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


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»

GMOs: A surrogate for the debate about agriculture?

Public concern over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is often associated with questions over their possible effects on human health and their environmental implications. However, perceptions of the agricultural and food industries, trends in higher education, questions around how research is funded, political leanings and socioeconomic factors can also play a part. Paul Thompson, holder of the W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University (MSU), conducts research on the ethical and philosophical questions associated with agriculture and food. More»

Police identify man killed in crash on US-127 in Clinton County as MSU professor
Detroit Free Press

The man killed in a fatal crash Sunday in Clinton County has been identified as a 37-year-old Michigan State University professor. Shengpan Lin, who's from China and was living in Lansing, died at the scene of the crash on northbound U.S. 127 near the exit to Uncle John’s Cider Mill on Sunday afternoon, the Clinton County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. Lin was an assistant professor in MSU's Social Science Data Analytics Initiative. He earned his PhD from the university in 2017, the same year he was appointed as an assistant professor. More»


ESPP PhD student Dylan Brewer (Economics) elected to the Nature Conservancy's Michigan Board of Trustees
The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy recently added two doctoral candidates to its Michigan Board of Trustees: Dylan Brewer, a PhD candidate in economics and environmental science and policy at Michigan State University (MSU) and Tracy Melvin, who is working on her Ph.D. in fisheries and wildlife and ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior with a certificate in spatial ecology, also at MSU. "Our world today is demanding a fresh, open approach to identifying and solving the biggest challenges we face for our environment in conservation" said Helen Taylor, state director in Michigan for The Nature Conservancy. "We're very hopeful that leaders like Dylan and Tracy will help us think about new and innovative approaches to our work." More»

A Few More Bad Apples: As The Climate Changes, Fruit Growing Does, Too
National Public Radio

For 150 years, western Michigan has been the perfect place to grow apples, says Jeff Andresen, professor at Michigan State University and the state climatologist. One reason is that Lake Michigan, to the west, moderates the climate here. More»

Yes, humans are depleting Earth's resources, but "footprint" estimates don't tell the full story
The Conversation

As an ecological economist and scholar of sustainability, I am particularly interested in metrics and indicators that can help us understand human uses of Earth’s ecosystems. Better measurements of the impacts of human activities can help identify ways to sustain both human well-being and natural resources. By Robert Richardson, Professor of Community Sustainability, MSU More»


ESPP affiliated faculty Drs. Vlad Tarabara, Robby Richardson, Michelle Rutty, and Doug Bessette, together with Dr. Grant Gunn, are awarded an Michigan Applied Public Policy Research grant for "Line 5: Oil Spill Detection, Remediation, and Risk Perceptions in Winter Conditions"
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Great Lakes Health Line 5: Oil Spill Detection, Remediation, and Risk Perceptions in Winter Conditions The project will examine the social perceptions of and physical risks associated with Line 5, an increasingly contentious oil transport pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Specifically, this research will (1) provide insight into the public's and decision-makers' perceptions of the risks associated with a Line 5 underwater oil spill via surveys, focus groups, and agent-based modeling, which will be informed by (2) preliminary laboratory experiments that investigate how oil accumulates and spreads beneath ice in the winter season, which has not been previously studied. The findings from this research will have critical implications for identifying best practices and developing spill remediation policy for the State of Michigan. Contact: Grant Gunn, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Environment & Spatial Sciences, College of Social Science, Doug Bessette, Assistant Professor, Community Sustainability Robert Richardson, Associate Professor, Community Sustainability Michelle Rutty, Assistant Professor, Community Sustainability Volodymyr Tarabara, Professor, Environmental Engineering and ESPP More»


ESPP Faculty Dr. Sandy Marquart-Pyatt and ESPP student Riva Denny (Sociology) win a grant to research "Perceptions of Water Quality, Quantity and Access in Michigan"
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Perceptions of Water Quality, Quantity and Access in Michigan This research seeks Michigan residents' perception of water quality, quantity and access. Public perception relates to public satisfaction with water management decisions, satisfaction with and trust of drinking water providers, and the eventual success or failure of efforts to address water problems through compliance or opposition. Further, questions about how many of these issues are unique to the state of Michigan and how they might compare with public views in other states facing similar issues provides input to the decision process of policy leaders. Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt, Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Environmental Science & Policy Program; Riva C. H. Denny, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology More»


ESPP affiliated faculty Drs. Sharlissa Moore and Annick Anctil awarded grant to study "Understanding Public Opinion on Energy Transitions in Michigan"
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Energy Transitions Understanding Public Opinion on Energy Transitions in Michigan This research considers opinions more specific to the changes underway in Michigan energy transitions that could influence the integrated resource planning process through the Public Service Commission. The end report focuses on providing input into the Michigan Public Service Commission’s evaluation of utility integrated resource plans and decision-making on renewable energy adoption. Sharlissa Moore, James Madison College, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Annick Anctil, Civil & Environmental Engineering More»


New study focuses on disaster recovery

Scientists, led by doctoral student Hongbo Yang of the ESPP and MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, or CSIS, measured what constituted well-being for the quake’s human victims and found as yet unidentified losses. More»


Climate Change and Food Security
The Republic

Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi writes: Given the current challenges to agricultural production in Nigeria, climate change is expected to make the situation even worse. Both higher temperatures and shifting rainfall regimes will lower crop yields compared to what they could be under a stable climate. While scientists aren’t sure exactly how rainfall patterns in West Africa will change over the next century, the region will definitely be hotter, with negative consequences for staple crop production. Climate change can also exacerbate pest and disease outbreaks. There is some evidence that the Fall Armyworm outbreaks seen across Africa in 2017 were made worse because of climate change. More»


A fresh look at fresh water: Researchers create a 50,000-lake database
National Science Foundation

A team of 80 scientists in fields including limnology, ecology, computer science, geographic and information sciences, and other disciplines developed LAGOS. Their recent paper in the journal GigaScience makes the results available to researchers, policymakers and the public. "We're at an exciting time in environmental science, when people are recognizing that the big problems we face require us to work together across disciplinary boundaries and to openly share data, methods and tools," said paper co- author Kendra Cheruvelil, a scientist at Michigan State University (MSU). More»


Yadu Pokhrel to use NSF CAREER Award to advance water resource sustainability and food security
College of Engineering

The clock is ticking on the world’s freshwater supply. Yadu Pokhrel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, is concerned that with more than seven billion people on the planet, it is time to rethink how we use and manage freshwater systems.Yadu Pokhrel's NSF project will use the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia as a testbed. The Mekong River Basin is home to 60 million people in six nations and hosts the world’s largest freshwater fishery. Yadu Pokhrel's NSF project will use the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia as a testbed. The Mekong River Basin is home to 60 million people in six nations and hosts the world’s largest freshwater fishery. Pokhrel will use a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award to continue his work in water systems management. The grant begins on June 1, 2018. More»


Surprising species helps Lake Michigan E. coli levels
Detroit Free Press

New research out of Michigan State University shows Lake Michigan beach closings have dropped over the past 15 years as E. coli bacteria concentrations have dropped. That time period coincides with the explosion of quagga mussels across the Great Lakes and especially in Lake Michigan. More»


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