School of Sustainability News

Student innovator gets help from ASU, CGI U on clean water venture

January 27, 2014

Photo by: Nisarg Patel

Photo by: Nisarg Patel

Innovation Challenge, Edson and CGI U stepping stones for student startup

When Arizona State University senior Nisarg Patel’s friend returned from a research expedition in Guatemala and expressed concern regarding children drinking contaminated water that could cause diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses, it got Patel thinking about a solution. He and his friends soon came up with the idea of soluble protein biosensors to indicate the presence of bacteria in drinking water.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 1.5 million children under the age of five in developing countries die each year due to diarrhea.

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America burning: the Yarnell Hill fire tragedy and the nation’s wildfire crisis

January 23, 2014

Photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo by: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Six months after 19 firefighters lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire near Prescott, Ariz., The Weather Channel investigated the larger problem of U.S. wildfires. In an article and original documentary titled “America Burning: The Yarnell Hill Tradegy and the Nation’s Wildfire Crisis,” journalist Neil Katz, along with executive producer Greg Gilderman and producer Shawn Efran of Efran Films, interview surviving family members and the sole surviving firefighter.

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ASU professor wins ‘Digging Into Data’ challenge

January 23, 2014

c-michael-barton

ASU professor C. Michael Barton has been named a “Digging Into Data” challenge winner. He is among a cohort of research teams representing Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States that were named by 10 international research agencies, including the National Science Foundation in the United States.

The Digging into Data program encourages research teams to develop new insights, tools and skills in innovative social science and humanities research using large-scale data analysis. Fourteen teams will receive grants to investigate how computational techniques can be applied to “big data” in social sciences and the humanities. Each team represents collaborations among scholars, scientists and information professionals from leading universities and libraries in Europe and North America.

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Climate Adaptation: Lessons from Family Farming

Thought Leader Series

January 21, 2014

A Thought Leader Series Piece

Hallie-Eakin-0081By Hallie Eakin

Note: 2014 is the United Nations’ International Year of Family Farming. The goal of the observance is to call attention to the role of family farming in achieving sustainable development. Senior Sustainability Scientist Hallie Eakin is an expert in agrarian change, vulnerability, and adaptation. Her work was recently featured on Arizona PBS’s Horizon program.

The International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) focuses on the role of the family farm in meeting our most pressing sustainability challenges: food security, poverty alleviation, and environmental integrity. That family farms are now seen as significant in solving these challenges, rather than causing them, marks a revolution in international thinking.

Many people envision small-scale farms as unfortunate features of the developing world: impoverished, lacking basic services, and suffering from economic insecurity and, ironically, hunger. Associating poverty and hunger with smallholder communities is not unfounded, but does family farming cause poverty or food insecurity? My work in Latin America, and that of many other scientists elsewhere, clearly answers, “No.”

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Scientists look to ancient cities for clues to equal urban access

January 21, 2014

How far away is your school? Are there more fast food joints than farmers markets in your neighborhood? Is your doctor close enough to help you in an emergency?

Today, more than half of the world’s population – that’s more than 3.5 billion people – lives in cities, and cities contain the majority of services like schools, markets, and hospitals. Experts predict that by 2030, urban area will double worldwide, shifting more people into cities. However, to some, access to urban services is not readily available.

Unequal access is already a concern in Arizona: Food deserts spread through inner city Phoenix and the Valley’s urban sprawl hikes up water prices for those on the urban fringe. So while some can eat healthy, others are left with fast food restaurants and convenience stores, and while some have affordable water prices, others sacrifice.

At Arizona State University, a team of scientists and students hope that maps and archeological finds will unearth historical patterns of city access that can guide equal access for modern cities. Now in its second stage, the National Science Foundation-funded project Service Access in Pre-Modern Cities aims to give context and clarity to a complicated question: Why do some people have access to urban services and others do not?

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ASU School of Life Sciences, Phoenix Zoo team up for conservation research

January 17, 2014

Photo by: Sandra Leander

Photo by: Sandra Leander

Modern, professionally managed zoos frequently serve as global conservation agents – working to save species, educate the public about species loss and recovery, practice conservation breeding and reintroduce animals into the wild. These important efforts depend on understanding the scientific complexities of the animals and their habitats, as well as the history, ethics and policies that often deeply impact animal survival.

Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and the Phoenix Zoo are launching a new program to strengthen animal conservation efforts by collaborating on new research and improving conservation communications and outreach to the public.

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Kao is first to graduate with Master’s in Sustainability Solutions

January 17, 2014

Photo by: Tim Trumble

After a very busy year and a half being a graduate student in Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, Karen Kao celebrated her achievements as the graduate speaker at the school’s fall convocation this past December. With a background in psychology, Kao is very interested in the behavioral change behind sustainability, which led her to the school’s master’s degree in sustainable solutions.

“The program is an applied degree, so anything that I learned in the academic field of psychology, I could learn how to translate into practice,” Kao says. “Graduating as the first student from the program, I feel well-equipped with the strategies and thought-processes that help build solution options, and I take with me a practical skillset that’s transferrable to almost any subject in sustainability.”

As a student, Kao served as a research assistant on projects implementing practical solutions to sustainability issues, ranging from economics to urban planning. As part of her capstone project, mandatory for the master’s degree in sustainable solutions, Kao conducted community engagement workshops in Phoenix to collect public opinions for Reinvent PHX. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Grant Program, aims to develop a new model of sustainable urban development, where public transit, housing, jobs and services improve the quality of life for all residents.

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Municipal sludge holds hints to human health risks

January 16, 2014

Thousands of chemicals serving a variety of human needs flood into sewage treatment plants once their use life has ended. Many belong to a class of chemicals known as CECs (chemicals of emerging concern), which may pose risks to both human and environmental health.

Arjun Venkatesan, a recent doctorate, and Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, have carried out meticulous tracking of many of these chemicals.

In a study appearing today in the Nature Publishing Group journal Scientific Reports, both authors outline a new approach to the identification of potentially harmful, mass-produced chemicals, describing the accumulation in sludge of 123 distinct CECs.

Ten of the 11 chemicals found in greatest abundance in treated municipal sludge or biosolids were high-production volume chemicals, including flame-retardants, antimicrobials and surfactants.

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Professor publishes commentary in Sustainability: Journal of Record

January 14, 2014

sus.2013.6.issue-6.coverIn the December 2013 issue of Sustainability: Journal of Record, Scott G. McNall and George Basile discuss the current discourse surrounding sustainability and how a new narrative on the corresponding issues can change the shape of our future.

In their article, “How to Create a New Narrative for Sustainability That Will Work: And Why It Matters,” McNall and Basile, a professor in the Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership program and a sustainability scientist in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, write that while climate change continues to affect our planet, “humans are hardwired to respond to the danger in front of them, not the danger on the horizon.”

Fortunately, we humans are “storytelling creatures” and can craft this new sustainability narrative with real-life metaphors, humor, emotion and applicable values, so suggest the authors.

“In crafting stories about the human condition and our future, we must remember that humans have proven themselves to be resilient, creative and adaptable over millennia,” write NcNall and Basile. In part 2 of their series, the authors will share specific guidelines for crafting a new narrative for action.

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Selinsky returns to ASU Biodesign Institute as chief operating officer

January 9, 2014

selinsky_portrait_forweb4x5[1]The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has appointed Cheryl Selinsky as senior director and chief operating officer. In this role, Selinsky will direct all operational and financial aspects for the research institute.

Biodesign combines the talents of more than 500 scientists and staff to advance research that will improve human health and the health of our planet and make the world a safer place.

“The atmosphere within the Biodesign Institute is one of true collaboration and teamwork, an environment conducive to big science,” says Selinsky. “I count my time there as one of the best opportunities I have had to develop technical skills, mentor junior scientists and drive scientific programs forward.”

Selinsky has 20 years of experience in translational research and product and technology development. Her most recent position was as the senior director for translational research development at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.

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City of Phoenix, ASU establish public/private sustainability incubator

January 9, 2014

srpwastesort1.jpgThe City of Phoenix city council approved a four-year partnership with Arizona State University to create the Center for Resource Intelligence. The center will provide a wide array of research, development, education, and solutions services to more effectively manage the city’s resources and create economic value.

Industries such as energy, water, resource extraction, product development, manufacturing, and recycling will collaborate to convert trash once destined for the landfill into business opportunities and jobs. The center is part of the City’s effort to create value, economic opportunity, and jobs.

The center will be managed by the Sustainability Solutions Services program, part of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

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Want to save the whales? Put a price on them says ASU professor

January 6, 2014

Photo by: Leah Gerber

Photo by: Leah Gerber

Overharvest by commercial whaling has been a well-recognized world threat to stable whale populations since the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issued a moratorium against commercial whaling in 1986. However, because of loopholes, whaling countries at odds with the ban continue to hunt under the guise of scientific whaling or in outright objection to the IWC, while the IWC and its members, as well as whale conservationists, can offer few methods to enforce the ban or effectively curb whale harvests.

This lack of cooperation and constructive communication among whalers, the IWC and conservationists has posed a decade’s old roadblock to solution building and balancing whaling practices with stabilization of whale populations.

One recently proposed solution is the creation of “whale shares,” an approach developed by Leah Gerber, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, and colleagues from the University of California, Santa Barbara, is published as a forum in the January issue of Ecological Applications.

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Scientists propose ‘dirty but necessary’ way to feed 9 billion people

January 2, 2014

cornfieldThe modern agriculture system that feeds most of the world’s population relies in large part on phosphorus, a chemical element that is mined from a small number of ancient seabed locations around the world. Phosphorus (in the form of the compound phosphate) is an essential ingredient in fertilizer and is critical for food systems worldwide, but about 75 percent of it is mined and exported from just one country – Morocco.

The United States will become entirely reliant on imports of phosphorous within roughly three or four decades – and as phosphate deposits become more scarce, the price of fertilizer could spike and massively disrupt our food supply.

In a Future Tense article for Slate magazine, ASU’s James Elser, Regents’ Professor in the School of Life Sciences, and Bruce Rittmann, Regents’ Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, propose a three-part solution to this looming crisis.

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Inaugural Sustainability Solutions Festival set to take place Feb. 17-22

December 18, 2013

In partnership with the GreenBiz Group and The Sustainability Consortium, Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Festival will bring the nation’s leaders in sustainable business, renewable energy, research, humanities, and innovation during one week of local events. The Festival is a project under the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a program part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

“The Sustainability Solutions Festival exemplifies ASU’s endeavor to address the world’s environmental, economic, and social challenges of the twenty-first century through collaborative, transdisciplinary, and solutions-oriented thinking and training,” says Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University.

The Festival will take place at various locations across Tempe and Phoenix, beginning Feb. 17 and ending on Feb. 22. Additional partners include Arizona Solar SummitArizona Science CenterArizona SciTech FestivalSedona Film Festival, and the City of Tempe.

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The Anthropocene: Humanity’s age of change

Thought Leader Series

December 18, 2013

A Thought Leader Series Piece

Grimm2012-cropped-TLSBy Nancy Grimm

Note: Senior Sustainability Scientist Nancy Grimm recently guest edited and authored two articles in the November 2013 edition of the Ecological Society of America’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, highlighting current and future implications of climate change for ecosystems. The issue includes work from over 50 scientists who contributed to this part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment.

In 2014, the United States will release its third National Climate Assessment (NCA) based on the efforts of hundreds of scientists and practitioners over a three-year period. During 2011-2012, I served as a senior scientist for the NCA in Washington, DC. I worked with teams who assessed the current and future impacts of human-caused climate change on biogeochemical cycles, ecosystems, and urban systems. These topics are highly interrelated and solutions to climate and global challenges must recognize their interdependence. A sustainable future depends on rethinking the extraction and recycling of Earth’s mineral resources, reducing impacts on ecosystems, and investing in building sustainable cities.

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Local ventures win funds for their sustainability solutions

December 17, 2013

Three local start-up businesses that best address sustainability challenges were awarded a total of $6,000 from the Walton Sustainability Solutions Festival, a program under the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. The ventures are supported by SEED SPOT Phoenix, part of the national SEED SPOT program that works with entrepreneurs to bring their socially minded products, technology, or services to market.

Innovative HITECH Healthcare Solutions, awarded $3,000, is developing mobile-friendly apps that connect patients with health care providers for more efficient and satisfactory care. Guardian NPX, awarded $2,000, was chosen for its all-natural, FDA-approved lice removal treatment that lowers student absences. Box Play for Kids was given $1,000 for creating eco-friendly toys out of boxes and recycled stickers. Each winner will be attending the 2014 Sustainability Solutions Festival during Feb. 17-22 in Tempe and Phoenix.

“We are very excited to make these modest awards to these three inspirational, blossoming ventures,” says Patricia Reiter, director of the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “Each of these companies creatively address environmental, social and economic challenges through their products and their business plans.”

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Arizona’s universities partner on diverse sustainability projects

December 14, 2013

The Arizona Board of Regents Innovation Fund is providing monies for three unique projects organized by researchers from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona. The money is coming from Arizona’s 0.6 percent state sales tax increase to support colleges.

One project, “LiveData: A Digital Research Infrastructure for Arizona’s 21st Century Universities” led by the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Philip Tarrant, will provide one common platform to store and share Arizona universities’ data and research used to gain additional funding and find future partnerships.

A second, led by Sustainability Scientist Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, studies gut microbes’ role in Autism Spectrum Disorders to improve the lives of children suffering from constant diarrhea or constipation.

Lastly, Sustainability Scientist Rolf Halden is leading a team on the further development of Arizona Environmental Grid Infrastructure Service, an informatic geospatial data system that all three universities can use to conduct environmental studies.

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Recycle your cap and gown

December 11, 2013

School of Sustainability convocation is just around the corner, but what will you do with your cap and gown after the ceremony? You could turn them into a Halloween costume or store them in your closet for years on end. Or you can put them to good use and donate to future classmates.

Drop off your cap and gown between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday at Wrigley Hall’s first floor office. You can specify whether you’d like to give your cap and gown to future classes or to Herff Jones, Arizona State University’s cap and gown provider. If you decide to donate to Herff Jones, make sure to only give your gown—caps and tassels are not recycled through its Renew Recycling Program.

Congratulations to all our winter 2013 sustainability graduates!



Phoenix reduces greenhouse gases well ahead of schedule

December 3, 2013

According to the latest report compiled by ASU’s Sustainability Solutions Services, a program within the Global Institute of Sustainability’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the City of Phoenix has not only reached its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal, but has exceeded it. The goal, set in 2008, was to reduce emissions from city operations by 5 percent below the 2005 levels by 2015. By 2012, the city managed to reduce emissions by 7.2 percent three years ahead schedule.

“This is great for Phoenix and I’m very excited to see that we may be able to double or even possibly triple the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2015,” says Mayor Greg Stanton. “We are making Phoenix a cleaner and healthier place to live and work.”

City advancements include energy-efficient street lighting, landfill methane capture systems, alternative fuels, wastewater upgrades, solar power projects, and building retrofits.

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Decision Center for a Desert City releases decadal synthesis on climate, urbanization, and water in metropolitan Phoenix

December 3, 2013

Looking over green treetops toward downtown PhoenixArizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) released a 10-year report, “Advancing Science in Support of Water Policy and Urban Climate Change Adaptation at Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City: A Synthesis of Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Water, and Decision-Making Under Uncertainty.” The report summarizes the center’s milestones since its founding in 2004.

Under ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, DCDC has published over 340 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and supported 69 graduate students who have authored 18 doctoral dissertations and 17 master’s theses. DCDC focuses mostly on water risks and decision-making trade-offs amidst climate change.

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mission

Established in 2006, the School of Sustainability’s mission is to educate a new generation of scholars and practitioners and create innovative modes of scholarship by bringing together leaders, stakeholders, and people from multiple disciplines to develop practical solutions to the most pressing sustainability challenges.

 

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