News / Highlights

News and Highlights in September 2022

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Alan Robock, Atmospheric Scientist at Rutgers University and RCI affiliate

The New York Times reports on a cloud-seeding conflict among Persian Gulf nations. Iran has been protesting the United Arab Emirates’ attempt to increase rainfall, fearing that it will cause drought in Iran. Cloud-seeding is the process of injecting chemicals into the atmosphere to cause rainfall from precipitation-holding clouds. Experts are dismissive of the effect of cloud seeding, and especially of worries that it would impact another country. Theory dictates that the seeding material, which is water attracting, would cause vapor to combine and form droplets. However, it is hard to gauge the effectiveness of the process. “The problem is that once you seed, you can’t tell if the cloud would have rained anyway,” said Alan Robock, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University, RCI affiliate, and an expert in evaluating climate engineering strategies. Local scientists are ever optimistic about the potential of the process, noting a record rainfall last year from a cloud that was seeded.

 


 

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Ximing Guo, Professor in the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences

Mirage News reports that the Rutgers Shellfish Breeding Program, supported by the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fishery Service, is testing a DNA chip on oysters to reduce the breeding cycle. “Oysters are important marine resources for the economic wellbeing of coastal communities,” said Ximing Guo, a Distinguished Professor in the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the lead PI of the project. “They are also essential for the ecological health of our estuaries such as Delaware Bay.” Genomic techniques are capable of developing oysters that are disease-resistant and can grow quickly. Various diseases have wiped out oyster populations in the past, but quicker growing oysters have less chance to be infected. Oysters developed by Rutgers have been adopted by significant numbers of farmers in both the Pacific and the Atlantic.

 


 

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Robert Kopp, Climate Scientist at Rutgers University and an RCI affiliate

Economists have been examining the impact of climate change on the economy for decades. The carbon tax has been the preferred tool of economists to limit emissions, with its founder William Nordhaus winning a Nobel Prize for his ideas. The Inflation Reduction Act, however, offers tax credits, loans, and grants instead, the New York Times reports. The shift from the carbon tax can be attributed to the faster than estimated speed of climate change. Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University and an RCI affiliate, worked on developing carbon pricing methods at the Department of Energy. He thinks the relentless focus on prices, with little attention paid to direct investments, lasted too long. “There was an idealization and simplification of the problem that started in the economics literature,” Dr. Kopp said. “And things that start out in the economics literature have half-lives in the applied policy world that are longer than the time period during which they’re the frontier of the field.” Carbon taxes, favored by corporations, were not costly enough to truly curb emissions. Even so, the carbon tax was never implemented, yet it remained the predominant policy idea. Climate scientists are happy with the new focus of the IRA, but would like further action. They desire for scientists, not just economists, to be involved in the process. “You can only do so much by writing things down on a single sheet of paper from your office at Yale,” said Dr. Kopp, of Rutgers. “That’s not how science gets done. That’s how a lot of economics gets done. But you run into limits.”

 


 

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Dina Fonseca, professor, RCI affiliate, and director of the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers University

Scientists across the mid-Atlantic gathered for the Regional One Health Consortium Conference at Rutgers University in late August, reports MorningAgClips. Participants share data and knowledge regarding the health of humans, animals, and the environment. Dina Fonseca, professor, RCI affiliate, and director of the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers University, presented The NJ Tick Problem” and asked participants in New Jersey to send in their tick samples as part of an ongoing effort called NJTicks4Science that her lab is working on.

 


 

CBS News conducted interviews on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Ida, which recently passed, leading to reflection on the flash flooding that took so many lives last year. "The rainfall rates ... that came out of Ida were in the 500- to 1,000-year event," said Dr. Dave Robinson, a New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University and an RCI affiliate. Robinson already sees a repetitive pattern starting with Floyd in 1999 and Irene in 2011."Along comes Ida in 2021, and they may seem, oh, five, 10 years apart in some cases, but that's really unusual," he said. "I've never seen a cluster like this." Robinson, adds, "A flood that occurs every 100 years now, by the middle of this century, might be something that would occur every 20 or 50 years."

 


 

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 David Bushek- Director of Haskins Shellfish Labratory                                       Daphne Munroe- RCI Affiliate 

The Daily Targum reports that the Defense Advanced Research Grant Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Rutgers a $12.6 Million grant for its initiative to create an oyster-based ecosystem to protect coastlines from storms, flooding, erosion, and sea level rise. The initiative is
titled “Reefense: A Mosaic Oyster Habitat (MOH) for Coastal Defense” and it aims to develop biological and engineered oyster reefs on the Gulf Coast to aid shorelines as sea levels rise. The project aims for three goals: to facilitate oyster reproduction, to design a reef that absorbs wave motion, and to create a habitat for other organisms. As of now, the researchers, led by RCI Affiliate and Director of the Haskins Shellfish Laboratory Professor David Bushek and Rutgers Distinguished Professor Richard Riman, are focusing on innovative low-carbon concrete. Also working on the project is RCI affiliates Professor Daphne Munroe and Rutgers Distinguished Professor Ximing Guo and. Munroe said the purpose of the project highlights how necessary it is to provide aid to areas such as the coastline for the sake of protecting the environment. “To think about how we improve the resilience or the integrity of how we protect our coastlines is becoming increasingly important,” she said. “It’s really important for us to use the knowledge and the tools that we have to come up with creative solutions.”

 


 

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Carrie Ferraro- RCI Affiliate 

The Daily Targum reports that NJ is the first state in the country to incorporate climate education into the public school curriculum in K-12. Carrie Ferraro, an affiliate of RCI, describes the goals of the program. “I think that it will allow students to have a better understanding of climate change and its impacts and solutions … by giving [students] a more systems-wide understanding of climate change, looking at it from not only the scientific lens but also through policy and social studies and art and communication,” Ferraro said. Climate educators must consider the age and mental development of the students when teaching climate. When children are younger, they are taught about weather, but when they are older more climate change education will be folded in. Students may face anxiety when taught about the grim prospects of climate change. However, Ferraro says there are ways around this. “The number one way ... is just helping them think through solutions,” Ferraro said. “So providing hope that there's things that we're already doing in this world to make ourselves more resilient to climate change and reduce the impacts of climate change.” Despite the challenges, she is proud that NJ is the first state in the country to adopt a climate curriculum and hopes that NJ’s model will lead to nationwide teaching. “As the first ones, there's going to be a lot of trial and error,” Ferraro said. “But I think that ultimately, our students will be ahead of the game hopefully, and then also, we can assist other places in figuring out how to make this work.”

 


 

The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve Rising Together, NJ, a social media campaign that encourages us all to come together around our experiences with flooding in New Jersey. See the RTNJ Flyer here