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.

**Please note room change to 1153 Mechanical Engineering this semester**

Spring 2016 Schedule

photo of Andrea Castelletti

Thursday, January 28
Andrea Castelletti
Associate Professor, Natural Resources Management Politecnico di Milano, Italy and Senior Scientist Institute of Environmental Engineering, Zurich, Switzerland

Embedding Human Behavior in Natural Systems Models: From Myth to Reality?
Although the human footprint is increasingly recognized as a major driver of ongoing global change, human behaviors and their interactions with natural processes are still described in an overly simplified manner. Recent years have seen an increasing effort by scientists from both the ecological and hydrological sciences to quantitatively characterize the co-evolution of society and nature. The Coupled Human and Natural Systems paradigm (CHNS) is probably the best known attempt to put humans in the loop in models of natural systems. In this talk, Professor Castelletti offers a first attempt to quantitatively model all components of CHNS in the water domain using behavioral data and mathematical models validated against reality.

photo of Mark Stephenson

Thursday, February 4
Mark Stephenson
Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, UW–Madison

Evolution and Sustainability of the U.S. Dairy Industry
Discussions of sustainability in any industry almost always include a nod to "economics,” i.e. the need to cover additional costs incurred to meet broader societal goals. But sometimes economic choices constitute the core of the sustainable story itself. The U.S. dairy industry has evolved over the past century in response to different biological and regional pressures. These forces continue to shape our discussion of what is sustainable today. Mark Stephenson, the Director of Dairy Policy Analysis at the UW–Madison, will discuss the evolution of this industry.

photo of Greg Characklis

Thursday, February 11
Greg Characklis
Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering Director, Center for Watershed Science and Management, Institute for the Environment, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Managing the Financial Risks of Water Scarcity
Hydrologic variability often creates substantial fluctuations in costs and revenues in both the public and private sectors. The financial instability that results can be very disruptive and influence decision-making in a number of ways. To understand the frequency and severity of financial risks requires integrated modeling of the natural and human systems involved. Examples include urban water utilities, hydropower generators and commercial (inland) shipping. Results suggest that environmental financial risk can often be substantially reduced using innovative financial instruments. Such mitigation of risk can promote both efficient management of hydrologic uncertainties and more sustainable behavior.

photo of Paul Robbins

Thursday, February 18
Paul Robbins
Professor and Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW–Madison

Coffee, Frogs and Workers: Biodiversity in the Indian Anthropocene
As the era of wildlife "enclosures” draws to a close and the frontiers of conservation extend into wholly humanized landscapes, basic questions arise. Are the Anthropocene landscapes of a quickly-changing planet amenable to conservation? When and under what political and economic conditions? The research described here seeks to answer these questions by investigating biodiversity in booming commodity production landscapes of southern India. The conclusion: many species are thriving, but their fates are intertwined with that condition and aspirations of the rural working poor.

photo of Brent Martin

Thursday, February 25
Brent Martin
Director, Southern Appalachian Region, The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Idea In The Age Of The Anthropocene: Relevance And Issues
The 1964 Wilderness Act created a land preservation system that immediately protected over nine million acres, and over 100 million acres have been added since. Today, the Wilderness Act is being challenged in ways that seek to undermine its power and significance. This presentation will explore the historical and present-day context of Wilderness in American society. The exploration will focus on the mountains of western North Carolina, where demographic shifts place increasing pressure on 1.1 million acres of National Forest, and where recreation, resource demands, and rapidly growing population lead to conflict and unprecedented management challenges.

photo of Linda Prokopy

Thursday, March 3
Linda Prokopy
Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University Agriculture

Understanding Co-Production in Natural Resource Management
The term "co-production" has been used increasingly in recent years in both science and policy arenas. Co-production is characterized by an openness and willingness on the part of scientists or decision makers to accept end users’ challenges and improvements to their thoughts and ideas. This talk will focus on locating the concept of co-production in the larger literature on public participation, and on understanding why co-production is important in natural resource management. It will conclude with some thoughts about when co-production should be used, and will provide some tips on how to undertake a co-production process.

photo of Steve Apfelbaum

Thursday, March 10
Steve Apfelbaum
Chairman and Principal Ecologist, Applied Ecological Services

Measuring Carbon Storage and Dynamics in Rangeland Plant Communities The importance of on-ground measurements and potential role of aerial multi-spectral imagery
Steven Apfelbaum is a senior ecologist at Applied Ecological Services, Inc., one of the most longstanding large ecological restoration firms in the USA, headquartered in Brodhead, Wisconsin. He will share experiences on recent work that measures carbon stocks in grasslands and agricultural landscapes, and explores economic and other incentives for farmers and ranchers to "re-grow” soil carbon as a product. Geospatial analysis colleagues Jason Carlson and Dr. Fugui Wang will join Steven in a discussion to show how very high resolution imaging and GIS can now be tested to better understand carbon distributions and dynamics over large landscapes.

photo of Michelle Miller

Thursday, March 17
Michelle Miller
Associate Director of Programs, UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

The Middle Way: Metropolitan Foodsheds, Regional Economy and Resilience
Cities are drivers of complex national and global economies that are operating outside of natural limits in efforts to maximize efficiency, especially labor and energy efficiencies. That is, cities are extractive and unsustainable, especially where food is concerned. Efforts to localize agriculture are not scaled to meet urban needs. Sustainable agriculture and the regional economic infrastructure necessary to move food to market offer a middle way to optimize food system efficiencies and resilience concurrently. What system efficiencies are critical to feeding cities? What are the indicators of food system resilience? How can we optimize them both in a complex adaptive system like our food system?

collage of environmental photos

Thursday, March 24
Spring Break - No Lecture

photo of Jack Williams

Thursday, March 31
Jack Williams
Professor, Department of Geography Director, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research University of Wisconsin-Madison

Recent Advances at the Intersection of Paleoecology and Global Change Ecology
These are exciting times for ecologists who use the recent geological record to study species and community responses to global climate change and early human impacts. This renaissance is powered by the development of new proxies (e.g. ancient DNA, coprophilous spores) and more accurate dating techniques. These include the growth of community curated data repositories (CCDRs) that enable large-scale biogeographic syntheses, and new methods for the rigorous synthesis of paleoecological data with ecological forecasting models. Here, I’ll illustrate these advances with examples drawn from the last deglaciation, the most recent period with rates and magnitudes of climate change similar to those expected for this century.

photo of Anne Short Gianotti

Thursday, April 7
Anne Short Gianotti
Assistant Professor Dept. of Earth and Environment Boston University

Conservation, Private Land Management, and Ecosystem Services Along Urban to Rural Gradients
The dynamics of forest cover and the benefits forests provide are shaped by the land use and management decisions of thousands of individual landowners as well as the conservation actions of public agencies, towns, and environmental organizations. In this talk, I report on results from a collaborative, interdisciplinary project that examines the social and ecological dynamics of forest conservation and private land management across two urban-to-rural gradients in Massachusetts. Our findings illuminate how attitudes and behaviors vary across the gradients and explore the distributional and ecological consequences of this variation.

photo of Giri Venkataramanan

Thursday, April 14
Giri Venkataramanan
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UW–Madison

Can Engineering Be Sustainable?
We have always engineered solutions to make our lives easier. Some have stood the test of time, while others have been cast aside. Our speaker argues that today's sustainability problems stem from the current scale and scope of engineered solutions and the virtual absence of restraints that may limit our aspirations. While some recent developments acknowledge the need for such restraints, we continue to assume more engineered solutions in our march forward. The lecture will identify the challenges of reinventing a human-scale approach to engineering, and outline recent work in the area of microgrids in this context.

photo of Holly Michael

Thursday, April 21
Holly Michael
Associate Professor, Dept. of Geological Sciences and School of Marine Science and Policy, College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of Delaware

Vulnerability of Groundwater Resources in Bangladesh: The Interplay Between Dense Populations, Geologic Complexity, and Large-Scale Arsenic Contamination
In the Bengal Basin, widespread contamination of shallow groundwater with naturally occurring arsenic threatens the health of tens of millions of people. Our speaker evaluated the sustainability of deep, low-arsenic groundwater as a mitigation option using numerical models that incorporate physical and chemical heterogeneity of the fluvio-deltaic aquifer system. Results suggested that sustainability may be achieved in some areas by limiting deep pumping to the domestic water supply, but also highlighted the risks and uncertainty introduced by the interplay between geologic complexity and groundwater extraction on a large scale.

photo of Esteban Jobbágy

Thursday, April 28
Esteban Jobbágy
Grupo de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Nacional de San Luis and CONICET, Argentina

Flatness, Farming and Flooding — Linking Land Use and Hydrology in the South American Plains
Flat regions with sedimentary soils host some of the largest global breadbaskets and most active hot-spots of land use and management changes. The strong coupling between ecosystems and groundwater in these regions is highly sensitive to such changes, which in turn creates environmental challenges like floods and salinization. Our speaker will illustrate how current agricultural changes in the Pampas and Chaco (soybean displacing pastures and forests, respectively) are altering water and salt fluxes. The role of technological changes and human behaviors to shape and possibly steer regional hydrology will be highlighted.

photo of Nico Larco

Thursday, May 5
Nico Larco
Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, Co-Founder/Co-Director, Sustainable Cities Initiative, University of Oregon

Sustainable Urban Design: A (Draft) Framework
Sustainable urban design has been vigorously debated in recent decades, but much of the discussion has focused either on narrow aspects, or has failed to relate its distinct parts. This makes it difficult for urban design practitioners and researchers to identify and prioritize evaluation needs. Our speaker presents an overall framework for sustainable urban design that addresses specific goals and organizes them based on scales of intervention. This framework maps the range of issues related to sustainable urban design and allows comparison across scales and across outcome goals.