Weston Roundtable Series

collage of photos

Thursdays, 4:15-5:15 PM
1153 Mechanical Engineering, 1513 University Avenue

*unless noted otherwise in the list


The Weston Roundtable is made possible by a generous donation from Mr. Roy F. Weston, a highly accomplished UW-Madison alumnus. Designed to promote a robust understanding of sustainability science, engineering, and policy, these interactive lectures are co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Office of Sustainability. These lectures build on the tremendous success in past years of the Weston Distinguished Lecture Series and the SAGE Seminar Series.

Fall 2017 Schedule

photo of Stephen Brick

Thursday, September 7
Stephen Brick
Senior Fellow, Climate and Energy, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Scaling the Decarbonization Mountain
Achieving the goals of the Paris Climate agreement will require steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity system is expected to bear a large burden in this effort; many analysts argue that electric emissions will effectively need to be zeroed out. Our speaker will discuss the findings of his studies of electricity grids in the U.S., Europe and India, and some of the implications for energy and climate policy. He will also discuss the role of modeling in policy development, and offer suggestions to improve the joint efforts of modelers and those who use their results.

photo of Lea Shanley

Thursday, September 14
Lea Shanley
Executive Co-Director, South Big Data Innovation Hub, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Even Big Data Start Small: Crowdsourcing for Environment and Health
Scientific institutions and government agencies are facilitating public contributions to scientific research and discovery, from classifying galaxies and collecting environmental data to solving the structure of an enzyme through protein-folding games. This paradigm shift towards crowdsourced science and monitoring is blurring our conception of "expert” and "amateur.” As institutions attempt to incorporate crowdsourcing into their traditional workflow, they face many challenges—from data quality to volunteer management. This presentation offers an overview of crowdsourcing and its applications, its integration with big data, and benefits and challenges for science.

photo of Gopi Sundar

Thursday, September 21
Gopi Sundar
Director, SarusScape Program, International Crane Foundation

Is Rice Really Nice? Waterbirds and Agriculture in South Asia
As scientists declare our time to be the Anthropocene epoch, the search for mechanisms and examples to aid in biodiversity conservation has acquired new urgency. There is, however, a perceptible shift in our collective ability to realize the value of human-dominated landscapes as potential wildlife habitat. This shift has accelerated efforts in areas that would not normally receive attention from conservationists. Our speaker will present unlikely recent discoveries from South Asian agricultural landscapes in order to revisit current and past assumptions regarding "wildlife habitat,” and the negativity that surrounds areas with high population densities.

photo of Joel Rogers

Thursday, September 28
Joel Rogers
Sewell-Bascom Professor of Law, Political Science, Public Affairs and Sociology, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Taking the High Road in U. S. Cities and States
High-road policy and governance promotes shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Building high-road cities, metropolitan regions, and states is both good for citizens and a key way to move the national dialogue toward progressive policy solutions. Much of COWS' work is focused on sharing high-road policy and governance with state and local leaders. Around the country, these elected officials are taking the lead on pressing social issues — climate change, infrastructure, economic revitalization, health care, criminal justice, and more.

photo of Josh Tewksbury

Thursday, October 5
Josh Tewksbury
Director, Colorado Global Hub, Future Earth

Sustainability and Science in the Anthropocene
Exponential changes of the human-dominated age bring great challenges for the contribution of science to society. Successful transition to any form of sustainability in climate, food, water, energy, finance, and health, if done at scale, will require rapid increases in integrated science; timely, co-designed knowledge, and focused innovation. Current structures are not well equipped to serve this need. Our speaker will explore the challenges posed by global change, the institutional hurdles we face, and the emerging structures, communities, and networks that are tackling these challenges.

photo of Gidon Eshel

Thursday, October 12
Gidon Eshel
Research Professor of Environmental Physics, Bard College, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

How much, if any, "sustainable” beef can the U. S. have?
U.S. food production dominates land, water and fertilizer use, with beef being the main agricultural resource-user per kcal or gram of protein produced. Our speaker will offer a possible definition of "sustainable” beef as that subsisting exclusively on grass and byproducts, and quantify its expected production as a function of the extent of pastureland use. Utilizing all the pastureland U.S beef currently uses can "sustainably” deliver ~ 45% of current beef production. Choosing to forgo the less productive half of the U.S. pastureland, thus "rewilding" ~135 million lower-yielding hectares, can still deliver ~ 43% of current beef production.

photo of Tracey Holloway, Holly Gibbs, Mutlu Ozdogan, Chris Kucharik

Tuesday, October 17
Tracey Holloway, Holly Gibbs, Mutlu Ozdogan, Chris Kucharik
Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin-Madison

SAGE Smorgasbord
"Air Quality and Public Health” Tracey Holloway "New Frontiers in Land Change Science” Holly Gibbs "Field Level Agricultural Sustainability Indicators: The view from the top (and bottom)” Mutlu Ozdogan "Midwest Agroecosystems: Management and Change” Chris Kucharik

photo of Dr. Sanjib Bhattacharyya
photo of Alejandra Hernandez

Thursday, October 26
Dr. Sanjib Bhattacharyya
Laboratory Director City of Milwaukee Health Department
Alejandra Hernandez
Lead Project Coordinator Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers

Growing Healthy Soil For Healthy Communities — A Tale of Innovative Community, Academic, and Public Health Partnering
Environmental health risks associated with residential gardening remain high due to residents’ limited knowledge and the lack of regulatory oversight. Interventions such as building raised beds, amending soil with compost, and adding phosphorus to reduce bioavailability of lead can increase the safety of urban gardening. The speakers will present an innovative, multi-agency story through the Growing Healthy Soil for Healthy Communities project to reduce lead concentration in soils in Milwaukee neighborhoods. Activities focus on environmental health literacy, access to soil testing for residents, soil and landscape interventions, and awareness of environmental policy.

photo of Dave Barbier

Thursday, November 2
Dave Barbier
Coordinator, The Office of Sustainability, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point

Finding 100% Renewable Electricity: It’s Easier Done Than Said
UW–Stevens Point is focused on sustainability, but the university has missed opportunities for wind and photovoltaic solar installations due to restrictions at the state level and market pressures. Nevertheless, the campus went from a 25% renewable electricity portfolio to 100% in a matter of just three years by purchasing power in the form of renewable energy credits (RECs). In his lecture our speaker will examine how understanding the campus electricity inputs along with a changing REC market helped UW–Stevens Point achieve in 2016 what seemed impossible in 2013.

photo of David Blockstein

Thursday, November 9
David Blockstein
Chief Scientist, National Council for Science and the Environment

The Science, Business and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure: Building Resilience in a Changing World
The rapid pace of science and technological change provides opportunities for prosperity and well-being but comes with considerable risk. Human activities threaten planetary life support systems while hundreds of millions live in poverty. These threats destabilize society. Our speaker will discuss how investment that integrates natural, built, cyber and social infrastructure can foster more sustainable communities and enhance resilience in the face of accelerating multiple socio-environmental and security threats. This approach mirrors the vision of Roy Weston, an engineer and businessman who was dedicated to design and action that integrate nature and technology to protect both environment and health while advancing sustainability.

photo of William Pan

Thursday, November 16
William Pan
Assistant Professor, Global Health Institute, Duke University

Got Gold? The Human and Environmental Impacts of Gold Mining: Evidence from the Peruvian Amazon
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is estimated to produce between 10% and 30% of gold worldwide. While ASGM may achieve socioeconomic gains for families, it is also identified as the leading source of atmospheric mercury. This presentation will explore the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of ASGM on both global and local scales, focusing on the current epidemic of mining in the Peruvian Amazon and on the long-term impacts of mercury exposure..

photo of Kent Redford

Thursday, November 30
Kent Redford
Principal, Archipelago Consulting Portland, Maine

Synthetic Biology and the Conservation of Nature
Synthetic biology is a fast-moving innovative field with the potential to change our relationship to the natural world. It involves the design and construction of new biological parts, and the re-design of existing, natural biological systems. It has many potential applications, including replacing natural products with synthetic ones, reviving extinct species, and creating powerful tools to address wicked conservation problems. Despite this promise, synthetic biology is virtually unknown to the conservation community. We must engage in a broad discussion to investigate how conservation perspectives can help shape this major emerging field.

photo of Fred Rattunde
photo of Eva Weltzien

Thursday, December 7
Fred Rattunde
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
Eva Weltzien
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

Seed systems for small holder farmers