February 18, 2014 Many tropical mountain birds are shifting their ranges upslope to escape warming temperatures that disrupt their way of life, according to research by a husband-and-wife team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that retraced scientist Jared Diamond’s landmark New Guinea expedition in the 1960s. The study is published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But there’s only so much room on these mountains. Climate change predictions suggest that before the end of this century, global warming will push at least four of these species into localized extinctions, says Benjamin Freeman, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. student at Cornell University. Freeman conducted this research with his wife, Alexandra Class Freeman, a Ph.D. who works at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“Our research demonstrates that no matter where you are on Earth, even a tropical wilderness island in the South Pacific, climate change is happening and having tangible impacts,” says Class Freeman. “In this case, the activities of industrialized nations causing climate change are impacting birds in remote New Guinea, deep in tropical mountain forests, causing them to move up the slopes to find their preferred habitat.”
The research was conducted on two remote forested mountains in Papua New Guinea, one (Karkar Island) hosting an active volcano and the other (Mt. Karimui) a dormant one. The Freemans followed up on Diamond’s pioneering bird surveys of these mountains 50 years ago, which offered a baseline for measuring change. The annual mean temperature on these islands has risen about 0.7 degree Fahrenheit in the past five decades. The birds’ movement up the mountains closely matched the temperature increase. On Mt. Karimui, 87 bird species (or 70 percent of all species in the survey) responded by shifting their ranges up the mountain by an average of 370 feet. On Karkar Island, which is a smaller oceanic island with fewer birds and less diversity, a greater proportion of birds (17 species, or 77 percent of all species in the survey) moved upslope by an even greater amount – an average of 500 feet. The mountains in the research are about 8,000 feet tall.
Cornell Media Relations Office news release [2014-02-17]
Also: Cornell Chronicle [2014-02-18]
February 13, 2014
Multidisciplinary Cornell research teams have greatly increased the commercial attractiveness of algal biofuel, overcoming significant hurdles that have delayed private-sector uptake of this promising green fuel.
Charles Greene (EAS) and his research team parlayed a 2011 Rapid Response Fund award into an international algal biofuel partnership, now funded by a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Working with industrial partner Cellana, the consortium has grown algae at the highest productivity values demonstrated at pilot scale in the world. Algae can produce far more biomass and oil per acre annually than even the most productive terrestrial energy crops.
Working with the Sahara Forest Project (SFP, pictured above) in Qatar, Cornell researchers helped build a facility highlighting new energy and food technologies that attracted international attention at the December 2012 COP18 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha. The demonstration facility was visited by several heads of state.
Back in Ithaca, Ruth Richardson (CEE), Beth Ahner (BEE), Lars Angenent (BEE), David Erickson (MAE), Jeff Tester (CHEME), Roseanna Zia (CBE), and other scientists work on strategies to improve different steps in the extraction process—as well as totally reenvisioning reactor systems. Current methods require too much energy, preventing algal biofuels from achieving their full commercial or environmental potential.
Another promising path is to develop high-value coproducts at the same time as fuel. Animal scientist Xingen Lei (ANSCI) is doing just that. With a new $5.5 million USDA grant to further research launched by ACSF seed funding, he is producing a nutritious animal feed for broiler chickens, laying hens, and weanling pigs from algae.
Atkinson Center Blog [2014-02-11]
February 13, 2014
Make our small, pale blue planet a greener place: Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) announces the 2014 cycle for its Academic Venture Fund.
Internal to Cornell, this program stimulates new, original, multidisciplinary research in sustainability, emphasizing work that has the potential to involve external partners such as industry, government, foundations and other nongovernmental organizations. Since 2008 more than 200 researchers from 49 Cornell departments have received about $4.5 million in grants funding 54 projects.
ACSF seeks proposals from all of Cornell’s colleges and schools that encompass disciplines contributing to sustainability. Letters of intent must be filed by Feb. 24 with full proposals due March 24.
Potential applicants can attend a question-and-answer session Wednesday, March 12, at 3:30 p.m. in 300 Rice Hall. Contact Paula Euvrard to register. Applicants are urged to contact an ACSF faculty director to discuss potential submissions.
Cornell Chronicle [2014-02-12]
February 5, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced February 5 the creation of the first ever Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country. The “Climate Hubs” will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis, aiming to translate science and research into information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to adapt and adjust their resource management.
“For generations, America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have innovated and adapted to challenges. Today, they face a new and more complex threat in the form of a changing and shifting climate, which impacts both our nation’s forests and our farmers’ bottom lines,” said Vilsack. “USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”
The Northeast hub is located at the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, Durham, N.H. Cornell is a partner in the Northeast hub.
- Secretary Vilsack Announces Climate Hubs Locations (USDA press release February 5, 2014)
- Climate Risks in the Northeast (USDA factsheet)
- USDA Regional Climate Hubs (USDA website)
- Climate Solutions (USDA website)
February 4, 2014
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Sea Grant have funded two Cornell projects to help officials improve coastal hazard warnings for residents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
One project assesses how people in coastal communities respond to storm hazard information, and the other measures how individuals understand, react and respond to media messages about storm surges.
The second project will investigate how coastal residents in the tri-state region perceive risk from storm surge and hurricanes through media messages. During Sandy, 40 deaths were directly attributed to flooding that occurred due to storm surge.
Each project received about $150,000 out of a total $1.4 million from NOAA/Sea Grant’s Hurricane Sandy relief money that funded 10 projects.
Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-02-03]
February 2, 2014
“As controversy rages over high-volume hydraulic fracturing and climate change, Cornell University professor Robert Howarth has fanned the flames.
“Howarth, was the lead author of a 2011 study that was the first to explore natural gas leaks, chiefly made up of methane, and their impacts on climate change.
“Howarth’s study found that methane leakage from fracking was speeding climate change quicker than previously estimated. The study questioned the viability of natural gas as a clean fuel that could bridge the gap toward sustainable energy sources, and it added a new dimension to the debate over fracking. Howarth’s work drew heavy fire from the oil-and-gas industry, and praise from environmental activists.”
Read the whole article or view video. [Ithaca Journal 2013-01-31]
February 2, 2014
The impact of climate change on Northern New York agriculture is on the agenda of the 2014 North Country Crop Congresses: Tuesday, February 18 at W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Chazy, NY, and Wednesday, February 19, 9am-3pm, at the Best Western University Inn in Canton, NY.
Dr. Allison Chatrchyan, the new director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture, will present thoughts on the impact of climate change and variable weather will have on Northern New York farming systems in the near and distant future.
Dr. Chatrchyan will present historical climate data and suggest how NNY farmers may integrate climate change into farm system planning for reduction of risk, and seize the production opportunities the changing climate may present.
January 31, 2014
Chill with impunity through this winter’s extreme cold – and brace for the next summer heat wave, when fiery temperatures and air pollution conspire to fill hospitals and morgues.
That’s the advice from a team of climate-change researchers who studied 170 million hospital admissions and 8 million deaths (season by season, day by day, for 10 years) in Germany before issuing a report with global implications.
“We show that extreme heat events have a highly significant and largely adverse impact on both hospitalizations and deaths, whereas extreme cold seems to have a negligible real-world impact on population health,” said Nicolas Ziebarth, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.
Ziebarth published “The Short-term Population Health Effects of Weather and Pollution: Implications of Climate Change” (as a December 2013 IZA working paper) with Maike Schmitt, Darmstadt Technical University, and Martin Karlsson, University of Duisburg-Essen. Ziebarth is also affiliated with the German Institute for Economic Research and the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-01-30]
January 22, 2014
Via Ingrid H. H. Zabel, Ph.D., Climate Change Education Manager, Paleontological Research Institution / Museum of the Earth / Cayuga Nature Center:
Thursday, January 23, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, Museum of the Earth: Opening reception for a new temporary exhibit: Then & Now: The Changing Arctic Landscape, a nationally touring exhibit that pairs historic photographs of glaciers with recent images taken from the same vantage points. More information.
Sunday, January 26, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Cayuga Nature Center: PRI’s Glacier Lecture Series continues with a talk for the general public by Cornell Professor Emeritus Dan Karig, titled The deglaciation of the Ithaca area: an outrageous new model based on field data. More information on the series.
January 17, 2014
Keith Tidball, senior extension associate in the Department of Natural Resources and state program leader of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York Extension Disaster Education Network (NY EDEN), has been named a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 2014 visiting scholar. Tidball, whose work focuses on disaster readiness, response and resilience, will work jointly with NIFA’s Division of Family and Consumer Sciences and NIFA’s Center for International Programs.
Visiting scholars are selected from faculty who are actively engaged with the NIFA-funded Extension Disaster Education Network and interested in conducting work that bridges domestic and international efforts in disaster preparedness, response and recovery education. Tidball will link existing EDEN efforts to other NIFA initiatives and programs, Cooperative Extension Regional Development Centers, emergency preparedness, response and recovery programs of other federal agencies, and international disaster education efforts.
During his appointment, Tidball will work to further integrate EDEN’s national and New York state work with the new Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture and similar NIFA funded initiatives around the country, and he will help the Philippines launch its Extension Disaster Education Network.
KyuJung Whang, Cornell vice president for facilities, has been named to the board of directors of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
AASHE was founded in 2005 to coordinate and strengthen campus sustainability efforts and to serve as the first North American professional association for campus sustainability. The organization provides resources, professional development and support to administrators, faculty, staff and students in such areas as education, research, governance and operations.
During Whang’s seven years at Cornell, the university has completed a Climate Action Plan, created an on-campus sustainability advocacy and leadership group, and developed policies mandating LEED rating of all new buildings. Whang is involved in the design and construction process for building the Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City that will feature a net-zero energy building.