Purdue researcher travels to China to promote EcoPartnership, sustainability

July 11, 2011

Timothy Filley

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue earth and atmospheric sciences professor Timothy Filley has been awarded a Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professorship for Senior International Scientists, marking the university's first activity under a new Purdue-China EcoPartnership.

Filley will spend the next three months at the CAS Institute for Applied Ecology in Shenyang, China, promoting scientific and educational collaborations that address issues in the earth sciences. Specifically, the research projects will focus on the human impacts to terrestrial ecosystems and their influence on global change issues related to soil and water use.

"My goal is to link Purdue to research conducted at long-term field experiments in northeast China and Inner Mongolia," Filley said. "Of particular interest is how soil organic matter responds to stresses such as invasive species, grassland and forest fires, and excess nitrogen addition from a variety of sources including fertilizers, and the burning of fossil fuels."

In September 2010, Purdue's Center for the Environment in Discovery Park and the CAS Institute of Applied Ecology established a five-year partnership to promote scientific exchange and collaboration relating to issues of ecological and agricultural sustainability common to both countries. Senior scientist visits and graduate student exchanges are part of the program.

Purdue and Chinese researchers during the first year have worked to establish links between laboratories via a shared interest in the microbiological, geochemical and environmental tools needed to address critical environmental issues, said Purdue agronomy professor Ron Turco, director of the new joint CAS-Purdue laboratory for soil and water analysis. 

 "Dr. Filley's visiting professorship will help facilitate the next level of interaction since he will take part in actual lab and field studies, help to establish analytical standardization and develop a summer instrumentation course that will be taught alternatively between Purdue and CAS," said Turco, also director of the Purdue-China joint laboratory for soil and water analysis.

In May, Purdue also was selected by the U.S. State Department to lead one of six U.S.-China EcoPartnerships, which is focusing on sustainability issues including environmental challenges posed by alternative energy and climate change in the two countries.

Through that five-year initiative, Purdue and Chinese researchers are addressing the combined effects of climate change, renewable energy and human activities on regional and global ecosystems. Research teams also will explore technologies that would aid in restoring damaged ecosystems.

Purdue's U.S. partners for that initiative - the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment at the University of Tennessee and the UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Joint Institute for Biological Sciences - have collaborated with CAS through the China-U.S. Joint Research Center for Ecosystem and Environmental Change, which is led by UT.

 "Professor Filley's participation in this China fellowship is a huge step toward solidifying a lasting working relationship for joint research," said John Bickham, director of the Center for the Environment and U.S. team leader for the Purdue-China EcoPartnership.

Filley, who joined the faculty of Purdue's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in 2000, is affiliated with the Purdue Center for Climate Change Research in Discovery Park. He received his doctorate degree in isotope geochemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1997, after gaining his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Loyola University in Chicago in 1990.

The Purdue-China EcoPartnership's kickoff event, Global Sustainability Issues in Energy, Climate, Water and Environment, is set for Sept. 26-29 at Purdue as part of the university's Green Week activities.

Fifty-four Purdue faculty members and research staff are collaborating in the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, which was established in 2004 to support and promote research and education on global climate change and to examine its impact on agriculture, natural ecosystems and society. The center, a part of Discovery Park's Global Sustainability Initiative, has generated more than $20 million in research funding since its inception.

The Center for the Environment, also a part of Purdue's Global Sustainability Initiative is examining how to protect the environment while sustaining a global economy. Researchers are studying how to model and predict the impact of activity on ecosystems, monitor environmental quality, manage natural resources and develop technologies for creating a cleaner environment.

Writers:   Abby Gras, 765-496-2296, agras@purdue.edu

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

Sources:  Timothy Filley, 765-494-6581, filley@purdue.edu

                   John Bickham, 765-494-5146, bickham@purdue.edu

Related websites:

Filley Lab Group

Discovery Park