2014-2015 Sustainability Leadership Fellows
Climate change and drought in particular decreases crops and wheat production worldwide. This leads to crop loss every year for millions of farmers around the world, which increases poverty, starvation, and endangers global food security. My contribution to solving this problem is to discover drought tolerant wheat varieties and genes and explore the role of roots (the hidden plant part) in drought tolerance. My approach is using innovative breeding and genetics technologies. The outcome of this research entails the discovery of highly productive and drought tolerant wheat varieties and genes, which ultimately leads to higher income for farmers, lower food prices, and increased food security worldwide.
Eleanor uses ecosystem models to simulate how soils are affected by growing crops for fuel (e.g. sugarcane for ethanol). We live in a world largely dependent on burning fossil fuel for energy. This energy source contributes to global climate change by releasing carbon into the atmosphere that otherwise would have been stored in the earth’s crust for millennia. Crop-based biofuels have the potential to be an energy source that contributes less carbon to the atmosphere. However crop-based bioenergy production can also cause the emission of other greenhouse gases, and must be balanced against demands for food and fiber from growing human populations. She uses models to evaluate how different types of bioenergy crop production methods affect soils, to help inform the development of low-carbon fuels.
Jonathan is an economist interested in international environmental issues. His research focuses on how much influence other countries’ choices of pollution limits and labor laws have on our own environmental and labor standards. He is also interested in how this interdependence affects the pattern of investment flowing around the global economy, aiming to uncover a better understanding of how these domestic policies from different countries interact. His aim in doing so is to determine whether countries can attract foreign investment without needing to reduce labor standards or permit additional pollution. This research may help shape policy that avoids future disasters stemming from lax labor laws, like the Rana Plaza factory collapse, or reduces some of the 7 million premature deaths worldwide annually linked to air pollution.
Andrea’s current research involves measuring air emissions from new oil and gas wells being drilled in Garfield County, Colorado. Specifically, it involves taking out vehicles equipped with some real-time samplers to measure methane and acetylene, some canisters to collect whole-air samples which can be returned to the CSU lab to determine the concentration of 70+ chemical species, and towers to measure meteorology to make measurements downwind of well pads. The ultimate goal of this work is to understand what is being emitted from the drilling process, how those chemicals moves in the atmosphere, and how those emissions impact people.
Anna is a MPH/DVM student in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences finishing her last year of veterinary school. The scope of her research is largely centered around the influence of climate change on infectious disease ecology, with emphases on wildlife conservation and international food security. She is particularly interested in zoonoses that disproportionately burden at-risk populations and diseases at the human-wildlife-livestock interface. Anna works closely with veterinarians and veterinary students at the University of Nairobi, where she has helped implement a bilateral student exchange program to enhance collaborative research efforts between the two institutions. She also currently works with a research team examining the impact of infectious diseases on polar bear populations in a changing climate.
The U.S. is rapidly developing domestic energy, but at what cost? Colorado’s Piceance Basin provides critical habitat for the largest migratory mule deer herd in the U.S. – and is experiencing an unprecedented level of energy development. Impacts to mule deer from energy development have led managers to clear pinyon-juniper forest to increase plant species considered quality food for this economically important species. Although large-scale forest clearing is occurring throughout the western U.S., we know little about the potential impacts to non-target wildlife in the area. Travis is seeking to answer this question by studying how management actions intended to benefit mule deer may impact other wildlife species, specifically songbirds and non-target mammals.
Brian is an evolutionary ecologist interested in understanding species vulnerability to rapid global climate change. He has specific expertise in the systematics of mountain stream insects and enjoy working internationally, particularly in the new world tropics. For his doctoral dissertation, he is working with a large team of North American and Ecuadorian researchers to test the distributional predictions of the Climate Variability Hypothesis and the Mountain Passes are Higher in the Tropics Hypothesis by comparing elevational distributions of stream insects in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Ecuadorian Andes. Brian and his team hopes to determine if there are differences in stream species vulnerability to rapid global climate change associated with latitude.
Ashley is a Certified Associate Wildlife Biologist who is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. Her main career interest is integrating social and biological science to investigate complex ecological questions. Originally from Northwest Ohio, she became interested in pursuing an environmental career after reading Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" and participating in habitat restoration projects in high school. Over the years she has studied a wide-variety of wildlife from snakes in Minnesota and Costa Rica to domestic cats in Boulder, Colorado.
Tim received his B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2011. He is currently a graduate research assistant in the robust computing group and advanced power engineering laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University, working towards his Ph.D. In 2012, he was named a CSU ISTeC Ph.D. Scholar. Tim's research interests include high-performance computing, renewable energy integration, resource allocation and optimization in multiple disciplines (e.g., power systems, data centers), robust computing systems, and Smart Grid. He is a graduate student member of the IEEE.
The most important land and water issues facing Colorado—including water management, biodiversity protection, land use change, and climate adaptation—increasingly demand collaboration across boundaries. Colorado has experienced a groundswell of community-driven approaches to tackle these complex problems, but no one has attempted to thoroughly track the progress of this movement. Cha'ska's research aims to identify and document the range of initiatives in Colorado, and to explore why they do or do not reach their goals. This research is unique in the breadth of cases being considered, and in its investigation of how these groups evolve over time. As part of this work, Cha'ska and her team are also building tools and resources for people in collaboratives to reach their goals faster and more effectively.
Hannakaisa studies atmospheric carbon dioxide through satellite remote sensing. She compares satellite retrievals of this greenhouse gas to ground-based observations and carbon cycle models, and strives to understand the underlying reasons for the differences in order to improve the retrievals. As a highlight of her postdoctoral period, and the whole carbon cycle science, a new NASA satellite OCO-2 was launched in July 2014 with an ambitious goal to locate the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide; the greenhouse gas that keeps warming our planet. High retrieval accuracy is crucial for reaching this goal.
Currently, Dave is conducting research as part of an integrative graduate education and research traineeship. Specifically, he is studying the interdisciplinary effects of human alterations to freshwater flow regimes in Colorado. Although Dave is an Ecology major, his research doesn't involve field work in the wilderness. Rather, he engages in person-to-person collaborative projects. He has developed a flexible but effective decision support framework for river management to facilitate stakeholder decisions among multiple social and ecological objectives. This requires him to interact with interested parties and stakeholders and provide them with maps, spreadsheets, and presentations that serve as tools they can use to make better decisions.
Grace is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, as well as a National Science Foundation IGERT fellow in the Integrated Water, Atmosphere, and Ecosystems Education and Research program. Her work focuses on understanding and quantifying plant responses to environmental stresses such as changing water regimes or rising temperatures. Specifically, she examines the subtleties of carbon and water exchange seasonally and under drought stress for field crops such as maize and sunflower. In addition to questions regarding crop productivity, she is interested in the ecological, economic, political, and social processes that shape our food systems.
Advancements in drilling technology have allowed for economically feasible extraction of oil and natural gas across North America. This shift to domestic energy production has lead to the development of large tracts of public lands in the west, with negative impacts to wildlife species. Joseph's research is based on understanding these impacts and how best to reduce and offset them, with a specific focus on mule deer. Mule deer populations have experienced major declines in recent decades and natural gas development has displaced deer from some areas. His work is focused on understanding the behavioral responses of deer to development and attempting to identify measures to mitigate these responses.
When trust between the public and government is damaged, the ability to address pressing, complex issues becomes difficult – even contentious. Megan's research addresses this problem in the context of a cyclical insect outbreak in the forests of eastern Canada which threatens ecological processes and can cause economic losses in the billions of dollars. Past efforts led jointly by government and the forest industry have led to the perception that the economic needs of industry have been placed ahead of the environmental and social needs of the public. As the newest program places scientists at the forefront of efforts to solve the outbreak problem, she will assess whether scientists are able to regain the trust that was lost and thus gain public legitimacy and approval.
Rivers are formative in both how they shape the landscape and interact with human and ecological communities that live in or near them. Understanding what drivers (flow and sediment) influence the form of different rivers is a fundamental and ongoing question in river science and management, which I am exploring. I am pursuing a PhD in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at CSU where I study how different ranges of flows (common to infrequent) balance sediment inputs in coarse and fine bedded rivers. A number of tools help me investigate this question including theoretical relationships between flow frequencies and sediment movement in rivers, as well as data-driven analyses of flow and sediment movement relationships on rivers across the U.S.
Raised in a rural area outside of Philadelphia by a reporter and a photographer, Jason was fortunate to be exposed to the larger world from an early age. From a student exchange in Mexico City at age twelve to a fairly multi-cultural Quaker high school education, his curiosity in the diversity of human experience has only grown. As a biology undergraduate at Earlham College, Jason focused primarily on ecological and evolutionary ornithology while gaining a broad liberal arts training, and he studied biology and anthropology abroad in Kenya and Ecuador. During his first job out of college conducting fire ecology research and management for The Nature Conservancy, his interest in ornithology began to wane as the first shoots of his work in ecosystem ecology took root. As a volunteer teaching high school science with in northern Ghana, his initial exposure to agricultural development in the tropics was in co-founding a peanut cooperative.
Jennifer is the Director of Research and Engagement for the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Colorado State University (CSU). Jennifer’s research focuses on learning about the experiences of underprivileged populations in disasters to improve policy and practice. Specifically, her dissertation research will focus on children and youth who were affected by the 2013 Colorado Floods. This work will highlight the needs and capacities of young people who experience disasters. What is known about children and disasters often comes from the perspective of adults in their life. The goal of this research is to learn about the experiences of children and youth from their own perspective, in order to reduce harm associated with disaster loss in the future.
Tungaa's research contributes to addressing rangeland degradation and poverty of herders in Mongolia. Herders are carriers of nomadic culture, the identity and the source of pride for Mongols. They comprise 30% of the labor force, 40% of voters, and produce 18% of GDP. Herders’ livelihood is highly dependent on rangeland resources. Community-based rangeland management or CBRM is sought to be an alternative option that encourages participation of herders in resource management. However, her results show that herders need better access to information, training, empowered leadership, knowledge exchange, and cooperation. Once these conditions are met, there will be more effective resource management institutions that reduce burdens of local government. If successful, CBRM will contribute to the improvement of resource condition and herders’ well-being through promoting democracy and equal access to resources.
Kevin is a PhD candidate who focuses on climate change effects on grasslands. Although predictions consistently point towards a world with altered total rainfall amounts which will come in bigger storms with longer dry periods in between, these predictions vary substantially among local regions. Additionally, the magnitude (i.e., sensitivity) with which each region will respond to these changes in precipitation regimes will vary as well. His research focuses on sensitivity patterns of productivity (i.e., how much grass growth will occur in an entire grassland in a year) across multiple grasslands, across multiple drivers (rainfall amount vs rainfall pattern), and across multiple plant assemblages within a grassland. His future research will focus on incorporating these patterns into current ecosystem models.