News Archive:

Alumna Laura Schewel Talks Transportation Analytics in ITS International

The January/February 2019 edition of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) International features an interview with ERG alumna Laura Schewel (MS ’11). Schewel is the CEO of Streetlight Data, a transportation analytics company she founded while at ERG. Streetlight Data uses anonymous cellular and GPS navigation data to study transportation patterns and develops analytical software to be used by municipal and regional planning authorities, as well as private companies and firms.

Schewel discusses how Streetlight Data fits into the planning process, emphasizing the need to educate decision-makers and ensure solutions are not only well-informed and comprehensive, but politically realistic. The company recently incorporated pedestrian and cyclist analytics into their flagship Streetlight Insight platform. On this new addition, Schewel comments, “My hope is that by being able to measure bikes and pedestrians, we can manage towards a future where these modes of travel are more prevalent.”

The full ITS International article can be read here.

ERG Alum Patrick Gonzalez Testifies Before Congress as Expert Witness

During a recent House Natural Resources Committee event titled “Climate Change and Public Lands: Examining Impacts and Considering Adaptation Opportunities,” ERG alumnus Patrick Gonzalez (PhD ’97) provided testimony as an expert witness on climate change.

As an associate adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and principal climate change scientist with the US National Park Service, Gonzalez researches the effects of anthropogenic climate change and develops natural resource management policies that incorporate findings from climate change science. He has also been a leading author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which one the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Gonzalez’s testimony focuses on the heightened susceptibility of the National Parks to climate change impacts, management solutions that can be used to mitigate these effects, and the broader-scale steps that must be taken in order to limit further exacerbation of climate change.

The full hearing may be viewed on the House Natural Resources Committee Democrats’ YouTube page and Gonzalez’s written testimony is available on the committee’s website. Coverage from the College of Natural Resources may be found here.

Isha Ray Comments on Issues Facing Clean Water Technology Implementation

In a recent article from Knowable Magazine, ERG faculty Isha Ray provides input on why many water filtering and purification technologies fail to produce significant impacts on community health in developing areas, despite extensive laboratory testing.

“One thing we know from the social sciences is people are not all the time driven only and exclusively by health considerations,” Ray states. She notes that the added task of treating water may be an additional load placed on individuals that already struggle to perform other intensive daily chores.

The original article can be found here, as well as a review on the subject co-authored by Ray in 2015.

Governor Newsom Appoints ERG Alum Carla Peterman to New Wildfire Recovery Commission

Governor Gavin Newsom’s office has released three appointments to the new Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery, which includes ERG alumna Carla Peterman (PhD ’17). Peterman served as a commissioner on the California Public Utilities Commission from 2013 to 2018.

She will be joined on the five-person commission by former California Insurance Commissioner David Jones, attorneys Michael A. Kahn and Pedro Nava, and director of Stanford University’s Climate and Energy Policy Program Michael Wara. The committee is tasked with preparing a report that assesses the impacts of catastrophic wildfires on California and recommends policy that ensures recovery costs are distributed in an equitable manner.

The official announcement may be read here, as well as subsequent articles from the San Francisco Chronicle and local news station KRON 4.

ERG student Hausfather in Science: Oceans are warming even faster than previously thought

Heat trapped by greenhouse gases is raising ocean temperatures faster than previously thought, concludes an analysis of four recent ocean-heating observations. The results provide further evidence that earlier claims of a slowdown or “hiatus” in global warming over the past 15 years were unfounded.

“If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper. “Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought.”

Ocean heating is critical marker of climate change because an estimated 93 percent of the excess solar energy trapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the world’s oceans. And, unlike surface temperatures, ocean temperatures are not affected by year-to-year variations caused by climate events like El Nino or volcanic eruptions.

The new analysis, to be published tomorrow (Jan. 11) in Science, shows that trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models, and that overall ocean warming is accelerating.

For more on this, see the study in Science and the press release at Berkeley News.

Stories on this topic have appeared in more than 150 sources around the world, including, The New York TimesThe GuardianNewsweekEcoWatchForbesLondon Economic, and Agence France Presse (AFP)

Study finds racial inequality in the deployment of rooftop solar

A new study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Tufts University shows fewer rooftop solar photovoltaics installations exist in African-American and Hispanic-dominant neighborhoods than in white-dominant neighborhoods, even when controlling for household income and home ownership. It was published in Nature Sustainability.

The study was conducted by Deborah Sunter (former postdoctoral scholar in Dan Kammen’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab–RAEL, now at Tufts University), Sergio Castellanos of RAEL, and Dan Kammen, professor and chair of the Energy and Resources Group, professor in the Goldman School of Policy, and professor of Nuclear Engineering at UC Berkeley. .

Read the the full article on Nature Sustainability.
More reporting on the study: UC Berkeley News, Tufts University, Pacific Standard

ERG’s Lara Kueppers on Climate Change and CA Wildfires

ERG Professor Lara Kueppers recently commented in Bustle on the relationship between climate change and the California wildfires. 

“‘Due to climate change, she explains, ‘warm temperatures extend over a larger portion of the year.’ This, in turn, causes vegetation to dry out more quickly and for sometimes longer periods of time. ‘That essentially lengthens the fire season,’ she adds. ‘And the moisture in that vegetation has a lot to do with whether that fire will spread.'”

Read the full article here.

NPR Interviews Dan Kammen On U.N. Climate Convention

NPR’s Michel Martin interviewed ERG Professor Dan Kammen on the U.N. climate talks December, 2018 in Poland.

“Unfortunately, because the U.S. backed out, that’s left a number of holes. Essentially, the Paris conference was such a success because countries have been ramping up clean energy and becoming less expensive. But the U.S. and China, the two big holdouts, took major leadership positions in 2014, with President Obama and President Xi committing to very strong clean-energy strategies. And, of course, President Trump has now stepped out of that. And that’s left a big financing void of at least 20 billion a year against the committed or pledged totals. And we are seeing that only very few countries are actually on target to deliver on what they promised in Paris.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

ERG Student Chris Hyun Highlighted as InFEWS Fellow

InFEWS fellowships are granted to students whose PhD research aims to provide lasting environmental solutions and alleviate poverty in the world’s poorest regions. The Blum Center for Developing Economies recently sat down with four of its current InFEWS fellows to talk about the global challenges they are addressing, including ERG PhD student Chris Hyun:

“I recently completed a research project, working with water valvemen to help improve intermittent water systems and partnering with NextDrop and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board. As I continue with my PhD research, I hope to uncover pro-poor sanitation solutions that have long-term impacts on food, energy, and water systems in urban contexts of low- and middle-income countries.”

Read the full Q&A here.

ERG Graduate Student Advisor Kay Burns Receives Berkeley’s Highest Advising Honor

ERG graduate student advisor Kay Burns (pictured with ERG/CNR Undergraduate Advisor Ryann Madden and ERG Professor Emeritus Dick Norgaard) has been named a 2018 recipient of the the Mary Slakey Howell Excellence in Advising Award. The award is UC Berkeley’s highest advising honor, and it recognizes visionary leadership and exceptional contributions to the advising community. More than that, it recognizes the incredible impact of exceptional advising on the lives of students, on the quality of life and community on campus, and on the institution itself.

At last week’s awards ceremony, Kay was recognized for her amazing work:

How would it be possible to sum up the 35 detailed individual letters from students, faculty, deans and directors that comprised Kay Burns astonishing nomination portfolio? Let us attempt to merely scratch the surface of her impact, contributions and accomplishments.

Let us start with a quote…”Without people like Kay, UC Berkeley would not be the best public university in the country”.

The stuff of greatness is sometimes demonstrated in the simplest of actions.

Kay’s greatest impact is through the patience and care she shows in her everyday interactions. She supports 65 graduate students dealing with academic challenges and personal ones such as mental health issues, physical injuries, homelessness, and deaths in their families, sometimes walking them to the Tang Center and checking with them on weekends, evenings, even on vacations – and even being there to celebrate important triumphs. Kay has also shows resolute commitment to diversity and inclusion, leading efforts to create an academic environment that welcomes and supports all. She helped the department identify creative ways to reach underrepresented students and has been critical to ERG’s success in recruiting, admitting and working with students from diverse backgrounds. She has also raised awareness of challenges facing student parents and identified campus resources for them that neither students nor faculty had been familiar with.

One nominator described Kay has having a magic wand. With a swoosh of the wand you get enrolled in a Haas class, despite Cal Central blocking you. With a swoosh of the wand the $600 balance remaining on your fees because of a clerical anomaly, gets resolved. With a swoosh of the wand, your anxieties about your research and course plan are washed away for a moment as Kay gives you assurance. Kay is not a wizard. She doesn’t actually do magic. But, she does have a wand. Really.

She is known for scavenging for funds for her students (an international student credited her for being the reason he could fund his graduate education) and for creating calm for those in a program with no prescribed curriculum. Students describe her as cheerful, loyal, fierce, kind, positive, knowledgeable, reassuring, insightful, trustworthy, connected, persistent, student-centered, wise, engaged, committed, a champion, professional, transformative, available, responsible, stellar… ….a gift, a fountain…. and as the reason for their success at Berkeley.

Here is perhaps the greatest quote from her portfolio…Kay is an intelligent, analytical, and critical thinker who takes initiative to innovate and improve systems in ERC and UC Berkeley. She has a sense of responsibility and ownership, an attitude of “someone needs to make this better, so it might as well be me.” This is a rare and precious quality.

Please join us in recognizing the phenomenal, unique and irreplaceable Kay Burns.