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Research & Center News: Winter 2011

Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI)

From September 19 to 23, a group of 19 Princeton faculty, graduate students, research staff and affiliates participated in the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies (GHGT-10) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. CMI members presented 13 papers and posters related to the fields of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Held every other year, GHGT meetings bring together members of academia, government and industry to develop and implement carbon mitigation strategies. Over 1700 participants attended this year’s meeting.

In a continuing research partnership to identify ways to tackle the world’s climate problem, CMI has received a commitment of $11 million from BP as part of an extension of their partnership first announced in October 2008. Lamar McKay, president and chief executive of BP America, visited the Princeton campus on Wednesday, Nov. 17, to celebrate and reaffirm the renewal of the CMI partnership, which will run from 2011 to 2015.

Shoibal Chakravarty receiving the CMI Best Paper Award from Lamar McKay. (Photo: Denise Applewhite)

While on campus meeting with members of the initiative, McKay presented the inaugural CMI Best Paper Award for Postdoctoral Fellows, recognizing outstanding contributions made by postdoctoral research associates or associate research scholars to CMI’s core areas of research. McKay named Shoibal Chakravarty and Massimo Tavoni as recipients who will share the first award for their paper “Sharing Global CO2 Emission Reductions Among One Billion High Emitters” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. The paper was chosen from a highly competitive pool of nominations for its high quality and to recognize its original contributions to the discussion of CO2 emissions distribution across the world’s emitting individuals while considering issues of fairness and poverty, McKay said. Future awards now will be made annually through the year 2015 and announced at CMI annual meetings held each spring in Princeton.

The Cooperative Institute for Climate Science (CICS)

In a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a team of scientists from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and NOAA’s Office of Response and Recovery, including CICS scientist and lead author Alistair Adcroft, created and analyzed computer simulations of dissolved oil plumes, both near the surface and in the deep sea, to help assess the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill. According to the study, the deep sea plumes of oil and methane from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will most likely be contained to the Northern Gulf of Mexico because bio-degradation of oil will tend to balance transport by ocean currents. However, wherever significant microbial oxidation of methane does take place, the regions of the deep ocean where the plumes exist could become depleted of oxygen for up to a year or more.

Background: There is comparatively little experience in forecasting the evolution of spilled oil from deep leaks than forecasting the propagation of a surface oil slick and projecting the consequences. The Deepwater Horizon spill occurred 5,000 feet below the sea surface. To analyze the movement and decay of deep oil, the scientists embedded a simple model of microbial decay of hydrocarbons into a comprehensive ocean circulation model capable of simulating physical conditions in the Gulf at high resolution.

Significance: The deep oil and methane plumes were unlikely to reach beyond the Gulf of Mexico primarily because microbial oxidation of the hydrocarbons consumes the plumes before any significant concentrations could reach the loop current and Florida current systems. Reference: Adcroft, A., R. Hallberg, J. P. Dunne, B. L. Samuels, J. A. Galt, C. H. Barker, and D. Payton (2010), Simulations of underwater plumes of dissolved oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Geophysical. Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2010GL044689.

Center for BioComplexity

Simon Levin and (center back) his wife Carole Levin (center front) with Ramon Margalef’s children, Ramon (left) and Nuria (right). (Photo: Simon Levin)

Simon A. Levin Receives Margalef Prize in Ecology Professor Simon A. Levin was awarded the Margalef Prize in Ecology (Premi Ramon Margalef d’Ecologia) at a ceremony held on October 7, 2010 in the Sant Jordi Hall of the Generalitat of Catalonia (Autonomous Government in the Spanish State), Barcelona, Spain. The President of the Generalitat, José Montilla, presented the award. Dr. Levin received this prize for his fundamental contributions to theoretical ecology (particularly concerning spatial and temporal heterogeneity), ground-breaking research on integrating different scales in understanding ecological processes, application of basic science to the conservation of biodiversity, and his mentoring of a large number of students who have become highly respected scientists themselves.


The Margalef Prize was created in 2004 by the Generalitat of Catalonia to honor the life and work of Dr. Ramon Margalef (1919-2004), one of the founding fathers of modern ecology and one of the most distinguished Spanish scientists of the twentieth century. The purpose of the prize is to recognize individuals from all over the world who have made major contributions to the field of ecology. Awarded annually and endowed with 100,000 Euros, the Margalef Prize is the most important prize awarded by the Generalitat of Catalonia, and the most important prize, on an international level, exclusively dedicated to ecological and environmental sciences. Past recipients of the Margalef Prize include: Paul R. Ehrlich (2009), Daniel Pauly (2008), Harold A. Mooney (2007), John Lawton (2006), and Paul Dayton (2005).

 Health Challenge

From November 4–19, 2010, the Health Challenge hosted Princeton Global Scholar Jeremy Farrar, a world leader in infectious disease research and training. Dr. Farrar’s multi-year appointment began this semester and includes recurring and extended visits to the University, cooperation with faculty on teaching and research, and mentorship of students on campus and abroad.

Farrar brings an in-depth, global perspective to issues facing international public health today. He is the director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in the United Kingdom and serves in a number of advisory roles for the World Health Organization.

Farrar studies a wide array of infections. His research ranges from basic work on the ecology and evolution of viruses to applied translational research on vaccines. His work on H5N1 avian influenza was central to defining the clinical presentation and pathogenesis of this disease, while his research on drug resistance in multiple organisms has shed new light on this major evolutionary process. His research has been published broadly over the last five years, particularly in the New England Journal of Medicine.

During this visit Dr. Farrar delivered a public lecture, spoke at the monthly Global Health Colloquium, served as a guest instructor for two courses, and met with faculty and students. He will return to campus in the spring semester, and in the summer of 2011 he will host up to six undergraduates in field research projects addressing multidisciplinary aspects of infectious disease in Vietnam and Nepal.

In the fall semester the Health Grand Challenge hosted and co-sponsored several other events. Highlights included: a public lecture by Chemistry Nobel laureate Peter Agre entitled “Aquaporin Water Channels: From Atomic Structure to Malaria” Global Health Colloquium seminars by professors Michael Porter (Harvard), Lynn Freedman (Columbia) and Julie Livingston (Rutgers); discussions on HIV transmission and control carried out as part of Princeton’s World AIDS Week; and a career panel and internship information session on pathways to working in global health.

On the faculty front, in the fall Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor Simon Levin received the Margalef Prize in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the Generalitat of Catalonia. Professor Levin is the co-PI on a Health Challenge project investigating the challenge of drug resistance within the broader context of common-property problems in infectious disease.

Siebel Energy Challenge


  • Energy Table: Schedule of Fall 2010 dinners
  • ARPA-E Program Directors campus visit to discuss new energy technologies. (
  • Oil, Energy and the Middle East series This series was presented by the Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, and was cosponsored by the Department of Near Eastern Studies, the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Council for International Teaching and Research.
  • On October 26, 2010, Professor Giacomo Luciani, Princeton Global Scholar, Director, Gulf Research Center Foundation presented “Commodity Price and Revenue Volatility: Policy Options and the Role of the State.”


  • Professor of computer science Jaswinder Singh and V. Balaji, Head of the Modeling System Group at the Cooperative Institute for Climate Sciences awarded Energy Challenge funds to pursue research on accessible climate computing for ‘downstream’ science.
  • Emily Carter Appointed Founding Director of University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. September 13, 2010.
  • Michael Oppenheimer, David Wilcove, and others publish “Climate change: helping nature survive the human response” in Conservation International. August 31, 2010.
  • Danny Sigman publishes Nature review article on the role of the Southern Ocean in driving glacial/interglacial changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration ( v466/n7302/edsumm/e100701-01. html). July 1, 2010.
  • Bernard Haykel co-authors New York Times article “Turkey’s Gain is Iran’s Loss.”  June 18, 2010.


  • Craig Arnold teaches new freshman seminar Science and Technology for a Sustainable Energy Future in fall of 2010 — a course developed with support from the Grand Challenges Program.
  • Princeton Professor Margaret Martonosi Receives McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning Graduate Mentoring Award ( Posted May 20, 2010 by Nick DiUlio.

Development Challenge

  • Daniel Rubenstein, animal behaviorist and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is working with hydrologists Kelly Caylor, Michael Celia, and Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe from civil and environmental engineering to investigate the interconnectedness of human and wildlife populations and vegetation as factors influencing water availability and land use in the semi-arid grasslands of central Kenya.

Spring 2011 Courses

  • Introduction to African Studies
  • Social Structure in Africa: Responses to Socio-Political and Economic Forces Since Independence
  • African Development and Globalization Ecology and Conservation of African Landscape
  • Natural History of Mammals
  • Field Ecohydrology
  • African Development and Globalization
Tag(s): Winter 2011