Wildlife biologists put dogs' scat-sniffing talents to good use
UC Berkeley biologists have harnessed dogs' natural talent for sniffing out the scat of other animals for a good cause. With the help of Working Dogs for Conservation, a Montana-based nonprofit organization, researchers are fine-tuning the use of dogs as a non-invasive tool for wildlife studies and management.
Investments in rural energy efficiency, renewable energy reduce poverty, greenhouse gas emissions
A clean-energy initiative in rural Nicaragua shows that developing nations can take cost-effective steps to reduce carbon emissions while helping the rural poor to reduce their energy expenses, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.
Jillian Banfield to receive Franklin Medal, L'Oreal-UNESCO award
Jillian Banfield, a biogeochemist and geomicrobiologist, will receive two prestigious awards – the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science and the L-Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" award – for her groundbreaking work on how microbes alter rocks and interact with the natural world.
Air pollution alters immune function, worsens asthma symptoms
Exposure to dirty air is linked to decreased function of a gene that appears to increase the severity of asthma in children, according to a joint study by researchers at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. While air pollution is known to be a source of immediate inflammation, this new study provides one of the first pieces of direct evidence that explains how some ambient air pollutants could have long-term effects.
Fungal spores travel farther by surfing their own wind
Many fungi, including the destructive Sclerotinia, spew thousands of spores at once to give the spores an extra boost into their host plants. UC Berkeley, Harvard and Cornell researchers now show how this works. The near-simultaneous ejection of spores reduces drag to nearly zero and creates a wind that carries some of the spores 20 times farther than a single spore could travel solo.
Tiny foraminifera shells can help assess recovery after oil spill
Pinhead-size marine organisms called foraminifera have been used to monitor pollutants in marshes and oceans, and could help to assess recovery in the Gulf of Mexico following the three-month long Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Energy experts convene Oct. 1-2 to discuss pathways to a sustainable energy future
An international all-star lineup of experts in solar and biofuel energy, climate science, urban design and other areas of research critical to sustainable energy technologies will gather in Berkeley for a public symposium Oct. 1-2 to lay out the best course of action for a clean, green energy future.
NSF funds interdisciplinary team's grey water disinfection plan
A UC Berkeley team has been awarded a $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for research on biologically-inspired technologies for grey water reuse and thermal energy management that may propel sustainable building into a new era.The grant comes from the NSF’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation’s 2010 Science in Energy and Environmental Design program for engineering sustainable buildings. Leading UC Berkeley’s award-winning research team as principal investigator is Maria Paz-Gutierrez, assistant professor of architecture in the College of Environmental Design, and the only architect serving as principal investigator for any of the NSF’s eight EFRI-SEED grants this year.
Prenatal pesticide exposure linked to attention problems in preschool-aged children
Children who were exposed to organophosphate pesticides before birth were more likely to develop attention disorders years later, according to a new UC Berkeley study. Researchers linked higher maternal concentrations of pesticide metabolites during pregnancy to greater odds of attention problems in children at age 5. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that organophosphate pesticide exposure can impact human health.
Gulf oil drilling is just one facet of South's surfeit of heavy industry
Cal alum Rachel Edmonds '09 is keenly interested in places like the Gulf of Mexico, where "dirty" industries provide jobs but can mar the landscape and degrade the environment. She recently visited many such sites in the American South — where much of the nation's heavy industry is found — on a travel fellowship given annually by the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning.
Three UC Berkeley students awarded Switzer environmental fellowships
Three UC Berkeley students have been awarded the 2010 Switzer Fellowship, given to outstanding environmental scholars who are pursuing graduate degrees in a variety of ecological disciplines.
Exposure to flame retardants linked to changes in thyroid hormones
A new UC Berkeley-led study of pregnant women links higher blood levels of PBDEs, a common type of flame retardant, with altered thyroid hormone levels. Normal maternal thyroid levels are important for healthy fetal neurodevelopment.
Botanical Garden braces for blooming corpse plant
The UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, nestled in Strawberry Canyon just above the central campus, features a mind-boggling 12,000 kinds of plants and breathtaking views of the Bay Area. The term breathtaking soon will describe the rotten flesh-like stench of the garden’s about-to-blossom Titan Arum, aka the corpse plant
Climate change leading to major vegetation shifts around the world
Vegetation around the world is on the move, and climate change is the culprit, according to a new analysis of global vegetation shifts led by a UC Berkeley ecologist in collaboration with researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
New gecko species identified in West African rain forests
Using a new statistical method to compare the genes of 50 specimens of the West African forest gecko, two former UC Berkeley students have determined that the widely distributed species is actually four distinct species that appear to have evolved over the past 100,000 years as the rain forest fragmented with increasing aridification.
UC Berkeley launches new master’s program in sustainability, joining global campus network
Recognizing the proven leadership of campus faculty and students in addressing climate change, poverty and public health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today (Tuesday, May 4) selected the University of California, Berkeley, as one of 10 universities worldwide to launch a new master’s degree program in development practice.
Weird, ultra-small microbes turn up in acidic mine drainage
For nearly a decade, Jillian Banfield and her UC Berkeley colleagues have been studying the microbe community that lives in one of the most acidic environments on Earth: the drainage from a former copper mine in Northern California. One group of these microbes seems to be smaller, and weirder, than any other known, free-living organism.
New orchid species is discovered in the UC Botanical Garden collection
A Haitian orchid is enjoying celebrity status at the UC Botanical Garden, after scientists discovered that the long-time Garden resident is a distinct new species. The orchid has been named for the UC Berkeley research associate who found it in the wild.
Secretary Clinton appoints Dan Kammen first clean energy fellow to Western Hemisphere
Dan Kammen of energy & resources has been appointed a special State Department envoy to our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere to encourage cooperation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable energy.
Genome sequenced for amoeba that flips into free-swimming cell
Scientists have sequenced the genome of a weird creature that exists as an amoeba until the food runs out, then turns into a two-tailed swimmer to find new hunting grounds. The organism, called Naegleria, is an early eurkaryote – a cell with a nucleus and internal organs – and could shed light on the origin of complex cells like those in humans.
Campus ride-sharing goes online and interactive
Looking for someone to share your commute, or a cheap ride to LA for spring break? Now Berkeley staff,faculty and students have a new way to match up with people driving to and from campus: Zimride, an online ride-sharing service that went live Friday.
Pesticide atrazine can turn male frogs into females
The herbicide atrazine, one of the world's most widely used pesticides, screws up the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into females, according to a new study by UC Berkeley's Tyrone Hayes.
Symposium to explore black nature writers
Think of American nature writers, and African American authors probably don't spring to mind. But Berkeley is hosting a March 4-5 symposium of leading poets and scholars, including English professor Cecil Giscombe (pictured), who will explore 400 rich years of African American nature writing, as evidenced in a new, first-ever anthology of nature poetry by black writers.
Fog has declined in past century along California's redwood coast
An analysis of newly available climate data shows that summer fog along the California coast has declined significantly in the past century, though it is unclear whether this is a natural variation or a result of human activity. The UC Berkeley report links summer high pressure cells above the NW California coast to frequent fog. When the cells are weak, fog escapes inland and coastal temperatures rise. This could affect redwoods, which need high humidity.
Strongest evidence to date links exploration well to Lusi mud volcano
New data provide the strongest evidence to date that the world’s biggest mud volcano, which killed 13 people in 2006 and so far has displaced 30,000 people in East Java, Indonesia, was not caused by an earthquake, according to an international scientific team that includes researchers from Durham University and the UC Berkeley.
Auto exhaust linked to thickening of arteries, possible increased risk of heart attack
Swiss, California and Spanish researchers have found that particulates from auto exhaust can lead to the thickening of artery walls, possibly increasing chances of a heart attack and stroke.
Storm runoff and sewage treatment outflow contaminated with household pesticides
Pyrethroid pesticides were supposed to be a benign replacement for organophosphate use around the home, but UC Berkeley studies show that these insecticdes are showing up at toxic levels in storm runoff and even in the effluent from sewage treatment plants. While the levels are not high enough to harm fish, they may be enough to kill the mayfly, caddisfly and stonefly larvae upon which the fish feed.
Climate change: 'Berkeley has a special obligation'
As a public university, Berkeley has a "special obligation" to reach far beyond its scientific expertise to seek solutions to global warming, Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming told experts from across campus Thursday at the "Beyond Copenhagen" conference on international climate change negotiations.
Study links reduced fertility to flame retardant exposure
A new UC Berkeley study finds that women with higher blood levels of PBDEs, a common type of flame retardant, took longer to get pregnant. The flame retardants are used in foam furniture, electronics, fabrics, carpets, plastics and other common items in the home.
Multiple Bay Area stakeholders meet on how to 'green' the local economy
More than 200 turned out Thursday for "Innovating the Green Economy," a campus conference on how to turn an emerging and much celebrated "win-win" into actual businesses and real paychecks for local communities.
Positive prospects for California's green businesses, study finds
California’s green businesses are more focused on local markets and more likely to stay in the Golden State than are their non-green counterparts, according to a University of California, Berkeley, study released Thursday (Jan. 21). And when compared with traditional businesses, green ones are more likely to expand.
Trees invading warming Arctic will cause warming over entire region, study shows
Once trees expand their range into the Arctic, their higher transpiration rate could well pump enough extra water into the atmosphere to warm the climate over the entire Arctic region, with positive feedback speeding the melting of sea ice.
For Berkeley alternative-energy project, big changes on the horizon
The Helios Energy Research Facility appears close to finding a new home west of the Berkeley campus — and to replacing a shuttered neighborhood eyesore with an eco-friendly building and public open space designed to spur downtown revitalization as it seeks solutions to global climate change.
Climate change puts ecosystems on the run
To keep up with global warming, the average ecosystem will need to shift about a quarter mile each year, says a new study by scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Sun and moon trigger deep tremors on San Andreas Fault
When the sun and moon are aligned with the San Andreas Fault they tug on it enough to increase the tremor rate deep underground. While these faint tremors have not been linked to earthquakes, the tremors are associated with increased stress on the fault and may up the risk for future quakes.
Study shows loss of 15-42 percent of mammals in North America
Many biologists warn that the planet's plants and animals are headed toward a mass extinction as a result of human-caused environmental damage, including global warming. A UC Berkeley/Penn State team has now analyzed the status of North American mammals, estimating that they may be one-fifth to one-half the way toward a mass extinction event like the "Big Five" the Earth has seen in the last 450 million years.
Paper is out, digital is in, when it comes to dissertations
The move to online publishing of will make the research of Berkeley's Ph.D.'s easily accessible from any computer in the world. The campus will save paper, shelf space, and staff time; students will save money and headaches.
CPUC taps Vial Center to study state's green jobs needs
The California Public Utilities Commission has chosen UC Berkeley’s Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy to lead a $1.1 million study to assess California’s workforce development needs as part of the state’s long-term strategic plan for energy efficiency.
Budget crisis prompts LAEP students to take a lesson from the Great Depression
Landscape architecture and environmental planning students respond to the ongoing budget crisis by putting their expertise — and muscles — to work at local schools, a park, and on the campus.
Climate change could boost incidence of civil war in Africa, study finds
Climate change could increase the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by over 50 percent within the next two decades, according to a new study led by a team of researchers at University of California, Berkeley, and published in today’s (Monday, Nov. 23) online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).The study, conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley as well as at Stanford University, New York University and Harvard University, provides the first quantitative evidence linking climate change and the risk of civil conflict. It concludes by urging accelerated support by African governments and foreign aid donors for new and/or expanded policies to assist with African adaptation to climate change.
Climate treaty needed to limit soot & other greenhouse pollutants
UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Stacy Jackson argues in Science that policymakers should plan a summit now to look at short- and medium-lived greenhouse pollutants, which range from soot to ozone and methane, and their near term impact on climate.
Error in climate treaties could lead to more deforestation
A team of 13 prominent scientists and land-use experts has identified an important but fixable error in legal accounting rules for bioenergy that could, if uncorrected, undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gases by encouraging deforestation.
Alfalfa sprouts key to discovering how meandering rivers form
Restoring rivers to their natural state is now hit-and-miss, primarily because scientists don't really know what makes a river meander. A scale model using alfalfa sprouts to represent vegetation now shows that strong banks and fine sediment are key.
Two UC Berkeley faculty among 10 recipients of $100,000 Heinz Awards
Two UC Berkeley researchers are being recognized for their environmental achievements with the 15th annual Heinz Awards, announced Sept. 15 by the Heinz Family Foundation. Ashok Gadgil, professor of civil engineering, and Kirk Smith, professor of environmental health sciences, will each receive $100,000 for the strides they have made toward a more sustainable and cleaner environment.
Sierra Nevada birds move in response to warmer, wetter climate
If the climate is not quite right, birds will up and move rather than stick around and sweat it out, according to a new study led by UC Berkeley biologists. The findings reveal that 48 out of 53 bird species studied in California's Sierra Nevada mountains have adjusted to climate change over the last century by moving to sites with the temperature and precipitation conditions they favored.
Campus environmental record earns top score in Princeton Review "Green Ratings"
UC Berkeley makes The Princeton Review's Green Honor Roll in recognition of the campus's environmentally friendly policies. UC Berkeley was one of only 15 colleges in the country to have earned the top score in a rating, announced July 27, by The Princeton Review, a provider of education services to help students get into college.
Lisa Bauer honored as UC's 2009 'sustainability champion'
Lisa Bauer has cast a long shadow as manager of Campus Recycling and Refuse Services at Berkeley for more than a decade. For her early vision — and for rolling up her sleeves for years to make it manifest — Bauer was recently named UC's 2009 Sustainability Champion.
Theory provides more precise estimates of large-area biodiversity
The Census Bureau is good at profiling the U.S. population by sampling small groups of people, but biologists lack a good way to estimate the richness of life in large areas based on small-area studies. Ecologist John Harte has developed a new theory that does a much better job predicting biodiversity in large biomes and could be a boon to conservation biologists.
Green Corridor Partnership picks up steam as UC, LBNL drive innovation
Representatives of UC Berkeley and other members of a public-private East Bay consortium designed to solve environmental challenges while creating jobs gathered in Oakland June 26 for the partnership's second annual summit.
Children susceptible to pesticides longer than expected, study finds
UC Berkeley researchers recommend that the U.S. EPA re-evaluate current standards for pesticide exposure in light of a new study finding that children's increased vulnerability to pesticides lasts much longer than expected.
Insect in hemlock forests causes loss of canopy, gain of invasive plants
An exotic pest is ravaging the shade-providing canopy of eastern hemlock forests, and in turn setting the stage for the successful invasion of non-native plants, according to new UC Berkeley research.
Summer haze has a cooling effect in southeastern United States, says new study
Global warming may include some periods of local cooling, according to a new UC Berkeley study. Results from satellite and ground-based sensor data show that sweltering summers can, paradoxically, lead to the temporary formation of a cooling haze in the southeastern United States.
Unprecedented use of DDT to combat malaria concerns experts
The current practice of spraying DDT indoors to fight malaria is leading to unprecedented – and insufficiently monitored – levels of exposure to the pesticide, say experts concerned about the risk to human health.
A must-see spot — if you're a Berkeley bee
A research garden near campus is devoted to discovering which common garden plants are attractive to local bee species — the better to ensure their survival.
Transplanted to a bare Wheeler stage, Botany of Desire blooms as a musical
Two guys walk into a bar. One says, "Let's do a musical based on that book about plants."
In face of global warming, can wilderness remain natural?
Preserving endangered species is going to get a whole lot harder with the advent of global warming, according to paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky, author of a new book called "Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming." Climate change will force plants and animals to seek more hospitable habitats ouside preserves, or more likely, force humans to assist with their migration to preferred habitat.
Berkeley moves toward climate neutrality
A new report outlines the steps Berkeley has taken over the past two years to attain its goal of cutting back its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2014.
Climate change to spur rapid shifts in fire hotspots, projects new analysis
Climate change will bring about major shifts in worldwide fire patterns, and those changes are coming fast, according to a new analysis led by UC Berkeley fire researchers.
Long, sexy tails not a drag on male hummingbirds
At last two dozen hummingbirds, not to mention hundreds of other birds, sport long tails to attract females. But don't these tails get in the way? A new UC Berkeley study shows that long-tailed male hummingbirds lose little in the way of energy to draw the attention of admiring females.
Long-term ozone exposure linked to higher risk of death, finds nationwide study
A study analyzing two decades of data for 450,000 people across the nation found that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, raises the risk of death from respiratory ailments. It is the first major study connecting chronic exposure to ozone to elevated mortality rates, and could be used in future evaluations of federal standards for acceptable ozone levels.
Law schools at UC Berkeley and UCLA launch new environment blog
The law schools at UC Berkeley and UCLA today announced the launch of a new blog, Legal Planet, which provides insight and analysis on climate change, energy, and environmental law and policy. This collaborative blog draws upon the individual research strengths and vast expertise of the law schools' think tanks and legal scholars.
The pluses and (mostly) minuses of biofuels
A new generation of biofuels, made from non-food plants, will eventually reduce the impact that today's corn-and soy-based fuels are having on the global environment. But for now, says a campus expert, ethanol and its kin will remain part of the nation's multi-source energy portfolio
Speaker series to address California's climate-change challenges
Starting March 17, a new speaker series will explore the state's landmark climate-control legislation and its critical connections to sustainable development and land-use planning.
Speaker series on California climate change challenges
A new UC Berkeley speaker series will explore the state's landmark climate control legislation's critical connections to sustainable development and land-use planning. The series, "Growing Sustainability in a Low-Carbon World," is sponsored by UC Berkeley's Institute for Urban and Regional Development (IURD) and starts on March 17. It will bring together local, regional and state decision-makers, scholars, researchers, environmentalists, non-governmental organizations and other public sector stakeholders.
Why California should consider Australia's "Prepare, stay and defend" wildfire policy
Even as debate rages over the safety of the Australian policy of encouraging willing and able residents to stay and defend their property from wildfires, fire researchers at UC Berkeley and in Australia say that the strategy is worth consideration in California and other regions in the United States.
Energy symposium weighs perils and opportunities on climate change
While the average Californian now uses about 40 percent less electricity than the average American, we cannot rest on our laurels, Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said Monday at the third annual UC Berkeley Energy Symposium. To meet the challenges of global warming — and the state's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — each Californian needs to cut his or her carbon footprint from the current average, 14 tons per year, to 10, she said.
The pluses and (mostly) minuses of biofuels
Speakers at last week’s AAAS meeting presented abundant evidence that tropical rainforest destruction has accelerated in recent years, at least in part because of the worldwide push to produce more biofuels.
The sun is a star when it comes to sustainable energy
At a national scientific meeting last week where biofuels – principally ethanol – were uniformly trashed as an environmental train wreck, one bright, carbon-free light gleamed in our energy future: the sun.
Scientists document salamander decline in Central America
Amphibian populations have dropped worldwide, but most studies have detailed the impact on frogs only. A new UC Berkeley study now shows that salamander populations are plummeting in Central America, primarily in the cloud forests.
Predicting diversity within hotspots to enhance conservation
Hotspots of threatened biodiversity comprise a huge chunk of the Earth and present a daunting challenge to governments and scientists who want to study them, let alone protect them from development. A new strategy developed by UC Berkeley researchers can help identify the hotspots within hotspots critical for study and conservation.
Fixing our climate — no handwringing required
It would require the same number of workers to install rooftop solar panels on every house in the U.S., helping to mitigate the effects of global warming, as we currently have military personnel deployed in Iraq. That's just one eye-opening stat from a new book, co-authored by Berkeley faculty expert John Harte, on practical ways to solve the climate crisis.
Summer peak, winter low temperatures now arrive 2 days earlier
Biologists have long noticed that global warming is causing springtime flowering and ice melting to arrive earlier, but a new study shows that the seasonal cycle has also shifted, causing summer's peak temperature and winter's lowest temperature to arrive nearly two days earlier than wastrue 50 years ago.