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Sustainability News: Spring 2017

Research: Seagrass Fights Disease, Collaboration Networking, and more

Events: Iscol Lecture: Michael Pollan

Giving: Cornell Giving Day TOMORROW!

Funding: Academic Venture Fund Deadline

Profile: New Atkinson Postdocs

Campus Connections: EDF Summer Interns, Senior Leaders Climate Action Group

Collaborations: CARE and TNC Farmer Surveys

Newsmakers: Edward Buckler, Walter De Jong, Amanda Rodewald, and more

People: Marketing and Communications Director Ellen Leventry

What We're Reading: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard

Multimedia: Shade-Grown Coffee, Earthquakes, Seagrass

Women's March

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This Women’s History Month, I would like to draw your attention to some exciting work done by NatureNet postdoctoral fellow Joleah Lamb and faculty fellow Drew Harvell that was recently honored with the cover of Science magazine. Lamb’s investigation into the role that oxygen-releasing seagrass beds might play in keeping bad bacteria at bay provides clues to keeping ecologically vital coral reefs—as well as human beings—healthy.

Lamb and Harvell’s collaboration is the perfect embodiment of the Atkinson Center’s mission: to provide opportunities across scholastic disciplines, but to also engage and empower diverse faculty and students in the sustainability challenge. It is a mission that is more important than ever, especially for young women interested in STEM fields, as the current administration’s cuts to federal funding for scientific research will likely disproportionately affect women scientists’ careers.

And, finally, tomorrow is Cornell's annual Giving Day. Your support funds vital postdoctoral research like Joleah's, as well as hands-on learning for Cornell students of all levels at leading environmental organizations around the world. Please remember the Atkinson Center on Giving Day. Your ongoing commitment makes a difference.


David Lodge
Atkinson Center Director

David Lodge


Seagrass Meadows Fight Pathogens, Climate Change
Endangered seagrasses reduce pollution and purge pathogens that threaten people and coral reefs, according to new research from Atkinson–Nature Conservancy postdoc Joleah Lamb and marine ecologist Drew Harvell.

Social Networking for the Public Good
Now there’s a social networking site to match up collaborators from universities, nonprofits, government, and NGOs. Government professor Adam Levine and colleagues launched Research4Impact (r4i) in February.

Animal Feed from Houseflies
Hungry fly larvae can reduce the mass of dairy cow manure by half—and then the larvae can be harvested as feed rich in protein and amino acids. A team led by Vimal Selvaraj is investigating the viability of bringing this sustainable feed to market.

Monarch Research Takes Flight
Planting native milkweeds won’t be enough to save the monarch butterfly, says ecologist Anurag Agrawal. Agrawal’s new book, Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution, comes out in April.

Cisterns for Rainwater Harvesting
Underground rainwater cisterns are an ancient solution to water shortages that could work today. With Atkinson Center funding, Gail Holst-Warhaft and Tammo Steenhuis took a team to the Greek island of Santorini to study the strategy.


Vimal Selvaraj

Anurag Agrawal


2017 Iscol Lecture—April 27: 5:00, Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall
New York Times bestselling author Michael Pollan will tell the story of the path his writing has taken since he planted his first vegetable garden. What’s at stake when we garden, cook, and eat is not only our health, he argues, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth. The lecture is free and open to the public.


Michael Pollan


Support the Atkinson Center on Giving Day
Get ready for Cornell Giving Day tomorrow! Support critical wildlife conservation with the Smithsonian, hands-on learning for Cornell students and postdocs, and our campus-to-capitol Washington initiatives.

Giving Day 2017


Academic Venture Fund Deadline
The Academic Venture Fund invests in the next generation of sustainable solutions. This competitive fund awarded $1.5 million in 2016. Proposals are due March 20.

Big Pool, Little Pool


Atkinson Postdocs Tackle Global Problems
Three new Atkinson postdoctoral fellows are launching research on regulating the world’s food supply chain, fighting crop pests naturally, and managing road emissions for cleaner transportation. They begin their two-year appointments this spring.

Push-pull farming technique

Campus Connections

EDF Summer Interns Bridge Science and Policy
Funding from the Atkinson Center sent eight Cornell students to Environmental Defense Fund offices across the country last summer. Atkinson Center summer interns worked on reducing illegal fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, introducing low-income customers to smart meters, increasing diversity in environmental organizations, and more. Meet our EDF interns.

Next Steps toward Campus Carbon Neutrality
Provost Michael Kotlikoff talks with the Chronicle about the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group’s report on energy and heating options for the Ithaca campus.

EDF Summer Interns


CARE and TNC: Early-Career Researchers Getting Results
Mary Kate Wheeler, a recent Dyson master’s graduate, and TNC NatureNet postdoc Shannan Sweet are getting the word out about their Atkinson-funded surveys of farmers in Peru and New York State.

Mary Kate Wheeler in Peru


In Atkinson Opinion
Read policy op-eds by David Lodge and Jane Mendle in Teen Vogue, David Wolfe in Brookings, and Amanda Rodewald in The Hill.

Buckler Wins Inaugural Food and Ag Prize
Plant geneticist Edward Buckler is the first winner of a new $100,000 award in food and agriculture sciences from the National Academy of Sciences.

Fracking and the New EPA
Forbes looks at Tony Ingraffea’s analysis of consumer water complaints in a detailed take on fracking and what changes at the Environmental Protection Agency may mean for public health.

The Loneliest Whale in the World?
Washington Post reviews the decades-long story of the North Pacific’s “loneliest whale,” caught on tape by Christopher Clark in 1999.

World’s Largest Wind-Mapping Project
An international wind-mapping project in eastern Portugal will be “utterly transformative,” Sara C. Pryor tells Nature. 

Trump’s Quick Request for Border-Wall Plans
Homeland Security is giving architects and engineers only 14 days to submit design proposals for the border wall. Kieran Donaghy talks with Architectural Digest about the accelerated process.

One Potato, Two Potato
Wall Street Journal cooks up a rainbow of potato varieties, including the Adirondack Blue by Walter De Jong.

Urban Pressures Cause Some Birds to “Divorce”
When human development breaks up monogamous pairs, songbirds lose a year of breeding. Smithsonian asks Amanda Rodewald about challenges facing urban birds.

Protester holds climate change sign

Loneliest Whale

Bird Divorce


Atkinson Welcomes New Marketing and Communications Director
Ellen Leventry ’95 joined our leadership team in January. She comes to the Atkinson Center from Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, where she served as director of media relations and special projects officer since 2011 and in other communications capacities since 2008.

Ellen Leventry

What We're Reading

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Liveright, 2015), by Mary Beard
Atkinson faculty director of economic development Kieran Donaghy says: "We often think of sustainability—the ability of a society to persist in its lifestyle—as contingent upon a balance between the ‘three pillars’ of social equity, environmental integrity, and economic viability. I have been reading Mary Beard’s book, SPQR, and have been struck by how Rome resolved crises that arose because of constraints imposed by one or more of the three pillars on the others. Sometimes crises were resolved serendipitously, other times forcefully. But what comes across clearly in Beard’s chronicling of Rome’s millennium is the extent to which the perception of equality or the lack thereof played a role in stabilizing or destabilizing Roman society. In the present fractious times, when the outcome of the presidential election has been interpreted by many as a populist statement of resentment about inequality of access to political power and the benefits of the post-recession recovery, we would do well to contemplate how the transition to a sustainable lifestyle must bring about greater social equity if we are also to have environmental integrity and economic viability."

SPQR bookcover


Hand holding fresh coffee beans
Shade-Grown Coffee as Radical Collaboration
Hand holding fresh coffee beans
Solving Oklahoma's Earthquake Mystery
Marine Hygiene

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