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.
Summary: The United Nations has approached Professor Edgar Hertwich to lead the assessment of the potential of resource efficiency strategies (encapsulated under policy frameworks on Resource Efficiency/Circular Economy/Reduce, Reuse, Recycle/Sustainable Materials Management) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Resource efficiency strategies are here defined as approaches to reduce the demand for materials by means of more efficient use, such as appropriate material choice, design, reuse of products or components (if required, after refurbishment or remanufacturing), and recycling. They will be investigated at the level of individual technology systems, e.g. the reuse of I-beams in the construction of buildings or the recycling of waste electric and electronic equipment.
The objective of this assessment is to highlight synergies between the conservation of material resources and climate change mitigation at a global scale, assessing in particular:
The study will combine a ‘bottom-up’ analysis of identified resource efficiency measures and technologies with upscaling in a counterfactual scenario approach. The calculation of benefits will hence be based on the concept of avoided burden compared to the primary production of resources, but looking at a larger scale instead of individual applications at the unit level. The assessment will consist of following elements:
Summary: Most of the contaminants entering Long Island Sound (LIS) from land must first pass through its many tributary estuaries. Most point sources (e.g., treated sewage) and nonpoint sources (e.g., storm runoff) flow first to rivers and then through estuaries on their way to LIS. We need to better understand processes that occur in estuaries that can greatly influence the amount and timing of contaminant export. There is no single pathway for pollution, but contaminants generally are scavenged by suspended particles which then must pass through estuaries or estuarine harbors on their way to LIS. This proposal is for research to evaluate how the combination of watershed flood flow and tidal flushing controls trapping or export of sediment and associated contaminants (Pb, Hg, Cu, and Cd) at both short and long-time scales.
We propose to investigate a typical Connecticut estuary (West River, New Haven) that is currently free flowing, but which was tidally restricted in years past. We will directly and continuously measure all water and sediment fluxes from the watershed and via tidal exchange with greater detail than probably ever before for systems of this scale. Coupled with key spot measurements of contaminants (metals), we will be able to construct precise budgets for water, sediment, and toxics and relate them to causation by storm flows and variable tidal conditions.
Our main study site is similar to most along the Connecticut coast, and will be compared to another that is currently tide-gated (Mill R, New Haven) in a Before-After-Control-Impact research design that exploits the former gating of the West. We will also take advantage of the self-regulating gates to conduct closure experiments that will help identify how sea level rise might change estuarine functioning.
Estuaries are probably the most complex aquatic systems to investigate because of the complicated way they vary over location and time. Physical conditions change over several lengths of time, from less than a day to full years. Our measurement strategy documents changes at all these timescales. The proposed research combines several techniques that have never before been used simultaneously to investigate an important estuary type. We will evaluate transport of water, sediment, and contaminants with several tools: (i) continuous measurement of the systems’ hydrology and water quality, (ii) analysis of past sediment build up and pollution history (by using Pb and Cs), (iii) evaluation of today’s sediment pollution loading, (iv) use of a naturally occurring radionuclide (7Be) as a tracer for contaminant uptake by sediment, (v) manipulation of the tide gates to conduct short-term experiments, and (vi) comparison to a control site in a Before-After-Control-Impact research design.
Suspended sediments carry most contaminants and, in addition, the nature and abundance of this mud has a substantial direct physical influence on the condition and health of benthic habitats. Accumulation of sediment can have a variety of beneficial and undesirable consequences, from feeding salt marshes and supporting soft bottom benthic habitat, to trapping contaminants and requiring costly and disruptive dredging. There is a need to better predict and control sediments to manage these important ecosystem services and disservices.
The REU supplement will support two high school juniors to actively engage in scientific research through a mentored experience that teaches them how to set up and executing their own summerlong field experiment. This RAHSS project will leverage the research infrastructure that is already in place and will build on current scientific findings from the funded research to broaden understanding of the implications of environmental warming on species interactions and the functioning of the study ecosystem.
Current work under the auspices of NSF DEB-1354762 is evaluating the resilience of plantbased ecological food chains to climate change. The experimental work is assessing the degree of local adaptation and plasticity in population thermal tolerances and performances using standard physiological measurements relating organismal metabolism to experimentally imposed temperature increases. It is also measuring the interplay between thermal physiology and food chain interactions to understand whether and how the functional role of species populations and their nutrient demands for survival and reproduction might become changed to impact the species composition of the food webs.
Research proposed for the RAHSS project will build expand understanding of how climate warming will affect species and functions not originally proposed. The RAHSS students will be mentored to execute a summer-long field experiment that explicitly tests how the focal study species of the NSF-funded project will interact with species belonging to detrital-based food chains to understand how interactions between plant-based and detritus-based food chains are linked and influenced by environmental warming.
The supplement will be used to fund the involvement of one undergraduate student in field and laboratory research involved in the primary award, which the student will use to develop independent research that will also be carried out in the summer of the research experience.
The main award explores a central idea of ecological scaling theory to understand controls on biogeochemical processes. The central idea is that broad-scale patterns of relationships between process rates and controls might be primarily correlative, emerging from distinct, local-scale causative relationships which are masked at broader scales. The proposal explores this possibility for wood decomposition. A critical determinant of the carbon (C) balance of forests is the turnover rate of dead wood. Most C cycle models assume that decomposition rates of dead wood at broad spatial scales are mainly a function of climate. Empirical data show that variation in wood decomposition rates are also determined by the composition of woody debris (e.g. traits such as lignin:N ratio), and its size and orientation. Yet wood decomposition rates vary dramatically even within individual locations with similar wood quality and abiotic conditions. If such local-scale variation introduces substantial variation at broader scales (as recent work suggests is the case), then the most important additional controls need to be identified to project reliably how the amount of dead wood – and the forest functions that rely on it – will respond regionally to disturbances such as climate change.
At the time of the summer experience, the named REU student (Corinna Steinrueck) will be a rising junior at Warren Wilson, a small, undergraduate liberal arts college in North Carolina. All students pursuing degrees in the Natural Sciences at Warren Wilson gain undergraduate research experience through the College’s Natural Science Capstone Program. Each student is matched individually with a Warren Wilson College faculty mentor, who provides training, mentorship, and support during the research process. The research culminates in a formal presentation and thesis submission, and involves two additional committee members. Bradford (the PI of the main award) will serve as one of those committee members and Steinrueck will initiate her capstone research as part of the REU. This opportunity arose because Steinrueck was selected as part of the inaugural group for a new endowed initiative to engage undergraduates as summer research interns at the Yale School of Forests. She carried out this internship in summer 2016, and interacted with Bradford as part of the internship on the research funded under the main award. Steinrueck was highly rated by the internship leads and enthused by the wood decomposition research. Subsequent discussions between Steinrueck, Bradford and her Warren Wilson advisor generated this REU request to launch her capstone independent research experience.
Yale University will deliver:
Six case studies in selected developing countries featuring renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, including examples of subnational leadership and public-private-partnerships.
Node lead (node Systems Analysis and Integration)
Research in REMADE will be organized in five nodes, one of them being Systems Analysis and Integration (SA&I), and this node will be led by Yale. Systems Analysis is core to the success of the REMADE Institute in achieving its high level goals, and for tracking performance against its goals. This cross-cutting node will provide an integrated and quantitative framework to evaluate prospective projects, determine the impact of projects that have been completed, and guide Institute investments. The task of the node lead will be coordinating the different research projects within SA&I, and ensuring efficient and continuous communication with the other four node leads. It requires regular reporting on SA&I node progress to REMADE’s leadership, reviewing the progress made by the four other research nodes, and incorporating these research results into the SA&I research to the extent possible. In collaboration with REMADE’s leadership team the Yale lead will review past and prioritize future REMADE research projects.
Climate Change Synthesis
PI: Lisa Dale
Sponsor: Council of Western State Foresters $29,149
Summary: CWSF is interested in understanding actions underway in member states to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Improved fluency on the state of play across the West provides an opportunity to highlight the critical role played by forestry in the evolving climate change discussion. Products developed by the YCELP team will empower Western state foresters and the Council to be centrally positioned in the climate change conversation, and will amplify the voice of foresters across the West.
Mobilizing Climate Change Adaptation Knowledge through Global and Regional Networks
PI: Lisa Dale
Sponsor: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Division of Enviornment Policy Implementation, Kenya $20,000
Summary: The Paris Agreement raised the political profile of climate resilience. There is now a global goal for climate change adaptation and it is recognized that adaptation represents a challenge with local, national and international dimensions. The UN Climate Resilience Initiative: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape, known as A2R, is a global, UN led, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to strengthen climate resilience for vulnerable countries and people. It will bring together governments, international agencies, regional initiatives, the private sector, civil society and researchers. The initiative seeks to accelerate action on key aspects of climate resilience under its three pillars:
Support to the 1 Gigaton Coalition
PI: Angel Hsu
Sponsor: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) $216,171
Summary: The 1 Gigaton Coalition supports platforms to measure and report GHG emission reductions resulting from renewable energy and energy efficiency programs so that these contributions are recognized and counted. The Coalition focuses on cooperation between countries and on bringing developing countries’ impacts to light. This voluntary international framework focuses on programs that are not fully understood due to a lack of quantifiable information to assess their impact –these often-overlooked activities will save an estimated 1 GtCO2e by 2020. Yale University prepared the inaugural report of the 1Gt Coalition presented in December 2015 at the Paris COP. The objective of this project is to support the 1 Gt Coalition in defining and preparing its second report due in November 2016. The support includes the selection of topics for inclusion in the second report of the coalition and the preparation of that report.
Urban Growth, Land-Use Change, and Growing Vulnerability in the Greater Himalaya Mountain Range Across India, Nepal, and Bhutan
PI: Karen Seto
Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration $749,815
Summary: Home to about 210 million people and extending over eight countries, the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region is at the confluence of two major trends that together are transforming one of the most dynamic mountain systems in the world. First, the region is a hotspot for four natural hazards: earthquakes, fires, floods, and landslides. Over the past few years, the HKH region has experienced a number of devastating natural disasters, including a 7.5 magnitude Pakistan-Afghanistan earthquake in 2015, a glacial lake outburst flood in northern Bhutan in 2015, floods in Uttarakhand in 2013 that left nearly 6,000 dead and more than 100,000 people trapped, and the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015, that killed more than 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000. Second, the HKH region is rapidly urbanizing. Fueled by migration from rural areas, valleys and plains, the growth of religious, ecological and adventure tourism, and recent social unrest, towns and urban centers are expanding. Although the region is still predominantly agrarian, migration to urban centers is increasingly an important livelihood strategy for rural households, and non-farm income is an increasing component of household incomes. As recently as 1981, less than 10% of the Himalayan population lived in a town or city. By 2000, the urban population in the region had doubled to 20%. The growing urban population, an urbanizing economy, and associated land use and land cover changes are transforming the Himalayas. Construction of buildings, deep roadcuts in steep hillsides, and unplanned urban development, all of which require cutting into bedrock or crossing geologically weak areas, have resulted in increased and more severe occurrences of hillside collapse, landslides, debris flows, rock slides, putting millions of people at risk.
Yet despite the vulnerability of the region and its people, the 2015 Nepal earthquake highlighted the lack of accurate and up-to-date information about urban settlements in the region and those most at risk in this coupled social-environmental system. The proposed research aims to fill these knowledge gaps by using multi-scale and multi-source satellite data applied to the Turner et al. (2003)and Luers et al. (2003)vulnerability frameworks to answer five inter-related research questions about the HKH region:
The proposed research includes three important innovations: to analyze urban change and associated land-use dynamics in a multi-country framework, to examine multiple dimensions of vulnerability, and to examine a contiguous geographic region that covers approximately 1.289 million km2 with the goal of capturing all types and sizes of urban settlement change. This approach is a marked departure from most other studies that focus solely on a few capital or large cities and their immediate surroundings. Through a coordinated research strategy that interweaves the entire Landsat TM time series for 41 scenes, high resolution commercial imagery from Quickbird and WorldView 1, 2, and 3, analysis of socioeconomic data related to sensitivity, and fieldwork, the project will quantify and map the vulnerability of the HKH region to different stressors.
EAGER: Preparing the Yale Metal Life Cycles Database for Global Distribution
PI: Tom Graedel; Co-PI: Barbara Reck
Sponsor: National Science Foundation $233,784
Summary: Databases that result from academic research activities are increasingly deposited in accessible archives for the purpose of making them available for use by institutions and governments worldwide. These data are static, however – they have no provision for updating and enhancement nor the assurance of archive security and long-term preservation. In the case of material flow information, essential to the evaluation of metal use, recycling, import/exports flows, and losses to the environment, quantitative life cycle results have been published for some sixty elements, but rarely with the supporting information being publicly available and/or the detailed underlying and generated data available in a user-friendly format. Nonetheless, these cycles form the foundations for subsequent research related to materials sustainability, product lifetimes, international trade, carbon emissions, and many related topics. From this perspective, the present proposal seeks the necessary resources to fully document and transform the Yale archive of data on all aspects of materials sustainability for numerous metals and metalloids from its present form into a convenient, easily-accessed, and well-documented package. It will then be transferred to the U.S. Geological Survey for data formatting review, quality assessment, achieving, security, updating enhancement, and accessibility.
DISSERTATION RESEARCH: The functional consequences of antagonism in fungal communities
PI: Dan Maynard (Mark Bradford, faculty advisor)
Sponsor: National Science Foundation $21,543
Summary: Dissertation research completed thus far directly links microbial trait expression to competitive ability and functional ability, suggesting that antagonistic interactions alter ecosystem function in ways that challenge traditional ecosystem models and ecological theory. In previously established field and laboratory experiments, microbial community composition explained a larger proportion of variability in ecosystem function than environmental conditions, highlighting the need to better understand how species interactions and community structure alters environmental function. The PIs propose to expand their research to obtain three primary objectives: (1) develop a generalizable model for incorporating competitive network structure into traditional biodiversity-function experiments; (2) use this model to quantify how microbial combative interactions and competitive network structure alter ecosystem function; (3) determine how competitive intransitivity and combative interactions affect spatial structure and realized diversity of antagonistic communities.
Additive Manufacturing and the Environment: A Special Issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology
PI: Reid Lifset
Sponsor: United States Department of Energy $66,512
Summary: Additive manufacturing, best known to the public as 3-D printing, is a rapidly developing technology that holds out the promise of new capabilities and innovation in a wide variety of industries. Because the core process is additive, in many cases, there is less waste—because no cuttings or grindings are produced as occurs in conventional machining processes. AM sidesteps creation of molds and related manufacturing process, allowing production in response to actual demand, rather than forecast, demand. AM also facilitates localized production. 3-D printers in homes and small businesses can be used to make objects one-at-a-time using software readily available via the Internet, avoiding the need to ship the final product to the user.
As with any new technology, AM presents environmental opportunities and challenges. The opportunities include reduction of transport due to localized production, increased availability of spare parts, avoidance of excess production and inventory, decreased waste, and decentralized production creating the opportunity for diverse members of society to participate in design and manufacturing. Challenges include the environmental footprint of raw materials, occupational health and safety issues, challenges to recycling, and increased shipping of raw materials to diverse locations.
While there is an extensive literature on the manufacturing aspects of AM, research on the environmental dimensions of additive manufacturing is more limited, largely focusing on energy consumption of machining and related unit processes. Nascent literatures on particulate and gaseous emissions from additive processing and life cycle assessment of AM are emerging. The literatures are largely disconnected and not linked to scenarios regarding the potential environmental advantages of additive manufacturing. The special issue aims to catalyze research and analysis and exchange across disciplines and literatures.
The Journal of Industrial Ecology, a peer-reviewed international bimonthly journal, owned by Yale University and published by Wiley-Blackwell, seeks funding for the publication of a special issue on environmental dimensions of additive manufacturing.
Small Scale Funding Agreement Relating to Integrated Scenarios Activity
PI: Tom Graedel
Sponsor: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) $100,000
Summary: The purpose of this agreement is for Yale University to conduct integrated scenario analyses related to the rates of use and environmental impacts of metal ores, non-metallic minerals, and other resources. Yale University’s expertise is well established to conduct research and produce an assessment on results from integrated scenarios. This agreement will result in enhanced understanding by governments and other stakeholders of the policy implications related to the results of the integrated scenario assessments.