Environmental Science

News and Events

Professor Kulakowski testifies before U.S. Congress

Frey in front of U.S. Coast Card icebreaker Dominik Kulakowski, Assistant Professor of geography at Clark University, recently testified before a subcommittee of the United States Senate. Kulakowski was invited to testify about his research on the influence of bark beetle outbreaks and climate on fire risk in the western U.S. This ongoing line of research is funded by the National Science Foundation and has involved numerous Clark graduate and undergraduate students. Most summers Kulakowski and a team of Clark students visit the Colorado Rocky Mountains to collect data on the ecology of those forest ecosystems.

This research is centered on the large outbreaks of native bark beetles (Dendroctonus spp.) that are occurring throughout coniferous forests of western North America, from western Alaska to the U.S. Southwest and that have led to widespread public concern about increased fire hazard following beetle outbreaks. Kulakowski’s research examines possible feedbacks between wildfire and bark beetle outbreak across different spatial scales and under varying climatic conditions. Work on such feedbacks is a high priority in improving the predictive capacity of ecology, in particular in relation to large-scale disturbances that potentially can affect vast areas of forest. This project is improving the understanding of the influence of beetle outbreaks on future fire risk under varying climatic conditions, which is of broad current interest to resource managers, law makers, the fire mitigation community and the public living in the forests of wetsern North America. Major national initiatives of fire risk mitigation and suppression, with annual expenditures on the order of $1 billion are currently being implemented in the western U.S. However, specific management goals and expenditures are being driven by untested assumptions that beetle kill dramatically increases fire risk. This project examines such assumptions and analyzes the role of factors in addition to beetle kill that affect fire risk.


A new faculty member, Environmental Chemist joins Clark In January 2011

Christina McGraw joined the Chemistry Department as Assistant Professor of Environmental Analytical Chemistry. Dr. McGraw will be teaching Introductory Chemistry and Environmental Chemistry courses. Dr. McGraw arrived at Clark from a postdoctoral position at the University of Otago in New Zealand. She obtained her Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Washington and spent a year at the National Centre for Sensor Research at Dublin City University in Ireland before heading south to New Zealand. During her five years in New Zealand, she developed new analytical instrumentation to study the local impacts of ocean acidification. She is continuing this work at Clark, developing new sensors for marine and freshwater research. Further information can be found on her faculty bio.


Jennie Stephens invited to China

In June 2010, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Jennie Stephens was invited to Tsinghua University in Beijing China to give a talk at the School of Public Policy and Management on her work on the social dimensions of energy technology deployment. While she was there she also worked to develop a new collaborative research project examining different visions and applications of Smart Grid technology.

Photo: Jennie Stephens, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, with one of her collaborators Tarla Rai Peterson on the Great Wall outside Beijing China.  While in China, Professor Stephens worked on a new collaborative project exploring Smart Grid and the socio-political complexities of enhancing electricity systems.  In this photo, behind Stephens and Peterson electricity transmission lines are traversing the Great Wall.


MISTRA Project

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Jennie Stephens, has been supported by the Swedish MISTRA Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research for her participation to an international collaborative research project on the politics and social dimensions of carbon capture and storage technology. Through this initiative, Jennie has co-authored two recent publications in a special issue of the journal Global Environmental Change. She is the first author of an important paper that critically assesses the international CCS community and its capacity to consider negative critiques of CCS technology. ES&P graduate student Yue Liu (ES&P ’11) also contributed to this project and is one of the co-authors on this paper. As part of this MISTRA project, Jennie is also a co-author on another paper on social learning associated with CCS demonstration projects.


Conferences

This year, Jennie Stephens presented papers at several conferences including the 10th International Greenhouse Gas Control Technology Conference (GHGT-10) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in September 2010 and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) 32nd Annual Research Conference in Boston Massachusetts in November 2010.


Frey in front of U.S. Coast Card icebreaker

Frey featured on NOVA

Professor Karen Frey is featured in a four-part NOVA special talking about her climate change research in the northern Bering Sea. She was filmed aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a 420-foot icebreaker that supports National Science Foundation-funded scientific missions in arctic marine environments.
Watch the series.



Polaris Project field course in Siberia blends learning, adventure

The Polaris Project will give undergraduate students the opportunity to witness the changing Arctic first-hand as they participate in a field course and research experience in northeastern Siberia. After completing the "Arctic System Science" course associated with the Polaris Project (GEOG/GES 119), a select group of undergraduate students will travel with project scientists to the Siberian Arctic.

Leaving the U.S. in early July 2008, we’ll first spend a few days in Moscow, then travel to Yakutsk (capital of the Sakha Republic), and finally to the Northeast Science Station at Cherskiy (north of the Arctic Circle on the Kolyma River).

Students in the field course will be introduced to a variety of arctic environments including boreal forest, tundra, lakes, rivers, estuaries, and the coastal ocean, conduct their own mini research projects, and help project scientists plan extended field courses that will take place in 2009 and 2010. In fact, 1-2 of the student participants from 2008 will have the opportunity to return as course teaching assistants in 2009.

The interdisciplinary approach emphasized throughout the Polaris Project mirrors the way that complex environmental science is actually done. We’ll stress the links between the different environments and explore how climate change is impacting them. Students will work closely with leading scientists and share in the excitement of scientific discovery. The Polaris Project will be superb preparation for students wishing to pursue graduate studies in environmental sciences, but we seek a diverse student body which might also include non-science majors.

We expect that the Polaris Project will be an exceptional learning experience and tremendous adventure for all participants. You’ll see an extremely remote part of the world, get a first-hand view of "global warming," conduct your own research project, and be part of a team of enthusiastic undergraduate students and scientists working together to understand the changing Arctic. If climate change, the Arctic, adventure, and teamwork appeal to you, please apply to participate in the Polaris Project 2008 field course in Siberia. Online applications are due Feb. 1.

For more information, contact Dr. Karen Frey (kfrey@clarku.edu) or visit www.thepolarisproject.org.


The Polaris Project 2008: Field Notes from the Siberian Arctic

Thursday, February 12th at 4:00pm
University Center Grace Conference Room

Come hear Clark undergraduates Boyd Zapatka (Geography, 2010) and Kate Willis (Environmental Science, 2008) speak about their fieldwork experiences and travel adventures in the remote Kolyma Region of northeastern Siberia, where the impacts of recent climate warming are more severe than nearly any other place on Earth.  Boyd and Kate travelled to Siberia with Prof. Karen Frey in summer 2008 with "The Polaris Project" (www.thepolarisproject.org), a National Science Foundation funded field experience for undergraduates in which Clark University is involved (and will continue at least through the summers of 2009 and 2010).  All in the Clark community are welcome.  Come hear about the exciting fieldwork being conducted in the Arctic by our very own Clark undergraduates!


Students: Have fun at the EcoTarium with renewable energy kits

The EcoTarium in Worcester has received a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) to increase public awareness of alternative energy sources. In December the facility will receive three different kits on solar panels, hydrogen fuel cells, and wind panels. These kits contain projects for 30 students to build an object. Students will receive training with the kits (about three hours) and have fun volunteering a few hours for a table activity with the visitors at the EcoTarium. If you are looking for a community service opportunity to apply what you have learned in your classes and have fun, this might be an interesting adventure for you. The time frame is open. If you are interested, please contact Sue Reidy at sreidy@ecotarium.org or (508) 929-2756.


Climate change e-resource seeks student editors for internships

A new electronic reference about the earth, its natural environments and their interaction with society — Encyclopedia of Earth — seeks interns to help harvest public domain content, copyedit articles, and otherwise assist authors and topic editors in producing and publishing articles. Interns will learn the basics of Mediawiki software, the collaborative content platform that underlies Wikipedia, and work with researchers, educators, professionals, and other experts on climate change and related topics. The time commitment is flexible and you can work at home, or wherever you can grab an Internet connection.

The encyclopedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other’s work. The articles are written in non-technical language and will be useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public. The goal of this project is to build the Web's largest and most authoritative resource on climate change.

You can see the current group of "e-scribe" interns here. Here's your chance to make a difference and gain unique professional experience. Interested? Contact Maggie Surface at eoe@eoearth.org.


Prof. Jennie Stephens wins NSF grant

Jennie Stephens, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant from the Science and Society program to support collaborative research on Diffusion of Emerging Energy Technologies within a State Context, a collaboration among Clark University, the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M. The total amount of this collaborative award is $390,000 over three years – Clark University will receive $133,294.

This project examines the interconnected, state-level, socio-political influences on deployment of emerging energy technologies with potential to contribute to an energy system transformation for climate change mitigation. This applied research focuses on two very different emerging energy technologies – wind power and carbon capture and storage (CCS); both have great potential to change the energy technology landscape and to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions.

The research will compare the many non-technical factors influencing energy technology decision-making in geographically and politically diverse states, including Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Texas.

The project aims to identify and evaluate relationships between the socio-political dimensions of state energy technology systems and stakeholder perceptions of risks and benefits of the technologies and of the risks of climate change. This project strategically integrates several traditionally separate areas of research: technology diffusion and deployment; analysis of energy and environmental policy; comparative analysis of states and identification of state difference; and public perceptions of risks (and benefits).

This interdisciplinary and applied research will provide insights that may accelerate the transition of our energy technology infrastructure. In addition to increasing understanding of state-level influence on technology diffusion, results of this research will enable energy professionals, state planners, policy analysts, non-profits, and businesses to develop more effective strategies for involving the public in energy policy formation and implementation related to deployment of wind energy and CCS technologies, as well as other emerging energy technologies.

This project will provide opportunities for Clark undergraduate and graduate students to research current and future energy systems.