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 Risk, Values and Decision Making. Click here to read all the stories in Breaking News.


Conservation Costs Can Be Higher than Bargained For

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


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

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


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's Richard Lenski wins 2017 Friend of Darwin award
CNS News

Richard E. Lenski, the Michigan State University John Hannah Distinguished Professor and evolutionary biologist renowned for his E. coli Long-Term Experimental Evolution Project, has received a 2017 Friend of Darwin award from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Lenski is one of only three scientists nationally to receive the award this year. 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»


What's nature worth? Study puts a price on groundwater and other natural capital
College of Natural Science

A multi-institution research team, including MSU geological sciences graduate student Erin Haacker, has adapted traditional asset valuation approaches to measure the value of such natural capital assets, linking economic measurements of ecosystem services with models of natural dynamics and human behavior. In a paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group of scholars demonstrate how to price natural capital using the example of the Kansas High Plains’ Aquifer — a critical natural resource that supports the region’s agriculture-based economy. According to their analysis, groundwater extraction and changes in aquifer management policies—driven largely by subsidizes and new technology—reduced the state’s total wealth held in groundwater by $110 million per year between 1996 and 2005. That’s a total of $1.1 billion. 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 holds forum on Flint water

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

MSU Professor named Geological Society of America Fellow

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


Septic tanks aren't keeping poo out of rivers and lakes
MSU Today

The notion that septic tanks prevent fecal bacteria from seeping into rivers and lakes simply doesn’t hold water, says a new Michigan State University study. Water expert Joan Rose and her team of water detectives have discovered freshwater contamination stemming from septic systems. Appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is the largest watershed study of its kind to date, and provides a basis for evaluating water quality and health implications and the impact of septic systems on watersheds. More»


New MSU Center tackles antibiotic resistance
MSU Today

The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year in the U.S. alone, 23,000 people die from resistant infections. Researchers at the Michigan State University Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture are on a mission to find strategies to deal with the impending global threat of antibiotic resistance. “We are pleased to announce the first research project to be funded by the Center for the Health Impacts of Agriculture,” said Felicia Wu, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor and CHIA Co-director. “The study will target antibiotics used in animal agriculture to find out how they find their way into the environment and what the ultimate impact on humans, if any, might be.” Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are able to acquire and develop resistance to the antibiotics that are used to fight them. The largest volume of antibiotic use today is in animal agriculture, and researchers plan to analyze soil and water samples from the environment to see if this use of antibiotics is having an effect. 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»


Social media should play greater role in disaster communication
MSU Today

When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines in 2013, thousands of people were killed, in part because they didn’t know it was coming or didn’t know how to protect themselves. Could an increased use of social media, particularly on the part of the nation’s government, have made a difference? While that question remains open, it is clear that social media should play a larger role in emergency preparedness, says Bruno Takahashi, a Michigan State University assistant professor of journalism who studies the issue. 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»


ESPP faculty publish new article on environmental decision-making
Environmental Sociology

Drs. Thomas Dietz, Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt, John M. Clements and Aaron M. McCright published the article "A behavioural measure of environmental decision-making for social surveys" in the inaugural issue of Environmental Sociology. There is great benefit in using measures of environmentally significant behaviour – rather than just behavioural intentions or self-reported behaviour – if we are to advance our understanding of the individual and structural factors that influence environmental decision-making. Along these lines, to supplement the use of behavioural intention and self-reported behaviour measures in environmental decision-making research, we identify and validate a simple measure of one form of environmentally significant behaviour: financial support for environmental movement organizations. Using the values-beliefs-norms theoretical framework, we conducted an experiment to examine the performance of this measure of actual behaviour. This behavioural measure meets multiple dimensions of validity – including face, concurrent criterion-related, and construct – as a measure of environmentally significant behaviour in environmental decision-making research. As would be expected, we find that actual donations are smaller than hypothetical donations; hypothetical donations overestimate what would actually be donated by approximately 27%. Also, while environmental beliefs better predict hypothetical donation and willingness to act, key values measures (i.e. biospheric altruism and self-interest) better predict actual donation. We suggest that scholars consider using actual behavioural measures such as the one we test here in future scholarship on environmental decision-making. More»


Shannon Manning: Decoding Deadly E.coli
MSU Today

Shannon Manning is an AgBioResearch microbiologist and molecular geneticist. Her research focuses on applying molecular and evolutionary approaches to study the virulence, epidemiology and evolution of bacterial pathogens to better understand pathogenesis, emergence, and transmission in human and animal populations. 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»


Attitudes about knowledge and power drive Michigan's wolf debate
MSU Today

A Michigan State University study, appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management, identifies the themes shaping the issue and offers some potential solutions as the debate moves forward. The research explored how different sides of the debate view power imbalances among different groups and the role that scientific knowledge plays in making decisions about hunting wolves. These two dimensions of wildlife management can result in conflict and stagnate wildlife management. The results indicate that tension between public attitudes about local knowledge, and politics and science can drive conflict among Michiganders’ stance regarding wolf hunting, said Meredith Gore, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife and co-lead author of the study. More»


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

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


Boosting Armor for Nuclear-Waste Eating Microbes
MSU Today

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


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 Researcher to build national microbial risk assessment training program
MSU Today

MSU AgBioResearch biosystems engineer Jade Mitchell has received a nearly $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop and provide quantitative microbial risk assessment tools, models and training to university researchers around the nation. One of the goals of the program is to link quantitative scientists such as engineers to biologists and social scientists. 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 Professor Receives Grant to Battle Viral Food Pathogens
MSU Today

Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at MSU, will use a nearly $300,000 grant to incorporate the latest next-generation genomic tools in efforts to reduce the number of food-borne outbreaks associated with fresh produce. The grant was awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and administered through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Rose is a professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. 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»


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 Technology Turns Manure into Clean Water

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


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»


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»


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»


Putting Harmful Waste to Good Use
MSU Today

Phosphorous—ever present in human and animal waste—is a hidden danger lurking in bodies of water, from suburban Michigan ponds to lakes and streams across the nation. While it’s regulated in many states, runoff still occurs, often making water unsuitable for recreation and causing toxic algae growth. But an MSU environmental engineer is working on a solution with multiple benefits. Partnering with a private-sector firm, associate professor Steven Safferman is developing a nano-filter capable of removing phosphorus from wastewater and capturing it so that it can be reused in fertilizer products. More»


H20 SOS: Why should we be alarmed about water?
MSU Today

Michigan State University scientists are working to ensure the world has clean, healthy water supplies today—and for years to come. Some have dedicated their careers to preserving and protecting this precious commodity. And through the university’s Global Water Initiative, MSU will add 16 new scientists to its team of more than 100 faculty members who conduct water research. 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»


'Evolution will punish you if you're selfish and mean'
MSU Today

Two Michigan State University evolutionary biologists offer new evidence that evolution doesn’t favor the selfish, disproving a theory popularized in 2012. “We found evolution will punish you if you’re selfish and mean,” said lead author Christoph Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. “For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn’t evolutionarily sustainable.” The paper appears in the current issue of Nature Communications and focuses on game theory, which is used in biology, economics, political science and other disciplines. Much of the last 30 years of research has focused on how cooperation came to be, since it’s found in many forms of life, from single-cell organisms to people. 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»


MSU to study dioxin's impact on human health

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


Teaming up to tackle pervasive pollutants
MSU Today

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


Second door discovered in war against mosquito-borne diseases
e! Science News

In the global war against disease-carrying mosquitoes, scientists have long believed that a single molecular door was the key target for insecticide. This door, however, is closing, giving mosquitoes the upper hand. In this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers led by Michigan State University has discovered a second gateway that could turn the tide against the mosquitoes' growing advantage. 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»


Using Science to Address Farm Pollution
MSU Today

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


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»


Thousands of failed septic tanks across the state threaten Michigan's waters
Bridge Magazine

Failed septic systems are a concern because human sewage is loaded with pathogens that can threaten the health of people who swim in polluted waters or drink contaminated well water. Several experts interviewed by Bridge said water pollution from failed septic systems is a serious, but under-appreciated, problem across Michigan. “It’s affecting our groundwater and surface waters,” said Joan Rose, a water quality expert who holds the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University. More»


Modified mosquitoes may halt spread of malaria: study

Mosquitoes infected with a type of bacteria may be used to stop the spread of malaria as they show signs of resistance to the parasite that causes the disease, according to a new study published online in the U.S. journal Science. The mosquitoes infected with the bacterium called Wolbachia, which is naturally found in up to 70 percent of insects, also have the ability to pass the bacterium to their offsprings, researchers from U.S. Michigan State University (MSU) and China's Sun Yat-Sen University reported Thursday. "In a sense, Wolbachia acts as a vaccine of sorts for mosquitoes that could protect them from malaria parasites," said Zhiyong Xi, MSU assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics who leads the study. "Our study shows that in the future it's possible the entire mosquito population will lose the ability to transmit malaria to humans." In their study, the researchers focused on Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, the primary malaria carrier in the Middle East and South Asia, and found the key to the malaria research was identifying the correct species of Wolbachia -- wAlbB -- and then injecting it into mosquito embryos. 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»


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»


MSU Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies to become Department of Community Sustainability
MSU Today

As of July 1, the Michigan State University Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies will become the Department of Community Sustainability. “The change will better capture the essence of the department’s goals and create a framework for its teaching, research and outreach programs for now and the future,” said Fred Poston, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The multidisciplinary department is revising its undergraduate majors to feature three majors focusing on environmental studies and sustainability; sustainable parks, recreation and tourism; and agriculture, food and natural resource education. “As part of its evolution and increased More»


Are there health impacts from living near animal feeding operations?
MSU Extension

Animal agriculture has become concentrated in many parts of the country with multiple operations in an area; each feeding large numbers of livestock. With this consolidation has come concern over human health impacts of exposures to odors and gases associated with livestock production, including manure storage and land application of manure to croplands. A number of studies have considered the impact on human health of living near animal feeding operations. In the 1990s, Susan Schiffman, then a professor at Duke University, conducted studies that showed people who lived near large swine farms in North Carolina self-reported increased incidence of headaches, depression, nausea and vomiting as a result of exposure to odors from swine operations. More recently, a study was conducted by Stacy Sneeringer at Wellesley College that showed that infant mortality increased in communities as livestock inventories increased, based on data available from public health sources and agricultural statistics. More»


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

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


Measuring Great Lakes water quality today and a century ago
Great Lakes Echo/Current State, WKAR

It’s been a century since the International Joint Commission conducted a Great Lakes wide bacteriological study. Scientists are now looking to recreate the 1913 study. The 100 years study will assess how water quality in the Basin has changed over time. Lead researcher, Dr. Joan Rose, is the Nowlin Endowed Chair of Water Research, Co-Director of the Center for Water Sciences, and Co-Director of the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment at Michigan State University. Dr. Rose discusses re-evaluating the Great Lakes. More»


Two years after disaster, problems remain in Japan
MSU Today

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


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»


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»


MSU partners with Saudi agency to improve food safety
University Relations

A network of food safety researchers and educators led by Michigan State University will soon be working with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, a new Saudi Arabian government authority responsible for regulating the safety of food, feed and pesticides in addition to drugs and medical devices. More»


Diving deep to understand health, environmental risk communications

Great white shark.  Photo by Meredith Gore.One of Maria Lapinski's (Communication Arts and Sciences) latest projects is trying to understand how risks are promoted on shark diving websites and what kinds of people are most likely to be motivated to take the risk of diving with sharks. "We wanted to understand how risks are being promoted with shark diving because that helps us understand why people actually take risks and how you design messages for high sensation seekers," said Lapinski. She and colleague Meredith Gore (Fisheries and Wildlife & Criminal Justice) and a team of student researchers did content analysis of shark diving websites to look at the extent to which the sites explicitly explained the risks of sharks to humans and the ways in which emotion was addressed on the sites.


“Under Pressure”: Keeping Michigan's natural gas pipelines safe

"These pipelines, some of them are carrying anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 psi which is an enormous amount of pressure," said Milind Khire (Civil and Environmental Engineering). More»

ESPP Student Profile: Bob Drost

After encouraging his son to become a Geological Sciences major at MSU, Bob Drost (Geological Sciences) has paved his own way in the department. While his son has since graduated and now works with as a geologist with an environmental organization, Drost has become a Ph.D. student in Julie Libarkin’s Geocognition Lab. More»

Taking a risk: shark diving and conservation
GreenBoard, ESPP

shark, image courtesy of Bret MuterAmong the thrill-inducing activities available to travelers, shark diving has become an increasingly popular choice. Excursions entice tourists with the promise of seeing up close some of the most feared animals in the ocean. Why is meeting sharks face-to-face so appealing? And, how are these excursions impacting human-shark interactions? An MSU team studying these questions includes Meredith Gore (Fisheries and Wildlife and Criminal Justice), Maria Lapinski (Communication), and Bret Muter (Fisheries and Wildlife). More»

Big city life may make residents lean toward green, study says
University Relations

The downsides of China’s explosive urbanization – like pollution and greenhouse gas emissions -- now are joined by an upside: Better environmental citizens. It's the first time scientists have weighed employment and leadership when considering environmental behavior in China's cities. Researchers including Chuntian Liu (Sociology) and Fisheries and Wildlife affiliates Xiaodong Chen, Vanessa Hull, and Jianguo “Jack” Liu show that city size -- and the good jobs there -- lead people to pro-environmental behavior, like recycling plastic bags and sorting their trash. The research was published in the Jan. 16 edition of Environmental Conservation.
Discovery News had the story. More»

Congress poised to pass ambitious food safety bill
Los Angeles Times

Pike Place Market, image courtesy of WikimediaIn a world where we get garlic from China, shellfish from Thailand and sugar cane from Mexico, Congress is poised to approve an ambitious food safety bill that would strengthen the nation's top regulator and impose new rules on domestic production and trading partners. "They will be able to get better knowledge of who's producing clean food and who's producing suspect food," said Craig Harris (Sociology). More»

Moral Ground
Wisconsin Public Radio

Michael P. Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs, and Philosophy) talks about a moral vision for environmental repair and sustainability of the Earth. More»

MSU partnership to develop African ecosystem services
University Relations

Malawi scene MSU has partnered with Pennsylvania's Lincoln University and the University of Malawi to tackle the environmental challenges Africa faces due to population growth and climate change. "We are focused on enhancing and empowering institutions of higher education in Malawi so that their contributions are more effective in supporting development in Africa," said Anne Ferguson (Anthropology). The initiative is funded by the United States Agency for International Development and Higher Education for Development. More»

Scholar heads into heart of the Amazon
University Relations

Map of BrazilRobert Walker (Geography) is helping lead the first research expedition along the western Transamazon Highway – a 700-mile stretch of dirt road in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
The trip is part of Walker’s ongoing research, funded by the National Science Foundation, into the impact of deforestation on the Amazon. Walker will document logging activity as it impacts the forest and interview workers in the logging industry and longtime residents about the effects of development.
The Associated Press had the story. More»

Community-based research improves fish consumption safety
University Outreach and Engagement

Geoffrey Habron (Sociology and Fisheries and Wildlife) believes it is important not only to develop solutions to community problems and issues but also to involve community members throughout the research process. A recent project, “Improving Fish Advisories in Michigan's Upper Peninsula," integrated community-based research and outreach to improve the effectiveness of fish consumption advisories in four counties in the U.P. Habron’s collaborators on the project included Ronald Kinnunen (MSU Sea Grant) and John Hesse (Fisheries and Wildlife). More»

Ethical issues ignored in sustainability education, research
University Relations

Just about everyone agrees that sustainability is a good thing. But why do we think that? Do we support sustainability for the right reasons? These are among the questions that Michael Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs, Philosophy) addresses in a paper published this month in the journal Bioscience.
U.S. News and World Report had the story.


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.


Get to know geocognition research
Greenboard (ESPP blog)

Dr. Julie Libarkin (Geological Sciences; Division of Science and Mathematics Education) explains the emerging field, how MSU facilitates research and what exciting new research is happening on campus. More»

A renewable debate
State News

... Fred Poston (MSU Finance and Operations) says clean-energy technology is not advanced or efficient enough to justify making a multimillion-dollar switch from coal, arguing it is too risky for the university. ... Robert Richardson (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies), said MSU needs to evaluate the opportunity cost of not switching to renewable energy. More»

Philippines journal, part 1
Greenboard (ESPP blog)

Laura Schmitt Olabisi (ESPP and Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies) is traveling in the Philippines, where she has worked in the past and plans to work in the future. This is the first of her field reports. More»

Toward a More Virtuous Sustainability
The Ecologist

Ethics of Sustainability“Society is a ship whose engine is technology and rudder is ethics,” Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs, Fisheries and Wildlife, Philosophy) and John Vucetich (Michigan Technological University) write in The Ecologist. They argue that critical questions remain unaddressed when sustainability is equated with “greener” products. More»

Sustainability as Disputed Territory: Thompson Talk Maps the Boundaries
Greenboard (ESPP blog)

Conflicting ideas of sustainability were the focus of a talk by Paul Thompson, Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at MSU, in late November. Thompson’s talk kicked off a series of discussions of sustainability hosted by the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies (CARRS). More»

Student's paper for ESP course becomes published article

A paper that David Bidwell wrote to fulfill a class requirement is now earning him some extra credit of sorts – it appears in the latest issue of the journal Society and Natural Resources. The article, "Bison, Boundaries, and Brucellosis: Risk Perception and Political Ecology at Yellowstone," applies theories he learned in ESP 802 to the controversial slaughtering of bison on the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park to prevent them from infecting livestock with the disease brucellosis. Bidwell, a doctoral student in sociology with a specialization in environmental science and policy, said the issue resonated with his experience as an educator at a zoo and as a dispute resolution consultant. "I was intrigued by some of the political ecology articles we read in the class, because the field tries to explain the underlying roots of environmental problems and how local ecological conditions are influenced by the larger economic and political landscape," Bidwell said. "Once I began researching the bison issues at Yellowstone, it all snapped into place." More»

SMEP video spotlights 'wicked problem' of sustainability
Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project

Sustainable Michigan Endowed ProjectA new video from the Sustainable Michigan Endowed Project offers insights on the meaning of sustainability and an overview of the project's mission. The 10-minute video uses interviews with numerous ESPP affiliates, animation and special effects to show that sustainability is a 'wicked problem' for which there is no single solution, but also a critical issue that must be addressed. For more on SMEP click here. 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»

NEPAD-MSU land $10.4 million to improve African agriculture
University Relations

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development and MSU will use a five-year, $10.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to connect African biosafety regulators with advances in technology – an initiative aimed at reducing poverty through improved agricultural practices. MSU and NEPAD – a program of the African Union – will use grant money to convene workshops and provide regulators with the most current science-based information to regulate biotechnology while protecting farmers, consumers and the environment. Karim Maredia of MSU’s Institute of International Agriculture heads the university’s involvement in the project. More»

MSU prof says Nobel winner helped others succeed
Lansing State Journal

Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economics Monday. ... Tom Dietz, professor of sociology and environmental science at Michigan State University who collaborated with Ostrom on the 2002 book "The Drama of the Commons" and on a subsequent paper in the journal Science, says the honor was richly deserved. "Not only is her own scholarship of exceptional quality, but she's also spent a lot of energy creating the whole field," he says, "pulling people in, encouraging them in their own research and their own careers." More»

Faculty propose reconciliation of hunting with animal welfare ethics
University Relations

Can hunting and animal welfare ethics coexist? Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs College, Fisheries and Wildlife, Philosophy) and Kelly Millenbah (Fisheries and Wildlife) take a shot at reconciling those often contentious points of view, as hunters around the country start thinking about heading back into the brush. They discuss how advocates for each side arrive at loggerheads, and propose a potential avenue to facilitate a more successful discussion, in an article published in the fall edition of The Wildlife Professional. More»

Project aids environmental decisions in the face of complicated trade-offs
University Relations

Research team, from left: Leon, Kellon, Richardson Energy shortages, climate change, pollution - some of the world's most pressing problems weigh on the shoulders of some of the world's most hard-pressed people. Michigan State University researchers aim to help them sort out such complex problems. Doctoral student Delanie Kellon is doing field research in Costa Rica and collaborating with Joe Arvai, Robert Richardson and John Kerr, all colleagues from the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource studies. "The hope is whatever choices people end up making are a truer reflection of what really matters to them, as opposed to giving them information and hoping they consider everything," Arvai said, "and taking a leap of faith that researchers and policymakers really have a handle on what people care about." To read Arvai's posts from Costa Rica on ESPP's blog, click here. More»

Briggs students urge strong leadership on sustainability
Lyman Briggs College

Lyman Briggs College senior seminar students have produced a “Letter on Sustainability,” working with Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs College, Fisheries and Wildlife, and Philosophy). The letter calls for leadership and collaboration in addressing sustainability. The students originally addressed the letter to the Columbia River Quorum, a gathering of interdisciplinary scholars, communicators, and writers which “seeks to bring science and moral imagination together to communicate about climate destabilization.” The letter was originally delivered during the opening comments of the gathering. 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.

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»

Scientists, public differ in outlooks
USA Today

In a Pew Research Center survey, 84 percent of non-scientists say science has a "mostly positive effect on our society," and 76 percent of scientists say these are "good times" for researchers. However, nearly half the scientists surveyed, 47 percent, say their colleagues are pursuing "projects that yield marketable products but do not advance science very much." ... "The major value of this survey is that it rebuts the frequent allegations that Americans are 'turning against' science," says political scientist Jon Miller of Michigan State University. More»

Peer pressure plays major role in environmental behavior
National Science Foundation, ScienceDaily

People are more likely to enroll in conservation programs if their neighbors do - a tendency that should be exploited when it comes to protecting the environment, according to results of a new study. The research, to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, is the first to focus on the phenomenon of social norms in the context of China's conservation efforts, says Jianguo (Jack) Liu (Fisheries and Wildlife).
Additional news coverage: UPI

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