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Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

October 12, 2016

Environmental Resiliency

There is no question that our environment and its resources impact human health and well-being. The exact extent of the impact, however, is not always clear. From energy production to pollution, from natural disasters to overfishing, the Population Health Initiative encourages connections across disciplines to seek a better understanding of environmental sustainability.

Connecting to nature is key for healthy urban living | Psychology and Environmental and Forest Services

UW researcher Peter Kahn says that city dwellers are unaware of how their minimal connection to nature is putting our health and the survival of wildlife and wild areas at great risk. Kahn coauthored a new book exploring how “environmental generational amnesia” is partly due to multiple generations shifting away from meaningful interactions with the great outdoors. But nature can be incorporated within cities, the authors say. “Cities designed well, with nature in mind and at hand, can be understood as natural, supportive of both ecosystem integrity and public health.”

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A groundbreaking concept for a fusion reactor could reduce our carbon footprint and change the energy game | Aeronautics and Astronautics

fusion reactor square tileThe cost of producing fusion power has traditionally not penciled out in comparison to current energy sources, placing this zero-emission power source out of reach for wide-scale development. UW researchers believe they have now designed a concept for fusion power built on existing technology that will render that traditional cost structure obsolete. With a successful prototype in hand, they are now turning to further development and expansion of the device to create the needed power output to be a viable replacement for the fossil fuels that endanger our planet’s health.

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UW develops earthquake early warning tools | Earth and Space Science

As populations continue to grow on the West Coast, earthquakes remain a top threat. At the White House Earthquake Resilience Summit in February 2016, the UW received new funding for early warning systems. The UW-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is helping develop ShakeAlert, an alert system that could save lives by triggering automated and human actions just before an earthquake hits. And in a partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, UW researchers will examine how a network of sensors on the ocean floor can provide early warnings from the volatile Cascadia subduction zone.

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Restoring oysters in Puget Sound | Center for Urban Waters, UW Tacoma

oysters in puget sound tileWhen overfishing, polluted waters and shoreline changes led to the extinction of the Olympia oyster from Puget Sound, it changed the nature of our local ecosystem. UW Tacoma associate professor Bonnie Becker is leading undergraduate researchers in a collaborative effort to reintroduce the native oyster to its original environment. Her teams monitor microscopic larvae to identify sites where Olympia oysters can naturally seed the area and be self-sustaining. Reintroducing native oysters can improve the habitat for other plants and animals, including salmon prey, and help restore the natural balance of the sound for the health of our region.

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Clean, efficient cookstove can reduce pollution, illness, and early death | Mechanical Engineering

Smoke from open indoor cooking fires and cookstoves in developing countries is believed to cause millions of illnesses and premature deaths each year. Long journeys to gather all that fuel often expose adults and children to further dangers. To overcome these challenges, UW engineers partnered with the nonprofit BURN Design Lab to develop a much cleaner-
burning and more efficient cookstove, known as the Kuniokoa. This innovative stove will be manufactured by local workers in Nairobi, Kenya, and its designers believe the Kuniokoa will successfully reduce harmful particulate pollution by as much as 67 percent.

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Air pollution accelerates plaque build-up in arteries to heart | School of Public Health

Air pollution monitors like this tracked pollutants in more than 1,500 locations across six metro areas between 2005 and 2009. Then, researchers developed computational models to generate accurate pollution concentrations affecting people’s health.

Air pollution monitors like this tracked pollutants in more than 1,500 locations across six metro areas between 2005 and 2009. Then researchers developed computational models to generate accurate pollution concentrations affecting people’s health.

Researchers have long understood that lengthy exposure to air pollution is directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Thanks to the result of a 10-year study led by Professor Joel Kaufman, we now have a greater understanding of the biological responses to pollution that lead to heart disease, and that air pollution at levels — even below regulatory standards — can accelerate the hardening of human arteries. The study’s results are being used to push for new action in controlling pollution levels worldwide.

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Emiko Tajima
“I hope that the Population Health Initiative encourages and supports collaboration across disciplines and across sectors towards this common goal and further, that having a deliberate and sustained focus on population health will amplify our impact.”

Emiko A. Tajima
Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
School of Social Work

David Reyes
“Through this initiative, I hope that we educate all our students to understand, integrate and apply population health principles and knowledge in their personal and professional lives regardless of whether they choose a career in this field.”

David Reyes
Assistant Professor
Nursing & Healthcare Leadership Program
UW Tacoma

Hedwig Lee
“Through this initiative I hope that faculty, researchers, and students across units can work together to harness our world-class research and teaching and commitment to community service to improve the health of populations in the United States and across the world.”

Hedwig Lee
Associate Professor
Sociology