Center for the Environment

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C4E co-organizes symposium on Sustainable Development at the Universidad Del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia

Working in partnership with the College of Engineering Systems of Systems initiative, the Center for the Environment was honored to help organize a group of faculty to participate in a two-day symposium on Sustainable Development at the Universidad Del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia, on October 1 and 2, 2014. Five Purdue faculty members from three different colleges traveled to Barranquilla to speak at the annual event hosted by Del Norte and co-sponsored by the Colombian Fulbright program.

The symposium focused on sustainable development in the context of systems, institutions, and resilience, with Purdue faculty presenting research on topics ranging from delivering safe drinking water, to modeling more resilient disaster evacuation procedures, to better understanding the challenges and opportunities for protecting biodiversity in a rapidly changing world. Panels also included faculty from Del Norte, former Fulbright recipients, and representatives of several local Colombian NGO's working on sustainability issues. These presentations examined various environmental challenges facing both rural and urban areas of Colombia, including storm water management, heavy metal pollution, and how to prepare for climate change impacts to information and communication technologies, ecosystem resilience, and agriculture.

The event is part of the larger effort to build research partnerships between Purdue and Colombian Universities such as Del Norte. Faculty attending the event also met with Uni Norte students and faculty outside the workshop to talk about opportunities for collaboration in the future, including student exchanges and joint research projects.

Jeff Dukes, symposium speaker and director of Purdue’s Climate Change Research Center remarked, "Our hosts at Del Norte are working on several of the same issues that we are. I learned a lot from them about the environmental challenges facing the Atlantic coastal region of Colombia. Our groups identified several different avenues for potential collaboration; for instance, right now we're talking about starting an experiment that would examine how a threatened Colombian ecosystem would respond to and recover from drought."

C4E Director Leigh Raymond noted that the event was an important part of the center's mission to help contribute to proactive, interdisciplinary solutions to major environmental challenges facing the world, and to communicate Purdue research to the widest range of stakeholders possible. He also noted, along with the other Purdue participants, that the incredible generosity and hospitality of their Colombian hosts was vital to the event's success.

Dr. Taylor Davis

Taylor Davis, Assistant Professor, Norm Evolution and Human Cooperation for Sustainability, Department of Philosophy

Though his graduate training is in philosophy, Taylor has focused his work on foundational questions that arise at the boundaries of psychology and evolutionary biology. This is reflected in his research on religion, which focuses as much on the role of evolutionary theory in explaining psychology in general as it does on the evolution of specifically religious forms of cognition and behavior. Central to this work are questions about the cultural evolution of social norms, and about the psychological capacities involved in learning, following, and enforcing norms. In the context of the Building Sustainable Communities Initiative, Taylor intends to focus on questions about how to direct normative motivations toward more sustainable ends, by loosening the grip of pernicious or unjust norms—those that exacerbate group conflict, for example, or are oppressive to women—without disrupting the integrity of a community’s larger system of norms. Taylor holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Georgia, a M.A. in Philosophy from Tufts, and is completing his Ph.D. in Philosophy at The University of British Columbia.

Kimberly Suiseeya

Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Assistant Professor, Environmental Justice and Community Resilience, Department of Political Science (starting Fall 2014)

Kimberly's research interests include global environmental justice, rights and equity in conservation, environment and development in Southeast Asia, and institutions for global environmental governance. In her dissertation she examines the justice gap in global forest governance. Using data gathered from the Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations and the national and village levels in Lao PDR, she traces the effects of a justice meta-norm on the justice experiences of forest-dependent communities. Prior to her doctoral studies, she was a conservation and development practitioner for nearly a decade, including stints in the Peace Corps, with the Sierra Club, and working as a Protected Areas Researcher and Management Advisor for the Government of Lao PDR. Kimberly holds a B.A. from Scripps College, an M.A. in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and a PhD in Environmental Politics at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Kaitlin Harris

Kaitlin Harris background and interest in the environment

Kaitlin Harris is junior studying Anthropology and Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University. Growing up in Bedford, Indiana she has always had a passion for nature. Kaitlin’s interests lie in the intersection of humanity and the environment and she is passionate about finding solutions to sustainability challenges that benefit both society and the natural world.

Dr. Zhao Ma

Dr. Zhao Ma joins Purdue Faculty

The Center is pleased to welcome Dr. Zhao Ma, the first hire within the sustainable communities cluster, who starts work at Purdue in August 2013. Dr. Ma will be an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Natural Resource Social Science in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, and brings a wealth of experience working on landowner decisionmaking in the face of environmental change, both in the U.S. and China. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Ma to Purdue!

Logo - ACS: Chemistry for Life

C4E students and Faculty at 246th American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition

Sessions convened by C4E faculty include:
Environmental Fate and Reactivity of Highly Condensed Aromatic Carbon
Organizers: Chad Jafvert, Timothy Filley, and Cliff Johnston, Purdue University

Opportunities and Challenges of U.S.-China Intellectual Property Agreements
Organizers: Justin Hasford, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP; Timothy Filley and Mark Van Fleet, Purdue University

Additional sessions with C4E-affiliated students and faculty presenting their latest research findings include:

  • Environmental Impacts of Electronic Technologies, Products and Processes: The Search for Sustainable Electronics
  • Fate and Toxicology of Emerging Environmental Contaminants
  • Biogeochemical Interactions Affecting Bioavailability and Remediation of Hazardous Substances in the Environment
  • Pollinators and Pesticides
  • Predicting Molecular Properties of Environmental Contaminants: Empirical and Theoretical Methods

  • For more information about the Indianapolis Fall 2013 National ACS Meeting:

    Corn Stover

    Corn stover collection can have environmental impacts

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Removing corn stover from agricultural fields to produce cellulosic ethanol requires careful management to avoid adding greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion to the environment, say Purdue University researchers.

    Environmental impacts from stover removal can be reduced by switching to no-till corn or adding winter cover crops, but these practices likely would increase production costs, researchers reported in a study.

    "Some crop rotation and tillage combinations are more environmentally benign than others," said Ben Gramig, a Purdue agricultural economist and the study's lead researcher. "But there are water quality and greenhouse gas tradeoffs when collecting stover."

    Stover is the parts of a corn plant that remain after grain harvest. Greenhouse gases from cropfields are released into the atmosphere when carbon escapes disturbed soils during stover removal. Emissions also occur when nitrogen fertilizer is applied to the land or crop residues decompose. Plowing fields loosens soil and, when combined with removing stover, causes increased soil erosion.

    Federal law requires 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol be produced each year as part of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard. One RFS goal is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are believed to contribute to climate change.

    The Purdue study, "Environmental and Economic Trade-Offs in a Watershed When Using Corn Stover for Bioenergy," examined the environmental effects and costs of stover collection from eight corn-soybean rotation and continuous corn systems in a watershed typical of the eastern Corn Belt. The comparisons were made by combining results from watershed and greenhouse gas computer simulation models and minimizing the cost of stover collection, to select which farming practices to use in an agricultural watershed.

    In their analysis, Gramig, Purdue agricultural and biological engineer Indrajeet Chaubey and graduate researchers Cibin Raj and Carson Reeling found that a continuous corn system - corn grown on the same land year after year - planted with conventional tillage and removing 52 percent of the stover from the field released the most greenhouse gas and soil sediment per acre: 3.5 tons and 1.1 ton, respectively. That same acre of land yielded 2.7 tons of stover.

    If all the nitrogen contained in the stover that is removed must be replaced and there is more continuous corn cultivation, researchers found that greenhouse gas emissions from cropland may increase.

    At the low end of the environmental impact scale, a no-till corn-soybean rotation where 38 percent of the stover was removed emitted 2.7 tons of carbon dioxide per acre and yielded 2 tons of stover.

    "Combining no-till with continuous corn cultivation when stover is removed was capable of slightly lower sediment loss than the baseline today without any stover removal," Gramig said. "Introducing cover crops or replacing nitrogen that is removed with stover at lower rates was not considered in our study but should further reduce environmental impacts. These practices require additional study and would involve offsetting costs and savings."

    Perhaps not surprisingly, researchers found that removing stover increased production costs over the predominant corn-soybean rotation in place today. Most of that cost is attributed to replacing nitrogen contained in stover. Stover removal was found to have the lowest cost when collected from corn grown in rotation with soybeans.

    "For a given crop rotation and tillage system, as we simulated an increase in the rate of stover removal we found an increase in loss of sediment from crop fields, an increase in greenhouse gas flux to the atmosphere and a reduction in nitrate and total phosphorus delivered to waterways," Gramig said. "While optimizing production to maximize stover harvest at the lowest possible cost may lead to a reduction in nutrients delivered to rivers and streams, this comes at the expense of increased soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions."

    More study is needed to identify less environmentally harmful stover removal practices, Gramig said.

    "In the meantime, farmers can use no-till to reduce the amount of sediment loss," he said. "Additional practices, such as the use of cover crops, are going to be necessary if we want to try to reduce greenhouse gas loss. We also need to determine what the correct nitrogen replacement rate is to maintain long-term soil productivity while minimizing nitrogen loss, whether to the atmosphere or to waterways."

    "Environmental and Economic Trade-Offs in a Watershed When Using Corn Stover for Bioenergy" appears in the January 2013 issue of Environmental Science & Technology. It is available online at

    Writer: Steve Leer, 765-494-8415,

    Source: Ben Gramig, 765-494-4324,

    Related website:Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics

The Gerald D. and Edna E. Mann Hall, home to the Center for the Environment's administrative offices.