Monthly Update: Faculty Honors, New Asst. Dean of Student Services, PhD Awarded NASA Fellowship and more...

June 30, 2017

Hi everyone,
You know summer is here when you walk through Environment Hall and it is so quiet in the hallways that you can hear the staff working. They are here still doing all the things necessary to keep the school running, catching up on old projects and starting new ones, and gearing up for fall. Life goes on here as does the news, and there is lots of good news. So, please take a minute and catch up!


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  1. It’s been a banner month for Nic School faculty! Dan Rittschof (top left) was named the Norman L. Christensen Professor of Environmental Sciences;  Lori Bennear (top right) was named the Juli Plant Grainger Associate Professor of Energy Economics and Policy; Lincoln Pratson (bottom left) was named the Gendell Family Professor of Energy and the Environment; and Jesko von Windheim (bottom right) was named the Lynn Gorguze-Scott Peters Professor of the Practice in Environmental Entrepreneurship and Innovation. These are richly deserved honors that recognize Dan, Lori, Lincoln and Jesko for their seminal contributions to scholarship and teaching at our school. Please join me in congratulating them and thanking them for all they do.
  2. Sherri Nevius has been appointed to the newly created post of Associate Dean for Student Services, and Emily Klein has been named Chair of the Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences. The leadership Sherri and Emily have provided to the school over the years has played a huge role in our continued growth and success, and I have every confidence they’ll bring the same commitment, expertise and vision to these new appointments. 
  3. Cindy Van Dover is lead author of a peer-reviewed correspondence in Nature Geoscience that argues biodiversity loss from deep-sea mining will be unavoidable and possibly irrevocable. Cindy and her 14 co-authors say the International Seabed Authority, which regulates mining in international waters, must recognize this risk and communicate it clearly to policymakers and the public so that safeguards can be put into place to minimize the inevitable loss of species if mining proceeds.  
  4. Two new studies by Dave Johnston and his team at the Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Center provide new evidence that gray seals, once hunted to near extinction, have made a dramatic comeback in East Coast waters. Dave and his team, which included GIS analyst Alex Seymour, PhD graduate Jerry Moxley and faculty member Pat Halpin, used research drones, thermal cameras and Google Earth images to survey seal populations along the coasts of New England and eastern Canada. Their analysis finds that, in some locations, seal populations are now more than twice as large as previous surveys have suggested. You can read the studies here and here
  5. PhD student Christopher Krapu has been awarded a three-year NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowship. The fellowship’s $35,000 stipend will fund his work to use remote sensing to map spatio-temporal variability in wetlands and ponds in the North American Great Plains. Mukesh Kumar is Christopher’s advisor. 
  6. Marty Smith has been appointed to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study committee to examine how interactions between natural and human processes affect the health of ecosystems and communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The committee brings together experts from the fields of economics, decision sciences, geomorphology, geology, marine ecology, coastal engineering, risk communication and energy infrastructure. 
  7. PhD student Elizabeth Clark has received a $7,500 grant from the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy to fund her research project, “Policy Demand and the Rights to Organize: Emergences of Cooperative Fishery Governance.” She was one of only 20 students selected for the award, out of 535 applicants. Xavier Basurto is her advisor.  
  8. The new book, Water, Security and U.S. Foreign Policy, published earlier this month by World Wildlife Fund and the Wilson Center, features chapters written by Erika Weinthal and Marc Jeuland. Erika is co-author of one of the book’s lead-off chapters, “Development and Diplomacy: Water, the SDGs, and U.S. Foreign Policy,” while Marc contributes one of its concluding sections, “A New Chapter in Developing Water Infrastructure.”   
  9. MEM student Gloria Aldana and 2017 MEM graduate Diego Calderon-Arrieta took part in the National GreenLatinos Summit in Aslomar, Calif., last month. The summit brought together a broad coalition of advocates committed to addressing national, regional and local environmental, natural resources and conservation issues that significantly affect the health and welfare of the Latino community in the United States. 
  10. At least 1.4 million seagulls feed at landfills across North America. In addition to the nuisance risks they pose, a new study by PhD student Mark River and 2016 doctoral graduate Scott Winton estimates these birds transport and deposit an extra 240 tons of nitrogen and 39 tons of phosphorus into nearby lakes or reservoirs each year through their feces – greatly increasing the risk of eutrophication. Offsetting the damage can cost local governments upwards of $100 million a year. The Duke University Wetland Center funded Mark and Scott’s study. 
  11. A new study by Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab postdoc Laura Mannocci, research associate Jason Roberts, and director Pat Halpin extrapolates cetacean densities in the North Atlantic high seas to facilitate one of the first quantitative assessments of human impacts on cetacean populations in those waters. You can read the study, which the MGEL team published in the journal Conservation Biology, here.  
  12. Alumna Sathya Gopalakrishnan, who received her PhD in environmental and resource economics from the Nic School in 2010, has been promoted to associate professor with tenure in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics at Ohio State. Sathya was advised by Marty Smith. You can learn more about her research and teaching at OSU here.

Keep the good news rolling in. I’ll be posting another summer Update in July, before resuming my regular schedule of Weekly Updates after the school year begins in August. Submit your items here.