Monday, February 10, 2014

Creating an atmosphere for change

"It's really not possible to understand climate change from the standpoint of one discipline," says Eri Saikawa.

By Carol Clark

Most of the faculty in Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences look forward to getting into the field, whether it’s to track wild primates through an African rainforest, chase after bumblebees in a Rocky Mountain meadow or just splash through metro-Atlanta streams to monitor mosquitoes and their larvae.

Eri Saikawa, however, loves nothing better than being indoors, battling computer-programming bugs as she wades into murky problems involving mathematics, atmospheric chemistry, and global environmental policy.

“I was never an outdoor person,” says Saikawa, assistant professor of environmental sciences. She smiles at the irony as she sits before her computer, wrapped in a comfy throw to ward off the fall chill seeping through the windows of her fifth-floor office. Using a numerical model, she is able to analyze the link between current emissions, air quality, and the climate to understand the impact of economic activities on the environment in different parts of the world.

Saikawa is an eclectic mix of interests, experience, and knowledge. Her research into public policy and the science of emissions linked to air pollution, ozone depletion, and global warming forms a patchwork quilt of expertise that covers many of the major environmental issues facing the world today.

Since she arrived at Emory last year, Saikawa and her colleagues have identified more than two dozen faculty and staff, from anthropology to sociology, from business to public health, whose work involves climate change. “We’re hoping to knit this network of faculty together into a team at Emory,” Saikawa says. She would eventually like to see this network expand to include researchers at Georgia Tech and other nearby institutions.

“It’s really not possible to understand climate change from the standpoint of one discipline,” she says. “Our energy system is changing. Our air is changing. Our supplies of water and energy are changing. The way we use land is changing. Ecosystems are changing. It’s not just climate change. It’s really global environmental change, and change in one system affects another, and so on. We need to find ways to show how it is all connected.”

Read the whole article in Emory Magazine.

The growing role of farming and nitrous oxide in climate change
Putting people into the climate change picture

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