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2020
Tuesday, January 28th
12:00 AM

Using Low-Cost Renewable Energy for Waste Valorization

Zhiyong Jason Ren, Princeton University

With renewable electricity costing 2 cents per kwh to even negative in some places during some periods, how to use cheap renewable energy to maximize waste valorization can become an interesting direction. In this talk, I will discuss some recent progress in identifying the synergy between microbial electrochemistry and photoelectrochemistry that led to the development of new materials and systems for spontaneous high rate H2 production from wastewater and sunlight. I will also report some development on functional hydrophobic gas transfer membrane electrodes that enabled specific resource recoveries from wastewater and CO2. While we have been focusing on energy-neutral wastewater treatment, I argue maybe we can start to think broadly on carbon-negative and dollar-positive wastewater treatment beyond energy production.

12:00 AM

Tuesday, February 4th
4:00 PM

Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Hazards: Changing Sea-levels and Tropical Cyclone Characteristics

Andra Garner, Rowan University

As our climate continues to warm, the dangers posed to our coastal communities become ever greater. Our coasts face growing hazards not only from rising sea-levels, but also from tropical cyclones that continue to evolve as our climate changes. Much uncertainty remains about the exact amount of sea-level rise we may see in the future, as well as precisely how storms may change in future climates; however, one thing that is abundantly clear is that, without significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, our coastal communities face potentially devastating impacts in the future. In this talk, Dr. Garner will share some of her research investigating the evolution of sea-level rise estimates, the impacts of a changing climate on tropical cyclones impacting the Northeastern U.S., and how the combined effects of sea-level rise and tropical cyclones impact the flood hazard for New York City.

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, February 25th
4:00 PM

An Overview of Climate & Sea-level Changes Over the Past 100 Million Years

Kenneth Miller, Rutgers University

Sea-level history reflects the thermal and cryospheric evolution of the Earth, providing a history of ice- sheet behavior and operation of the climate systems under ice-free and glaciated conditions. I compare ice-volume and sea-level estimates obtained from deep Pacific δ18O and Mg/Ca records with those from the mid-Atlantic U.S. obtained by “backstripping”, progressively accounting for the effects of compaction, loading, and thermal subsidence. Peak warmth, sea levels, high CO2 (>1000 ppm), and mostly ice-free condition occurred in the Hothouse Late Cretaceous (ca. 100-66 Ma) and Early Eocene (55-47.9 Ma). During the cool greenhouse (Paleocene, Middle-Late Eocene) sea level was driven by ice growth and decay of small ice sheets. The Earth became a unipolar Icehouse world in the Oligocene-Pliocene (35-2.55 Ma) punctuated by the ice-free Miocene Climate Optimum (~17-15 Ma) and warmth of the Pliocene Climate Optimum, with partial loss of the East Antarctic ice sheet. Very large sea-level changes (60-130 m) were restricted to the past 2.7 Myr northern hemisphere “ice ages”. Following the last glacial sea-level lowering (~130 m), rates of sea-level exceeded 50 mm/yr, slowing to a Common Era “stillstand”, 20th century rise of 1-2 mm/yr, and a modern rise of 3 mm/yr. Projected sea-level rise in the 21st century is ~1 m under high emissions scenarios, with possible upper limit of over 2 m and rates exceeding 10 mm/yr.

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, March 3rd
4:00 PM

Bacterial Solutions to Challenging Problems: New Approaches to Bioenergy, Bioremediation, and Biomanufacturing

Ellen Neidle, University of Georgia

Microbes play a critical role in Nature due to their ability to produce and degrade a vast array of diverse chemicals. This powerful metabolic versatility holds great promise for biotechnology. To harness such potential requires multidisciplinary scientific knowledge and application. This seminar will describe a novel approach to adaptive laboratory evolution in which a soil bacterium can be engineered to broaden its natural catabolic activities. The method, Evolution by Amplification and Synthetic Biology (EASy), exploits the unique genetic system of a non-pathogenic soil bacterium, Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1. The long-term goal of the research is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by using renewable biomass as a feedstock and generating bacteria that can convert this material to valuable chemicals for use in biomanufacturing. Currently, the bioprocessing of lignocellulosic material focuses on converting cellulose to biofuels, while leaving lignin as a vastly underutilized resource. To make such biofuel production economically feasible, the EASy method is being used to facilitate the bacterial conversion of lignin to valuable compounds. Additional experimental efforts are developing bacteria that can degrade plastic waste.

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, March 31st
4:00 PM

The role of island-marsh couplings in the long-term sustainability barrier islands in the face of accelerated sea-level rise

Christopher Hein, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Barrier islands are one of the most ubiquitous features of the coast . . . at least here along the US East Coast, which accounts for >10% of the world’s barrier islands. Little more than large, partially vegetated, subaerial sand bars, barrier island provide for recreation, ecosystem services, and protection of mainland communities from storm impacts. They are also some of the most dynamic features on earth, constantly changing in the face of waves, tides, wind, and currents. With examples from northern Massachusetts and the Virginia Eastern Shore, this talk will focus on the long-term sustainability of barrier islands, and how they interact with their backbarrier lagoons and marshes as they are reshaped and forced landward by these coastal forces in response to accelerated sea-level rise.

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, April 7th
4:00 PM

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation: Fighting To Improve New Jersey’s Largest Lake

Marty Kane, Lake Hopatcong Foundation

Learn about the rationale and background to establish a non-profit organization to improve the Lake Hopatcong region through programs and initiatives centered on the environment, education, community and historical preservation, recreation, arts, and culture. How does an organization such as this work with Republican legislators in a Democratic state? What is the organization doing to confront and battle an algal bloom crises that nearly closed the lake and other bodies of water in the northeast? How do you gain consensus on a recreational body of water with 2,200 lakefront homeowners that feeds one of the state’s great watersheds? Learn of New Jersey’s great hidden resources and the battle to preserve and improve it for future generations.

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM

Tuesday, April 14th
4:00 PM

Reconstructing deep-ocean circulation during Cenozoic climate transitions from the marine sediment record

Brian Romans, Virginia Tech

Ocean circulation plays a critical role in the Earth’s climate system through the storage and transfer of heat and carbon dioxide. The North Atlantic and Southern Ocean are of particular interest because these are regions where deep-water components of global circulation develop. Dr. Romans uses the deep-sea sedimentary record to reconstruct past ocean circulation and its relationship to past climatic and tectonic conditions. He integrates information from a broad range of spatial and temporal scales, from seismic-reflection data that reveals regional sedimentation patterns to high resolution records based on quantitative grain-size analysis from cores. Dr. Romans will present research from the North Atlantic Ocean (Expedition 342, Newfoundland Drifts) that shows how vast deep-sea “drift” deposits relate to the onset of and changes in ocean circulation in the Eocene through Miocene. In addition to his work on the North Atlantic, Dr. Romans will also present preliminary findings from new drilling (January-February 2018) in the Ross Sea (Expedition 374, West Antarctic Ice Sheet History), which aims to study interactions of Southern Ocean circulation and Antarctic ice sheet dynamics during significant climate events of the Miocene and Pliocene.

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM

Tuesday, April 21st
4:00 PM

Energy Policy: Creating Connected Communities and a Clean Energy Future

Marisa Slaten, Pepco Holdings

Marisa Slaten is the Director of Regulatory Strategy and Services for Pepco Holdings (PHI), an Exelon company. Marisa is responsible for leading the regulatory activity and stakeholder engagement for Delmarva Power & Light in Delaware and Atlantic City Electric Co. in New Jersey. In this role Marisa manages regulatory and compliance filings, testifies as a policy witness, and regularly meets with government officials and industry leaders to discuss energy policies and priority initiatives. Prior to joining PHI, Marisa was the Director of the Division of Clean Energy at the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and practiced as an attorney for over ten years.

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM