Articles tagged as: research
College campuses around the nation are striving to lessen their negative impacts on the environment and committing to “green” initiatives such as campus-wide recycling, service projects and energy saving technologies. At Texas A&M University, the efforts to conserve resources, protect and improve the environment are almost too many to count, so here’s a rundown of the Top 5 ways the Maroon and White is showing how green it can be.
1. Texas-sized Reductions and Savings
Texas A&M’s campus, at more than 5,200 acres, is one of the largest college campuses in America with one of the biggest student populations, yet has seen substantial reductions in energy and water consumption. The university’s energy-related cost avoidance measures have resulted in a 40 percent reduction in energy consumption and more than $140 million in cost savings over the last 10 years. The EPA presented Texas A&M with the 2013 Energy Star CHP Award for energy efficiencies resulting from the installation of a combined heating and power (CHP) system that requires one-third less fuel than a typical off-campus power plant. Campus water consumption has also decreased, by 30 percent since 2000. And campus recycling has greatly increased over the last three years; a record 64 percent of campus waste was recycled in FY 2012. Texas A&M Utilities & Energy Services (UES) has played a major role in consumption reductions and increased recycling, and UES Executive Director Jim Riley credits the success to both his team and the campus community as a whole. “With great support from the campus community, we’ve achieved significant improvement in efficiency of operation while customer comfort and service levels have seen measurable improvement,” Riley notes.
“Respect. Protect. Preserve,” is the motto of Texas A&M’s Office of Sustainability, which defines sustainability as “the efficient, deliberate and responsible preservation of environmental, social and economic resources to protect our earth for future generations…” The renovated Memorial Student Center is a model of sustainability, both in its construction and routine functions. A majority, 68 percent, of the building’s existing material was repurposed and reused in the renovation, say university officials. Additionally, the daily functions of the facility are ingrained with sustainable practices including the use of natural lighting and recyclable materials. Water bottle filling stations in the MSC and across campus allow for water bottles to be refilled rather than thrown away. From just the 19 filling stations installed by the Office of Sustainability, the equivalent of 452,000 water bottles have been saved from disposal, according to Kelly Wellman, Texas A&M’s sustainability officer. “We are all called upon to be good stewards of our resources,” she says. “As an institution teaching the leaders of tomorrow, we must continually model stewardship through actions, teaching and infusing the Aggie Core Values into everyday life.”
For the past three years, Texas A&M has been designated a “Tree Campus USA” honoree by the Arbor Day Foundation for its effective campus tree management. The university’s efforts include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures toward trees, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning projects. This year, the university’s first “virtual tree tour” went online, allowing for a unique way to tour campus by following a route of the university’s most beautiful and famous trees. And speaking of famous trees, the legendary “Century Tree” at the heart of campus, site of many an Aggie marriage proposal, has been designated as a “Famous Tree of Texas” by the Texas A&M Forest Service. “In addition to providing direct environmental services such as stormwater management and energy conservation, being around trees is known to reduce stress, anxiety and aggression,” says Gretchen Riley of the Texas A&M Forest Service. “Consequently, students are better able to concentrate on tasks and build positive relationships — just the kind of environment we want at a college campus.”
4. Green Research
From rooftop planting to finding potential new sources of energy, cutting edge research in all things green is being conducted by Texas A&M students and faculty. “Green roof” planting projects on the roofs of the Langford Architecture Building A and the Mitchell Physics Building are not only reaping environmental benefits, such as rainwater collection and energy conservation, they are serving as hands-on learning experiences for students. And finding alternative sources of fuel is the goal of numerous, ongoing university research projects. For example, researchers at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are endeavoring to produce renewable energy from organic matter including, of all things, tobacco. Professor of Plant Pathology and Microbiology Joshua Yuan’s research into using tobacco plants to derive fuel has garnered the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy which has given Yuan a $1.8 million grant to continue his investigation. “Instead of going to oil fields, which are not sustainable, not only can we solve our problem of energy dependence and energy security, but also we will provide a solution for sustainable fuel production,” he explains. “And it will be renewable for years to come.”
5. Selfless Service
Texas A&M’s Core Value of “Selfless Service” has been front and center in Aggie efforts to improve the environment. For example, after the community of Bastrop suffered the most damaging wildfire in Texas history in 2011, Aggies partnered with the Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Parks & Wildlife to replant the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Park. This past February, around 800 Aggies worked to plant thousands of pine seedlings there. The effort was led by Aggie Replant, a student environmental organization formed more than 20 years ago to replace trees cut down for Bonfire, and although Bonfire is no longer a university-sanctioned activity, Aggie Replant continues to care for the environment with such initiatives as Replant Day, an annual event where Aggie volunteers plant trees around the Brazos Valley. Tarek Abbassi, a senior biomedical engineering major and an Aggie Replant leader, says the Bastrop replant project allowed the organization to expand its service impact. “Every year we bring trees to the B/CS area, but I’ve always felt that Replant could and should do more for the environment around Texas,” he says. “Replant’s involvement in the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign is important because it represents the growth and change that Replant has made over the years.”
More green campus initiatives are planned for the future at Texas A&M including a new $45 million capital plan to support utility production upgrades in the four campus utilities plants, with construction on the first project to begin this fall.
About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit 12thman.tamu.edu.
As one of the nation’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M University sets a high standard of investigation, innovation and discovery. Aggie students are an integral part of the university’s research efforts, including the graduate students at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service whose capstone projects serve the public by finding solutions for some of today’s most complex problems.
The Bush School is a graduate college at Texas A&M where students can pursue a master’s degree in public service and administration (MPSA) or international affairs (MPIA).
Bush School students participate in capstone projects as a requirement of their degree plans. Capstones are team-based research projects in which students work for real-world clients to produce public policy research reports. The teams of students craft research, make policy recommendations and present formal reports to clients.
From government agencies and nonprofit organizations to private sector companies, the list of prominent capstone clientele grows each semester.
The students do all the work to produce their reports, with professors playing supervisory roles.
Bush School capstone reports provide fresh perspectives on the biggest issues of the day, said Ann Bowman, a Bush School professor who leads capstone groups. “There’s a tremendous benefit for the residents of the State of Texas for having students who are bringing new ideas, enthusiasm and talent to these public policies,” she said.
Bowman’s 2011 capstone group’s report, titled “Introducing…Objectivity” may play an important role in future Texas congressional redistricting.
The group of seven MPSA students spent a semester working with the Texas Legislature and focused on the issue of redistricting. The resulting report provides a review of current redistricting practices and develops criteria that would increase the objectivity of the process, Bush School officials note. Using those criteria, the students proposed three different alternatives for redrawing Texas congressional district boundaries.
“The students said, ‘if we were to take a look at the 36 Senate districts to represent demographics equally, what would it look like?’” said Bowman. “They came up with three options, decided which one they felt was best and really took an objective look at the political landscape.”
The aftermath of natural disaster is another subject that Bush School MPSA students delved into with a 2010 grant from the Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund. In the project “Organizational Resiliency After Hurricane Ike,” supervised by Sharon Caudle, a Bush School faculty member, students compared the post-Ike development of Cameron Parish, La., and the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, areas that were devastated after the storm.
Working with officials and community members from the two areas, the students focused on long-term recovery and resiliency, economic development goals, policy options to meet these goals, and the strengths and weaknesses of each, including implementation challenges.
President George H.W. Bush, namesake of the school, described this project as “near and dear to my heart,” having seen the devastation of a storm first-hand when he had worked in offshore drilling.
Other MPSA capstones have explored such issues as immigration reform, diversity in job recruiting, social services and hazard preparedness.
Students pursuing their MPIA have investigated numerous issues related to homeland security, including cyber security, economic espionage and border security, along with a variety of other topics of national and international importance.
A 2013 MPIA capstone project culminated in a trip to Belgium, where students presented a report to U.S. intelligence officers at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The students were supervised by Bush School Lecturer Lt. Gen. Randolph W. House and endeavored to research and summarize how selected NATO countries gather, manage and report intelligence. The group studied intelligence operations in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Turkey.
“Capstone projects take Bush School students from a powerful academic experience to a real world problem-solving event,” House said. “It requires students to write a hard-hitting, succinct report tailored to busy clients’ daily situations and is a win-win for the Bush School and the outside agency.”
President Bush said capstone projects serve both the participating students and the public as a whole. “This type of real-world research is a valuable aspect of higher education and can help illuminate important public policy issues,” he stated.
About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit http://12thman.tamu.edu.
Media contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-5591
From its humble beginnings in 1876 on the prairies of Central Texas, Texas A&M University has been conducting research that is changing the world and affecting life on every continent.
The Morrill Act of 1862 was a big first step by providing means in which states could sell off public tracts of lands and use the proceeds to establish universities. These land-grant universities would go on to become world leaders in research. Today, the nation’s 74 land-grant universities — included among them Texas A&M — are world leaders in producing research that is literally life-changing.
“Without question, Texas A&M is one of the nation’s leading research institutions,” says President R. Bowen Loftin.
“Inquiry and discovery are at the heart of who we are as a research university, and involve not only our faculty, but also our undergraduate and graduate students. Texas A&M’s research expenditures of more than $700 million are annually among the largest of any U.S. university, and as one of a select few land-, sea- and space-grant universities, we conduct research that affects every form of human endeavor.”
Not long after Texas A&M first opened its doors, the Hatch Act was passed in 1887 that created the Agricultural Experiment Station, known today as the Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Research within the A&M System agency has been nothing short of amazing — touching every aspect of life for all Texans and beyond.
In 1914, several key developments began that provided a big boost to Texas A&M research. The Smith-Lever Act created the Agricultural Extension Services, which led to the creation of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Also that year, the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station – now all members of the A&M System – were established to provide more outreach for transfer of engineering knowledge and expertise to the state’s residents.
A year later, a truly historic event occurred for the state when Texas A&M’s School of Veterinary Medicine was established in 1915. Today, known as the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the college is the only such veterinary school in the state and one of the world’s largest with a reputation to match. “Aggie vets” are hired by industry, the military, and homeland security and are used in private practice to provide the finest veterinary care in the world. Mark Francis was named the college’s first veterinary dean in 1916, and he led a team of researchers that were pioneers in creating animal immunizations that eradicated Texas Tick Fever, which was critical to the rapid development of Texas’ huge livestock industry.
More key milestones occurred. In 1919, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service was created, charged with “developing a highly skilled workforce through technical and vocational training,” and in the 1930s, as the Dust Bowl ravaged through the Midwest, Texas A&M’s extension agencies in agriculture and engineering were used in maintain water and soil conservation, crop rotation and range management.
By the 1940s, Texas A&M was awarding doctoral degrees in agriculture and engineering, a legacy that continues today: the Dwight Look College of Engineering currently is ranked No. 8 nationally among all engineering schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is among the nation’s largest and most prestigious.
In 1950, with Texas’ population growing and more vehicles on the road, the state created the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) to meet the new challenges of the region’s transportation system. Today, research at TTI extends to all corners of the world, including vehicle emission studies to highway safety and acclaimed research in traffic congestion.
Also, in 1950, the U.S. Congress approved creation of the National Science Foundation, a vast agency to improve and widen virtually every aspect of mankind’s existence and to provide funding for universities for further scientific exploration. Texas A&M has been a key player in a wide range of NSF projects, and today, NSF remains the largest funding source for research at the university.
Gen. James Earl Rudder was named Texas A&M’s 16th president in 1959, and he laid the groundwork for the school to become the Tier 1 research institution it is today by improving academic and faculty standards and expanding its research goals and stature. By 1963, Texas A&M gained university status and officially became Texas A&M University.
During the 1960s, Texas A&M’s space research became greatly enhanced with then-President John F. Kennedy’s goal to put a man on the moon, and key contracts were awarded to the university for space engineering. Also about that time, Texas A&M was awarded $3 million by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to construct a cyclotron, which in turn created the Nuclear Science Center on campus. The university went on to award the first nuclear engineering degree in the Southwest.
In 1971, Texas A&M took another huge step by becoming one of the country’s first Sea Grant Colleges, paving the way for the establishment of Texas A&M University at Galveston, which is considered the school’s “campus by the sea.” In conjunction with the Texas Maritime Academy, Texas A&M at Galveston has produced thousands of Sea Aggies who are employed by cruise lines, shipping companies and the energy sector, and marine-oriented research has produced landmark discoveries in sea life, hurricane and storm surge protection methods and beach erosion studies.
More milestones: In 1981, research expenditures topped $100 million for the first time, and Texas A&M became part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program in 1985. In 1989, Texas A&M received space grant status from NASA, beginning at long-standing affiliation with the space agency that continues to this day. Today, Texas A&M is one of only 17 institutions in the country to hold the triple designation as a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university.
By the 1990s, Texas A&M had surpassed $300 million in research expenditures (1992) and in 1997, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened to promote discussion and research in the American political system.
In 1999, the Texas A&M Health Science Center opened, and today it prepares hundreds of Aggies each year to enter the medical, nursing and health science fields. In 2000, Texas A&M became a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), comprising the top 62 leading public and private universities in the country put the school “on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship and solutions that contribute to the nation’s economy, security and well-being,” according to its charter in the group.
A major breakthrough in research occurred in 2001 when Texas A&M successfully cloned the first domestic animal — a cat named CC for “carbon copy.” Since then, the university has become an international leader in cloning and was the first to clone a deer, horse, pigs, cattle and others.
In 2003, Texas A&M University at Qatar was established to bring engineering programs and much-needed research to the Gulf Region by establishing a branch campus at Education City in Doha. Today, Education City is a multi-university campus of 2,400 acres housing several American universities.
In 2004, the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory was selected to be part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and also that year the school joined a consortium of universities to build the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile that will be the most powerful telescope ever constructed, enabling new discoveries across the universe. Also in 2004, the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD) was established at Texas A&M as part of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence, focusing on animal diseases and their possible transfer of diseases to humans.
More breakthroughs continued as the decade continued, including in 2006 when researchers completed the first conversion of a nuclear reactor from using highly enriched uranium. And in 2007, research expenditures at Texas A&M topped $500 million for the first time. The coming years also showered national rankings on the university, its colleges and academic programs.
In 2012, research at Texas A&M garnered international headlines as the school was awarded a $285.6 million contract to establish the Texas A&M Center for Innovation to help the nation’s emergency preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. The purpose of the Center for Innovation is to perform research and advanced development to accelerate vaccines and other medical products through pre-clinical and clinical development and to produce these products in cases of pandemics or other national emergencies.
By 2013, research expenditures had reached $705 million at Texas A&M, and the school — by any measure and any standard — has become one of the world’s leading research institutions.
About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit http://12thman.tamu.edu/.
Researchers including a Texas A&M University geomicrobiologist have discovered life at incredible depths – more than 350 feet below the ocean floor and 12,000 feet under the water – that could raise new questions about how life forms are able to exist in the most extreme environments.
Heath Mills, assistant professor of oceanography in the College of Geosciences, along with a former Texas A&M graduate student, Brandi Kiel Reese, now at the University of Southern California, and current Texas A&M graduate student Martha Ariza found fungi in sediments that could be at least 100 million years old, some of which belong to penicillium, from which penicillin is derived.
An article about the research appeared in Nature magazine.
Mills and the team examined sediment cores taken from an area of the Pacific Ocean during a 2010 research trip conducted by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, which is headquartered at Texas A&M.
They found several types of fungal species and were successful in growing four types in a lab setting.
“We were amazed that these fungi were alive and they could possibly be 100 million years old,” Mills explains.
“We examined them closer and found they were directly related to penicillin fungi. Needless to say, it was an exciting discovery and not something that we had expected.”
Mills says the findings could “open up new doors in a lot of different areas.
“When you find life forms hundreds of feet below the ocean seafloor and at extreme depths in the ocean, this is life adapted for some of the harshest extremes on the planet,” he notes.
“It raises new questions about how life can continue to exist. It also raises new questions about whatever life forms we could find in similar locations around the world.
“These cores were taken at one of the ‘deadest’ places on Earth, sites where you would not expect to find life. The fungi may have developed their own defense systems against harmful bacteria, and if that is true, how could these be used in medicines today? Is this a new form of penicillin, and if so, could it be stronger than what we have currently?
“All of these are questions that we need to examine,” Mills adds. “This discovery is important on several different levels.”
The project was funded by the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations and the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center.
About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $700 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.
A new study suggests that a brief window of opportunity exists to shape the development of cities across the globe before an enormous boom in infrastructure construction occurs, according to researchers at Yale, Texas A&M University, and Boston University in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers predict that by 2030, urban areas will expand by more than 463,000 square miles, or 1.2 million square kilometers. That is equal to 20,000 American football fields becoming urban every day for the first three decades of this century.
The growth in urban areas will coincide with the construction of roads and buildings, water and sanitation facilities, and energy and transport systems that will transform land cover and cities globally. Recent estimates suggest that between $25 trillion and $30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide by 2030, with $100 billion a year in China alone.
“Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanization-related policies to consider their lasting impacts,” said Karen Seto, lead author of the study and associate professor in the urban environment at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “We have a huge opportunity to shape how cities develop and their environmental impacts.”
Nearly half of the increase in high-probability — defined as greater than 75 percent — urban expansion is forecasted to occur in Asia, with China and India absorbing 55 percent of the regional total. In China, urban expansion is expected to create a 1,100-mile coastal urban corridor from Hangzhou to Shenyang. In India, urban expansion will be clustered around seven state capital cities, with large areas of low-probability growth forecasted for the Himalayan region where many small villages and towns currently exist.
Africa’s urban land cover will grow the fastest, at 590 percent above the 2000 level of 16,000 square miles. Urban expansion will be concentrated in that continent’s five regions: the Nile River in Egypt; the coast of West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea; the northern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda and extending into Rwanda and Burundi; the Kano region in northern Nigeria; and greater Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“Urban expansion is concentrated in only a few areas where there are large cities and industry,” said Seto. “From the northern shore of Lake Victoria down to Rwanda is also a major hotspot of urban expansion.
In North America, where 78 percent of the total population lives in urban areas, urban land cover will nearly double by 96,000 square miles by 2030. The study also forecasts that 48 of the 221 countries in the study will experience negligible amounts of urban expansion.
The researchers examined historical patterns of urban population growth and expansion, and used forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on gross domestic product and projections by the United Nations on urban population growth for their analysis.
Urban expansion will have significant impacts on biodiversity hotspots around the world.
“We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city,” says Burak Güneralp, second author of the study and research assistant professor at Texas A&M.
“It’s not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to introduce into the discussion how urban expansion will have implications for other, non-human species and the value of these species for present and future generations.”
Moreover, urban expansion will encroach on or destroy habitats for 139 amphibian species, 41 mammalian species and 25 bird species that are either on the Critically Endangered or Endangered Lists of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, based on independent space-borne GLAS LiDAR measurements, the researchers estimate the aboveground, biomass carbon losses associated with land-clearing from new urban areas in the pan-tropics to be 5 percent of the tropical deforestation and land-use-change emissions.
“Our analysis suggests that the first few decades of the 21st century will be critical for managing urbanization towards sustainability,” said Güneralp.
Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (97) 845-4644; or Burak Guneralp at (979) 845-6422 or (979) 595-7262 or Karen Riedel, Texas A&M College of Geosciences, at (979) 845-0910.