Land Availability and Land Use Change for Biofuels

The potential expansion of first- and second-generation bioenergy crops in the United States will require land currently used for a variety of food and forage crops or conservation programs.  I am working with staff the University of Illinois-Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory to discover the types of land use likely to be displaced by bioenergy crops and the implications that may have for the carbon footprint of biofuels.

Comparative LCA of Urban Lettuce

In collaboration with faculty at the University of Washington, I am using life cycle assessment to compare energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from lettuce produced in an urban farm in Seattle and lettuce brought to the city from California.

Heroes in Green

Role: Volunteer scientist

Heroes in Green is an online game, under development, which rewards players who ‘go green’ in real life.  Individuals are encouraged to take simple, cost-effective measures to reduce their energy and water usage.

Previous Projects

GREET Model Update

Diagram of biomass and fossil carbon flows during switchgrass ethanol production.  Illustration by Jennifer Purnell.

Diagram of biomass (blue) and fossil (black) carbon flows during switchgrass ethanol production. Switchgrass takes up atmospheric carbon, and can be harvested wet (upper pathways) or dry (lower pathways) before storage, transportation, and processing en route to the biorefinery. Illustration by Jennifer Purnell.

In 2012, I was invited to work with the Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model team at Argonne National Laboratory.  We developed and integrated parameters for cellulosic biomass collection, storage, and transportation which were included in the September 2013 model release (GREET1_2013).  Integrating these parameters into the model substantially alters estimates of net greenhouse gas emission from production of cellulosic biofuels.  A summary of the results were presented at the 2013 Annual International Meeting of the ASABE.

Based on this project,  I worked with science illustrator Jennifer Purnell ( create a graphic display of our findings (shown above).

Sustainable Energy and Construction Practices in Brazil

In May of 2012 I was both a student and TA for an intensive 10-day Study Abroad course at 13 sites in Brazil.  Working with 2 faculty and 25 undergraduate students, I managed daily updates to a Google+ page based on our site visits and drafted a report on current state and potential for sustainable energy and minerals development in Brazil.

ESE Symposium & Keystone Series

During my graduate work, I contributed to the expansion and founding of two annual events to  share current scientific information with graduate students and the public. As Speaker Committee Chair of the Ecological Sciences and Engineering Symposium, I coordinated with classmates to expand the annual student-organized event, doubling attendance and featuring nine speakers, including keynote presenters from the US EPA and Duke Energy. Survey results show participants thought it a great success.

In 2012 and 2013, I worked with Elizabeth Trybula and several other classmates to found the annual Keystone Series, a series of events designed to bring students, faculty, and the public together to learn about and discuss pressing interdisciplinary scientific issues. To date, the series have featured expert presentations on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the boom in hydraulic fracturing for  natural gas extraction.

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