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


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Protecting Reproductive and Child Health
MSU AgBioResearch

Courtney Carignan works to ensure food, water and consumer goods are safe. In particular, she helps protect reproductive and child health by investigating mixtures of chemicals that could cause harm. More»

Following a passion, from the bright lights of the stage to the forest
MSU AgBioResearch

Emily Huff has always been driven by passion. Her love of music and a dream of Broadway stardom took her to Brandeis University to study music composition. While there, however, she struggled with the seemingly binary nature of life. More»

Natural Resource Curse Strikes Again: ESPP student research shows uneven benefits to local communities in the Marcellus Shale boom
Journal of Rural and Community Development

In this case study, we compare federal and state employment, compensation, and business data from four Pennsylvania counties experiencing rapid Marcellus Shale development to consider what portion of these benefits stay within their respective counties and what is awarded to out-of-county recipients. We then draw on focus group data for individual community leader accounts of how benefits are distributed and the possible mechanisms that explain the trends identified in the employment, compensation, and business data. Our findings suggest that a substantial portion of employment and compensation benefits associated with natural gas extraction have gone to out-of-county recipients, suggesting much more limited direct benefits for residents than previously described in economic projections. We conclude that this outflow of benefits is a form of uneven development that may partially explain the natural resource curse. More»

A Damming Trend

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences affecting everything from food security to the environment ­greatly outweigh the positive changes of this grand-scale flood control, according to new research by ESPP Director Jiaguo Qi, Dr. Yadu Pohkrel, ESPP affiliated faculty, and others at Michigan State University. The results, published in the current issue of Nature Scientific Reports, are the first to tackle the potential environmental changes that the overall basin could experience from harnessing the region's hydropower. "The Mekong River is one of the few large and complex river systems that remains mostly undammed," said Pokhrel, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the study's lead author. "However, the rapid socio-economic growth, increasing energy demands and geopolitical opportunities have led to basin-wide construction of large hydropower dams." More»

Meredith Gore: Ending Wildlife Crime

I am a conservation social scientist who has worked on studying human-environment relationships in an international context for almost 15 years. My work is participatory and focused on humans; although I do not have a geographic area in which I specialize, I have had the good fortune to collaborate with many stakeholders across Africa in particular. The problem of illegal trade in wild flora and fauna is not new. Trade in wildlife has been going on since the time of Marco Polo, and illegal trade has gone alongside the legal. What is new is the scope and scale of illegal trade in the last decade. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated illegal wildlife trade generates upwards of $23 billion for the illicit global economy on an annual basis; the illicit market continues to grow at a faster rate than the legal global economy. More»

MSU Prof elected to the American Philosophical Society

Michigan State University evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski was inducted into the American Philosophical Society — the oldest "learned society" in the United States — on Nov. 9 in Philadelphia. The society was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 for the promotion of useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications, library resources and community outreach, with 2018 marking the society's 275th anniversary. Lenski, along with 34 others, was elected to the society in April 2018. More»

Hydropower, innovations and avoiding international dam shame

“This article identifies that for hydropower to continue to make a contribution to sustainable energy it needs to consider from the outset the true costs, social, environmental and cultural that may be involved, and include those in the pricing of the infrastructure, including the eventual removal of the dam, rather than pass those on to the public in 30 years," said Emilio Moran, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences. More»


As climate changes, plants might not suck carbon from the air fast enough

Current climate change models might be overestimating how much carbon dioxide plants can suck from the atmosphere. Thanks to molecular research on photosynthesis done at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), non-MSU atmospheric scientists have factored in lesser understood photosynthetic limitation into their models. These models suggest that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations might increase more rapidly than previously expected. Photosynthesis supports life on Earth. Photosynthetic organisms capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and process it through a series of reactions known as the Calvin-Benson cycle. Specifically, the carbon is used to make triose phosphate, a molecule which eventually turns into sucrose, the energy currency that powers plants and the food chain above them. The process is referred to as TPU, or triose phosphate utilization. But there is a limit to how much carbon plants can use. “When photosynthesis gets too much carbon dioxide, it can’t process it into sugars fast enough,” said Tom Sharkey, University Distinguished Professor at the PRL. “Photosynthesis cannot indefinitely increase its productivity levels. It reaches a ceiling, and more carbon dioxide won’t help.” More»

Michigan State to study communication after Hurrican Maria
The Associate Press

Michigan State University researchers have received a federal grant to study communication after Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. The East Lansing school says it plans to use the roughly $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how information spread during and after the hurricane that struck last September. Researchers aim to learn why infrastructure failed and how crisis communication was used before, during and after the hurricane. A research team plans to convene focus groups and interview reporters and residents. They also will map areas still lacking electricity. More»

GMOs: A surrogate for the debate about agriculture?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


New study focuses on disaster recovery

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


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»

The hidden environmental costs of importing food

A new study has exposed the surprising fact that importing food can be just as damaging to ecological health as exporting food. Domestic farmers are sometimes forced to switch crops in response to the global food market, and this often leads to unforeseen environmental consequences. Study senior author Jianguo “Jack” Liu is the director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University. “What is obvious is not always the whole truth,” said Liu. “Unless a world is examined in a systemic, holistic way, environmental costs will be overlooked.” More»


Dr. Jennifer Carrera Awarded Prestigious NIEHS Grant
Department of Socilogy

Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Carrera who was recently awarded the prestigious KO1 mentoring grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Dr. Carrera uses water as lens to focus on differential access to environmental resources and its impact on the well-being of individuals in marginalized communities. The grant will be used to work with residents in Flint, Michigan to develop novel, low-cost resources for environmental monitoring with the aims of enhancing self and community-efficacy towards protecting public health. The KO1 mentoring grant will provide the necessary funds to Dr. Carrera for 3 years to investigate her research objective: Engaging Community in the Development of Low Cost Technologies for Environmental Monitoring to Promote Environmental Health Literacy in a Low-Trust Setting. Known as a career transition award, the grant provides support for independent environmental health research and advanced research training while fostering additional experience in environmental health sciences. Dr. Carrera is jointly appointed in the Department of Sociology and the Environmental Science and Policy Program and she is part of the campus-wide Global Water Initiative, which is intended to deepen, enrich, and foster collaboration across MSU’s expansive water scholarship on campus. Anyone interested in learning more about the award should contact Dr. Carrera directly at More»

Conservation Costs Can Be Higher than Bargained For

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


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

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


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

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


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»


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»


Jessica Bell Rizzolo: Preventing Elephant Abuse
MSU Today

Elephant riding is a popular tourist attraction in India and Thailand, but it comes at a cost for the animals. Understanding and preventing the abuse elephants suffer to satisfy tourists is the goal of MSU student Jessica Bell Rizzolo. Bell Rizzolo, who is working toward her Ph.D. in sociology, specializes in animal studies, environmental science and policy, and conservation criminology. She is researching the effects and trauma elephants experience to fill the needs of tourists. “In Thailand it is very common for the baby elephants to be separated from their mothers quite young and then to go through all these other traumas, such as dominance-based training, inadequate food or water, and the prohibition of natural behaviors,” said Bell Rizzolo, who completed her Bachelor of Science in education and social policy and Master of Arts in psychology at Northwestern University, as well as training in trans-species psychology with Gay Bradshaw, the foremost expert on PTSD in elephants. 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 student research on campus water consumption wins award
MSU Office of Sustainability

At Michigan State University, plastic water bottles account for a large amount of campus waste, yet it is estimated that only 25 percent of the nearly three million water bottles on campus make their way to MSU's Recycling Center each year. To better understand water consumption and uncover areas for improvement, graduate students Cheng-Hua Liu, Melissa Rojas-Downing and Zhenci Xu partnered with MSU Sustainability to conduct a research survey that measured water usage and preference of the MSU community. 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»


Emilio Moran leading global initiative on food security and land use

MSU’s principal investigator is Emilio Moran, the Hannah Distinguished Professor of Global Change Science, a renowned social scientist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Moran was MSU’s driving force earlier this year to bring Brazilian scientific organizations into a formal relationship with MSU. That declared partnership, he said, helped pave the way this proposal. “The Belmont Forum is the future’s mechanism for funding global change,” Moran said. “For the last 20 years, each country has had good programs, but there has never been an obvious mechanism to do globally scaled research. Nobody gets to first base with 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»

Great Lakes' Viral Invaders

Viral invasions would make for a good plot in the next Spielberg blockbuster, but according to Michigan State University water researchers, it’s not a Hollywood fantasy. In fact, millions of tiny, dangerous microbes have been attacking native species in the Great Lakes for decades. These pathogens are hitching rides in ballast water – the water in the hulls of large ships that help stabilize them when on the move – which is then released into new environments when the ships dock at their destinations, according to Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair in Water Research at MSU. 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»


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»


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»


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»


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»


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 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»


Michigan's top 3 universities pour $300M into water research over 5 years
The Detroit News

Michigan’s three largest public universities are using the water resources of the state and the Great Lakes region as a tool for research and promoting economic development, according to a report to be unveiled today on Mackinac Island. “The state of Michigan is surrounded by water but within it are scientist researchers who are using very sophisticated techniques to understand health and safety to impact the day-to-day lives of people,” MSU President Lou Anna Simon said by phone as she was preparing to board the ferry to Mackinac Island. “Michigan is an international leader in water and water-based research.” 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»


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»


Gearing Up
MSU Today

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


More to biofuel production than yield
MSU Today

In the current issue of the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers show that looking at the big picture allows other biofuel crops, such as native perennial grasses, to score higher as viable alternatives. “We believe our findings have major implications for bioenergy research and policy,” said Doug Landis, MSU entomologist and one of the paper’s lead authors. “Biomass yield is obviously a key goal, but it appears to come at the expense of many other environmental benefits that society may desire from rural landscapes.” More»


Study provides comparison of biomass crop growth in the Midwest
Ethanol Producer Magazine

Dennis Pennington, bioenergy educator at Michigan State University Extension, recently reviewed a study on regional biomass feedstocks from the University of Illinois. 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»


Study identifies obstacles to aquaculture expansion
Great Lakes Echo

Better rules for sustainable fish farms could provide the state with a $1 billion a year industry, according to the Michigan Sea Grant, a coastal conservation research group. 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»


MSU lands first drone
MSU Today

Farmers can now get a birds-eye view ­of their fields – in full HD – thanks to Michigan State University landing its first drone. MSU researchers are using its first unmanned aerial vehicle to help farmers maximize yields by improving nitrogen and water management and reducing environmental impact such as nitrate leaching or nitrous oxide emissions. For this initiative, MSU’s UAV measures how crops react to stress, such as drought, nutrients deficiency or pests. The drone flies over the field documenting the field’s status ­– down to centimeters. The portrait gives farmers details on the current health of their crops. More»


MSU joins biomaterial contributor network
MSU Today

Michigan State University has joined more than 30 public and private institutions to accelerate biological material distribution to a global research community. The Biomaterial Contributor Network is being coordinated by ATCC, a global biological materials resource and standards organization. As part of the network, the institutions will be able to share materials with the research community, including cell lines, molecular genomics tools, microorganisms and bioproducts. Many participants may receive a share of the revenue from the sale and licensing of materials developed at their institutions. For more information about ATCC, the network and its members, visit For details on MSU’s efforts, please contact Amber Shinn at the MSU Innovation Center, (517) 884-0718, 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»


Examining food security in Detroit, Lansing
Great Lakes Echo

Grocery stores have been making the news in Detroit recently. Last week, the Michigan-based retailer, Meijer, opened its first Detroit location. This follows the news last month of the grand opening of the city’s first Whole Foods Market. Based on these stories, one might think Detroiters were only recently introduced to the concept of the grocery store. That’s not true. MSU associate professor of sociology Craig Harris, an expert in the sociology of food, discusses food security in Detroit, as well as here in mid-Michigan. More»


Wild rice mounts a comeback for culture and ecology
Great Lakes Echo

Native wild rice is revered by the Ojibwa, Pottawatomi and Odawa tribes as part of the prophecy that brought them to the Great Lakes region. But it has nearly disappeared from Michigan waters. Once common in the state’s rivers and lakes, sizable beds of the tall grass have dwindled to less than a dozen, the result of invasive species, higher water levels from dams, and lakefront property owners seeking to clear the way for water recreation. 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»


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»


Using Science to Address Farm Pollution
MSU Today

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


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

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


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»


Winemakers pressing for new grape varieties
Great Lakes Echo

As wine grape growers prepare for what many hope will be another strong season, some members of the industry also hope that this year’s crop will reflect innovation. Experiments with new grape varieties have been underway since 2007 at Michigan State University’s Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Traverse City. This year, some growers expect to see the first production of wines from at least two varieties of red grapes that are new to the state — teroldego and lagrein. More»


Stink bug threatens Michigan crops
Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University entomology professor Matthew Grieshop said the stink bug’s spread into more of the state’s 83 counties is inevitable. “We are in the early invasion stage,” he said. Grieshop said 2010 crop damage by the brown marmorated stink bug in the nation’s mid-Atlantic region was horrific. “There were hundreds of growers who had double-dig 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»


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»


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»


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 students' projects helps urban garden grow in Detroit
Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University seniors Annie Melcher and Derell Griffin have been working with residents in the Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood for more than a year, helping residents maintain an urban garden. On Sunday, Melcher, 21, and Griffin, 22, joined about 40 other Michigan State students to complete a water-catchment system that will provide a cost-effective, sustainable and eco-friendly way of watering the garden where neighborhood youthslearn to grow and harvest vegetables. More»


New rural water quality protection guidebook prepared by Michigan State University
MSU Extension

The Planning and Zoning Center at Michigan State University, a part of the Land Policy Institute, has developed a new planning and zoning guidebook for use by local government officials in rural parts of Michigan. More»


Is plastic better than pulp containers for nursery plants?
MSU Extension

Recent research conducted by Michigan State University Extension specialist Tom Fernandez from the MSU Department of Horticulture evaluated the possibility that pulp-based containers could be a replacement for plastic nursery pots. He is part of a team of researchers from the states of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Texas that have been working on a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative project to evaluate the alternative pot options. There is quite a bit of concern over the adaption of pulp-based containers regarding whether they can stand up to the production and shipping rigors in a nursery. We know that the market demand for a more sustainable container is increasing by the end consumer. More»


MSU's new $2.4M fund will develop high-value products from bio-based feedstocks
MSU Today

Thanks to a $1.09 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, plus matching funds from Michigan State University, several bio-based MSU research projects will be fast-tracked for commercial development over the next three years. MSU recently received the funding from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program as part of a state-wide initiative to invest in research areas that have shown promise in the laboratory, but need further development in order to become successful in a competitive market. 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»


Michigan winemakers experiment to get the most out of their grapes
Michigan Radio's Environment Report

Paolo Sabbatini is with Michigan State University, and his mission is to help grapes thrive in Michigan. "Every 10 years, you will get three years that will be very, very challenging. So, 30 percent of the time you are going to have problems in Michigan growing grapes or producing quality wines." 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»


Meijer expands Made in Michigan initiative statewide
The Wall Street Journal Market Watch

Meijer launched the Made in Michigan initiative in January 2012 with the Michigan State University Product Center for Food-Ag-Bio. Its goal is to help strengthen the state's economy by supporting Michigan small businesses. The initial offering of 49 grocery items - including marinara sauce, blueberry butter and gluten-free baking mixes - resulted in an estimated economic impact of $400,000 statewide. More»


Two years after disaster, problems remain in Japan
MSU Today

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


MSU 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»


Recycled tailpipe heat may power car
Capital News Service/Great Lakes Echo

It may soon be possible to use wasted heat from your vehicle’s tailpipe to power electronics in your car, thanks to a new thermoelectric material developed by researchers in Michigan. That’s just one of many potential uses of the new material, which is based on tetrahedrites, natural minerals found in abundance. More»


Anthony Hall going green after trustee vote
The State News

This spring, Anthony Hall is getting an interior cleanse to make the building more energy efficient. As a part of fulfilling MSU’s campus-wide Energy Transition Plan, the MSU Board of Trustees unanimously passed a $7 million plan to retrofit Anthony Hall with sustainability renovations at its last meeting in December 2012. Construction is set to begin in May 2013 with substantial completion in November 2013 and final completion in May 2015, according to the meeting agenda. More»


MSU, wake up!

The Michigan Farm Bureau’s new policy encourages MSU to refocus its efforts on core programs such as agronomy, animal science, agriscience education, horticulture, forestry, food industry management and other agricultural and natural resource programs. 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»


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 to lead $1.6 million grant on crop pollination
Pork Network

USDA has awarded Michigan State University $1.6 million to lead a national crop pollination research and Extension project. The five-year program will focus on improving pollination and attracting bees to specialty farms and crops. It is part of the USDA’s $101 million initiative to support the nation’s specialty crop producers. More»


MSU, Monsanto working to fight corn rootworm
Detroit Free Press

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


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

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


MSU's Bailey GREENhouse Opening to Celebrate Sustainable Food Cycle
Fox 47 News

Grand opening events have been set to celebrate Bailey GREENhouse, Michigan State University’s newest hoop house. The herbs grown in Bailey GREENhouse will be tended to by students of the Residential Initiative for the Study of the Environment (RISE), a living-learning residential program housed in Bailey Hall. Herbs from the GREENhouse will be served at Brody Square dining hall and The State Room Restaurant at Kellogg Center. The herbs are grown in soil with composted pre-consumer food waste from Brody Square. Guests are invited to come explore the newly constructed hoop house and taste appetizers with greens from the structure. More»


Superman-strength bacteria produce gold
University Relations

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


Rewriting the rules of teamwork
University Relations

As scientists from different disciplines and regions help design a world-class nuclear research facility at Michigan State University, a team of MSU researchers will conduct one of the first major studies of how teams work together. More»


MSU, Monsanto back research to fight corn rootworm

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


Student funding available for MSU sustainability projects
University Relations

Michigan State University’s Office of Campus Sustainability is now accepting applications for the Be Spartan Green Student Project Fund, a program that will provide financial support for students to explore solutions to sustainability challenges at MSU. Up to $5,000 will be awarded to each project that meets the student fund criteria for one calendar year. Applications will be accepted on a rolling deadline until funds are no longer available. More»


Once again, MSU’s supply chain program tops in nation
University Relations

Michigan State University’s supply chain program continues setting the national standard, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings of America’s Best Colleges, out today. More»


MSU Extension weather station at Applewood estate in Flint to benefit area farmers, gardeners

Michigan State University Extension at Applewood has installed a new weather station to help Flint area farmers and gardeners plan for pest control and weather conditions. 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»


East Lansing church hosts sustainability lecture series regarding environmental stewardship

The Peoples Church in East Lansing, Mich. is hosting a lecture series addressing Michigan’s energy and sustainability issues, says Associate Pastor Reverend Penny Swartz. "Powering Michigan’s Future" will bring together members of the community to address pertinent energy issues through scientific, theological and ethical lenses, she says. More»


Next step of FRIB project approved by MSU board
University Relations

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


Produce packaging influences purchase
University Relations

Packaging influences purchasesA new MSU study found that shoppers prefer to purchase produce that come in a rigid, bio-based plastic container with a long shelf life and a low price. “Consumers believe the type of packaging material could affect the quality of the food product, and the rigid container may provide better protection compared to the flexible bag,” said Georgios Koutsimanis (Packaging). More»

Kroger works with MSU to stock Michigan-made niche food items

The Cincinnati-based grocer recently began stocking more than 55 specialty Michigan-made products at 21 of its 130 Michigan stores. The Michigan State University Product Center is managing the project and ensuring that the food products are all licensed and labeled for resale. "It allows a smaller producer to get into a large-scale supermarket environment without having to go through all the obstacles of being mainstreamed into a huge supermarket environment," said Matt Birbeck (MSU Product Center). More»

MSU forges partnerships to gain energy efficiency
University Relations

Although the university’s Energy Transition Plan was formally approved by the MSU Board of Trustees last month, work has been under way for several years to make the university more energy efficient – work in which MSU has partnered with a number of state and local companies, creating jobs and contributing to the local economy. More»

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

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

Drivers pay secret road tax in $15 billion for car repair

Karim Chatti (Civil and Environmental Engineering) estimates that damage linked to poor roads probably runs between $15 to $25 billion annually for car owners, not including tire damage and fuel-efficiency costs.” More»

Researchers give long look at who benefits from nature tourism
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

Using nature's beauty as a tourist draw can boost conservation in China's valued panda preserves, but it isn't an automatic ticket out of poverty for the human habitants, a unique long-term study shows. The policy hitch: Often those who benefit most from nature-based tourism endeavors are people who already have resources. The truly impoverished have a harder time breaking into the tourism business. Wei Liu's (Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability) study, published in the April 25 edition of PLoS One, looks at nearly a decade of burgeoning tourism in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China. More»

Professor to oversee creation of Michigan tourism plan
University Relations

Pure Michigan.  Photo from's tourism industry is generating a new strategic plan to guide its activities during the next five years, and a MSU faculty member is leading the effort. Sarah Nicholls (CARRS and Geography) will oversee the preparation of the new planning document, in collaboration with the state's official tourism promotion agency, Travel Michigan, and the governor-appointed Travel Commission. More»

Bio-industry says it can boost agricultural economy
Holland Sentinel

Cornfield.  Photo from wikicommons.MSU has received a federal grant to help commercialize laboratory research. Douglas Gage (MSU BioEconomy Network), had this to say about it: "This effort recognizes the challenges of bridging the so-called 'valley of death' where many innovations fail," he said. "Ultimately the bio-economy will depend upon a reliable and cost-effective supply of non-food biomass." More»

Creating a viable market for ecosystem services

What do food crops, clean drinking water and the beauty of vegetated landscapes have in common? All of them are benefits that people derive from nature, what scientists call "ecosystem services." Despite wide recognition, however, these services typically are not valued through existing markets. MSU AgBioResearch scientist Scott Swinton (Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics) is working to measure the economic value of ecosystem services linked to agriculture and identify ways that policy can communicate those values to farmers.


Environmental researchers win university awards
University Relations

Several MSU environmental researchers have won the university’s 2012 Distinguished Faculty Award. Among the recipients are: Diane Ebert-May (Plant Biology), a pioneer in biology education research; Syed Hashsham (Civil and Environmental Engineering), whose work integrates genomics and microfluids with consumer electronics to solve issues related to human health and environmental biotechnology; and Susan Selke (Packaging), a leading scholar in sustainability and packaging.

Teacher-scholar awards are awarded to early-career faculty who have earned respect through their teaching and who show scholarly promise. Environmental researchers receiving the award are Kendra Cheruvelil (Fisheries and Wildlife & Lyman Briggs) and Daniel Kramer (Fisheries and Wildlife & James Madison).


2011-2012 Sustainability Seed Grant Winners
Office of Campus Sustainability

Be Spartan Green! MSU’s Office of Campus Sustainability offers annual research grants for MSU faculty, staff, and students to help increase campus sustainability. The most recent recipients of Sustainability Seed Grants are:

  • “Increasing Carpooling at MSU,” led by Stan Kaplowitz (Sociology), which will use focus groups and surveys to learn about perceived barriers to carpooling at MSU
  • “Promoting Campus Sustainability, Aesthetics, Environmental Behavior, and Well-being by Transforming Built Environments,” led by Eunsil Lee (School of Planning Design and Construction), which will conduct a post-occupancy evaluation on the environmental outcomes of the recently renovated Brody Square
  • “Anaerobic Digestion of Pre- and Post-consumer Food Waste: Impacts and Logistics,”led by Dana Kirk (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering), which will study delivery of pre- and post- consumer waste to the anaerobic digester.
  • “Harnessing Student Creativity: Reducing Energy Consumption in Campus Buildings,” led by Andre Benard (Mechanical Engineering), which will set strategies for reducing the energy consumption in three representative buildings on campus
  • “Closing the Food Cycle Loop: Connecting Campus Food Residue Composting at the Student Organic Farm and the Bailey Herb House Project,” led by John Biernbaum (Horticulture & the Student Organic Farm), which will expand composting activities.

"Going green" with more urban trees

"Go Green!" is a favorite slogan at Spartan athletic events, and Michigan State University has taken that theme to heart with its "Be Spartan Green" environmental stewardship initiatives. David MacFarlane (Forestry) is helping to advance this "green" philosophy with groundbreaking research on urban treed spaces. "We have to pay more attention to how we utilize trees outside of forests because the planet is becoming more urbanized and more deforested, so trees are becoming more of a precious resource," said MacFarlane, who specializes in forest measurements and modeling.


National park staffing would be cut under Obama budget
USA Today

Rather than cutting full-time staff, park superintendents across the U.S. are likely to cut back on seasonal staffers who lead tours, work at summer camps and guide visitors at information booths and visitors centers, said Dennis Propst (Forestry).


MSU concrete recycling saves dollars, environment
University Relations

MSU is using more than 6,000 tons of recycled concrete for a number of on-campus construction projects. Use of the material, which includes remnants of curbs, sidewalks and driveways, is saving the university thousands of dollars as well as keeping much it from landfills. Photo by G.L. Kohuth.MSU is using more than 6,000 tons of recycled concrete for a variety of on-campus construction projects. By using the remnants of the old concrete, the university is not only saving thousands of dollars in construction costs, but also helping save the environment, as much of that concrete could have eventually found its way to a landfill. "Now we are processing a portion of the concrete waste stream to be re-used back on campus construction projects, rather than purchasing subbase materials from an outside vendor," said Adam Lawver (Landscape Services).


Just why does Mitt Romney love Michigan's trees?
Talking Points Memo

"Most of our forests were cut in the 19th century in the lumber boom and much of our timber went to rebuild Chicago after the great fire," said Frank Telewski (Botany). "So our forests in some areas are still recovering as growth can be very slow on some of the deep glacial sands, especially in the northern part of 'the mitt.'"


From MSU to nation's capital to Natural Capital: An environmental economics journey
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources

It's a journey she might not have expected when she left her native China for the United States but for Shan Ma (Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics) her research into the value of ecosystem services from agriculture has taken her across the country. Ma, 26, began work in December with the Natural Capital (NatCap) Project, a joint venture led by Stanford in partnership with the University of Minnesota, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. The program's mission – according to a recent New York Times article – is to transform traditional conservation methods by including the value of "ecosystem services" in business, community and government decisions. "I have studied and learned from many different sources in my time at Michigan State," Shan said. "The diversity here has been wonderful. One day I hope to be able to improve the decision making as it applies to the environment and natural resources in China."


Wave Disk Engine could be new hybrid powerplant
U.S. News and World Report

Later this year, an engineering research team led by Norbert Mueller (Engineering) plans to have just an engine generating power through a 25-kilowatt battery, which will be capable of driving a full-size hybrid electric-gas vehicle. "You have to be aggressive with your research in today's world if you want to get anywhere," Mueller says. "The wave disk engine is smaller, lighter and easier to manufacture."


Recipe for success: Recycled glass and cement
University Relations

MSU researchers have found that concrete is more durable when crushed glass is added to the cement used to make the concrete. The MSU campus has several test sites where the concrete-glass mix was tested. Photo by G.L. KohuthMSU researchers have found that by mixing ground waste glass into the cement that is used to make concrete, the concrete is stronger, more durable and more resistant to water. In addition, the use of glass helps reduce the amount of glass that ends up in landfills and helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions which are common due to the high temperatures needed to create cement. Parviz Soroushian (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and colleagues recently had two papers published on the durability of the mixture. More»

Ash-covered forest is 'Permian Pompeii'

An artist's impression of a 300-million-year-old peat forest in northern China, based on plant fossils preserved in a huge volcanic ash-fall. Courtesy of PNAS.An ancient swampy forest full of long-extinct plant species has been brought to life through analyses of well-preserved fossils entombed in a layer of volcanic ash…Most forests like this one had died out elsewhere millions of years earlier — their habitats had dried as landmasses comprising the supercontinent came together and the forests ended up farther from the coasts, said Ralph Taggart (Geological Sciences). More»

Mild weather may chill maple syrup season
Detroit News

Larry Haigh taps trees at his operation near Battle Creek. The president of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, noting the warmer-than-usual winter, said he's advising colleagues to get ready to do the same. (Photo by Dale G. Young / The Detroit News) The best conditions for tapping the highest-quality syrup are when the region has long stretches of daytime temperatures near 40 degrees and overnight lows below freezing — typically in late February and early March, said Richard Kobe (Forestry). "Once it gets warmer ... the trees are transporting other kinds of chemicals in their sap, and it then lowers the quality of the resulting maple syrup," Kobe said. More»

Thinking outside sustainability’s box with art and science
University Relations

Image from the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. Science is about facts, but the science of sustainability also involves questions underpinned by values. With this in mind, Tom Dietz (Sociology & ESPP) asked scientists to consider how art can provoke people to consider their perceptions of sustainability at this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.“Good decisions about the complex issues of sustainability have to be grounded in science, but science alone isn’t sufficient to make decisions that also involve our values and ethical concerns,” said Dietz.
< a href="">Additional news coverage. More»

MSU Institute of Water Research: Finding global water management solutions locally
Greening of the Great Lakes

"Universities come up with a lot of new ideas, approaches, technologies - we try to take those to the stage where they can be of immediate use by communities, by industry, by other development activities that are trying to be more sustainable, particularly relative to water resources," said Jon Bartholic (Institute of Water Research). More»

Hamann receives Sloan Research Fellowship
College of Natural Science

Tom Hamann (Chemistry) has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship. The two-year fellowships are awarded yearly by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to 118 early-career scientists in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. His research interests in inorganic materials and electrochemistry of energy conversion and storage revolve around the theme of developing and characterizing nano-structured materials, coupled with detailed investigations of interfacial electron-transfer processes for solar energy conversion applications. More»

Ethanol mandate not the best option
University Relations

Many people are willing to pay a premium for ethanol, but not enough to justify the government mandate for the corn-based fuel, an MSU economist argues. Soren Anderson (Economics and Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics) studied the demand for ethanol, or E85, in the United States. He found that when ethanol prices rose 10 cents per gallon, demand for ethanol fell only 12 percent to 16 percent on average. His study suggests that some people are, in fact, willing to pay more to help protect the environment. But from an economic perspective, mandating ethanol doesn’t appear to be the best option, Anderson said. More cost-effective approaches include giving consumers options or incentives for driving less or buying more efficient cars. More»

Controversial wood-to-ethanol plant may finally get under way in Upper Peninsula
Detroit Free Press

Raymond Miller (Forest Biomass Innovation Center) has participated in a public-private effort to facilitate the project. He said the biorefinery will not deplete the forest resources. "We grow between two and three times as much wood each year as we use," he said. More»

New Center for Regional Food Systems
Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies

Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies
In an effort to leverage MSU’s scholarly eminence in agriculture – specifically in food production,nutrition, and distribution – a new multi-disciplinary center has been created, known as the Center for Regional Food Systems, under the leadership of Mike Hamm (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies). The center will position MSU to take a leadership role in studying – and bolstering – regional, community-based food systems, within Michigan and around the world. More»

There’s no containing MSU’s School of Packaging

MSU’s School of Packaging is the world’s largest and best-known. Indeed, MSU invented packaging as an academic discipline in 1952, and has graduated more half of the trained packaging professionals in the U.S. Today, environmental research is an emphasis. Environmental projects include Rafael Auras’ work on bio-based materials that perform as well as the petroleum-based plastics to which consumers are accustomed, but negate or at least reduce the carbon footprint. More»

Brad Rowe: Green roofs provide economic and environmental benefits
Greening of the Great Lakes

“Buildings consume 39 percent of the total energy that's used in the United States, and 71 percent of the electricity consumption goes into buildings,” explains Brad Rowe (Horticulture). Rowe is looking to curb that impact through green roof research. Rowe's research shows how green roofs impact ecosystems, including storm water management and energy consumption. More»

The new look of NIMBYism
The Daily Climate

Say no to wind farm sign. The Daily Climate. So-called "NIMBY" activism, once reserved for projects like landfills, prisons and big box stores, has started to impact proposed renewable energy projects throughout the nation….Opposition to biofuels, particularly ethanol, is a little more complex, according to Paul Thompson (Philosophy). The opposition is based, in part, on economics and the impact on food prices, notably corn-based commodities... More»

Gen Y’s embrace of hybrids may be auto market’s tipping point
University Relations

Generation Y?s strong affinity for hybrid vehicles could make it the generation that leads the automotive market away from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, according to an annual survey by Deloitte and MSU. A majority (59 percent) of Gen Y respondents surveyed prefer an “electrified vehicle” over any other type of car or truck. Moreover, Gen Y consumers heavily favor hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles (57 percent) over pure battery electric vehicles (2 percent) or vehicles with a traditional gasoline-only powertrain (37 percent). Deloitte conducted the survey in September and October 2011 with help from Clay Voorhees (Marketing). More»

Society’s standards driven by power, says MSU sociology prof
MSU Research

Lawrence Busch (Sociology) is intrigued by how standards are intimately connected to power and policy. Busch, co-director of the Center for the Study of Standards in Society, examines how standards play a central role in constructing reality in his forthcoming book, Standards: Recipes for Reality. Busch’s interests include food and agricultural standards, food safety policy, biotechnology policy, agricultural science and technology policy, higher education in agriculture, and public participation in the policy process. More»

MSU shares Energy Transition Plan
University Relations

Diagram for MSU Energy Transtion Plan. MSU has unveiled its Energy Transition Plan, a living document which will guide the university as it plots its energy future. More 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. Read the plan. More»

What traits make the best environmental citizens?
University Relations

Patient, persistent and confident people are among those who make the best environmental citizens, according to Kyle Whyte (Philosophy) and Matt Ferkany (Teacher Education) who have pinpointed character traits of good problem solvers and deliberators. Their study was published in the journal Philosophy of Education. “In situations where people are talking about very tough issues, such as climate change and sustainability, there are certain virtues people have that help those deliberations go better,” said Whyte. “The public will have to increasingly deal with such issues so it’s important the educational system is preparing people to participate well with those who have different views.” But that’s not a focus of most environmental education programs, found Whyte and Ferkany. More»

Program enhances fishery conservation
Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

MSU is establishing an endowed scholar program to ensure healthy environments for fish and aquatic resources. The Stanislaus F. Snieszko Endowed Scholar Program in Aquatic Animal Medicine will be a catalyst to bridge science with policy and provide leadership to public and private organizations to conserve the nation’s wildlife, aquatic animals and related natural resources. Mohamed Faisal (Pathobiology, Fisheries and Wildlife) was chosen to direct this program. More»

Visiting professor’s solar power technology receives accolades
College of Natural Science

Artificial leaf. Photo courtesy of Dan Nocera. Visiting Hannah Professor Dan Nocera (Chemistry) is profiled in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Nocera has developed an artificial leaf made of inexpensive materials. The leaf’s stainless steel chip is coated with silicon so it can harvest sunlight and split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The catalysts produce enough hydrogen from a liter of water to power an average home in the developing world. More»

Book on human-animal relationship published

Cover of Making Animal Meaning. Photo courtesy of MSU.Making Animal Meaning, a collection of ten original essays, was edited by Georgina Montgomery (Lyman Briggs, History) and Linda Kalof (Sociology), and has just been published with Michigan State University Press. The authors write: "Making Animal Meaning explores how humans construct, configure, and constantly negotiate the meaning of other animals in the social world. Our attempts to make meaning of animals” to describe their behaviors, depict their unique physical attributes, elucidate their similarities and differences from us, and chronicle our treasured alliances with them ”continue [from prehistory] to the present day."


Prowling pandas become policy advisers

Prowling pandas become policy advisers.  Image credit: RedOrbit.Vanessa Hull (Fisheries and Wildlife) is using the movement of collared pandas to understand the effectiveness of zoning in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China. More»

MSU earns record number of AAAS Fellows
University Relations

A record nine MSU researchers have earned national recognition by being named Fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Three are environmental researchers researchers. Jeffrey Connor (Plant Biology) focuses on plant-insect interactions. Sheng Yang He (Plant Biology) studies molecular interactions between plants and pathogenic bacteria. Thomas D. Sharkey (Biochemisty and Molecular Biology) studies the biochemistry and biophysics of gas exchange reactions between plants and the atmosphere. More»

Philosophers put their minds to expanding their role in public affairs
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Laurie Thorp (in orange turtleneck) accompanies students in her environmental-studies program at Michigan State U. to the processing floor of the campus Meat Laboratory as part of their study of ethical issues in agriculture. The class undertook a labor-intensive project to let farm-raised pigs express what Ms. Thorp called their essential 'pigness.' Photo credit: Fabrizio Costantini for The ChroniclePhilosophy has a long and storied history of public engagement Michigan State University has been particularly aggressive in putting philosophers at the intersection of disciplines working on knotty issues. Paul B. Thompson (Philosophy) works on how to treat animals ethically while also feeding a growing human population sustainably and safely. Kyle Powys Whyte (Philosophy), Lissy Goralnik (Fisheries and Wildlife), and Dale Rozeboom (Animal Science) [discuss] student projects exploring different ways of rearing animals. More»

MSU a partner in national energy-saving initiative
University Relations

MSU is a partner in the Better Buildings Challenge, an initiative that calls on chief executive officers, university presidents and state and local leaders to make a 20 percent reduction in energy use by 2020. It's estimated that such an energy reduction would save American businesses more than $40 billion in energy costs.
The New York Times and the Lansing State Journal had the story.
Also, see the Office of Campus Sustainability's (OCS) "Tips to stay Spartan Green during holiday break." OCS encourages Spartans to turn devices off, unplug electronics, and set the thermostat low. More»

Wastewater system generates energy, produces drinking water
University Relations

MSU scientist Wei Liao is developing a portable wastewater treatment system that generates electricity and produces drinking water. Photo courtesy of MSU.Wei Liao (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) is using a $1.92 million Department of Defense grant to develop a portable wastewater treatment system that could improve the military's efficiency. The solar-bio-nano project also will generate energy and produce drinking water, thus providing a potential blueprint for the future of municipal/agricultural wastewater treatment systems. During military operations, shipping from port to bases on or near the front lines can push the cost of water up to nearly $60 per gallon. A portable, self-sustaining system would allow the bases to be more nimble and cost-effective, Liao said. More»

Captive orca could test Endangered Species Act
Seattle Times

Forty years after hunters lassoed a young killer whale off Whidbey Island and sold it to a Florida theme park, whale advocates are turning to an unusual tactic to try to force the orca's release: the Endangered Species Act. David Favre (College of Law) called the suit "very credible" and said he thought the plaintiffs had a "fair argument." More»

Politicians urged to consider moral perspectives on climate change
University Relations

Michael Nelson (Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs, Philosophy) delivered a message in Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, urging the nation's leaders to address the moral issues surrounding climate change. Nelson is part of the Climate Ethics Campaign, a team of representatives from government agencies, business and environmental organizations delivering a national climate ethics statement to leaders. Climate change arguments are usually framed in economic terms, said Nelson, while the moral perspective, is not addressed. The CEC's goal is to help organizations around the country tackle climate change issues from a moral perspective.
EcoWatch has the story. More»

Minorities pay more for water and sewer
University Relations

Racial minorities pay systemically more for basic water and sewer services than white people, according to a study by Stephen Gasteyer (Sociology) and Rachel Butts (International Studies). This "structural inequality" is not necessarily a product of racism, the authors write, but rather the result of whites fleeing urban areas and leaving minority residents to bear the costs of maintaining aging water and sewer infrastructure. Water and sewer lines are aging throughout the country. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed to repair deteriorating systems over the next 20 years. The findings appear in the journal Environmental Practice. More»

$7 million gift advances education and research in Geological Sciences
University Relations

A $7 million gift will help expand MSU’s Department of Geological Sciences, fostering better understanding of Earth's systems and resources. The gift, from a Michigan State graduate who prefers to remain anonymous, aims to help build a program focused on excellence and leadership in Earth science. The gift will mainly go toward new professorships and graduate research fellowships as the department gathers momentum. More»

Local farmers need national support (column)
Detroit News

Unfortunately, our federal government helps make high-calorie, processed foods cheaper while farmers who grow fruits and vegetables for local sale here and across the nation have to work with little or no support. Editorial co-authored by Mike Hamm (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies). More»

MSU professor named among professors of the year
College of Natural Science

Diane Ebert-May (Plant Biology) was named the Michigan winner of the 2011 Professors of the Year awards program. She was among the national and state winners honored at the Nov. 17 awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Professors of the Year awards program celebrates outstanding instructors across the country. Ebert-May implements scientific teaching in her classroom driven by her research on how students learn biology and develop high-level cognitive skills in learner-centered courses.


Campus electricity innovations
University Relations

  • Matt Stehouwer, technology manager for the College of Natural Science, re-charges his electric vehicle at a new charging station in the Kellogg Center Parking Ramp. The charging station is the first on campus available for public use.  Photo by G.L. Kohuth.MSU unveils public electric car-charging station
    A charging station that the MSU community and the general public can use to re-charge their electric vehicles is now open for business on MSU’s campus. MSU has several on-campus charging stations for university electric vehicles, but this is the first one designated for public use.
  • Grant to help MSU vehicles reduce emissions
    MSU will use a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions from 14 of its diesel-fueled trucks and buses. The $24,500 grant will be used to install what’s known as a diesel oxidation catalyst in 11 MSU trucks and three buses.


Academic Minute: Understanding the carbon cycle
Inside Higher Education

Andy Anderson (Teacher Education) explores the root causes of why most students fail to achieve a sufficient level of scientific literacy. More»

Romney's energy plan promotes fossil fuels, dismisses solar, wind
McClatchy Newspapers

While energy issues are hardly at the forefront of voter concerns, Romney's views could make it more difficult for him to woo such voters. "It's less about a specific issue like energy, and more about a pattern. It's not just his specific position, but the sense that he'll say anything to get elected," said Matt Grossmann (Political Science). More»

Invention analyzes plant diseases without leaving the field
University Relations

MSU researcher Syed Hashsham has invented a handheld, low-cost device that can perform genetic analysis. Photo by G.L. Kohuth.Farmers and field scientists can now instantly identify diseases attacking crops and plants, thanks to a new MSU invention. The Gene-Z device performs genetic analysis using a low-cost handheld device and is operated using smartphone technology. Syed Hashsham (Civil and Environmental Engineering) developed the device with MSU collaborators James Tiedje (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics), and Robert Stedtfeld (Civil and Environmental Engineering), among others. More»

Toward an ethical understanding of the environment
University Outreach and Engagement Engaged Scholar E-Newsletter

Environmental scientists and environmental ethicists are two groups who share the goal of understanding how we ought to relate to nature, but who employ very different methods and philosophies. And, according to Michael Nelson (Lyman Briggs, Fisheries and Wildlife, Philosophy) there has been little collaboration between these groups. So in 2007, Nelson, along with colleague John Vucetich, a professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan Technological University, created the Conservation Ethics Group (CEG), to help address this situation. CEG's vision has been to create a community of natural resource professionals who are equipped to deal with the ethical aspects of natural resource management. In the future, Nelson and Vucetich are hoping to take the CEG to the next level by creating an Institute for Conservation Ethics, co-hosted by MSU and Michigan Technological University.


Michigan State University researcher spearheads orchard system of the future
Kalamazoo Gazette

If successful, the system would cut production costs, reduce environmental impact and allow even massive commercial operations to peacefully coexist with suburban neighbors, said Matthew Grieshop (Entomology). More»

A global leader in urban food systems? MSU President thinks so (column)
Greening of the Great Lakes

Lou Anna K. Simon (President) shares her thoughts on the progress of the "Be Spartan Green" campus sustainability initiative. "These successes are not public relations sound bites," she says. "Rather, they are the result of a comprehensive, long-term vision for campus sustainability." More»

PETA lawsuit seeks to expand animal rights
Associated Press

David Favre (College of Law) has proposed a new legal category called "living property" as a step toward providing rights for some animals. More»

The wave of the future
College of Engineering

“My design principle has always been to take a challenge that you have to overcome and turn that challenge into a benefit,” says Norbert Müller (Mechanical Engineering) as he describes his path toward developing a new engine design that could revolutionize automobile fuel efficiency. His concept for a wave disk engine, using shock wave compression together with internal combustion and turbine propulsion, has recently caught the interest of a broad range of scientific publications and blogs. More»

Exotic animal laws vary from state to state
ABC News

Some states are playing catch-up as exotic animals have become more prevalent, said David Favre (College of Law). More»

More wild animals are making their home in the city and suburbs
Detroit Free Press

"Once they (animals) start looking upon humans as a source of food and lose their fear of them, there's going to be problems," said James Sikarskie (College of Veterinary Medicine). More»

Farm Bureau upset that science kit for students contains left-wing book with misinformation about modern farming
Kalamazoo Gazette

Cover of "A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids" book.  Image credit: mlive.If society values one kind of farming over another, “that’s fine,” said Phil Robertson (Crop and Soil Sciences, Kellogg Biological Station). “But the role of science is to inform those decisions, not to advocate for one or another.” More»

MSU nets $1 million to help Michigan entrepreneurs launch green chemistry businesses
University Relations

Thanks to MSU, Michigan entrepreneurs won the i6 Green Challenge, earning an economic boost from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration to create a proof of concept center for green chemistry scale-ups. The proof of concept center will be located in MSU’s Bioeconomy Institute in Holland. MSU will operate the site, offer support services to entrepreneurs, recruit green-technology incubator occupants and more. More»

Litchman and Lee honored by President Obama with award
University Relations

Elena Litchman (Zoology) and Tonghun Lee (Mechanical Engineering) were among 94 researchers honored by President Barack Obama as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. The awards honor individuals for innovative research and commitment to community service. Litchman studies how global environmental change is altering communities of tiny algae (phytoplankton) in lakes around the world and affecting water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. Lee works on advanced laser diagnostics for next generation propulsion and energy systems research. More»

Synchronized swimming: Patrolling for pollution with robotic fish (column)
Scientific American

Preparing to let loose a robotic fish. Image source: Xiaobo TanIn landlocked East Lansing, Michigan, you’re unlikely to swim with dolphins. But you can swim with robotic fish, thanks to a team of scientists who are developing underwater robots that swim in schools to monitor water quality. “Fish behave in ways that underwater vehicles can’t yet equal,” explained Xiaobo Tan (Electrical and Computer Engineering). More»

Microbes generate electricity while cleaning up nuclear waste
University Relations

MSU researchers discover microbes generate electricity while cleaning toxic chemicals.  Image credit: Dena Cologgi and Gemma Reguera, MSU. Gemma Reguera (Microbiology & Molecular Genetics) and her team of MSU researchers have unraveled the mystery of how microbes generate electricity while cleaning up nuclear waste and other toxic metals. Details of the process, which can be improved and patented, are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The implications could eventually benefit sites forever changed by nuclear contamination, said Reguera.
Discovery News, BBC and Scientific American had the story. More»

Bill Porter builds bridges to wildlife conservation leadership and policy
AgBioResearch, Futures (Spring/Summer 2011)

The recent establishment of MSU’s Boone and Crockett Chair in Wildlife Conservation and Quantitative Wildlife Laboratory (QWL) offers new solutions to the most difficult challenges of wildlife conservation. Bill Porter (Fisheries and Wildlife), Boone and Crockett chair, is leading the QWL to focus on four areas: the societal value of wildlife and its stewardship, land use change, climate change and shifts in species ranges, and wildlife diseases and species invasion. More»

The PERM paradigm: Relationships matter
AgBioResearch, Futures (Spring/Summer 2011)

PERM brings together university scientists and state and federal agencies to solve problems.  Image credit: AgBioResearch. For 18 years, the Partnership for Ecosystem Research and Management (PERM) at MSU has successfully brought together university scientists and state and federal agencies to solve problems and apply research results to keep Michigan’s natural resource base healthy and sustainable. PERM researchers are Fisheries and Wildlife faculty Jim Bence, Mary Bremigan, Jordan Burroughs, Dan Hayes, Dana Infante, Dan Kramer, Weiming Li, Frank Lupi, Shawn Riley, Kim Scribner, and Michael Wagner. More»

The revolutionary wave disc generator combustion engine

The mid-term future for fuel efficient vehicles with useful range is likely a hybrid solution of electric motors powered by batteries, topped up by a fuel-burning generator. Norbert Müller (Mechanical Engineering), backed by $2.5 million from the U.S. government, aims to make that last part of the equation a much more compact and efficient proposition with a revolutionary new form of combustion engine.


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»


MSU team builds, races solar car
College of Engineering

MSU Solar Car team. Image credit: MSU Solar Car team. For the first time, an MSU team successfully designed, built, and raced a solar car. The car, named Brasidius II after a Spartan king, completed 207 laps over two days, totaling 186 miles, in the 2011 Formula Sun Grand Prix held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. The race is put on by the Innovators Educational Foundation, which also hosts the American Solar Challenge.
The State News had the story. More»

Biocartons may double sweet cherry shelf life
Capital Press

cherries, image courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsAn MSU team is testing more environmental plastic packaging as a way to prolong the shelf life of sweet cherries. Eva Almenar (Packaging) and other researchers may have a product available for commercial use in 2012. The plastic is made of polylactic acid, which is biodegradable, compostable, made from renewable resources and has been approved by the FDA for contact with food. More»


MSU receives sustainability recognition
University Relations

  • MSU receives STARS silver rating
    University Relations
    MSU has been honored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for its sustainability achievements. The STARS program addresses three areas: Education and research; operations; and planning, administration and engagement.
  • Recycle competition nets half-million pounds of material
    University Relations
    Competing in its first-ever “RecycleMania” competition, MSU recycled more than 530,000 pounds of material. MSU finished at No. 5 in the Big Ten and No. 209 nationally (of 600 competitors) for the Grand Champion Prize, which demonstrates achievement in both source reduction and recycling.


MSU students to present green-roof technology at EPA event
University Relations

warning sign, image courtesy of MSU University Relations A team of MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC) students traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in a competition that could net them a federal grant to continue research into technology that would allow “green roofs” to be used on sloped roofs. The competition is part of the National Sustainable Design Expo, which is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s celebration of Earth Day 2011. Jeremy Monsma (SPDC) is leading the group. More»

The 'wave' of the (car engine) future?
New York Times (Dot Earth blog)

Last month a team at MSU, led by Norbert Mueller (Mechanical Engineering), presented a bench-scale prototype to the Energy Department. More»

Feds urged to up biofuels support
Detroit News

Bruce Dale (Chemical Engineering) told a Senate panel “there's no way to a sustainable transportation sector without sustainable biofuels,” but noted the government would need to pitch in for expanded use of ethanol-friendly fuel pumps and other infrastructure to make ethanol as ubiquitous as gasoline. More»

Do markets really respond to corporate sustainability efforts?

market trading, image courtesy of Many firms have undertaken proactive environmental initiatives in recent years, but does the market see these activities as good value relative to other investment options? Brian Jacobs (Supply Chain Management) and two other researchers analyzed how environmental performance affects shareholder value through stock market reactions.  More»

MSU president's report features environmental science
University Relations

MSU president's report website, image courtesy of MSU The 2010 President’s Report addresses “big questions” that Spartans work to answer. Environmental researchers featured include:

  • Steve Hamilton (Zoology), on rivers and streams as a source of greenhouse gases
  • Dave Hyndman (Geological Sciences), on a sustainable plan for managing the High Plains Aquifer.
  • Jack Liu (Fisheries and Wildlife) on relationships between humans and nature
  • Sieg Snapp (Crop and Soil Sciences), on crop rotation in Africa
  • Mark Worden (Mechanical Engineering), on getting alternative fuels from gases.

MSU sustainability students learn first hand about recycling

Geoff Habron (Sociology and Fisheries and Wildlife) and his sustainability students at MSU learn first hand about the power of recycling by performing a waste sort at the MSU Recycling Center and Surplus Store. More»

Northern teak farmers cash in on carbon credits
The Nation (Thailand)

Three years ago, villagers could not have imagined how a tree’s ability to store carbon could make money for them. Now, MSU has signed a contract with the 40 villagers to purchase carbon credits from their teak plantation. More»

It's time to take a unified approach toward measuring sustainability
University Relations

Ask political leaders if they are in favor of sustainability, and the pat answer is typically a resounding, “Yes.” Evaluating sustainability, however, is a much trickier endeavor. Tom Dietz and Sandy Marquart-Pyatt (Sociology and ESPP) took steps to identify a universal framework to evaluate sustainability. More»

Planting seeds for better plastic
Science News

"You will see a lot of claims and miscommunications, saying, 'My product is biodegradable or biodegradable in a landfill,'" said Ramani Narayan (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science). More»

New fellows program connects diverse group of environmental and natural resource stakeholders
GreenBoard, ESPP

Recognizing that Michigan is being challenged to address complex environmental and natural resource problems with fewer resources, MSU’s Guyer-Seevers Program in Natural Resources Conservation is exploring an alternative way to respond to the challenge. In January, Patricia Norris, the Guyer-Seevers Chair, started the Environmental and Natural Resource (ENR) Governance Fellows Program, which brings together diverse Michigan residents to talk about approaches to management. More»

Diane Barker: Living sustainability
University Relations

Diane Barker is assistant director for sustainability for MSU’s Residential and Hospitality Services. She describes initiatives to make her division of the university more sustainable, from green construction projects to recycling programs. More»

ESPP affiliates garner honors!
University Relations and Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies

award, image courtesy of Wikimedia

  • Joan B. Rose (Fisheries and Wildlife) was recently elected to The National Academy of Engineering. Rose is co-director of the Center for Water Sciences and co-director of the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment. She was elected for her contributions in improving water quality safety and public health.
  • Dennis Propst (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies) and MSU alum Michael McDonald received the Ingham County Parks Volunteer of the Year Award. Propst has been a Parks and Recreation Commissioner for 13 years, and was commended for “showing a remarkable level of leadership and devotion to the idea of community involvement.”
  • Soji O. Adelaja (Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics & Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies) received the MSU 2011 Distinguished Faculty Award. Adelaja has been a leading developer of new land-based prosperity ideas in Michigan and is director of the Land Policy Institute.


Office of Campus Sustainability awards seed grants
Office of Campus Sustainability

Three grants for sustainability research will help MSU address its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and waste.

  • David MacFarlane (Forestry) will lead an inventory for assessing MSU greenhouse gas offsets potential from off-campus forests.
  • Susan Masten (Civil and Environmental Engineering) will lead a study to quantify water use on the MSU campus and prioritize upgrades and renovations.
  • Parviz Soroushian (Civil and Environmental Engineering) will lead a project on broader use of recycled mixed-color glass in concrete on the MSU campus.

The power broker: Funding an energy revolution
Popular Science

Arun Majumdar directs the Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy, or Arpa-E, a new federal entity that’s placing multimillion-dollar bets on corporations and university researchers such as Norbert Mueller (Mechanical Engineering), one of the world's foremost experts in thermal-fluid engineering, who are looking for new ways to generate, amplify and store energy.


Global trade brings in unwanted pest that threaten our nation's trees
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

invasive species, image courtesy of University Relations According to a study published in the December issue of BioScience, without better efforts to stop the transport of exotic forest insects into the United States and to control the devastating species that are already here, our forests, woodlands and urban trees are at serious risk, with economic losses projected to range in the billions of dollars…Deborah McCullough (Entomology) contributed to the study, which pointed to global trade as a vector for invasive species. “The people and companies importing the commodities that are bringing in the borers and other forest insects are not the ones paying the costs for the destruction,” McCullough notes. “It’s the municipalities, homeowners and regulatory agencies who foot the bill.”
The Washington Post had the story.


Green roofs are starting to sprout in American cities
Yale Environment 360

Long a proven technology in Europe, green roofs are becoming increasingly common in U.S. cities, with major initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Washington, D.C. “The biggest obstacle for many is the initial cost,” said Brad Rowe (Horticulture). More»

MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center earns LEED gold certification
University Relations

The MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center was recently recognized as the greenest building on campus. The building earned the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification, the second highest certification offered. The building has many green features, including rooftop solar panels; rainwater collection for toilets, urinals and power washers; and green glass mixed in the surrounding concrete. More»

Zipcar, image courtesy of University Relations MSU to begin car-share program to reduce single vehicle traffic
University Relations

In an effort to promote car pooling, commuting and increased use of mass transit, MSU has partnered with Zipcar to launch a pilot car-sharing program for the MSU community. The program will put six cars on campus and will officially launch in January. Zipcar is an alternative transportation option that provides cars that can be reserved by the hour or day. More»

MSU launches Brazil Partnership Program; Simmons pilots initial project
University Relations

Michigan State University, Federal University of Para and Federal University of Bahia have launched The Brazil Partnership Program. The program will focus on three areas: global development and bioeconomy; global environmental change; and human health and the environment. An initial project for The Brazil Partnership Program is Globalization: Socio-economic, Political and Environmental Interdependence, an education and research exchange led by Cynthia Simmons (Geography). The project earned nearly $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Education and Brazilian Ministry of Education. More»

MSU examines how packages operate in ER, OR environments
Packaging World,

Differences in the operating room and emergency room environments need to be considered in medical device package design. So do multiple factors that are seemingly unrelated, but lead to product waste. Those were two key “takeaways” noted by Laura Bix (Packaging), during a two-day event at MSU. More»

Where gravel is king
Leelanau Enterprise and Tribune

... Sand and gravel, crucial to economic development activities such as road building and concrete production, is in abundant supply in the township thanks to a "glacial out wash deposit" dating back 13,000 to 11,500 years ago, according to Grahame Larson (Geological Sciences) More»

More waste-reducing toilets to be installed
State News

As part of MSU’s continuous conservation efforts and initiatives to "Be Spartan Green," water-reducing toilets are appearing in many academic and residential buildings in an attempt to reduce costs related to water usage across campus, says Lynda Boomer MSU Physical Plant). More»

"Pseudovariety" and the beverage market
Boston Globe, Nashville Scene

map of drink conglomerates ...Behind that apparent diversity, however, a scant handful of companies overwhelmingly dominate the market, says Philip Howard (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies).
More of Howard's information graphics are available here. More»

Fred Poston: Striving to be Spartan green at MSU

Be Spartan Green!"Sustainability is the program for the moment or almost a fad at many universities, but we’ve taken a different approach," says Fred Poston(Vice President for Finance and Operations), who leads MSU’s sustainability initiatives. More»

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon: Being green is in our DNA

Lou Anna Simon, who helped bring programming like Greening of the Great Lakes to WJR, talks with Kirk Heinze about environmental issues in the state. More»

MSU student weed team claims victory at national conference
University Relations

Three MSU students took first place place in the graduate division of the Northeastern Weed Science Society Contest this summer. The students are Laura Bast, Alexander Lindsey, and Dan Tratt, all from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. The contest gives students a chance to apply what they have learned in four different tests: weed identification, herbicide identification, algebra-based herbicide distribution problems, and identifying a farmer’s problem by asking the farmer weed-related questions. Wes Everman (Crop and Soil Sciences), the group’s advisor, said that these real-life applications are what make the competition valuable. More»

New issue of Futures highlights “research to energize Michigan’s economic development”
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES)

The current issue of the MAES magazine showcases MSU research on urban agriculture, biofuels and the role of turfgrass in community redevelopment. ESPP affiliate Stephen Gasteyer (Sociology) is collaborating with Thom Nikolai (Crop and Soil Sciences) and others on a project in Flint to investigate the interaction between the ecological environment and social change. The group hopes to use lawns to build community capacity and help contribute to Flint’s economic recovery. More»

Ramani Narayan contributes to Coca-Cola’s award-winning PlantBottle
College of Engineering

Ramani Narayan (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science) collaborated on a project that recently received a Gold award in the annual DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation competition. The project, Coca-Cola’s new PlantBottle, uses a plastic comprised of up to 30 percent plant-based renewable material. More»

Fix proposed to keep insects away from solar panels
University Relations

Solar panels “Solar panels [create] ecological traps for many types of insect,” says Bruce Robertson (Kellogg Biological Station). Aquatic insects may deposit eggs on the panels thinking that they are water. Robertson and colleagues propose a solution in an article in Conservation Biology.
Discovery News had the story. More»

Powering cars with bugs: Scientist will use $1.7 million clean energy grant to harvest fuel from bacteria
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station

R. Mark Worden (Chemical Engineering) is part of a team tapped to exploit a bacterium’s potential ability to produce an alternative fuel for automobiles. The group will receive $1.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. More»

MSU earns ‘Recycler of the Year’ award from Michigan Recycling Coalition
University Relations

MSU Surplus Store The MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center received the Recycler of the Year award from the Michigan Recycling Coalition, one of the state’s top nonprofit groups working to advance resource-conservation issues. 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»


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.


With honey bee populations falling, agriculture industry should take note
Argus Press

honey beeMichigan's fruit and vegetable industry produces more than $2 billion a year, according to Zachary Huang (Entomology). And nearly 50 percent of that number is due to honey bee pollination — meaning honey bees are worth almost $1 billion per year in Michigan. ... More»

MSU includes LEED certification as part of an environmental initiative
Construction & Demolition Recycling

LEED certification attempting to add "environmental school" to its reputation with the addition of its new MSU Surplus Store & Recycling Center, which pursues numerous recycling-related efforts, including running a materials recovery facility. More»

Staff profile: Jennifer Battle, Office of Campus Sustainability
University Relations

Jennifer Battle, assistant director for the Office of Campus Sustainability, discusses how she's working to make MSU a model for sustainability. More»

Student Designs Sustainable Dress for Oscars
University Relations

The dress design of Jillian Granz (Apparel and Textile Design) will soon come to life on the red carpet at the 2010 Academy Awards when the wife of movie producer and director James Cameron wears Granz’s creation.

Suzy Amis Cameron chose Granz as the winner of her first annual “Red Carpet, Green Dress” contest. A worldwide dress and gown design competition, the event promoted sustainable design. More»

MSU Operations Continue to Green

The MSU Recycling Drop-off Center is now open 24/7, and accepting new items, including plastics #1-7. The center is on Green Way, near the intersection of Service Road and Farm Lane. Faculty, staff and students are welcome to bring recyclables to the center. Also, MSU Today highlights MSU’s “Dim Down,” an effort in support of the World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Hour. Members of the university community turned off electronic equipment for an hour. And, Greening of the Great Lakes features Vennie Gore (MSU residential and hospitality services) describing how MSU has ramped up its efforts to purchase locally-grown products for its huge food services operation


Michigan's high-speed train plan: On track or derailed?
Michigan Radio

high speed rail... Eva Kassens, assistant professor at Michigan State University, says the benefits of high speed rail go beyond getting quickly from here to there. "Our world is faced with a challenge of climate change...and faced with a challenge that transportation is one of the highest contributors of greenhouse gases which cause climate change," says Kassens, "We need to think about different ways of traveling." ... More»

MSU faculty, students at 'green economy' policy conference
University Relations

MSU’s deep involvement in environmental sustainability science and policy again was demonstrated in late January at a high-profile Washington, D.C., conference.

John Stone (MSU Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards) anchored a session devoted to sustainability policy and dominated by MSU experts. The session, “Public and Private Sustainability Policy: Is a Green Economy Sustainable and How Would One Know?,” featured MSU panelists Sandra Batie (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), Paul Thompson (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies; Philosophy; and Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), Chris Peterson (Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics), and Richard Bawden (Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies). More»

Go easy on the environment – and our wallets, says Gen Y
University Relations

When it comes to saving the environment, Generation Y is all for it – as long as it comes with an economic benefit, according to new research by MSU in collaboration with Deloitte LLP. Researchers found that young consumers will not pay a premium price for an automobile simply because it is environmentally friendly. Instead, the determining factor – by far – is fuel efficiency. Clay Voorhees (Marketing) said the findings indicate an eco-savvy generation that has grown up and is coming to grips with the economic reality of paying bills. More»

Dow donation to aid sustainable packaging research at MSU
University Relations

A gift of more than $120,000 in laboratory equipment from The Dow Chemical Co. will assist MSU in establishing a planned Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability on campus. The equipment will help researchers associated with the center to develop technologies for improving the environmental impact of product packaging and production processes. "We are very grateful to Dow for this donation of laboratory equipment," said Jeffrey Armstrong, dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "It provides the cutting-edge tools needed to advance critical work that will have global implications for improving packaging performance and sustainability." More»

MSU begins Green Certification Program
University Relations

Be Spartan GreenDepartments, programs and people at MSU now have the opportunity to be recognized for the work they do that helps reduce the university's environmental footprint. Units and on-campus students can earn green certification by completing an online form showing the steps they take to reduce MSU's impact on the environment through energy efficiency and conservation, waste reduction, water conservation and purchasing. 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»

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»

New MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center opens
University Relations

Solar panels atop MSU's new recycling facilityMichigan State University recently celebrated the opening of the $13 million facility, which will accommodate three times the amount of materials as the former MSU recycling facility. A comprehensive recycling program, coupled with the facility, will allow the university to expand recycling collection in 553 buildings on campus. “The facility emphasizes the reuse and recycling functions that are critical to keeping waste out of the landfill,” said Ruth Daoust, manager of the facility. More»

Greening of roofs gaining popularity in U.S.
Economic Times

Greening of roofs by having plants on them is gaining popularity in the U.S., where their numbers have increased by 30 percent from 2006 to 2007. Benefits include improved storm water management, energy conservation, reduced noise and air pollution, improved biodiversity, and even a better return on investment than traditional roofing. Kristin L. Getter, horticulturist at Michigan State University, conducted a study to determine the effect of the soil depth on success of green roofs. The research focussed on Sedum, a variety of succulents known for its drought tolerance. More»

Mark Hollis looks long term for sustainability in MSU athletics

Mark Hollis, director of intercollegiate athletics at Michigan State University, says he looks long term at sustainability in MSU athletics. "We've gone beyond recycling, which is great," says Hollis. "President Lou Ann K. Simon is driving an effort throughout campus that looks all aspects of the university where we can save dollars and have a positive impact on the environment." More»

Organic foods: Big companies swoop in to capitalize on lucrative market
Chicago Tribune

Phil Howard's organic food chart. Click to enlarge.For years, Michael Potter has gotten regular offers to buy his organic foods company near Ann Arbor, although now, he says, he gets three or four every week. "Every food company you have ever heard of has tried to buy this company," says the founder, chairperson and president of Eden Foods Inc. ... Philip Howard, professor at Michigan State University, has studied the organic industry's consolidation, and he is dismayed. Howard designed a chart that has become an oft-used reference tool on the issue. He says that consumers are frequently unaware of the corporate name behind an organic product — what he has come to call "stealth ownership."

Howard's charts are available here. More»

Companies faced with changing decades-old disposal method
Detroit Free Press

The companies that buy Michigan farmers' produce and turn it into dried, canned and frozen products have always sprayed their wastewater, year-round, on fields. It has been a relatively cheap, simple way to dispose of cherry cooling water, unusable fruit juice, cherry brine and waste from canning pie fillings. Now, they face having to change what they do. "We have to find new ways," says Steve Safferman, professor at Michigan State University studying ways to help processors do that. 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»

MSU Student Team Wins Third Place in A&WMA Environmental Challenge
GeoGreen Solutions

Building on a legacy of Spartan success, a student team from Michigan State University took third place in the Environmental Challenge International at the annual conference of the Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) in Detroit.

The competition lets students assume the role of consultants in preparing and presenting an optimal solution to a simulated but complex and realistic environmental problem.

This year’s competition required participants to design a municipal solid waste management plan to address the waste disposal and energy needs of a hypothetical college city, Moochville, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Students were required to submit their proposed management scheme addressing the economic, social and environmental aspects of the problem prior to the conference, where they presented a poster detailing their plan.

This was followed by a final presentation at the conference that required them to incorporate an added complication, or tweak, to the problem. The tweak to this year’s challenge was the treatment of mercury-contaminated fly ash from the college’s coal power plant.

Members of the MSU team, GeoGreen Solutions, were Becky Larson, Indumathy Jayamani, Ziqiang Yin, Biao Chang and Felix Yeboah. They proposed a waste reduction and recovery initiative and a mechanical biological treatment technology, which had an added advantage of generating energy from solid waste via anaerobic digestion. They committed hours to research and evaluation of available technologies and efforts to address all the facets of the complex environmental problem, and attributed their success to hard work.

The students said the experience expanded their knowledge of sustainable solid waste management options and the complexities associated with real-life designs, which may not have technical solutions. They also found the opportunity to work on a common problem with colleagues from other academic backgrounds and interests very rewarding, as it challenged them to re-examine their perspectives and approaches to complex societal problems.

The students are thankful to ESPP and the East Michigan Chapter of the A&WMA for the financial support that made their participation in the contest possible.


Nanocomposite developed at MSU could help automakers meet fuel efficiency standards
College of Engineering

Michigan State University researchers have developed a composite material modified with nanoparticles that is economical and could also help automakers meet the new fuel efficiency standards recently announced by President Barack Obama. The research was led by Lawrence T. Drzal, (Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), director of MSU's Composite Materials and Structures Center and chief scientist at XG Sciences Inc., a start-up company headquartered in East Lansing. More»

Graphic depictions of the seed industry

The seed industry's consolidation over the past decade or so has been so monumental and complex that it would be nearly impossible to describe in text. Luckily, Phil Howard, agriculture professor at Michigan State University, has assembled several graphical representations that give an idea not only of how the biggest companies have been gobbling up smaller ones, but also of how much "cooperation" there is among them. Image courtesy of Phil Howard.

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