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S P A R K 2016 RESEARCH REVIEW


In December, at the close of the hottest year on record, the world turned its attention to one of its grandest challenges: climate change. As signatories to the landmark Paris Agreement, nearly 200 nations made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to forestall an increase in atmospheric temperature. That warming, scientists warn, would bring devastating storms, drought, species loss and food and water shortages. Every day at the University of New Hampshire, researchers from all corners of the university—all our colleges and our Carsey School of Public Policy, School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and Sustainability Institute—focus their efforts and expertise on this same challenge. Their work, and the promise it holds to help us understand, mitigate and adapt to a new climate future, provides the theme for this second issue of SPARK. In these pages, researchers from across the disciplines share their perspectives and offer cautious solutions on climate change. We’ll take you from the Arctic Circle to our New Hampshire backyards to show you how UNH faculty are tracking methane and nitrogen, understanding the politics and sociology of climate change, sounding the alarm about how rising sea levels and warming winters threaten our culture and developing new technologies to help preserve the environment and prevent weather-related destruction. In planning this issue, we gathered 20 of the university’s top climate change researchers and asked why they think UNH is such a powerhouse in the science of climate change. Their responses spoke volumes about the impact of our research enterprise. I listened with pride as they described a university culture that fosters working across departmental borders, a commitment to undergraduate research, an ability to attract and retain some of the best and brightest in their fields, an international presence, outstanding graduate students and post-doctoral researchers and a deep desire to make a difference in the world. The grand challenge of climate change deserves—indeed, requires—nothing less. Jan Nisbet Senior Vice Provost for Research University of New Hampshire jan.nisbet@unh.edu unh.edu/research

Cover Photo: Aerial image of a study area in Abisko, Sweden— about 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.


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Model Science Groundbreaking UNH research scales global climate models to our region

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Flash of Discovery How a terrifying flight into a thunderstorm yielded a new understanding of lightning

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Weight Watcher This new technology helps building owners manage rooftop snow

10 The New Normal Research helps communities plan for climate change’s consequences

14 Pier to Plate An aquaculture innovation that brings sustainable, “legendary” seafood to the table

15 A Sensible Venture A better way to clear snowy roads tackles a problem as big as it is briny

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16 All Eyes on the Arctic It’s the globe’s refrigerator, and UNH researchers want to know who left the door open

20 Recognizing Arctic Researchers Two UNH researchers were honored by scientific associations

21 A Fruitful Endeavor A UNH researcher wants to grow kiwis in New Hampshire

22 A Few of Our Favorite Things How climate change is already affecting them

26 The People Factor These UNH researchers put the “social” into the science of climate change

29 Science on Stage How theatre is helping us envision a new climate future

32 A Closing Inquiry Donor Josephine Lamprey talks to Jan Nisbet about why she supports UNH’s climate change research


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Additional Accomplishments in UNH Research Beyond climate change, these are recent exciting highlights in other areas of UNH research

30 Mystery of the Voyager UNH research confirmed that NASA’s Voyager 1 entered interstellar space

30 RENEWed Support for Youth A grant boosts academic and social outcomes for youth with emotional and behavioral challenges

31 Racial Reckoning This new book explores the contradictory nature of race relations in the Northeast

31 Primary Sources UNH’s go-to guys for presidential politics each have new books

UNH Sustainability Leadership Look for this icon throughout SPARK to learn more about our commitment as pioneers towards a sustainable world.

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UNH Climate Dynamics Prediction Lab simulates a National Weather Service heat index for July 2100.


M 0 DEL SC 1ENCE Groundbreaking UNH research scales global climate models to our region BY BE TH POTIER

Call them the fortune-tellers of climate change: Climate models, which draw on the physics and chemistry of the Earth and its oceans and atmosphere, are at the heart of understanding our changing world. Just as the morning’s weather report helps us decide whether to wear gloves, play golf or harvest crops on a given day or week, climate models let us anticipate and prepare for global climate trends decades or even a century away. At UNH, an interdisciplinary team of climate modelers is working to scale down sophisticated global climate models that, for all their computational firepower and big-picture projections, fail to deliver significant insight into what we care most about: How is the climate in my state, my town, my backyard changing, and what will it mean for me? Will my kids go skiing in December and trap lobsters in June? Will my grandkids tap sugar maples for syrup?

“When you start getting down to finer scales or looking at more detailed problems, that’s where these big models are not useful by themselves,” says modeler and Earth sciences professor Matt Huber of the Climate Dynamics Prediction Lab at UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS). While a global climate model might indicate a future decline in deciduous trees, for instance, the UNH models show there will be fewer maples in New England.

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As part of the National Science Foundation-funded Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Huber and colleagues have been zooming in on these global models to bring future climate scenarios in the northeast U.S. into much sharper focus. The groundbreaking work aims to obtain climate variables such as temperature and precipitation—calculating some measures even down to the hour—100 years out. EOS research scientist Muge Komurcu, a key researcher leading this effort, is working on highresolution simulations of the future climate in New England. She’s able to model many processes in detail and project the intensity, frequency and duration of precipitation, as well as extreme events such as droughts, floods and heat waves at a regional level. For instance, the team’s results indicate that without serious carbon mitigation efforts, by 2100 temperatures of a typical summer month in the Northeast will be the same as heat wave temperatures over the past few decades. “So pick the hottest, muggiest, nastiest three-day heat wave you’ve felt and that is all of July, if we don’t work hard to avoid massive global warming,” Huber says. While Komurcu focuses on modeling how clouds— what Huber calls the “heavy lifters” of the climate system and one of the biggest mysteries in climate modeling—influence climate by either absorbing or reflecting sunlight, her colleagues’ work is down to Earth. The EPSCoR project has brought together two UNH-built ecosystem models, one land-based

and one aquatic, to produce much more robust and meaningful results for the very first time. By synchronizing interdisciplinary moving parts, the models are able to talk to each other and churn out results that matter, providing never-beforeavailable insights into more than 100 data variables that affect everything from how crops will grow to the length of future ski seasons. “Aquatic systems and terrestrial systems—rivers, lakes and forests—are very closely linked and forests really influence streams and therefore influence water quality all the way downstream,” says Wil Wollheim, assistant professor in the department of natural resources and the environment and co-director of the Water Systems Analysis Group at EOS. “Combining models now lets us understand how things change on land and at the same time, and very consistently, how things change in water, which is especially important when land use and climate are changing.” Wollheim’s group developed the Framework for Aquatic Modeling of the Earth System (FrAMES), a hydrological and biogeochemical modeling system that can be used to model concentrations of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus or dissolved oxygen in water as they travel from small streams in the mountains through aquatic systems to the coastal zone. The EPSCoR work ensures FrAMES interacts with another UNH-developed model, the Forest Carbon Water Balance Model (PnET). Created by University Professor John Aber and now led by professor of ecosystem ecology Scott Ollinger, PnET

A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Muge Komurcu came to the Earth Systems Research Center at UNH in early 2014 as a member of the Climate Dynamics Prediction Lab; she brought expertise in the biggest mystery of climate modeling—the role of clouds.

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IS NITROGEN THE NEW CARBON? It fertilizes crops that feed the world, but reactive nitrogen is also a pollutant that contributes to a cascade of environmental and human health problems such as smog, coastal “dead zones” and climate change. And while reactive nitrogen occurs naturally, human creation of it has increased six-fold since 1940. To understand how our consumption of food and energy releases nitrogen into the environment, Alley Leach, a Ph.D. student in the natural resources and Earth systems science program, is applying a nitrogen “footprint” model she developed while at the University of Virginia to calculate UNH’s institution-wide nitrogen impact. Part of the first cohort of universities using this tool, UNH is also integrating the nitrogen footprint into the Campus Carbon Calculator, a tool developed by the UNH Sustainability Institute and used by thousands of institutions around the world. “Most carbon footprint reduction strategies will also reduce the nitrogen footprint, which is a win-win for sustainability,” says Leach, who studies with University Professor John Aber. BETH POTIER n-print.org

The Campus Carbon Calculator

Created by UNH and used globally by more than 90% of campuses who track their carbon footprints. (a mashup of the scientific abbreviations for net photosynthesis—Pn—and evapotranspiration, or ET) forecasts what forests will do under different climatic conditions and environmental stressors such as insect infestation or pollution and how they will continue to sequester carbon or not.

with current decisions about how we use our natural resources and emit carbon, connecting the highly technical computational work of scientists to our daily lives. It’s essential, the researchers say, to bring their work to bear on real-world solutions to a changing climate.

For instance, early findings indicate that if carbon dioxide emissions continue at the current rate, we’ll see major changes in ecosystem services—the many ways ecosystems provide benefits like clean water for drinking or wood for fuel or construction—by 2040. And land-use change will exacerbate impacts of climate change. “The forests of New Hampshire are important for buffering changes in climate and maintaining ecosystem services,” says Wollheim.

“The science I do has transitioned from being more or less irrelevant to modern society to something we very much need to understand and translate into things that people can actually use, things that can help inform improved building codes or better decisions about storm water management, for example,” says Huber. “Which is where things start to get really interesting.”  David Sims contributed to this story.

This modeling work, under the framework of an EPSCoR project called Ecosystems and Society, ultimately aims to link future climate scenarios

epscor.unh.edu

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FLASH OF DISCOVERY

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ightning strikes the ground eight million times a day, and that number is predicted to rise—by about 50 percent by the end of the century—as our planet warms. As UNH’s Joseph Dwyer knows, being one of the world’s leading lightning experts can be perilous business. For him, it meant mistakenly flying a small plane into a violent thunderstorm. “I really thought I was going to die,” Dwyer, the Peter T. Paul Chair in Space Sciences within the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space told Nature about the 2009 experience. But the terrifying flight had an upside: Inside the thunderstorm, Dwyer and his colleagues encountered a large, unexpected cloud of positrons, the antimatter opposite of electrons. The discovery, described in the May 2015 Journal of Plasma Physics, helps explain one of the field’s enduring mysteries: how lightning gets initiated within a thunderstorm. BETH POTIER joseph.dwyer@unh.edu

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Weight Watcher

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ast winter, record snowfalls in the Northeast presented a major problem for the region’s roofs—and for the retailers, schools, municipalities and business managers in the position of weighing the costs—up to $20,000 per year—of clearing their roofs against the risk of a catastrophic collapse. Now there’s help in deciding whether or not to shovel: SnowScale, developed by civil engineering alumnus and entrepreneur Chris Dundorf ‘02 with help from students and professors (Mihaela Sabin, the Arthur K. Whitecomb professor of computer science, and Christopher LeBlanc of electrical engineering) from UNH’s Manchester campus, adapts technology used by environmental

scientists for rooftop snow management. “You can’t use snow depth to tell you how much water is in the snowpack,” says Dundorf, whose product includes a sensor installed on a rooftop that can measure the weight of the snow load. His company, 2KR Systems, received grants from the New Hampshire Innovation Research Center (NHIRC), business-growth funding administered by UNH on behalf of the state, as well as the UNH-based New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. BETH POTIER epscor.unh.edu

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NEW NORMAL Research helps communities plan for climate change’s consequences BY BE TH POTIER

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As our climate changes, our food and forests, our transportation, even our health will become vulnerable. From pines to pavement, weeds to wheezing, UNH researchers are working on solutions to help us adapt to a warming planet. “We spend billions and billions of dollars on transportation infrastructure every year, and we’re doing it without thinking about what the future holds. That means there’s a good chance we’re not efficiently investing the resource,” says Jennifer Jacobs. In 2012, Jacobs and Jo Daniel, both professors of civil and environmental engineering, launched the National Science Foundation-funded Infrastructure & Climate Network, or ICNet, to bring the scientific findings around climate change to bear on our roads and bridges. Water—from the clouds and from the sea as it rises—is a primary threat to the integrity of our roads and bridges. But new ICNet research, conducted in part by Ph.D. student Jayne Knott in collaboration with N.H. Sea Grant, is modeling the effect of rising groundwater in New Hampshire’s seacoast on this critical infrastructure. The team has found that our geology complicates the picture, so flooding due to rising seas will likely occur much further inland than previously thought. To wit: Daniel says even the Portsmouth traffic circle, a critical interchange some two miles inland, is in danger of going under water in the future. “Our goal is to figure out what roads might be vulnerable, then work on different adaptations on those roads,” she says. Daniel, who researches the asphalt concrete that surfaces most of our roads, is also evaluating how recycled asphalt pavement will withstand the rising temperatures and extreme precipitation of changing climate. And in a project for the Federal Highway Administration, she’s helping develop guidelines for decision-makers to determine when flooded roadways can be reopened to traffic. Heidi Asbjornsen is interested in the other side of the extreme precipitation coin—drought—and its impact on forests. In New England, says the associate professor of ecosystem ecology, “even though we’re expected to have more total rainfall, we’re also expected to have more prolonged periods of drought.”

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Clockwise from top left: Civil and environmental engineering professor Jo Daniel (right) co-leads efforts to help climate scientists and infrastructure engineers find common ground; a grid of gutters in the trees at UNH’s Thompson Farm simulates drought conditions; assistant professor of agroecology Richard Smith surveys the impact of climate change on weeds; associate professor of ecosystem ecology Heidi Asbjornsen researches the effects of climate change on forests in the Brazilian Amazon as well as New Hampshire.

Asbjornsen has simulated drought conditions on a plot at UNH’s Thompson Farm with a grid of gutters that channel away 50 percent of the rain that falls beneath the forest’s tree canopy. Working alongside Ph.D. student Cameron McIntire with funding from the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES), Asbjornsen will see which species respond well to drought, which will suffer, and how the forest may change. “If there is a lot of die-off of vegetation, we could see more flooding and a loss of sediment and nutrients. It may also be difficult for new plant species to establish, especially if these changes happen suddenly,” says Asbjornsen, who is jointly appointed to UNH’s department of natural resources and the environment and the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and studies similar impacts of climate change on cloud forests in Mexico and rain forests in the Brazilian Amazon. It’s easy to imagine New England farmers embracing a warming climate that could extend their growing season. But the unpredictable and extreme precipitation that climate change brings tempers that enthusiasm, says Becky Sideman, crop specialist with UNH’s Cooperative Extension and NHAES.

“I see farmers really thrown for a loop by these extreme precipitation events: long stretches of drought, or excessive rainfall events,” she says, particularly in the spring planting and fall harvest seasons. “Every time one of these extreme events happens, farmers are wondering ‘how can I protect myself against future events like this?’” Sideman’s colleague Richard Smith notes that any boost a few degrees of warmth would give to tomato or even sweet potato crops will also give a leg up to farmers’ nemesis: weeds. As the growing season becomes longer, “weeds will potentially grow bigger and produce more seeds, which means more weeds in general,” says Smith, assistant professor of agroecology. Organic farmers, who have fewer tools to battle weeds, are particularly vulnerable. In a study funded by the agricultural experiment stations at UNH and the universities of Vermont and Maine, Smith and his colleagues surveyed weeds on 77 organic vegetable farms across the three states to determine how weeds will adapt to a changing climate. They found that changes in climate are indeed linked to changes in weed populations; in particular, maximum annual temperature and the highest low temperature in the winter were stronger determinants on weed communities than soil characteristics. Now, professor of plant biology Tom Davis is doing genetic analyses on some of those weeds to help predict which of the 113 species Smith identified will adapt best and proliferate in a changing climate. “We’ll give farmers a heads up in terms of what they need to be thinking about regarding managing these weeds,” says Smith.


But it’s not just roads, trees and crops that will suffer climate change’s wrath: Our health will, too. As the temperature rises, so do rates of respiratory and heart diseases and illnesses transported by water or ticks. And “we’re just starting to talk about the mental health aspects of having a flood or a natural disaster tear your whole world apart,” says Semra Aytur, associate professor of heath management and policy. Aytur co-authored a report on health perspectives of New Hampshire’s changing climate for Climate Solutions New England, a project of UNH’s Sustainability Institute. With other UNH faculty, she also assisted the town of Exeter, N.H., on a climate adaptation project led by research professor of engineering Paul Kirshen. Climate change will exacerbate the riverside town’s current challenges with flooding, pollution, stormwater drainage and salt marsh protection, they found.

Because of the vast complexity of how a changing climate will change our lives, Aytur says collaborations between health scientists like herself and engineers and climate scientists are the path forward, an approach embraced by up-and-coming researchers. “I’m having more engineers, students from natural resources and public health collaborating in my classes,” she says. “It has to be such a transdisciplinary kind of approach. Nobody has the answers alone.” t heicnet.org ecohydro.sr.unh.edu agroecologyunh.blogspot.com semra.aytur@unh.edu

Founded in 1997, the Sustainability Institute is the first endowed sustainability office in the United States.

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Pier to Plate

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s the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine contributes to the dwindling supply of fish fry favorites like cod, fishermen also suffer, their catch limits and livelihoods curtailed considerably. An innovative aquaculture project from New Hampshire Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension aims to provide supplementary year-round income to New England fishermen and deliver sustainable seafood to dinner tables throughout the region. At the mouth of New Hampshire’s estuarine Piscataqua River, salmon-like steelhead trout grow within nets suspended from a UNH-designed raft, which is surrounded by lines of mussels and sugar kelp. Called integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, this method addresses a key concern of aquaculture—concentrated fish waste—by tapping the bio-filtering mussels and kelp to remove excess nitrogen from the water. “Because this method is environmentally sustainable, it’s easier for fishermen to obtain permits,” says Michael Chambers, aquaculture specialist with UNH’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, who’s working with local fishermen and entrepreneurs on the project. And the harvest is delicious as well as sustainable: One Portsmouth restaurateur calls the UNH steelhead trout “legendary” in culinary circles. BETH POTIER seagrant.unh.edu extension.unh.edu

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Check it out!  UNH steelhead trout research on YouTube


A Sensible Venture

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hile New England’s winters are predicted to warm, a changing climate won’t eliminate slippery driving altogether. Thanks to Andrew Jaccoma ’12G, a graduate of the M.B.A. program at UNH’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, salting our roadways is becoming a lot more efficient. In 2012, Jaccoma and partners launched Sensible Spreader Technologies with the goal, he says, of “revolutionizing the winter road maintenance industry.” The company addresses what Jaccoma calls an overlooked problem in the industry, the waste and watershed pollution that comes from snowplow operators inadvertently retracing their steps and applying duplicate doses of salt on roads. It’s an issue as big as it is briny: About 30 percent of the 18 million tons of de-icing material used nationwide gets wasted. Sensible Spreader Technologies brings GPS technology and wireless sensors onto the dashboards of plows (as well as street sweepers) that tell individual drivers, plus all others in the fleet, where the vehicle has traveled and when its salt spreader or plows are deployed. Jaccoma estimates this “game-changing tool” could save municipalities upwards of $6,000 per year. UNH boosted the

start-up with two $10,000 prizes: Sensible Spreader Technologies won UNH’s 2012 Holloway Prize and the top community prize in the 2014 Social Venture Innovation Challenge, an initiative of UNH’s Carsey School, Paul College and Sustainability Institute as well as the New Hampshire Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, UNH Innovation and Net Impact UNH. BETH POTIER unh.edu/social-innovation

Social Innovators The Social Venture Innovation Challenge and newly formed Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise encourage UNH students and the greater community to think globally and sustainably. Past winners’ projects aimed to bring food security, clean water, solar power and pollution solutions to communities nearby and abroad.

View the 2015 SVIC Finalist videos at unh.edu/svic

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A L L

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THE ARCTIC

It’s the globe’s refrigerator, and UNH researchers want to know who left the door open. BY BE TH POTIER

Each summer, a handful of UNH researchers pass up New England’s hard-won summer and head to the remote glaciers, peatlands and oceans on top of the world. There, they’re exploring the Arctic’s outsized influence—and impact—on the Earth’s changing climate.

Research professor Cameron Wake skis in Alaska’s Denali National Park, where he and others drilled ice cores to study the effect of climate change on the Arctic region.

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“The Arctic is the canary in the coalmine,” says research professor Cameron Wake of UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS). The region is warming faster than the rest of the globe, he says, and its thawing has major implications for all of us. Wake and others are probing climate change’s powerful impact on what’s called albedo, a measure of reflectivity off the Earth’s surface. Like a white t-shirt on a hot day, snow and ice reflect heat back into the atmosphere. “All you need to do is melt a little snow and expose a dark surface, or melt a little sea ice and expose dark water, and that ocean or terrain absorbs more solar radiation, and that heats up the earth even more, and melts a little more snow and ice in what becomes a vicious circle,” says Wake, the Josephine A. Lamprey Fellow in Climate and Sustainability. With decades of work in Greenland behind him, Wake’s colleague and EOS research associate professor Jack Dibb has recently turned his attention to the role of black carbon—soot—in that ice-albedo feedback loop. Theorizing that this by-product of incomplete combustion of organic materials, emanating from burning diesel fuels as well as from wildfires and other biomass, is darkening the snow and ice and lowering its albedo, Dibb and his colleagues found the effect is more complex. “We’re showing that at the high elevations of the Greenland ice sheet, there is so little dust or black carbon in the snow that it makes a minimal difference in the albedo,” he says of results published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The study showed that degrading satellite sensors, not soot, were responsible for the apparent decline in albedo. Melting and exposed water at lower elevations, the researchers suspect, are far greater drivers of Greenland’s darkening.

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Left and lower right: A National Science Foundation-funded team of researchers from UNH, Dartmouth and the University of Maine drilled ice cores 700 feet beneath Alaska’s Denali National Park to chronicle a millennium of climate history. Top right: The Abisko Scientific Research Station in Sweden provides research opportunities for undergraduates as well as UNH faculty. Opposite page: In the permafrost of northern Sweden, drones and remote sensing give an ecosystem-wide look at vegetation and methane emissions.

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While Dibb’s work takes in satellite imagery of the surface of ice, Wake goes beneath the snow—700 feet beneath—to chronicle a millennium of climate history. In 2013, he, Elizabeth Burakowski ‘13G (now a postdoctoral researcher), and a National Science Foundation-funded team that included University of Maine and Dartmouth researchers spent late spring in Alaska’s Denali National Park drilling ice cores from the Mt. Hunter Plateau at 13,000 feet.

In the permafrost peatlands of northern Sweden, associate professor of biogeochemistry Ruth Varner leads work on the impact of climate change on vegetation and carbon cycling. In the six summers she’s done fieldwork at the Abisko Scientific Research Station, she’s seen significant changes in the amount of thaw happening there. “We’re seeing greater methane emissions in systems that are thawing versus those that are frozen,” Varner says.

Ice cores are, says Wake, arguably the best archive of how our climate system has changed over the course of the last centuries, millennia, out to hundreds of thousands of years. The cores from Denali, which complement previous UNH collaborative coring efforts across the Canadian Arctic, point to a warming climate.

And not only are these thawing peatlands emitting more methane—a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide—they’re no longer storing carbon. “Thirty percent of the soil carbon on the Earth is locked up in these permafrost soils. When that thaws, these soils can change from being a carbon sink to a source,” she says.

“What is very clear in the record is that we see a lot more melting in recent years compared to previous centuries,” says Wake.

Her work there taps other UNH expertise: Varner takes half-meter sized plot measurements of vegetation, species composition and methane

UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE


“Thirty percent of the soil carbon on the Earth is locked up in these permafrost soils. When that thaws, these soils can change from being a carbon sink to a source.” Ruth Varner, associate professor of biogeochemistry

emissions; associate professor Michael Palace—like Varner, co-appointed to EOS and the department of Earth sciences—uses remote sensing and drones to scale these up to ecosystem-wide models. It’s not just thawing vegetation that is guilty of methane emissions: In a study published in Nature Geoscience in January 2016, Varner and co-authors found that freshwater lakes and ponds above the 50th parallel are one of the largest natural sources of methane. And a warming climate will make the scenario worse, she says; if ice-free seasons are extended by 20 days, annual methane emissions from the 733 ponds and lakes studied will increase by 20 to 54 percent by the end of the century. Climate news from the top of the world is not all dire, however. From a research ship plying the Fram Strait between Norway and Greenland, geologist and associate professor Joel Johnson identified a previously undiscovered reservoir of methane that is “locked” away from the atmosphere, where it could change the climate. “This work shows there are parts of the Arctic where methane is coming up to the seafloor and instead of coming out, it is trapped in gas hydrates; it’s finding itself in a stable environment for millions of years,” he says.

And University Professor of environmental engineering Nancy Kinner, whose UNH/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Response Research Center has been convening stakeholders to prepare for oil spill response in the Arctic since 2008, breathed a cautious sigh of relief when Royal Dutch Shell abandoned its plans for exploratory drilling in September. “The good news is, we’re not going to drill in Arctic waters,” she says. On the other hand, warming waters and melting ice has made the Arctic ever more accessible to shipping. “There’s a real potential for catastrophe,” says Kinner, adding that a spill in these harsh, remote waters will challenge responders and endanger a fragile environment. “Most ships carry some kind of fuel, and this is a region where organisms live by the skin of their teeth.”  src.sr.unh.edu e joel.johnson@unh.edu crrc.unh.edu

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RECOGNIZING ARCTIC RESEARCHERS A MODEL MENTOR At the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco in December, Ruth Varner received that organization’s 2015 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring. The award recognizes not only Varner’s research but also her extraordinary record of mentoring students, especially undergraduates and women. As director of the international Northern Ecosystems Research for Undergraduates (NERU), the NSF-funded program based at UNH, Varner has taken 37 undergraduates from colleges around the nation to Sweden to cut their teeth on state-of-the-art climate change field research; all seven of this year’s students presented their research at the AGU meeting. And back on campus, Varner directs UNH’s Joan and James Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science and Engineering Education, which taps UNH research resources to transform K-12 STEM education programs. BETH POTIER r uth.varner@unh.edu leitzelcenter.unh.edu

Jackie Amante ’12, ’14G (right) conducted research in Sweden with Ruth Varner (left) as an undergraduate.

A FELLOWSHIP FOR FROLKING Biogeochemist Steve Frolking was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in recognition of his contributions to understanding the Earth’s carbon cycle and its relationship to climate. Frolking leads a computer modeling project that spans 18 countries and encompasses all of Central, South, East and Southeast Asia, where some 1.3 billion people depend upon the waters that spring from the Tibetan Plateau. Honored at a ceremony at the annual AAAS meeting in February 2016, Frolking is UNH’s fourth AAAS fellow, joining space physicist Nathan Schwadron, biochemist Stacia Sower and geochemist Samuel Mukasa, dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. BETH POTIER steve.frolking@unh.edu

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With inspiring teaching and research in food systems work as well as providing backbone support for food system initiatives such as Food Solutions New England, New Hampshire Food Alliance and New Hampshire Farm to School, UNH stands as a leader in food system work in the state, region and nation.

A Fruitful Endeavor

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f Iago Hale has his way, in a few years you may be topping your breakfast cereal with a handful of fresh kiwiberries bought at one of northern New England’s farmers markets. Working to develop the fruit into a new high-value crop for New England farmers, Hale, assistant professor of specialty crop improvement and a plant breeder, has planted an acre of cold-hardy kiwis at UNH’s Woodman Farm. The smoothskinned, grape-sized cousin to New Zealand’s fuzzy fruit is native to northern Asia and well suited to New England’s soils and climate. Plus, Hale says, kiwiberries taste wonderful—sweet with a tropical

fruit complexity—and are packed with nutritional overachievers like vitamin C and beta-carotene. With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at UNH, Hale is currently putting varieties of kiwiberries through the same paces a commercial grower would to assess their economic viability. “There is potential here for an entirely new agricultural industry, one on par with the economic impact of strawberries and blueberries,” Hale says. “It’s a potential I have to explore.” BETH POTIER iago.hale@unh.edu

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A Few of Our Favorite Things How climate change is already affecting them BY JODY RECORD

It’s not just about the money. It may seem that way when looking at the impact climate change could have on New Hampshire’s key tourism industries: The state annually collects $650 million from the ski industry, $484 million from coastal tourism and $292 million during foliage season. But beyond money, climate change is taking a significant toll on the things we in New England hold dear. Take fall foliage, already impacted by summer droughts and warmer autumn nights. Data shows sugar maples’ leaves are changing color as many as five days later than they once did. “Climate change affects the trees’ timing,” says Scott Ollinger, a professor of ecosystem ecology who holds joint appointments in UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and the department of natural resources and the environment. “If spring is earlier, summer is warmer and autumn is drier, the timetable will be altered and the likely outcome is you won’t see the short intense burst of color you’re used to.”

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76% of departments offer courses related to sustainability. UNH is home to innovative programs that provide a unique, interdisciplinary approach such as the sustainability dual major, dual major in ecogastronomy and the Responsible Governance and Sustainable Citizenship Project.

“We are already seeing fewer birch, fewer maples, the vibrant color makers,” he says. “Those colors are what create the experience that people love. I don’t know if there ever will be an ‘aha’ moment where they say it’s not the same anymore. But if the season happens two weeks earlier or later, there is a chance they won’t have the experience they’ve had in the past.” That, he adds, could influence the kinds of vacations they plan in the future. “Climate change is making us reckon with the things we value,” says Meghan Howey, associate professor of anthropology. “As sea levels continue to rise there is going to be an impact on our cultural heritage, our maritime heritage—things that matter greatly to many, many people.” A report from the UNH-based Climate Solutions New England estimates that sea levels will rise between eight inches and more than six feet by the end of the 21st century. Howey has been looking at how climate change is affecting cultural heritage in places like Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke and the Wentworth Coolidge Mansion and New Castle’s forts Constitution and Stark, places that hold New Hampshire’s history. All, she says, are at risk of being lost to the sea within 100 years.

“Not even 100 years—these sites are already being impacted,” Howey says. “It’s a matter of coming to terms with what can be lost, of getting people to realize that places they love are going to be gone, and with them, their history. We need to connect the pieces.” Those pieces are the straight line between climate change and rising ocean levels, more frequent and violent storms, erosion, flooding. “When people start putting it together—‘Oh, that’s what flooding is about’—it could make a difference,” Howey says. “One of the reasons people come to Portsmouth is to feel reminiscent, to feel the past. It’s a big economic driver for the area and it’s very vulnerable.” As is New Hampshire’s ski industry. In recent years, skiers have been experiencing shorter seasons, as their favorite mountains open later and close sooner. The duration and volume of snowpack has changed; warmer temperatures result in less snowpack that melts sooner. The amount of rainfall versus snowfall is increasing, resulting in fewer skiers and dollars: In 2001-02 and 2006-07, lesser snowfall amounts led to more than $50 million in lost revenue.

Research along New England’s coastline, like that of Donya Frank ’15G, is helping predict beaches’ response to extreme weather and sea level change.

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UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE


Elizabeth Burakowski ’13G measures albedo from a tower above UNH’s Thompson Farm.

“If the season starts later, and ski areas miss out on that critical week between Christmas and New Year’s, that can mean 20 percent fewer skier visits and that can spell bad news for their bottom line,” says Elizabeth Burakowski ‘13G, a postdoctoral researcher at UNH and a visiting scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. In 2012, Burakowski and fellow graduate student Matt Magnusson authored “Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Industry in the United States,” a high-profile research report for the Natural Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters.

“As winters continue to warm—it’s already happening; it is becoming rarer and rarer to see ponds with ice—those kinds of activities won’t be part of our culture anymore,” says Cameron Wake, research professor of climatology and glaciology and the Josephine A. Lamprey Fellow in Climate and Sustainability. He notes that ice-out dates on two of New Hampshire’s largest lakes, Winnipesaukee and Sunapee, are occurring 10 to 20 days earlier than in the past. “What’s dear to me is winter recreation,” he says. “It is such a part of the New England culture and it could be gone.”

Snowfall is driven by precipitation and temperature. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, meaning there could be a span of increased snowfall in the near future. However, the temperature dictates whether it stays on the ground. And records indicate that winters are still getting warmer, according to Burakowski.

But it’s not too late, Wake says. If we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels, average temperatures are modeled to rise just four degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, half of the increase predicted if fossil fuels remain a primary energy resource, Wake and his collaborators demonstrate in a Climate Solutions New England report on climate change in New Hampshire.

“Unfortunately we are already committed to global warming,” says Burakowski. “On average, our winters will be six to eight degrees warmer by 2100. That puts a lot of places above freezing.” And that freezes out other winter recreation— snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, ice fishing and pond skating—that has been woven into New England’s fabric for decades.

“The sky is not falling,” Wake says. “Some things will disappear and we have to accept that. We can’t protect everything. But if we start now, if we adapt and project out over the next decade, the next two, three, we can spread out the cost. If we wait, it will cost much more. And more will be lost.” s cott.ollinger@unh.edu meghan.howey@unh.edu climatesolutionsne.org

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THE PEOPLE FAC TOR

BY JENNIFER SAUNDERS

These UNH researchers put the “social” into the science of climate change

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UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE


With climate change affecting resources as nearby as the coastal waters of southern Maine and New Hampshire and in regions as distant as Brazil and Egypt, UNH professors are delving not only into the science itself but also how individuals perceive the reality of a warming planet. Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and senior fellow at UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy, has been conducting survey research on perceptions about climate and other science topics since 2007. Public views about climate are changing, Hamilton confirms, but he describes the change as “a slow upward drift rather than the abrupt shift some surveys have been reporting.” The reason, Hamilton says, is that while many surveys simply ask about “climate change” or “global warming” without specifying a cause, the UNH surveys ask people whether they think humans or nature are the main cause. Most people admit climate is changing, but a substantial minority denies human activities play a large role.

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“A central finding that recurs in all of this research is how strongly polarized public beliefs about climate change, the environment and science itself have become.” Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology

Indeed, in a 2014 Carsey School brief, Hamilton found a whopping 53 percent divide between Republicans and Democrats on questions about whether and why climate change is happening. Parse the data further, subdividing those who identify themselves with the Tea Party out of the general pool of Republicans, and the gap widens to 60 percent. “Human causation remains the core disagreement among politicians and the public, although not among scientists,” Hamilton says. After eight years and more than 30,000 interviews, Hamilton says, “a central finding that recurs in all of this research is how strongly polarized public beliefs about climate change, the environment and science itself have become.” Stacy VanDeveer, professor of political science and chair of the department, has devoted much of his work in the past 10-plus years to climate change politics and policy options in North America, Europe and in global organizations like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. VanDeveer, who is the faculty chair for UNH’s new dual major in sustainability, explains his research looks at “new modes of governance across borders related to energy and climate change. Some of my work also addresses the relationships between climate change and security and the interactive links—or nexus—between various natural resources and their exploitation and governance.” Jeannie Sowers, associate professor of political science, has published on a variety of subjects

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UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

including adaptation to climate change and water resources, with her current research spanning multiple years and including regular travel to Egypt to conduct interviews. “The pace of change is so fast, with population growth estimated at 500,000 to one million per year in Cairo alone,” she explains. Egypt’s heat wave this past summer, with temperatures that soared to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, claimed more than 100 lives; sea level continues to rise and the Nile River delta is receding. The impacts of climate change are already a reality in Egypt, Sowers says, and they “take the existing vulnerabilities and add layers onto them.” Sowers notes the term “climate change” itself is not what is being discussed; efforts are focused on addressing the effects in a region where, she points out, “conflict and climate change reinforce unrest, insecurity and vulnerability.” Associate professor of sociology Tom Safford’s research includes a focus on understanding the social bases of environmental attitudes and beliefs as far off as coastal Brazil and much closer to home, where he’s a principal investigator on the National Science Foundation-funded New England Sustainability Consortium Project of NH EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). Given the importance of New England beaches to coastal communities and their economies, Safford’s discussions with stakeholders—including beachgoers and business owners—revealed concern about microbiological issues and their link to rising water temperatures that result in diminished water quality and fewer visits to the


beach. While New Hampshire’s coastal beaches are among the nation’s cleanest, four percent of Maine’s total beach days had beach advisories or closures in 2014. Focusing on those concerns rather than discussing climate change in terms that have become politically charged could get individuals to change their behaviors, Safford suggests. Similar issues related to climate change exist in Brazil, Safford notes, but as Sowers found in Egypt, there are differences: “All the ideological debates about climate change that dominate the U.S. don’t exist there,” says Safford, who is also a Carsey fellow. “Brazilian scientists and stakeholders are talking about pathogenic bacteria; they’re talking about changing ocean temperatures, but they emphasize the social and economic implications in the policy

realm and when communicating to the public. They don’t feel the need to tie them to climate change. ” Going forward, he says, “There may be lessons for the U.S. scientific community from their colleagues abroad. Perhaps avoiding the term ‘climate change’ and highlighting climate-related social and economic impacts that most matter to the public might help bridge ideological divides. We know scientifically that rising ocean temperatures are linked to the appearance of pathogenic bacteria. In the U.S., one of the ways Americans most relate to the environment is by going to the beach. Can we use that as a jumping off point for new discussions and action?” c arsey.unh.edu cola.unh.edu/political-science

S C I E N C E O N S TA G E Can theatre help us understand a changing climate? It can in the hands of David Kaye, professor and chair of the theatre and dance department. Kaye’s professional theatre company PowerPlay Interactive Development recently used its innovative blend of improvisation, performance and conflict resolution to bring to life how current land-use decisions and a changing climate will affect Granite Staters of the future. At a performance for partners in the UNHled NH EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), PowerPlay actors portrayed characters living 100 years from now, responding to two distinct development decisions made in 2015: A “business-as-usual” model that favored private development and individual property over conservation and a “community amenities” land use approach that limited sprawl.

Through the characters’ stories and reactions, the performances explored what life might be like with increased housing and road development or in a future with a more community-based, sharedresources model of land use that would let the state preserve its rural landscape but might have other impacts, such as increased taxes to fund services. The focus, Kaye explains, was not on promoting one particular agenda or opinion but creating an avenue for dialogue about land-use questions. “Theatre allows us to grapple with climate change at the human level, the only place where a transformation can really happen,” he says.  JENNIFER SAUNDERS david.kaye@unh.edu

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Additional Accomplishments in UNH Research Mystery of the Voyager

RENEWed Support for Youth

I

n 2012, when the NASA space probe Voyager 1 appeared to enter interstellar space by punching through the heliosphere, the bubble of solar wind surrounding our sun and planets, scientists were puzzled. Observations from spacecraft, launched in 1977, indicated a magnetic field that wasn’t what they expected, leading some to question whether Voyager 1 had indeed crossed through the edge of the heliosphere. In a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters in fall of 2015, UNH researchers cleared up the confusion by triangulating datasets gathered by other spacecraft, which provided strong evidence that Voyager 1 is in a region where the magnetic field is being deflected by the solar wind. Although the researchers predict it will be a decade before the probe leaves this murky magnetic field and reaches a “pristine” region of interstellar space, lead author Nathan Schwadron, an astrophysicist with the UNH Institute

Photo: NASA

for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, says its impact on our understanding of the region beyond our solar system is immediate. “We are beginning to paint a picture of what our local interstellar environment is really like and we can tie that to what’s happening in a much broader environment within the galaxy,” says Schwadron. BETH POTIER nschwadron@unh.edu

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O

ne in 10 youth in the United States has serious emotional and behavioral challenges, and half of those teens drop out of high school each year. Since 1996, JoAnne Malloy and her staff at the Institute on Disability, New Hampshire’s University Center for Excellence in Disability, have been developing RENEW, an intervention designed to improve academic and social outcomes for these youth. Drawing on research of what works in children’s mental health and school-to-career support, RENEW facilitators work closely with students to identify goals and implement strategies for successful transitions from school to adult life. In addition to providing training and support to 23 high schools and community mental health centers across New Hampshire, RENEW currently supports programs in 11 states and Denmark. In May 2015, RENEW received a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to test the model in a multi-state randomized control trial, which could lead to wide-scale adoption and support across the United States.  MATTHEW GIANINO iod.unh.edu


Racial Reckoning our society was living up to our professed “ fideals in terms of racial equality, then police

I

officers would not be killing unarmed black men at such a high rate.” That’s according to Jason Sokol, an associate professor of history who specializes in 20th century American politics, race and civil rights. In his most recent book, “All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn,” Sokol explores the history of race relations in the Northeast after World War II, demonstrating the contradiction between behaviors and ideals. It’s a duality that persists today, Sokol claims in a New York Times opinion piece: “Now we stand at a crossroads. We can summon our better angels and act forcefully, or we can continue to live like this.” In his next book, Sokol will tackle the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. A $50,400 Public Scholar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities supports the project, which explores the impact King’s death had on the trajectory of American race relations. SUSAN DUMAIS

jason.sokol@unh.edu

Primary Sources

Y

ou can’t miss them during the presidential election season. UNH political scientists Dante Scala and Andrew Smith are regularly tapped by national, regional and local press for their expertise in presidential politics, and, in particular, New Hampshire’s role. During this latest cycle, the two have upped the ante. Both have published new books on the contest, and they jointly offered a free online course on the New Hampshire primary that enrolled more than 2000 participants from around the country and beyond. Scala’s book, “The Four Faces of the Republican Party: The Fight for the 2016 Presidential Nomination,” co-authored with political expert Henry Olsen, covers the national landscape. Smith’s book, “The First Primary: New Hampshire’s Outsize Role in Presidential Politics,” co-authored with former UNH professor and Gallup executive David W. Moore, plumbs politics closer to home. The interviews, books and course are all an effort to “lift the hood,” says Scala, so people can see how the primary really works.  SUSAN DUMAIS  ante.scala@unh.edu d andrew.smith@unh.edu

“Now we stand at a crossroads. We can summon our better angels and act forcefully, or we can continue to live like this.” Jason Sokol, associate professor of history

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A CLOSING INQUIRY

Josephine A. Lamprey is a retired businesswoman, environmental pioneer and benefactor of sustainability programs at UNH. In 2012, she made a gift that established The Josephine A. Lamprey Professorship in Climate and Sustainability, held by research professor Cameron Wake. Additional gifts to UNH, where she serves on the UNH Foundation board of directors, have supported climate fellows in the UNH Sustainability Institute and the green grid at the UNH/Cornell Shoals Marine Laboratory as well as social innovation programs at the Carsey School. She spoke with Jan Nisbet (below right), senior vice provost for research, about climate change and philanthropy.

How did you get involved with climate change research at UNH? It started when I saw “An Inconvenient Truth.” At the time, I was the owner of a retail fuel company, Lamprey Brothers. The film motivated me to refocus our company from selling a product—oil—to helping our customers to burn less oil. So we produced a free educational program for customers focused on sustainability called “This Old Planet Needs a Friend.” The presenters included Cameron Wake, [UNH Sustainability Institute director] Tom Kelly, [“This Old House” host] Richard Trethewey, and me, and we filled the house. I learned a lot from Cam and Richard, but I was the most intrigued with Tom Kelly’s talk about the four circles of sustainability. You mean climate, food, biodiversity and culture, and how they intersect? Exactly. I visited UNH, had a tour, learned about Wildcat Transit (the largest transit system in New Hampshire), the cogen [combined heat and power] plant fueled with methane gas transported underground from the Rochester landfill. I didn’t graduate from UNH, but I grew up nearby so I had an awareness. All the work at UNH is so exciting, it makes me want to go back to school. Prior to returning to Lamprey Brothers, the family business, I was cofounder, part owner and developer of a health care consulting company focused on quality and cost containment for hospitals. We developed many clinical tools still in use today. In ’98, we sold the company, which resulted in my ability to become a philanthropist.

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UNH has afforded me the opportunity to give back in ways I never would have considered. I began with a fellowship, which became a professorship in climate and sustainability. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with Cam and Tom, two very talented individuals. Everyone knows you’re really feisty. Do you still meet climate change deniers at cocktail parties? I don’t get the resistance I used to. When I joined the UNH Foundation board, there were a few people I took on as a challenge, and now we’re buddies. I live on the ocean, so I can tell you about the devastation on the beach. The high tides are higher, they’re more ferocious and causing major erosion. And the low tides are much lower. What advice would you give other institutions of higher education on addressing climate change and sustainability? It has to start at the top. I know [UNH President] Mark Huddleston is very committed to leaving a legacy of sustainability. He has the energy, and he’s put together the right leadership team. The whole fabric of UNH is focused on sustainability. And the university is becoming more interdisciplinary, which will be necessary to address climate change.


SUSTAINABILITY

ON CAMPUS Since 2007, UNH has

reduced greenhouse gas emissions

AASHE GOLD STAR

by

36%

UNH ranks in the

EcoLine*

TOP 5%

for campus sustainability

(Average U.S. campus reduction = 5%)

is the primary fuel for the UNH cogeneration plant, supplying up to

85% of campus energy is a landfill gas-to-energy project * EcoLine 

that uses methane gas from a nearby landfill

Every year UNH Dining

composts more than 200 tons of food waste

UNH is home to

the first Wildcat Transit—the largest public transit provider in N.H.—runs mainly on

alternative fuels

“Our goal is to support and facilitate research that is responsive to the grand challenges of sustainability and sustainability science.” Tom Kelly, founding director of UNH Sustainability Institute

university organic dairy research farm in the United States


Non Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Durham, N.H. Permit No. 2

Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Research Thompson Hall, 105 Main St. Durham, NH 03824

Research excellence at the University of New Hampshire, the state’s flagship

SPARK

public university, reaches from the uncharted ocean depths to the edge of our

2016 Research Review

solar system and the Earth we call home. Powered by more than $100 million

A D M I N I S T R AT I O N President Mark W. Huddleston

in competitive external funding, UNH research transforms lives, solves global challenges, drives economic growth and engages the next generation of innovators. Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space Harlan Spence, Director School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering Larry Mayer, Director Carsey School of Public Policy Michael Ettlinger, Director College of Engineering and Physical Sciences Samuel Mukasa, Dean College of Health and Human Services Michael Ferrara, Dean College of Liberal Arts Ken Fuld, Dean College of Life Sciences and Agriculture Jon Wraith, Dean Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics Deborah Merrill-Sands, Dean University of New Hampshire at Manchester Michael Decelle, Dean University of New Hampshire School of Law Jordan Budd, Interim Dean Graduate School Harry Richards, Dean Cooperative Extension Kenneth La Valley, Dean and Director

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs P.T. Vasudevan Senior Vice Provost for Research Jan Nisbet Interim Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Mary Rhiel Senior Vice Provost for Engagement and Academic Outreach Julie E. Williams WRITERS Beth Potier David Sims Jody Record Jennifer Saunders Kristin Duisberg Matthew Gianino Susan Dumais Tracey Bentley CO N T R I B U T I N G P H OTO G R A P H E R S Brad Markle Cameron Wake Dan Habib Heidi Asbjornsen Kristi Donahue Lisa Nugent Lori Wright Michael Palace Michelle Day Mike Ross Ruth Varner Scott Ripley Serita Frey Seth Campbell Valerie Lester Zikri Bayraktar DESIGN Five Line Creative

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UNH SPARK 2016 Research Review  

University of New Hampshire UNH SPARK Research Publication Spring 2016

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