Friday, July 22, 2011

Sustainability news from midwestern research universities for the week ending July 16, 2011

If you read this and think you're seeing repeats from Sustainability news from Michigan's research universities for the week ending July 16, 2011, you are. Two of the studies I cited yesterday had authors from both Michigan State University and University of Wisconsin. See if you can tell which ones they are.

Again, very little commentary today, as I'm swimming against the stream of the heat, my own exhaustion, and lots of other work that I need to attend to.

General Sustainability

University of Wisconsin: Climate change reducing ocean's carbon dioxide uptake
by Jill Sakai
July 13, 2011

How deep is the ocean’s capacity to buffer against climate change?

As one of the planet’s largest single carbon absorbers, the ocean takes up roughly one-third of all human carbon emissions, reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and its associated global changes.

But whether the ocean can continue mopping up human-produced carbon at the same rate is still up in the air. Previous studies on the topic have yielded conflicting results, says University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor Galen McKinley.

In a new analysis published online July 10 in Nature Geoscience, McKinley and her colleagues identify a likely source of many of those inconsistencies and provide some of the first observational evidence that climate change is negatively impacting the ocean carbon sink.

“The ocean is taking up less carbon because of the warming caused by the carbon in the atmosphere,” says McKinley, an assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a member of the Center for Climatic Research in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Purdue University: Grain production not keeping up with demand, economist says
July 14, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Grain crops are being gobbled up faster than farmers can grow them, and that could portend trouble down the road if production doesn't catch up, said a Purdue University agricultural economist.

There have been two major demand surges in the past five years, including the rising use of corn to produce ethanol and China's purchases of soybeans, Chris Hurt said. The former has been driven by government biofuels mandates and high oil prices, while the latter is the product of China's growing food demand brought on by rapidly increasing incomes that have enabled the Chinese people to buy more food.

"These greater levels of usage have placed a strain on the agricultural production system, resulting in low inventories that leave little room for any production shortfalls," Hurt said. "Producers certainly have responded to try to meet those demands, but what we've seen is that demand has really outpaced the ability of the world to supply."

Inventories of corn and soybeans are near "bare minimums" in the United States, Hurt said, with wheat stocks in better shape.
"Fifty-nine percent of all the growth in corn use in the entire world over the last five years has been in a category where ethanol would be placed: industrial use," he said. "Here in the United States over the last five years 100 percent of the increase in corn usage is for ethanol, representing 2.5 billion bushels of corn."

About 27 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used for ethanol, compared to 10 percent in 2005, Hurt estimated. All told, 16 million additional acres of corn from the 2010 crop was required to produce ethanol versus 2005.

Purdue University: High feed costs and increased exports lead to rising pork prices
July 12, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Pork prices are on the rise as international exports increase and high feed costs are passed on to consumers, said a Purdue Extension agricultural economist.

Retail prices this year are averaging a record $3.35 per pound, up 14 percent from $2.93 per pound in early 2010.

Increases in exports to South Korea, Japan, Russia and China have led to stronger demand for U.S. pork, said Chris Hurt. Meat designated for export comprised 22 percent of all U.S. pork in production this spring, and he said that is leaving less for U.S. consumers.

"While it now appears pork production will rise about 1 percent this year, the large sales to foreign customers mean tight supplies here at home," Hurt said.

Purdue University: Purdue researcher travels to China to promote EcoPartnership, sustainability
July 11, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue earth and atmospheric sciences professor Timothy Filley has been awarded a Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professorship for Senior International Scientists, marking the university's first activity under a new Purdue-China EcoPartnership.

Filley will spend the next three months at the CAS Institute for Applied Ecology in Shenyang, China, promoting scientific and educational collaborations that address issues in the earth sciences. Specifically, the research projects will focus on the human impacts to terrestrial ecosystems and their influence on global change issues related to soil and water use.

"My goal is to link Purdue to research conducted at long-term field experiments in northeast China and Inner Mongolia," Filley said. "Of particular interest is how soil organic matter responds to stresses such as invasive species, grassland and forest fires, and excess nitrogen addition from a variety of sources including fertilizers, and the burning of fossil fuels."

Environment, including science and technology

University of Wisconsin: Conference takes next step in genetic analysis
by David Tenenbaum
July 15, 2011

Now that the human genome has been deciphered, many scientists are turning to study the myriad proteins that are encoded in tens of thousands of genes — a field called proteomics.

On Aug. 4-6, the Human Proteomics Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute will present the Wisconsin Human Proteomics Symposium: Proteomics Technologies and Applications to Human Disease.

"State-of-the-art proteomics techniques have laid the foundation for enormous advances in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields," says Richard L. Moss, honorary chair of the symposium and senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology, and graduate studies at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "The outstanding program assembled for the Wisconsin Human Proteomics Symposium highlights ways in which these advances will beneficially impact human health."

Purdue University: Purdue biologists identify new strategy used by bacteria during infection
July 12, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University biologists identified a new way in which bacteria hijack healthy cells during infection, which could provide a target for new antibiotics.

Zhao-Qing Luo, the associate professor of biological sciences who led the study, said the team discovered a new enzyme used by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila - which causes Legionnaires' disease - to control its host cell in order to take up residence.

"Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia, and this finding could lead to the design of a new therapy that saves lives," Luo said. "At the same time it also provides great insight into a general mechanism of both bacterial infection and cell signaling events in higher organisms including humans."

University of Wisconsin: Early Detection of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Does Little to Patient Behavior
July 15, 2011

Madison, Wisconsin - A screening test that predicts your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is more likely to change your physician's behavior than your own.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that physicians who conducted in-office carotid ultrasound screenings (CUS) significantly modified their treatment approach for patients with abnormal test results, but the patients themselves did little to change behaviors that could improve their long-term health.

"Primary-care providers who used these screenings were more likely to employ preventive strategies earlier for some patients, many of whom would not have previously qualified for cholesterol-lowering medication or aspirin," said Dr. James Stein, director of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and professor of medicine at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "Unfortunately, the screenings had only a modest impact, at best, on helping patients exercise more, eat healthier and lose weight."

Simplified landscapes, with lots of cropland and little natural habitat, promote crop pest problems and increased use of insecticides.
Illustration: courtesy Tim Meehan, UW-Madison

University of Wisconsin: Landscape change leads to increased insecticide use in the Midwest
by Eric Anderson
July 11, 2011

The continued growth of cropland and loss of natural habitat have increasingly simplified agricultural landscapes in the Midwest. A Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) study concluded that this simplification is associated with increased crop pest abundance and insecticide use, consequences that could be tempered by perennial bioenergy crops.

While the relationship between landscape simplification, crop pest pressure, and insecticide use has been suggested before, it has not been well supported by empirical evidence. This study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of July 11, is the first to document a link between simplification and increased insecticide use.

“When you replace natural habitat with cropland, you tend to get more crop pest problems,” says lead author Tim Meehan, University of Wisconsin–Madison associate scientist in the Department of Entomology. “Two things drive this pattern. As you remove natural habitats you remove habitat for beneficial predatory insects, and when you create more cropland you make a bigger target for pests — giving them what they need to survive and multiply.”

Because landscape simplification has long been assumed to increase pest pressure, UW-Madison professor of entomology Claudio Gratton and Meehan were not surprised to find that counties with less natural habitat had higher rates of insecticide use.

Purdue University: Popular fungicides failing, may cause hard choices for apple growers
July 12, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Orchard growers have started finding that some of the most commonly used fungicides are no longer effective at controlling apple scab, according to a Purdue University study.

Janna Beckerman, an associate professor of botany and plant pathology, said that extensive, long-term use of four popular fungicides has led to resistances in apples in Indiana and Michigan, the focus of her study.

"The fungicides that are regularly used to control scab have started to fail," said Beckerman, whose findings were published in the early online version of the journal Plant Disease. "But the most disturbing thing we found is that many of the samples we tested were resistant to all four fungicides. It's kind of like multidrug resistance in antibiotics. This is full-blown resistance."

Apple scab, caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis, is highly destructive to apples, causing brown lesions on leaves and fruit. A single lesion can reduce an apple's value by 85 percent. Over time, the scabby lesion will crack and allow insects, other fungi and bacteria inside, causing a loss of the crop.

University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison scientists played role in potato genome project
In Wisconsin potatoes are grown on more than 63,000 acres, making the state the third-largest producer in America.
by Nicole Miller
July 10, 2011

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists are part of an international consortium that has successfully sequenced and analyzed the potato genome. The consortium’s work, which is described in the current issue of Nature, turned up more than 39,000 genes and is expected to speed potato research and breeding projects around the globe.

The Wisconsin team’s contribution involved uncovering important information about the structure of potato’s 12 chromosomes.

“The most important part of this project was actually finding the genes. That was the main goal,” says UW-Madison plant geneticist Jiming Jiang, one of 20 principal investigators from 14 countries who worked on the project. “But the group still needed our expertise to help solve some of the puzzles.”

University of Wisconsin: "Boot camp" prepares students for biology education at UW-Madison
by David Tenenbaum
July 14, 2011

Here's the situation: Recently, three kids succumbed within a month to a new blood parasite at your hospital, and a fourth child has just been admitted with the same parasite.

Biology instructor Jean Heitz is plunging ahead with a discussion of research techniques and priorities at the first edition of Bio Boot Camp, a new effort to acquaint incoming biology students with the rigors of life as a biology undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Heitz sharpens the issue: "If you had already learned to grow this parasite in culture, what would you do to save the patient's life?"

The boot-campers in her audience are not shy, and they invent a range of answers: Study the symptoms. Use a transfusion to give the patient more time. Explore how the kids are getting infected.

And figure out how to kill the parasite.

University of Wisconsin: Rural Wisconsin high school students learn with stem cells, top UW–Madison researchers
July 11, 2011

Twenty top science students from rural Wisconsin high schools have earned the opportunity to hone their laboratory skills and work alongside top researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison at a summer science camp focused on stem cells.

Hosted by the Morgridge Institute for Research, a nonprofit biomedical research institute affiliated with UW–Madison, the four-day summer science camp starts today (Monday, July 11) and will cover a variety of hands-on activities. Among them: nourishing and dividing colonies of stem cells and learning how the cells can be directed to grow into heart, nerve and other specialized cells.

Society, including culture and politics

Indiana University: IU experts respond to Defense Department cyber strategy
July 15, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday (July 14) unveiled declassified portions of its long-awaited strategy for handling cyberattacks, declaring publicly for the first time that it would treat cyberspace -- just as land, sea, and air -- as an "operational domain."

While the department's five-pronged approach to combating cyber threats signaled an important first step in the development of a national cyberwarfare strategy, it also raised many unanswered questions, including policy issues such as how the U.S. could use the Internet to respond to a cyber threat.

University of Wisconsin: Latest Badger Poll results to be released
by Stacy Forster
July 13, 2011

The results of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Badger Poll will be released this week and will examine the views of Wisconsin residents on state and national government, politics and economics, as well as the differences among urban, rural and suburban areas of Wisconsin.
The Badger Poll is intended to be a poll of record for the state, investigating matters of concern to state residents including politics, culture and their daily lives.
The results of all 32 polls can be found here. They should be a gold mine for people interested in Wisconsin politics.

University of Wisconsin: Prosecutors, police, defense attorneys join Wisconsin Innocence Project’s new advisory board
July 13, 2011

The Wisconsin Innocence Project, a legal education and advocacy project at the University of Wisconsin Law School's Frank J. Remington Center, today announced the formation of a new advisory board.

The board will advise the Wisconsin Innocence Project on case selection criteria, evaluating difficult cases, strengthening advocacy in individual meritorious cases, and evaluating and promoting policy initiatives to improve the criminal justice system.

Purdue University: Through the end, Harry Potter series teaches fans about death, loss
July 13, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Harry Potter books and films can be valuable tools to teach about death and loss, but a Purdue University professor who specializes in grief suggests parents of younger children pay close attention to the final movie in which a number of characters are expected to die.

"Each child's reaction will vary based on their temperament or personal experiences with death," says Heather Servaty-Seib, a counseling psychologist and associate professor of educational studies. "One child might be sad about individual characters that don't make it or the experience might heighten a child's own sense of mortality and scare them. Parents should observe their child, be aware and sensitive, and be prepared to discuss such issues.

"Many children will be indirect about how they feel, so parents can watch for changes in behavior or actions."
She says the series is a great teaching tool about death and grieving that parents and children can explore together. Death is a meaningful part of the series from the beginning - when readers learn that Potter's parents were killed when he was an infant - through the deaths of other key characters, such as a fellow student, Potter's godfather and a favorite professor.

University of Wisconsin: New human ecology building will have new name
July 13, 2011
When the School of Human Ecology opens its doors on its new and renovated building on Linden Drive in 2012, it will have a new name.

Nancy Nicholas Hall will honor Nancy Johnson Nicholas, who graduated from the school in 1955 and with husband Albert "Ab" Nicholas provided the $8 million lead gift to the $52 million construction project.

This is the first exclusive-use academic building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to be named in honor of a woman. Helen C. White Hall was constructed in 1969 to house the College Library and English department. Only two other campus buildings — Susan B. Davis Residence Hall and Elizabeth Waters Residence Hall — bear the name of individual women.
The School of Human Ecology has four departments, employs 325 people, enrolls about 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and has a budget of about $15 million. Undergraduate students major in eight unique programs. The oldest is Human Development and Family Studies and the newest is Community and Nonprofit Leadership. Graduate students earn MS, MFA, or Ph.D. degrees.

Indiana University: NLRB election procedure 'broken,' says IU Maurer School of Law expert in Congressional testimony
July 11, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Labor Relations Board's procedures for conducting union elections are broken and need to be overhauled, an IU Maurer School of Law professor and labor economics expert told a U.S. House committee on July 7.

Testifying before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Professor Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt said that the current procedures "do not meet modern judicial and administrative standards, and they allow unscrupulous employers to control the election process through delay and intimidation.

"The purpose of the board's election procedures is to allow workers who want to vote on whether to form a union to be able to do so in a timely and economic manner," Dau-Schmidt added. "Yet even in the best of circumstances, when both sides undertake a good-faith effort to make the process work, the board's procedures work against this goal. Current procedures include needless delay and the reliance on outmoded, costly and time-consuming methods for resolving issues, producing evidence, accomplishing service, and engaging in effective communication."

Indiana University: Indiana University expert available to comment on U.S. recognition of Libyan rebels
July 15, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The United States' recognition of the rebel leadership in Libya as the country's legitimate government is a major step in establishing a new order in the war-torn country, according to an Indiana University Maurer School of Law expert on the subject.

"This step should allow the rebels increased access to Libyan assets frozen in foreign banks," said Timothy Waters, associate professor of law. "Also, the diplomatic, economic and military support, and the boost to morale and confidence that recognition offers, will greatly increase the rebels' options and capacity for action."

Despite this major endorsement from the West, Waters added that the rebels still face substantial challenges.

Indiana University: IU center selected for $3.5 million U.S. State Department grant to create new master's degree program in Afghanistan
Three-year grant builds on previous Afghan education projects
July 13, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- The U.S. State Department has awarded The Center for Social Studies and International Education (CSSIE) at Indiana University nearly $3.5 million to develop and implement a master's degree in English language teaching at Kabul Education University in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Project

The $3,487,454 will fund a three-year project directed by two IU School of Education faculty members. Terry Mason, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of CSSIE, and Mitzi Lewison, professor of literacy, culture and language education, have been involved in Afghan higher education for several years. Mason said the new project will build on the previous work, which established the first master's degree offering -- in education -- at Kabul Education University and brought Afghan educators to IU for further study.

"Its intent is to train qualified English faculty members for the numerous institutions of higher education around the country," he said. "It's seen as an important program for not just providing access to the language itself, but also for affecting the way teaching is carried out."


July 13, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study of political polarization in the United States suggests that changes in the labor market since the 1970s has helped create more Republican and Democratic partisans and fewer independents.

The growth in partisanship has to do with people’s current income and – importantly – their expectations of job security, said Philipp Rehm, author of the study and assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University.

At one time, many voters were “cross-pressured” – when looking at what they earned now and their risks of losing that income, they felt torn between Republican and Democratic policies. The result is that they were natural independents, Rehm said.

But since the 1970s, a growing number of workers have found their current incomes and beliefs about their job security have converged – in other words, their preferences aligned completely behind either Democratic or Republican policies. Rehm calls these people natural partisans.

July 12, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A study of home purchases during the real estate boom years in Chicago shows how one ethically murky – and sometimes illegal - tactic used to sell homes may have contributed to the housing crash.

The tactic was inflating the selling price of a home, but offering the buyer some incentive – often cash back – to accept the inflated price. The buyer could then use the cash-back for a mortgage down payment or other purposes.

The study showed that between 2005 and 2008, up to 16 percent of home sales in Chicago where the buyer borrowed more than 95 percent for the purchase had inflated prices of up to 9 percent.

Many of these transactions occurred in low-income neighborhoods. They helped people buy homes that they probably couldn’t have purchased otherwise, said Itzhak Ben-David, author of the study and assistant professor of finance at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

“Without these kinds of transactions, many buyers would have no means of buying a house, and sellers may not have been able to sell their houses. In many cases, it was a type of mortgage fraud. There are worse types of fraud, but this is still fraud.”

University of Wisconsin: Financial advice sessions for employees focus on strategies when income drops
by Aimee Katz
July 13, 2011

The Employee Assistance Office and the Office of Human Resource Development (OHRD) will host “Financial Strategies When Your Income Drops.”

This presentations -- set for July 13 and 20, and possibly on July 19 -- will provide tools and tips for employees to manage their finances when they are confronted with a drop in income. Attendees will learn strategies of how to set realistic goals and formulate new spending plans by re-evaluating their financial situations.
Employees are encouraged to attend if they are concerned or stressed about the upcoming increase in insurance and retirement deductions from their paychecks, says Christine Willard-Waldo, office manager at the Employee Assistance Office.

“Many employees find it hard to makes ends meet and hopefully this presentation gives them some ideas and tools to make things easier,” she says.

University of Wisconsin: $2 Million Donation Expands Access to Business Classes
July 11, 2011

Gary Wendt (BS, Civil Engineering, 1965), the former head of General Electric Capital and Conseco Inc. has given $2 million to the Wisconsin School of Business to increase access for students across UW-Madison who are interested in business.

The Wendt gift establishes the Gary C. Wendt Fund for Business Instruction and will go to support classes for non-business majors in management, financial analysis and marketing techniques, and other business fundamentals.

Indiana University: IURTC executes licensing agreement with professor's start-up, Guidewave Consulting
Agreement commercializes research which found correlations between social media and financial market activity
July 13, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Research & Technology Corp. has executed an exclusive licensing agreement with Guidewave Consulting, a start-up company created by a faculty member in the IU Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing.

In October, an IU team led by Associate Professor Johan Bollen found a correlation between the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and public sentiment as presented on Twitter. The IURTC is licensing patent and software rights to this research.

Guidewave has signed a consulting agreement with Europe's first social-media based hedge fund, Derwent Capital Markets of London.

The agreement being announced today (July 13) includes intellectual property that led to research that received worldwide attention last fall. Bollen and Ph.D. candidate Huina Mao were able to measure the collective public mood derived from millions of tweets to predict the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average up to a week in advance with an accuracy approaching 90 percent.

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