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New round of Environmental Venture Projects from Stanford's Woods Institute

Five faculty research teams will receive a total of $781,691 over the next two years for projects designed to solve some of the world's most serious sustainability challenges, from salmon farming in Chile to farmland irrigation in California. The five teams include 22 faculty members representing a broad cross-section of disciplines at Stanford-including history, biology, anthropology, business, engineering and law.

This year's grants were selected from an initial pool of 28 letters of intent submitted to an EVP faculty committee led by Woods Institute senior fellows Chris Field, a professor of biology, and David M. Kennedy, a professor of history.

"Having served on the selection committee for three years, I'd say this was the strongest applicant pool yet," said Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History. "I was especially gratified to see some compelling projects that have not only excellent science but also robust social science and public policy components-something we have been trying to encourage."

Twenty-nine EVP grants totaling $3.9 million have been awarded since the annual program was established in 2004. The Woods Institute plans to issue a new call for proposals in the autumn quarter of 2008.

"Two considerations distinguish EVP grants from others," added Kennedy, co-director of Stanford's Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West. "They are designed to bring together researchers from various disciplines that do not habitually collaborate, and they are intended to put the research teams on the path to devising usable solutions to real-world problems. Most of the successful proposals this year are anchored in specific geographic locales, but the ones we found most impressive were those that held the prospect of identifying solutions that would be applicable beyond the immediate area of interest."

Here are the five projects awarded EVP grants this year:

  • Social and Environmental Transformation in Chile's Aquaculture Industry, 1950-2000: Farmed salmon is Chile's third largest export, but the explosive growth of the industry has led to sweeping environmental and social changes. This project will compare Chile's coastal communities before and after the advent of the salmon farming industry, which is targeting a two-fold increase by 2010.

    Principal investigator: Zephyr Frank (History).

    Research team: Roz Naylor (Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies), Richard White (History), Meg Caldwell (Law School), Harold Mooney (Biology).

  • Understanding the Effects of Fishing on Coral Reef Ecosystems: Overfishing is a serious threat to the world's coral reefs, yet few detailed studies have been conducted on the direct impact of fishing on a coral reef ecosystem. Using ecological, biogeochemical and anthropological data, this project will compare two Pacific atolls-Palmyra, which has seen little human impact, and Tabuaeran, where fishing is widespread-with the goal of finding solutions for long-term sustainability of coral reef fisheries.

    Principal investigator: Fiorenza Micheli (Biology, Hopkins Marine Station).

    Research team: Doug Bird (Anthropology), Rob Dunbar (Environmental Earth System Science), William Durham (Anthropology).

  • Groundwater Discharge of Wastewater Contaminants Across the Land-Sea Interface: Many coastal communities use septic systems for treatment of wastewater, which can raise nutrient and pathogen levels when discharged into coastal aquifers, threatening human and ecosystem health. In the United States, no policies exist to regulate groundwater discharge from coastal aquifers into the sea. Focusing on California, this study seeks to identify federal and state laws that could be applied to the regulation of contaminated groundwater discharge, as well as key knowledge gaps in science and policy that hamper coastal management decisions.

    Principal investigator: Alexandria Boehm (Civil and Environmental Engineering).

    Research team: Scott Fendorf (Environmental Earth System Science), Rosemary Knight (Geophysics), Deborah Sivas (Law).

  • Toward Sustainable Coastal Tourism in Costa Rica: Tourism has had a severe impact on coastal areas of Costa Rica, and damage is expected to rapidly increase if development practices are not made sustainable soon. This project will analyze the impact of ecotourism on Costa Rica's coastal parks and protected areas and build a model framework for sustainable tourism development based on future demand. The findings will be introduced to Costa Rican policymakers and researchers through a series of workshops.

    Principal investigator: William Durham (Anthropology).

    Research team: William Barnett (Graduate School of Business), Meg Caldwell (Law School), Rodolfo Dirzo (Biology).

  • Decision Making in Recycled-Water Project Implementation: Water districts in California have been at the vanguard of reclaimed, or "recycled," water use. Based on at least four cases studies from Northern California, this project will examine how scientific uncertainty, economic incentive and regulatory pressures influence decisions to implement water-recycling projects for agricultural irrigation and ecosystem restoration.

    Principal investigators: David Brady (Political Science), Richard Luthy (Civil and Environmental Engineering).

    Investigators: Tammy Frisby (Political Science), Perry McCarty (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Gregory Simon (History and Environmental Earth System Science), Thomas Weber (Management Science and Engineering), Walter Falcon (Woods and Freeman Spogli institutes).


Contact: Mark Shwartz
Stanford University

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