Stanford's Woods Institute celebrates five years of influential environmental research

In its first five years, Stanford's environmental institute has come into its own.

Five years after it was founded, Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment has become an important player in environmental science, both in terms of research and having an influence on governmental policy.

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, President John Hennessy kicked off a celebration of the achievements of the institute's first five years. He noted that Woods has become the very interdisciplinary center its founders envisioned, bringing together professors from 14 departments.

Woods' research has ranged far and wide, showing, for example, that growing crops to generate electricity for battery-powered vehicles is far more efficient than converting those crops into ethanol for conventional internal-combustion vehicles.

Other researchers have developed a synthetic wood substitute made of biodegradable plastic and hemp that may one day save trees, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shrink landfills. Yet others study the effects of rising sea temperatures on coral.

In another direction, the institute is teaching scientists how to explain their findings to the news media and members of Congress.

Priscilla and Ward Woods, whose financial support made the institute possible, were at Wednesday's event. Ward Woods told the audience that the achievements of the institute went beyond what he had expected.