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How ASU went to space and keeps pushing boundaries

ASU Now | July 1, 2020

It’s a far cry from the '60s, when engineers fought scientists. Now they are in the same building, unseparated by distance or bureaucratic walls.

This is the story of how ASU's tiny geology program grew to become one of only seven U.S. institutions that can build interplanetary spacecraft. It's a story sure to instill Sun Devil pride.

It begins with the purchase of a meteorite collection, shoots to the moon with some Navy pilots who learned geology basics from an ASU professor, then turns to the hiring of sustainability scientist Phil Christensen, a self-described "accidental engineer."

The story includes interdisciplinary research and student experiences, investments in research facilities, years of hard work, hundreds of students, and an exceptional group of scientists including Christensen, Jim Bell, Craig Hardgrove, and sustainability scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, among many others.

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SOS student represents US youth in UN climate dialogue

June 27, 2020

On July 1, School of Sustainability master's student Hailey Campbell will be speaking in a virtual dialogue on the Role of Youth in Climate Action. The event is hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. Register online for this event, which takes place at 6:00 a.m. Arizona time.

Campbell, a 2020 Barrett, the Honors College graduate who majored in sustainability, represented Arizona State University during the 2019 U.N. Climate Convention (COP25) held in Madrid, Spain. It was there she became involved with YOUNGO, the Children and Youth constituency to the UNFCCC.

"I started contributing to official YOUNGO submissions to the UNFCCC, hosting meetings with the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Work Group, and working with my peers to make ACE the focal point of COP26," said Campbell.

"When the time came for this webinar, the UNFCCC Youth focal points invited me to be a participant for our region to share my climate action story," she said.

Cerveny certifies world-record lightning flashes

ASU Now | June 26, 2020

lightning over mountains with purple skyTwo new world records of lightning — the horizontal distance a bolt travels and the time duration of the flash — have been recorded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The new records for "megaflashes," verified with new satellite lightning imagery technology, more than double the previous records measured in the U.S. and France, according to the WMO.

“This will provide valuable information for establishing limits to the scale of lightning — including megaflashes — for engineering, safety and scientific concerns,” said Randy Cerveny, an Arizona State University professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the “chief rapporteur” of weather and climate extremes for WMO.

“It is likely that even greater extremes exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning-detection technology improves,” Cerveny said.

Meet sustainability alum and secretary of the CLFSA Maria Coca

June 25, 2020

Maria Coca Ascencio felt destined to study sustainability.

“I grew up surrounded by mountains, volcanos, calderas, trees, rivers, and dark skies viewing millions of stars with the naked eye,” Coca said. “Nature was my first love.”

Following her heart, she applied to the School of Sustainability and was accepted into the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership program, from which she graduated in 2019. She is currently the Academic Senate Manager and Secretary of the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty & Staff Association (CLFSA). In the following Q&A, learn more about Maria, her passion for sustainability and her role on the CLFSA.

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New mapping tool shows holistic view of water in Arizona

ASU Now | June 25, 2020

Water is a critical issue in Arizona, and a new water-mapping tool created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University has collected a vast array of maps and data sets to show a wide-ranging view of water in the state.

The Arizona Water Blueprint visualizes information on groundwater, rivers, agricultural irrigation, dams, ocean desalination, critical species and other concepts that are important not only to policymakers but also to any Arizonan concerned about water.

The first-of-its-kind map creates a holistic view of water in Arizona that was missing, according to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy.

Panch confirmed as director of National Science Foundation

ASU Now | June 23, 2020

Arizona State University Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan has been named the 15th director of the National Science Foundation, unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 18 after his December 2019 nomination by President Donald J. Trump.

During his six-year appointment, Panchanathan will be responsible for overseeing NSF staff and management, program creation and administration, merit review, planning, budget and day-to-day operations. He also will direct the federal agency’s mission, including support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, keeping the U.S. at the leading edge of discovery.

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Westerhoff, Herckes combine for COVID decontamination solution

ASU Now | June 15, 2020

As the novel coronavirus created urgent demand for personal protective equipment, a major hospital chain in Phoenix was seeking a solution that would allow hospital staff to sanitize masks themselves, rather than sending their masks off site for disinfection and possibly getting other people’s masks in return.

According to sustainability scientist Paul Westerhoff, “It’s potentially a life-and-death issue in the context of viruses because once an N95 mask is fit to someone’s face, it may not form a proper seal on anyone else’s face.”

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Hodge: Economy, public health in tug-of-war

June 12, 2020

Sustainability scholar James Hodge is director of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Center for Public Health Law and Policy. Hodge's expertise in public health law, emergency legal preparedness, global health law, ethics and human rights has attracted more than 500 inquiries from policymakers, health industry leaders, public health practitioners and nonprofits seeking guidance on public health law and policy issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center operates the Western Region Office of the Network for Public Health Law, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has addressed every imaginable issue related to COVID-19 law and policy concerns through federal and state officials, doctors, hospitals and others.

"All of our efforts are driven by our consummate goal of using law and policy as positive tools for intervention to prevent excess morbidity and mortality related to the pandemic," says Hodge.

In this new Q and A with ASU Now, Hodge addresses legal and policy issues related to COVID-19.

Philosophers of science and sustainability scientists unite!

June 9, 2020

An international group of philosophers of science (Michiru Nagatsu, University of Helsinki; Taylor Davis, Purdue University; C. Tyler DesRoches*, Arizona State University; Inkeri Koskinen, Tampere University; Miles MacLeod, University of Twente; Milutin Stojanovic, University of Helsinki; Henrik Thorén; University of Helsinki) recently wrote an article entitled “Philosophy of Science for Sustainability Science" on the nature and significance of sustainability science. This article is forthcoming in the journal Sustainability Science.

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Amplifying Black Lives Matter for a sustainable future

June 9, 2020

This article was written by William Walker VI, a junior in the School of Sustainability

As environmentalists and caretakers of the earth, it is our duty to ensure the prosperity of all environments as well as the built environment around us. But what if the environments we have built have a story of systemic racism, prejudice, redlining, exploitation, and marginalization of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities? Is it possible to include conservationists, economists, urban planners, sustainability professionals, and social activists in the reformation process? To this question, I say that we should recognize the systemic racism in our society as an environmental issue and that racial equity should be the focal point for sustainable development.

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Oui Nous Pouvons: subverting the single story of sustainable development

June 5, 2020

Led by her passion for empowering communities through sustainable development, Master of Sustainability Solutions student Abigail Johnson worked in the western African country of Togo on a documentary film about homegrown sustainability solutions. By amplifying marginalized voices and showing grassroots sustainability initiatives, Johnson counterbalanced the prevalent narrative that sustainability in Africa can only be done with non-African resources and people.

“Oui, Nous Pouvons” (translation: Yes, We Can) opens with Abby’s narrative, “I came to Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer, but just to be clear this is not my story. It’s a story about the people I met here and about the stories they tell themselves and each other.” And the story she tells focuses on a Togo community member named Aposto who has put his master’s degree in sociology to good use by creating homegrown solutions to local sustainability challenges.

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Using creative expression to convey sustainability solutions

June 2, 2020

Meet Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainability alumna Neda Mohaved. Her work is centered around international development as human development, and most recently “how we wear water.”

“Throughout the project, I worked with water metaphorically to equate the process of learning with embracing change. Paradigm shifts needed for sustainability require transformative learning where one is open to being shaped by new knowledge and experience," Movahed said. Read more in her Q&A.

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Meet sustainability student and SURE researcher Tahiry Langrand

June 2, 2020

The Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) is an opportunity for undergraduate students to find a research fellow and gain substantive research on a faculty-supervised project. This year, School of Sustainability student Tahiry Langrand participated in a project on lithium mining with Datu Agusdinata.

“I was driven to work with Dr. Agusdinata on his research on the community impacts of lithium mining in Salar de Atacama because I was especially interested in the ethical considerations of natural resource extraction,” Langrand said. Read more from Langrand in his Q&A.

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Cheng, team win EPA award for green infrastructure project

ASU Now | May 28, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized Arizona State University as a winner of its eighth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national competition that engages college students in the design of on-campus green infrastructure solutions to help address stormwater pollution.

The ASU team, led by sustainability scientist Chingwen Cheng, assistant professor of landscape architecture in The Design School, was recognized for their project, titled “Ready! Set! Activate!” The team worked with Paideia Academy, a K-8 public charter school located in south Phoenix, to reduce local flooding during Arizona’s monsoon season and create a resilient, multifunctional space that effectively manages stormwater runoff and yields educational and ecological benefits.

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Two short films explore sustainable food and water harvesting

May 22, 2020

Two new short films Holding on to the Corn and Plant the Rain, produced by students in the School of Sustainability and Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in a class taught by Peter Byck, highlight the benefits of a local regenerative food system.

Holding on to the Corn

Holding on to the Corn explores how Hopi spiritual beliefs, ceremonies and agricultural practices centered on corn are being re-established by tribe members. The original intent of the film’s proponents was to create sustainable agriculture and promote healthy access to food, only to discover that their tribal traditions and experiences provided all the knowledge they needed to succeed.

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Now emerging from a sustainable business incubator: “Together We Brew”

May 22, 2020

From his experiences in the beverage business, Master of Sustainability Solutions student Nicholas Shivka was painfully aware of how hard it is for local businesses to compete with the global giants. He knew that local business start-ups lack the financial support cities provide to multinational corporations interested in establishing a local presence. Those companies promise the addition of new jobs in exchange for tax breaks and other “attraction” incentives offered by city officials enamored with Fortune 500 companies, while local businesses receive minimal support and suffer financial disadvantages in the local economy.

Shivka saw a need to encourage and support local entrepreneurs in their quest to build sustainable businesses by creating a sustainable business incubator program. Using the co-op ownership model, sustainability methods, and participatory practices, he partnered with MSUS students Hanna Layton and Huda Khalife, under the guidance of Professor Arnim Wiek from the Sustainable Food Economy Lab, to build an educational program for aspiring entrepreneurs interested in sustainable food production. To test the program, they began the incubation of “Together We Brew,” a sustainable beverage business, with a group of Phoenix entrepreneurs.

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Vegetation shifts can outweigh climate change in desert rangelands

ASU Now | May 18, 2020

Grasslands across the globe, which support the majority of the world’s grazing animals, have been transitioning to shrub lands in a process that scientists call “woody plant encroachment.”

Managed grazing of drylands is the most extensive form of land use on the planet, which has led to widespread efforts to reverse this trend and restore grass cover.

Until now, researchers have thought that because woody plants like trees and shrubs have deeper roots than grass, woody plant encroachment resulted in less water entering streams and groundwater aquifers. This was because scientists typically studied the effect the grassland shift toward shrubs has on water resources on flat ground.

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Byck documentary series Carbon Cowboys hits the web

May 15, 2020

In many parts of the U.S., the farming industry has been forced to waste food due to supply chain interruptions from COVID-19. But the Carbon Cowboys featured in Peter Byck's 10-part documentary series say sales are soaring.

In his series, Byck details the farming technique known as regenerative grazing, which involves quickly rotating cattle from pasture to pasture, before they can damage the land — similar to how bison herds move across The Great Plains. The practice, which does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, builds soils that are richer in carbon, which in turn boosts crop and livestock yields.

The series, directed by Peter Byck, was filmed over six years in various rural communities across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. View it online at CarbonCowboys.org.

Karwat, Vanos talk air quality on KJZZ

May 13, 2020

Sustainability scientists Darshan Karwat of the School for the Future of Innovation in Sociaty and Jenni Vanos of the School of Sustainability were among several experts interviewed by local Phoenix National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ last month. The April 27 radio piece was titled Worse Air Quality In Phoenix Communities Of Color Could Mean Higher COVID-19 Risk.

Karwat’s research shows correlations between neighborhoods’ poverty levels, percentage of minority residents, and pollution levels. Vanos studies the influence of extreme heat, radiation, and air pollution on human health. With so many cars off the road as people stay home during the pandemic, Phoenix’s air has been much cleaner for the past few weeks, which the two see as an opportunity for shared research.

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Wutich recognized for outstanding mentorship

ASU Now | May 13, 2020

Every year Arizona State University Faculty Women’s Association recognizes exceptional mentors across the university with the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. This year, social sciences faculty members Amber Wutich and Tracy Spinrad from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were selected for the honor.

Sustainability Scientist Amber Wutich joined the School of Human Evolution and Social Change as an assistant professor in 2007 after initially coming to ASU as a postdoctoral student in 2006. Today she serves as the President’s Professor of anthropology, the director of ASU’s Center for Global Health and the associate director of ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research.

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