Universities Engaging in Environmental Research and Conservation

Students at a California university have retrofitted a circa-1920s fish hatchery where novelist John Steinbeck once worked. They’ve also restored research wetlands known for purifying in-ground drinking water supplies and storm water that can spill into surrounding waters, carrying ground pollutants with it. Visitors to the hatchery, now an environmental center and research village that employs more than 100 students and features interactive exhibits, can also tour demonstration gardens.
The California institution is one of at least 71 throughout the country that the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Education reports announced or opened sustainability-themed research centers over the past year. An overall sustainability movement at colleges and universities also includes “green” campus buildings and academic programming in sustainability that covers land, sea and sky, agriculture, transportation, culture, clothing fibers and more. A Mississippi certificate offering known as ‘ecolonomics’, comes from a term coined by the late actor Dennis Weaver, who graduated from the institution, and it centers on promoting sustainable alternatives that are economically profitable.
Government money shortages in Arizona, for example, are affecting the Departments of Environmental Quality and Water Resources, according to a July article in the Arizona Republic. “We don’t have sustainable water supplies…” Water Resources Director Herb Guenther was quoted as saying. “We’re going to burden our great grandchildren with a (water shortage) if we don’t do something.” In Sacramento, Cal., government workers are reading “The Green Collar Economy” and the California university’s graduate management school dean is serving as a team leader in “green and clean technology” as part of a yearlong community-wide green initiative. “… you can’t have the ecosystem without a great research university – it doesn’t happen”, Steve Currall was quoted in a July Sacramento News & Review article as saying.
The California institution isn’t the only one with ties to local government efforts. Texas Governor Rick Perry recently announced an $8.4 million grant to a National Institute for Renewable Energy and a state technical school considered a leader in wind science and engineering, according to a College Media Network article. The university has an important role in moving Texas and the rest of the nation toward energy independence that’s essential to the country’s future, according to an attribution to Perry in the article. About 90 percent of the country’s wind energy production takes place in West Texas, the College Media Network item noted.
Research efforts at a Montana University, where an Energy Research Institute was established in 2007, have covered everything from harvesting transportation fuel from algae, creating biofuel from seed crops and storing carbon dioxide deep underground, the university reported in July. Many companies and academic labs are working on similar efforts with algae, according to a July article in The New York Times. In Wisconsin, researchers at a university were, along How To Make Money From Home As A Kid with an architectural firm, recently awarded a $1.3 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to reduce hospital energy use by 60 percent, the institution notes. Researchers there intend to base their work on contemporary Scandinavian hospital designs that usurp one-quarter to one-half the amount of energy their American contemporaries do, according to the university. Part of the effort is to involve increasing use of natural daylight, the university reports.
Energy is the largest cause of harmful gas emissions in the United States, with petroleum and natural gas accounting for more than 80 percent of those emissions, the U.S. Energy Administration reports. Hospitals and health facilities are second only to fast food restaurants in terms of energy consumption, according to an architecture professor at the Wisconsin institution. They’re responsible for about 4 percent of all energy used in the United States, the professor noted.
Getting first-hand experience with the environment doesn’t mean that studies have to take place entirely on campus. Some online environmental degree programs might involve independent research projects. A U.S. Department of Education study reportedly found that students perform best academically when they combine online college studies with campus-based studies, and a graduate online college program in Earth Literacy New Jersey, includes a five-day residency program.
Online environmental degree and certificate programs particularly allow professionals to update their knowledge base and skills, making them more marketable in an area where job growth has occurred and is expected to continue to expand. The number of Money Management Skills For Youth jobs in a clean energy economy grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007, which was 2.5 times faster than job growth overall, according to information from the Pew Charitable Trusts cited in a July article in suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald newspaper.

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