News That Goes Against the Original Paradigm

Check out what NAU has found out!



Research published inScience found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.

Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

“Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”

In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study’s authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra COin the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.

“We’ve long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought,” said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. “We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change.”

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NAU News Will Make Your Jaw Drop!

Check out this article about what the students are doing on NAU’s campus! So proud to be a Lumberjack!



In a flurry of deadline-driven design, analysis, data collection and testing, two teams of engineering and business students from vastly different perspectives converged on a straightforward idea: If you can build this, we can sell it.

What the five mechanical engineering seniors have built is an ultra-low cost water heating system—a product that five MBA students are convinced “could hit the market and work.” They will present their findings as Northern Arizona University’s entry in the P3 National Sustainable Design Expoand competition this weekend in Washington, D.C. The event is being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and hosted by the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The opportunity arose after a $15,000 People, Prosperity and the Planet grant was awarded last year to Brent Nelson, NAU assistant professor of mechanical engineering. His proposal for a solar water heater became a student project, and now NAU is joining teams from across the country to vie for a grant of up to $90,000 to take their completed design to the world.

One of the engineers, Austin Chott, said he and his capstone team members—Christopher Allen Heine,Thomas GriffinMatt Beckham and Saleh Alsadiq—spent the fall “designing, analyzing and predicting” before building and testing in early 2014. They had a working model the first week of March.

“It went pretty well, almost exactly as we had predicted during our theoretical analysis,” Chott said. “We’re impressed with the performance in a residential setting.“

Chott said the engineering team used previously designed concepts for the solar collectors, but they were “built from the ground up” using less-expensive parts.

That focus on cost savings proved to be the initial obstacle for Jesse Ocana and his MBA teammates—Shuo LiKaila CacalDevin Woodruff and Joe Caton—who worked under the guidance of Kathy Savage, professor in the W.A. Franke College of Business, to resolve cost effectiveness with marketability.

“You could see a dichotomy right away between the way the engineers saw it and the way we saw it,” Ocana said. “So we thought, ‘Where do we drive value for the customer while still making an attractive proposition for them?’ ”

While the engineers focused on the physics of heat transfer, the business students turned to target costing, conducted surveys of potential customers and plugged data into various business models.

“The way we went through it is the way you do any startup,” Ocana said. “If you skip any of the steps we went through, you’re going to fail.”

The result is a system targeted for do-it-yourself homeowners who have the time and motivation to save on their water heating costs. The system preheats 50-60 gallons of water so that a home’s gas or electric water heater has far less work to do, potentially resulting in hundreds of dollars in cost savings.

While judges at the competition will draw their own conclusions, the students already know they have come away with valuable experience in their respective fields and some insights about working across disciplines.

As Chott put it, “The biggest challenge was for the two teams to work out a communication system. It was a matter of meeting their needs while meeting ours, so we learned we couldn’t just give them an engineering answer.”

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NAU and Partners Bond With the Wind

A collaboration focused on harnessing wind energy will launch in May, with support from Northern Arizona University, Utah Clean Energy and Interwest Energy Alliance.

The Four Corners Wind Energy Regional Resource Center, one of six recently established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is designed to increase wind literacy and provide support to regional policymakers engaged in decisions about the future of wind energy in the West.

NAU’s Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions will play a key role in outreach, education, consultation and delivery of research.

NAU’s role in the project will focus on initiatives with Arizona’s state, county and tribal decision-makers targeting areas that have the most promise for wind energy development.

“This resource center supports our university effort to be a solid, reliable partner in our community and the state,” said Karin Wadsack, project director for the Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions. “It will allow the wind research and outreach initiatives at NAU to make a greater contribution to wind development in the Southwest.”

Wind energy development in the Western United States has steadily increased over the past 10 years and provides numerous economic benefits to local communities, Wadsack said. The wind resource centers will better connect NAU with partners in the wind industry and national laboratories to identify gaps in knowledge and collaborate on research.

Dominique Bain, doctoral candidate in earth sciences and environmental sustainability, will focus her dissertation on performing production cost modeling of electricity systems across the West to identify the best grid integration practices that can decrease the cost of using renewables like wind.

“Being a part of this center will allow the work we’re doing to have an even greater impact,” Bain said. “Grid integration is an area of research that has huge implications that we just don’t think about.”

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Volunteer for Flagstaff Earth Day 2014

Flagstaff Earth Day is Saturday, April 19th, 2014! The success of this year’s earth day event can’t be done without the dedication of volunteers. Set-up and tear-down volunteers are needed as well as face painters. The shift times are as follows:

Face Painters: 11:30am-1:30pm & 1:30pm-3:30pm
Set-up: 8:30am-10:30am
Tear-down: 4:00pm-5:00pm

If you are interested in volunteering for a shift, please contact Marty Jacobson, All volunteers will receive a 2 for 1 Chipotle coupon.


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Taking Earth’s Temperature!

A compelling new film about climate change, produced by NAU’s IDEA Lab, will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in Cline Library Assembly Hall.

The screening of Taking Earth’s Temperature: Delving into Climate’s Past is free and open to the public.

Filmmakers Dan BooneRyan Belnap and Peter Friedericias well as NAU researchers featured in the film—Scott AndersonDavid Fortin,Debra HuntzingerDarrell Kaufman and Nicholas McKay—will be on hand to answer questions from the audience.

The one-hour documentary, with footage from both the field and laboratories in the United States and Europe, showcases scientific discoveries about climate change. Because the Earth’s climate fluctuates over vast time spans, the scientists are looking for a long-term view that transcends daily experiences.

“By looking to the past, we can put the present in perspective and think more clearly about the future,” said Kaufman, an NAU Regents professor.

Taking Earth’s Temperature follows Kaufman and his research team as they travel to a remote Arctic lake to gather samples of lake-bottom mud that hold records of past climate changes. It also shows how scientists from around the world have collaborated to paint a new and detailed picture of the last two millennia of the Earth’s temperature history.

By comparing records from different parts of the world, scientists have been able to come to a much more intricate understanding of why those patterns change, to recognize variations that are not natural, and to test and improve predictive climate models. If those models can accurately explain past changes, then they may also provide today’s best possible look at what will happen to Earth’s climate in the future.

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Campus Sustainability Awards 2014

Where? NAU Liberal Arts (Bldg. 18) Rm: 120

When? April 22nd from 3:30-5 PM

Purpose? The purpose of the campus sustainability awards is to recognize those who have enhanced the culture of sustainability on the NAU campus and surrounding community. A sustainability award nominee should undertake significant actions resulting in positive impacts to the sustainability our local community. Participation is open to any member of the local community.

Nomination categories:

  • NAU Student – Hooper Sustainability Cash Prize (up to $2500)
  • NAU Organization
  • NAU Faculty/Staff
  • Leadership Award
  • Flagstaff Community Person or Organization

Application deadline: April 1st
Letters of nomination should be submitted to environmentalcaucus@nau.eduand include a statement describing the nominee’s role and activities, and the impact of their activities on the sustainability of our community.

Good Luck and nominate someone as soon as possible! April 1st is right around the corner!!

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BWFS Continues and Earth Week is around the corner!

Now that we have had a break and had some time to relax, we are back in action! Better World Film Series continues tomorrow and kicks off again with the film, Bidder 70; same place, same time! (W.A. Franke College of Business bldg 81, 7-9 PM). Come check it out! These are incredibly informative films that allow you to better understand the state of our planet.

Keep checking Green NAU’S calendar ( for all the updates and information about Earth Week! Earth Hour is coming up as well (Look here –> Check out Green NAU’s FB page to stay up to date (

Have a good first week back from break and we hope to see you tomorrow night at Bidder 70!

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Did you miss Joel Makower?

If you missed the awesome presentation done by Joel Makower on February 17th, check out this compilation that was put together by the College of Business!

A big thank you to the College of Business and a huge thank you to Joel Makower for coming out and providing such eye opening information from the business and corporation perspective.

If you were able to make this presentation or you thought this presentation was amazing based on the compilation above, check out Green NAU’s calendar for upcoming events! ….There is always something going on so don’t be shy!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!” -Dr. Seuss


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Exciting announcements from the Green Fund!

Green-fundWith the month of April looming, The Green Fund has been very busy the last couple of months with proposals, proposals, and more proposals. And guess what? The fun for this semester isn’t over yet! The Green Fund has two announcements for the rest of the spring semester:

  • We are currently accepting applications for those interested in being a Green Fund Committee Member for the 2014-2015 academic year.
  • We are now accepting project/addendum applications for the month of April.

So, being on the Green Fund Committee is awesome. Totally Awesome. The students who sit on this committee have the power to allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars to sustainability projects on campus. Green Fund Committee Members are the gatekeepers of student money and it is our responsibility to use it wisely. Besides being able to include buzzwords like project management and financial coordination on your resume, you get paid. Committee members get paid $10.00 per hour plus a $500.00 stipend every semester. Committee members work about 5-7 hours per week. To apply to be a Green Fund committee member, visit the Get Involved page to download the application.

Our other announcement is that based on public demand, the committee has decided to take proposals for the month of April. Project applications will be due Wednesday April 2nd. Here is our schedule for the rest of the semester:

  • March 28th – Green Fund Meeting/Project Application Defense (3pm, ARD Small Pod)
  • March 31st – Committee Member Applications Due!
  • April 2nd – 3rd Round Green Fund Proposal Applications Due by 5pm.
  • April 11th – Green Fund Meeting/Project Application Defense (3pm, ARD Small Pod)
  • April 18th – Green Fund Meeting/Project Application Voting (3pm, ARD Small Pod)
  • April 25th – Undergraduate Symposium
  • May 2nd – Last Green Fund Meeting of the semester

The Green Fund typically holds special proposal workshops for project applications. However, due to spring break, there will be a change. Instead, if you are interested in submitting a Green Fund proposal for the month of April, please send an email to for the information you will need. Here is the Green Fund website for more info:


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NAU News: Action and Attitude!

Check out the recent news! NAU continues to strive for that carbon neutrality goal and each day comes with steps in the right direction! NAU’s progression is amazing and every little thing we do as a student body can help! If you want to get involved and be part of the sustainable movement, come check out NAU Green Jacks! Meetings are every Friday at 2 PM in the HLC (Green Scene Cafe). Come by and share your ideas on how to create a sustainable campus and keep stories like these coming!

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