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


This is a subset of the breaking news related to Biogeochemistry. Click here to read all the stories in Breaking News.


Conservation Costs Can Be Higher than Bargained For

MSU doctoral candidate Hongbo Yang and his colleagues created a systems approach to look at how farmers in southwestern China’s Wolong Nature Reserve were faring since they started taking payments under two of the country’s PES programs. The Grain-to-Green Program, one of the world’s largest PES programs, was created in 2000 to address the rapid degradation of ecosystems including giant panda habitat. By 2010, around 15 million hectares of farmland were returned to forests or grasslands. The local Grain-to-Bamboo Program, started in 2002, supported growing bamboo on cropland to feed pandas in captivity. More»


MSU uses $3M NASA grant to find better ways to regulate dams
MSU Today

Michigan State University researchers, including ESPP Director Dr. Jinhua Zhao, equipped with $3 million from NASA, will investigate innovative methods to improve dams so that they are less harmful to people and the environment. More»


$2.5M Grant to Help Improve Agricultural Consumption of Water, Energy
MSU Today

Michigan State University scientists are leading a $2.5 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to better manage these resources and define more sustainable ways for irrigated agriculture to meet current and future demand for food. MSU scientists contributing to this study include: Annick Anctil, Bruno Basso, Anthony Kendall, Paolo Sabbatini, Jinhua Zhao and Adam Zwickle. “Irrigated agriculture is at the core of the nexus of food, energy and water, or FEW, systems,” said David Hyndman, MSU hydrogeologist and the grant’s lead investigator. “Global change is expected to place additional pressure on these systems as U.S. climate warms and becomes more variable, and demand for food increases due to global population growth and diet shifts.” More»


Winning climate strategy demands details
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

When understanding a country’s climate – especially vast countries like the United States or China – to protect food security, biodiversity and human health, the devil is in the details. Scientists at Michigan State University show that examining the daily minutia of climate, not just temperature, but also sunshine, precipitation and soil moisture simultaneously all over a country gives a better understanding of how variable a land’s climate can be. That information is crucial when countries are setting policies aimed at growing food, protecting water supplies and the environment and stemming disease outbreaks. The findings were reported in this week’s Scientific Reports. “There is much talk about how climate is changing and what should be done about it, but in reality, it is the variabilities – those many changes above and below the norm – that can have a great impact on coupled human and natural systems,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, MSU’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. “A holistic view of our world gives us the most useful information.” More»


Steve Hamilton named inaugural society for freshwater science fellow

Stephen Hamilton, Michigan State University professor of ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry was named an inaugural fellow of the Society for Freshwater Science. More»


Our Freshwater Lakes are Getting Saltier

North America's freshwater lakes are getting saltier due to growing development and exposure to road salt, according to a new, large-scale study involving Michigan State University. The study, published in PNAS, is the first to evaluate 371 lakes and show that many Midwestern and Northeastern lakes are experiencing increasing chloride trends, with about 44 percent of the lakes sampled in these regions experiencing long-term salinization. Nicholas Skaff, an MSU doctoral student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Environmental Science and Policy Program, is one of 15 researchers who co-authored the study as part of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, or GLEON, Fellowship Program. More»


Report details accomplishments of U.S. Global Change Research Program
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

Understanding how the Earth is changing, and how that change affects people, has advanced substantially thanks to investments by the federal government. That is the conclusion of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report issued this week, that includes the input of a Michigan State University (MSU) scholar. Tom Dietz, MSU professor of sociology and environmental science and policy, joined other experts to review work on climate by federal agencies over the last 25 years. The review examined efforts to develop Earth-observing systems, improve Earth-system modeling capabilities, and advanceunderstanding of carbon-cycle processes. The work was done as part of the the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). “It was very useful to look across a quarter of century of research investments,” Dietz said. “We could see how the program both continued to make basic contributions, especially in building data bases that are essential to understanding our changing planet. We could also see the pipeline that led from fundamental research to providing useful information to decision makers coping with real world problems. “The program is also a nice example of how federal agencies, each with its own mandates from Congress, can also coordinate activities to better and more efficiently serve the public interest. This is a federal program that is giving taxpayers a lot of benefit for every dollar spent.” Going forward, the program should continue to build its knowledge base for informing decision makers and the public about rising global challenges, the report recommends. Created by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the USGCRP provides coordination of global change research and activities in 13 participating agencies and departments and publishes synthesis and assessment products that present the results of the research agencies. Global change is defined as changes in the Earth's environment, for example relating to the changing climate, land productivity, ocean resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems — all of which can alter its capacity to sustain life. The Academies' report identifies important contributions and achievements of the program since its inception in 1990. One of the first priorities for the program was to address the need for a global observational system. Twenty-five years later, there is now a large and growing portfolio of global measurements from space, guided by the USGRCP’s Integrated Observations Interagency Working Group, which coordinates observation capabilities and research within member agencies. The report also notes the program’s accomplishments in making scientific knowledge more useful to decision makers. For example, the program has documented substantial increases in heavy downpours in most regions of the United States over the past 50 years, which can cause flooding that overwhelms the existing infrastructure of sewers and roads. This knowledge has led to the development of tools such as maps of risks for coastal flooding and other extreme hydrological events to inform local planning, zoning, and emergency preparedness. Dietz said that while the report doesn’t focus on Michigan, the research program has been beneficial to Michigan. MSU co-hosts with University of Michigan, The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center (GLISA), with support from Michigan AgBioResearch, MSU’s Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and the Center for Global Change and Earth Observation. GLISA has worked with Michigan cherry growers to help them cope with the changing patterns of spring frosts; with the Michigan Department of Health to help cities plan for extreme heat events of the sort that killed over 500 people in Chicago in 1995; with marina owners who have to cope with fluctuating lake levels, with the Menomonee of northern Michigan in managing their natural resources and with many other groups around the state who are adapting to climate change and variable. In the face of increasing impacts from climate change and other global changes, the report recommends that the USGCRP build on its accomplishments by sustaining, expanding, and coordinating observations of the Earth system and maintaining a balanced program of discovery-driven and use-inspired research to support the needs of the nation at local, regional, national, and global scales. Dietz is a member of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and the university’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. More»

Jinhua Zhao: For the common good
MSU Today

As director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State since 2010, I believe the secret to our success has been, simply put, flexibility and inclusivity. ESPP has stated from the beginning that its goal is to be structured as a flexible and inclusive umbrella for environmental research and graduate education, and we work very hard to stay true to that goal. Our team is proud of its efforts to increase the diversity of the student body, faculty and research areas at MSU. Since its inception in 2003, ESPP has embraced the precept that finding common ground through different perspectives is the optimal way to overcome challenges. The basis of interdisciplinary scholarship is bringing diverse experiences and viewpoints together for a greater good. In our yearly Doctoral Recruitment Fellowship awards, ESPP regularly recruits MSU students from a wide variety of nations, background, genders and experiences. One shining example is Judith Namanya, a young woman from Uganda who was inspired by the gender inequities in her home village. Judith studied the ways environmental challenges affect sexes differently. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree with Amber Pearson in the Department of Geography. ESPP has also worked to bring an array of talented educators to MSU. Our most recent hires include researchers working with indigenous rights in Mexico, accessibility of drinking water in New Zealand and sanitation struggles in Detroit. Our events have become a showcase for diversity in scholarship. This past fall, our annual Research Symposium focused on international environmental research, allowing students to share their research from every corner of the globe, from farmers in Ghana to wastewater in Singapore and clean energy in rural Central America. And the Distinguished Lecture Series, now in its fourth generation, focuses on providing our community access to the best researchers in environmental policy and science from across the globe. Past Lecturers have included Jintao Xu, a professor of natural resource economics at Peking University, who is working to tackle the challenges of climate change in China. The signature event for ESPP is the Fate of the Earth symposium. In 2015, our poster competition brought some of the brightest high school students in the region together with top global researchers, advocates, scholars and journalists. At ESPP, we are always seeking ways to increase the opportunities for the most under-represented voices to be heard. We look for unique ways to involve unique voices, and there are many opportunities within our program for individuals interested in environmental research. More»


Fertilizer use could reduce climate benefit of cellulosic biofuels
MSU Today

According to a new study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and Michigan State University, the use of nitrogen fertilizer on switchgrass crops can produce a sharp increase in emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and a significant driver of global climate change. Switchgrass is one of several crops poised to become a feedstock for the production of “cellulosic biofuels,” fuels derived from grasses, wood or the nonfood portion of plants. Though touted for being a clean energy alternative to both fossil fuels and corn ethanol, cellulosic biofuel comes with its share of complexities. Many of its environmental benefit depends, for starters, on how its crops are grown. “We’ve established that the climate benefit of cellulosic biofuels is much greater and much more robust than people originally thought,” said Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Science at MSU and coauthor. “But what we’re also seeing is that much of that climate benefit is dependent. It’s dependent on factors such as land use history and – as we’re seeing with these results – it’s dependent on nitrogen fertilizer use.” Led by former MSU graduate student Leilei Ruan and published this week in Environmental Research Letters, the study reports nitrous oxide emissions from switchgrass grown at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station when fertilized at eight different levels. More»


Antibiotic Resistance Shows Up in Animals, Manure
National Geographic

In one study, published in April in the journal mBio, Timothy Johnson and James Tiedje of Michigan State University, along with collaborators at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, analyzed soil from very large modern hog farms in three regions of China. They found identical clusters of genes that confer resistance, and mobile genetic elements—short strings of genetic material containing multiple genes—even in widely spread out farm properties. More»


The Dirt on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

New research in the current issue of Nature, describes how changes in land-use practices can help reduce the levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane in the atmosphere. Agricultural soils in particular can be made to capture even more greenhouse gases than they emit, making them not just climate neutral but “net mitigating,” said Phil Robertson, University Distinguished Professor of plant, soil and microbial sciences and director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research program. "We know from research that game-changing technology is available to do this, but farmers are rational beings and their first priority is paying bills, not climate mitigation," said Robertson, who was a co-author on the study. "Farmers don’t change their cropping practices to favor greenhouse gas mitigation because it could generally cost more in terms of labor, equipment and soil management time." More»


ESPP Announces New Summer Research Fellowship for Students Studying Climate, Food, Water and Energy

ESPP announces the Climate, Food, Energy, and Water (C-FEW) Research Fellowship for the Summer of 2016 for Ph.D. students currently enrolled at MSU. The goal of the program is to provide funding to Ph.D. students to support the next generation of scientists and to advance work in climate, food, energy, and water at Michigan State University. The C-FEW Summer Fellowship provides funds to be used to enhance the educational and research experience of graduate students at MSU whose research focuses on the nexus of climate, food, energy and water. Recipients of the Fellowship will be expected to actively engage in C-FEW research during the summer of 2016, organize an ESPP colloquium during Fall 2016, and write a short paper about their work for ESPPulse, a semiannual series published by ESPP. More»


MSU holds forum on Flint water

It's well beyond just the talk of the town. It's the reason behind protests and the subject of mayoral debates, conversations in Lansing and now, hearings in Washington. But ask a college student 50 miles away about Flint's water emergency and a lot of them will say they haven't heard about it. That's a big reason why several departments at Michigan State came together to host a forum, Wednesday night, bringing in five panelists to discuss the city's drinking water issues. "It's important for students, it's important for people to understand the issues involving water," said Susan Masten, one of three MSU professors on the panel. Masten, a civil and environmental engineering professor, presented a timeline of the water emergency. She says Flint is the big topic of discussion in her classes. More»

MSU Professor named Geological Society of America Fellow

MSU Geological Sciences associate professor Julie Libarkin was recently elected a 2015 Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Libarkin heads the Geocognition Research Laboratory at MSU where she investigates how people perceive, understand and make decisions about the earth. She also holds appointments in the Center for Integrative Studies in General Science and the CREATE for STEM Institute at MSU, and is also affiliated with MSU’s Cognitive Science Program and Environmental Science and Policy Program. More»


MSU professor to serve as founding editor for science journal
MSU Today

MSU professor Patricia Soranno was named founding editor-in-chief of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography’s new journal, Limnology and Oceanography Letters. “Pat Soranno’s innovative ideas about publishing and research excellence make her a fantastic choice to be the founding editor of ASLO’s newest journal,” said Jim Elser, ASLO president. A professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Soranno has spent the past 20 years conducting research that integrates freshwater ecosystems into a landscape perspective from local to continental scales. More»

Kaminski named interim director for MSU's Center for Research on Ingredient Safety
MSU Today

Norbert Kaminski, director of Michigan State University’s Center for Integrative Toxicology, was recently named interim director for the university’s new Center for Research on Ingredient Safety. Kaminski, who is also professor of pharmacology and toxicology and a faculty member in MSU’s Cell and Molecular Biology Program, will continue as director of the Center for Integrated Toxicology until a permanent director is appointed for the ingredient safety center. More»


Boosting Armor for Nuclear-Waste Eating Microbes
MSU Today

A microbe developed to clean up nuclear waste and patented by a Michigan State University researcher has just been improved. In earlier research, Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, identified that Geobacter bacteria’s tiny conductive hair-like appendages, or pili, did the yeoman’s share of remediation. By increasing the strength of the pili nanowires, she improved their ability to clean up uranium and other toxic wastes. In new research, published in the current issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Reguera has added an additional layer of armor to her enhanced microbes. More»


Addressing the effect of agriculture on global health
MSU Today

Michigan State University has launched the first-of-its-kind center to research and address the growing global effects of agriculture on human and animal health. The Center for Health Impacts of Agriculture links MSU’s renowned agriculture and food security research with its three colleges of medicine – the College of Human Medicine, College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine – to address growing global health concerns with agriculture, including: Antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and plants, and the implications on human health Agricultural development and economic effects related to increased cases of malaria in Malawi, Africa Health risk assessment and nutrient regulation policies, including assessment of carcinogen levels in current health policy Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor leads the new center. Wu’s research, at the crossroads of human health and agricultural practices and policies, inspired her to develop the interdisciplinary research center. More»


New Technology Turns Manure into Clean Water

Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management. Technology that has its roots firmly planted at Michigan State University is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. And then some. Known as the McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, it takes an anaerobic digester – a contraption that takes waste, such as manure, and produces energy as a byproduct – and couples it with an ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system. More»


New, Fossil-Fuel-Free Process Makes Biodiesel Sustainable
MSU Today

A new fuel-cell concept, developed by an Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors. More»


Gearing Up
MSU Today

One of those researchers is Bruce Dale, MSU University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science. Dale is focused on making much larger amounts of ethanol—fuel made from corn grain that accounts for about 10 percent of the gas currently used in cars—from corn stover and other nonfood crop residues and purpose-grown energy crops referred to collectively as “cellulosic biomass.” More»


EPA Should Retain Ethanol Requirements
Lansing State Journal

Past federal energy legislation, culminating in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), has been very successful in encouraging an expansion in the production of ethanol and biodiesel. Practically all of the ethanol has been derived from corn grain. About half of biodiesel production has been derived from soybean oil, the remainder from recycled restaurant grease, corn oil from distillers’ dried grain (a byproduct of ethanol production), animal fat and other vegetable oils. Ethanol production doubled between 2007 and 2013 from 6.5 billion to 13.2 billion gallons. Biodiesel production increased from 0.5 billion to 1.7 billion gallons. More»


Michael Thomashow: A Shock to the System
MSU Today

After growing up and spending a good part of my young adult life in southern California, it was a shock to my system when I moved to Pullman, Wash., for my first faculty position in the early 1980s. It also was, however, a turning point in my research career. Winter was very cold in Pullman. I remember looking out my laboratory window at plants surviving in minus 20-degree weather and asking myself, “How are these plants dealing with this incredible cold? How do they overwinter in such a harsh environment?” This got me interested in understanding the genetic mechanisms that plants have evolved to withstand freezing and other environmental stresses. I looked to the literature and found that specific ge - See more at: More»


MSU Builds Combined Heat and Power System using Anaerobic Digestion
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Michigan State University (MSU) officials will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 13 to officially commission and start operations of the South Campus Anaerobic Digester (SCAD). That same day, MSU and MSU Extension will host Keeping it Green: Recycling Waste to Resources to highlight this and other campus-based projects focused on reducing and reusing organic waste. Participants will tour the SCAD, the University Farms composting facility, Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center (ADREC), MSU Recycling, T.B. Simon Power Plant and the Student Organic Farm. More»


Extreme wildfires likely fueled by climate change
MSU Today

Climate change is likely fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires that are scorching vast areas of the American West, according to new research led by Michigan State University scientists. “Our findings suggest that future lower atmospheric conditions may favor larger and more extreme wildfires, posing an additional challenge to fire and forest management,” said Lifeng Luo, MSU assistant professor of geography and lead author on the study. More»


Masters of Fate: ESPP receives new endowment from Sawyer Koch family
University Development

Donald (Don) F. Koch, MSU Professor Emeritus of philosophy, and Barbara J. Sawyer-Koch (’90, M.P.A., Social Science), have established several significant current and planned gift endowment funds, the major gift being titled Fate of the Earth. With their Fate of the Earth Endowment, the Koch’s hope to encourage today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders to understand the critical need for societal changes and take the necessary steps to prevent further destruction of the Earth’s fragile environment. More»


MSU to study dioxin's impact on human health

Michigan State University is starting a new project to learn more about how certain environmental contaminants affect the human body. MSU will use a $14-million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study dioxins, which form a large class of chemical compounds. Dioxins do occur in nature, but most are industrial byproducts. The herbicide Agent Orange, widely used to defoliate trees and fields during the Vietnam War, is one example. More»


ESPP Affiliated Faculty member elected fellow of geological society
MSU Today

Phanikumar Mantha has been elected a fellow of the Geological Society of America. Mantha is an associate professor in the MSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. More»


Teaming up to tackle pervasive pollutants
MSU Today

Michigan State University scientists will lead a $14.1 million initiative to better understand how environmental contaminants called dioxins affect human health and to identify new ways of removing them from the environment. The researchers will use a five-year grant from the Superfund Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to support multiple studies on the industrial byproducts, which work their way up the food chain to humans, potentially raising the risk of certain cancers and other diseases. “Dioxins are ubiquitous,” said lead researcher Norbert Kaminski, director of MSU’s Center for Integrative Toxicology and a professor of pharmacology and toxicology. “This class of compounds can be detected virtually everywhere in the world, and they can remain in the environment for decades.” - See more at: More»


Research shows planting cover crops protects Michigan's environment

On this week’s Ag Report on Greening of the Great Lakes, Kurt Thelen, professor at Michigan State University in the Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Department and project leader at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, discusses research on the environmental benefits of planting cover crops. According to Thelen, research shows that planting cover crops provides substantial environmental benefits. The cover crops absorb residual nitrogen after the harvest, protecting groundwater. Cover crops also reduce the risk of erosion and runoff by absorbing the impact of raindrops in the off season. More»


Using Science to Address Farm Pollution
MSU Today

Half of the nitrogen-based fertilizer used on U.S. crops seeps into the environment, prompting an interdisciplinary team of Michigan State University scientists to investigate ways to curb pollution. Armed with a $1.46 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will analyze soil, crop and climate conditions at 75 Midwestern corn farms and conduct surveys and interviews with farmers. More»


Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool can help local planning officials plan for the future
MSU Extension

Michigan is water rich with abundant surface water and groundwater for recreation, drinking, industry and agriculture. Even in the midst of plentiful supplies, there are parts of the state where increasing competition for water, especially groundwater, is currently or will in the future make it harder to extract those resources without impacting other users and the environment. More»


State climatologist: Data suggests warmer than normal summer on the way

Last year, Michigan had an unusually mild winter paired with a heat wave that devastated perennials and industry fruit crops. State of Michigan climatologist and Michigan State University professor of geography Jeff Andresen returns to Greening of the Great Lakes with Kirk Heinze for his annual climate update. More»


Honeybees, other bees put to the test pollinating Michigan blueberries

A recent study by Michigan State University scientists showed that blueberry growers who plant wildflowers near their fields see an increase in their yields. Why? Because the wildflowers supply shelter and food to support bees and other insects that pitch in on the task of pollinating blueberries, a necessary step for berries to form. More»


Unraveling the Napo's mystery
MSU Today

In the United States, rivers and their floodplains are well-documented and monitored. Ecuador’s largest river, however, remains largely mysterious. Research led by Michigan State University is helping the South American country unravel the Napo River’s mystique to better balance its economic and environmental treasures. The Napo River is about 670 miles long. It winds through the western Amazon basin in Ecuador and Peru, one of the most remote and biodiverse regions in the world, and provides access to valuable oil reserves. More»


ESPP Student Bonnie McGill wins a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research

The earth and our society face such “gi-normous” problems like climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, food security—what can a little person like me do about it? More»


ESPP Affiliated Faculty Dr. Joe Messina receives honorable mention for instructional technology
MSU Today

Dr. Joe Messina (Geography, Center for Global Change and Earth Observations) has been given an Honorable Mention for Technology Enhancement for his course GEO 826: Geocomputation. "Technology enables transition from static to dynamic," Dr. Messina said. The 2013 AT&T Faculty-Staff Award Competition in Instructional Technology honored eight courses to "both recognize and encourage best practices in the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning." In the coming academic year, these winners will present their innovations to the public in venues such as the Instructional Technology Brown Bag Seminar Series and the Breakfast Series: Conversations in Online and Blended Pedagogy, hosted by MSU IT Services. More»


Anti-fracking group gears up for new ballot initiative
Great Lakes Echo/Capital News Service

Warren Wood, a hydrogeologist and geoscience professor at Michigan State University, said there’s “no question” fracking causes earthquakes, but on such a small scale that they cannot be felt in Michigan. More»


Two years after disaster, problems remain in Japan
MSU Today

The earthquake and tsunami that claimed some 20,000 lives and caused a nuclear power plant crisis at Fukushima two years ago may seem like distant memories to many in the United States. But for the people of northeastern Japan struggling to rebuild and recover, the March 11, 2011, triple disasters are ongoing concerns, said Ethan Segal, Michigan State University associate professor of history and an expert on East Asia. Some Japanese residents are still living in temporary housing, unsure if it is safe and unable to borrow the needed capital to rebuild, Segal said. Imperfect decontamination measures make it unclear if communities around Fukushima will ever be able to return, while a lack of consumer confidence in products from the northeast means that businesses struggle and unemployment remains high, he added. "There are hopeful signs of recovery," Segal said, "but many problems remain unresolved." Segal will be part of a panel that will commemorate the two-year anniversary of the Japan disasters on March 18 at MSU. Read more here. Segal can be reached at (517) 884-4926 and More»


MSU biofuels expert makes list of Top 100 people in bioenergy
MSU Today

Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientist Bruce Dale was recently ranked 22th - and was the top-ranked academic - on BioFuels Digest's list of Top 100 People in Bioenergy. The list was determined by votes from readers of the magazine and the magazine’s editorial board. This marks the third year Dale, a professor in the MSU Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, has received recognition in the top 100. More»


Faculty Conversations: Jonathan Walton
MSU Today

Jonathan Walton joined the Michigan State University faculty more than 25 years ago. He’s been busy ever since. In addition to teaching Plant Biology 415, which covers topics ranging from plant hormones to photosynthesis, he’s a guest lecturer in other courses around campus. He also is the director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, More»


Richard Lunt Wins NSF CAREER Grant
College of Engineering

Richard Lunt, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. Funding from this five-year, $409,800 grant, which began January 1, 2013, will support Lunt's work in the development of transparent photovoltaics (PVs), a new paradigm for solar energy harvesting. The project will develop a new class of near-infrared excitonic semiconductors, which can be utilized to selectively capture and convert ultraviolet and near-infrared light into electricity, and design the next generation of high efficiency transparent solar cells. More»


MSU to share $10 million federal research grant to develop bio-energy, bio-based products
The Detroit News

Michigan State University is one of more than 20 universities to share $10 million in federal research grants to spur production of bio-energy and bio-based products, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday. Michigan State — the only Michigan recipient — will receive $349,695 for projects that Vilsack said will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and create jobs. More»


New Thermoelectric Material Could Pave the Way for Low-Cost Energy Solutions
MSU College of Engineering

Michigan State University is home to one of the most advanced thermoelectric power generation research groups in the world. And now, a new thermoelectric material is on the horizon. Researchers in MSU's Center for Revolutionary Materials for Solid State Energy Conversion—an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) funded by the U.S. Department of Energy—are developing a thermoelectric material based on natural mineral tetrahedrites. Their work was recently published in the online journal Advanced Energy Materials. More»


WVU joins search for organic response to stinkbugs
West Virginia State Journal

In addition to WVU and Rutgers, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, the University of Maryland, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Virginia Tech, the University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and the Rodale Institute are participating in the research and extension project. More»


MSU professor takes lead role in national STEM initiative
University Relations

A Michigan State University faculty member is taking a lead role in a national initiative designed to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields. James Fairweather, a professor of higher, adult and lifelong education, will serve as co-principal investigator of the Association of American Universities’ project, which is working to implement new, more interactive methods of instruction in these fields, particularly in freshman and sophomore courses. More»


MSU, Monsanto working to fight corn rootworm
Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University said it is working with Monsanto to find ways to fight corn rootworm, one of U.S. agriculture's most damaging pests. The university said Monsanto is pledging up to $3 million to support research on rootworm. MSU said the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program will give awards of up to $250,000 per year for up to three years for research on "corn rootworm biology, genomics and management issues." More»


MSU earns EPA grants to fight high-risk invasive species
University Relations

Michigan State University has received nearly $1 million in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, funds that will be used to keep invasive species from entering the Great Lakes basin. One grant, totaling about $600,000 will be used to develop a hand-held, genetic analysis tool to monitor the lakes for invasive species. Syed Hashsham, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, leads the team that will create an analysis tool to monitor the lakes for invasive species such as hydrilla, golden mussel, northern snakehead, killer shrimp, and Ponto-Caspian water fleas. More»


MSU to lead $1.6 million grant on national crop pollination
University Relations

The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded Michigan State University $1.6 million to lead a national crop pollination research and extension project. The five-year project will focus on supporting specialty crop yields and profit by supporting wild and managed bees. It is part of the USDA’s $101 million initiative to support the nation’s specialty crop producers. More»


Superman-strength bacteria produce gold
University Relations

At a time when the value of gold has reached an all-time high, Michigan State University researchers have discovered a bacterium’s ability to withstand incredible amounts of toxicity is key to creating 24-karat gold. More»


Charles Sweeley Jr., former MSU biochemistry chairperson, dies
University Relations

Charles Sweeley Jr., former chairperson of Michigan State University’s Department of Biochemistry and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, died on Sept. 21. He was 82. Sweeley was an MSU faculty member from 1968 until his retirement in 1992. He served as biochemistry chairperson from 1979 to 1985 and was named University Distinguished Professor of biochemistry in 1990. More»


Evolution: Scientists Grow 56,000 Generations in Lab to Watch
ABC World News

ABC World News talks with Zachary Blount, postdoctoral researcher of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University, about his study on the evolution of E.coli. More»


MSU, Monsanto back research to fight corn rootworm

Michigan State says the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program will give awards of up to $250,000 per year for up to three years for research on "corn rootworm biology, genomics and management issues." More»


Inaugural MSU Women in STEM conference takes place Oct. 22-23
University Relations

Michigan State University Women in STEM will take place Oct. 22 and 23 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Alumnae will have the chance to engage and connect with other MSU alumnae, expand their professional network and acquire tools and knowledge that can assist in furthering their career objectives. More»


Michigan State's FRIB funding likely flat for six months
Lansing State Journal

A stop-gap funding bill that lawmakers hope will keep the federal government operating through March 27 would keep federal funding steady for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams planned for Michigan State University. More»


Next step of FRIB project approved by MSU board
University Relations

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees has given its approval to the next step in the development of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a world-class nuclear research facility that will attract scientists from all over the world to East Lansing. More»


Isoprene research could lead to eco-friendly car tires
University Relations

The world’s rubber supplies are in peril, and automobile tire producers are scrambling to seek alternative solutions. Tom Sharkey (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) believes isoprene, a gas given off by many trees, ferns and mosses, could be a viable option. Some plants use it as a mechanism to tolerate heat stress as opposed to most crops, which stay cool through evaporation. More»

Yeast experiment hints at a faster evolution from single cells
New York Times

Screen capture of a growing yeast cell. Courtesy of the New York Times. In a laboratory at the University of Minnesota, brewer’s yeast cells can evolve primitive bodies in about two weeks. "This is a really interesting and important study," said editor of the paper Richard Lenski (Crop and Soil Sciences). "It shows that a major transition in evolution — going from unicellular to multicellular life forms — might not be as hard to achieve as most biologists have long thought."
For related story see Nature. More»

Microbiology adds new dimension to environmental water research
College of Engineering, Connections (Summer/Fall 2011)

Microbiology work.  Image credit: Wikipedia Commons. It was a career fair in high school that piqued Alison Cupples’ (Civil and Environmental Engineering) interest in a career working on environmental issues. “My interest was always about environmental water issues, but research that also included microbiology was fascinating to me,” says Cupples. Her research focuses on the degradation of contaminants in soil systems and groundwater, and uses molecular methods to identify key organisms responsible for transforming the contaminants. More»

Follow geological research in Alaska
College of Natural Science

A Geological Sciences research team led by Brian Hampton is examining the origin and tectonic history of the remote backcountry of the western Alaska Range – home to some of the highest mountains in the North America. They’re blogging the experience along the way: follow the “MSU Geology in the Field” blog. More»

Convincing farmers to grow biofuel crops may be difficult
University Relations

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for increasing cellulosic ethanol production to 16 billion gallons by 2022. But persuading farmers to start growing biomass crops to produce this biofuel may prove challenging, according to two new studies by MSU scientists. “We looked at the nation’s top 10 crops that already have consistent, recognized markets – and found that even when prices went up 65 percent, farmers only expanded production by about 2 percent,” said author Scott Swinton (Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics). More»

In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare
University Relations

When it comes to survival of the fittest, it’s sometimes better to be an adaptable tortoise than a fitness-oriented hare. Writing in Science, MSU researchers Richard Lenski and Mark Kauth (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) show that more adaptable bacteria oriented toward long-term improvement prevailed over competitors that held a short-term advantage.
The New York Times had the story. More»

Sheldon Turner, image courtesy of TurnerESPP Student Profile: Sheldon Turner

For Sheldon Turner (Geological Sciences), geology is the ultimate interdisciplinary field. In college, with little prior knowledge of geology, he took some courses and was excited to see that it involved his other scientific interests—math, physics and chemistry. Following his graduation with a bachelor’s in geology and a minor in physics, Turner joined the MSU Department of Geological Sciences. Here, his research has involves psychology, education and even policy. More»

Bacteria form electric circuits?

bacteria, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons... "It is the first time in which researchers actually measure electron transport along the wires at micrometer distances, which makes it a biologically relevant process," says Gemma Reguera (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics). More»

Lenski's lab a leader in evolution research
College of Natural Sciences

Richard Lenski (Crop and Soil Sciences, Zoology, and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) has been doing E.colilong-term evolution experiments since 1988. His lab is considered a forerunner in evolutionary research and his work is now supported by a prestigious Science and Technology Center grant from NSF. More»

Natural selection cuts broad swath through fruit fly genome
New York Times

... Richard Lenski (Crop and Soil Sciences, Zoology, and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) says the finding that natural selection had worked by changing gene frequencies in a fruit fly experiment was very interesting. More»

Researchers discover mechanism protecting plants against freezing
University Relations

New research helps explain how plants protect themselves from freezing temperatures and could lead to discoveries related to plant tolerance for drought and other extreme conditions. The research, published in the journal Science, was conducted by Christoph Benning, Eric Moellering, and Bagyalakshmi Muthan, all of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. With rising concern globally about water supplies and climate change, scientists see additional reasons to understand the ways hardy plants survive. More»

Gulf oil spill could widen, worsen ‘dead zone’
University Relations

Gulf oil spillWhile an out-of-control gusher deep in the Gulf of Mexico fouls beaches and chokes marshland habitat, another threat could be growing below the oil-slicked surface. The nation’s worst oil spill could worsen and expand the oxygen-starved region of the Gulf labeled “the dead zone” for its inhospitability to marine life, suggests Nathaniel Ostrom (Zoology). Ostrom and students Ben Kamphius (Zoology) and Sam DeCamp (Food Science) are analyzing samples from the Gulf to understand likely consequences. More»

Biosystems engineering students win national recognition in EPA P3 competition
University Relations

A team of MSU senior biosystems engineering students won honorable mention in a nationwide competition sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to promote sustainable solutions to pressing needs. The annual competition is called “People, Prosperity, and the Planet.”
The students designed and evaluated an anaerobic digester system coupled to a wetland area to cost-effectively treat dairy waste and stormwater at the Kellogg Biological Station, and generate biogas for energy.
Students working on the project were Shannon Henderson, Louis Faivor, Patrick Triscari and Joseph Ahlquist, advised by ESPP affiliate Dawn Reinhold (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering). More»

Faculty conversations: Don Morelli
University Relations

For every gallon of gas burned, about two-thirds of it is wasted in the process. Don Morelli (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) is working to change that with thermoelectrics – the process of capturing waste heat and converting it into electricity to make a car run more efficiently. More»

Increasing computational power makes possible simulations of geology's nitty-gritty chemistry
Chemical and Engineering News

You might say that geochemistry can make a mountain out of a molecular molehill. The atomic-level descriptions of the chemical behavior of mineral surfaces and their interactions with aqueous solutions ultimately explain some of the planet’s largest-scale phenomena….Last month’s American Chemical Society national meeting in San Francisco saw the deployment of computational geochemistry forces that have been advancing for several years, with a symposium cosponsored by the Divisions of Geochemistry and Computers in Chemistry. The symposium’s co-organizer was Andrey Kalinichev (Chemistry and Geological Sciences). More»

Dormant microbes promote diversity, serve environment
University Relations

The ability of microbes, tiny organisms that do big jobs in our environment, to go dormant not only can save them from death and possible extinction but may also play a key role in promoting biodiversity and ecosystem stability. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Jay Lennon (Kellogg Biological Station, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) and Stuart Jones (KBS) described how they used a mathematical model and molecular tools to study how dormancy affects the biodiversity of natural microbial communities, especially in lakes. More»

Column: Michigan not immune to earthquakes

... "It’s being argued how dangerous the (Reelfoot Rift) is," says Kazuya Fujita, geology professor at Michigan State University who has studied Michigan earthquakes, "but we know it’s there. We know there's a historic record of earthquakes that happen every 200 to 800 years."

For a related story, see Lansing State Journal. More»

Stimulus grant to help MSU team improve drug development from plants
University Relations

Scientists at MSU are receiving nearly $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to uncover how several popular plants make medicinal compounds. The funding will provide scientists the resources to understand exactly which genes are involved in the synthesis of medicinal chemicals in several plants -- clearing the way for cheaper and more effective ways to produce drugs. "Many plants make compounds that we use directly as medicines or that we modify slightly to create widely used medicines, but in almost all cases we do not understand how the plants synthesize these compounds," said MSU biochemistry professor Dean DellaPenna, one of three principle investigators on the grant. The Associated Press had the story. More»

Latest issue of Futures highlights "new research frontiers."
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

FuturesThe fall issue of Futures, published by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, highlights "new research frontiers," including the work of ESPP affiliates. The magazine features Gemma Reguera's (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) "palm-sized microbial fuel cell"; Stuart Grandy's (Crop and Soil Science) research on soil microbes; a long-running examination of bacterial evolution by Richard Lenski (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Zoology, and Crop and Soil Sciences); and microbial detective work by James Tiedje (Crop & Soil Sciences, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) and Syed Hashsham (Civil and Environmental Engineering), among other affiliates. More»

Microbes provide solutions to energy issues
College of Natural Science

After three years of research, Gemma Reguera (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Crop and Soil Sciences) has developed a process that can be harnessed to produce clean, cheap electricity and fuel from plant biomass. Microbial fuel cells are attracting interest as they are inexpensive to manufacture and produce no harmful by-products. More»

'Genetic arms race' between bacteria, viruses subject of stimulus grant
University Relations

The oceans teem with microscopic bacteria that produce much of Earth's oxygen as they absorb carbon dioxide greenhouse gas. But fast-mutating viruses also populate the seas, attacking marine bacteria in an ages-old evolutionary arms race. Jay Lennon (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) has received an NSF grant to examine that ancient dynamic against the backdrop of environmental and climate change, and the pivotal role played by aquatic bacteria in maintaining the Earth’s biological balance.

Study highlights massive imbalances in global fertilizer use
University Relations

An international team of ecologists and agricultural experts cautions against blanket solutions to global fertilizer pollution, considering that some regions still suffer greatly from lack of cropland nutrients.
In a report published in the the journal Science, Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) and colleagues warn against a "one-size-fits-all" approach to managing global food production.
Additional news coverage: New York Times, Monga Bay

Microbes may be more networked than you are
Wired News (editorial)

When we think of networks, we think of humans and the cables we've run around the world to connect our species. Figuring out how to move electrons has transformed human society, but we are not the only species on earth that lives in a wired world. A few years ago, microbiologist Gemma Reguera of Michigan State University reported that a certain type of bacteria could use rust to grow electrically conductive appendages. Shortly thereafter, my lab showed that many more bacterial species also had the ability to grow nanowires...

KBS hosts regional meeting of experts in new field: Biogeochemistry
Greenboard (ESPP blog)

Experts gathered last week at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station to discuss their work in the emerging field of biogeochemistry, which concerns the intersection of biology, geology and chemistry, and asks how organisms interact with their physical and chemical environments.
Roughly 80 participants from all over the Upper Midwest attended the first annual Great Lakes Regional Biogeochemistry Symposium, which was hosted by KBS’s Eminent Ecologists program and the Biogeochemistry Environmental Research Initiative (BERI).
Nathaniel Ostrom, co-director of the BERI, described questions biogeochemists are interested in, and why the field matters. [Video available.] More»

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