Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sustainability news from campuses on the campaign trail for Mother's Day Weekend 2012


I know I'm a week behind as the corresponding entry using commercial sources was posted almost a week ago and the corresponding space and astronomy entry more than a week ago. Hey, better late than never. Besides, it's yet another example of what I first wrote on this date last year.
Blogging about sustainability in metro Detroit means never running out of material.
How true that has turned out to be!

Without any further ado, here are the sustainability-related posts from universities in the states of Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wisconsin that I first posted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Total Recall and Marriage Equality edition) on Daily Kos, beginning with this story that I used to headline the entry.

University of Wisconsin: Important voting information for UW-Madison students
May 10, 2012
Dean of Students Lori Berquam emailed the following information to UW-Madison students Thursday, May 10 in an effort to help students vote in the June 5 recall election:

Dear Students,

As you are aware, Wisconsin's recall election will be held on Tuesday, June 5.

As always, I strongly encourage you to be educated about the candidates and cast a ballot. Recent changes in voting laws, combined with the end of the semester, may require you to plan ahead.
Thank you, Dean Berquam. I have only one thing to add. May the UW's students do their part as important players in the following movie.

I told you all that I cover sustainability with a science fiction slant.

The rest of the news waits over the jump.

General Sustainability

I begin this section with four educational projects that are explicitly about sustainability.

Indiana University: Sustainability research grants focus on urban forestry, PCB impact
May 8, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Office of Sustainability has announced the recipients of the Sustainability Research Development Grants for the 2012-13 academic year. Two teams of IU Bloomington faculty and graduate students will engage in new collaborative research projects on topics related to environmental sustainability.

The grant program, jointly sponsored by the University Graduate School, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and the IU Office of Sustainability, provides opportunities for faculty members and students to develop externally funded research related to sustainability.

"These two research initiatives will enhance our knowledge of the critical interrelationships between human and natural systems while providing opportunities for our faculty and students to test their research ideas," said Bill Brown, IU director of sustainability. "Past awards have proven to be fruitful seeds for much larger, externally funded research."
West Virginia University: WVU Davis College students participate in PLANET career days
May 10, 2012
A group of West Virginia University students recently competed in the Professional Landcare Network Student Career Days event in Manhattan, Kan.

Hosted by Kansas State University, the three-day competition gives collegiate students pursuing majors like horticulture, landscape architecture and agribusiness management and rural development the chance to compete in events directly related to the skills necessary for careers in the green industry.

This year’s contest featured 700 students from 63 colleges and universities across the country.
West Virginia University: WVU graduate students work to revitalize Moundsville, W.Va.
May 10, 2012
A small town nestled in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Moundsville derives its name from the area’s many Adena Indian burial mounds constructed more than 1,000 years ago.

Now, a West Virginia University professor, the West Virginia Campus Compact and graduate students working toward their master’s degrees in public administration are collaborating with the community to address community and economic development opportunities.

Margaret Stout, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the WVU Division of Public Administration, has taken on a two-year project to help the town engage citizens in planning. The resulting comprehensive plan will guide all city policies and programs that have to do with social, economic and environmental quality of life.

“This type of collaborative project, addressing community needs, is part of our 2020 strategic plan,” said Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Jones. “Partnering to develop successful and healthy West Virginia communities is an invaluable way for our students to gain field experience and an important service component of our college and University.”
West Virginia University: WVU's Human Powered Vehicle Team finishes seventh in international competition
May 9, 2012
Human-powered transport is often the only type of personal transportation available in underdeveloped or inaccessible parts of the world. If well designed, it can be an increasingly viable form of sustainable transportation.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers international Human Powered Vehicle Challenge provides a unique opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of sound engineering design principles in the development of sustainable and practical transportation alternatives. Undergraduate engineering students work in teams to design, develop and build efficient, highly engineered vehicles for everyday use—from commuting to work, to carrying goods to market.
I might recycle this article as part of an entry on bicycles. It is National Bike Month after all.

Next, a book that is so broad in scope (geographers tend to produce such works), that it could only fit in the general sustainable category.

University of Oregon: UO vision materializes: Atlas of Yellowstone
May 7, 2012
What was first envisioned nine years ago as a class project in the University of Oregon’s Department of Geography was published this spring as a comprehensive, hard-bound reference book filled with colorful maps and data-rich graphics, and covering a broad-spectrum history that reaches back millions of years.

The Atlas of Yellowstone – published by the University of California Press – is the product of collaboration between the UO, the National Park Service, Yellowstone area universities and other federal and private agencies. It documents in images and words everything from the archeology to evidence of climate change at Yellowstone National Park. Its topics range from Yellowstone art to regional economy, and from vegetation to bison movement.

“Pulling together all these materials was a daunting task – which explains why it has never been done before,” said W. Andrew Marcus, a geography professor and associate dean of social sciences at the UO, and senior editor on the Yellowstone project.
I close out this section and begin the task of rounding the circle with three articles that are about health and touch on the environmental, social, and economic aspects of that subject.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Nutrition Research Institute receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for global health research
May 9, 2012
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D., institute director and Kenan Distinguished University Professor in nutrition and pediatrics in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the School of Medicine, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project titled “Choline and Optimal Development.”

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in solving persistent global health and development challenges. Zeisel’s project is one of more than 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today (May 9) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
West Virginia University: New website provides resources, challenges and trackers to help West Virginians improve health
May 11, 2012
Telling West Virginian’s stories and providing easier access to resources like walking trackers, recipes, and research are the main goals behind the new website LiveWell West Virginia (http://livewellwv.ext.wvu.edu/).

A partnership website from the West Virginia University Extension Service and The Charleston Gazette, the site provides West Virginians with easier access to current health and wellness research and grant funding. The site also offers up recipes and blogs on topics like gardening, finances and relationships.

“Our state is consistently ranked high for risk factors associated with health and wellness,” Emily Murphy, WVU Extension Service childhood obesity prevention specialist, said. “At the same time, our state has great programs and resources to help people change their lifestyles and lower their risks for chronic disease. This site is a great resource and source of hope.”
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Culturally sensitive research in United Arab Emirates pinpoints indoor air quality risks
May 9, 2012
The rapid shift from nomadic life to modern-day culture in the United Arab Emirates has exposed residents to significant indoor air quality risks that can lead to respiratory illness, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

With the swift modernization of the country, UAE governmental agencies have not performed the research required to pinpoint health risks, the study reported. The need to develop governmental research capacity makes collaborations with U.S. research teams vital, but the studies must be conducted in a culturally appropriate way.

"This is an important area of investigation, and the UAE is completely under-researched," said Karin Yeatts, Ph.D., lead study author and assistant professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. "There are many good scientific questions that need to be answered, and this area of the world is very deserving of science and public health work."

Knowing about indoor air quality risks is important, Yeatts said, because people in the UAE spend 80 percent to 95 percent of their time indoors escaping the high temperatures.
As you can see, this excerpt leads seamlessly into environmental issues.

Environment, including science

Some climate history, anyone?

University of North Carolina, Wilmington: The Rock Whisperer: UNCW Professor Principal Investigator on Major Climate Change Research Shares $4.25 Million NSF Grant
May 3, 2012
The Earth is warming. Determining what this will mean for future generations is one of the greatest challenges in modern science, and UNCW Environmental Science Studies Professor Paul Hearty has been tapped as one of a world-class team of scientists working to provide answers to this question.

Hearty is one of five principal investigators on a grant to build a comprehensive model of past climate change by integrating elements of the world's crust, oceans, atmosphere and ice sheets, using fossil and geological data from an ancient warming period 3 million years ago. The National Science Foundation has funded the five-year study for $4.25 million, a rare achievement in an age when basic research budgets have been drastically cut and many studies are funded.

Approximately 3 million years ago, the Earth was warmer. Global average temperatures were 2-3 Celsius (3.6F to 5.4F) greater than today. Known as the Mid-Pliocene Climatic Optimum (PLIOMAX), this interval has received renewed attention by researchers because its temperatures and composition of the atmosphere are similar to those predicted by global climate change models of the coming century.

"We have to go back 3 million years to find CO2 levels of 400 ppm. Our atmosphere, now at about 393 ppm, will easily reach 400 ppm by the end of this decade." said Hearty.
Oregon State University: Study finds stream temperatures don’t parallel warming climate trend
May 2, 2012
A new analysis of streams in the western United States with long-term monitoring programs has found that despite a general increase in air temperatures over the past several decades, streams are not necessarily warming at the same rate.

Several factors may influence the discrepancy, researchers say, including snowmelt, interaction with groundwater, flow and discharge rates, solar radiation, wind and humidity. But even after factoring out those elements, the scientists were surprised by the cooler-than-expected maximum, mean and minimum temperatures of the streams.

Results of the research, which was supported by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University, have been published online in Geophysical Research Letters.
Moving from the past to the future.

North Carolina State University: Model Forecasts Long-Term Impacts Of Forest Land-Use Decisions
May 10, 2012
The drive to develop crops for use in biofuels is raising questions about how to use forest land. A new computer model developed at North Carolina State University offers the most detailed insight yet into predicting how these new land uses might impact the environment – and may also help us understand how the forest ecosystem will respond to global climate change.

“We think the model will help policy makers and forest managers make informed decisions to maintain forest productivity while minimizing the environmental impact of managed forest plantations,” says Dr. Shiying Tian, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State, and lead author of a paper on the new model. “It also will help us understand how these forest systems will respond if we see changes in temperature or precipitation related to climate change,” says Dr. Mohamed Youssef, an assistant professor biological and agricultural engineering at NC State, and co-author of the paper.

NC State researchers had previously developed models that accounted for the hydrology, carbon and nitrogen cycles in agricultural land with high water table soils. The new model, called DRAINMOD-FOREST, extends the models’ applicability to forest land by accounting for plant growth in the forest ecosystem. The model addresses how trees and other forest vegetation affect – and are affected by – the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles. DRAINMOD-FOREST looks specifically at forests in areas with a high water table – such as coastal regions.
More ecosystem research.

Oregon State University: Study finds prey distribution, not biomass, key to marine food chain
May 2, 2012
A new study has found that each step of the marine food chain is clearly controlled by the trophic level below it – and the driving factor influencing that relationship is not the abundance of prey, but how that prey is distributed.

The importance of the spatial pattern of resources – sometimes called “patchiness” – is gaining new appreciation from ecologists, who are finding the overall abundance of food less important than its density and ease of access to it.
Kelly Benoit-Bird, an Oregon State University oceanographer and lead author on the study, said patchiness is not a new concept, but one that has gained acceptance as sophisticated technologies have evolved to track relationships among marine species.
And now, more rounding of the circle, although this one connects to economy and technology, not to society.

West Virginia University: WVU researchers study how to keep wind turbines out of eagles' flight path
May 10, 2012
In Mother Nature’s world, everything is related to everything else – some call it the butterfly effect.

So when researchers at West Virginia University were trying to figure out why so many golden eagles were being killed by wind turbines – and how to prevent it – they decided they needed to know how the birds figured out where to fly.

And that led them to try to understand whether birds opted to fly fast, and get to their feeding grounds early, but tired, or fly more slowly, and arrive well-rested.

Why would that help with a solution to placement of wind turbines? If the answer was “fast, but tired,” then the birds would be choosing to fly in the same areas that were also the best places for wind turbines – locations with high winds.

The answer? Fast, but tired.
If this story looks familiar, it's because it covers the same territory as Researchers aim to lessen clash between raptors, wind turbines from Penn State University, which I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Earth Day 2012 edition) on Daily Kos and in Earth Day News from campuses on the 2012 campaign trail here on Crazy Eddie's Motie News. Insert joke about West Virginia being behind the times here.

Society, including culture and politics

A study about social psychology that links back to science and health.

University of Oregon: A few individual brains may predict the behaviors of larger populations
May 3, 2012
Brain scans of a few people were more telling about the actual responsiveness of larger populations than what was expected through conventional verbal reports in a new study that could affect political advertising, commercial market research and public health campaigns.

The study by researchers at the University of Michigan, University of Oregon and the University of California, Los Angeles, involved smokers who want to kick the habit and their willingness to act after viewing three different advertising campaigns aimed at smokers.

The study is online ahead of regular publication in Psychological Science. Researchers found that what people reported in focus groups can be different than what their brain scans indicated.
Now, three articles that are explicitly about making science and math education more socially responsible and inclusive.

North Carolina State University: White House Honors NC State Student’s Efforts to Make STEM Accessible to Disabled
May 7, 2012
President Barack Obama recognized North Carolina State University student Sina Bahram as one of 14 “Champions of Change” at a White House ceremony May 7, honoring those who have made significant efforts to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) more accessible to people with disabilities.

Bahram, who earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from NC State, is currently a Ph.D. student in computer science. His research focuses on improving the interaction between users and technology. This field of study is of particular importance to Bahram, who is blind.

“The leaders we’ve selected as Champions of Change are proving that when the playing field is level, people with disabilities can excel in STEM, develop new products, create scientific inventions, open successful businesses, and contribute equally to the economic and educational future of our country,” says Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.
University of North Carolina, Greensboro: Warming kids up to the coolness of math
Professor shapes the scientists and engineers of the future
May 11, 2012
Dr. Sarah Berenson’s grandchildren pasted an orange sticky note adorned with stars and peace signs on her office door: “Math is awesome. Math is cool.” Berenson has a way of helping kids warm up to math. She’s built her career on it.

Berenson, who retires from the School of Education July 31, spent 23 years at NC State directing a research center for math and science education before she came to UNCG in 2007 as the Yopp Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Education. She was the principal investigator for an National Science Foundation STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) grant that examined young women’s career choices.

More recently, she has studied methods for teaching math to elementary students of both genders.
West Virginia University: Melissa Latimer: helping advance the cause of women in science
May 7, 2012
In her professional career, she settled on identifying and eradicating unfairness in society. That’s what she’s worked to do as an associate professor of sociology and instructor of women’s studies.

Latimer is also working to bring about change that will encourage women to be able to stay in fields at West Virginia University in which they are typically the minority. Faculty members of either sex are increasingly striving to achieve a balance between work and the rest of their life.

She directs the WVU ADVANCE Center, part of a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation that is intended to recruit, retain and promote women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

She knows how easy it is to be consumed in work, but she’s found that playing in her band Second Cousin, which includes other WVU faculty members, has helped her to keep as much of a balance as possible.

Find out more about Latimer as a scientist and how she balances her personal and work lives on this new video, the first in a series of videos that give glimpses into the lives of the female faculty at WVU showing the meeting place between who they are and what they do.
Speaking of social responsibility and inclusivity, here is an article that looks forward to economy by linking the social and economic costs of murder on the job.

West Virginia University: New study examines role of intimate partner violence in workplace homicides among U.S. women
May 4, 2012
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University (WVU-ICRC) have found that intimate partner violence resulted in 142 homicides among women at work in the U.S. from 2003 to 2008, a figure which represents 22 percent of the 648 workplace homicides among women during the period.

The paper, “Workplace homicides among U.S. women: the role of intimate partner violence,” published in the April 2012 issue of “Annals of Epidemiology,” reports that the leading cause of homicides among women was criminal intent, such as those resulting from robberies of retail stores (39 percent), followed closely by homicides carried out by personal relations (33 percent). Nearly 80 percent of these personal relations were intimate partners.

Risk factors associated with workplace-related intimate partner homicides include occupation, time of day and location. Women in protective-service occupations had the highest overall homicide rate; however, women in healthcare, production and office/administration had the highest proportion of homicides related to intimate partner violence. Over half of the homicides committed by intimate partners occurred in parking lots and public buildings.

“Workplace violence is an issue that affects the entire community,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Understanding the extent of the risk and the precipitators for these events, especially for women, of becoming victims of workplace violence is a key step in preventing these tragedies.”
Next up, the economic benefits of organizations that are good for society.

Economy, including technology

Portland State University: Landmark Oregon Study Documents Economic Impact and Resilience of the Nonprofit Sector
May 4, 2012
A new study of Oregon’s nonprofit sector by the Nonprofit Association of Oregon and Portland State University, with funding from three prominent Oregon-based foundations, has captured headlines in the business press for its documentation of the sector’s economic impact. The Portland Business Journal notes that nonprofits, which account for 13 percent of Oregon’s private sector payroll and eight percent of its gross domestic product, rival the state’s manufacturing sector “for sheer impact on Oregon’s economy.” Oregon Business Editor-in-Chief Robin Doussard notes, “I think everyone greatly appreciates the work that nonprofits do. But rarely do I encounter a business group or summit that brings in the nonprofit sector as a constant, equal partner to discuss the economy of the state.”

Economic impact is only part of the story, however. The landmark study, based on financial data (primarily for the year 2010) from the Oregon Department of Justice’s database of public charities, as well as a February 2012 detailed survey representing over 600 nonprofit respondents, also suggests that the state’s nonprofits have weathered the worst of the long recession and are showing signs of resilience.
The Oregon study provides strong evidence that the nonprofit sector’s economic contributions are significant, and its health affects overall prospects for the state’s economic recovery. Furthermore, because of the people it serves (the study reports that 78 percent of Oregon’s public charity nonprofits serve low income populations), the sector’s health also affects the lives of the state’s most vulnerable people and communities. Finally, with 83 percent of its revenue coming from sources other than government, nonprofits are leveraging a tremendous amount of private capital for community betterment.
Now, two technology stories.

University of Wisconsin: Networking pioneer Landweber named to Internet Hall of Fame
by Chris Barncard
May 10, 2012
The decision to put Lawrence Landweber in the "Innovators" circle of the newly-created Internet Hall of Fame is not likely one that cost the nominating committee any sleep.

"What's neat about this field is that there is always something new," says Landweber, the University of Wisconsin-Madison emeritus professor of computer sciences. "Everywhere you look you find new, exciting applications opened up by new, exciting technologies."

Landweber joined 31 other Internet luminaries — names like Vint Cerf ("Father of the Internet"), Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and Ray Tomlinson (he chose the "@" symbol and gave us email) — in the hall's first class of inductees in a ceremony in Geneva.
University of Wisconsin: New round of federal funding received for $85 million medical isotope project
by Jennifer Sereno
May 8, 2012
The Morgridge Institute for Research has received a $20.6 million cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration to support development of a new process and manufacturing plant for a medical isotope needed by tens of thousands of U.S. patients daily.

The cooperative agreement through the National Nuclear Security Administration's Global Threat Reduction Initiative will support the Morgridge Institute and partner SHINE Medical Technologies in efforts to produce molybdenum-99 without weapons-usable highly enriched uranium.

Thomas "Rock" Mackie, principal investigator for the project and director of medical devices at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, says the private, nonprofit research institute located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus will serve as the prime contractor on the project.
Finally, a story that leads back to environment.

West Virginia University: Grass guzzling bovine or efficient eater? WVU leads way in figuring it out
May 9, 2012
Imagine you’ve got two bulls in front of you. They look equally healthy and robust; they’re roughly the same size. But one of them will cost you a whole lot more in feed over its lifetime to grow at the same rate as the other.

Can you tell which one is the grass guzzler, and which is more fuel-efficient?

West Virginia University can.
And that's it for the previous week's sustainability news from campuses on the campaign trail. There is another installment coming from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Annular Eclipse edition). Stay tuned.

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