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DGE Newsletter, October 2007
Field & Berry Lab Groups
Oct. 9: Chris Field & Joe Berry were speakers at the first DGE Seminar Series for 2007-08. Chris presented a brief history of the experiments at Jasper Ridge (Stanford land west of the Campus) which were carried out from 1990 to 1997 and provided a model system for studying the ecology of grasslands. He then brought us up to date with the current field studies.
Joe described his contemporary Model-Data Fusion studies, using in part, the water vapor and carbon dioxide values collected over time from high towers. Larry Giles recently returned from servicing some of these towers that he and Joe had placed in Zambia, Mali & South Africa.
Oct. 9: At this first meeting of the quarter, Kyla Dahlin & Luis Fernandez talked about their recent backgrounds and future plans. Kyla became interested in forestry while still an undergraduate at Yale Univ. She continued her botanical/ecological interests while working with various organizations to test & measure the use of herbicides for weed control. Most recently, she lived on Santa Cruz Island off the southern coast of California to monitor weather conditions and plant growth on a daily basis last summer and hopes to continue working with some of those studies.
Luis grew up in NY City, but has family roots in Latin America. His research interests with the Environmental Protection Agency in DC have taken him from coffee plantations in the highlands of Nicaragua to gold mining in Amazon villages of Brazil. The latter includes finding safer ways to extract gold without using mercury. Now he plans to continue his interest in biofuels vs land cover using Geographic Information Systems and write up his PhD Thesis for the Univ. of Michigan.
Tasting: Kyla brought a number of different kinds of Energy Bars, all chocolate flavored but containing different dried fruits and seeds. Reminded me of how we used to grind up dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, dates, etc and mold the mix into a roll to take camping.
Oct. 15:
Elliott Campbell talked about his recent research interest in the relationship between biofuel production and water quality/availability. He pointed out how when the biofuel crop needs irrigation which may lower the water table, pumping the water up requires more energy that in turn raises the cost of the biofuel.
Tasting: Elliott cleverly rescued several unopened bags of chips and two containers of salsa and avocado dips (refrigerated) from the recent parties and picnic for us to satisfy our hunger. They might otherwise have gone into the trash!
Oct. 22: Claire Lunch led the discussion of two papers about Biofuels: One was titled: Life-cycle assessment of net greenhouse-gas flux for bioenergy cropping systems.
by Adler et al; and the other: Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass. by Tilman et al. It appears that both switchgrass and hybrid poplars are best for saving carbon. However, the unanswered question raised is How much land is really available for such crops?
Tasting: Claire provided five different liquid sweeteners to taste on crackers. The order of choice (by Noel) from best to least was: molasses, brown rice syrup, wild California honey, raw agave nectar, & organic light syrup.
Oct. 29: Noel Gurwick spoke about eutrophication and nitrogen losses as related to choice of biofuel production. We discussed two papers: one by McIsaac et al. (2001) on nitrate flux in the Mississippi river, and a 2nd by Crutzen et al. (2007) for a comparison of land in Illinois that is and is not tile-drained.
Tasting: Noel brought three containers of pesto, one homemade and two commercial brands, plus both ground pinenuts or walnuts, plus baguettes to spread them on. We sampled each pesto with either of the nuts. Walnuts on Noel's homemade pesto was the best.
Also on Oct. 9, DGE and Plant Biology jointly sponsored Prof. David Zilberman from the Dept. of Agriculture & Resource Economics, UC-Berkeley. He spoke about The Intersection of Energy and Agriculture: Biofuel and New Technology.
Annual Picnic, Oct. 12
It's surely not by chance that Chris is able to pick a flawless, sunny fall afternoon for the Department's Annual Picnic. As usual the main attraction was the fantastic array of pot-luck food contributing to the general conviviality. The announced theme this year was human powered smoothies, which was illustrated by hand-cranked and pedal powered smoothies and ice cream. The results were lessons in human physiology. It took all the arm muscle power that Luis & Chris could muster to mash up some fruit in a hand-cranked blender whereas leg muscles used to turn a bicycle rear wheel in air easily powered a blender (or maybe it was, in part, the gear ratio that made the difference).
The ice cream was a different story. Noel provided an old fashioned, hand-cranked maker-tub in which a cylindrical container, filled with a custard mix and surrounded by brine, was slowly turned until it froze. Because this took a long time, it helped to have several willing turners around. The energy saved by hand turning, may be partly balanced out by that required to freeze the ice in our climate. However, the resulting creamy, vanilla ice cream was delicious!
Yuka's baby girl, Maya was the youngest of the children attending this year's picnic.
DGE Wins Livable Buildings Award

Oct. 29: A seven-member jury comprised of building industry leaders selected three 2007 Livable Buildings Award winners. The sustainable design elements in in these facilities are expertly crafted to convey the clients' distinct environmental message. The buildings reinforce the owners' goals and missions, and do so while promoting the health and productivity of occupants working inside. The Global Ecology Research Center building purposefully and gracefully brings attention to important environmental issues identified by the Carnegie Institution and explored by its researchers, who study the interactions between earth's ecosystems, land, atmosphere and oceans.

Oct. 1-3: Several Carnegie Researchers who receive funds from The Global Climate & Energy Project participated in its third Annual Meeting at Stanford. Chris Field spoke about Biofuels and Bio Conversion and also chaired the session on Bioenergy Conversion and Energy Storage. Ken Caldeira spoke about Geoengineering, and Arthur Grossman posed the question: Is Bioelectricity Possible (and Economically Feasible)?
Oct. 15: Recognition for Greg AsnerEvery year Popular Science magazine identifies 10 young scientists who are really making a difference—their Brilliant 10. This year, Greg was recognized, and an article in USA Today highlighted the accomplishment. Greg's response to this is that everything he has accomplished depends on the contributions of everyone in his group. So congratulations to all!!
David Kroodsma's Fantastic Voyage (Bicycle Tour)
Oct. 2: If you have followed these News Pages, you already know some details of Dave's RideforClimate during these passed two years, first to the southern tip of South America and then from Boston/New York back to Stanford. He brought it all together for us with great photos and some video, followed by a Reception in the Global Ecology lobby.

Oct. 4: Ken Caldeira gave a seminar in the Stanford Dept. of Geological & Environmental Sciences titled A Geological Perspective on Ocean Acidification from Fossil-Fuel CO2.
Ken Caldeira will be teaching a Stanford Course on Energy and the Environment that meets twice a week during Fall Quarter at DGE.
Oct. 12: Caldeira also talked to Carnegie's Dept. of Plant Biology on the subject: Where do forests warm? Where do forests cool? Carbon-cycle and biophysical influences of forests on climate.

Oct. 5: Chris Field spoke about Feedbacks of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change during a Symposium honoring the Director of Carnegie's Dept. of Plant Biology, Chris Somerville's 60th birthday. Joe Berry chaired the final session of the day. The Meeting was held off campus, but ended with a dinner in the patio outside Global Ecology to which all Carnegie people were invited. Thanks to Mary Smith for making all the arrangements for this Meeting & Dinner.
Sept. 15: Dave & Bill Bradley
Archives and PDF Archives of past Newsletters,
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Editor Jan Brown, e-mail: jbrown1@stanford.edu