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Stanford's Woods Institute awards 2011 round of Environmental Venture Projects

Seven Stanford faculty teams have been awarded Woods Institute Environmental Venture Projects grants for research that tackles global sustainability challenges.

Rob Dunbar Clown fish in amenome

The impact of marine organisms on ocean acidification is one of seven Environmental Venture Projects awarded by the Woods Institute for the Environment in 2011.

BY MARK SHWARTZ

The Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University has awarded seven new Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) grants for interdisciplinary research aimed at finding practical solutions promoting global sustainability.

Seven faculty teams will receive grants totaling $1,025,000 over two years to tackle a broad range of environmental challenges, from coral reefs in American Samoa to groundwater supply in China. The seven projects were selected from an initial pool of 24 letters of intent submitted to a faculty committee led by Elizabeth Hadly and Chris Francis.

"This year, we received a number of excellent proposals from departments and disciplines not represented before," said Hadly, professor of biology. As an example, she pointed to a newly funded EVP grant designed to foster long-term, pro-environmental behavior by ecotourists.

"We're very excited and honored to receive this grant," said Nicole Ardoin, principal investigator on the ecotourism project.

"Our EVP team is led by social scientists from education, anthropology, psychology and the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab," said Ardoin, assistant professor of education and center fellow at the Woods Institute. "Given the tremendous growth of ecotourism, we believe that our interdisciplinary approach has the potential to influence environmental behavior, stewardship and decision-making on a global scale, which will have a direct impact on environmental quality."

Forty-four EVP grants totaling more than $6.4 million have been awarded to faculty from all seven schools at Stanford since the annual program was established in 2004.

"Over the years, there has been a steady rise in the number of new faculty who've received EVP funding," said Francis, associate professor of environmental Earth system science. "In coming months, we'll be exploring new opportunities for increasing the number of applicants from all schools and disciplines across campus."

Following are the seven projects awarded EVP grants in 2011:

Compromised Groundwater Quality Resulting from Large-Scale Damming Projects: In 2006, China completed construction of the massive Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River. This EVP will look at the impact of the dam on the groundwater supply for more than 30 million people who inhabit the region.

Principal Investigator (PI): Scott Fendorf (Environmental Earth System Science/Woods Institute). Co-PIs: Stephan Graham (Geological and Environmental Sciences), Richard Luthy (Civil and Environmental Engineering/Woods Institute), and Steven Gorelick and Eric Lambin (Environmental Earth System Science/Woods Institute).

Rapid Assessment of Human Exposure to Airborne Persistent Organic Pollutants: More than 15 percent of Americans report sensitivities to indoor environments – a condition known as "sick building syndrome." Utilizing new laser technology, the EVP team will develop a portable instrument that measures volatile organic compounds in air and breath samples with unprecedented speed and accuracy.

PI: Lynn Hildemann (Civil and Environmental Engineering). Co-PI: Mark Cullen (Medicine). Investigator: Konstantin Vodopyanov (Applied Physics).

Geography of Food Contamination by Coal Emissions in N.W. China: Mercury, lead and other atmospheric emissions from coal combustion adversely affect the health of hundreds of millions of people across China. The EVP team will map Chinese croplands most at risk from airborne contaminants, allowing managers to develop land-use policies that maximize yields and minimize health impacts.

PI: Eric Lambin (Environmental Earth System Science/Woods Institute). Co-PIs: Jennifer Wilcox (Energy Resources Engineering), Scott Fendorf (Environmental Earth System Science/Woods Institute) and David Freyberg (Civil and Environmental Engineering/Woods Institute). Investigator: Scott Rozelle (Woods Institute/Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies).

How Marine Species Affect Ocean Acidification: Increased acidification of the ocean from atmospheric carbon dioxide negatively affects many marine species. However, marine organisms can also have a strong affect on the pH of their environment through respiration and photosynthesis. This project will look at the impact of biological and physical processes on ocean acidification and the future of coral reefs.

PI: Stephen Palumbi (Biology/Woods Institute). Co-PIs: Stephen Monismith (Civil and Environmental Engineering/Woods Institute) and Rob Dunbar (Environmental Earth System Science/Woods Institute).

Facilitating Pro-Environmental Behavior: The goal of this project is to transform the typical nature-based tourism experience into a platform for motivating and sustaining pro-environmental behaviors among the world's 70 million-plus ecotourists. Fieldwork will be conducted in California and the Galapagos Islands.

PIs: Nicole Ardoin (School of Education/Woods Institute) and William Durham (Anthropology). Co-PI: Ewart Thomas (Psychology). Investigator: B.J. Fogg (Computer Science).

Rural Health and Development at the Food-Water Nexus: The researchers will explore how access to clean water and a nutritional diet affect the progression of tuberculosis and HIV infection in rural African households.

Co-PIs: Jenna Davis (Civil and Environmental Engineering/Woods Institute), Eran Bendavid (Medicine) and Roz Naylor (Woods Institute/Freeman Spogli Institute).

Electrically Conducting Nanomaterials Filter for Point-of-Use Water Disinfection: The goal of this one-year pilot grant is to investigate the feasibility of developing an ultra-speed, low-cost portable filter that removes bacteria and other pathogens from drinking water.

PI: Yi Cui (Materials Science and Engineering). Co-PI: Ali Boehm (Civil and Environmental Engineering).

Established in 2004, the Woods Institute for the Environment serves as a catalyst and hub for Stanford University's interdisciplinary environmental research, education and action.

Mark Shwartz is communications manager at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

Media Contact

Mark Shwartz, Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 723-9296, mshwartz@stanford.edu

Paula Wetzel, Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 724-5846, pwetzel@stanford.edu

Elizabeth Hadly, Biology: (650) 498-4995, hadly@stanford.edu

Chris Francis, Environmental Earth System Science: (650) 724-0301, caf@stanford.edu