MSU Faculty in the News Archive 2007
Granholm staking Michigan's future on alternative fuels
Right now, Michigan generates about 3 and a half percent of its power using renewable energy, most of it from hydro-electric dams in rivers and from scrap wood-burning generators. Gov. Jennifer Graholm's plan is to use requirements, called a renewable portfolio standard, to generate jobs and draw new fuel entrepreneurs to Michigan . ... Soji Adelaja, Michigan State University economist , says 24 states as well as Washington , D.C. have already enacted some type of energy mandates, and the field is starting to get crowded. "The economic impact could be tremendous as Michigan begins not only to capture the manufacturing side of the value added, which is a lot, but as Michigan begins to produce for other states, so the implications are quite significant," Adelaja says.
New owners restrict access to Upper Peninsula forests
Associated Press, Traverse City Record-Eagle, WSBT-TV (Mich.)
A cherished way of life may be changing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with new owners of vast forest tracts putting up fences and reducing public access long taken for granted, says a report issued Wednesday. Real estate trusts and investment companies are becoming the U.P.'s new land barons, having bought nearly 1.6 million acres in recent years. They see the forests as an investment rather than just a timber source for mills, says the report by a team of university researchers and environmental groups. ... Because of its remote location the U.P. is an unlikely candidate for heavy development, says Larry Leefers, Michigan State University forest economist.
The backlash against biofuels
Criticism of biofuels comes from several directions. Some critics argue that biofuels will demand more energy than they produce. Others think that biofuels will use up resources that would otherwise go to feeding people. ... Bruce Dale, chemical engineer at Michigan State University, argues that a net energy analysis is largely irrelevant because it ignores the fact that we value different energy carriers in different ways. For instance, it takes three megajoules of energy from coal to create one megajoule of energy from electricity. But electricity is useful to us in a way that heat from coal is not, so we're willing to pay the price. In the same way, we're willing to pay a price for liquid fuel that we can put in our tanks, Dale says.
MSU study: Alternative energy could be job creator for Michigan
Great Lakes IT Report
The economic impact of wind industry development as the result of Michigan adopting renewable portfolio standards would be significant says a new report released today by the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University. The report, titled "Projected Impacts of Renewable Portfolio Standards on Wind Industry Development in Michigan ," is the outgrowth of research led by Soji Adelaja, institute director and John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in Land Policy.
DEQ chief: Underfunding created crisis
How much does Michigan treasure its environment? Enough to spend only 0.4 percent of the state's $8 billion General Fund budget this year to protect it. ... Michigan has poorly invested in its natural resources, according to a November report from the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University. Author Soji Adelaja, MSU professor and institute director , found that Michigan ranks 27th in the nation in overall spending on nonagriculture-related conservation and environmental protection efforts.
Divorce isn't eco-friendly
Love not only makes the world go round, it may make it greener, too. Rising divorce rates mean that fewer people are living in each household, causing them to take up more space and consume more energy and water, a new study suggests. "People talk about divorce hurting the children. Divorce also has an impact on the environment," says Jianguo "Jack" Liu, senior author of the study and the Rachel Carson chair in sustainability at Michigan State University. "Nobody knew about it."
Shu-Guang Li, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, directs the Laboratory of Excellence for Realtime Computing and Multiscale Modeling. He has developed an integrated groundwater modeling and visualization software technology that has significantly enhanced Michigan's ability to manage its groundwater resources.
Dinosaur mummy found; has intact skin, tissue
Scientists today announced the discovery of an extraordinarily preserved "dinosaur mummy" with much of its tissues and bones still encased in an uncollapsed envelope of skin. Preliminary studies of the 67-million-year-old hadrosaur, named Dakota, are already altering theories of what the ancient creatures' skin looked like and how quickly they moved, project researchers say. ... Peggy Ostrom, a zoologist at Michigan State University who also studies ancient proteins for clues to how organisms are related to each other, commented only in general terms. "It's rare to find an articulated skeleton and even more so to find one with fossilized soft tissue," she says.
Law Enforcement and Science Join Forces at MSU's Environmental Crime Conference
Green Ink (ESPP's newsletter)
Criminologists and law enforcement officials came from all over the United States to share ideas with wildlife and environmental science professionals at MSU's conference on Environmental Crime and Natural Resources Sustainability in September. ESPP-affiliated faculty participating in the conference included Kelly Millenbah (Fisheries and Wildlife), Edmund McGarrell (Criminal Justice), and David Skole (Forestry).
Bad pet food may have killed nearly 350
More than 300 dogs and cats may have died earlier this year as a result of eating contaminated pet food, a survey released Thursday shows. The Michigan State University study showed the cause of death may have been related to melamine and cyanuric acid, two food contaminants that turned deadly when pet food manufacturers combined them. "When combined, they form crystals which can block the kidneys," says Wilson Rumbeiha, associate professor in Michigan State's Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health.
Green roofs growing in popularity, study finds
A Michigan State University study recently found that the area covered by green roofs increased 80 percent in 2006 compared to the year before. ... "In our studies on campus, green roofs retained 60 percent if all the rainwater that fell on them over a two-year period," says Brad Rowe, a study co-author, Michigan State horticulture professor and chairperson of the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Research Committee.
MSU food safety experts say Chinese imports need to improve
Medical News Today
Over recent months, a long list of consumer goods from China - everything from seafood to toothpaste to toys - have been the objects of recalls. And while some quality-control improvements are being made, a team of Michigan State University researchers just back from China say they still have a long way to go. "There are problems with a lack of trained staff to do the certifications, lack of training for producers and distributors and inadequate government oversight leading to misuse of labels," says Larry Busch, University Distinguished Professor of sociology and director of MSU's Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards.
Call us bottom feeder state
Grand Rapids Press
It probably comes as little surprise that Michigan has more Great Lakes water to manage than any other state. But how about being third for total coastline, fourth for wetland acres, 10th for state parks, 12th for inland lakes and 20th for forests? And yet, disturbingly, it ranks at the bottom for conservation spending, according to an eye-opening study released last week by the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University and Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy.
Here's the real buzz on honeybees
Detroit Free Press
Honeybees can't compete with cats and dogs in winning human hearts. But the fuzzy yellow-and-black striped insects are sure to show up on your favorite animals list after seeing "Bee Movie." ... A hive with 40,000 bees can act as one, communicating in ways scientists are just beginning to understand. "They are social animals, like humans," says Zachary Huang, MSU researcher.
CAFOs smell bad, and can threaten health
Detroit Free Press (opinion)
Most consumers don't know much about what they are consuming. "Your food is not innocent, and consumers should pay attention to their products, and if they care about their health, ask questions," says Laurie Thorp, director of the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment at Michigan State University. Most of our meat products come from farms called CAFOs, short for concentrated animal feeding operations. These farms keep animals packed together with barely any room to turn around.
Bioplastics makers work to grow their niche
Lansing State Journal
"Bioplastics" offer the world a way to wean itself off oil and most are biodegradable to varying degrees. But the "green" argument is complex and environmentalists are cautious in their support. ... That's important because some of the same science used to make biofuels is used to make chemicals - and plastics - from plant sources, says Steven Pueppke, director of MSU's Office of Biobased Technologies.
Africa's animal magnetism
Buffalo News (New York)
Drawn by the increasingly safe reputation of East Africa , plenty of non-celebrities have discovered safaris. This past summer, all 4,000 hotel and tented-camp rooms in Kenya ' s Masai Mara park reserve were booked, part of Kenya 's tourism boom of 1.6 million visitors per year. Demand is sparking even more development. ... Responsibly developed safari tourism can actually help Kenya and Tanzania's economies, says Kay Holekamp, professor of zoology at Michigan State University.
High Country News (Colo.)
Forest fires in the United States may release about as much mercury into the atmosphere as coal-burning power plants -- around 44 tons a year, with roughly 18 of those in the Western states -- say scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder , Colo. ... "Forests, particularly those with thick organic soils, do a really good job of storing the mercury we've been pumping out into the environment," says Merritt Turetsky, ecologist at Michigan State University.
Clorox acquires Burt's Bees
Chicago Tribune Web
Clorox, a company best known for making chlorine bleach, recently acquired Burt's Bees, the personal-care brand that was trying to revive the word "natural." ... The sale was inevitable once the venture capitalists bought 80 percent of Burt's Bees in 2003, says Phil Howard, assistant professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University, who has compiled fascinating research that looks at the structure of the organic industry (including private labels.)
High taxes can spur growth
Despite the controversy surrounding the state Legislature' s recent move to raise taxes, the higher levies can go a long way toward fueling economic growth -- if the money is invested wisely, says Igor Vojnovic, associate professor of geography at Michigan State University. Vojnovic 's new research shows that high-tax states and cities that invest in public infrastructure, education and social-service projects (such as New York , San Francisco and Boston ) are the best at attracting top corporations. No link available.
48 years later, bugs clear convicted murderer
A man who was convicted 48 years ago of the hideous rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl has finally been exonerated, but it took a few hundred flies and the young science of forensic entomology to win his freedom. Last month the court quashed the conviction, labeling it a "miscarriage of justice." The ruling wasn't a surprise to entomologist Richard Merritt of Michigan State University, one of a dozen certified forensic entomologists in the United States , whose testimony in the trial was critical. The proof, Merritt argued during a rigorous seven hours testifying, was provided by the flies that would have landed on the young girl's body within minutes of her death.
Thousands embrace splendor of Cranefest
Grand Rapids Press
Pam Rasmussen knows that a trip to the Baker Sanctuary in October is likely to yield a magical day for her zoology students. It's not often they get to see one of the planet's oldest living bird species up close. ... On late October weekends as many as 6,000 greater sandhill cranes come to roost in the evening on the sanctuary marsh. "It's one of the highlights of the year," says Rasmussen, assistant zoology professor at Michigan State University . It's an overwhelming sight and spectacular to watch."
Researchers try to control sleeping sickness in Africa
Associated Press (Colorado)
Michigan State University researchers are beginning a new study on the fatal sleeping sickness, or trypanosomiasis, in Kenya in order to develop a new model to predict when and where the next outbreak will occur. Sleeping sickness is caused by the tsetse fly found in certain regions of Africa . The tsetse fly is parasitic and feeds off of blood from vertebrae, people and animals alike. When the insect takes a bite to feed, it injects parasites into the lymphatic system; the parasites then pass into the bloodstream. ... The MSU study will be a four-year project and will analyze climate change in Kenya , how land is used in Kenya and where the tsetse fly is located. The study will be led by Joseph Messina, associate professor of geography at MSU.
Endowment of $1.4 million in gifts and pledges received by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
The Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University has received a $1.4 million endowment from the Boone and Crockett Club to further research in order to promote wildlife conservation. With the endowment, MSU becomes the third school with this distinction, says William Taylor, chairperson of the department.
Researchers battle African 'sleeping sickness'
A team of MSU researchers will attempt to identify future hotspots of "sleeping sickness" in Kenya by developing a new model that ultimately could be used to predict the path of other diseases.
NSF awards 12 grants for research on coupled natural and human systems
National Science Foundation
To better understand the interactions between humans and their environment, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 12 grants to scientists, engineers and educators across the country to study coupled natural and human systems. Research conducted through NSF's Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program, in its first year as a multidirectorate program, will provide a better understanding of natural processes and cycles, human behavior and decisions, and how they interact. ... Another CNH project will address the effects of cross-boundary processes on human-nature dynamics in China 's Wolong Nature Reserve for giant pandas. Scientist Jianguo (Jack) Liu of Michigan State University and colleagues hope to shed light on that interaction through their CNH award.
Adult stem cells lack key marker
A transcription factor thought to be a marker of pluripotency in both embryonic and adult stem cells is not involved in adult stem cell regulation, according to a study published this week in Cell Stem Cell. ... Some researchers aren't convinced, however. Michigan State University's James Trosko , who studies the role of adult stem cells in cancer, noted that a small number of stem cells could have escaped disruption by the cre-lox system and introduction of fluorescent protein.
Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at MSU and an international expert in water microbiology, water quality and public health safety. Rose discusses a myriad of water issues facing the Great Lakes and the entire world's water system.
Nanotech biosensor developed for multipathogen detection
Food Production Daily (Europe)
A prototype nanotechnology-engineered biosensor could help processors detect multiple pathogens faster and more accurately than current devices. The device, which was developed by scientists Yang Liu, Shantanu Chakrabartty and Evangelyn Alocilja at Michigan State University , can also measure the amount of pathogen contamination on a particular food or machine, giving processors more data to determine the extent of a problem.
Tech tour day nine: On the shores of the Red Cedar, tech rules
Grate Lakes IT Report
At a place the size of Michigan State University , it's hard to know where to begin to talk about the university's technology and tech transfer efforts. The first stop on the tour began with Bruce Dale , professor of chemical engineering and associate director of MSU's still relatively new Office of Bio-based Technologies . Dale has been researching cellulosic ethanol for 30 years ? long before it was a hot field.
$160,000 in grants to fuel Boys, Girls Club program
Lansing State Journal
The Boys and Girls Club of Lansing today will receive $160,000 in grants to continue its summer pilot program that allowed kids ages 11 to 14 to study the urban climate phenomenon and learn to use research technologies. The Green Energy Technology City program was designed to help students "learn the advanced (information technology) skills that are in demand in the workplace but not necessarily taught in school that will open up college opportunities and careers for kids," says Angela Calabrese Barton, education professor at Michigan State University.
Battling Lake Huron beach muck
Like something from a bad horror movie, beach muck - dying algae blooms mixed with sand - has mysteriously befouled the beaches of Saginaw Bay for the past few years, driving away tourists from villages such as Port Austin and Caseville and prompting cottagers to worry about property values. ... A report this year by Joan Rose, MSU microbiologist, found that the problem may be increasing as discharges of sewage and septic tanks rise.
Michiganders must pull weeds together
Detroit Free Press
Michigan is home to more than 900 nonnative plants, but most are harmless. However, the state's 100 or so invasives can suffocate native plants and other living things in their paths. Virtually every Michigander with land has invasive plants. "Dandelion is probably the most recognizable. But, more seriously, garlic mustard, hedge parsley, reed canarygrass," says Doug Landis, professor of entomology at Michigan State University.
Rural governments forced to grow up fast when developers come knocking
TIme Herald (Mich.)
Rural governments forced to grow up fast when developers come knocking
As urban sprawl continues to infringe more and more on what used to be fields of crops and tight-knit communities, many of those job roles and how daily business is handled is changing. ... In many cases, developers emerge who are "bigger than the township" or community, says Rex Lamore, director of the Center for Community and Economic Development Program at Michigan State University.
MSU prof: Climate change is drawing closer
Lansing STate Journal
Rising global temperatures begin to thaw the Earth's permafrost, the slabs of frozen soil that cover much of the northern latitudes, causing changes that release greenhouse gases that have been trapped in ice for hundreds if not thousands of years. ... Merritt Turetsky, Michigan State University professor of plant biology , has found a glimmer of hope in the Canadian peatlands, the southernmost areas where permafrost is found.
Dog attack: Families left to ask why
Detroit Free Press
Three people have been killed by dogs in two days in metro Detroit . In the latest attack, the owner didn't have a permit to house the dogs, Livingston County officials say. ... Linda Kalof, Michigan State University sociology professor , who has written books on the culture and behavior of animals, said dogs run in packs because they are social animals. "Perhaps they're trying to negotiate status or following a large member of the pack."
Mystery bugs still unidentified
Spinal Column Online (Mich.)
While some studying of an unknown insect found in innumerable amounts throughout the lakes area a few weeks back has led one researcher to believe the bugs come from the same family as wasps, another says he believes the bugs are midges. Rich Merritt, chair of Michigan State University's entomology department , drew an initial conclusion from a photo sample he received. "My first suspicion would be that they're non-biting midges, from the family chironomidae," he says. "I don't know for sure -- I'll be receiving some samples -- but that's my first guess, and it's probably correct."
Marrying natural and social sciences for Mother Earth's sake
No one says marriage is easy - but an international group of 16 natural scientists and social scientists, including three from Michigan State University, are saying the wedding of natural sciences and social sciences is called for. For the first time, a paper published in the Sept. 14 edition of the journal Science synthesizes complex characteristics when humans and natural systems couple up, using six case studies from around the world. To understand the complex world and for good science to transform to good policy, specialization must ease up, according to the paper "Complexity of Coupled Human and Natural Systems."
Scientists see evidence climate is warming
Ludington Daily News
According to climate predictions from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Michigan ' s average summer temperature will increase by 7 to 13 degrees. Winter temperatures are projected to increase 5 to 10 degrees. ... "Starting with the past -- which we know the most about -- in Michigan , the trends bear some similarities to some trends we've been seeing globally," says Jeff Andresen, assistant professor of geography at Michigan State University .
4 institutions honored for sustainability efforts
Chronicle of Higher Education
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education handed out its annual Campus Sustainability Leadership Awards this morning at its conference at Ball State University . Among the several recipients was Michigan State University . Michigan State was lauded for making environmental stewardship a major component of its campus vision."
Web site for wildlife habitat management formed
Lansing State Journal
Have you ever wondered where the habitat for a particular wildlife species in Michigan is located? The answers to questions like this are now available on the new Gap Analysis Program Web site (www.fw.msu.edu/gap), which is dedicated to providing information on wildlife habitats to Michigan citizens. The comprehensive site, the result of a three-year collaborative project between Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, features downloadable habitat maps for wildlife species that inhabit Michigan, as well as land cover and land stewardship maps. Brian Maurer, associate professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and project co-director , says the primary purpose of the Michigan GAP is to provide a broad geographic assessment on the status of available habitat for all vertebrate species in the state, not just those that are threatened with extinction or naturally rare.
Whole foods CEO sows wild oats
The Aug. 16 federal district court ruling allowed Whole Foods Market to acquire Wild Oats Market ? which withstood appeal the following week ? should come as no surprise. ... Phil Howard, assistant professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies at Michigan State University , argues that while "Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has gotten people to do their education about what organic means, it's still much better to shop at cooperative and independent food stores."
Oil shale to the rescue?
We're facing an oil crisis. Biofuels and hybrids will not save us in time. But oil shale might. The difficult truth is that neither biofuels nor hybrids will reduce our dependence on Persian Gulf crude anytime soon. ... Perhaps, in the future, more advanced cellulosic ethanol technologies will mature to a point where they will be cost competitive with gasoline. Perhaps then, switchgrass and miscanthus, which have much higher yields than corn, will become the dominant biofuel feedstocks. When that happens, perhaps, as Bruce E. Dale of Michigan State University speculates, under the most optimistic case scenario, the United States could replace 85 percent of its current gasoline consumption by converting 100 million acres of land to cellulose production.
Tests show evidence of human sewage along shoreline at state park
Bay City Times
Bacteria in muck washing up at the Bay City State Recreation Area come from human sewage, a scientist says. Joan Rose, Michigan State University water microbiologist , says DNA tests of muck samples taken at the park's public beach in Bangor Township show evidence that enterococci bacteria in the muck are from human sewage.
Weed-eating bug fights invasive purple loosestrife on Mona Lake
A weed-eating beetle is showing success in rolling back the spread of an attractive but destructive invasive weed that has been driving out native species across North America, local officials say. ... Galerucella beetles are controlling loosestrife at hundreds of sites around the state, says Doug Landis, insect expert at Michigan State University .
Companies are making a bottom-line push for environmentally friendly packaging
Lansing State Journal
Companies for years have tried to whittle down the packaging of their goods. ..."They're looking at doing it for environmental reasons, for increasing sustainability," says Sue Selke , acting director of Michigan State University's School of Packaging , whose nearly 650 students are among those working on better boxes, bottles and wrappings. "There's motivation even if it doesn't necessarily save costs."
Griffin: American snouts make first visit
Midland Daily News (Mich.)
The Chippewa Nature Center this year found its first American snout -- nine of them. Senior naturalist Janea Little says the American snout is "well-named for the long palps (appendages) on the front of the head that makes it look like someone stretched its 'nose' Pinocchio-style." ... Michigan State University insect scientists have created new resources for conserving native bees, and for using natural enemies to control pest species such as aphids, thrips, caterpillars and beetles that can destroy crops and landscape plants. "Entomologists have long recognized natural enemies and pollinators as essential parts of every growing ecosystem," says MSU entomology professor Doug Landis.
Opposition to ethanol growing
Metro Times Detroit (editorial)
As Michigan rushes ahead to build new plants that will turn corn into fuel for our cars, trucks and SUVs, an unusual assortment of opponents is trying to douse what critics call a "frenzy" for this alternative to gasoline. It's a national trend, and Michigan is part of it. ... Part of the controversy revolves around how the debate is being framed, which largely focuses on the issue of ethanol versus gasoline. On one side you have such scientists as professor Bruce Dale, associate director of Michigan State University 's Office of Bio-based Technologies. Dale, who has devoted his career to developing renewable sources of energy, says many of ethanol's critics are missing the point.
Great Lakes Wiki Earns National Recognition
Great Lakes Wiki
A Michigan State University experiment in environmental reporting is among the projects recognized Aug. 8, 2007 in a national competition of cutting-edge journalism. Of 133 entries, only 10 were honored. Judges of the Knight-Batten Awards recognized MSU's GreatLakesWiki.org "for collecting information as broad and deep as the Great Lakes it covers." The contest spotlights the creative use of new information ideas and technologies that involve citizens in public issues.
Climate change and permafrost thaw alter greenhouse gas emissions in northern wetlands
Permafrost -- the perpetually frozen foundation of the north - isn't so permanent anymore, and scientists are scrambling to understand the pros and cons when terra firma goes soft. ... Permafrost serves like a platform underneath vast expanses of northern forests and wetlands that are rooted, literally, in melting permafrost in many northern ecosystems. But rising atmospheric temperatures are accelerating rates of permafrost thaw in northern regions, says MSU researcher Merritt Turetsky.
Oahu sinkholes yield extinct birds
Honolulu Advertiser (Hawaii)
The baking sun and thorny kiawe trees of Kapolei hide dense caches of history, relics from a time when the 'Ewa Plain' was a dense forest alive with strange birds now long extinct. ... Michigan State University zoology professor Peggy Ostrom is conducting studies to help answer some of the questions. She says she and her students will attempt to extract proteins from fossils for radio-carbon dating, and to analyze material in the bones to gain information about what the birds ate.
State 's sputtering economy may get jump start from a biofuel boom
Michigan State University has received $125 million in federal funding to establish the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center with the University of Wisconsin . With oil prices hitting $70 a barrel and fears growing about relying on oil from volatile areas of the world, more than ever before biofuels are becoming a mainstream reality, says Bruce Dale, associate director of MSU's Office of Biobased Technologies....
Spend millions, make millions
In an age of fewer high-paying auto jobs, tourism industry authorities told members of the House Republican Michigan Tourism Task Force that tourism has the potential of bringing an economic windfall of jobs and dollars ... "The pie is getting bigger and bigger rapidly," says Donald F. Holecek, director of the Michigan State University Travel, Tourism and Recreation Resource Center....
Professor breaks down methane digesters
Huron Daily Tribune (Bad Axe)
Michigan State University's Steve Safferman said he's never given a lecture on a Friday night. But the associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering broke precedent last week when he came to Bad Axe High School Friday evening to discuss methane digesters, which offer a way to dispose of animal waste. ...Safferman said methane digesters change the carbon content of manure to methane. " The digester would filter manure back into the environment, " he said. "And essentially ... you ' re turning waste into resource."
'Geotourism' fights tourist-trap travel
Associated Press, Forbes, and other media outlets
Different destinations make for very different summer vacations, but they have something in common: Any destination could be considered "geotourism," a relatively new term for travel that focuses on a destination's unique culture and history and aims to have visitors help enrich those qualities ? rather than turn the place into a typical tourist trap. ... "So it's not all the Wal-Marts and McDonalds that they aspire to. It gives them a sense of pride in who they are and what they do," says Don Holecek, professor of tourism at Michigan State University and director of the university's Tourism Center...
Don't feed the muck makers
Detroit Free Press
Along Saginaw Bay, they just call it "muck," and they've dealt with it on some beaches for decades. ... Swimmers can step off two floating docks that get them into the water without wading through muck. And while it's unpleasant, it's not clear that it's dangerous. E. coli readings generally have about the same range as raw meat -- suggesting a good washing with soap should follow contact with it, says Joan Rose, Michigan State University professor who is testing the muck...
Watching a thousand generations
Deccan Herald (India)
In a corner of a laboratory at Michigan State University , one of the longest-running experiments in evolution is quietly unfolding. A dozen flasks of sugary broth swirl on a gently rocking table. Each is home to hundreds of millions of E. coli, the common gut microbe. These 12 lines of bacteria have been reproducing since 1989, when biologist Richard E. Lenski bred them from a single E. coli. "I originally thought it might go a couple thousand generations, but it's kept going and stayed interesting," Lenski says. He is up to 40,000 generations now, and counting....
Charting greed for all things green
Humans are leaving a heavy mark on Earth, but it's not just climate change. A new study shows that in addition to over-fishing and other resource extraction, humans are also hogging nearly a quarter of the planet's yearly production of plant life. ? The analysis showed that in 2000, humans used up to 23.8 percent of that year's biomass production. Nathan Moore, an earth scientist at Michigan State University , says that the team's analysis is "sound" and its results are "quite alarming." ....
Ethanol study could create thousands of jobs
Michigan will get at least 100 new jobs -- with the potential for thousands more -- as a result of $50 million in federal ethanol research money Michigan State University was awarded Tuesday...
MSU faculty earn University Distinguished Professor title
Ten MSU professors have been named University Distinguished Professors in recognition of their achievements in the classroom, laboratory and community. ESPP affiliate William Taylor (Fisheries and Wildlife) was among them..
Beetles' passion for purple is a lure
Lansing State Journal
At least 15 purple boxes dot the wooded portions of Washington Park in South Lansing, where more than 100 ash trees are marked for removal because of ash borer infestation. Researchers at Michigan State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are using the traps to collect the ash borer for study. The beetles are attracted to the color purple as well as chemicals emitted by stressed ash trees. Researchers are using that information to their advantage, looking for a way to lure the borer out of the trees and onto their traps. "We're not as good as a stressed ash tree," says Deborah McCullough, lead researcher for the MSU project...
Study: Escaping prey may harm species
Associated Press, Washington Post, Forbes, New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Post, International Herald Tribune, ABC News, CBS News, Lansing State Journal, WLNS-TV, WOOD-TV, WUSA-TV and others
Fish, amphibians and even tiny zooplankton do many things to escape hungry enemies, from finding new homes to changing their physical characteristics. Such tactics may save individual lives but in the long run may leave the population at large worse off, Michigan State University scientists say. "When you introduce a predator into a system ... the potential prey don't sit around and say, "eat me,"" says MSU fisheries biologist Scott Peacor...
Big organics in little, eco-unfriendly packages
Utne Reader Online
The organic bandwagon has become derailed as behemoths like Cargill, Kraft, ConAgra and Coca-Cola all climbed aboard. ... To help navigate the dubious Web of organic labels, Philip H. Howard, assistant professor at Michigan State University, has outlined several diagrams of the organic industry and gives new meaning to the phrase "buyers beware."...
Beyond Google: Geospatial Information Support team @ Remote Sensing and GIS Research and Outreach Services Helps Illustrate Results
Millions of people access user-generated services such as Google Maps to find everything from restaurants to auto dealers nearby. This service is created through geographic information system technology (GIS), a system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth....
Ethanol 2012 study: facing the future
A multi-client study titled Ethanol 2012 is designed to define the key forces that will impact the U.S. ethanol industry during the next five years and to develop appropriate competitive strategies. ... Bruce Dale of Michigan State University is one of the experts that will address the gap that exists between the agricultural and petroleum sectors in an effective manner for the first time....
Protect Michigan 's greatest assets
Detroit Free Press (opinion)
Plenty of words have been uttered and proposals offered in the debate over reviving Michigan 's economy. But as summer arrives and millions of us head to beaches, lakes and forests, we'll be looking in the eye the economic asset that almost no one in Lansing is talking about: our natural resources. ... So how are we doing in natural resource investments? According to a recent study commissioned by Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy and the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University, not well enough -- by a long shot. Michigan is ranked 47th out of the lower 48 states in per capita spending on natural resource and environmental protection....
Local beekeepers say bee disorder isn't serious problem in Michigan
Ann Arbor News
Though media reports are full of news about colony collapse disorder, in which bees fly off and never come back, that phenomenon isn't a serious problem in Michigan , says Zachary Huang, apiary expert and professor at Michigan State University . The collapsing colony disorder is seen mostly in warmer climates and in bees transported to farms -- sometimes across the country -- to pollinate crops, says Huang. ...
MSU professors spearhead international water project
Two MSU professors, Volodymyr Tarabara and Tom Voice, are leading an ambitious project to purify the world's waters...
Scientists concerned about effects of global warming on infectious diseases
Science Daily, USA Today, Toronto Star, Earthtimes.org
As the Earth's temperatures continue to rise, we can expect a significant change in infectious disease patterns around the globe. Just exactly what those changes will be remain unclear, but scientists agree they will not be for the good. ... Extreme weather events will also lead to more disease, unless we are prepared. As the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events change, water supplies become more at risk, according Joan Rose of Michigan State University...
Early blossoming for crops a blessing and curse
Romeo Observer (Mich.)
Due to the recent abnormal weather conditions, crop growers are experiencing early blooms with their agriculture, and from what they are forecasting, it will be a bountiful harvest. ... Jeff Andresen, associate professor from Michigan State University's Department of Geography , says "the warm up is occurring earlier with time, and with the above normal precipitation we had last fall, the moisture in the soil becomes a significant source of water for plants."...
A sticky situation: Honeybee deaths could mean higher prices, more competition for Michigan farmers
Detroit Free Press
The devastating disorder that has claimed a quarter of the 2.4 million honeybee hives nationwide hasn't hit Michigan , but researchers say it will continue to spread across the country. ... In Michigan , honeybee-pollinated crops are valued at $290 million annually. Other products like honey and beeswax generate an additional $5.7 million, says Zachary Huang, a Michigan State University entomologist who studies honeybees and is among the scientists searching for the cause of colony collapse disorder...
MSU student documentary examines research that sparked environmental movement
The groundbreaking work of former MSU ornithologist, George Wallace, which linked the deaths of birds to pesticide use, is the subject of a new student documentary and the first in a series, titled "Environment," produced by the MSU Knight Center for Environmental Journalism...
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
Twenty percent of the world's fresh surface water resides in the Great Lakes. Evidence suggests a dangerous rise in temperature is occurring at a global scale. Michigan and the surrounding region hold a valuable role in this crisis...
Pfizer donates Holland building to MSU for bioeconomy research
Lansing State Journal
Michigan State University plans to turn an idled Pfizer Inc. research facility in Holland into a new bioeconomy research center and business incubator. Under the deal, which must be approved by the MSU Board of Trustees, New York-based drugmaker Pfizer would donate the three-story, 138,000-square-foot building to the university...
Weather, Water and Trees Highlighted in Latest MichiganScience Magazine
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
he new issue of MichiganScience magazine marks the arrival of spring with articles about the outdoors - our state's trees, our lakes and our climate...
Creating corn for cars
A new variety of corn developed and patented by Michigan State University scientists could turn corn leaves and stalks into products that are just as valuable as the golden kernels. Right now, most U.S. ethanol is made from corn kernels. This is because breaking down the cellulose in corn leaves and stalks into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol is difficult and expensive...
Fuel from fiber: Pretreatment can put corn stalks, trees in your car's tank
"Put a tree in your tank." Fuel companies aren't touting that slogan. At least not yet. But thanks to research done in part by Bruce Dale, Michigan State University professor of chemical engineering and materials science, making fuels from poplar trees and corn stalks is becoming more efficient and cost-effective...
Family farms under pressure: Preservation funds scarce for agricultural families
South Bend Tribune
Michigan has near 10 million acres of farmland and faces an annual loss of about 60,000 acres, according to a Michigan State University report. ... Recognizing the state's inability to protect all its farmland, researchers at the MSU Land Policy Center have proposed several ways to deal with the problem. "We want to be as strategic as possible, given the fact that the state doesn't have much money," says Mary Beth Lake, associate director of the Land Policy Center. ...
Experts say avoid Saginaw Bay muck
Associated Press, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Fox News
Scientists and health officials are warning people to avoid muck along Saginaw Bay beaches, saying it contains bacteria levels more than three times the amount that make a beach off-limits to swimmers. Joan Rose, Michigan State University water microbiologist, leads a science committee studying the dead algae....
Pileus Project focuses on agriculture
Michigan Farm Radio Network
The Pileus Project at Michigan State studies the trend climate or weather sensitive industries experience in the state. Currently the researchers are focused on one of Michigan 's leading industries, agriculture...
Food lovers taking their time
A 75-member Ann Arbor-based group, Slow Food Huron Valley, is helping people learn about the food they eat and to identify local producers and specialty crops. Mike Hamm, agriculture professor at Michigan State University whose scholarly work focuses on local connections between farmers and consumers, says buying food from producers within the state helps Michigan's economy, which has been hurt in recent years by plant closings and layoffs in the automotive industry.
New mid-Michigan facility to provide worker training for biobased economy
Mid-Michigan students and workers will soon be training locally to compete for jobs in the growing Michigan bioeconomy. With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant to the Mid-Michigan Innovation Team, Michigan State University intends to open the training facility in midsummer, using licensed space at a Webberville site operated by the Michigan Brewing Co....
Scientists protest new reading of ESA
Associated Press, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Times, Houston Chronicle, International Business Times and others
More than three dozen scientists have signed a letter to protest a new Bush administration interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, saying it jeopardizes animals such as wolves and grizzly bears. ... The new policy would give the department an excuse to avoid adding new species to the list, increasing the likelihood of extinctions, says Michael Nelson, environmental ethicist at Michigan State University.
MSU working to help local officials set wind energy policy
As interest in generating wind energy increases across Michigan, so does the need for local officials to establish policies for windmill sitting. In response, the Michigan State University Land Policy Institute and MSU Extension have released a new bulletin on land use guidelines for installing wind energy systems.
Shades of Gray: Climate Change's Mixed Effects on the Tourism Industry
Green Ink (ESPP's newsletter)
When people think of climate change's consequences, they generally have negative expectations: life- threatening heat waves, droughts and wildfires, more frequent storms, rising sea levels and the accelerated extinction of species. But when it comes to the effects of climate change, the issue isn't just black and white.
According to Dr. Robert Richardson, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation, and Resource Studies (CARRS), climate change can present positive opportunities as well, especially in the tourism industry.
Muck meeting to focus on health risks
Huron Daily Tribune (Mich.)
Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative's Science Committee is hosting a public forum Wednesday to provide an opportunity for attendees to learn more about the potential human health risks presented by muck. ... Joan Rose from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, and Christine Alexander from the Dept. of Environmental Quality, will provide an overview of the draft report of the Science Committee.
Easy to swallow?
When the U.S. Agriculture Department's organic standards took effect in 2002, something happened. Big business got very interested. "That's when it was confirmed this (organic food) wasn't a fad," says Philip H. Howard, Michigan State University assistant professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies.
Are climate changes headed here? A rise of a few degrees could have big impact on tourism, agriculture, state climatologist says
Climate changes are global. But their effects will be felt locally. And if the changes scientists foresee are borne out, Southwestern Michigan will become ... well, Tennessee. If current global warming trends continue, average temperatures could rise between four degrees and seven degrees by the end of this century, leaving the climate of the state resembling that currently seen in the Tennessee Valley, says Jeff Andresen, state climatologist and a professor at Michigan State University.
Breaking the fast food habit
Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, South Bend Tribune, WOOD-TV
Paul Landeck is among a growing number of people who are embracing the slow food movement, which is less about the speed with which a meal is served and more about preserving and celebrating a region's agricultural diversity and culinary heritage. ... Mike Hamm, an agriculture professor at Michigan State University whose scholarly work focuses on local connections between farmers and consumers, says buying food from producers within the state helps Michigan's sagging economy, which has been hurt in recent years by plant closings and layoffs in the automotive industry.
Bee crisis may drive up food costs
U.S. News & World Report
Late last year, beekeepers across the country began reporting that their honeybees were not returning to their hives, as they usually do. Economists are looking into the impact of the honeybee disappearance on the country's food prices. "It's extremely important they have honeybees available," says Suzanne Thornsbury, assistant professor of agricultural economics at Michigan State University.
The Future of Plastic Packages
The Environment Report
Recyclers say they hear all the time from people who want to recycle more of the plastic containers they get from the store. But it's not easy. In many places, bottles are the only plastic packaging that's accepted for recycling. Rebecca Williams reports some people are looking for ways to give plastic packaging a new life...
ESPP Specialization Student Winner of Detroit Press Club Award
Congratulations to ESPP specialization student Richard Grogan on his 2007 Michigan Excellence in Journalism award from the Detroit Press Club Foundation. Grogan won first place in the Student Expression of Opinion category for an essay he wrote entitled "Life and Times of a Biodieseler," which chronicled his experiences as an owner of a biodiesel-fueled vehicle.
ESPP Students Win Honorable Mention in AAAS Student Poster Competition
Congratulations to ESPP doctoral students David Bidwell and his co-author Rachael Shwom who recently received an honorable mention in the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Student Poster Competition. Their poster, entitled "Deliberation Lite: How Does Feedback Influence Public Climate Change Policy Support?" was presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting held in February.
Does Fair Trade Coffee Work?
The Environment Report
Coffee beans can be pretty confusing these days. At times it can seem like a political, even a moral decision. You might want to buy those pricey specialty beans, but now the supermarket also carries beans labeled Fair Trade Certified. That might seem like the nicer thing to do for the farm workers - and the environment. Julie Grant takes a look at those claims...
Knowledge is Power: ESPP Student Educates the Next Generation on Climate Change
Climate change is happening right now. But though some people are already being affected by climate change, those currently in grade school will be most affected in the future... Sara Parr, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Crops and Soil Sciences and ESPP specialization student, is one of eight fellows at Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) participating in a project designed to help arm students with the tools and knowledge they will need to make informed decisions about climate change.
Report Calls For Global Metagenome Project
CBC News (Canada)
A global project on the study of metagenomes is needed to harness the vast potential of this emerging field, a new report from the U.S. National Research Council says. Metagenomics, also known to as "community genomics" or "environmental genomics," is the sequencing and analysis of DNA of micro-organisms recovered from an environment, not cultured in a laboratory.
Animal Studies at Michigan State
In response to the growing concern for animals that is sweeping both academia and applied settings, Michigan State University has implemented several programs and courses in the area of human-animal relationships in order to become a leader in the emerging field of animal studies. Linda Kalof (Sociology) is a leader of this initiative.
ESPP Student Wins National Science Foundation Grant
Stephen Aldrich, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and the Environmental Science and Policy Program, recently received a dissertation improvement grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF is an independent federal agency created to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.
Expert at MSU looks at change in climate
Lansing State Journal
Tom Dietz has no doubts the Earth's climate is changing and that human beings are causing it. "Anybody who, at this point, is denying that climate change is caused by human activities either doesn't understand the science or is being disingenuous," he said. "There is an overwhelming consensus on that topic."
ESPP Faculty Member Named Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar
Michigan State University faculty member Dr. Sabrina McCormick was recently named a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar. The scholar program is designed to build the nation's capacity for research, leadership and action to address the broad range of factors affecting the health of populations. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards made to young researchers in the health sciences.
Green roofs: Building for the future
An increasing number of buildings are swapping shingles for sedums. The movement is called green roofing, but far from an industrial paint job, it evolves around technology that's ecologically sound and proving very useful. ... Green roofs retain or absorb rainwater much like a sponge, slowing its flow, according to Brad Rowe, associate professor of horticulture at Michigan State University.
Old food meets new technologies, leaves food for thought
There are big changes driven by small forces in two of the oldest industries of the U.S. economy - agriculture and agricultural production. From fields to grocery store shelves, nanotechnology - technology that allows the control of unique, sub-molecular properties of matter - is revolutionizing the way food is produced, packaged and distributed, leaving many grappling with nanotechnology's numerous implications.
Susan Selke (Packaging) and John Stone (Sociology) are among a group of experts who will address questions surrounding the union of agriculture and nanotech during today’s symposium, “What is Agrifood Technology?: Technical, Ethical, Legal and Social Questions,” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.
Research finds population, consumption drive global climate change
MSU News Bulletin
A new study by an MSU researcher and his colleagues pinpoints causes of a recent finding by a working group of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change that global climate warming is due to human activities...
Yale debates rainforest road-building
Robert Walker, geography professor at Michigan State University , discusses with WNPR's Nancy Cohen, the costs and benefits of road-building in the Amazon rainforest - the largest tropical forest in the world.
U.S. has more science smarts, for the most part
People in the United States know more about basic science today than they did two decades ago, good news that researchers say is tempered by an unsettling growth in the belief in pseudoscience such as astrology and visits by extraterrestrial aliens. In 1988 only about 10 percent knew enough about science to understand reports in major newspapers, a figure that grew to 28 percent by 2005, according to Jon D. Miller, a Michigan State University professor.
Ethanol production requires careful management
When it comes to ethanol, it's not easy being greener. "Biofuels can provide large environmental benefits when compared to gasoline or petroleum diesel," says Bruce Dale, Michigan State University professor of chemical engineering and materials science.
New weather, old pipes challenge nation's water supply
The difficult separation of drinking water and sewage may face more challenges than its aging infrastructure can withstand as unpredictable weather conditions produce floods that beset the nation, a Michigan State University water expert says. The nation needs better ways to monitor the safety of drinking water, says Joan Rose, MSU's Nowlin Chair in water research.
Online site seeks info from anyone on Great Lakes
Michigan State University has unveiled a Wikipedia-style Great Lakes online encyclopedia that allows anyone to enter and edit information about regional environmental issues. Dave Poulson at MSU's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism called the new Web site, www.greatlakeswiki.org, a revolutionary attempt to encourage grass-roots journalism by allowing anyone to report on the Great Lakes story.
Decision making isn't always as rational as you think (or hope)
The human brain is set up to simultaneously process two kinds of information, the emotional and the empirical. But in most people, emotional responses are much stronger than the rational response and usually take over, according to Michigan State University environmental science and policy researcher Joseph Arvai...
Johanns announces students' invitation to view agriculture's future
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the selection of 11 university students invited to attend the discussions of agriculture's future at USDA's 2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Representing Michigan State University are Sara Falk and Matthew Greiner...
ESPP Student Goes to Washington
What's the best way to set up and evaluate an interdisciplinary research program that helps society adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change? That was the question put forth by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the National Research Council (NRC) recently. Rachael Shwom, a Sociology Ph.D. student with a specialization in the Environmental Science and Policy Program helped answer this question during a ten-week fellowship at the NRC...
Researchers scramble in search for answers to deadly bee ailment
Scientists looking into a mysterious ailment killing honeybees in 21 states are focusing their attention out West. ... California has been hit hardest by the bee ailment, but the problem also has hurt bee colonies in Michigan , says Zachary Huang, a bee expert and associate entomology professor at Michigan State University .
ESPP Student Learns to Map the Earth
Pariwate "Perry" Varnakovida, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography and the Environmental Science and Policy Program, recently attended an MIT class in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His class, which was funded by the Environmental Science and Policy Program, taught him the skills to map the urbanization of the Earth through the study of complex systems, network architectures and evolutionary processes...
Sustainability expert partners with PBS in China special
Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at MSU, is helping lead the discussion on China’s environmental future – and what it means to us. Liu has an opinion piece in PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) evaluating the prospects of China’s environmental future – and making a case for why it’s cause for attention and concern no matter where one lives.
Professors to develop hand-held pathogen testing device
Testing for deadly food, air and water pathogens may get a lot easier and cheaper thanks to the work of an MSU researcher and his team. Syed Hashsham, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Microbial Ecology, is developing a portable, hand-held device capable of detecting up to 50 microbial threat agents in air, water and food...