News

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  1. With funding from the Sustainability Institute and Ohio State Energy Partners new bike racks are ready for bicycle commuters and visitors to Kottman Hall.

    New Bike Racks on Campus

    Sep 9, 2019

    School of Environment and Natural Resources graduate student Ryan Vogel is the cycling force behind a new bike rack project that adds 60 new bicycle parking spaces outside Kottman Hall.

  2. Campus Sustainability Survey Report Now Available

    Aug 28, 2019

    When it comes to sustainability, Ohio State students continue to raise ambitions in their knowledge and their actions.

    A fall 2018 survey of 20,500 undergraduate students by the university’s Environmental and Social Sustainability (ESS) Lab found that engagement in pro-environmental behaviors has increased by almost 30% since the last major data collection in 2014, while knowledge of sustainability-related topics increased by 10%.

    “Students are consistently interested in becoming more involved in sustainability-related academic, research and professional opportunities, particularly those that build new skills,” says outgoing lab manager Emily Walpole, who ran the 2018 survey.

    “Students are consistently interested in becoming more involved in sustainability-related academic, research and professional opportunities, particularly those that build new skills,” says outgoing lab manager Emily Walpole.

    More than half of the survey respondents said they “often” or “always” carry a reusable water bottle, turn off the lights in an empty room, sort out recycling, and choose walking, bicycling or taking public transportation over driving.

    Researchers at the lab, which is part of the School of Environment and Natural Resources, also identified some new opportunities to further promote campus sustainability goals. Walpole also emphasized opportunities to promote low-engagement and low-cost behaviors.

    “Promoting water conservation and turning personal electronics off or into low-power mode when not in use, as well as educating students on proper recycling techniques on campus,” she says, “would all serve to promote various Ohio State sustainability goals.”

    Since 2010, ESS Lab researchers have conducted a large survey of undergraduate students intended to assess the impact of sustainability initiatives on campus and measure changes in students’ sustainability knowledge, attitudes and behaviors over time. The researchers also collaborated with the university’s Sustainability Institute, Office of Student Life and Facilities Operations and Development (FOD) and with Ohio State Energy Partners to develop a section of the survey that informed current sustainability efforts at the university. In addition, the survey included questions from several faculty members, who intend to incorporate the results in their research related to sustainability perceptions and behavior.

    See the survey executive summary or full report on the Environmental and Social Sustainability Lab website.

    Incoming ESS Lab manager, Kristina Slagle, pointed out the ongoing nature of this research, noting that the next survey will be conducted in October.

    “Our goal,” Slagle says,” is that this survey will provide high-quality social scientific data of use to both academic researchers and the broader campus sustainability community for years to come.”

  3. Lake Erie is among the bodies of water in Ohio affected by phosphorus runoff from farm fields. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Attracting more farmers to participate in water quality efforts

    Aug 28, 2019

    COLUMBUS, Ohio—Skepticism, more than anything else, is keeping farmers from changing how they apply fertilizer to their fields, according to a behavioral scientist at The Ohio State University.

    Many farmers question whether the conservation measures they are being asked to do, such as applying fertilizer underground rather than on the surfaces of fields, will actually improve water quality in Lake Erie, said Robyn Wilson, a professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

    And they also question whether they can carry out those measures on their farms, particularly small farms that typically have less equipment and fewer workers and financial resources than larger farms have, Wilson said.

    “We’ve been spending a lot of time and money educating people about what the problems are, but where’s the evidence that it’s working?” Wilson said. “The thinking has been that if we all just better understand what problems we’re having and what strategies might help those problems, then magically everyone will see the light and suddenly say, ‘Oh, I should be doing this instead.’”

    Experts say the harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie are largely caused by phosphorus runoff from farm fields. Phosphorus, a nutrient needed by crop plants to grow, is present in fertilizers and manure.

    The severity of the lake’s algal bloom this year is expected to be more than double last year’s bloom, but slightly less than the bloom in 2017, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. Persistant rain this past spring is believed to be a major cause for the predicted size of this year’s bloom.

    Among the farmers Wilson has surveyed, 60% to 80% report that they would be willing to adopt new measures to try to reduce fertilizer runoff, but less than half of those surveyed actually do, Wilson said. Wilson studies why that’s happening, in her efforts to change the approach that’s been taken to convince more farmers to participate in sustainable measures.

    “I think we have motivated people who can’t act on their motivation,” Wilson said. “There’s a group of farmers who would be willing to do it, but they’re facing challenges.”

    Those challenges include not only the added expense and effort of adopting conservation measures, but also, lately, the weather.

    More rainfall and more intense rain events in Ohio and across the United States increase the risk of fertilizer running off of a field, into a nearby waterway, and eventually into Lake Erie. Also, rain has delayed the planting and harvesting of Ohio’s cash crops, corn and soybeans. So, farmers report that they run out of time in the growing season to plant cover crops, which are typically sown after harvesting cash crops, Wilson said.

    Similarly, the method of placing fertilizer underground rather than onto the surface of a field, which can significantly reduce fertilizer runoff, comes with challenges as well. The method requires expensive machinery or an attachment to a standard tractor, but that machinery or attachment is not easily available to most small farmers, Wilson said. It also takes twice as long to apply fertilizer underground than at the surface, and farmers might not have the time to do that.

    The most effective way to help farmers overcome these barriers is to work one-on-one with each farmer, going out to the farm, asking which practices they’re using, and suggesting conservation measures tailored to their particular farm operation, Wilson said.

    “This isn’t about a bunch of lazy people who don’t care. They care. They just haven’t found a feasible way to do things,” Wilson said.  

    Also, starting co-ops to rent out machinery for the subsurface placement of fertilizer could trigger more farmers to be willing to try out the method, she said.

    Seeing results is also critical to convincing farmers that the extra time, effort, and expense to put conservation methods in place is worth it. Farmers need to know that any practice they adopt will actually reduce nutrients flowing from their fields into waterways, Wilson said.

    “We don’t give them any feedback. Is your soil health getting better? Is the local water quality getting better? We can’t say. We can just say, ‘Go do this thing.’”

    Results that show farmers that their efforts are actually reducing runoff from their farms would go a long way toward motivating them to continue, Wilson said. The situation is akin to a person who is trying to lose weight by eating better and exercising more, she said. He or she is more likely to stay on the new regimen if he or she can get on a scale regularly and see the pounds dwindle.

    One way to offer such proof of results is to launch small, localized efforts to clean up the nutrients in a stream or lake, generate local support and participation in that effort, and share the results, Wilson said.  

    “People want to know, ‘I did X, and Y happened,’” she said. “They have to see that there’s a direct benefit.”

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    (Note to the Media: High resolution images of Robyn Wilson are available)

  4. Faculty member Mažeika Sullivan was recently interviewed by National Geographic on the impacts of the Amazon fires on wildlife.

    Faculty member interviewed by National Geographic

    Aug 27, 2019

    School of Environment and Natural Resources faculty member Mažeika Sullivan was recently interviewed by National Geographic on the impacts of the Amazon fires on wildlife.  It’s likely they’re taking a “massive toll on wildlife in the short term,” says Mazeika Sullivan, associate professor at Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, who has done fieldwork in the Colombian Amazon. 

  5. Faculty member Jeremy Bruskotter is quoted in a recent Time magazine article that discusses rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act and conservation scientists concerns about the impacts on and future of at-risk species.

    Faculty member quoted in Time magazine

    Aug 21, 2019

    School of Environment and Natural Resources faculty member Jeremy Bruskotter is quoted in a recent Time magazine article that discusses rollbacks to the Endangered Species Act and conservation scientists concerns about the impacts on and future of at-risk species.

  6. Jeffory Hattey, professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University was awarded the 2019 North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Distinguished Educator Award.

    Faculty member receives national recognition

    Aug 19, 2019

    Jeffory Hattey, professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University was awarded the 2019 North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Distinguished Educator Award. The NACTA Distinguished Educator Award recognizes individuals for their meritorious service to NACTA and to higher education through teaching, educational research, and/or administration

  7. Ohio State News features research conducted by faculty member Kerry Ard on air pollution disparities.

    Faculty research on air pollution disparities featured

    Aug 13, 2019

    Disease-causing air pollution remains high in pockets of America – particularly those where many low-income and African-American people live, a disparity highlighted in research presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York. The nation’s air on the whole has become cleaner in the past 70 years, but those benefits are seen primarily in whiter, higher-income areas, said Kerry Ard, an associate professor of environmental sociology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. Read the full Ohio State News release by Misti Crane featuring Ard's research that examined air pollution and the demographics of the people who lived in 1-kilometer-square areas throughout a six-state region from 1995 through 1998. 

  8. Nall Moonilall received the 2019 NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award.

    Graduate student recognized for teaching

    Jul 25, 2019

    Congratulations Nall Moonilall, who received the NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award at the Annual Conference of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture held at the College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls, Idaho with the theme “Connecting to STEM.” The NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award recognizes and rewards graduate students who excel as teachers in the agricultural disciplines and engaged in classroom instruction.

  9. Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science

    Renowned soil scientist Rattan Lal will address graduates

    Jul 16, 2019

    Soil scientist Rattan Lal, one of The Ohio State University’s most decorated faculty researchers, will address the university’s summer graduates. Approximately 1,500 degrees will be awarded at the summer commencement ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4., at the Jerome Schottenstein Center. 

  10. Professor Basta was selected to deliver one of the four presentations at the Soil Science Society of America's 2019 Congressional Soils Caucus Briefings in Washington, DC.

    Faculty member presents soil science research at Congressional Soils Caucus briefing

    Jul 9, 2019

    Nicholas Basta, Professor of Soil and Environmental Science in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University was selected to deliver a presentation at the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) 2019 Congressional Soils Caucus Briefing Series in Washington, DC on June 14. 

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