News Archives


December 22, 2020
Nelson Institute administrator named NASA Unsung Hero and receives Pringle Award for University Staff

Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research (CCR) and Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) administrator Laurel Fletcher has been named a NASA Unsung Hero and received the Pringle Award for University Staff.

In her role with the Nelson Institute, Fletcher assists with onboarding, reimbursements, arranging travel for fieldwork and conferences, administrative policy, purchasing, arranging scientific conferences, and more.

“My goal is to make the tasks easier for the scientists, professors, and grad students, so they can concentrate on their research,” said Fletcher. “I like to find ways to conserve our funding, such as organizing conferences and travel as economically as possible, so that it can be stretched as much as possible to support students and environmental research. The work that our research teams do is crucial in advancing environmental conservation, and I want to be a good steward of their money. When possible, I also like to offer eco-friendlier options in areas like conference hosting, catering, and travel.” 



December 17, 2020 · uw news
Holly Gibbs featured in bloomberg series on deforestation and cattle

Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) affiliate and associate professor of Geography, Holly Gibbs is contributing to a Bloomberg series on deforestation and cattle. Gibbs and her lab have completed pioneering work to track deforestation. In fact, last year, Gibbs worked with the National Wildlife Federation to track outcomes from the Zero-Deforestation Commitments in the Brazilian Amazon using cattle movement and supply chain data. The series in Bloomberg highlights Gibbs’ research and expertise in deforestation and the impact cattle have on the deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil. Read more.

Photo: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg


December 15, 2020
Nelson SAGE director discusses stranded assets and the environment

Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) director, Carol Barford recently contributed the article, Stranded Assets—Conduits for Better Public Infrastructure Planning? to the League of Women Voters Dane County website. The article addresses stranded assets and how basic planning for public infrastructure can minimize this issue. Stranded assets, or those that have become devalued or converted to a liability, are explored through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions, flooding, and other environmental challenges. Barford also discusses solutions, such as government buyouts of flooded neighborhoods and the opportunity we now have to retire infrastructure for which the investment has already played out. Read more.

December 09, 2020
Holly Gibbs co-authors paper that asks, does certifying oil palm help alleviate poverty?

Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) affiliate and associate professor of Geography, Holly Gibbs is a co-author on the recent Nature Sustainability paper, “Impact of palm oil sustainability certification on village well-being and poverty in Indonesia.” This paper investigates the effectiveness of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification in reducing poverty among villages with oil palm plantations.

In this study, Gibbs and her colleagues compared the rates of poverty across 36,311 villages over 18 years, specifically looking at the change in poverty rates before and after oil palm plantations were certified by RSPO. Overall, the research indicates that RSPO certification does correlate with reduced poverty, but village location and baseline village livelihood conditions before certification were factors.


December 03, 2020
Jonathan Patz Quoted in Latest Lancet Countdown

Published annually, the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration, dedicated to monitoring the evolving health profile of climate change, and providing an independent assessment of the delivery of commitments made by governments worldwide under the Paris Agreement.


November 20, 2020
Holloway Study Puts MGE Net-Zero Carbon Goal on Path to Limit Global Warming

The study used climate modeling conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and compared MGE’s goals to modeled, warming-limiting pathways for the electricity sector in industrialized nations.


November 18, 2020
Holloway MGE Study Featured in Wisconsin State Journal

The study finds Madison Gas and Electric’s goal of eliminating carbon emissions by mid-century is in line with what will be needed to avoid the worst impact of climate change. 


November 17, 2020
Laurel Fletcher Wins Pringle Award

SAGE's Laurel Fletcher is the winner of the 2020 UW–Madison Elizabeth Pringle Award! This is a University-wide award for office support staff. Over 60 people were nominated this year, and Laurel was the winner! Congratulations!


October 31, 2020
Jonathan Patz Inducted into the National Academy of Medicine

SAGE Professor Jonathan Patz has been elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine in recognition of his pioneering research showing the risk global climate change poses for human health. Congratulations, Jonathan!


October 27, 2020
Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment director co-authors a study highlighting the vulnerability of cellular networks to wildfires

A new study co-authored by Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment director Carol Barford, showcases the vulnerability of cellular networks as it relates to wildfires. In fact, the study shows that approximately one in four people in the United States is served by cellular phone towers at risk of an outage caused by wildfires.


"Our results, together with the wildfires in 2020 so far, underscore the urgency of both mitigating climate change and adapting in informed and robust ways” said Barford. “The crazy quilt of wildfire, power outage, cell communication and first response requires thoughtful planning for the years ahead."


To aid in this planning, Barford and her co-authors offer recommendations for decreasing tower vulnerability and mitigating the risks associated with a network outage. Read more.

September 30, 2020
Tracey Holloway Wins AGU Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award

Eighty-five distinguished scientists receive accolades from groups representing their disciplines within AGU, the world’s largest Earth and space science society. Congratulations to Prof. Tracey Holloway on winning the 2020 AGU Atmospheric Sciences Ascent Award!

September 08, 2020
Envisioning a future for grasslands in the United States

Tyler Lark's recent work highlighted in Nelson Institute News


September 03, 2020
Nelson PhD candidate maps nearly one-third of the world's croplands, rural and farming communities stand to benefit

Aparna Phalke, a PhD candidate in the Environment and Resources (ER) program and recipient of a UW-Madison Graduate School Dissertator Fellowship, recently received international recognition for her work on a high-resolution cropland area map of Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia.


August 06, 2020
2010 Global Soil and Biomass Carbon Maps Available

Data published in Nature Scientific Data by Seth Spawn, Clare Sullivan, Tyler Lark and Holly Gibbs are now available to anybody through Google Earth Engine -- a geospatial cloud computing environment used by thousands of researchers around the world.


August 03, 2020
A triple threat COVID-19, climate change and eviction

Opinion piece by Prof. Jonathan Patz appears in Isthmus. "According to analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, Congress’ failure to extend a pandemic-related eviction moratorium places more than 29 million Americans at risk of homelessness by the end of the year.."


July 20, 2020
Newly Published Science Article Receives Wide Media Attention

"The rotten apples of Brazil's agribusiness", Lisa Rausch and Holly Gibbs, co-authors, highlights the interlinkage between illegal deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado—the largest Brazilian biomes with the highest rates of deforestation—and EU imports of Brazil's soy and beef, the country's major agricultural commodities. Although most of Brazil's agricultural output is deforestation-free, it was found that 2% of properties in the Amazon and Cerrado are responsible for 62% of all potentially illegal deforestation and that roughly 20% of soy exports and at least 17% of beef exports from both biomes to the EU may be contaminated with illegal deforestation. Raising awareness is important to press Brazil to conserve its environmental assets and to promote international political will for cutting telecoupled GHG emissions. This could be achieved, for example, through the environmental safeguards of the Mercosur-EU trade agreement, which require EU imports to comply with the export country's legislation.


July 16, 2020
SAGE Dept. Admin Laurel Fletcher = a NASA Hero!

Laurel Fletcher has been highlighted as one NASA's “Unsung Heroes” for her outstanding work to support the NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team led by Prof. Tracey Holloway. Laurel has been the hidden support for the semi-annual HAQAST meetings. She handles travel and reimbursement coordination along with event logistics, from booking hotels to ensuring there are poster displays. Most of the time Laurel’s work goes unnoticed because things run so seamlessly! Congratulations for the recognition, Laurel!

June 22, 2020
"Wildlife Trade Spreads Coronaviruses as Animals Get to Market"

A study by SAGE alum, Dr. Sarah Olsen, was highlighted in the New York Times. Sarah was Dr. Jonathan Patz's first PhD student at SAGE. 


June 11, 2020
Of Chainsaws and Supply Chains: How big beef and soya firms can stop deforestation

Holly Gibbs was quoted in Economist article considering the needed incentives to help big soy and meatpacking companies avoid buying from properties with deforestation under Bolsonaro's government. 


May 18, 2020
Prof. Jonathan Patz Presents, "Without Reversing Environmental Damage, Mark your Calendars for the Next Pandemic"

This was for the Earth Leadership Program, This Changes Everything: Sustainability Science in a Post-COVID-19 World, May 12, 2020


May 12, 2020
Prof. Holly Gibbs Awarded H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship

Eleven UW faculty have received H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowships for 2020-21, which recognize faculty within their first six years from promotion to a tenured position. The award is named in recognition of the late WARF trustees president H.I. Romnes and comes with $60,000 that may be spent over five years. 
Holly studies how and why people use land around the world, including in the United States and the Brazilian Amazon. 


May 01, 2020
Prof. Jonathan Patz to Give Keynote Address in Online Webinar

"Climate Justice meets Global Health in the time of COVID-19"  Monday, May 4, 1-4PM, (click READ MORE to register)


April 23, 2020
Jonathan Patz Presented at UW-Madison Earth Day Virtual Conference

"Transmission and Transitions: How Climate Change is Impacting Human and Planetary Health"


April 18, 2020
Jonathan Patz was a Guest on Wisconsin Public Radio for Earth Day

"Why Climate Change Can Lead To More Pandemics"


March 31, 2020
New Paper Published in Nature Climate Change

Seth Spawn (Gibbs PhD Student in Geog and part of SAGE) and Prof. Holly Gibbs are part of a new paper out today in Nature Climate Change, "Protecting Irrecoverable Carbon in Earth’s Ecosystems". Seth is one of the leading authors and the paper relies heavily on a new global biomass and soil carbon map that the Gibbs Lab created and should soon come out in Nature Scientific Data.  There is one additional paper that will soon come out based on this data. 


March 31, 2020
Congratulations to SAGE's Newest Ph.D., Dr. Yanghui Kang!

Yanghui successfully defended her thesis, "Towards Operational Monitoring of the Agroecosystems with Satellite Remote Sensing: A Case Study in the Midwest U.S.". She was recently offered a highly prestigious USDA postdoctoral fellowship in one of the ARS labs in Beltsville, MD. Prof. Mutlu Ozdogan is her advisor. 

March 25, 2020
Seth Spawn Wins IOP Publishing ‘Outstanding Reviewer’ Award

Seth Spawn has been selected as an Outstanding Reviewer for Environmental Research Letters for 2019, in recognition of the high quality and timeliness of his reviews during the year. Way to go, Seth!

March 12, 2020
Yanghui Kang to Give Her PhD Dissertation Defense 3/31/20

Please consider joining the public portion of the defense,  "Towards Operational Monitoring of the Agroecosystems with Satellite Remote Sensing: A Case Study in the Midwest U.S."  Prof. Mutlu Ozdogan, Advisor  

Tuesday, March 31, 11am in the Trewartha Room (378 Science Hall)

March 09, 2020
Jonathan Patz Presents Talk at The Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach CA

The Effects of Earth's Health on Human Health. Treatment for Today's Climate Emergency Can Actually Save the Lives of Way More People Than We Ever Imagined. 


February 28, 2020
Nelson Institute Featured in "On Wisconsin" Magazine

Holly Gibbs was interviewed as part of the cover story for On Wisconsin.


February 28, 2020
New SAGE Publication

"A Low-Carbon Future Could Improve Global Health and Achieve Economic Benefits" in JAMA by J.A. Patz, V.J. Stull, and V.S. Limaye


January 29, 2020
Prof. Zuzana Burivalova to Present Talk at the Field Museum, in Chicago

Zuzana will present "When the Rainforest Goes Quiet"  as part of the Field Museum's Night of Ideas: Alive! at 7pm, Thursday Jan 30, This event is free and open to the public. Advance registration required. Food and beverage will be available for purchase at the Field Bistro. Use code ALIVE2020 for a 25% discount on Lyft rides to and from the Field Museum for the Night of Ideas.


January 21, 2020
Prof. Patz Speaks at Caribbean Planetary Health Conference

The theme of the conference was “Build­ing Re­silient Health Sys­tem for Cli­mate Change” and was held at the Uni­verisi­ty of the West In­dies, St Au­gus­tine campus.


January 02, 2020
SAGE Alum Kate Anderson to Defend Ph.D. Thesis


Presentation of her dissertation research on "The Would-Be Agroecologists: Organification, Supply Management and Co-opted Collective Action in U.S. Dairy"  will be Monday, January 6th, 1:30 - 2:30 p.m., Wisconsin Energy Institute. Room 1115.  Kate's advisor is associate professor Erin Silva in the Department of Plant Pathology.