Tackling wildfire, health and environmental risks

Stanford engineers, geophysicists, disease ecologists, musicologists and others soon will collaborate on finding new ways to detect and reduce wildfire risk; harness the sun’s power to purify water; interpret ocean health through sound and more.

Sonifying the Sea
One of the EVP grant projects will develop, test and deploy methods of displaying complex data through sound. The researchers will focus on interpreting and communicating oceanic data to understand the processes affecting ecosystems such as giant kelp forests.

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment has awarded 10 proposals as part of its 2018 Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) and Realizing Environmental Innovation Program (REIP) grants. Both programs provide funding for interdisciplinary research needed to solve major environmental problems. Such problems – ranging from long-neglected tropical diseases to managing groundwater supplies to drought-fueled wildfires – are too complex to be solved by any one discipline alone. The Stanford Woods Institute prioritizes funding interdisciplinary projects that have the potential to make significant strides in addressing such multifaceted challenges.

Since the EVP program began in 2004 and the REIP program began in 2015, the Stanford Woods Institute has awarded more than $14.5 million in grants to 94 research teams representing all seven of Stanford’s academic schools.

Here are two of the projects that received grants:

Sonifying the Sea: This project will develop, test and deploy novel methods of displaying complex data through sound. The researchers will focus on interpreting and communicating oceanic data to understand the processes affecting rich and complex ecosystems such as giant kelp forests and coral reefs. Auditory display using musical principles can provide effective translations of many cyclical factors that impact the health and survival of these ecosystems, ranging from the dynamic patterns of biomes, to the effects of climate and other anthropogenic factors. The project is led by JONATHAN BERGER, the Denning Family Provostial Professor in the music department, and STEPHEN PALUMBI, the Jane and Marshall Steel Jr. Professor in Marine Sciences at the Hopkins Marine Station and a senior fellow at Woods.

Optimizing Groundwater Recharge: Increasing groundwater recharge is critical to our water future. Spreading basins (ponds with high percolation rates) can help, but many cities don’t consider how innovative urban water sources, such as recycled water and spreading basins can augment recharge. Stanford researchers have developed a computational tool called AquaCharge that facilitates planning augmented spreading basin systems by optimizing technical designs. This project will apply AquaCharge to case studies of California’s Santa Clara Valley and the Central Valley city of Fresno, comparing insights to draw general lessons about planning these systems. The project is led by RICHARD LUTHY, the Silas H. Palmer Professor of Civil Engineering, and AMIN SABERI, associate professor of management science and engineering.

To read the full article go to the Woods Institute for the Environment website.