MSU environmental activities and accomplishments, from sources on and off-campus. For additional information on MSU environmental work, see these sources.


ESPP core faculty Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi awarded the 2019 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Teaching
University Outreach and Engagement

he partnership between MSU associate professor of community sustainability Laura Schmitt Olabisi and Ms. Renée Wallace of FoodPLUS | Detroit began in 2014 through an established community process for soliciting information on a proposed urban livestock ordinance in Detroit. Their objective was to develop a collaborative vision for and improved understanding of food systems in Detroit. The community partners were key participants in all stages of the project, the collaborative research yielded new insight into the potential to directly affect the design and implementation of the ordinance, and the results demonstrated that rapid growth in livestock keeping could generate negative externalities for the City. This project has led to additional benefits for both partners. A field school is planned in Detroit for 2019, with the dual goals of training community partners in systems modeling and training modelers in community engagement techniques. The partnership also was a catalyst for a $2 million grant for a four-year project that aims to use community-based participatory modeling to analyze the food system in Flint and catalyze collaborative relationships between the two cities for better understanding of urban food systems. More»


Protecting Reproductive and Child Health
MSU AgBioResearch

Courtney Carignan works to ensure food, water and consumer goods are safe. In particular, she helps protect reproductive and child health by investigating mixtures of chemicals that could cause harm. More»

Following a passion, from the bright lights of the stage to the forest
MSU AgBioResearch

Emily Huff has always been driven by passion. Her love of music and a dream of Broadway stardom took her to Brandeis University to study music composition. While there, however, she struggled with the seemingly binary nature of life. More»

Natural Resource Curse Strikes Again: ESPP student research shows uneven benefits to local communities in the Marcellus Shale boom
Journal of Rural and Community Development

In this case study, we compare federal and state employment, compensation, and business data from four Pennsylvania counties experiencing rapid Marcellus Shale development to consider what portion of these benefits stay within their respective counties and what is awarded to out-of-county recipients. We then draw on focus group data for individual community leader accounts of how benefits are distributed and the possible mechanisms that explain the trends identified in the employment, compensation, and business data. Our findings suggest that a substantial portion of employment and compensation benefits associated with natural gas extraction have gone to out-of-county recipients, suggesting much more limited direct benefits for residents than previously described in economic projections. We conclude that this outflow of benefits is a form of uneven development that may partially explain the natural resource curse. More»

A Damming Trend

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences affecting everything from food security to the environment ­greatly outweigh the positive changes of this grand-scale flood control, according to new research by ESPP Director Jiaguo Qi, Dr. Yadu Pohkrel, ESPP affiliated faculty, and others at Michigan State University. The results, published in the current issue of Nature Scientific Reports, are the first to tackle the potential environmental changes that the overall basin could experience from harnessing the region's hydropower. "The Mekong River is one of the few large and complex river systems that remains mostly undammed," said Pokhrel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the study's lead author. "However, the rapid socio-economic growth, increasing energy demands and geopolitical opportunities have led to basin-wide construction of large hydropower dams." More»

Dean Croson announces Dr. Jiaguo Qi as new ESPP Director

Dear ESPP Community: I am delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Jiaguo Qi of the Department of Geography as the Director of ESPP. Dr. Qi's research focuses on coupled human and natural systems. He also serves as the Director of the Center for Global Change and Earth Observation, and has been an appointed or affiliated faculty with ESPP for many years. Dr. Qi was chosen via a competitive search process led by the ESPP Faculty Advisory Council. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Qi to his new role. Sincerely yours, Rachel More»

Meredith Gore: Ending Wildlife Crime

I am a conservation social scientist who has worked on studying human-environment relationships in an international context for almost 15 years. My work is participatory and focused on humans; although I do not have a geographic area in which I specialize, I have had the good fortune to collaborate with many stakeholders across Africa in particular. The problem of illegal trade in wild flora and fauna is not new. Trade in wildlife has been going on since the time of Marco Polo, and illegal trade has gone alongside the legal. What is new is the scope and scale of illegal trade in the last decade. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated illegal wildlife trade generates upwards of $23 billion for the illicit global economy on an annual basis; the illicit market continues to grow at a faster rate than the legal global economy. More»

MSU Prof elected to the American Philosophical Society

Michigan State University evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski was inducted into the American Philosophical Society — the oldest "learned society" in the United States — on Nov. 9 in Philadelphia. The society was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 for the promotion of useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications, library resources and community outreach, with 2018 marking the society's 275th anniversary. Lenski, along with 34 others, was elected to the society in April 2018. More»

Why covering the environment is one of the most dangerous beats in journalism
The Conversation

From the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi by Saudi agents to President Trump's clashes with the White House press corps, attacks on reporters are in the news. This problem extends far beyond the politics beat, and world leaders aren’t the only threats. At Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, we train students and professional journalists to report on what we view as the world's most important beat. One hard fact is that those who cover it are at heightened risk of murder, arrest, assault, threats, self-exile, lawsuits and harassment. In a recent study, I explored this problem through in-depth interviews with journalists on five continents, including impacts on their mental health and careers. I found that some of them were driven away from journalism by these experiences, while others became even more committed to their missions. More»

Hydropower, innovations and avoiding international dam shame

“This article identifies that for hydropower to continue to make a contribution to sustainable energy it needs to consider from the outset the true costs, social, environmental and cultural that may be involved, and include those in the pricing of the infrastructure, including the eventual removal of the dam, rather than pass those on to the public in 30 years," said Emilio Moran, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences. More»


Challenges of covering the environment
Great Lakes Echo

Among biggest challenges facing environmental reporters are political barriers and danger, according to a recent panel convened by MSU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. More»

As climate changes, plants might not suck carbon from the air fast enough

Current climate change models might be overestimating how much carbon dioxide plants can suck from the atmosphere. Thanks to molecular research on photosynthesis done at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), non-MSU atmospheric scientists have factored in lesser understood photosynthetic limitation into their models. These models suggest that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations might increase more rapidly than previously expected. Photosynthesis supports life on Earth. Photosynthetic organisms capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and process it through a series of reactions known as the Calvin-Benson cycle. Specifically, the carbon is used to make triose phosphate, a molecule which eventually turns into sucrose, the energy currency that powers plants and the food chain above them. The process is referred to as TPU, or triose phosphate utilization. But there is a limit to how much carbon plants can use. “When photosynthesis gets too much carbon dioxide, it can’t process it into sugars fast enough,” said Tom Sharkey, University Distinguished Professor at the PRL. “Photosynthesis cannot indefinitely increase its productivity levels. It reaches a ceiling, and more carbon dioxide won’t help.” More»

ESPP student receives scholarship from Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
PR Newswire

Today, Cafe Bustelo in partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) awarded ten deserving Latino students from around the country with the Cafe Bustelo El Cafe del Futuro Scholarship. In its fifth year, the brand has provided $230,000 to date in college scholarships to 46 Latino students nationwide. Patricia Jaimes (East Lansing, Mich.): Despite financial difficulties, Patricia's parents emphasized the importance of obtaining a good education. Between balancing multiple jobs, participating in extracurricular activities and being the mother of a child with disabilities, Patricia chose to pursue higher education and maintain a high GPA. Now, she is currently working on a Ph.D. in earth and environmental sciences and hopes her research will contribute to structural and social changes within higher education and STEM communities, making them more inclusive for ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. More»


Michigan State to study communication after Hurrican Maria
The Associate Press

Michigan State University researchers have received a federal grant to study communication after Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. The East Lansing school says it plans to use the roughly $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how information spread during and after the hurricane that struck last September. Researchers aim to learn why infrastructure failed and how crisis communication was used before, during and after the hurricane. A research team plans to convene focus groups and interview reporters and residents. They also will map areas still lacking electricity. More»

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