Purdue, Chinese researchers to form environmental research partnership

September 10, 2010

Xingguo Han, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Applied Ecology, and Alan H. Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park and senior associate vice president for research at Purdue, complete the signing of a research and faculty and student exchange agreement Friday (Sept. 10) at a ceremony in Discovery Parks’ Mann Hall. The five-year research partnership between Purdue and the Chinese Academy of Sciences will focus on environmental challenges posed by population growth and urbanization in China and the United States. (Purdue University photo/Phillip Fiorini)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Center for the Environment and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are forming a five-year partnership focused on researching the environmental challenges posed by population growth and urbanization in the two countries.

In a signing event at 4:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 10), Purdue officials and members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Applied Ecology will formalize the partnership for establishing the China-U.S. Joint Research Laboratory on Sustainable Ecosystem.

The global partnership will create programs that offer opportunities for student, scholar and faculty exchange in research and study, said John Bickham, director of Discovery Park's Center for the Environment. Research areas will include biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen, soil biology and biochemistry, fate and transport of contaminants, and water processes and modeling.

Special emphasis also will be placed on organizing joint seminars, symposia, short-term academic programs and academic meetings as well as exchange of research and educational materials, publications and academic information, he said.

"Sustainable management and effective remediation technologies are needed in all regions of China, where population growth and rapid urbanization have intensified the competition for land use with consequences for agricultural productivity, water-use allocation, and soil and water quality," Bickham said. "Similar problems exist in the United States due, for example, to urban sprawl and pressures to increase biofuel production driven by government subsidy programs."

Xingguo Han, director of the Institute of Applied Ecology, said he is excited about the Purdue-Chinese partnership, which builds on an existing collaboration between the two groups along with researchers at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

"As globally dominant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, China and the United States have a mutual interest in understanding their consequences," Han said. "The goals of this partnership between Purdue and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are essential if we are going to make the impact needed in this area for the future of China and the United States."

Joining Bickham and Han at the signing event in the Mann Hall Atrium will be Alan H. Rebar, executive director of Discovery Park and senior associate vice president for research at Purdue; Purdue agronomy professor Ron Turco, who is leading Purdue's efforts in the new partnership; Xudong Zhang of the Institute of Applied Ecology; and Jie Zhuang of the University of Tennessee.

The foundation for this new China-U.S. partnership stems from the creation of the China-U.S. Joint Research Center for Ecosystem and Environmental Change, formed in Beijing in 2006. Known as the China-U.S. Joint Research, this effort is addressing the combined effects of climate change and human activities on regional and global ecosystems and explores technologies for restoration of degraded environments.

That research initiative includes Purdue's Center for the Environment, the Center for Environmental Biotechnology and the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment at the University of Tennessee, and the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. Chinese partners include the Institute of Geographical Science and Natural Resources Research and the University of Science and Technology of China.

Several Purdue researchers also will participate in the fourth China-U.S. Joint Research Center Symposium, which will address the topic "Energy, Ecosystem and Environmental Change," on Sept. 22-24 in Beijing.

Purdue's Center for the Environment is examining how to protect the environment while sustaining a global economy. Researchers are studying ways to model and predict the impact of activity on ecosystems, monitor environmental quality, manage natural resources, and develop technologies that will help create a cleaner environment.

The center also is working closely with Discovery Park's Energy Center, Purdue Climate Change Research Center and the Purdue Water Community as part of the university's Global Sustainability Initiative, which is directed by Jon Harbor, professor and head of Purdue's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences is a leading academic institution and comprehensive research and development center in natural science, technological science and high-tech innovation in China. It was founded in Beijing in 1949 on the basis of the former Academia Sinica (Central Academy of Sciences) and Peiping Academy of Sciences.

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources:   John Bickham, 765-494-5146, bickham@purdue.edu 
                  Ron Turco, 765-494-8077, rturco@purdue.edu