University of California, Riverside

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Earth Day Experts

UCR Experts Available for Earth Day

Scholars from diverse perspectives offer insights on creating a sustainable world.

(April 8, 2010)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Examining issues of sustainability in their broadest sense, UC Riverside scholars are available to discuss a variety of topics related to the environment, preserving natural resources and caring for the inhabitants of Planet Earth. As the world prepares to observe the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, these faculty are available to discuss their research:

Climate change, alternative fuels

Martin Kennedy
, professor of geology
(951) 827-2025
Professor Kennedy is available to talk to reporters about the science behind global warming, how dangerous greenhouse gases can be, and the impact a political agreement would have on the world’s changing climate. “One way to look at the present human influence on global warming is that we are conducting a global-scale experiment with Earth’s climate system,” he says. “We are witnessing an unprecedented rate of warming, with little or no knowledge of what instabilities lurk in the climate system and how they can influence life on Earth.”

Joe Norbeck, professor of environmental engineering
(951) 827-2525
Professor Norbeck studies air pollution control technology, alternative fuels for transportation, and environmental and emissions modeling. He developed an emissions research laboratory on wheels that can measure emissions from heavy duty diesel engines.

Ecology, natural resources

Mark A. Chappell
, professor of biology
(951) 827-7709
Professor Chappell studies animal physiological ecology, with emphasis on adaptations to extreme environmental conditions, particularly in desert, polar, and mountain habitats; energetics and behavior of free-living animals; evolutionary physiology, including aerobic traits; and behavioral ecology, especially of reproductive effort and signal costs. Recent projects have been on the evolutionary physiology and physiological plasticity in altitude adaptation in deer mice; the evolutionary physiology of aerobic performance in Trinidadian guppies; the energy costs and signal honesty in avian vocal signals, such as courtship calling and begging by chicks; the effects of aerobic performance on mate choice and social behavior in red jungle fowl; and the functional analyses of individual variation of aerobic performance in birds.

Norm Ellstrand, professor of genetics
(951) 827-4194
Professor Ellstrand’s research program involves the evolution of invasive and weedy plants, plants that create problems for the sustainabililty of natural systems (invasives) and the sustainability of agroecosystems (weeds). He is researching the consequences of gene flow from domesticated plants to their wild relatives, including the escape of engineered genes.

Exequiel Ezcurra, professor of plant ecology and director of the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States
(951) 827-3546
A plant ecologist with expertise in coastal, desert and inland flora, Ezcurra can talk not only about plant ecology, and plant and crop diversity but also the broader issues of plant, water and land conservation in Latin America, Mexico and the United States. He has first-hand experience with helping create protected areas and UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Gulf of California and Sea of Cortes; portions of the Sonoran Deserts reaching from Baja California to Oregon and several island habitats. He has worked in academic and governmental arenas directing research and molding policy.

Mark S. Hoddle, director of the Center for Invasive Species Research
(951) 827-4714
Professor Hoddle can talk about invasive species – plants and animals – as well as diseases that establish damaging populations in areas in which they are not native. His research helps combat these invasive species so that their impact on native species and the ecosystems in which they have invaded is less damaging.

John Rotenberry, chair of the Department of Biology
(951) 827-3953
Professor Rotenberry’s lab studies community ecology and conservation biology. He can comment on the impacts of urbanization on surrounding wildlands. His research involves modeling the implications of climate change and other environmental modifications on the distribution of species.

Louis Santiago, assistant professor of physiological ecology
(951) 827-4951
Professor Santiago studies how soil nutrients temper the response of tropical forest to climate change. His lab is also researching the consequences of drought for water cycling by chaparral and desert plants.

Thomas Scott, natural resource specialist, the Center for Conservation Biology
(951) 827-5115
Professor Scott does research on the response of animals, plants, and wildland ecosystems to human actions, and is available to speak to the media on this issue. His academic specialties include wildlife conservation in fragmented and altered landscapes, including studies of wildlife movement, habitat use, and population biology in oak woodland, sage scrub, and riparian habitats. He also studies the behavioral changes and adjustments in habitat use of woodland bird species in response to human activities, and the conservation and management of island bird species through captive propagation, predator control, and habitat restoration.

Environmental economics

Linda Fernandez
, associate professor of economics and environmental sciences
(951) 827-2955
Professor Fernandez studies the economic and environmental impacts of energy sources. Specifically, she has studied gasoline additives, such as ethanol and MTBE, biological contamination in the ocean, pollution in wetlands, the economics of the tuna industry, and other issues. Her research has explored public and private economic incentives for pollution control and natural resource protection on international and local scales. Environmental protection along international borders is one focus of Fernandez’ research where she develops and empirically tests game theory models to study the potential for the United States and Mexico to solve border water and air pollution problems.

Mason Gaffney, professor of economics
(951) 827-1574
Professor Gaffney is available to discuss economic impacts and regulatory policies related to climate change. “Green” taxes raise revenue and curb pollution in one stroke, as opposed to the common notion that government must put out money to compensate for not polluting. Such “green” taxes tend, on balance, to create jobs.

Public policy

Carl Cranor
, professor of philosophy
(951) 827-2353
Professor Cranor is prepared to talk about the need for federal and state agencies to regulate toxic exposure to humans. The current harm-based or risk-of-harm-based legal structure for regulating exposure to toxic substances is problematic. Because most substances are subject to postmarket regulation, the existing legal structure results in involuntary experiments on citizens. The bodies of the citizenry are invaded and trespassed on by commercial substances, arguably a moral wrong.

Anil Deolalikar, professor of economics and associate dean, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
(951) 827-2443
Most people normally think of sustainability in terms of natural resources, climate change and habitat preservation, but the future sustainability of the world depends on several other factors as well, Professor Deolalikar says. “For instance, the world's population is expected to increase from around 6.5 billion today to 9 billion in 2050. This will have major implications for the environment, energy and nonrenewable natural resources. Also, a world in which you have widespread poverty, hunger, disease, and inter- and intra-national conflict is not a secure and sustainable world. We need to consider what steps can we take to make the world more peaceful, secure and sustainable.”

Moral choices

David Glidden
, professor of philosophy
(951) 827-5208
Professor Glidden is available to talk about the moral difficulties of self interest vs. community interest. As long as the living care more about their present well-being than about the well-being of future generations or other animate and inanimate beings, then we are doomed to destroy this wonderful world. Philosophers write a lot about saving for future generations, but it is exceedingly difficult to put that principle into practice. When it comes to rising CO2 levels, rising oceans, global warming, water shortages, we human beings might not be up to meeting the challenge. Indeed, there is no reason to think we will.

Sustainable campus

Gustavo Plascencia
, senior manager, Dining Services
Gustavo Plascencia can talk about UC Riverside Dining Services’ sustainability initiatives, which include sustainable foods, organic produce from local distributors, and new food-waste recycling efforts. “Dining Services is joining the Real Food Challenge. By the year 2020, at least 20 percent of our food budget will be used to purchase food that is local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane. Real food is food that is environmentally sustainable, grown without chemical pesticides, large-scale mono-cropping, or huge carbon footprints.” UCR also has eliminated cafeteria-style trays to cut down on the amount of food taken (and thrown away); and Dining Services now uses compostable trash bags.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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