College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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December 15, 2011

Close-Up View of Science History Opens Christmas Eve

By Ann Brody Guy
golub_alexis_magny_1750-60_130.jpgInvoking the premise of the classic holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life—that small, chance meetings set in motion life-changing events—it follows that the world would have missed out on a unique piece of science history if microscope aficionados Orville Golub and Steve Ruzin had never crossed paths.

But thanks to that meeting, and the years-long friendship and collaboration that followed, the public will get an eyeful of optic history beginning Dec. 24, when the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Museum presents A World Examined: Microscopes from the Age of Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century, an exhibit featuring a selection of antique microscopes from the Golub Collection at the University of California, Berkeley.

The SFO Museum exhibition will run for six months; the Golub Collection is on permanent display in the Valley Life Sciences Building at UC Berkeley.

“This collection is visually stunning and historically unsurpassed,” said Ruzin, who has been the Golub Collection curator since 2003 and runs the Biological Imaging Facility at Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources as his day job, as well as teaching classes in microscopy. “The SFO Museum is providing an amazing platform to expand the audience for this great piece of science history.”

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December 14, 2011

Four CNR Faculty Elected to AAAS

Eleven faculty members at the University of California, Berkeley, have been named 2011 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Four of the 11 are scientists in the College of Natural Resources.

The UC Berkeley researchers are among 539 new fellows chosen for this honor, which is bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers in recognition of their distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

The four CNR scientists are:

Dan Kammen, professor of energy and resources, public policy and nuclear engineering, for demonstrating the value of rigorous interdisciplinary work combining technical expertise with policy analysis, with a particular focus on renewable energy systems in developing countries.
Sheila McCormick, adjunct professor of plant and microbial biology, for distinguished contributions in the area of plant reproductive sciences, particularly for elucidating biological processes in pollen that lead to reproductive success.
Anastasios Melis, professor of plant and microbial biology, for pioneering contributions to our understanding of photosynthetic oxygen evolution and for opening the field of photosynthetic production biofuels.
Carolyn Merchant, professor of environmental science, policy and management, for distinguished contributions to the field of history and philosophy of science, particularly for the history of the scientific revolution and gender and science.

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December 9, 2011

Big data can lead to big breakthroughs in research

By James Temple, San Francisco Chronicle

UC Berkeley Professor Dennis Baldocchi has taken on the not-so-modest task of monitoring "the breathing of the biosphere."

He and a team of researchers oversee sensors in 500 sites around the world that measure things like wind, carbon dioxide, ozone and water vapor 10 times a second. They combine this massive amount of data with NASA satellite imagery to visually depict and analyze how climate change is altering the world.

If a year's worth of that data were collected and processed at once, it would take a regular PC an entire year to trudge through the task. But the researchers are making sense of this data through a partnership with Microsoft Research, tapping into its cloud of worldwide server farms to turn around the same work in as little as a day.

"We had the ideas, we knew what we wanted to do with it, but we were overwhelmed with the computational demands of the project," Baldocchi said. The ability to collect and analyze huge volumes of information, a concept known as big data, has "democratized computing and large-scale science."

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December 7, 2011

Can 'Carbon Ranching' Offset Emissions In Calif.?

By Christopher Joyce, NPR

Climate experts are exploring the concept of growing dense fields of weeds to help soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Just over a year from now, California will begin enforcing a set of laws that limit emissions of greenhouse gases from factories, power plants and, eventually, from vehicles.

So if you run a power plant in California, you might reduce your footprint by buying new, cleaner equipment. But that can be expensive.

Instead, you could help pay to protect a growing forest, because it sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. Or you could pay a farmer to capture methane from a pond of pig waste.

The market for these so-called greenhouse gas "offsets" is growing, and people are angling to come up with new kinds of offsets. One potential bumper crop lies in the state's huge agricultural heartland — the San Joaquin Valley, a place where biologist Whendee Silver spends a lot of time.

"What we found was that this area was a really big source of greenhouse gases," she says on a walk across some of the valley's prime grazing land.

Silver, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, measures greenhouse gases coming up out of the peat-rich soil — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. She's looking for ways to reduce those gases, and that could create offsets that farmers and ranchers could sell to businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

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December 6, 2011

UC Berkeley Launches New Sustainable Development Master’s Program

MDP_people_listening.pngThe University of California, Berkeley, is now accepting applications for the inaugural cohort of its new Master’s of Development Practice (MDP), the University announced today (Dec. 7). The application period closes February 10, 2012 and classes begin fall 2012.

The new multidisciplinary program integrates theory with hands-on experiential learning in the health, natural, social and management sciences as they pertain to sustainable development practice and is part of a global network of 23 MDP programs supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

“This program fills an enormous gap,” said David Zilberman, a professor of agriculture and natural resources and the Berkeley MDP executive director. Zilberman said the new degree is like an MBA, but for sustainable development.

“There are business management programs and there are applied science degrees such as public health and conservation biology, but until this master’s was launched, there was no practical training at the advanced level for sustainable development work, which is in demand worldwide,” Zilberman said.

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December 1, 2011

Want to know if a product is virtuous? There’s an app for that

The Economist

goodguide1.jpg

As he applied sunscreen to his young daughter’s face, Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental and labour policy at the University of California, Berkeley, found himself wondering if the lotion was safe. He realized there was no readily available answer. The result—two years, a team of chemists, lots of testing and a chunk of venture capital later—is GoodGuide.com. Launched in 2008, this is a website and smartphone app that rates 140,000 consumer products (currently only in America) according to their safety, environmental sustainability and the ethics of the firms that make them. Now GoodGuide has created a new “purchase analyser” app designed to inform consumers not just about the values embedded in products, but also about whether they are the virtuous shoppers they say they want to be.

Using the new app requires selecting a series of characteristics, which can range from whether the user favors organic products to buying only from firms with a good human-rights record. (It also rates how competitively things are priced, via a partnership with Price Grabber.) The consumer then scans the bar code on a product with the camera in their smartphone. The app identifies it and checks in a database to score how it shapes up.

Much therefore depends on the quality of the data, which GoodGuide gathers from various sources, including government reports and scientific studies, and research by its own staff. If the product scores badly, the app will recommend an alternative item which is rated more highly. The app also tracks a consumer’s purchases to see how well they fit with their selected values, giving a sort of personal virtue (or hypocrisy) rating.

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Close-Up View of Science History Opens Christmas Eve
Four CNR Faculty Elected to AAAS
Big data can lead to big breakthroughs in research
Can 'Carbon Ranching' Offset Emissions In Calif.?
UC Berkeley Launches New Sustainable Development Master’s Program
Want to know if a product is virtuous? There’s an app for that

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