of the Office of Human Resources, detailing the the impact of the biennial state budget and budget repair bill on employee benefits and collective bargaining. It was sent to all employees on July 5.

Dear Colleagues,

On June 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision that overturned the injunction that was preventing the implementation of Wisconsin Act 10 (budget repair bill). As a result of this decision, Act 10 became law effective Wednesday, June 29. In addition, the governor recently signed Act 32 (2011-13 biennial budget bill), which went into effect on July 1.

The important changes these laws create for employees’ benefits and collective bargaining rights are summarized below.
However, except for the legally-mandated increased contributions and elimination of union deductions listed above, the state will continue to abide by the agreements covering classified employees until the legislature approves a new compensation plan for all employees, probably in the fall. This compensation plan, along with existing statutes and administrative rules, will cover all other terms and conditions of employment that have been covered by bargaining agreements in the past.
Elections matter, including those of state supreme court justices.

Indiana University: Anti-terrorism documentary filmed at IUPUI wins regional Emmy
July 7, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- A documentary about a 2009 anti-terrorism exercise, hosted by the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has won a regional Emmmy Award in the category of Public/Current/Community Affairs.

The program, "Tough Decisions: Defending the Homeland," was produced by WFYI public television in Indianapolis. National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented the award in regional ceremonies in Cleveland, Ohio in June.
I keep repeating that war is a sustainability issue. This includes the low-level conflict that Homeland Security is waging.

Indiana University: Steps needed to reduce likelihood that pilot commuting practices could pose safety risk, but too little data now to support regulation
July 6, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Commuting practices among airline pilots could potentially contribute to their fatigue, and because fatigue can reduce performance, pilots, airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration should take steps to reduce the likelihood that commuting will pose a safety risk, says a new report from the National Research Council.

However, there are currently too little data to determine the extent to which it poses a safety risk or whether commuting should be regulated, according to the report from an NRC panel chaired by Indiana University professor Clinton V. Oster. The FAA should support a study to gather data on how commuting practices are related to risk factors for fatigue, it concludes.

The report offers guidance for how pilots should manage their sleep and awake time in order to avoid fatigue levels that could affect performance. Pilots should plan their commutes and other pre-duty activities so that they will have been awake no more than approximately 16 hours when their duty is scheduled to be completed, and they should endeavor to sleep for at least six hours prior to reporting for duty.
The above shows the intersection of public health, public safety, and a properly regulated workplace, all of which are good for the economy. I'm a believer in capitalism, but it has to be well-regulated capitalism. Unregulated capitalism is a disaster.

Indiana University: Indiana University report finds IRS revoked tax exemption for one in 10 Hoosier nonprofits
July 7, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Nearly one in 10 registered Indiana nonprofit organizations lost their tax-exempt status last month for failing to file newly required paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service, according to an analysis led by an Indiana University faculty member and philanthropy expert.

Kirsten Grønbjerg and her co-authors found that, not surprisingly, small nonprofits were most likely to have missed the filing requirements and had their tax-exempt status revoked. And while many of the organizations were no longer operating, a good number appeared to still be in existence.
The findings also raise questions about the complexity of federal regulation of nonprofit organizations and point to the importance of providing guidance to nonprofit leaders on the necessity of tracking regulatory developments at all levels of government. Co-authors of the report are Kellie McGiverin-Bohan, a doctoral student in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Kristen Dmytryk and Jason Simons, students in the SPEA Master of Public Affairs program.

Until 2007, nonprofit organizations with revenues of $25,000 or less a year were not required to report to the IRS once they had secured their tax-exempt status. But the 2006 Pension Protection Act changed that, requiring most such organizations to begin filing an annual electronic notice, Form 990-N.
I'm involved with a non-profit. I'll have to pass this one along to them.

University of Wisconsin: Study suggests financial aid enhances college success among the most unlikely graduates
July 7, 2011
Results from an ongoing random assignment study of a private grant program in Wisconsin indicate that low-income students who receive Pell Grants and are unlikely to finish college get a sizeable boost in college persistence from additional financial aid. The findings suggest that directing aid to serve the neediest students may be the most equitable and cost-effective approach.

Researchers with the Wisconsin Scholars Longitudinal Study (WSLS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been examining the impact of the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars (FFWS) need-based grant program on the educational attainment of its recipients since 2008. FFWS provides $3,500 per year to full-time, federal Pell Grant recipients enrolled at University of Wisconsin System institutions. WSLS researchers have collected survey and interview data on 1,500 students, including 600 grant recipients and a random sample of 900 eligible non-recipients who serve as a control group.

"Our findings suggest that making college more affordable for students who were initially unlikely to succeed in college increased their college persistence rates over the first three years of college by about 17 percentage points," says Sara Goldrick-Rab, WSLS co-director and associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology.
"Education articles about economics go to the end of the society section." Close enough.

Indiana University: IUPUI research center lands grant to review Indiana’s criminal justice programs
July 7, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) has awarded $405,450 to the Center for Criminal Justice Research (CCJR) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for a project that will help improve the effectiveness of state-funded criminal justice initiatives.

The project will look at efforts financed by 10 state funding streams, compare those to efforts nationwide, and identify the characteristics of those that work best.

"The goal is to help ensure the state's allocation of criminal justice dollars is sound and based on cutting-edge research," said principal investigator Thomas D. Stucky, associate professor and director of Criminal Justice and Public Safety Programs at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at IUPUI, where CCJR is housed. "When this project is complete, the state of Indiana will better understand how to distribute its criminal justice dollars most effectively."
This article is much more about the cost-effectiveness and proper funding of criminal justice than the techniques, so at the very end of this section it goes.


University of Wisconsin: Ortalo-Magné named dean of the Wisconsin School of Business
by Stacy Forster
July 8, 2011
François Ortalo-Magné, Robert E. Wangard Professor and chair of the Real Estate and Urban Land Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been named the Albert O. Nicholas Dean of the Wisconsin School of Business.

"François brings creativity for enhancing the educational experience of Wisconsin business students — during and after their time on campus — as well as a commitment to high-quality research and visionary leadership," says Provost Paul M. DeLuca, Jr.

Ortalo-Magné is an expert in the economics of the housing market. He first gained tenure in the Economics Department at the London School of Economics and held visiting appointments at leading academic institutions, including the London Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He has received awards in recognition of his research and service to the real estate profession, served as an advisor to various governments around the world on housing and land policy issues, and been a regular keynote speaker at global real estate industry events.
That last paragraph tipped this over from society to economy. Besides, it's time I posted something about real estate.

Purdue University: Ag economist: Higher commodity prices the "new normal"?
July 5, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Higher commodity prices might be the rule rather than the exception in the coming years, a Purdue University agricultural economist says.

While prices regularly rise and fall, they have trended upward in a way that suggests they've reached a plateau, said Mike Boehlje. He attributed much of the price movement to bullish export markets, weather-shortened supplies and the effect monetary policies have had on interest rates and investors.

"This higher level may be the new normal," Boehlje said. "But volatility has increased significantly for agricultural prices, as well as for agricultural inputs. In terms of corn, for example, it's not unusual in the futures markets to see prices moving 30 cents or more on a daily basis. And although prices may be higher, so are costs to producers. So margins are not likely to stay unusually high."
The core CPI may be very low, but the headline CPI is staying high, which is why there are dueling arguments about the impact of inflation.

Purdue University: Cover crops are focus of prevented-planting decisions
July 6, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Farmers who were unable to plant their corn and soybeans because of bad weather might consider planting cover crops this summer to build soil quality and prevent erosion, a Purdue University Extension specialist says.

Cover crops usually are planted in the fall to protect soil over the winter and replaced with corn and soybeans in the spring. But an exceptionally cool and wet spring kept many farmers from planting, leaving fields fallow.

Because many fields were left bare by prevented planting, Purdue Extension soil scientist Eileen Kladivko recommended planting a cover crop to avoid soil erosion and build soil quality.

Cover crops can increase a farm's long-term productivity by loosening soil structure, reducing nitrate leaching and adding organic matter, Kladivko said.

"There is no reason not to do something in the summer," she said. "Soil quality increases by growing things in it."
And now to tie this section to the article about crop pests back in environment.

University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison alumni sell ecommerce analytics company
by Melissa Anderson
July 6, 2011
A trio of recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates have sold their e-commerce analytics company to a major player in the social media field less than one year after its launch.

In May, Corey Capasso and Andrew Ferenci, who graduated from the Wisconsin School of Business with bachelor's degrees in business administration in 2009, and Dan Reich, a 2008 graduate from the College of Engineering, sold their startup company Spinback to Buddy Media for an undisclosed sum.

Spinback technology includes EasyShare, a social plug-in that allows consumers to easily share products and purchases through Facebook, Twitter and email; and EasyTrack, an analytics dashboard that helps companies measure the return on their social media investment.

Buddy Media is the leading Facebook management system for global advertisers.
It didn't take long for me to start bending the economics section back to technology, did it?

University of Wisconsin: Retired Cargill CEO elected chair of private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research
by Jennifer Sereno
July 6, 2011
Ernest Micek has been elected chair of the board of trustees for the Morgridge Institute for Research.

He succeeds Carl E. Gulbrandsen, managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, who served as the founding chair of the biomedical research institution and will remain a member of the board.

The private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research is an affiliate of WARF, which provides service and support as part of its mission to promote, encourage and aid scientific investigation and research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The Morgridge Institute’s scientific leaders pursue research challenges and programming in regenerative biology; virology; medical devices; pharmaceutical informatics; education research; core computational technology; and education and outreach experiences.
This article and the next two tie right back into the first article in science, technology, and the environment.

University of Wisconsin: Innovation marks UW-Madison contribution to vitamins, drugs, medical supplies
by David Tenenbaum
July 6, 2011
With a long tradition of exploration of medicine and biology, and a research budget that has passed $1 billion, University of Wisconsin-Madison builds on a rich history of discoveries related to drugs and nutrition: Vitamin A and B were discovered here in 1914.

In 1941, Karl Paul Link discovered dicumarol, an anti-coagulant and poison. From dicumarol, Link synthesized coumadin (Warfarin), the first widely effective rat poison. Coumadin, the first safe medical anticoagulant, is still widely prescribed.

Ever since biochemist Harry Steenbock discovered how to enrich the vitamin D content of foods through irradiation in 1923, the vitamin and its many derivatives have been a mainstay of UW-Madison pharmaceutical research. Facing considerable commercial interest in the vitamin, Steenbock believed the university should benefit, and together with Dean Slichter, he founded the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which opened in 1925 as the nation's first university technology transfer office.
This article isn't news, but it does give a good history of how one university has contributed to medicine and the economy.

Purdue University: Executive director of Purdue's Discovery Park to join IBJ life sciences panel discussion
July 7, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS - Purdue University Discovery Park executive director Alan Rebar will join a panel of experts in a discussion next week about the outlook for Indiana's life sciences industry.

Rebar, also senior associate vice president of research, will participate in the Indianapolis Business Journal Power Breakfast Series on Life Sciences at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday (July 13), at the JW Marriott Indianapolis, 10 S. West St.

Other featured panelists are Richard DiMarchi, the Cox Professor of Biochemistry and the Gill Chair in Biomolecular Sciences at Indiana University; David Johnson, president and chief executive officer at BioCrossroads; and Oscar Moralez, managing partner at Stepstone Business Partners.

"Indiana's research universities - including Purdue, Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame - give us a strong advantage when it comes to growing, attracting and supporting our state's $44 billion life sciences industry," said Rebar, who was named to the list of Who's Who in Life Sciences by the business journal in May. "Yet we must realize the global pressures we face in strengthening and expanding the bridge that brings together established life sciences employers, research universities, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and local and state business constituents."
The previous article was about the past, this one is about the future. Circles within circles.

With that, this linkspam is now complete. I'll see you tonight with a Swim post.

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