Communications

Seminar: Overview of Environmental Philosophy & Ethics

J. Baird Callicott is a University Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and formerly Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Texas. He is co-Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy and author or editor of a score of books and author of dozens of journal articles, encyclopedia articles, and book chapters in environmental philosophy and ethics.

SESYNC, USDA Partner to Catalyze Data-Driven Research on Food Systems Resilience to Climate Change

  
Annapolis, Md — In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) announces the “Data to Motivate Synthesis” Program for early career scientists and researchers at the agriculture, environment, and social nexus to identify and understand the factors that influence food systems resilience to climate change.

SESYNC-NCEAS Mixer

For attendees of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) Annual Meeting:

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
and
The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)

invite you to the

Now You See It

June 24, 2014

Many researchers in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) are harnessing the power of “big data”—a popular term used to describe the massive amount of information that is acquired, stored, searched, shared, analyzed and visualized—in the quest for answers to some of the world’s most complex problems. Using the latest computational tools to extract the most important pieces of information from these huge data sets and applying sophisticated analytic techniques, researchers are discovering patterns and making unexpected connections in virtually every scientific discipline.

Director of Cyberinfrastructure Joseph JaJa, Postdoctoral Fellow Mary Collins, and SESYNC Scientific Programmer Ian Muñoz are featured in the June 2014 issue of Odyssey Magazine, published by CMNS at the University of Maryland.

Click here to read the story.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

Innovative Technology for Global Food Waste Solutions

June 19, 2014

From simple sun drying systems for produce to home appliances networked with food distributors, food scientist John Floros sees a major role for technology in reducing worldwide food waste.

by LISA PALMER
Science Communication Fellow

As much as one-third to one-half of the world’s food harvest is lost from field to plate every year, experts estimate. Food scientist John Floros wants to change those numbers—and he’s betting on a new food science and innovation center to help turn things around.

How ingenuity will feed the world.The new lab’s work will be critical to food security by preserving more and better quality food for the world’s growing population, says Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University and director of K-State Research and Extension. The new food center, called the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss, is housed at Kansas State University and coordinates with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Initially the new lab will focus on helping the countries of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana and Guatemala reduce their post-harvest losses and food waste for grain and oil seed crops, tuberous root crops, and peanut and legume crops. Researchers will investigate how to prevent insect pests and fungus when crops are stored as well as improved techniques for measurement, drying and storage.

Continue reading at FutureFood 2050.

Mapping the Landscape of Land Change Synthesis

June 12, 2014

by MELISSA ANDREYCHEK
Communications Coordinator

Much of what we know about how humans use land, and how those practices change over time, is informed by local case studies. But determining whether individual case studies are merely anecdotal—or if they can be scaled up to help explain regional or even global land use patterns—can be a challenge.

To reconcile local information with regional–global knowledge, researchers who study land change must also reconcile the diversity of disciplines involved in land change science. From urban economics to geophysics and ecology to geography, each brings with it disparate data types and research questions.

The research approach of synthesis—which “draws upon and distills many sources of data, ideas, explanations, and methods in order to accelerate knowledge production beyond that of less integrative approaches”—is especially useful in this context.

“People who study land use change are often dealing with both quantitative and qualitative data, due to the human component of the field,” said Dr. Nicholas Magliocca, computational research associate at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “If you’re trying to integrate, for example, satellite remote sensing imagery with farmer surveys, your synthesis techniques will necessarily vary from those used for highly-controlled and standardized field experiments.”

In a new study published in Regional Environmental Change, lead author Magliocca and co-authors map the landscape of synthesis within land change science, and identify specific techniques born of the land change community that are specifically designed to integrate these types of diverse data sets. The study tasks itself with helping researchers identify which synthesis methods are most appropriate for what they’re trying to do and what type of data they have—and, importantly, with identifying ways to improve upon these methods.

“Synthesis, and meta-studies in particular, are becoming a very popular approach within the land change community,” said Magliocca. “This paper highlights some of the more innovative approaches that enable us to link local observations with regional and global patterns. Considering both at the same time is pretty unique, and pretty powerful.”

Access the article online at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-014-0626-8

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, funded through a National Science Foundation grant to the University of Maryland, is a research center dedicated to solving complex problems at the intersection of human and ecological systems.

Top photo: Charles Tilford, Flickr/Creative Commons

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 

How Weeds Could Help Feed Billions in a Warming World

June 5, 2014

Scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere are conducting intensive experiments to cross hardy weeds with food crops such as rice and wheat. Their goal is to make these staples more resilient as higher temperatures, drought, and elevated CO2 levels pose new threats to the world’s food supply.

by LISA PALMER
Science Communication Fellow

Weeds that resemble knee-high grass grow in planter pots in a small room at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab just outside Washington, D.C. Light, heat, and carbon dioxide reach the plants at steady levels. For more than a month, the weeds have sustained the same conditions expected to be earth’s norm 35 years from now — carbon dioxide levels equivalent to an urban traffic jam, and temperatures tipping into the dangerous zone for the planet’s health.

But rather than choking from such treatment, the weeds — a wild plant called red rice — are thriving. The test lab mimics conditions expected around the world by 2050, when an additional 2.6 billion people will be wondering what’s for dinner.

Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, studies, among other things, weeds in food production and human health. Weeds beguile Ziska. Weeds may be the largest single limitation to global crop yield. But they also have traits that are useful to plant growth. Red rice, for instance, can adapt to more carbon dioxide and heat by producing more stems and grain — red rice has 80 to 90 percent more seed than cultivated rice.

Continue reading at Yale Environment 360.

New Study Provides First Global Look of World’s Water-Stressed Cities

  
Cities move 504 billion liters of water on a daily basis, enough to fill more than 200,000 Olympic-sized pools

As more people move to urban areas, cities around the world are experiencing increased water stress and looking for additional water supplies to support their continued grow.

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