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AP: People of color are far more likely to live in extreme urban heat zones

June 23, 2021

People of color are far more likely to live in extreme urban heat zones. This is according to a study co-authored by sustainability scientist Glenn Sheriff. The piece, Disproportionate exposure to urban heat island intensity across major US cities, was published in Nature Communications.

The Associated Press interviewed Sheriff for its article, People of color more exposed to heat islands, study finds. Through republication on ABC News and US News and World Report, the article featuring Sheriff saw readership of over 31 million. The work was also covered by CNN and the Washington Post, as well as local NBC affiliate 12 News. Visit for additional metrics.

The paper’s abstract follows.

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NYT: Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins

June 23, 2021

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.

Last month, the Phoenix City Council approved $2.8 million in new climate spending, including creating a four-person Office of Heat Response and Mitigation. “That’s a good start, but we’re clearly not doing enough yet,” said David Hondula, an Arizona State University sustainability scientist who studies heat’s consequences.

Drastically reducing heat deaths would require adding trees and shade in underserved neighborhoods and increasing funding to help residents who need help with energy bills or who lack air conditioning, among other things, he said.

“Every one of these heat deaths should be preventable,” he said. “But it’s not just an engineering problem. It means tackling tough issues like poverty or homelessness. And the numbers suggest we’re moving in the wrong direction. Right now, heat deaths are increasing faster than population growth and aging.”

Hondula was quoted in a New York Times article that has seen readership over 36 million, with more than 7,000 social media shares. ASU faculty, staff and students can read the article with a free group pass subscription via ASU Libraries.

NAS report advises shifting focus from projecting to preparing for climate change

June 23, 2021

As it drafts its next decadal strategic plan, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) should shift its focus to providing insights that help society prepare for and avoid the worst potential consequences of climate change, while protecting the most vulnerable, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Traditional climate research that projects changes in the natural environment to estimate potential consequences is not meeting the needs of decision-makers as they respond to the climate crisis, the report says.

Global Change Research Needs and Opportunities for 2022-2031 recommends USGCRP accelerate research on the multidirectional relationships among human and natural systems to advance our understanding of how to manage urgent current and future climate risks. Our food availability, for example, depends on a complex interaction between natural systems, such as the carbon and water cycles, and aspects of human systems, such as population growth or farming practices.

Sustainability scientist Nancy Grimm is an advisor to the USGRP and was an author of the report. Sustainability scientist Hallie Eakin, who is a member of the NAS Board on Environmental Change and Society, served as a reviewer of the report. Read the press release on

Models of human heat strain don’t account for complexities

June 23, 2021

To better prepare for an ever-warming world in which heat waves are increasingly common, a group of international researchers is calling attention to the physiological variables and complexities of how humans react to the heat, or their “thermoregulation.” It turns out that these variables characteristically are often oversimplified and that oversimplification can result in a faulty understanding of how heat will affect humans as the climate changes.

The researchers’ commentary, Simplicity lacks robustness when projecting heat-health outcomes in a changing climate, was published online in the journal Nature Communications. Sustainability scientist Jennifer Vanos is the lead author.

“We’re hoping that this paper will lead people to think more about the intricacies of the human body and how it deals with heat in the same way that we think about the intricacies of climate models,” said Vanos.

“We often see news reports of study results suggesting that a place in the future will not be survivable,” said Vanos. “That’s important, but we want a place to be livable, not just survivable. Livable means the climate can safely sustain work, play and well-being for an extended period of time.” Read more in ASU News.

A Double Heat and Housing Crisis in Phoenix

June 23, 2021

construction crew working in the heatIn the June 20 edition of The New York Times, writer Jack Healy visits Phoenix to explore how the region is addressing a housing shortage while in the midst of near-record heat. The article interviews Melissa Guardaro, an assistant research professor at the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at Arizona State University and a HUE researcher.

“Extreme heat has made the problems we have all the more evident,” said Melissa Guardaro, regarding the rising housing crisis and the scorching heat in Phoenix.

Read the full article. ASU faculty, staff and students can read the article with a free New York Times group pass subscription via ASU Libraries.

June 22-24: Reimagining leadership for just and regenerative global futures

June 22, 2021

The International Leadership Association, through this Sustainability and Beyond summit, is inviting change agents and leaders to mobilize, reimagine and collectively accelerate the positive changes needed to meet the daunting challenges facing planet and people.

ASU participants include Peter Schlosser, Amanda Ellis, Nikhil Dave, Melissa Nelson, Euan Murray and Alex Dehgan.

This summit is designed to create space for people of common purpose to gather, inspire and be inspired, connect with others, and learn what they can do to help create regenerative global futures.

Each day will have a different theme, including (1) Visionary Leadership for Systems Change, (2) Economic Imperatives of Sustainable and Regenerative Futures, and (3) Marginalized to Mainstream: Equity, Justice, and Regenerative Futures. Summit plenary and concurrent session speakers will specifically speak to all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. More information and registration.

What climate science loses without enough black researchers

June 22, 2021

Sustainability scientist Vernon Morris, director and professor in ASU's School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, recently gave a video interview for Bloomberg, where he talked about inequitable representation in academia and STEM careers, and the impact of this on climate change policies.

Science usually guides a country's climate change policies, but there's a problem when the decisions are made by a homogenous group and the consequences could be dire for everyone. Bloomberg's Scarlet Fu sat down with Morris, who is also the founding director of the NOAA's Center for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology.

Move-in day for burrowing owls at ASU Polytechnic campus

June 22, 2021

ASU Polytechnic campus has rolled out the welcome mat for several distinguished — and feathered — guests: four burrowing owls.

Their arrival in towel-covered cardboard pet-carriers mid-morning on May 22, 2021, was a year in the making and the finishing touches on their burrows — dug out with backhoes and constructed 24 hours before — had just been completed.

In a partnership with Wild at Heart raptor rescue, ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts faculty, students, alumni and staff, with the help of ASU Facilities Management staff, have built and will monitor habitats for burrowing owl pairs who need relocating.

“Burrowing owls are native to the Sonoran Desert and the only owls in the world that nest in the ground,” said wildlife ecologist Heather Bateman, associate professor in the college's Faculty of Science and Mathematics, who initiated the project proposal with faculty colleagues Adam Stein, Pedro Chavarria and Cynthia Sagers. “These owls rely on other species to do their excavating and will nest in burrows dug by prairie dogs, ground squirrels, desert tortoises and other animals.”

Read the full story in ASU News.

How will we protect American infrastructure from cyberattacks?

June 22, 2021

Infrastructure — it’s one of those words we think we understand, but it can be a hard concept to wrap our brains around. We may vaguely imagine electrical grids or railroads, but infrastructure also includes many other services that are essential for keeping our homes, schools and businesses thriving. It includes roads and transportation, telecommunications networks, water and sewage systems, and electricity. And today, much of it is connected to the internet.

As the Biden administration looks to implement the American Jobs Plan, which includes expanding U.S. infrastructure, cybersecurity needs to be a key consideration to prevent even more costly and dangerous attacks.

ASU is home to a bevy of experts on cybersecurity — in fields from computer science and law to business and humanities — who come together in order to understand and find solutions to this complex, far-reaching problem.

Read the story on ASU News to learn from sustainability scientist Diana Bowman, as well as colleagues Jamie Winterton, Tiffany Bao and Adam Doupé.

New Report: The Critical To-Do List for Organic Agriculture

June 16, 2021

Report cover

The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems is pleased to announce the release of our report: The Critical To-Do List of Organic Agriculture: 46 Recommendations for the President.  

Thirty years ago, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. The law established strict national standards for organic food and a public-private enforcement program to ensure compliance with the law. Today, the organic industry still faces a number of challenges. This report seeks to address some of these and to provide policy recommendations to better support the growing organic industry and its positive impacts on human health, on the economy, and on climate. Organic agriculture protects consumers and farmworkers from dangerous pesticides. It also provides opportunities for young farmers and for a vibrant local economy. Lastly, organic agriculture is a critical component of a successful climate strategy, as it promotes healthy soil, protects biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gases emissions.


Calling ASU faculty: Project development workshop with Peoria

June 15, 2021

On June 24, 2021, Project Cities hosts its Faculty Round Tables event, to network with Peoria leaders and discuss class projects for the 2021-2022 academic year.


RSVP here!


ASU faculty are invited to join staff from 9 City of Peoria departments to co-develop class projects. At this event, we will host a session of virtual breakouts for faculty members to discuss and workshop proposed projects, and to brainstorm new ideas. The goal is to match faculty and students to meaningful, hands-on community projects with real impacts in the upcoming academic year.

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Do trees provide the best shade for urban environments?

June 9, 2021

Shade monitoring at ASU ariane middelShade is a term that residents of arid, hot environments learn to appreciate, especially during scalding summer months. But what makes for the best shade?

“Cities have started to plant trees as a means to shade the environment. But oftentimes you can’t really plant trees because of infrastructure challenges. There may be sewer lines underground, internet cables, or business signs that will be blocked,” said sustainability scientist Ariane Middel, assistant professor in ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering and a HUE grantee. New research explores viable alternatives to trees for providing shade to keep people comfortable outdoors.

Using a special mobile lab named MaRTy, Middel and her team are assessing what makes for the best provider of shade. The findings may surprise you.

Learn more at ASU News.

Clarkdale and Project Cities recognized with ASU EPICS Community Catalyst Award

June 9, 2021

In other news, it was our pleasure to share this year's ASU EPICS Community Catalyst Award with our friends at the Town of Clarkdale. Over the years, the Project Cities team has arranged several projects with the innovative students in ASU EPICS, a program, of the Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering. This particular project was a multi-team, multi-semester project assessing needs and strategies to help the Town of Clarkdale upgrade their digital infrastructure. The teams addressed some acute needs for better internet service for the community's students, as well as planning for longer-term needs, developing plans to incorporate strong public wifi and smart PA systems into planned park upgrades.

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ASU engineering experts reframe infrastructure security

June 8, 2021

Sustainability scientists Mikhail Chester and Brad Allenby and their faculty peers in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering believe broader perspectives need to be part of the current debate about improving America’s infrastructure systems.

Infrastructure has always been a target in warfare, according to Chester, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"Think about military aircraft dropping bombs on bridges or railroad lines. But battles today are not just army versus army. They are society versus society, and this change means we need to change how we think about infrastructure.”

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Ariaratnam receives Stephen D. Bechtel Pipeline Engineering Award

June 8, 2021

Sustainability scientist Samuel Ariaratnam was recently named this year’s winner of the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, Stephen D. Bechtel Pipeline Engineering Award.

Ariaratnam will deliver the Bechtel Lecture at the 2021 ASCE Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute Pipelines Conference on Aug. 5, to be held virtually.

Ariaratnam is among the leading experts in the development of trenchless construction methods and technologies used in underground construction. He is particularly prominent in the area of horizontal directional drilling, which enables subterranean building and installation to be done with minimal disturbance to the surface.

Read more in ASU News.

June 15-16: Earth Archive LiDAR conference

June 8, 2021

The Earth Archive is an international, interdisciplinary initiative to create an open-access, high-resolution, digital archive of the earth's surface compiled from LiDAR scans. This can be used for a wide range of social and natural science, as well as environmental policy work.

Earth Archive is holding an international conference online 15-16 June. Sustainability scientist Michael Barton is among the presenters. The event will be held online. See the agenda and register.

Donkeys dig deep in the desert, benefiting overall ecosystem

June 8, 2021

An Arizona State University doctoral candidate has discovered that horses, donkeys and other equine species, which are seen as "invasive," actually help shape desert ecosystems, fulfilling the same function long-extinct species once did. The feral equines sniff out water and dig wells that are used by other wildlife.

Erick Lundgren, a doctoral candidate in the School of Life Sciences, led the study, Equids engineer desert water availability, recently published in the journal Science. Sustainability scientists Julie Stromberg, Jianguo Wu, as well as Karla Moeller of the Provost's office are the other authors from ASU.

Read the full story in ASU News.

ASU project receives first place in 2021 Microgrid Greater Good Awards

Microgrid Knowledge | June 8, 2021

Led by sustainability scientist Nathan Johnson and the Laboratory for Energy and Power Solutions, ASU's ATLAS Containerized Microgrid has won first place in the 2021 Microgrid Greater Good Awards. The system powers a 40-foot container that was converted by an ASU team into a medical clinic in Northern Uganda that provides primary care to over 200 Sudanese refugees per day. Before the microgrid was installed, medical practitioners struggled with unreliable power and difficult access to clean water.

The clinic uses 22 linear feet of the 40-foot container, with the remaining 18 feet used for the microgrid and water purification systems. The 10-kW solar microgrid also provides power for medical staff housing and is capable of offering additional power for expanded water supply and area lighting.

The containerized microgrid is replicable and can be used for other areas that require "last mile" distribution to remote off-grid locations, according to Johnson, who led development of the system as part of a $2 million, four-part research project funded by the US Office of Naval Research’s Defense University Research-to-Adoption Program.

Microgrid Knowledge launched the award program three years ago as a way to highlight the humanitarian and societal benefits of microgrids. The winners are chosen by a panel of independent judges.