To address environmental issues, society needs a deeper understanding of the natural world, and the ways we can regulate our own behavior. Faculty and students at F&ES conduct research in eight broadly conceived areas of environmental concern – biodiversity, forestry, global climate, industry, law and economics, urban systems, water, and social ecology. The scope of these programs reflects not just the complexity of human interaction with the environment, but the fact that the easy answers have been exhausted. As such, it is the mission of the F&ES faculty and students to conduct research that uncovers new knowledge, unique insights, and approaches that tie many fields together. This mission is further carried out by communicating the results of this research to the widest possible audience through publication, lectures, and other educational programs.

F&ES Research News

New Project Funding: Alex Felson, James Axley, & Graeme Berlyn

The transformation of existing green wall technology to provide urban heat rejection infrastructure
PI: Alex Felson
Co-PIs: James Axley, and Graeme Berlyn
Agency: National Science Foundation $299,960

Summary: Green walls provide benefits that have fostered the growth of a new industry as they can passively moderate exterior wall surface temperatures and thereby reduce building heating and cooling loads, attenuate surface temperature variations and solar exposure that degrade exterior wall finishes, and provide ecosystem service benefits including air pollution and particulate removal, mitigation of urban heat island effects, and urban wildlife habitats. To date, these benefits do not offset the costs of green walls, and therefore, the market for green walls remains limited. This research will address problems that must be resolved to transform existing green wall technology into an active technology for process heat rejection (i.e., principally, here, for chilled water generation), and thereby expand the market to a wide range of applications from households to institutions and industry. The objective is to provide a sustainable alternative to wet cooling tower technology that maintains the benefits of existing green walls, employing their methods of construction and operation, while avoiding the shortcomings of wet cooling tower technologies (i.e., single use and contamination of cooling water).

The investigators are targeting the creation of a green wall heat rejection technology with integrated water biofiltration capabilities and a mathematical transport model to simulate the thermal and biofiltration performance of the technology for experimental and design purposes. The performance of these "thermoGreenWallTM" (tGW) systems will be investigated through coordinated experimental and modeling methods using lab-scale tGW panels and full-scale prototypes and a tanks-in-series model developed by the PIs. The lab-scale tGW panels will be constructed as mesocosm experiments to systematically investigate plant/substrate compatibility/productivity (e.g., using a root area meter and destructive sampling for root biomass determination), plant health (e.g., using chlorophyll fluorescence), water biofiltration methods, performance, and interaction with plant/substrate systems, and heat rejection transport mechanisms and performance.

Karen Seto Succeeds David Skelly as Associate Dean & Doctoral Studies Director

seto skelly
Karen Seto, a professor of geography and urbanization at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), has been named the School’s next Associate Dean for Research and Director of Doctoral Studies.
She succeeds David Skelly, an F&ES professor of ecology who was appointed as the new director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History beginning July 1.
For Seto, who has been at Yale for six years, the new position offers a chance to reassess how the School prepares its students for a changing academic world — and to continue the work started by Skelly to integrate the realms of research and doctoral studies at F&ES.

New Project Funding: Kris Covey (Advisor: Mark Bradford)

Dissertation Research: Quantification and Characterization of the Production of Methane in Living Trees
PI: Mark Bradford (Faculty Advisor), Doctoral Candidate: Kris Covey
Agency: National Science Foundation (Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant) $21,645

Abstract: Dissertation research undertaken thus far demonstrates the prevalence of elevated methane concentrations in upland hardwood dominated eastern forests, illuminates distinct species level patterns in production potential, and suggests that the highest methane production rates drive substantial through bark emission. Initial estimates indicate the magnitude of this unrecognized source could be on the same order as the upland forest methane sink. The PIs propose expanding their current work to achieve three primary objectives: 1. Determine the extent to which methane production observed in the trunks of eastern hardwood trees also occurs in conifer-dominated western forests. 2. Assess the contribution of methane production in dead wood and debris to overall forest methane flux. 3. Associate measured methane production with microbial community dynamics in wood. This work is transformative because it asks whether methane production from understudied methane sources changes forests from net methane sinks to sources. We know that heart rot is ubiquitous in forests but its part in global CH4 budgets has not been considered until publication of our preliminary data. Initial estimates from our paper suggest that heart-rot methane emissions are equivalent in global warming potential to about 18% of the carbon dioxide likely sequestered by the stand in which we worked. The studies proposed here will allow for the expansion of our current work by providing the data necessary build our initial CH4 rate estimates beyond the individual forest stand to a robust estimate of continental emissions of methane originating in living trees. Furthermore, these data will help to disentangle the contribution of in situ microbial-born methane from the other confirmed plant-methane pathways.

New Project Funding: Thomas Graedel

USGS logo
Anthropogenic Life Cycles of Scarce Metals
PI: Thomas Graedel
Agency: U.S. Geological Survey $48,469

Summary: Material flow analysis approaches have been used widely over the past decade to characterize the life cycles of the major metals. A similar situation has not occurred for the scarce metals, many of which are uniquely useful constituents of new technological development. This is partly due to the fact that information regarding those cycles is less readily available. However, as part of a larger criticality of metals project, we have developed information on the extraction, use, discard, and loss of a number of the scarce metals. We will use this information to construct global and U.S. life cycles for year 2008 for four scarce metals: gallium, indium, germanium, and rhenium; these are the first U.S. cycles ever to be characterized in detail for these metals. The results of this study will help to build further knowledge on the less common (“scarcer”) metals, many of which have been identified by the USGS Minerals Research Program to be of increasing importance to the U.S. national economy. Understanding the whole system of material flows can help to quantify potential primary and secondary source strengths, manage metal use more wisely, and protect the environment.

New Project Funding: Shimon Anisfeld

The Future of Long Island Sound Tidal Marshes: Understanding Marsh Migration into Different Upland Types
PI: Shimon Anisfeld; Co-PI: Andrew Kemp (Tufts University)
Agency: Connecticut Sea Grant $129,994

Summary: Shimon Anisfeld and his colleague Andrew Kemp will investigate the ability of salt marshes to migrate upland as sea levels rise. Healthy marshes protect shorelines from storm impacts and serve as nursery habitat for many animals. Their successful migration will depend on many factors such as elevation, hydrology, soils, plants, and animals.
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New Publications from F&ES Faculty, Staff and Students

* Denotes FES Student author.

Ashton, P. S., and M. S. Ashton. 2014. Mixed Dipterocarp Forests of the Sunda Lands: What can be done now with what is left? Journal of Tropical Forest Science 26:163-165.

Cashore, B., and M. W. Stone. 2014. Does California need Delaware? Explaining Indonesian, Chinese, and United States support for legality compliance of internationally traded products. Regulation & Governance 8:49-73.

Conway, D., J. Barnett, M. M. Betsill, L. Lebel, and K. C. Seto. 2014. Global Environmental Change: Taking stock at a time of transition. Global Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions 25:1-4.

Fenichel, E. P., and J. K. Abbott. 2014. Heterogeneity and the fragility of the first best: Putting the "micro" in bioeconomic models of recreational resources. Resource and Energy Economics 36:351-369.

Fox, H. E., J. L. Holtzman*, K. M. Haisfield, C. G. McNally, G. A. Cid, M. B. Mascia, J. E. Parks, and R. S. Pomeroy. 2014. How Are Our MPAs Doing? Challenges in Assessing Global Patterns in Marine Protected Area Performance. Coastal Management 42:207-226.

Gilbertson, L. M., D. G. Goodwin, Jr., A. D. Taylor, L. Pfefferle, and J. B. Zimmerman. 2014. Toward Tailored Functional Design of Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWNTs): Electrochemical and Antimicrobial Activity Enhancement via Oxidation and Selective Reduction. Environmental Science & Technology 48:5938-5945.

Goodale, U. M., G. P. Berlyn, T. G. Gregoire, K. U. Tennakoon, and M. S. Ashton. 2014. Differences in Survival and Growth Among Tropical Rain Forest Pioneer Tree Seedlings in Relation to Canopy Openness and Herbivory. Biotropica 46:183-193.

Grogan, J., R. M. Landis, C. M. Free, M. D. Schulze, M. Lentini, and M. S. Ashton. 2014. Big-leaf mahogany Swietenia macrophylla population dynamics and implications for sustainable management. Journal of Applied Ecology 51:664-674.

Hebert, K. 2014. The matter of market devices: Economic transformation in a southwest Alaskan salmon fishery. Geoforum 53:21-30.

Hu, Z., X. Wen, X. Sun, L. Li, G. Yu, X. Lee, and S. Li. 2014. Partitioning of evapotranspiration through oxygen isotopic measurements of water pools and fluxes in a temperate grassland. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences 119:358-371.

Keiser, A. D.*, D. A. Keiser*, M. S. Strickland, and M. A. Bradford. 2014. Disentangling the mechanisms underlying functional differences among decomposer communities. Journal of Ecology 102:603-609.

Mo, W., R. Wang*, and J. B. Zimmerman. 2014. Energy-Water Nexus Analysis of Enhanced Water Supply Scenarios: A Regional Comparison of Tampa Bay, Florida, and San Diego, California. Environmental Science & Technology 48:5883-5891.

Nuss, P., E. M. Harper, N. T. Nassar*, B. K. Reck, and T. E. Graedel. 2014. Criticality of Iron and Its Principal Alloying Elements. Environmental Science & Technology 48:4171-4177.

Park, J. Y.*, and M. R. Chertow. 2014. Establishing and testing the "reuse potential" indicator for managing wastes as resources. Journal of Environmental Management 137:45-53.

Pickett, S. T. A., B. McGrath, M. L. Cadenasso, and A. J. Felson. 2014. Ecological resilience and resilient cities. Building Research and Information 42:143-157.

Richards, T. J., D. W. Shanafelt, and E. P. Fenichel. 2014. Foreclosures and Invasive Insect Spread: The Case of Asian Citrus Psyllid. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 96:615-630.

Richardson, J. L.*, M. C. Urban, D. I. Bolnick, and D. K. Skelly. 2014. Microgeographic adaptation and the spatial scale of evolution. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 29:165-176.

Schmitz, O. J., P. A. Raymond, J. A. Estes, W. A. Kurz, G. W. Holtgrieve, M. E. Ritchie, D. E. Schindler, A. C. Spivak, R. W. Wilson, M. A. Bradford, V. Christensen, L. Deegan, V. Smetacek, M. J. Vanni, and C. C. Wilmers. 2014. Animating the Carbon Cycle. Ecosystems 17:344-359.

Simon, G. L., R. Bailis, J. Baumgartner, J. Hyman*, and A. Laurent. 2014. Current debates and future research needs in the clean cookstove sector. Energy for Sustainable Development 20:49-57.

Skelly, D. K., S. R. Bolden, and L. K. Freidenburg. 2014. Experimental canopy removal enhances diversity of vernal pond amphibians. Ecological Applications 24:340-345.

Smith, N., and A. Leiserowitz. 2014. The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition. Risk Analysis 34:937-948.

Soh, L., J. Curry, E. J. Beckman, and J. B. Zimmerman. 2014. Effect of System Conditions for Biodiesel Production via Transesterification Using Carbon Dioxide-Methanol Mixtures in the Presence of a Heterogeneous Catalyst. Acs Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 2:387-395.

Wang, W., W. Xiao, C. Cao, Z. Gao, Z. Hu, S. Liu, S. Shen, L. Wang, Q. Xiao, J. Xu, D. Yang, and X. Lee. 2014. Temporal and spatial variations in radiation and energy balance across a large freshwater lake in China. Journal of Hydrology 511:811-824.

Zhang, M., X. Lee, G. Yu, S. Han, H. Wang, J. Yan, Y. Zhang, Y. Li, T. Ohta, T. Hirano, J. Kim, N. Yoshifuji, and W. Wang. 2014a. Response of surface air temperature to small-scale land clearing across latitudes. Environmental Research Letters 9.

Zhang, Q., J. Wallace, X. Deng, and K. C. Seto. 2014b. Central versus local states: Which matters more in affecting China's urban growth? Land Use Policy 38:487-496.

Zhong, Z., D. Wang, H. Zhu, L. Wang, C. Feng, and Z. Wang. 2014. Positive interactions between large herbivores and grasshoppers, and their consequences for grassland plant diversity. Ecology 95:1055-1064.

* Denotes FES Student author.

To view a complete list of publications please click here.