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Research & Center News: Spring/Summer 2011

Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI)

Building upon ten years of established research, renewed funding from BP to 2015, and on the rising level of campuswide interest in energy and sustainability research, members of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) program gathered for the CMI 10th Annual Meeting on April 12 and 13, 2011, at Princeton University. Over 70 participants attended the two-day event including Princeton faculty and students, colleagues from BP, Harvard’s Energy Technology Innovation Policy Program (ETIP), Tsinghua BP Clean Energy Research and Education Center, and members of the CMI Advisory Council.

At the meeting, participants shared research findings in climate science, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and policy as well as contributions to the wider community. During two deep dive sessions convened at the meeting, panelists discussed the current and future prospects of CCS policy and regulation as well as environmental opportunities and challenges for unconventional fuels in North America.

At a reception on April 12, Ellen Williams, Chief Scientist at BP, announced the recipient of the 2011 CMI Best Paper Award for Postdoctoral Fellows. Williams named Guangjian Liu, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the CMI carbon capture group from 2008 to 2010 (and now Assistant Professor at the North China Electric Power University), as the recipient. The selected paper “Making Fischer-Tropsch Fuels and Electricity from Coal and Biomass: Performance and Cost Analysis” offers original contributions to this set of technologies and their potential for carbon mitigation. It was published in Energy & Fuels in December, 2010. Professor Zheng Li of Tsinghua University accepted the award on behalf of Dr. Liu.

The CMI 2010 annual report, available on the CMI website (http://cmi., provides highlights of the first 10 years of the program and plans for the work ahead.

Center for BioComplexity

Festschrift Held in Honor of Simon A. Levin’s 70th Birthday

Former graduate student Alan Hastings (right) presents Simon Levin (left) with a special issue on Theoretidla Ecology prepared in honor of the occassion. In the foreground are Simon's wife Carole (center) and President Shirley M. Tilghman (right). (Photo: Eric Klopfer)

On April 26th, Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Princeton Environmental Institute hosted a Festschrift in honor of Professor Simon A. Levin’s 70th birthday. Entitled “The State of the Art in Mathematical Ecology,” the Festschrift celebrated Simon’s scientific accomplishments with a series of lectures given by former students, now highly respected scientists in their own right. Topics ranged from a discussion of time scales in ecology to an exploration of the evolutionary ecology of influenza viruses.

Whether through academic lecture, personal reminiscence, or satirical sketch, all participants paid tribute to Simon Levin’s myriad achievements, both professional and personal. Former postdoc Kenneth Kimball summed up the former: “Some of us contribute but grains of sand while others erect the massive stones that support bigger structures of knowledge. The latter requires not only the exceptional intellect, but also the skill to build collaborative partnerships with their peers such that more knowledge can be generated than just what the individual can bring forward. You (Simon) clearly have been stellar on both accounts—a keen intellect and the ability to collaborate with others both within and outside your area of expertise. Our generation and those in the future are all the better for the tools of knowledge you have helped construct.”

The Cooperative Institute for Climate Science (CICS)

Scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Climate Science (CICS) and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) recently completed an effort to develop new and innovative approaches for assessing the impacts of climate change and variability on living marine resources. This process started with a CICS-funded workshop in June of 2009 and culminated with a comprehensive review and synthesis paper, “On the use of IPCC-class models to assess the impact of climate on Living Marine Resources,” which was published in Progress in Oceanography in February of 2011. The effort was led by GFDL Scientist Charles Stock and included an international group of 22 scientists spanning disciplines ranging from climate science to fisheries ecology and management. Other CICS and GFDL scientists contributing to the effort included Tom Delworth, John Dunne, Steve Griffies, Simon Levin, Ryan Rykaczewski, Jorge Sarmiento, Ron Stouffer, and Gabe Vecchi. The article assesses present approaches for projecting climate impacts on living marine resources using IPCC models, lists recommended practices, and describes case studies. Priority developments in climate science and living marine resource ecology are also identified. A key challenge for living marine resource ecology is the development of models that mechanistically resolve the diverse set of multi-scale processes linking climate and ecosystems. Supplanting empirical approaches with such models is essential for robust predictions under climate change. Model development will require both detailed process investigations and long time series to resolve climate dynamics. Continued improvement of climate models is also essential. Living marine resources respond strongly to climate variability on interannual to decadal time scales and skillful climate predictions for these scales is crucial for making informed management decisions. Continued development of Earth System Models is essential for linking living marine resource responses to ocean acidification, changes in coastal nutrient loading, and changes in ocean productivity. Lastly, high-resolution climate models will provide an improved means of linking ocean basin-scale climate changes with the continental shelf ecosystems where the majority of living marine resources are harvested. This work has facilitated the development of numerous new projects within GFDL and between CICS scientists and external collaborators aimed at improving our understanding of climate impacts on living marine resources.


Health Challenges

In March 2011, the Grand Challenge Program hosted a visit from Christopher Dye, Director of Health Information at the World Health Organization. The leading analyst of the large-scale dynamics of tuberculosis and its interaction with HIV/ AIDS, Dye has championed the use of national surveillance data for evaluating tuberculosis (TB) burden and trends worldwide, building an evidence base of more than 40 million patients. He has described and explained the dramatic increase of TB in Africa coupled to the spread of HIV infection, the resurgence of TB in Eastern Europe, and the rise of multidrug resistant disease. Linking theory with data, he set international benchmarks for TB control, and stimulated technological developments by defining the potential impact of new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

Dye’s research in epidemiology is distinguished by the way he framed major public health questions as problems in population biology. His answers to practical questions about tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases have been obtained through the development and application of ecological and evolutionary principles, alongside the usual techniques of medical statistics. This approach dovetails with the Health Challenge, which applies multidisciplinary tools to the treatment, prevention, and control of infectious disease.

During his visit Dye met with Princeton faculty conducting global health research, and he delivered a lecture entitled “The Return of the E-word: Prospects for Eliminating AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” Speaking to a packed room of faculty and students, Dye articulated the challenges and opportunities for addressing three of the world’s most devastating diseases.

In other news, the Health Challenge sponsored student attendance at the Unite For Sight Global Health & Innovation 2011 Conference, the 2011 GlobeMed Global Health Summit and the United Against Infectious Disease 2011 HIV/AIDS Symposium.

Siebel Energy Challenge

This spring, the Oil, Energy and Middle East Program coordinated a talk titled “The Arab Spring and the Rentier State Paradigm at 25” by Professor Giacomo Luciani from the Gulf Research Center Foundation and one titled “Oil, the Dollar and the Stability of the International Financial System” by Postdoctoral Research Associate Eckart Woertz. Both scholars also offered undergraduate and graduate courses about energy and food security issues in the Middle East.

On March 4, 2011, the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars (PECS) announced the selection of six new graduate student members to the group: David Kanter, Megan Konar, Victor Oyeyemi, Clinton Smith, Celine Stein, and Alex Whitworth. Also see the article of two new investigator awards.

Front: Collen Leng ’14, Beth Zeitler, D.J. Bozym, Irwan Rusli; Back: Jane Yang ’11, Erman Eruz ’14, Andrew Stella ’13, Joe Roy-Mayhew. (Photo: Meredith Murphy Gailey)

This spring semester, participants in the weekly Energy Table dinners switched from discussing energy topics to learning how to design and construct a wind turbine. Led by chemical and biological engineering graduate students DJ Bozym and Joe Roy-Mayhew, a group of about 20 undergraduate and graduate students joined this hands-on project. The initiative is sponsored by Mathey College, Rockefeller College and the Princeton Environmental Institute.