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Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment announces 2012 Environmental Venture Project awards

Five teams will receive seed funding for research tackling global sustainability challenges.

Amy Pickering Girl pumping drinking water in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Girl pumping drinking water in Dhaka, Bangladesh. One funded project will develop a way to test for water-borne pathogens, potentially saving millions of lives.

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment has awarded five new Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) grants for interdisciplinary research aimed at finding practical solutions to major environmental and sustainability challenges.

Five innovative research projects will receive grants totaling $833,000 over two years to tackle a broad range of challenges. The projects were selected from an initial pool of 26 letters of intent submitted to a faculty committee led by Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellows Chris Francis and Jamie Jones.

The Stanford Woods Institute has awarded more than $7.2 million in EVP grants to interdisciplinary research teams from all of Stanford's seven schools since the annual program started in 2004.

"We continue to be impressed by the level of innovation and creativity among our faculty," Francis said. "I was also particularly pleased and excited to see how our outreach efforts are beginning to pay off. This year we saw the involvement of many investigators not previously funded by the EVP program, as well as from Stanford departments and schools that have been underrepresented in the past."

2012 Environmental Venture Projects

(Principal investigators in bold)

Recovery of Entropic Energy at Wastewater Treatment Plants Discharging to Saline Environments: Wastewater treatment plants that discharge treated wastewater to saline environments do not currently recover energy from the salinity difference between the treated wastewater and the saline environments. This project will use specially designed batteries to tap the salinity difference to produce electricity, helping to convert wastewater treatment plants into power plants, among other applications.

Craig Criddle (Civil and Environmental Engineering / Stanford Woods Institute) and Yi Cui (Materials Science and Engineering).


Determining the Drivers and Consequences of Hypoxia in Nearshore Marine Ecosystems: An Integrative Engineering and Ecophysiological Approach: Hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, is an escalating threat to marine life and ocean economies. This project will combine physiology, ecology and oceanography to understand how increasing climate change-related hypoxia will affect coastal marine ecosystems and fisheries. The project's data will help state and regional organizations devise better management and adaptation strategies for marine life and coastal environments.

Oliver Fringer (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Fiorenza Micheli (Biology) and George Somero (Biology)


Is Corporate Environmentalism Profitable? Experimental Investigations of the Effects of Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility on Consumption, Employment and Political Activity: Firms engage in environmental corporate social responsibility (ECSR) when they go beyond the requirements of current environmental law. This project will conduct a series of experiments to study how ECSR affects public consumption, employment and political activity. The results could give companies confidence that environmentalism makes economic sense and could give policymakers the ability to better distinguish when regulations are necessary.

Neil Malhotra (Graduate School of Business), Michael Tomz (Political Science) and Benoît Monin (Graduate School of Business)


Trace Organics in Recycled Water: Analysis of Plant Uptake and Processing: There is no effective and feasible way to completely remove N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a carcinogenic disinfection byproduct, from contaminated reclaimed wastewater. This project will look at how plants cope with NDMA and help predict and model how food crops irrigated with contaminated reclaimed water might serve as a vehicle for human exposure to NDMA. This will aid in predicting the impact of contaminated reclaimed water on food safety and in designing remediation systems.

Elizabeth Sattely (Chemical Engineering) and Dick Luthy (Civil and Environmental Engineering / Stanford Woods Institute)


Rapid Detection of Water-Borne Pathogens and Pathogen Indicators by Digitization and Concentration of Report Enzyme Fluorescence in Microfluidic Picoliter Droplets: Every year, millions die from preventable water-borne diseases. This project will develop a rapid and low-cost detection method involving a probe that lights up in the presence of water-borne pathogens and their indicators. The technology could revolutionize the way water is tested by putting the tools in the hands of citizens. The resulting wealth of citizen-collected data could lead to improved public health policies.

Sindy Kam Yan Tang (Mechanical Engineering), Jianghong Rao (Radiology and Chemistry) and Alexandria Boehm (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Rob Jordan is the communications writer for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Media Contact

Christine Harrison, communications director, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 721-1881, christine.harrison@stanford.edu

Kelly Dayton, EVP program manager, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 721-2916, kdayton@stanford.edu

Rob Jordan, communications, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 721-1881, rjordan@stanford.edu

Brooke Donald, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224, brooke.donald@stanford.edu