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 Climate Change. Click here to read all the stories in Breaking News.


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»


Climate change should help midwest corn production through 2050

Climate change and global warming put some forms of life at risk, but researchers found one instance that might not feel the heat – corn. Contrary to previous analyses, research published by Michigan State University shows that projected changes in temperature and humidity will not lead to greater water use in corn. This means that while changes in temperatures and humidity trend as they have in the past 50 years, crop yields can not only survive – but thrive. “There is a lot of optimism looking at the future for farmers, especially in the Midwest,” said Bruno Basso, lead author of the study and University Distinguished professor. 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»


Streams can be sensors
MSU Today

Scientists at Michigan State University have shown that streams can be key health indicators of a region’s landscape, but the way they’re being monitored can be improved. New research featured in Ecology Letters showcases how streams can be used as sensors to diagnose a watershed’s sensitivity or resiliency to changes in land use practices, including the long-term use of fertilizers. Using streams as sensors ­– specifically, near the headwaters – can allow scientists, land-use managers and farmers to diagnose which watersheds can be more sustainably developed for food production, said Jay Zarnetske, MSU earth and environmental scientist and co-author of the study. More»

NASA grants MSU $1.5 million to study how humans hurt the environment
Great Lakes Echo

What’s tall and puffy but invasive all over? Phragmites, large-stature cattail plants which are taking over Michigan wetlands. The tall reeds steal food, water and sunlight from native species. The phragmites grow in dense clusters making them hard to eradicate and manage. “It’s a matter of these species being pushed out of their native habitat and large format plants aren’t actually growing,” said Michigan State hydrogeologist Dr. David Hyndman. Wetlands provide essential services for an ecosystem, like water filtration, sheltering animals, protection from floods and more. Corrupting such an integral part of the environment can have widespread consequences. The problem is only worsening in part because of Michigan farmers with excessive fertilizer usage. Fertilizers are cheap so farmers can use lots of it to increase crop yields – but all the extra chemicals run-off and affect environments miles away. Thus, exacerbating the phragmite problem. More»


ESPP Founding Director Thomas Dietz named University Distinguished Professor
MSU Today

Thomas Dietz: Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Social Science; professor of environmental science and policy; professor of animal studies; Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability has been named University Distinguished Professor in recognition of his achievements in the classroom, laboratory and community. 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»


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»

MSU 'rethinks' hydropower with $2.6M National Science Foundation grant
MSU Today

An interdisciplinary team of Michigan State University scientists will use a $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to investigate new ways of producing hydropower, increasing food production and lessening the environmental damage caused by dams. More»

MSU to use $14.7 million USDA grant to advance a fruit-tree canopy delivery system
MSU Today

Matthew Grieshop, an entomologist and organic pest management expert at MSU, leads the project, which originated through a SCRI grant in 2012. The team includes scientists from MSU and Washington State University, as well as private consultants from the spray technology and irrigation industries. 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»


China's environmental investments show people and nature can win

China’s massive investment to mitigate the ecosystem bust that has come in the wake of the nation’s economic boom is paying off. An international group of scientists finds both humans and nature can thrive – with careful attention. The group, including scientists who have done research at Michigan State University, report on China’s first systematic national accounting of how the nation’s food production, carbon sequestration, soil and water retention, sandstorm prevention, flood mitigation and biodiversity are doing, and what trends have emerged. The work, which spans from 2000-2010, appears in this week’s edition of Science Magazine. More»


Giant Pandas and Humans: A Lesson in Sustainability

Jianguo "Jack" Liu, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability,has been working to better understand those relationships at Wolong since 1996. Liu, whose expertise fuses ecology and social sciences, has long viewed the reserve as an excellent laboratory because its truths have proven universal: Honor the needs of both people and nature — and acknowledge the dynamic, complex nature of that relationship — and sustainability is possible. Liu, along with other scholars in the field of sustainability from MSU and around the world, are applying the lessons they learned in Wolong to global challenges rooted in land use, trade, habitat conservation and resource and ecosystem service management. The researchers are bringing to bear the viewpoints of many disciplines — from ecology, plant and wildlife sciences to social, economic and behavioral sciences. The researchers, who are an international group of students, former students and collaborators, share Liu's holistic view of a world in which the fate of humans and nature are firmly entwined. They have published "Pandas and People: Coupling Human and Natural Systems for Sustainability" (Oxford University Press, 2016). The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA. - See more at: 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»


ESPP affiliated faculty Dr. Bruno Basso receives the 2016 Innovation of the Year award
MSU Research

Michigan State University’s intellectual property office, MSU Technologies, selected Bruno Basso‘s work for the Innovation of the Year Award for 2016. Basso, professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, received the award for his system of cropland evaluation and crop growth management. He uses an interdisciplinary approach to study agricultural systems and improve decision-making across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, from the smallholder farmer in the developing world to the industrial producer and policymaker. 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»


Sexy ideas won't slow climate change if people don't buy in and buy them

As governments and researchers race to develop policies and technologies to make energy production more sustainable and mitigate climate change, they need to remember that the most-sophisticated endeavors won’t work if they’re not adopted. That’s the viewpoint of Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University professor of sociology and environmental science and policy, and co-editors in their introduction to a new collection of papers on addressing the linked problems of energy sustainability and climate change jointly published by the journals Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change. 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»


This is why sowing doubt about climate change is such an effective strategy
The Washington Post

“The positive frames really don’t move the needle at all, and the presence of the denial counter-frame seems to have a suppressive or a negative effect on people’s climate change belief,” says Aaron McCright, a researcher at Michigan State University who conducted the research with three university colleagues. The study is just out in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science. More»


Climate-change foes winning public opinion war
MSU Today

As world leaders meet this week and next at a historic climate change summit in Paris, a new study by Michigan State University environmental scientists suggests opponents of climate change appear to be winning the war of words. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, finds that climate-change advocates are largely failing to influence public opinion. Climate-change foes, on the other hand, are successfully changing people’s minds – Republicans and Democrats alike – with messages denying the existence of global warming. “This is the first experiment of its kind to examine the influence of the denial messages on American adults,” said Aaron M. McCright, a sociologist and lead investigator on the study. “Until now, most people just assumed climate change deniers were having an influence on public opinion. Our experiment confirms this.” 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»


ESPP affiliated faculty on cyanobacteria in The Washington Post
The Washington Post

Dr. Elena Litchman, professor of aquatic ecology at MSU and an ESPP affiliated facultymember, discusses the behavior of cyanobacteria with The Washington Post. More»


Researchers quantify nature's role in human well being
MSU Today

A team of researchers from Michigan State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are advancing new modeling technology to quantify human dependence on nature, human well-being and relationships between the two. The latest step is published in this week’s Ecosystem Health and Sustainability journal. The paper notes that people who depended on multiple types of ecosystem services – such as agricultural products, non-timber forest products, ecotourism – fared better than those who had all their earning eggs in one natural resource basket. “Quantifying the complex human-nature relationships will open the doors to respond to environmental changes and guide policies that support both people and the environment across human and natural systems,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. More»


Perennial biofuel crops' water consumption similar to corn

Dr. Stephen Hamilton’s team reports that the perennial system’s evapotranspiration did not differ greatly from corn – a finding that contrasts sharply with earlier studies that found particularly high perennial water use in areas with high water tables. Hamilton’s study, however, took place in Michigan’s temperate humid climate and on the kind of well-drained soil characteristic of marginal farming land. More»


Polar bears aren't only victims of climate change
MSU Today

From heat waves to damaged crops to asthma in children, climate change is a major public health concern, argues a Michigan State University researcher in a new study. Climate change is about more than melting ice caps and images of the Earth on fire, said Sean Valles, assistant professor in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Philosophy, who believes bioethicists could help reframe current climate change discourse. More»


IPCC: Social Scientists are ready

Social scientists are ready to work as full partners with physicists and ecologists on climate-change assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), government agencies and other organizations More»


Spreading the Seeds of Big Data
MSU Today

Michigan State University is spreading the seeds of big data to improve agricultural practices around the United States. Through a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, MSU will lead a team of scientists to develop big-data approaches to better manage water and fertilizers and to adapt to changes brought on by climate variability. “Our research shows the interactions between soil, crop, climate, hydrology and agricultural management, and determines their effects on crop yield and the environment,” said Bruno Basso, MSU ecosystems scientist. “This project links science with technology and big data analytics; we aim to help farmers better adapt to temperature extremes, droughts or excess water in fields so that they can make better decisions for the environment and maximize production and/or profits.” More»


Politics, not severe weather, drive global warming views
MSU Today

Scientists have presented the most comprehensive evidence to date that climate extremes such as droughts and record temperatures are failing to change people’s minds about global warming. Instead, political orientation is the most influential factor in shaping perceptions about climate change, both in the short-term and long-term, said Sandra Marquart-Pyatt, a Michigan State University sociologist and lead investigator on the study. “The idea that shifting climate patterns are influencing perceptions in the United States – we didn’t find that,” said Marquart-Pyatt, associate professor of sociology. “Our results show that politics has the most important effect on perceptions of climate change.” More»

Global warming cynics unmoved by extreme weather
MSU Today

What will it take to convince skeptics of global warming that the phenomenon is real? Surely, many scientists believe, enough droughts, floods and heat waves will begin to change minds. But a new study led by a Michigan State University scholar throws cold water on that theory. Only 35 percent of U.S. citizens believe global warming was the main cause of the abnormally high temperatures during the winter of 2012, Aaron M. McCright and colleagues report in a paper published online today in the journal Nature Climate Change. “Many people already had their minds made up about global warming and this extreme weather was not going to change that,” said McCright, associate professor in MSU’s Lyman Briggs College and Department of Sociology. More»


Understanding of world's freshwater fish, fishing too shallow
MSU Today

In this month’s journal Global Food Security,scientists note that competition for freshwater is ratcheting up all over the world for municipal use, hydropower, industry, commercial development and irrigation. Rivers are being dammed and rerouted, lakes and wetlands are being drained, fish habitats are being altered, nutrients are being lost, and inland waters throughout the world are changing in ways, big and small, that affect fish. More»


How drones could limit fertilizer flow into Lake Erie
PBS NewsHour

Dr. Bruno Basso's research using drones to help farmers apply fertilizers is featured on PBS NewsHour More»


MSU Expert: Protect yourself from floodwater contamination
MSU Today

Recent torrential rainfall across the United States has led to flash flooding, filling basements with water and sewage that can contain hundreds of pathogens. Joan Rose, Michigan State University's Homer Nowlin Chair in water research, advises that residents should assume floodwaters are contaminated and that exposure to these waters may raise the risk of diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, skin and eye infections, and respiratory disorders. - See more at: 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»


MSU helps shape USDA greenhouse gas policy

Michigan State University researchers contributed to shaping the USDA’s report. They include: Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station’s Long-term Ecological Research Program and professor of plant, soil, and microbial sciences; Wendy Powers-Schilling, professor of animal science; and David Skole, professor of forestry. More»


Congressional Rift Over Environmental Protection Sways Public
MSU Today

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, finds new research led by a Michigan State University scholar. The gap between conservatives who oppose environmental protection and liberals who support it has risen drastically in the past 20 years, a trend seen among lawmakers, activists and – as the study indicates – the general public as well, said sociologist Aaron M. McCright. More»


CSIS member contributes to land change synthesis paper

Much of what we know about how humans use land, and how those practices change over time, is informed by local case studies. But determining whether individual case studies are merely anecdotal—or if they can be scaled up to help explain regional or even global land use patterns—can be a challenge. To reconcile local information with regional–global knowledge, researchers who study land change must also reconcile the diversity of disciplines involved in land change science. From urban economics to geophysics and ecology to geography, each brings with it disparate data types and research questions. The research approach of synthesis—which “draws upon and distills many sources of data, ideas, explanations, and methods in order to accelerate knowledge production beyond that of less integrative approaches”—is especially useful in this context. “People who study land use change are often dealing with both quantitative and qualitative data, due to the human component of the field,” said Nicholas Magliocca, computational research associate at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “If you’re trying to integrate, for example, satellite remote sensing imagery with farmer surveys, your synthesis techniques will necessarily vary from those used for highly-controlled and standardized field experiments.” More»


Of Fish, Monsoons and the Future
The New York Times

“The central message of Chans is that humans and nature are coupled, just like husband and wife,” says Dr. Liu, director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University. “They interact, work together, and the impacts are not just one way. There are feedbacks.” More»


How much fertilizer is too much for the climate?
MSU Today

In a new study published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in the soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs. Nitrogen-based fertilizers spur greenhouse gas emissions by stimulating microbes in the soil to produce more nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas, behind only carbon dioxide and methane, and also destroys stratospheric ozone. Agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of human-caused nitrous oxide emissions worldwide, which have increased substantially in recent years, primarily due to increased nitrogen fertilizer use. “Our specific motivation is to learn where to best target agricultural efforts to slow global warming,” said Phil Robertson, director of MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research Program and senior author of the paper. “Agriculture accounts for 8 to 14 percent of all greenhouse gas production globally. We’re showing how farmers can help to reduce this number by applying nitrogen fertilizer more precisely.” 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»


Climate Debate Isn't So Heated in the U.S.
The New York Times

Polls have shown that Americans are far less concerned about global warming than people in the rest of the developed world and rarely cite environmental issues when asked to name important problems facing the country. Why is that? Featuring ESPP faculty Dr. Aaron McCright More»


MSU Plant Biologist Receives Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship
MSU Today

Nathan Swenson , MSU assistant professor of plant biology, has received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. This prestigious award is given to mid-career professionals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. “It is an extraordinary honor to be named a Guggenheim Fellow and I cannot thank the foundation enough,” Swenson said. “The fellowship will allow me to continue my fundamental research interest of linking the evolution of plant form and function to the present-day distribution, abundance and co-existence of species. More»


Spartans feed the world

Michigan State University researchers are increasing their presence throughout Africa, Asia, and Central America—key food-producing regions—and are working directly with farmers, policy makers, and government entities to increase agricultural productivity, improve diets, and build greater resilience to challenges like climate change. More»


Common ground fosters climate change understanding
MSU Today

In a presentation today during the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University systems ecologist and modeler Laura Schmitt-Olabisi shows how system dynamics models effectively communicate the challenges and implications of climate change. More»


Study corrects misconceptions of Great Lakes evaporation

"Understanding how lake levels are changing is very important to our region," said Thomas Dietz, MSU professor of environmental science and policy and co-director of GLISA. "This affects shipping, recreation and infrastructure on the lake shore." More»


Cities weigh options, costs of fighting ash borer

"There's no reason for a landscape tree to die now if someone is willing to put some money into it," said Deb McCullough, a Michigan State University forest entomology professor who helped test the pesticide before it went on the market. "(But) some cities have a tough time allocating money from a municipal budget to protect trees when they're trying to keep firemen and policemen on the job." More»


Telecoupling Shows Global Impact of China's Forestation Efforts
Asian Scientist

As China increases its forests, a Michigan State University (MSU) researcher asks: if a tree doesn’t fall in China, can you hear it elsewhere in the world? In the journal Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, MSU professor Jianguo “Jack” Liu dissects the global impact of China’s struggle to preserve and expand its forests even as its cities and population balloon. 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»


Saving the Great Plains Water Supply
MSU Today

In the current issue of Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Michigan State University scientists are proposing alternatives that will halt and hopefully reverse the unsustainable use of water drawdown in the aquifer. The body of water, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, spans from Texas to South Dakota and drives much of the region’s economy. - See more at: More»


Home teams hold the advantage
MSU Today

In the current issue of the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers and their collaborators found that plant adaptation to different environments involves tradeoffs in performance. More»


Smart meters are easier to read by spark privacy concerns
Great Lakes Echo

As Michigan power generators begin to switch to digital smart meters, some people are concerned that they step too far into customers’ private lives. The state’s two major utilities have been replacing electric meters with smart meters across Michigan. The advantage is that they can be read remotely instead of having to send someone to read the meters directly. More»


Bringing Perennial Grain Crops to Africa
MSU Today

MSU AgBioResearch scientist Sieg Snapp is leading a research project studying the potential benefits of introducing perennial grains to African farms. Snapp has been researching perennial grains in Michigan for six years at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station. Her work will span five African nations – Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia – to test the viability of perennial grain growth across varied African ecosystems. The five nations were identified as “priority countries” by the U.S. Agency for International Development. - See more at: More»


Discussing Global Food and Water Crisis
MSU Today

The United Nations’ has named 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. In response to the U.N.’s initiative, Michigan State University has organized a cross-disciplinary, educational conference titled “Water, Food Security and the Developing Global Crisis.” More»


Building stronger policies to fight global hunger
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

As part of Feed the Future, the federal government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Michigan State University will use a $10 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen developing countries’ abilities to fight hunger through improved food policy. 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»


Maize trade disruption could have global ramifications
MSU Today

Disruptions to U.S. exports of maize (corn) could pose food security risks for many U.S. trade partners due to the lack of trade among other producing and importing nations, says a Michigan State University study. The study, featured in the journal Risk Analysis, didn’t primarily focus on plant disease, population growth, climate change or the diversion of corn to nonfood uses such as ethanol. It suggests, however, that significant stresses in these areas could jeopardize food security. This is particularly true in nations like Mexico, Japan and South Korea that have yet to diversify their sources, said Felicia Wu, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and the study’s lead author. More»


Teach climate change to attract science students, Michigan State researchers argue

A new research paper by a team of Michigan State University scientists argues that teaching climate change is the key to attracting more students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics as fields of 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»


Telecoupling pulls pieces of sustainability puzzle together
MSU Today

Scientists led by Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, have built an integrated way to study a world that has become more connected – with faster and more socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. They say “telecoupling” describes how distance is shrinking and connections are strengthening between nature and humans. - See more at: More»


Study finds 'sweet spot' that makes or breaks environmental actions
MSU Today

Scientists at Michigan State University have found that there is a sweet spot – a group size at which the action is most effective. More importantly, the work revealed how behaviors of group members can pull bad policy up or drag good policy down. The work is published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 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»


Robert Walker: All roads don't lead to Starbucks
360 Perspective

ESPP Affiliated Faculty member Robert Walker (Geography) discusses how everyday actions and decisions of citizens and governments factor into environmental change. More»


Going wild could improve winged workforce
MSU Today

Every spring in the United States, bees pollinate crops valued at about $14 billion. A Michigan State University professor and a team of scientists are using a five-year, $8.6 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to keep this winged workforce operating efficiently. Almonds, strawberries, apples, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, cucumbers and more depend on bees to help maximize yields. But with wild honey bee populations decimated by varroa mites and other threats, farmers are dependent on beekeepers to deliver managed colonies of honey bees during peak pollination to ensure their flowers are pollinated. 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»


Pinpointing how nature's benefits link to human well-being
MSU Today

Scientists at Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, in two parallel papers published in this week’s journal PLOS ONE, develop a new integrated approach to measure human dependence on ecosystem services and human well-being so as to promote the understanding of the linkages between them – an important step toward improved understanding, monitoring and management of coupled human and natural systems. More»


Seeing the forest for the trees
MSU Today

Brazil’s struggle to conserve its rainforests has become a global talking point. As more and more forests have been cleared in the name of economic growth, preserving them has become less attractive to landowners. But a new focus on integrating the social and natural sciences to address environmental problems is yielding promising results that may save the rainforests—and the planet. More»


The politics of saving energy vs. saving the planet
MSU Today

Buying an energy-efficient appliance or light bulb can seem like a green act and a good idea. But that depends on if the buyer is red or blue. Thomas Dietz of the Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and colleagues muse on the complexities consumers exhibit when deciding whether or not to put their money where their carbon footprint is. 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»


Michigan Apple Orchards Blossom After A Devastating Year
National Public Radio's Morning Edition

Last year, almost the entire Michigan apple crop was lost because of 80-degree days in March and then some freezing April nights. This year, the apples are back, but everything always depends on the weather. The state was under a freeze warning Sunday night — a scary prospect if you're an apple grower and your trees have just come into bloom. Every Wednesday morning during apple season, growers show up at a local restaurant at 7 a.m. for a free breakfast (paid for by one of the farm chemical companies) and a briefing from Amy Irish-Brown, an extension educator from Michigan State University. She talks about spores, beetles, aphids and especially the weather. More»


Seabird bones reveal changes in open-ocean food chain
MSU Today

A research team, led by Michigan State University and Smithsonian Institution scientists, analyzed the bones of Hawaiian petrels – birds that spend the majority of their lives foraging the open waters of the Pacific. They found that the substantial change in petrels’ eating habits, eating prey that are lower rather than higher in the food chain, coincides with the growth of industrialized fishing. The birds’ dramatic shift in diet, shown in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leaves scientists pondering the fate of petrels as well as wondering how many other species face similar challenges. “Our bone record is alarming because it suggests that open-ocean food webs are changing on a large scale due to human influence,” said Peggy Ostrom, co-author and MSU zoologist. “Our study is among the first to address one of the great mysteries of biological oceanography – whether fishing has gone beyond an influence on targeted species to affect nontarget species and potentially, entire food webs in the open ocean.” More»


Costa Rican and MSU officials help dedicate new anaerobic digester
MSU Today

Many dignitaries from the United States and Costa Rica gathered in the Central American country this week to officially commission a newly built anaerobic digester, the product of a partnership between Michigan State University and the University of Costa Rica. An anaerobic digester takes organic waste – anything from food scraps to animal manure – and turns it into energy. The project was funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Division of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Partners included the University of Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua León, and Panama’s Universidad Autonoma de Chiriqui. 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»


U.S. sociologist tracks the politics of climate change

Americans who believe scientists on global warming are more likely to support government action on emissions regardless of party affiliation, a study says. However, Michigan State University sociologist Aaron M. McCright said a political schism remains on the existence of climate change despite a scientific consensus that global warming is real. More»


'Chasing Ice' director views film with students
The State News

By hosting a showing of documentary “Chasing Ice” last night, Department of Geography chair Alan Arbogast hoped to build awareness, not just for environmental issues, but for the geography major at MSU. “First of all, we want to show a great film,” Arbogast said. “In the context of that, I want to promote the Department of Geography.” A free screening of “Chasing Ice” was shown last night at Wells Hall. The documentary, directed by Jeff Orlowski, is the story of environmental photographer James Balog and his mission to open the public’s eyes on climate change. Balog placed time-lapse cameras across the Arctic to show how the world’s glaciers change from year to year. “In 2013, it seems like a simple and obvious idea, but when he came up with the concept back in 2007, nobody had done timelines of glaciers like he was attempting to do, to get the cameras to get working around the world,” Orlowski said. More»


EPA: Tar sands pipelines should be held to different standards
National Public Radio's All Things Considered

Michigan State University professor Stephen Hamilton thinks more regulation is needed because of the many ways that a tar sands spill can be more harmful to the environment and people than a conventional oil spill. Another example he cited is that tar sands oil is a lot stickier than conventional crude, so everything it touches, even rocks, cannot be cleaned and needs to be thrown away. "The consequences and the costs of the cleanup, once it gets into surface water systems as we've seen in the case of the Kalamazoo River, are incredibly high," he says. "And, you know, we'll never get it all out." More»


Bioenergy program receives $125 million renewal grant
The State News

Students and faculty conducting research in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, or GLBRC will be able to continue research after receiving a $125 million renewal grant for the next five years from the U.S. Department of Energy. Since the program started in 2007, Ken Keegstra has seen the research in bioenergy grow tremendously. “I think it’s a great opportunity for students,” said Keegstra, scientific director for GLBRC at MSU and professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Department of Plant Biology. “It’s a great opportunity for training students both at the undergraduate and graduate level.” More»


Everyone goes green with sustainability
The State News

For students who attended the U.S. Green Building Council Students Regional Conference this weekend, “Go Green” was more than just a cheer for the university’s colors. The U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC, student group at MSU hosted more than 60 students and professionals interested in sustainability on campus for the region’s first conference. Participants watched movies about sustainable topics Friday, listened to speakers Saturday and took a tour of MSU’s sustainable efforts on campus Sunday. Students learned new ideas for sustainable practices and leadership skills to bring back to their own campus. More»


Great Lakes wetlands may mitigate climate change
Great Lakes Echo

Long valued for biological diversity and flood control, Great Lakes coastal wetlands are now seen as a tool to suck up and store excess carbon dioxide. It’s an important function as researchers seek to blunt climate change caused by that greenhouse gas. More»


DOE renews funding for biofuels research partnership
MSU Today

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University $125 million to continue their work on advanced biofuels. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, housed at UW-Madison and includes a major partnership with MSU, will use the five-year grant to continue its work providing the basic scientific foundation for the sustainable, large-scale production of advanced cellulosic biofuels technologies to help meet the nation’s growing energy needs. “GLBRC researchers, in partnership with the state of Wisconsin, the state of Michigan and affiliated industries, have made substantial progress toward developing the next generation of advanced biofuels,” said Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW-Madison professor of bacteriology. “Renewal by the Department of Energy permits us to build on these scientific breakthroughs and accelerate our efforts to develop sustainable biofuels strategies, from growing plants for use as energy feedstocks to exploring novel ways to convert the non-edible components of plants into fuels for the automotive, diesel and aviation sector,” he said. Rather than focus its effort on designing an ideal biomass crop or a single conversion platform, the GLBRC is taking a holistic “field to fuel approach,” that evaluates the energy efficiency, sustainability and economic viability of several technologies. “This approach allows farmers or fuel producers in different parts of the country to select the pieces of our technology that work best for their crops, climate or fuels,” said Ken Keegstra, GLBRC scientific director and MSU Distinguished Professor of plant biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology. More»


MSU Students to adminstration: Divest in big oil
Lansing City Pulse

The gathering may have been small, but the message was big. MSU Fossil Free, a re-launched student environmental group at Michigan State University, called on the school to divest the millions of dollars it has pledged to oil companies. According to the group’s press release, MSU has “at least $13.8 million of its endowment invested in fossil fuel companies including BP, Canadian Oil Sands, and Shell International through stocks, bonds and asset backed securities.” More»


Great Lakes salmon are the focus of new video series
MSU Extension

April is an exciting time of year for salmon and trout anglers. Big lake trolling and pier fishing starts off in the southern end of Lake Michigan and the steelhead run is in in full swing in west Michigan streams. Another story unfolds in shoreline eddies, where young wild-spawned Chinook salmon feed on stream insects and put on weight for their journey to Lake Michigan. The modern Great Lakes salmon fishery began with stocking programs in the late 1960s. At that time, salmon were unable to spawn successfully due to poor water quality, degraded stream habitats, and dams that blocked fish passage or altered river flow. Although salmon are not native to the upper Great Lakes, the Chinook salmon, in particular, has been able to adapt and is now spawning in streams where conditions have improved. More»


Feeding the World's Future
MSU Today

Researchers at Michigan State University netted a $24.5 million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development, continuing MSU’s long-term commitment to helping developing nations find sustainable and secure food sources. The main objectives of USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes, led by MSU, will be to increase the productivity of beans and other grain legumes (cowpea, chickpea, etc.) by smallholder farmers and to enhance the nutritional quality of diets of the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the United States. More»


A changing climate's impact on water and water resources
MSU Extension

Climate change information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree that increased levels of greenhouse gases will impact our environment in many ways. One area of concern is the influence a changing climate will have on precipitation events. For the U.S., climate change models predict northern areas will become wetter while the western and southwest regions of the U.S. will become drier. Models also predict an increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events, more rain over shorter periods of time. Michigan is within the region of the U.S. where increased precipitation is predicted during the winter and spring seasons but summers are expected to be drier. These anticipated changes in weather patterns have the potential to have a profound impact on agriculture production and soil and water conservation practices. More»


Current State: The future of Michigan's climate
Great Lakes Echo

Climate change is continuing to influence Michigan’s environment. Last March a sudden thaw and freeze devastated the state’s berry crops. While recently, record low water levels have forced the government to spend millions on dredging. Jeff Andresen, Michigan Climatologist and assistant professor of geography at Michigan State University discusses Michigan’s climate future. More»


Lessons from China's environmental front
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

China’s investment of money and decades to stem the tide of environmental destruction and protect its natural resources has done more than save flora and fauna – it has also provided a roadmap for itself and the rest of the world. Jianguo “Jack” Liu and colleagues at Michigan State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences take a sweeping look at three enormous programs China has adopted to save natural resources. Their analysis and perspectives are presented in an article in the second edition of “Encyclopedia of Biodiversity,” which was recently released by Elsevier. The Nature Reserve System – which now is comprised of 2,588 reserves that cover 15 percent of China’s territory -- protects valuable plants, animals and ecosystems, including the endangered giant panda. The Grain to Green Program is an effort to persuade farmers to return cropland to forest and grassland through financial incentives. The National Forest Conservation Program seeks to conserve natural forests by banning logging and creating new forests. More»


Students campaign for 100 percent renewable energy
The State News

Bundled in her striped wool mittens, printed scarf and foggy glasses, Laura Drotar stood poised with her clipboard, battling the weather while fighting for the environment. On Friday afternoon near the rock on Farm Lane, the history, philosophy and sociology of science sophomore petitioned beside other members of MSU Greenpeace and Paulie the polar bear, asking passing students to sign a petition to expedite and better clarify MSU’s Energy Transition Plan. More»


Environmentalists Angry with Michigan State for Dumping Coal Ash

Under the feet of Spartan students is something they may not expect- coal ash from the 1960s. Before research and regulations on the material went public, the university dumped ash from the T.B. Power Plant at a few sites around campus. "It was coal ash produced historically and then used as construction fill, so in order to build up the land they disposed of this construction fill," explained Susan Harley, the Michigan Policy Director for the Clean Water Fund. In 2007, one of these coal ash sites was unearthed when MSU began construction on an overpass. The university moved some of this coal ash to Granger Landfill and some to MSU's police firearms training facility on Jolly Road. More»


MSU Student pursues patent for Current Tidal
The State News

While on an internship in the New Mexican desert in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2011, an idea sparked within Jonathan DiClemente. He wanted to put windmill-type turbines in the oceans to create energy from tidal shifts, the mechanical engineering senior said. DiClemente said he had no clue his idea would inspire and lead him to be CEO of his own company, Current Tidal, which retrofits dams to make energy. He’ll do anything to protect it. More»


Activists call on MSU to 'retire' coal plant, properly dispose of toxic ash
Lansing State Journal

Student activists and others today called on Michigan State University to retire its coal plant and properly dispose of toxic coal ash that was buried on campus. The coal ash was first discovered in 2007 during an excavation of what is now called Recycling Drive, according to a news release from the group Clean Energy Now. Although some of the coal ash was properly disposed of in a landfill, more than 92,000 cubic yards was relocated to the university police training facility on Jolly Road, the news release said. More»


Michigan dunes about half as young as initially thought
MSU Today

Using new lighting technology, Michigan State University researchers found Lake Michigan’s northern coastal dunes to be much younger than previously thought. In a new book by Alan Arbogast, MSU geography chair, new evidence estimates the age of Lake Michigan’s northern coast dunes between 3,500 and 2,000 years old. This is compared to eastern Lake Michigan’s southern dunes, which were formed about 5,000 years ago. More»


Amazon deforestation affects more than originally thought
MSU Today

An international team of researchers has revealed a new concern about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest – a troubling loss in the diversity among the microbial organisms responsible for a functioning ecosystem. The group, which includes a professor from Michigan State University, sampled a 100 square kilometer area, about 38 square miles, in the Fazenda Nova Vida site in Rondônia, Brazil, a location where rainforest has been converted to agricultural use. The findings in part validated previous research showing bacteria in the soil became more diverse over the years as it was converted to pasture. More»


Summer drought causes hay shortage in Michigan
Ventura County Star

The Michigan State University Extension estimates overall hay yields dropped 15 to 30 percent in the Midwest. The lower yields forced prices upward. Hay costs $2 to $6 per bale in a normal year, but now is anywhere from $6 to $15, said Don Coe, a managing partner of Black Star Farms in Leelanau County. Coe sits on the Michigan Commission of Agriculture & Rural Development. More»


Grants will help Great Lakes region adapt to climate change
University Relations

Michigan State University scientists and their colleagues at the University of Michigan have awarded six grants to help communities in the Great Lakes basin adapt to climate change. The grants were awarded by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, a federally funded collaboration between MSU and U-M. GLISA researchers study issues related to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin and how the region can respond to climate-related risks, such as potential damages from changes in long-term temperature and precipitation patterns. “Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the Great Lakes region, and it’s important for us to understand and prepare for them,” said GLISA program manager David Bidwell, a research fellow at U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute. “These projects are laboratories for learning best practices for making decisions informed by climate science.” 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»


U-M, MSU Award Grants for Great Lakes Climate Change Research
ENews Park Forest

University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues at Michigan State University have awarded six grants to organizations across the region for projects that will help decision-makers adapt to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin. The grants were awarded by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, a federally funded collaboration between U-M and MSU. GLISA researchers study issues related to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin and how the region can respond to climate-related risks, such as potential damages from changes in long-term temperature and precipitation patterns. More»


Climate Change Threatens Pandas' Bamboo Food, Study Suggests
Huffington Post

Though they are one of the most beloved animal species on Earth, pandas aren't safe from the devastating effects of climate change. According to a new study, projected temperature increases in China over the next century will likely seriously hinder bamboo, almost the sole source of food for endangered pandas. Only if bamboo can move to new habitats at higher elevations will pandas stand a chance, the researchers said. However, if conservation programs wait too long, human inhabitants and activities could claim all of the new habitats capable of supporting bamboo in a warming world. "It is tough, but I think there's still hope, if we take action now," said research team member Jianguo Liu, a sustainability scientist at Michigan State University. "If we wait, then we could be too late." More»


Inter-disciplinary Effort Yields New Data on Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes and Archaeology

The combination of archaeological expertise, geographic knowledge and new technology which lets scientists accurately date sand have come together in a new research study on the formation, age and life cycle of Lake Michigan coastal dunes and the archaeological sites found in them. MSU Geography Chair Alan F. Arbogast has spent years studying the evolution of coastal dunes throughout the lower Lake Michigan basin. Meanwhile, William A. Lovis, curator at the MSU Museum and professor of anthropology has undertaken archaeological studies of human habitation along Lake Michigan. And finally, G. William Monaghan, a senior research scientist and associate director of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University was itching to test a new luminescence-based technology to find out the age of windblown sand deposits. More»

On the Rise MSU researchers offer input on up-and-down weather in state
The State News

Jeff Andresen, MSU geography professor and a state climatologist for Michigan, said after having a record-hot March, freezing temperatures in April nearly decimated the entire fruit crop of the state, causing higher prices this fall for many of the crops, including apples and cherries. MSU researchers now are weighing in on the impacts the weather could have on the state as temperatures dip south on the verge of winter. More»


MSU Extension to help plan for climate variability
University Relations

A team of Michigan State University Extension specialists and educators has received funding from the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center to collaborate with GLISA researchers, relevant decision makers and stakeholders in two Michigan local governments units. The primary goal of the project, titled "Adapting to Climate Change and Variability: Planning Tools for Michigan Communities," is to increase community resilience by incorporating climate variability and change adaption strategies into local land use master plans and policies. The second goal of the project is to create an assessment tool that can be used by other communities throughout Michigan. More»


Small organisms could dramatically impact world’s climate
University Relations

Warmer oceans in the future could significantly alter populations of phytoplankton, tiny organisms that could have a major impact on climate change. In the current issue of Science Express, Michigan State University researchers show that by the end of the 21st century, warmer oceans will cause populations of these marine microorganisms to thrive near the poles and may shrink in equatorial waters. Since phytoplankton play a key role in the food chain and the world’s cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and other elements, a drastic drop could have measurable consequences. “In the tropical oceans, we are predicting a 40 percent drop in potential diversity,” said Mridul Thomas, MSU graduate student and one of the co-authors. “If the oceans continue to warm as predicted, there will be a sharp decline in the diversity of phytoplankton in tropical waters and a poleward shift in species’ thermal niches, if they don’t adapt to climate change.” More»


21 universities team up for Great Lakes Futures Project
The Environment Report, Michigan Radio

A new project is going to try to predict the future of the Great Lakes. It’s called... wait for it... the Great Lakes Futures Project. It’s a collaboration of 21 universities from the U.S. and Canada. More»


Opposing points of view: Raise renewable standard to create jobs, clean the air
Detroit Free Press

A study by economists and academics estimated that Proposal 3, which pushes Michigan's renewable energy standard to 25% by 2025, would create 94,000 jobs for Michigan workers -- including 31,513 construction jobs, 42,982 operation and maintenance jobs and, conservatively, 19,675 manufacturing jobs. It would spark $10.3 billion in new investment for our state. More»


MSU is helping India manage forests, reduce greenhouse gasses
University Relations

Researchers at Michigan State University will use a $1.5 million grant to help India manage its forests and reduce the developing nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The grant, awarded by USAID, is part of an overall $14 million effort to build the nation’s capacity to measure forest carbon and reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses. Currently, India is faced with the challenge of sustaining its rapid economic growth while dealing with climate change. Climate change may alter the distribution and quality of India's natural resources and adversely affect the livelihood of its people, said David Skole, MSU professor of forestry. More»


MSU hosts international student summit
University Relations

International students will present research projects in the areas of food production and sustainable energy. They will spend Monday through Wednesday preparing for their presentations. Academic leaders from the students' home universities will spend those days with MSU and Tokyo University of Agriculture faculty members discussing food security, global climate change, crop protection and the role of women in agriculture. More»


New research helps protect dunes
Capital News Service

New research findings about the geological and archaeological aspects of the Lake Michigan coastal dunes will help local governments and organizations protect them. “It’s important to make sure we haven’t damaged or destroyed dunes in an archaeological site,” said state Archaeologist Dean Anderson. He said information about dunes in the past concerns not only cultural but environmental methods. More»


MSU President Simon on all things green, at home and around the globe

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon speaks with Kirk Heinze as the 2012-2013 school year begins with updates on being green, initiatives in Detroit, a new museum, politics and the environment, climate change, and more. 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»


Researchers receive grant to fight harmful algal blooms
MSU Department of Geological Sciences

Using a $749,801 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan State University researchers, including from the Department of Geological Sciences, are hoping to curb the growth of harmful algal blooms in lakes and reservoirs across the United States. The implications, however, will resonate globally, said Jan Stevenson, MSU zoologist. More»


Infographic: Climate Change in the Great Lakes
Circle of Blue

How will predicted changes to water levels and water temperatures affect the future of this region that is home to 38 million people? Click through the interactive infographic below to learn more about how climate change will affect the economy and ecology of the Great Lakes region. More»


Population and climate change report published
Nature Climate Change

A new paper co-authored by Tom Dietz (Sociology, ESPP, Animal Studies), “Human drivers of national greenhouse-gas emissions,” examines the effects of a growing human population on climate change. Dietz co-authored the paper with Washington State University research Eugene A. Rosa.
University Relations has more on the publication here. More»

Michigan Sea Grant: Great Lakes temps higher than usual

According to Michigan Sea Grant's daily temperature recordings, Lake Michigan, in front of Petoskey and Charlevoix, ranged 13 and 14 degrees warmer than late May of last year. Water temperatures are up because of Michigan's warm winter, which was the fourth mildest winter in more than 100 years. And March's weather madness didn't help matters. “March was extraordinary. I don't think there's any other word for it,” said Jeff Andreson (Geography). “March was the warmest in recorded history.” More»

Swenson awarded prestigious international award

Nathan Swenson (ESPP, Plant Biology) was awarded this year’s Ebbe Nielsen Prize by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility for his work contributing to a better understanding of how plants respond to climate change. More»

WhadayaKnow? What’s the difference between climate and weather?
Great Lakes Echo

“Every Monday, Great Lakes Echo runs video clips of random people answering questions that experts believe environmentally literate citizens should understand. In the last clip an expert explains the correct answers.” In this edition, Jeff Andresen (Geography) is the expert on the question of: “What’s the difference between climate and weather?” More»

New book examines climate change in the Great Lakes Region


A new book edited by Tom Dietz (Sociology, ESPP) and David Bidwell, of the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) Center, is now available through MSU Press. The genesis of the new publication, "Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region: Navigating an Uncertain Future," was the original climate change symposium held several years ago at MSU. More»

Americans want more and better environmental reporting; help us get some
Great Lakes Echo

The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism and the Society of Environmental Journalists are hosting two workshops this summer for regional journalists and scientists interested in improving climate change reporting. Part of the plan is to improve the climate change literacy of journalists and give them access to recent newsy climate change issues. Part of it is to improve the communication skills of scientists and foster a desire within them to communicate with journalists and the public. And a big part of it is to foster a greater understanding in each group of the other group's challenges for communicating climate change issues. More»

MSU board OKs Energy Transition Plan
University Relations

Solar panels produce about 10 percent of the electricity for MSU's Surplus Store and Recycling Center. MSU's Energy Transition Plan for call for an increased use of solar energy. Photo: MSUMore than a year in the making, the plan was created by the Energy Transition Steering Committee, a 24-member group of students, faculty and staff whose charge was to develop a plan to help MSU reliably meet its future energy needs while keeping a close eye on costs and environmental impacts. The ultimate goal of the plan is to help create an environment in which the university is powered by 100 percent renewable energy. See also: MSU is working aggressively to power the university with 100 percent renewable energy (Greening of the Great Lakes). More»

New art residency program focuses on sustainability
University Relations

View of the west facade and plaza at night at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.Drawing on MSU's history as a land-grant university and its strong commitment to education and global engagement, the program – "The Land Grant: Art, Agriculture, Sustainability" – will support projects that educate the public and catalyze grass-roots remedies to global challenges, offering an artistic approach to "thinking globally and acting locally." Participants will have access to thought leaders across university departments as they develop projects and acres of university land. More»

Hard freeze hurts Michigan cherry crop
Michigan Radio

"We're seeing history made before our eyes at least in terms of climatology," said Jeff Andresen (Geography). "And in some ways if we look at where our vegetation is and how advanced it is, it's probably a month ahead of where it typically is." More»

Climate change impacts Michigan blueberry industry
MSU Extension

Blueberries, tight cluster stage. Photo: Mark Longstroth, MSUE.In Michigan, like in many other fruit growing regions, tree fruit and small fruit varieties have been selected over the years to fit the ranges of temperatures suitable to maximize productivity and fruit quality. However, record temperatures like the ones observed on March 21 in west Michigan are turned upside down in the fruit grower's production calendar. According to Jeff Andresen (Geography), similar warm spells in the state happened in 1945, and in the past each time unseasonably warm temperatures arrived in March they were followed by periods of freezing weather. More»

Keeping climate change on regional agendas despite public apathy
Great Lakes Echo

“Climate change is not an issue most people think about on a day to day basis,” Tom Dietz (Sociology & Environmental Science and Policy) said. “So the attitudes expressed in a survey, or around the coffee pot at work, may not reflect a lot of time spent thinking about the issue.” Dietz said the lack of national policy on climate change has more to do with organized lobbying than public opinion. More»

Climatologist: Mild temperatures to continue
CBS Detroit

Biker. Courtesy of istockphoto. "There are hints that we may see a change in the pattern, maybe in the middle of February. But even with that right now the outlook for the month of February still suggests milder than normal temperatures and wetter than normal conditions," said Jeff Andresen (Geography). More»

Researchers help African farmers cope with climate change
University Relations

Jennifer Olson and other MSU researchers are helping African farmers deal with the challenges caused by climate change. Photo courtesy of MSU.A team of MSU researchers secured a $700,000 grant to help farmers in Zambia and Kenya overcome the challenges faced from changes in climate. The project, which will link climate change to coping strategies and impacts on food production, food security and incomes for farm families in those areas, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Eric Crawford (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics) coordinates the project with Jennifer Olson (Telecommunications). Additional MSU team members are Jeff Andresen (Geography), Gopalsamy Alagarswamy (Center for Global Change and Earth Observations), Steven Haggblade (Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics) and Nathan Moore (Geography). More»

MSU receives grant to study effects of cover crops on greenhouse gas emissions
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Evaluating the effects of cover crops on greenhouse gases, nitrogen availability and carbon accumulation is the focus of a $749,000 grant awarded to a team of MSU scientists. The grant will fund a project that explores how cover crops can be used to improve nitrogen timing on conventional and organic farms. Dale R. Mutch (MSU Extension Agribusiness) and Dean Baas (MSU Extension, Kellogg Biological Station) are leading the project, working with Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences), Neville Millar (Kellogg Biological Station), and Steve Miller (Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics)


The American 'allergy' to global warming: Why?
Associated Press

A researcher atop the Greenland ice sheet prepares to launch a weather balloon. Image source: Associated PressThe study's authors, Aaron McCright (Sociology and Lyman Briggs) and Riley E. Dunlap (Oklahoma State), suggested climate had joined abortion and other explosive, intractable issues as a mainstay of America's hardening left-right gap. More»

Team will help Extension educators integrate climate change into programs
MSUE Spotlight

Increasingly, stakeholders look to MSU Extension as a trusted source of information on how to slow down, adapt to and communicate about the changing climate. The new Climate Variability and Change Action Team (CV-CAT) will help meet those needs. The project was initiated by Julie Doll (Kellogg Biological Station) and Claire Layman (MSU Extension) and includes MSU faculty and Extension affiliates. More»

MSU scientists suggest how countries can cooperate on climate
University Relations

MSU researchers suggest how countries can cooperate on climate. Image credit: Wikipedia CommonsWhen countries try to work together to limit the effects of climate change, the fear of being the only nation reducing greenhouse gas emissions – while the others enjoy the benefits with no sacrifice – can bring cooperation to a grinding halt. In a commentary in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Thomas Dietz (Sociology, ESPP) and Jinhua Zhao (ESPP, Economics, and Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics) suggest using a scalable method of rewards and punishments to help develop strategies that encourage all nations to participate fully in greenhouse gas mitigation programs. More»

University will help Great Lakes cities adapt to climate change
Great Lakes Echo

The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center is a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and Michigan Sea Grant. The center works to “translate national research to regional levels,” according to Tom Dietz (Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy), a co-principal investigator at the center. More»

Grant will develop tools to help farmers deal with climate change
University Relations

Climate changeClimate and growing seasons are changing, and an MSU professor is helping farmers adapt to those changes. Jeff Andresen (Geography) is part of a team of researchers who want to give farmers the necessary tools to help navigate these climate changes, cope with climate variability, and lessen their negative impact on agriculture. The five-year project will be funded by a $5 million grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. More»

Calling for climate change research
Environment Magazine

Energy protesters. Image credit: Environment Magazine A group of MSU sociologists examines how increased confidence among scientists concerning anthropogenic climate change is not translating into public consensus within the United States. “Understanding Public Opinion on Climate Change: A call for research,” with contributions from Sandra Marquart-Pyatt, Thomas Dietz, Stan Kaplowitz and Aaron McCright (Sociology), appears in the latest issue of Environment Magazine. More»

Cool off on hot days
City Pulse

Particularly hot days can't be attributed to one factor, but due to climate change, a particular pattern of weather is to be expected, said Tom Dietz (Sociology, ESPP). “These runs of unusual weather give us a sense of what the climate will be like in the future, with good probability.” More»

Climate change evidence is growing stronger (column)

temperature change, image courtesy of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeThe scientific evidence that we are creating dangerous climate change becomes stronger with each passing year, Stephen Hamilton (Zoology, Kellogg Biological Station) writes in an opinion piece. More»

Downside to biodegradable products? Methane, Discovery News

logo of Biodegradable Products InstituteWhen biodegradable trash ends up in landfills, it breaks down more quickly than ordinary garbage does, suggests a new study. The result is a more rapid release of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming…. The finding should not be over-sensationalized or taken out of context, warned Ramani Narayan (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science). More»

MSU officials: Zipcar program a success
State News

Zipcar logo, image courtesy of ZipcarAbout five months after its implementation at MSU, Jennifer Battle (Office of Campus Sustainability) said that the Zipcar program has been successful. 224 MSU students and faculty have joined the car-sharing program. More»


Political parties increasingly divided over global warming

Despite the growing scientific consensus that global warming is real, Americans have become increasingly polarized on the environmental issue, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by Aaron McCright (Sociology). More»

Taylor Fellowship will send PhD student to Australia to study
Centers for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS)

Abigail Lynch (Fisheries and Wildlife, ESPP) will travel to Australia to study fisheries management in the context of climate change thanks to The William W. and Evelyn M. Taylor Endowed Fellowship for International Engagement in Coupled Human and Natural Systems. Follow Abby’s experience on the CSIS blog. More»

Preparing Extension educators to help state’s field crop industry address realities of climate change
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

“How can we help Michigan field crop farmers adapt to and help mitigate a changing climate?” Finding an answer to this question was what brought Claire Layman (Extension) and Julie Doll (Kellogg Biological Station) together on a research project intent on finding ways to engage the producer, scientist and decision maker communities in discussions about the relationship between climate change and agriculture. Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Science) and Cheryl Peters (Extension) are also partners on the research project, which received funding from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) education grant and Project GREEEN. More»

Researchers display work to Congress
College of Natural Science

researchers in Washington, image courtesy of Department of Geological SciencesThe Coalition for National Science Funding’s annual exhibition brings science to Capitol Hill. MSU research presented this year included work on climate literacy, presented by Julie Libarkin (Geological Sciences) and graduate students Bob Drost (Geological Sciences, ESPP) and Sheldon Turner (Geological Sciences, ESPP); and work on efficient energy conversion in nanoscale networks, presented by Keith Promislow (Mathematics) and Andrew Christlieb (Mathematics). More»

Democrats and Republicans increasingly divided over global warming
University Relations

graph of results, image courtesy of Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap Despite the growing scientific consensus that global warming is real, Americans have become increasingly polarized on the environmental problem, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by Aaron McCright (Sociology). The gap between Democrats and Republicans who believe global warming is happening increased 30 percent between 2001 and 2010 – a “depressing” trend that’s essentially keeping meaningful national energy policies from being considered, argues McCright. The study is featured in the spring issue of Sociological Quarterly, online now. More»

GLISA awards annual research funding to MSU climate change projects

The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), was created to help integrate climate change information into adaptation planning. The center is supported by a five-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and headed by researchers from MSU and University of Michigan. GLISA provides annual funding for projects on climate change in the Great Lakes basin which involve researchers and decision-makers. This spring, GLISA made five awards, four of which went to MSU-led projects. Below, we list MSU researchers involved:

  • A modeling framework for informing decision maker response to extreme heat events in Michigan under climate change. Laura Schmitt Olabisi (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, ESPP) (lead), Ralph Levine (CARRS), and Stuart Blythe (Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures).
  • An assessment of the implications of climate variability and change for Michigan's tourism industry. Sarah Nicholls (CARRS, Geography) (lead), Donald Holecek (CARRS, Hospitality Business)
  • Designing a decision support system for harvest management of Great Lakes Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) in a changing climate. Abigail Lynch (Fisheries and Wildlife, ESPP), William Taylor (Fisheries and Wildlife). The Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability has more on the project.
  • Predicting the impacts of climate change on agricultural yields and water resources in the Maumee River watershed. David Hyndman and Anthony Kendall (Geological Sciences) (leads), Bruno Basso (Kellogg Biological Station).


MSU prof calls for carbon labeling of consumer goods
University Relations

carbon label, image courtesy of Carbon TrustLabeling products with information on the size of the carbon footprint they leave behind could help both consumers and manufacturers make better, environmentally friendly choices. Tom Dietz (Sociology and ESPP) writes in Nature Climate Change that labeling products, much like food products contain labels with nutritional information, could reduce carbon emissions by influencing consumer choices and by encouraging firms to identify efficiencies throughout the supply chain. More»

$20 million USDA research grant to study impacts of climate on corn-based cropping systems
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $20 million grant to MSU along with 10 other institutions. The research will focus on keeping Midwest corn-based cropping systems resilient in the face of future climate uncertainties. MSU co-principal investigator Sasha Kravchenko (Crop and Soil Sciences) said the project’s multi-scale data collection approach will provide researchers, producers and industry with unique capabilities to enhance productivity and resilience of corn-based cropping systems. More»

winner of garden contest, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ Gender and the sustainable brain

While not a lot of significant gender-difference research has been done related to sustainability-promoting traits and characteristics, a study published in late 2010 on climate change belief seems telling. Using data from 2001-2008 Gallup Polls focusing specifically on environmental issues, Aaron McCright (Sociology and Lyman Briggs) found that women were more likely to accept climate change science than men. More»

Michigan scientists say the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases

Scientists at many of Michigan's colleges and universities say a proposal to prevent federal regulation of "greenhouse gasses" is a bad idea….Stephen Hamilton (Zoology) says: “Generally speaking, environmental protection has proven to be a net producer of jobs…We need to consider the long-term risks that climate change poses to our economy.” More»

Climate change affecting food safety
University Relations

Climate change is already having an effect on the safety of the world’s food supplies and unless action is taken it’s only going to get worse, Ewen Todd (Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing) told a symposium.
Yahoo News and U.S. News and World Report had the story. More»

Professor leads global-warming discussion during science cafe event at Jackson restaurant
Bay City Times

Wolfgang Bauer (Physics and Astronomy) was the final speaker of the year for the Science Café series at Hudson’s Classic Grill, a program made possible by a grant from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium and support from Jackson Community College. More»

Behavior frontiers: Can social science combat climate change?
Scientific American

U.S. households are responsible for 626 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, nearly 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 8 percent of global emissions….Still, Tom Dietz (Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy) remains optimistic. “I often hear energy experts who have never studied behavior say that behavior doesn't change,” says Dietz….. “But if we learn anything from the last 50 years, it's that behavior changes in huge ways.” More»

OSU climatologist takes stand on warming
Columbus Dispatch

Lonnie Thompson, one of the world's most highly regarded scientists on climate change, is often reluctant to step onto a soapbox, a trait shared by other scientists, who prefer letting their research speak for itself. Many scientists... fear accusations of bias, said Michael Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife; Lyman Briggs; Philosophy) "They are really worried that their credibility is at stake," he said.


Scientists scramble to bridge the uncertainty gap in climate science
The New York Times

In the 1970s and 1980s, the United States had an Office of Technology Assessment, which analyzed complex scientific concepts, producing studies for Congress on subjects like the nation's energy future and ecosystem management and giving advice on how to address issues. It is something the United States should consider again, said Tom Dietz (Sociology and ESPP). More»

Michigan climate change initiative nets $4.2 million federal grant
University Relations

A joint initiative between MSU and the University of Michigan to improve the nation's ability to adapt to climate variability and change earned a $4.2 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The grant will support the new Great Lakes Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, which will use the money to help communities and organizations in the Great Lakes region understand and adapt to a changing climate. MSU affiliates include Tom Dietz (Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy), Jeff Andresen (Geography), Julie Winkler (Geography), Charles Pistis (MSU Extension), and Michael Staton (MSU Extension). More»

New video highlights findings of climate panel report
National Research Council

ACC video The National Research Council has released a video based on Advancing the Science of Climate Change, a report from the America's Climate Choices project. The report maps out the realm of our accumulated knowledge regarding climate change, and urges that research on climate change enter a new era focused on the needs of decision makers. In this video…Thomas (Tom) Dietz (Environmental Science and Policy and Sociology) describes the panel's key findings and the lines of evidence that brought them to those conclusions. More»

Study: Women more likely than men to accept global warming
University Relations

Women tend to believe the scientific consensus on global warming more than men, according to a study by Aaron McCright (Sociology and Lyman Briggs College).
The findings, published in the September issue of the journal Population and Environment, challenge common perceptions that men are more scientifically literate, said McCright. More»

Environmental ethicist co-edits book calling for action
University Relations

It's not enough to simply know the environmental impacts of climate change, according to Michael Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs, Philosophy). Instead, we must do something, and getting from knowing to acting is the challenge. That's the crux of "Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril," a book Nelson co-edited, which will be released Sept. 1. More»

Green and clueless

... Research led by Tom Dietz (Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy) estimated behavorial changes would cut U.S. carbon emissions by 123 million metric tons per year, which is 20 percent of household direct emissions.
PBS also had the story.


Climate change education partnership strengthens connections in the Great Lakes

A grant from the National Science Foundation will enable scholars at MSU and other institutions in the Great Lakes to build a network that supports adoption of high quality educational resources related to climate change. Climate scientists, learning scientists, and educational practitioners will work together to assess what resources are available and what’s needed. “Anyone interested in climate change education and literacy can and should be involved,” says Julie Libarkin (Geological Sciences and Division of Science and Mathematics Education), one of the MSU investigators. Others involved at MSU are Dave Poulson (Journalism), Ken Frank (Fisheries and Wildlife and Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education), and Rochelle Sturtevant (Fisheries and Wildlife). The NSF abstract is here.  


Carbon2Markets program honored for five years of outstanding research
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

A carbon accounting system aimed at helping some of the world's poorest people grow trees that will boost their standards of living and slow climate change has been deemed outstanding for the last five years by one of its international funders.
"We are very pleased to have been recognized by the Asia Pacific Network, which is a joint program of the Japan Ministry of Environment and the National Science Foundation," said David Skole (Forestry), leader of the Carbon2Markets project. More»

Steve Harsh forecasts future of wind energy industry

Michigan turbinePresident Obama wants 20 percent of U.S. electricity to come from wind sources by 2030. “And if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the Great Lakes region,” says Steve Harsh (Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics)...But “the key bottleneck is the infrastructure, particularly the grid.” More»

Charles Anderson: A progressive approach to K-12 science curriculum

Charles Interview with Charles “Andy” Anderson (Teacher Education): Anderson focuses on classroom teaching and learning of science. He works to help students understand science in the context of their own lives. The three key areas that Anderson focuses on are carbon, water and biodiversity. More»

MSU's Land Policy Institute hosts renewable energy event: Michigan residents want renewable energy

... The message at the Land Policy Institute event was one of hope and promise — the hope that Michigan can gets its ducks in a row and the promise that Michigan can be a prime mover in the coming era of renewable energy. More»


Tom Dietz studies science of climate change for Congress

Interview with Tom Dietz (Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy): In 2008, Congress asked Tom Dietz and his colleagues to study climate change and submit a report. Over two years later, the report has been released. The bottom line of the report: The planet is warming, and the warming is mostly caused by human activity. More»

MSU solar panel research - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
National Science Foundation

Americans need to move away from fossil fuels, but “each of the options, with the exception of solar, have scalability issues,” says James McCusker (Chemistry). McCusker is leading a team of chemists, mathematicians, and engineers who are trying to develop a cheaper, more efficient alternative to the silicon currently used in solar cells. More»

America’s Climate Choices study released; MSU scientist leads “Advancing the Science” panel
University Relations

A National Research Council study has concluded what many have assumed: Climate change is very real, is caused by human activities, and action must be taken soon to reduce this global threat.
Tom Dietz (Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy) served as vice chairperson of a panel whose mission was to take a hard look at the science of climate change – past, present and future – and help develop a national strategy to deal with the issue.
Reports and video of the public briefing are available here. More»

State climatologist Jeff Andresen on climate change

Jeff Andresen (Geography), state of Michigan climatologist, talks with Kirk Heinze about the latest data related to climate change and what it means for all of us. ... More»

Climate change speakers discuss agriculture, adaptation, business
Greening of the Great Lakes/ WJR

In an interview with Kirk Heinze, NASA scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig discusses projecting and preventing climate change. Heinze also interviewed Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Both were at MSU as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series on Bioeconomy and Global Climate Change.


Michigan farmers, flower festivals adapt to a warm spring
Detroit Free Press

... Over the past 30 years, night temperatures in Michigan during winter and spring have risen 3-5 degrees statewide, says Jeff Andresen (Geography), the state climatologist. ... More»

Richard Schmalensee: U.S. renewable energy policy "erratic and unfocused"
Greening of the Great Lakes

Host Kirk Heinze discusses domestic energy policy with MIT economist Richard Schmalensee in this audio interview. Schmalensee was in town as part of MSU's Distinguished Lecture Series on Bioeconomy and Global Climate Change, organized by ESPP and sponsored by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station. More»

Africa: Finding the food crops of the future
IRIN News (United Nations)

Many research institutions have been working on models to predict the impact of climate change on food production in Africa. The research could help produce climate-resilient varieties of food crops, says Jennifer Olson (Telecommunications, Information Studies and the Media). More»

Environmental Faculty Fellows chosen

MSU’s Environmental Faculty Fellows Program has its inaugural class. The program, supported by the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and organized by ESPP, brings six relatively new MSU faculty members together to work on a theme: this year, it is climate change and coupled human and natural systems. Fellows will discuss research and scholarly approaches to confronting the theme and work to prepare products, in partnership with each other and collaborators at other institutions. A Symposium next Spring will present the work. The new Fellows are: Ravi Bhavnani, Kendra Cheruvelil, Arika Ligmann-Zielinska, Sandy Marquart-Pyatt, Louie Rivers, and Laura Schmitt Olabisi. Brief descriptions of their scholarly interests are available on the ESPP biosketch page.


MSU researchers study climate change, food production in East Africa
University Relations

Climate change research in AfricaFor the first time, crop breeders and agricultural specialists in East Africa will have regionally specific climate data to research and manage crops in an effort to improve food production, say MSU researchers.

Using a $430,000 Rockefeller Foundation grant, researchers will study the impact of climate change on the drought-stricken area, including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, said lead researcher Jennifer Olson (Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media).

“Most of our research has focused on the causes and consequences of climate change,” said Nathan Moore (Geography), co-investigator on the project. “This grant will apply those results in a new way by asking African specialists what their information needs are, and how they want us to help.”

The Associated Press had the story. More»

Study says Michigan climate plan would boost economy
Associated Press

Michigan could gain a significant economic boost and thousands of new jobs by reducing emissions of gases that cause climate change, according to an analysis released (recently).

The report by the Center for Climate Strategies said a plan devised last year for battling global warming in Michigan would help limit the state's heat-trapping gas emissions over the next 15 years.

Steve Miller (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics) conducted the study, which is available in summary here. More»

ESPP hosts a Copenhagen simulation
Greenboard (ESPP blog)

If an ESPP-sponsored Copenhagen simulation is any indication of the real climate negotiations in December, don’t expect an effective climate treaty to pass. Consulting with the least developed nationsFor three hours, students negotiated a climate agreement under the motivating force of ESPP faculty member Laura Schmitt Olabisi. The simulation exercise they participated in was developed at MIT and has been used nationally and internationally in preparation for the Copenhagen climate talks December 7-18. More»

Students and Faculty Taking Action

Recovery.govESPP affiliates and other environmental researchers at MSU are claiming federal stimulus dollars to conduct a variety of projects on topics including climate change, biofuels and pollution cleanup. Among the recipients:

  • Alison Cupples (Civil and Environmental Engineering) was awarded $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to study bioremediation of contaminants from leaking underground storage tanks. Her research team will improve knowledge of the microorganisms used to remove contaminants that can migrate into drinking water.
  • Andrew Finley (Forestry, Geography) landed $70,506 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to develop models for predicting the health effects of climate change. The project aims to boost public health planning by improving prediction of diseases in specific regions.
  • David Hyndman (Geological Sciences) is using a $243,532 NSF grant to model the impacts of climate change and land use on the hydrologic cycle and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes basin. The project will explore the dynamics of interaction between plants and water across land cover types, and will have implications for climate models, biofuel crop development, land use policy and other topics.
  • G. Philip Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences) earned a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support biofuel sustainability research at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
  • Randall Schaetzl (Geography) received $185,086 from NSF to use a new method for dating loess deposits, which will generate missing information about glacial and postglacial environments in the Midwest. The work will provide data on loess and sand deposits that have confounded soil scientists and geologic mappers.
  • Julie Winkler (Geography) will work to fill gaps in knowledge about northerly and southerly jet streams in the lower atmosphere over the central United States, using a $421,610 NSF grant. The project’s results will be useful both for short- and long-term weather forecasting, in setting a baseline to assess climate disruption, and for assessing wind energy potential. Graduate, undergraduate and high school students will be involved in the research, including underrepresented minorities.


MSU receives $2.5 million DOE award to build advanced hybrid engine (With video)
University Relations

MSU researchers have received a $2.5 million federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a prototype new engine and generator technology that can dramatically improve efficiencies and reduce costs of electric hybrid vehicles. The project, led by Norbert Mueller, (Mechanical Engineering) has the potential to increase automotive fuel efficiency by five times compared to internal combustion engine cars on the road today while reducing costs by 30 percent. More»

Simple measures can yield big greenhouse gas cuts, Dietz says
University Relations

Photo: Behavioral Wedge Web siteNew technologies and policies that save energy, remove atmospheric carbon and limit greenhouse gas emissions are needed to fight global climate change – but face daunting technological, economic and political hurdles. The good news: Basic actions taken by everyday people can yield fast savings at low cost, according to MSU Professor Tom Dietz and colleagues, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See also: The Behavioral Wedge Web site. More»

Miscounting bioenergy benefits may increase greenhouse gas release
University Relations

A fixable error in the way carbon is counted in current U.S. climate legislation and in the Kyoto Protocol could undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using biofuels, says a premier group of national environmental and land-use scientists.

"The promise of biofuels made from biomass is huge, from both climate mitigation and economic perspectives," said Phil Robertson, MSU professor of crop and soil sciences and one of the authors of the paper "Fixing a Critical Climate Accounting Error" published in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Science. "But the promise could come up short if we don't pay attention to the details,” Robertson said. More»

Scientists making solar more efficient (With video)
University Relations

Photo: Solar panelA collaboration of MSU chemists, mathematicians and engineers is driving to improve solar panel technology, backed by a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

"For renewable energy to succeed, it has to get to a point where it is economically competitive with current technology," said chemistry Professor James McCusker, the project leader. "This means we need totally transformational technologies."

The group is developing a solar cell based on a design that combines a dye with an inexpensive semiconductor -instead of silicon. Research team members include chemical engineer and ESPP affiliate Lawrence Drzal. More»

Study of climate’s effects on global industries (With Video)
University Relations

Photo: Pileus Project Web siteA team of international researchers led by climatologist Julie Winkler (Geography) will conduct a first-of-its-kind study to measure the effects of climate change on global industries. Using the tart-cherry industry as an example, researchers will develop a system for conducting climate-impact assessments for international market systems, particularly those with long-term investments such as orchards. The new project could have applications for agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and other industries, Winkler said.

Other ESPP affiliates involved are Scott Loveridge (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), Jinhua Zhao (Economics and Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), Jeff Andresen (Geography), and Sharon Zhong (Geography).

The project is supported by a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s “Coupled Natural and Human Systems” Program. More»

Green roofs could counter global warming
United Press International

Photo: green roofA Michigan State University study has determined "green roofs" — those covered with plants — could help fight global warming. The scientists, led by horticulturist Kristin Getter and Brad Rowe, horticulture professor at Michigan State University, found replacing traditional roofing materials with green plants in an urban area with a population of about 1 million, would be equivalent to eliminating a year's worth of carbon dioxide emitted by 10,000 mid-sized sport utility vehicles and trucks. More»

MSU researchers lead the way in alternative energy research
University Relations

Michigan State University's College of Engineering is working to improve the world's alternative energy future thanks to three grants totaling $141.5 million. "We think that no single solution is going to be able to address the energy problem we're confronting today," said Satish Udpa, dean of the College of Engineering. "So we feel we need to be working in several areas simultaneously. We have strong programs in thermoelectrics, biofuels and battery storage technology." 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»

Chemistry professor receives $1.9M NSF grant for solar cell research
College of Natural Science

James McCusker has received a $1.9 million NSF grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This research proposes to develop efficient, solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells using a synergistic collaboration that couples mathematical modeling with synthesis and characterization of novel polymer-based materials for ion conduction. For more on MSU research funded by the stimulus package, click here. More»

Green ideas
Inside Higher Ed

Making people aware of the importance of sustainability is often half the battle. That's why Michigan State University decided to implement an environmental stewardship program among its faculty and staff as part of its Be Spartan Green initiative. "We wanted to look first at what we could do with faculty and staff because they tend to make more decisions that create waste," says Lauren Olson, project coordinator in MSU's department of sustainability and the initiator of the steward program. More»

The wisdom of crowds

Given that changing behavior likely will be pivotal in any response to climate change, Nature magazine delves into the factors inhibiting contributions from the social sciences, quoting Tom Dietz, MSU's assistant vice president for environmental research.

See also the report from an NSF workshop on the topic.

Michigan researchers ponder science's future
Detroit News

Research into renewable energy, autism and stem cells could be the next great frontiers of science, Michigan researchers say as the 40-year anniversary of the man on the moon is observed today. ... To commemorate the anniversary, researchers from Michigan's leading institutions weigh in on some of the promising areas of scientific research in areas they think could be the next "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." Soji Adelaja, director of Michigan State University's Land Policy Institute, discusses renewable energy and Jack Lipton, professor of neurology at MSU's College of Human Medicine, discusses stem cell research.

Note: This story came from a feature by MSU University Relations.

Coastal communities gain help in planning for wind power
Great Lakes IT Report

Soji Adelaja (Land Policy Institute) has received grant funding to work with coastal communities to assess the consequences of wind energy development and evaluate policy options, in advance of development proposals. Adelaja received $140,000 from Michigan Sea Grant. More»

A conversation with Michigan's state climatologist Jeff Andresen

Associate professor of geography Jeff Andresen is the state climatologist for Michigan. Andresen is hosting his state climatologist colleagues from around the world at the American Association of State Climatologists annual meeting in Grand Rapids July 7-10. "Our goal is to look at the collection, analysis and dissemination of climate information, mainly back to the public," Andresen says.

Amazon conservation policy working in Brazil, MSU-led study finds
University Relations

Contrary to common belief, Brazil's policy of protecting portions of the Amazonian forest from development is capable of buffering the Amazon from climate change, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Robert Walker (Geography), lead researcher, contends that state and federal governments in Brazil have created a sustainable core of protected areas within the Amazon. Photography courtesy Robert Walker.

Study: Michigan mammals rapidly migrating north
Associated Press

Commonplace rodents such as opossums and white-footed mice are migrating rapidly northward in Michigan, suggesting climate change is taking hold in the upper Great Lakes region, says a newly released scientific report. ... The project was boosted by a treasure trove of records on mammal distribution in the area, including more than a century of field notes and specimen collections housed in research museums at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

Advocate for environment, scientist duo urges, as Michigan researchers seek greenhouse gas controls
University Relations

Scores of MSU researchers urged Michigan’s congressional delegation to support strong federal policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The advocacy action coincided with publication of a paper by Michael Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs) and Michigan Tech scholar John Vucetich urging researchers to speak out on environmental policy. Their ethical analysis of environmental scientist advocacy appeared in the journal Conservation Biology.
Additional coverage: Grand Rapids Press, Great Lakes IT Report

Michigan scientists push legislation to fix climate change
Detroit Free Press, News Blaze (Calif.)

A group of 178 Michigan scientists from 11 universities have signed a letter backing legislation that would set up a national cap and trade system to curb greenhouse gases. ... "We came together as scientists to urge them to move forward," says Tom Dietz, director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University.

For a related story, see Grand Rapids Press. More»


What can climate models tell cherry growers?
Scientific American

By Andy McGlashen
In the glacier-carved hillsides of northwest Michigan where half of America's tart cherries grow, buds that look like half-burst popcorn will erupt any day into brilliant white blossoms. But in that six-county area flanking Lake Michigan, climate change is already in full bloom. The state is two degrees warmer on average than it was 30 years ago, and it's generally wetter, says Michigan State University geographer Jeffrey Andresen, the state climatologist. More»


Keep track of environmental news at MSU. Sign up for the News Round-Up today!

* required