Weston Roundtable Series

collage of photos

Thursdays, 4:15-5:15 PM
1163 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.

Spring 2017 Schedule

photo of David Gosselin

Thursday, January 26
David Gosselin
Professor of Earth Science, Director of Environmental Studies, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska

Building Collaborative Teams To Address Wicked Problems: Myths And Models
The terms "collaboration” and "team” are often used when important wicked societal problems, such as sustainability, are addressed. We have all been on teams that struggled to integrate knowledge, skills, and abilities to address the problem at hand. Issues arise when team members are unable to navigate the many intellectual and dispositional differences that exist among them. Our speaker will focus on increasing the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teams using an inquiry-based collaborative team action model, model-based reasoning, and partnership between business and academia.

photo of Joe Arvai

Thursday, February 2
Joe Arvai
University of Michigan

Decision-Making for Sustainability: An Owner’s Manual
We have witnessed, over the last decade, an explosion of interest in the science of judgment and decision making. Bestsellers like Predictably Irrational and Thinking, Fast and Slow have provided engaging summaries of research on how people make choices. However, insights about how to improve the quality of personal and policy choices have not kept pace with society’s needs. This is especially true when complex sustainability challenges — and opportunities — cry out for dedicated decision support. The good news is that emerging research on applied decision making points to promising paths forward; a sample of these will be presented.

photo of John Greenler

Thursday, February 9
John Greenler
UW–Madison / Wisconsin Energy Institute

Learning and Teaching on Energy: from Large-Scale Complex Systems to a Time of Political Polarization
Transitioning to a clean energy system on a global scale is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and prompt success will require broad engagement at all societal levels. This challenge is fraught with difficulties, including system complexity, large financial implications, political polarization on related issues such as climate change, and critical understandings that are beyond the scales of normal human comprehension. Given these, what do we know about learning and teaching that can help us move forward with this transition to a clean energy future?


Monday, February 13
4:30 PM
Strategic Energy Analysis Center, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

On The Path To Sunshot And Beyond: Recent Progress And Long-Term Targets For Solar Technology
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the SunShot Initiative in 2011 with the goal of making solar electricity cost-competitive by 2020. DOE has defined new goals that aim to realize even more aggressive reductions by 2030. Achieving these goals could propel solar energy technologies into a significant role in U.S. and global energy systems. Our speaker will provide an overview of progress to date; discuss emerging challenges that motivate even more aggressive cost reduction targets for 2030, and present detailed analysis of the potential for combining low-cost solar with a range of flexible options to enable very high levels of solar penetration.

collage of environmental photos

Thursday, February 16

photo of Douglas Ahl

Thursday, February 23
Douglas Ahl
Director of Research, Seventhwave

Climate Resiliency Planning and Buildings: Lessons from the Field
Climate resiliency is an important strategy in sustainability planning. However, today’s buildings are designed to operate in the future using weather data from the past. Research suggests that predicted energy savings from green buildings may be significantly different than actual building performance in coming years due to the changing climate. Our speaker will provide case studies and research findings on the impact of climate on efficient technology choices and building energy use. He will also share feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders on their understanding and opinions about climate and clean energy.

photo of Nicola Anthony

Thursday, March 2
Nicola Anthony
University of New Orleans

Central Africa Biodiversity Alliance: Mapping Evolutionary Process in the Face of Climate Change
The goal of this international project is to develop an integrated framework for conserving central African biodiversity that accounts for climate change, evolutionary processes and the socioeconomic constraints of the region. The Alliance maps environmentally associated genomic and phenotypic variation across a suite of rainforest taxa and then uses this information to prioritize areas based on their evolutionary importance and vulnerability to future climate change. The research component of this work has been complemented by training workshops and field schools in the biodiversity sciences that have brought participants together from a host of partner institutions in Africa, Europe and the US.

photo of Andrea Hicks

Thursday, March 9
Andrea Hicks
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), UW-Madison

Environmental Impacts of Evolving Consumer Technology
Technology continuously evolves to become more complex. This increase in complexity is not without environmental, economic, and societal impacts. This has been particularly true for consumer products, in that what was once only dreamt of is now reality. Tools such as life-cycle assessment and agent-based modeling allow for the quantification of these impacts, and generate an understanding of potential unintended consequences. This will be explored looking at products such as energy-efficient lighting, nanoenabled textiles, and single-serve coffee pods.

photo of Caitlin Kontgis

Thursday, March 16
Caitlin Kontgis
Research Scientist, Descartes Labs

Tropical Agriculture Mapping Through the Clouds, in the Cloud
Remote sensing has long been a tool for Earth scientists. Recent availability of free government imagery, big data analysis tools, and cloud computing has generated a geospatial revolution. At Descartes Labs, a team has assembled all satellite imagery from USGS, NASA, ESA, and private sector data, and has analyzed over 2.8 quadrillion pixels of imagery. This presentation will show how our imagery and platform can be leveraged to map rice paddy extent and management in the Mekong River delta. Specifically, this analysis illustrates the utility of synthetic aperture radar data (SAR) for mapping tropical land cover and use.

collage of environmental photos

Thursday, March 23

photo of Daniel Wright

Thursday, March 30
Daniel Wright
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering UW–Madison

The Riddle of Flood Hazards in a Changing World
We distinguish between flood hazards – the geophysical flood processes – and flood risks – their socioeconomic consequences. Recent trends in risk have been driven primarily by increased exposure of people and infrastructure. Reasons for changes in flood hazards are less clear. Flood hazards comprise several key "ingredients,” including precipitation, land cover, and soil moisture, which can both influence and be influenced by climate change and other human activities. We will examine how these ingredients are changing and explore the implications for current and future flood hazards, focusing mainly on urban and rural areas in the Midwestern United States.

photo of Alexander Pfaff

Thursday, April 6
Alexander Pfaff
Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

Sustainability Through Policies that Integrate Environment and Development
Demand for environmental policies derives from the negative consequences of economic development. Development pressures also affect policy enactment and thus influence policy impacts or the lack thereof. For instance, development pressures push protected areas away, determine their spillovers and even their removal. All this can be reflected in best feasible policy designs, including when groups conflict in development, thus conservation may help some groups even while restricting them. In other settings, development with private rights may protect the environment better than restriction. Our speaker will discuss combinations of rights and restriction that may perform best.

photo of Thomas S. Bianchi

Thursday, April 13
Thomas S. Bianchi
Jon and Beverly Thompson Endowed Chair of Geological Sciences, University of Florida

Deltas and Humans: A Long Relationship now Threatened by Global Change
Humans have had a long relationship with the ebb and flow of tides on river deltas. High population densities there have led to elaborate engineering schemes that attempt to "tame” delta hydrology. With current eustatic sea level rise and delta subsidence (sinking) from both natural and human induced causes, the fate of modern deltas is in jeopardy. Consequently, the future of numerous modern megacities built on deltas is in question. Immediate preparation for coastal management is needed in response to the impending inundation of major cities caused by global environmental change.