Council for Environmental Deans & Directors summer conference; Boulder, Colorado

Bill Dennison ·
12 July 2010
Environmental Literacy | 

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), based in Washington, D.C., supports a group of university administrators called the Council for Environmental Deans & Directors (CEDD). This group has two annual meetings; a winter meeting in Washington, D.C. and a summer conference in different locations around the country. The 2010 summer conference was hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. The Executive Director of CEDD is Dr. David Blockstein, an avid birder who conducts early morning bird walks in the different conference locations. The current CEDD President is Dr. Bill Sullivan from the University of Illinois. The aspect of dealing with Deans and Directors that I appreciate is their ability to simply state their position (only once), and ability to listen to opposing points of view. It is also nice to be able to compare approaches and challenges (No good dean goes unpunished). The program included an update on a long standing project on environmental curricula, an overview of the research and education programs conducted by UCAR and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), also based in Boulder and supported by the National Science Foundation. We had an impromptu discussion of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill status and ramifications, led by Dr. Chris D'Elia from Louisiana State University. We had an evening reception and dinner at the NCAR Mesa Lab, a beautiful facility overlooking Boulder designed by the architect I.M. Pei.

Mesa Lab
Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, designed by I.M. Pei.

One of the break-out sessions at the CEDD program was led by Dr. Tony Michaels, one of the CEDD founders and former Director of the Wrigley Institute at the University of Southern California. Tony has since formed a company called Proteus Environmental Technologies and he related his experiences with the business community in his current role. Tony explained that they look at companies for which conversion to more environmentally sustainable practices could make them more profitable. He works with equity capital partners to acquire companies in which the conversion to sustainable practices can be implemented. He gave the example of aquaculture in which their substantial energy costs (e.g., aeration and water pumping) and waste water treatment costs could be done using more efficient means, using the innovations that the academic community could generate. The different reward systems were noted; the kingdom (business), power (politicians) and glory (scientists), and the concept underpinning a relationship between business and academia was to insure profitability for business and intellectual property for academia. Tony was intrigued by the issue of poultry production on the Delmarva peninsula—recognizing that the nutrients lost via chicken manure disposal or treatment was a financial liability to the poultry industry and an environmental concern for Chesapeake Bay.

Tony Michaels
Dr. Tony Michaels leading discussion at CEDD conference.

Following the CEDD formal program, there was a tour of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) facility in Boulder. NEON is a continental-scale research platform distributed throughout the entire United States, at 60 core sites and various relocatable sites. NEON is gearing up to collect hundreds of ecological measurements in each of 20 ecoregions, using towers equipped with sensors, aircraft and ground measurements. Dr. David Schimel, the NEON CEO and his staff, including Drs. Wendy Gram and Brian Wee gave us a tour of the new facility that they are constructing. We saw the prototype research tower that will be located at each site, the data loggers they will be deploying and the assembly area where the sensors will be constructed, calibrated and validated. The facility still smelled of fresh paint and they are just starting to staff the organization, supported by the National Science Foundation. The NEON program will be very interesting to watch develop and the initial staff appear to be visionary and passionate.

Sampling Tower
Prototype sampling tower for NEON sites.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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