I'm a degreed librarian with over 30 years of experience as an environmental information professional. I'm currently the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainability Information Curator and also manage the Center's strategic communications.
A grassroots proposal fueled by opponents of logging and other concerns is gaining traction to transform the 289,000-acre Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois into a national park and the nation’s first climate preserve.
Proponents argue the designation would protect a valuable, incredibly diverse major ecosystem from destruction by logging and mining interests. They contend the current government agency that oversees the Shawnee, the U.S. Forest Service, sees the forest only for its trees as a lumber source.
But the proposal has many skeptics who say the U.S. Forest Service has gotten better at managing the Shawnee. They argue that if the national park and climate preserve plan is approved, unchecked invasive species growth could destroy what is currently a vital recreational and economic resource for the region.
When you’re a Southern Illinois University Carbondale student doing research far from home, sometimes discoveries happen in unexpected ways. Take the recent case of an opossum, a Burmese python and a GPS collar that may lead to better tracking and removal of the invasive species.
New York is surprisingly verdant for a city inseparable from its glass-and-steel towers. And its greenery may affect the city’s carbon footprint much more than previously known, according to new research by Dr. Reinmann, a forest ecologist at City University of New York, and his colleagues.
The tree canopies, shrubs and lawns cover nearly 35 percent of the city, according to the study. During its growing season in the spring and summer, the greenery takes up enough carbon to absorb as much as 40 percent of the human-caused carbon emissions in the New York City area.
Heavy storms have flooded roads and intersections across California and forced thousands to evacuate over the last few weeks. Much of the water isn’t coming from overflowing rivers. Instead, rainfall is simply overwhelming the infrastructure designed to drain the water and keep people safe from flooding.
To top it off, the storms come on the heels of a severe drought. Reservoirs started out with such low water levels that many are only now approaching average levels—and some are still below average.
The state is increasingly a land of extremes.
New infrastructure must accommodate a “new normal” of intense rainfall and long droughts, which has many rethinking the decades-old data and rules used to build existing infrastructure.
By Tiffany Jolley (Prairie Research Institute) and Kim Gudeman (Grainger College of Engineering)
The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) and The Grainger College of Engineering are embarking on a new partnership to create a Joint Initiative on Sustainability Engineering beginning in Spring 2023. This collaboration will further the University of Illinois’ reputation as a nexus of engineering and science that fosters novel solutions for societal challenges, and will broadly include aspects of engineering, energy, health, and sustainability research.
“This partnership will open up new opportunities for research development on our campus and allow scientists from PRI and faculty from the GCOE to work together to find innovative solutions for important societal challenges. Students and postdoctoral researchers will greatly benefit from combining basic research with real-world problems,” said Praveen Kumar, Executive Director of PRI.
Together, PRI and Grainger Engineering aim to encompass joint research and development activity, sponsored funding, private sector partnerships, workforce development and training, and service to the State of Illinois and beyond. This partnership is expected to lead to growth in funding opportunities, and to support successful faculty, research staff, and student recruitment.
“To make significant advancements in some of the most important challenges of our time, it will take a collaboration of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers working together to solve systems-level problems,” said Grainger Engineering Dean Rashid Bashir. “We are proud to partner with our colleagues across the university as we together pursue science that transforms our health and our world.”
PRI scientists and Grainger Engineering faculty who are doing research in the areas of engineering, energy, health, and sustainability, will jointly advise and mentor engineering graduate students and postdocs. Collaborating PRI scientists and Grainger Engineering faculty will serve as co-advisors of thesis/dissertation and research.
To achieve these goals, PRI and Grainger Engineering will work to create collaborative opportunities through shared research environments and facilities and jointly secure resources to enhance their national and international research and educational reputation, and share their successful collaborations.
Carbon dioxide removal is key to meeting the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. A new study analyzes what fair and equitable burden-sharing means for nature-based carbon dioxide removal in developing countries.
Psychological trauma from extreme weather and climate events, such as wildfires, can have long-term impacts on survivors’ brains and cognitive functioning, especially how they process distractions, my team’s new research shows.
Climate change is increasingly affecting people around the world, including through extreme heat, storm damage and life-threatening events like wildfires. In previous research, colleagues and I showed that in the aftermath of the 2018 fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression were highly prevalent in the affected communities more than six months after the disaster.
We also found a graded effect: People whose homes or families were directly affected by fire showed greater mental health harm than those where who were indirectly effected, meaning people who witnessed the event in their community but did not have a personal loss.
In the new study, published Jan. 18, 2023, our team at the Neural Engineering and Translation Labs, or NEATLabs, at the University of California San Diego, wanted to understand whether the symptoms of climate change-related trauma translate to changes in cognitive functioning – the mental processes involved in memory, learning, thinking and reasoning.
We evaluated subjects’ cognitive functioning across a range of abilities, including attention; response inhibition – the ability to not respond impulsively; working memory – the ability to maintain information in mind for short periods of time; and interference processing – the ability to ignore distractions. We also measured their brain function while they performed cognitive tasks, using brain wave recordings obtained from electroencephalography, or EEG.
The study included three groups of individuals: people who were directly exposed to the fire, people who were indirectly exposed, and a control group with no exposure. The groups were well matched for age and gender.
We found that both groups of people exposed to the fire, either directly or indirectly, dealt with distractions less accurately than the control group.
We also found differences in the brain processes underlying these cognitive differences. People who were exposed to the wildfire had greater frontal lobe activity while dealing with distractions. The frontal lobe is the center for the brain’s higher-level functions. Frontal brain activity can be a marker for cognitive effort, suggesting that people exposed to the fires may be having more difficulty processing distractions and compensating by exerting more effort.
Why it matters
With climate change fueling more disasters, it is incredibly important to understand its impacts on human health, including mental health. Resilient mental health is what allows us to recover from traumatic experiences. How humans experience and mentally deal with climate catastrophes sets the stage for our future lives.
There is much work to be done to understand if the effects we found are replicable in large sample studies. In this work, we focused on a total of 75 study participants. Scientists also need to understand how these effects evolve as climate disasters like wildfires occur more often.
We are also pursuing research with community partners to implement interventions that can help alleviate some the impacts we observed on brain and cognitive functioning. There is no one-size-fits-all solution – each community must find the resiliency solutions that work best in their environmental context. As scientists, we can help them understand the causes and point them to solutions that are most effective in improving human health.
Access to an open pool of existing third-party datasets offers many benefits alongside the obvious opportunities to reduce the cost of research projects: access to additional shared data can increase the depth and scope of what is possible within any individual study; financial barriers are reduced and accessibility is opened up to less advantaged scholars and institutions; and, at a global/societal level, new opportunities are created to increase scrutiny, collaboration, and the pace of learning.
However, while the will to share academic data is clearly growing, in many areas of study, there are still many practical barriers to greater implementation.
For an increasing number of publishers and societies, how to thrive in an open access world has become a critical strategy discussion in recent years. Change is now inevitable, and the benefits are more widely understood, with the pandemic making clear the real-world impact that rapid and open dissemination of research can make.
Part of the solution to this changing world for Wiley was to introduce Wiley Partner Solutions at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. A manifestation of what we see in industry trends, it enables the publishers and scholarly societies we work with to grow connections between researchers and the organisations that serve them, and ensures that all research findings are widely available and reusable.
Yet thriving in an open access world goes beyond making research available to as many people as possible or making sure to address FAIR data principles. It is imperative that we now also consider how to ensure that research is as accessible as possible.