Category: 2012

Professor Nathan Phillips Research Featured In The Globe

November 20th, 2012 in 2012, Faculty, Nathan Phillips, News

Boston riddled with mostly small natural gas leaks, Boston University study finds
By Beth Daley
Globe Staff /  November 19, 2012

Natural gas is escaping from more than 3,300 leaks in ­Boston’s underground pipelines, according to a new ­Boston University study that underscores the explosion risk and environmental damage from aging infrastructure ­under city sidewalks and streets

The vast majority of the leaks are tiny, ­although six locations had gas levels higher than the threshold at which explosions could ­occur. Although there have been no reports of explosions in ­Boston from any of the leaks, the study comes three years ­after a Gloucester house ­exploded probably because of a cracked and corroded gas main dating to 1911.

The research, being published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Pollution, confirms what Bostonians sometimes smell on city streets: a telltale whiff of gas.

“It is something that is distributed across all neighborhoods in Boston,’’ said Nathan Phillips, associate professor in BU’s Department of Earth and Environment and a lead author of the study. Phillips and an assistant drove a black hatchback over every one of Boston’s 785 miles of roads to test methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, in the air. “And we know once we go outside of Boston, Newton is just as leaky. . . . Any old, mature city is going to have this problem.” Continue reading the entire globe article…

Click for published paper on…

Professor Bruce Anderson, Part of New NSF Collaborative Award

November 13th, 2012 in 2012, Bruce Anderson, Faculty, Grants

“RCN-SEES: Engineering Research Collaboratory for Sustainable Infrastructure in a Changing Climate” The goal of this 4-yr grant is to create a multi-institution collaboratory to support the integration of climate science and engineering research for sustainable transportation infrastructure (Infrastructure and Climate Network – ICNet). Prof. Anderson serves as a Co-I on this proposal and will provide expertise on the changing nature of climate extremes and the risk they pose to the physical transportation infrastructure around New England.

The full announcement can be found here:

Professor Cunningham Quoted In Bloomberg

November 9th, 2012 in 2012, Edward Cunningham, Faculty, News

Harvard-Trained Communists Vie for Power as Party Gathers
By Bloomberg News – Nov 9, 2012 2:59 AM ET

Li Yuanchao serves the Chinese Communist Party as head of its organization department. For a few months in 2002 he had a different overseer: Larry Summers.

Delegates attend the opening of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Li controls the patronage system of the 82 million-member party that this month is unveiling its next generation of leaders, overseeing an apparatus that names cadres to posts in state-owned companies including China Mobile Ltd. (941) and acting as career manager for thousands of rising officials. He took part in an executive training program at Harvard University when former U.S. Treasury Secretary Summers was the school’s president. Li reminded Summers of that when the two met in 2010 in Beijing.

SPECIAL REPORT: The New China Leadership

Li is the most prominent graduate of a program that has brought rising Chinese leaders to Harvard’s Cambridge, Massachusetts campus for more than a decade. The initiative underscores the fact that even as the U.S. and China are at odds over issues ranging from the value of the yuan to Syria, top politicians in China are increasingly drawing on their U.S. experiences in setting policy for the world’s second-biggest economy, said Anthony Saich, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who oversees the program.

“They’re exposed to America, and best practices from around the world,” Saich said in an interview in Beijing. “One of the things they often say to me is, ‘well we don’t agree with you any more than we did before, but at least we have a sense of why you think the way you do.’”

Click for full article…

World’s First Web-based Env. Science Textbook

November 8th, 2012 in 2012, 2012, Cutler Cleveland, Faculty, Publications, Robert Kaufmann

By Robert K. Kaufmann and Cutler J. Cleveland

We are pleased to announce the publication of the world’s first entirely web-based, authoritative, introductory textbook on environmental science:

Environmental Science by Robert K. Kaufmann and Cutler J. Cleveland of Boston University.

Environmental Science takes advantage of the latest technologies to transcend the traditional textbook to create engaging, interactive content utilizing video, social networking, image galleries, and other features that only the Web can provide.


  • 100% Web-based and accessible on any device
  • Price = $50.00
  • Thorough coverage of the key topics in environmental science; integration of ecology, economics, and policy using energy and material flows and a systems perspective
  • Case Studies and Policy in Action that develop critical thinking included in each chapter
  • 63 videos and animations, and a Glossary embedded in text to bring content alive
  • Electronic highlighting tool
  • 500 multiple choice question test bank upon adoption
  • Social networking tools to engage students and instructor in online discussion
  • Ability for instructors to quickly and easily customize by deleting/re-ordering chapters, and by adding content of their own (text, links, labs, lecture notes, video, assignments, images, PDFs, Powerpoints, etc.)

To see a sample chapter and request access to an examination copy, please visit

Robert K. Kaufmann
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment
Director, Center for Energy and Environmental Studies
Boston University

Cutler J. Cleveland
Professor, Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University
Founding Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Earth

Prof. Fagherazzi studies coastal eutrophication as a driver of salt marsh loss

October 25th, 2012 in 2012, 2012, Faculty, Publications, Sergio Fagherazzi

nature11533-f2.2Salt marshes are highly productive coastal wetlands that provide important ecosystem services such as storm protection for coastal cities, nutrient removal and carbon sequestration. Despite protective measures, however, worldwide losses of these ecosystems have accelerated in recent decades1. Here we present data from a nine-year whole-ecosystem nutrient-enrichment experiment. Our study demonstrates that nutrient enrichment, a global problem for coastal ecosystems234, can be a driver of salt marsh loss. We show that nutrient levels commonly associated with coastal eutrophication increased above-ground leaf biomass, decreased the dense, below-ground biomass of bank-stabilizing roots, and increased microbial decomposition of organic matter. Alterations in these key ecosystem properties reduced geomorphic stability, resulting in creek-bank collapse with significant areas of creek-bank marsh converted to unvegetated mud. This pattern of marsh loss parallels observations for anthropogenically nutrient-enriched marshes worldwide, with creek-edge and bay-edge marsh evolving into mudflats and wider creeks567. Our work suggests that current nutrient loading rates to many coastal ecosystems have overwhelmed the capacity of marshes to remove nitrogen without deleterious effects. Projected increases in nitrogen flux to the coast, related to increased fertilizer use required to feed an expanding human population, may rapidly result in a coastal landscape with less marsh, which would reduce the capacity of coastal regions to provide important ecological and economic services.  Click to read the entire paper…

Minor in Sustainable Energy Launched

October 22nd, 2012 in 2012, News, Undergraduate

Faculty in E&E, in conjunction with faculty in the School of Management and the College of Engineering,  have launched a new Minor in Sustainable Energy that is available to any student in a four-year undergraduate School or College.  The Minor includes the essential elements of energy from the business, economics, policy, and engineering perspectives, as taught by faculty in those areas…Read more

Prof. Baxter Heads RoBOT Outreach Program

October 18th, 2012 in 2012, Ethan Baxter, Faculty, Pictures, Undergraduate

robot10Students look at sedimentary rocks from the age of the dinosaurs in Central Massachusetts

On October 13th, Undergraduates enrolled in ES222 “Mineralogy” were joined by Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) students as part of the 7th annual RoBOT “Rocks Beneath Or Toes” Outreach Program run by Prof. Ethan Baxter each Fall. Together, students sampled rocks and sediments from several sites in the Concord-Carlisle area and Massachusetts. The field trip was the first of three RoBOT events this semester, the next two of which will bring CCHS students together with BU students to analyze those samples in our mineralogy and geochemistry labs at BU. Click for more information on the RoBOT Outreach Program…

Students look at calc-silicate minerals in a old lime quarry in Chelmsford, MA
The entire group standing on the CCHS pitcher’s mound (which was sampled for analysis)

Professor Ian Sue Wing Wins NSF Award

October 3rd, 2012 in 2012, Faculty, Grants, Ian Sue Wing

Photo of three natural gas drilling rigs.To explore ways of maximizing the benefits of natural gas development while minimizing potential negative effects on human communities and ecosystems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has entered into a cooperative agreement with a University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder)-led team of scientists, engineers and educators and eight partner organizations.

NSF has also entered into a cooperative agreement with another interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and educators; it supports a multi-institution research network on sustainable climate risk management strategies. The network is centered at Penn State University and involves nine other U.S. universities and research institutes.

Known as NSF Sustainability Research Networks, or SRNs, the teams will focus on the effects of natural gas development on air and water resources, and on how to adapt to and mitigate the risks of climate change, while developing new sustainability strategies in an altered world.  Read more…

Prof. Woodcock Named Chair of E&E

August 24th, 2012 in 2012, Curtis Woodcock, Faculty

woodcockDr. Gina Sapiro, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has named Professor Curtis Woodcock the inaugural chair of the Department of Earth & Environment. Professor Woodcock’s research interests include the use of remote sensing to study forest change and its impact on terrestrial carbon budgets. He previously served as chair of the Department of Geography & Environment.

E&E Offices on the Move

August 24th, 2012 in 2012, Trips

Student advising for the new department is now located in CAS Room 131. The main department office is now in CAS Room 130.