Today I provided testimony at the public hearing on the new proposed Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, which rolls back protections for what waters are covered under the Clean Water Act. The public comment period closes on April 15, so be sure to have your voice heard. Details on the proposed rule and how to comment are here. More resources to learn more about WOTUS are listed at the bottom. Here are my remarks from my 3 minute slot:
Good morning. My name is Bonnie McGill. I have a Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry. I am now a David H. Smith Conservation Fellow working on water quality in Iowa, but I’m based in Kansas. My comments today are my own.
In addition to Iowa, I have conducted aquatic research across the US and around the world. Clearly I love water and it’s not because I think fish are cute.
It’s because I grew up in Appalachia where we could not drink our well water.
It’s because I lived in Michigan during the Flint water crisis.
It’s because I’ve measured water in the US with nitrate concentrations three or more times the drinking water standard.
So I have 2 messages for you today.
Message 1: The working poor and rural America especially rely on the Clean Water Act to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters” as a matter of protecting human health.
The proposed 2017 WOTUS rule does not seem to recognize that access to clean water is a lot easier and cheaper if you let nature do the work for you. For example, the US already benefits from free ecosystem services from headwater systems that are worth over $15 trillion per year (Creed et al. 2017) that is not far from the entire US GDP.
Even small, non-floodplain wetlands can provide disproportionately large benefits such as nutrient retention and water flow regulation (Marton et al. 2015, Cohen et al. 2016). Case in point, Iowa has lost 90% of its wetlands (NRCS 2005). Artificial drainage has increased in area and density and extreme rainfall events have become more common. It is not a coincidence that Iowa ranks 4thin the nation in number of floods since 1988; these floods have cost Iowans about $18 billion (Eller 2018). Without protections on headwater wetlands and streams, the cost of flood disaster relief will continue to rise.
Message 2: Regulations concerning natural resources should be based on peer reviewed science, but the 2017 WOTUS rule is not. For example, the new rule ignores the importance of the cumulative physical, chemical, and biological effects of connectivity to the integrity of downstream systems. It only considers physical connectivity. As a scientist working with surface and groundwaters, I can tell you that determining whether or not surface water is connected to groundwater is far from simple and does not make the rule clearer or more predictable. The 2015 rule protecting any water way with a streambed, banks, or ordinary high water mark is much more simple.
1) Protecting headwaters is a win for human health and our pocket books.
2) Regulations on natural resources should be based on science not the preferences of industry.
Thank you for your time.
Please note: I do also think fish are very cute.
The EPA's 2015 Connectivity Report--science based report under the Obama administration, basis of 2015 Clean Water Rule.
18 Feb. 2019 E& E News article by Ariel Wittenberg on the new rule.
American Fisheries Society Special Report: Headwater Streams and Wetlands are Critical for Sustaining Fish, Fisheries, and Ecosystem Services Other info on WOTUS from AFS is here.
Cohen, M.J., et al. 2016. Do geographically isolated wetlands influence landscape functions? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences113(8):1978-1986 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1512650113
Creed, I.F. et al. 2017. Enhancing protection for vulnerable waters. Nature Geoscience 10:809-813. DOI: 10.1038/NGEO3041 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30079098
Marton, J.M., et al. 2015. Geographically Isolated Wetlands are Important Biogeochemical Reactors on the Landscape. BioScience65:408-418. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biv009
On creativity in science
Until eleventh grade I had no inclination to be a scientist. Zero. I was going to be a graphic artist. Magazines, fonts, photographs, and layouts were my thing. The secret scientist in me was awoken in an eleventh grade environmental science class (thank you, Mr. Betts). At the time, I thought I was putting away my artistic side, in a drawer somewhere on the right side of my brain, to be opened up and dusted off only on special occasions.
In the last few months, as I finished my Ph.D. and started a postdoc, I've really come to realize how important creativity is to science. So all you painters out there who secretly love reading about the geologic history of the earth, dancers who relish their molecular biology class, poets who have a thing for plants, lend me your ears. Chemists who think they have don’t have an artistic bone in their body, ecologists who don't think they can dance, I ask you to think again.
No matter the flavor, all scientists must be good writers to succeed. Some scientists might even tell you they enjoy it, but only secretly. Enjoyment of writing is not something we generally brag about unless we’re talking about the number of lines of code we’ve written or publications we have in a top journal (or even number of manuscripts not immediately rejected by a top journal). Often we’re in such a hurry to publish a manuscript that we feel like we don’t have the time to wrestle with it until it is actually enjoyable to read. But the papers that are enjoyable to read are the ones that are the most memorable, right?
Creativity is definitely required to make a particularly well-suited metaphor, a punchy sentence, beautiful plots—the graph kind and the story kind, and a catchy title. For example, two of the only journal article titles that have ever stuck with me are “Can’t See the Forest for the Stream?...” (Bernhardt et al. 2001) and “…The Age of the Amazon’s Breath” (Raymond 2005). These are clever and pique your curiosity. Some might say they come with a degree of risk as well. Does a simple title mean your research will be perceived as simple? Nah. Does a catchy title mean you’re not being truly objective? Nope. But sometimes writers and co-authors are unwilling to take that leap. I urge you to take that calculated risk. You’ll potentially reach more readers, and, when you talk with the general public, they’re more likely to understand (and remember) what you’re saying. Taking time for art in your writing and speaking will help you connect with your audience.
Imagination is critical for successful science. Scientists might not realize it, but we use it all the time! For example, we like to explain things. In order to explain something we have to imagine how and why it happened. Then we plan an experiment to test what we imagined. We prepare for it by thinking of all the possible ways it can/will go wrong, so we can do our best to avoid equipment failure, bias, human error, what to do if it rains or if a rodent eats your buried cables, etc. And when we aren’t prepared for something to go wrong, in the moment we must improvise! Improvisation—the most important merit badge of any Ph.D.-scout. I remember the time when I was by myself as an REU in the woods in Montana, and I broke a hose clamp during a night time sampling event—GASP! How did I keep the hose closed after I collected the water sample?! I pulled out my hair tie and wrapped that hose shut! Merit badge earned! #clevergirl
In science, imagination is all around us: asking a question that hasn’t been asked before, questioning widely accepted ideas, figuring out how to measure what hasn’t been measured before, imagining how to make the impossible possible, to see the world a little differently. I argue
science runs on imagination.
You might ask, but how do you nurture your imagination as a grown up? I have two suggestions. First, allow your mind a chance to wander. Turn off your headphones, put away your smart phone, and stare into your inner abyss. AHHH! That sounds scary, another way to put it is something like walking meditation—nothing formal, you don’t need to read any books, take any classes on it, or put it on your schedule. You can do it while sitting on the bus or waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting on the john. Let your mind wander, it’s not scary, and its definitely not unproductive. Let questions, problems bubble up to the surface, see if you can turn them around or mold them into a different shape to see them more clearly. I get a lot of good ideas when I’m walking my dog.
Second suggestion for growing your imagination: Read good literature. Novels have a purpose. No they’re not a waste of time. For example, while I am reading a book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which unfortunately is not for very long because I tend to devour her books, I can definitely tell that my own scientific writing is better. I can’t explain why or how, but it’s real. Try it for yourself.
So scientists, let your imagination go wild, it will help your science. And parents and teachers of creative and artistic kids, don’t let them rule out a career in science.
Emily S. Bernhardt, Gene E. Likens, Robert O. Hall, Don C. Buso, Stuart G. Fisher, Thomas M. Burton, Judy L. Meyer, William H. McDowell, Marilyn S. Mayer, W. Breck Bowden, Stuart E. G. Findlay, Kate H. Macneale, Robert S. Stelzer, Winsor H. Lowe; Can't See the Forest for the Stream? In-stream Processing and Terrestrial Nitrogen Exports, BioScience, Volume 55, Issue 3, 1 March 2005, Pages 219–230, https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2005)055[0219:ACSTFF]2.0.CO;2
Raymond, Peter A. 2005. Carbon cycle: The age of the Amazon's breath. Nature. 436:469–470. https://www.nature.com/articles/436469a
(apologies for the pay wall.)
The following letter was emailed to the MSU Interim President and Board of Trustees. A PDF of the letter is available here.
May 2, 2018
An open letter to MSU Interim President Engler and Board of Trustees (Brian Breslin, Joel Ferguson, Dianne Byrum, Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly, Mitch Lyons, Brian Mosallam, and George Perles):
I will graduate this Friday with a Ph.D. from the MSU Department of Integrative Biology. As do all who earn a doctoral degree, I have given my blood, sweat, and tears these last six years to become an expert at what I love to do: science. People will no longer refer to me as Miss or Ms., I’m a Dr. now. Even though this is a tremendous achievement for me I am boycotting commencement, and I’d like to tell you why.
In 2015 I experienced sexual harassment at MSU, went through the OIE (Office for Inclusion and Equity) investigation process, and dealt with significant tension in the workplace as a result. It was clear to me how administrators (not those in my dept.) prioritized the institution’s reputation above the people they claim to serve. I was enraged to see this pattern unfold again for the survivors of Nassar’s abuse. Speaking truth to power always comes at a cost for survivors, in the currency of re-living trauma, often only to be disbelieved.
Much of the Nassar tragedy could have been prevented, especially if MSU administrators and staff had believed the victims who came forward decades ago. In the aftermath of the survivors’ testimony in Lansing this January, the Board ignored input from students and faculty, and secretly chose a former Michigan governor with a record of covering up sexual abuse of women prisoners to serve as our interim president. Again, you did not listen.
So listen now.
You and I clearly have very different perspectives of what makes MSU great. While the Board was busy worrying about the MSU brand, my fellow MSU scientists and I were busy working on local and global issues like climate change, water and food security, and environmental justice. While the Board and then-President Simon were busy ignoring the stories of Nassar victims and perpetuating a culture that enabled Nassar, we were busy empowering K-12 students and teachers with science. MSU is full of scholars doing rigorous, socially relevant, and groundbreaking research—this work, not sports or profits, is at the core of MSU’s value to society. I suspect the late Sen. Justin Morrill, namesake of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act of 1862, would agree.
So this Friday, instead of shaking your hand, I’d rather be doing what my colleagues and I do every Friday: doing science that will hopefully make a difference in the world. I hope that in the coming months, you will listen to survivors, students, and faculty. I hope that as a result, you take decisive action to make the MSU environment safe, inclusive, and accountable in a way that enables our education, research, and outreach programs to continue to flourish. I hope that your actions in the coming months will make the 2019 Ph.D. graduates once again proud to walk across the stage and shake hands with the president of MSU.
The carbon footprint of irrigation
This blog post is written to explain the results from my research at the KBS LTER to middle and high school students I’m working with through the Skype a Scientist program. Any scientist or teacher can sign up to participate.
Update 25 Oct. 2018: You can now read the open access journal article on this work in Global Change Biology.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m an ecosystem ecologist. An ecosystem is a living community and its non-living physical environment such as its rocks, water, and air. I study how the living and non-living parts of an ecosystem interact, which determines the ecosystem’s functions or services like cleaning water, producing food, and decomposing dead things. I am particularly interested in agricultural ecosystems like corn and soybean fields, how farmers manage that land, and what effects those choices have on ecosystem functions like adding to or preventing air and water pollution. Scientists at the KBS LTER have shown that we can produce just as much (or more) food using fewer man-made materials, which involve burning fossil fuels, and using more ecosystem services like nitrogen-fixing cover crops (Figure 1). Relying more on ecosystem services reduces farm costs, such as buying insecticides, and reduces the amount of pollution from farms to the air and water. Ecosystem services can also make the farm more resilient to climate variability. Some of that air pollution can be in the form of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4), which retain more heat in the atmosphere, warming the earth. Did you know that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture make up about 10% of the total man-made emissions in the US?
Figure 1. Farming with fossil fuels (left) or ecosystem services (right).(1) Tilling the soil breaks down soil structure making it more vulnerable to erosion by wind and water (4, left). Not tilling the soil (no-till) builds up soil structure, protects the soil from erosion, and allows the soil to store more organic material (carbon) and water (4, right). To kill weeds no-till requires synthetic herbicides, which are made, transported, and applied using fossil fuels (2, left). Conventional farming uses insecticides to control crop pests, while farming with ecosystem services promotes biodiversity in the landscape such that natural predators of crop pests (ladybugs, birds, etc.) control crop pests. This means leaving a patch of forest rather than turning it into a crop field and/or planting patches of wildflowers at the edges of fields. (3, left) Man-made nitrogen fertilizer requires a lot of fossil fuels to produce, while a nitrogen-fixing cover crop (3, right) can provide nitrogen to the soil without as much fossil fuels.
At the KBS LTER, I wanted to measure the carbon footprint of irrigation—spraying water on crops. By carbon footprint, I mean how irrigation impacts a farm’s contribution to or prevention of climate change. In other words, does an irrigated corn field contribute more or less greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than a rainfed (non-irrigated) field?
What did you find?
You see, as water percolates through the soil and through the aquifer (Figure 3, left), microbial processes like respiration and denitrification are occurring, but their gas products can’t escape. Instead gases like CO2and N2O build up to really high concentrations in the water in dissolved form. Then, when that water is exposed to the atmosphere (Figure 3, right) the gases equilibrate with the atmospheric concentration of those gases, much like when you open a new bottle of pop—CHHHH! The CO2 escapes from the pop. So groundwater-irrigated farming has this additional source of greenhouse gases on top of regular greenhouse gas emissions from rainfed farming. This surprised me because other studies like this one did not measure this source.
Figure 3. We discovered greenhouse gas emissions from groundwater-fed irrigation. Previous studies of the carbon footprint of irrigation did not measure the greenhouse gas content of the irrigation water itself. We measured the concentration of CO2, N2O, and CH4 in groundwater before it was sprayed on the field (lower water drop) and calculated how much gas was lost when the water equilibrated with the atmosphere (upper water drop).
Also, irrigation requires more fossil fuels than rainfed crops in order to pump the water from belowground. At the KBS LTER, about 75% of our electricity comes from fossil fuels (60% of the total comes from coal). (Where does your electricity come from?) Besides these additional sources, irrigation also increased the amount of N2O emissions from the soil (also found in rainfed soils but at lower rates) by encouraging denitrification, a process carried out by soil bacteria.
CO2-equivalents per kg crop yield (AKA greenhouse gas intensity), both the rainfed and irrigated systems are very close to zero net impacts at KBS. So rainfed doesn't look quite as rosy and irrigation doesn't look as bad. The downside is that intensification with irrigation puts more demand on aquifers and rivers to provide the irrigation water. The majority of the world's aquifers supporting the most important agricultural areas are already overexploited.
These results are specific to KBS, and could very well differ by climate, tillage (we did not compare tilled vs. no-tilled), and soil type. We don’t have many studies like this, in fact this is the first one for the US Midwest.
Why is your work exciting?
Irrigation, thought of as a way for farmers to adapt to climate change, might actually be contributing to climate change. All the more reason for improving irrigation efficiency to minimize impacts on water resources and reduce contributions to climate change.
In the big picture, this work excites me because it has implications for real world issues. I like being a part of the LTER community of scientists trying to figure out how human activities contribute to climate change, how we can modify those activities to reduce or reverse their contribution to climate change, and what is the best way to work with farmers to help them meet their yield goals and (not or) conservation goals.
The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann (2018) provides contrasting biographies of two influential 20th century scientists: Norman Borlaug (the “wizard”) and William Vogt (the “prophet”). Each man had a different approach to different facets of the same problem: human population growth, consumption, and resource extraction. Each had their own brush with the real world as young adults, which shaped their different life goals.
Borlaug grew up on a small, subsistence farm in northeast Iowa that had poor soil. When his family finally got a Fordson Model F tractor they were able to send Norman to high school. In Borlaug’s own words, the tractor provided “relief from endless drudgery equated to emancipation from servitude”. In college at the U. of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 1933, Borlaug came face to face with the horrors of the Great Depression—hungry, cold, homeless people, many of whom were dairy farmers whose land and animals had been sold to pay their debts when the price of milk dropped. Violence erupted across the Midwest as these dairy farmers and their families blocked milk trucks in their milk strikes, including a strike in Minneapolis that Borlaug witnessed, which proved to be a formative moment in his life. He went on to try to free subsistence farmers around the world from the threat of hunger by providing farmers with technology (plant breeding) and resources (synthetic fertilizer). He, along with an Indian scientist named M. S. Swaminathan, set out to help people like the starving Midwestern dairy farmers left behind by the US government and the starving Indians in Bengal whom Winston Churchill refused to help in 1943.
Borlaug’s graduate research dealt with rust fungus that infects wheat fields. After graduation he got a job in Mexico, where he conducted a superhuman feat of wheat breeding: high volume crossbreeding among a global collection of wheat varieties and shuttle breeding between two alternating climates in Mexico (Chapingo, southwest of Mexico City, and the infamous Yaqui Valley, on the Gulf of California). After long days, lots of hard work, some plowing by hand, frustrating his bosses, and a little luck, he managed to develop a variety that revolutionized the world. Several qualities made this wheat special: it would germinate no matter how long the day length was (i.e., it could germinate anywhere), it was highly resistant to disease (a big problem up to then), it was a dwarf (i.e., it didn’t lodge in the wind or rain) that retained the large seed head of taller wheat, and (of course) the grain stayed on the head “waiting” for humans to harvest it. That’s quite a laundry list of breeding accomplishments for 1960—recall Watson and Crick published their seminal paper on the structure of DNA in 1953.
Wheat yields tripled in Mexico, India and Pakistan, but these yields required expensive seeds, synthetic fertilizer inputs, and more water, opening the floodgates to modern day industrial agribusiness and its associated environmental harms. Borlaug helped small landholder farmers produce more food, but also enabled population growth, which required even more food, and the cycle continues. This is why many people don’t like Borlaug, the “father of the Green Revolution” who directly and indirectly set in motion a cascade of environmental degradation. But his intention was to help the farmers, which he did using cutting-edge (at the time) science, and was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Hence, Mann designated Borlaug the wizard—he engineered a solution to the problem.
William Vogt’s life was also interesting—a child naturalist on Long Island before the Hamptons, and an American spy in Latin America during WWII. He worked for the Audobon Society, where he befriended Aldo Leopold. Mann deems Vogt a prophet because his life’s work was about restraint from resource use and reducing population growth. His formative brush with real life came during his Ph.D. when he witnessed the population crash of Guanay cormorants on a profitable guano island in Peru—the guano was exported as fertilizer before synthetic fertilizer came into use. Vogt figured out the crash was tied to El Nino, and that the Peruvian guano company could not “augment the increment of excrement”. They could only remove additional challenges to the birds created by human impacts, enabling the birds to live within ecological limits. Vogt later wrote Road to Survival, which included indirect criticism of Borlaug’s work, is considered the beginnings of the modern environmental movement, and inspired Paul Ehrlich and Rachel Carson. Vogt’s inspirational experience with the cormorants, led him to focus on how human activity led to the suffering of animals and their environment, compared to Borlaug who focused on how poverty and the limitations of the environment brings human suffering.
Borlaug’s impact on population growth and Vogt’s cry for population control, were not popular with many people. Both men struggled with, in Mann’s words, “the clash between the workshop and the world.” Often scientist’s bench top solutions don’t work so well in the real world because the bench top is, obviously, not the real world: different cultures have unique preferences for the look and taste of wheat; bureaucracy and greed prevent the seeds, fertilizer and wells from reaching the poorest farmers; unforeseen consequences emerge, such as population growth. Vogt was also seen as a disconnected scientist with condescending criticism about human reproduction. Both men could have benefited from a socio-ecological approach and some tips on science communication. This sounds like light-hearted criticism but really the stakes are quite high. Mann cites philosopher Edmund Husserl who in the 1930s wrote about how distrust in scientists and experts contributed to society following the irrational and the rise of Nazism. Socio-ecology and science communication sound pretty important today too, eh?
You can read an excerpt from the book in The Atlantic.
My (first) Plant Love Story
Logo designed by yours truly.
Because of this very website (!) I was recruited to design the logo for and participate in a new project called "Plant Love Stories." It's the brain child of another Smith Fellow, Becky Barak. The idea is to compile stories to raise awareness about the importance of plants in shaping our lives. All of our lives. The question isn't do you have a plant love story, it's which one will you tell? Submit your story here.
I recently posted my (first?) Plant Love Story. It's about how my brother broke his arm when we were climbing a tree as kids, and it may or may not have been my fault. :O Read the full story. Bonus: a photo of 1987 Bonnie, just sayin'.
It's been a minute
Despite being halfway around the world amidst so much political turmoil at home in the US, I've tried to stay abreast of what's cooking. As you are probably already aware, dear reader, today's US news is filled with much hand-wringing over what the new president-elect is going to do about immigration, the war in Syria, Russia, and the Affordable Care Act. But farm and food policy and related environmental regulations need to stay on our radar as well. There will be a new Farm Bill in 2018, which covers both farm subsidies and food stamps. School lunch reforms, nutrition standards, farmworkers and EPA regulation under the Clean Water Act may also be up for debate. NPR's "The Salt" posted an article yesterday called "Big Battles Over Farm And Food Policies May Be Breweing as Trump Era Begins." It gives more detail on these issues. Click on the button below to go to the article.
We also recommend the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Think Forward blog for more in depth coverage.
Video: Pop up talk @ AGU
Dear U.S. AGua readers,
Please exercise your right to vote today! Then come back and read my blog later... :)
A $13 dip meter
Here's an article posted by my home department at MSU, Integrative Biology, about the award.
Living in Michigan, I've been following the Flint water crisis closely. I'm looking forward to watching a televised and webcast talk by Professor Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech tomorrow. He is an expert in urban water supply safety and has led the research uncovering the lead contamination of Flint residents' drinking water. You can watch live from 2 to 4pm tomorrow (Thurs. Feb. 25) online here http://tv.wkar.org/live-webcast/. The title of his talk is "How Jonathan Baldwin Turner Saved Flint, Mich.: Public-Inspired Science and the Modern Land-Grant University."
Presidential primaries & perennials
Just because US news these days are consumed with polls and predictions for primaries, doesn't mean AGua has nothing to say! Today is the first primary, and it's in Iowa. So I wanted to pass along a great perspective piece from the Union of Concerned Scientists about how we can reform agricultural policy (especially crop insurance) to save farmers money, protect the environment, and re-build soil health.
When you talk about job prospects with PhD students these days the conversation usually centers on the dearth of tenure track professor openings and the over-abundance of qualified PhDs for each opening. But this past December's Paris climate deal means nations who signed the agreement need to develop (or continue to improve) greenhouse gas inventories...
Home is where the blog is
Migrating from my AGua blogua's former wordpress home to this site. I'll be posting an archive of old posts from the previous site here, too...
Is 'climate smart ag' just greenwashing?
Re-posted from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, written by Ben Lilliston. Original title “What’s wrong with ‘climate smart’ agriculture?” Link to original article here.
One year after it was launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York, the controversial Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) is at the center of an emerging international debate. Last week, more than 350 civil society organizations from around the world urged global decision-makers to oppose GACSA, charging that the initiative opens the door for agribusiness greenwashing while undermining agroecological solutions to climate change.
It’s been a busy summer here at the Kellogg Biological Station: I’ve mentored my first undergraduate summer intern (paying it forward for all the mentorship I’ve received); learned how to measure carbonate content and phosphorus fractions in soils; collected several hundred soil porewater samples; and, hey, our softball team even won a few games. Today I thought I’d update you with a few news stories I have my eye on.
Q: What do the following groups have in common:
What is the water-energy nexus? No, it’s not water energy voodoo. The water-energy nexus is, basically, the way water management and energy supply and demand affect each other, their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, and the development of sustainable solutions that integrate efficient use of both. At present we treat water management and energy generation as separate issues. But *reality check* they are intimately interwoven throughout their extraction/production, treatment, distribution, end use, and waste.
As an Appalachian, I have thought a lot about coal, and one of my biggest concerns over the last eight years or so has been: when we do transition to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels, don’t we owe it to places like West Virginia and eastern Kentucky to create clean energy jobs there? Central Appalachia has been ravaged by coal extraction in many dimensions—public health, environmental damages, and economic losses. So in the future when we finally turn our backs on coal for good (or run out, whichever comes first), we will also be turning our backs on the people who live there.
This week I am reporting to you live from the National Council for Science and the Environment’s annual conference in Washington DC. The conference’s theme this year is “Energy and Climate Change.”
My research in two and a half minutes
It’s been a quiet few months on AGua blogua, but I have a pretty good excuse–I passed my PhD comprehensive exams in December! To make up for the posting paucity, here’s the big debut of a video explaining what I’m working on. A big thanks to Lucas Hamilton, who filmed and edited it! I made the video specifically for the NSF GK-12 program at the Kellogg Biological Station, but I think it might be appealing to a wider audience. I hope you enjoy it:
On the price of water
The price of water is a touchy subject in a state like Michigan, where folks’ water bills account only for the access and treatment of water–not for the water itself as a commodity. As population grows and climate change makes water availability more variable, there is a growing need to stretch water resources further.
Groundwater: Not so panacea after all
Groundwater is showing up more and more in US headlines. Here are two news stories that caught my eye with interesting parallels to current (or future?) groundwater regulation in Michigan.