Climate Action Group Lays Out Plan for 2035 Carbon Neutrality

Members of the Cornell Senior Leaders Climate Action Group held a public forum Tuesday, explaining how they intended to build upon the University’s existing Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 while fielding questions from curious and concerned citizens. The majority of the 90 minute event focused on open discussion. A panel of Cornell scientists, administrators, faculty and deans aimed to reassure the local community that shifting towards renewable energy sources would leave an overwhelmingly positive impact on the town, although the panel still pointed out some minor issues they intended to address. SLCAG formed in 2015 as a way to consider ways to address various climate issues, including increasing carbon dioxide emissions. In March 2016, Provost Michael Kotlikoff asked SLCAG to provide the University with ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the intention of pursuing multiple alternative energy avenues.

An Impossible Foods’ plant based burger that Briana Cameron ’13 consulted on.

Chicken: Fresh From the Lab!

Most burgers have their meat brought from slaughterhouses. Tasty though they may be, all forms of meat start off as a handful of cells. Flipping through your favorite restaurant’s menu, would you order a burger that contains chicken grown from a few cells in the lab? Briana Cameron ’13 and her team at the Good Food Institute, certainly hope so. The Good Food Institute is a nonprofit that is harnessing the power of markets and technology to end factory farming and its negative effects.

The AguaClara team at one of their drinking water treatment plants in Honduras.

Team Spotlight: AguaClara — Clean Water for All

Imagine waking up and opening the tap to muddy water. According to the World Health Organization, that is the predicament that 1.8 billion people worldwide find themselves in. Often water treatment plants are expensive and require too much energy to run. A team at Cornell hopes to change that. Pristine, crystal clear water is a luxury, AguaClara hopes to make it a right.

Manuel Aregullin, senior research associate, is an expert on plant pharmacology.

Roots, Shoots and a Dash of Medicine

Cornell is a gold mine of fantastic gardens, beautiful foliage and abundant flora. In just the five-minute walk from Mann Library to Rockefeller Hall, one can see trees of all sizes and a wide variety of flowers. With colorful flower blossoms in spring and large full trees in summer, the valley, campus walkways and gardens are scenic masterpieces for much of the year. But there is much more to these shrubs, leaves or grasses than meets the eye. Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes are all debilitating diseases.

Turning the Clock Back: Mechanisms of Aging

Studies in evolutionary biology tell us that all living organisms originated from a common ancestor, yet lifespans vary greatly. Clearly, something in the genome accounts for such stark differences; the question is what? Why do we live as long as we do? Why do our bodies break down as we age? On March 6, Prof. Vadim Gladyshev, medicine, Harvard, led a seminar at Cornell titled “Mechanisms of Aging and Redox Control” that attempted to answer some of these questions.


Cornell Professor Advocates for Access to Choose Genetically Modified Crops

On a list of the most controversial topics in science, genetically modified organisms would easily be close to the top. Concerns about their safety and effect on naturally bred species continue to dominate scientific and policy discussions. Prof. Sarah Davidson Evanega, plant breeding and genetics, however, is assured of their safety and maintains that they could play an important role in fighting global food insecurity. Speaking at the Food Security and Global Growth: The Big Picture conference on March 4, Evanega detailed the manner in which climate change threatens global food security, emphasizing the ramifications for farmers. “A Tanzanian farmer, Selma, that our team spoke to, spent $300 — half of her annual income — on preparing and planting her two acre maize field.

Prof. Lewenstein

On Ethics, Fake News and Science

Science is not about standalone discoveries. Scientists share hypotheses, findings and conclusions to help build a concrete picture of the world. To enable such discussion and deliberate science’s role in shaping public policy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual conference on Feb. 16 in Boston. The theme this year was ‘serving society through science policy.’

Discussions such as these run the risk of harboring a political slant.

Coral bleaching in Maldives, similar to that in the Great Barrier Reef.

Wanted: Great Barrier Reef, Alive

In October 2016, an article began circulating social media outlets with the headline “Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 Million BC-2016),” announcing the abrupt death of one of the most diverse and complex ecosystems in the world. Understandably, ecologists and nature enthusiasts alike cried out in alarm. The pinnacle of environmental beauty that had made it into every introductory ecology textbook had passed away, another casualty to the seemingly unstoppable force of climate change. There is no doubt that action needs to be taken immediately if humans ever hope to impede the potentially disastrous effects of climate change, however those who use the recently ‘deceased’ Great Barrier Reef as their first piece of evidence are missing one critical detail. “The Great Barrier Reef definitely sustained some of the biggest impacts its seen from warming events, but it’s definitely not dead,” said Prof. Drew Harvell, ecology and evolutionary biology.

Relative size of TRAPPIST-1 to the sun.

Cornell Astronomical Society Members Analyze NASA’s Exoplanet Discovery

If planet hopping is your notion of a relaxing vacation, then a recent NASA discovery may be for you. On Feb. 22, NASA announced that it had found seven earth-size planets orbiting a single star in the constellation Aquarius. Scientists named this exoplanet system TRAPPIST-1, for the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope they used to make the discovery. Located at a miserly distance of 40 light years from Earth, TRAPPIST-1 includes three planets located in the ‘goldilocks’ zone, within the distance range for liquid water to exist.