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Sustainability represents a way of thinking, living, and acting, to ensure that our choices do not impact future generations' ability to enjoy a high quality of life. This means being good stewards of the earth, good citizens in local and world communities, and sharing resources with human and natural populations.
Today we face serious environmental challenges. How will climate change affect the world's biodiversity? Where will our food, water and energy come from? How should we limit industrial growth at regional and global levels? Scientists at Cal are working to find sustainable solutions!
Because of the urgency with which we need these solutions, scientists, policymakers, and engineers are all working together. Computer scientists and atmospheric scientists have joined forces, building models to help us predict the likely outcomes of climate change. Ecologists and policy experts are teaming up to conserve biodiversity. Engineers and microbial biologists are working together to find new energy sources and design more energy-efficient technologies. And that’s just for starters.
Below are stories relating to sustainability and the environment.
John Taylor tells us about the evolution and diversity of fungi.
Jeremy Thorner tells us about the amazing properties of the humble yeast.
On June 16, our talk was given by Anand Varma, and was entitled "Water and Ash: A Photographic Exploration of Patagonia's Wetlands and Volcanoes".
Northern Patagonia has the strongest rainfall gradient in the world, transforming from rainforest to desert in less than 100 miles. In order to explore water’s influence on the natural and human communities along this gradient, I traveled to Argentina in 2010 and photographed the wetlands of the region. I worked from the lush Valdivian rainforest in the west to the Patagonian desert of the east. Six months after I left, the Puyehue Volcano erupted and dumped ash across the same region. I returned in 2011 to show what this new element meant for the landscape and people of Patagonia. I will present my photographs, share the natural history stories behind them, and discuss what this eruption means for the future of Patagonia.
Did you know that in Kansas, the Climate and Energy Project is capitalizing on heartland values to change behavior and reduce carbon emissions? Learn more at "What's Right with Kansas?", a discussion presented by Science at the Theater, featuring Nancy Jackson, Board Chair of the Climate and Energy Project, and Merrian Fuller, a Berkeley Lab researcher whose work focuses on the financing and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as what motivates behavioral change.
On April 16, there will not be a Science@Cal talk in our regular venue. Instead, we invite you to attend "Cal Day". UC Berkeley's campus open house features free events, activities, and lectures all across campus, suitable for all ages and interests. More details at http://calday.berkeley.edu/
On March 19, our talk will be given by Prof. Rich Muller, and will be entitled "The Current Status of Climate Change - A Non-Partisan Analysis".
Because of its huge economic and political implications, Climate Change is rarely presented without spin. This will be an attempt to do that. I'll discuss the physics of the greenhouse effect, and the data that indicate global warming. Among key topics are: Copenhagen -- why did we fail to get a major treaty? Climategate -- what really happened? IPCC standards -- and why they are undergoing major revisions. What are the top prospects among the many choices for alternative energy? What kind of example can the U.S. set that could be followed by the rest of the world? I'll also report on new results of our "Berkeley Earth" project -- a detailed re-analysis of the evidence for global warming; see www.BerkeleyEarth.org.
Rich Muller is a Professor in the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley, and Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. He was named a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellow in 1982. He also received the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation "for highly original and innovative research which has led to important discoveries and inventions in diverse areas of physics, including astrophysics, radioisotope dating, and optics." In 1999, he received a distinguished teaching award from UC Berkeley. He teaches the popular "Physics for Future Presidents" series of undergraduate lectures at Berkeley and is the author of an associated book, among other books, essays, and articles. He's also working on a system to view 3-D TV without glasses.
On December 18, our talk was given by Dr. Terry Hazen, and is entitled "Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill – How Resilient is Mother Nature?".
The biological effects and expected fate of the vast amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon blowout are unknown due to the extreme depth and magnitude of this event, but also the unprecedented quantity of oil dispersant released and injected directly at the wellhead (1,544 m). We found that the dispersed hydrocarbon plume stimulated deep-sea indigenous bacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degraders. Hydrocarbon-degrading genes coincided with the concentration of various oil contaminants. Changes in hydrocarbon composition with distance from the source, environmental isolates, and microcosms demonstrate faster then expected hydrocarbon biodegradation rates even at 5°C. Intrinsic bioremediation of the oil plume in the deep-water column without substantial oxygen drawdown occurred after only 2-3 weeks of capping the Macondo well.
The latest issue of the online magazine ScienceMatters@Berkeley has been published! It contains articles about the work done by Cal scientists to study how dust grains agglomerate to form planets, the extent to which Native Americans used fire to manage their environment, and how healthy cells cause their own deaths. Check out the latest issue here.
Cal researchers are hard at work learning about the environment and humanity's role in it.