2020-2021 Academic Year

News and Highlights in November 2020

In Memoriam: Joseph Seneca, University Professor Emeritus and RCI Affiliate Emeritus. RCI mourns the loss of a wonderful scholar, educator, administrator who was also dedicated in his service to New Jersey. Read more about Dr. Seneca

Congratulations to RCI Affiliate Charles J. Weschler, who has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Weschler is an adjunct professor at Rutgers’ Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. According to Rutgers Today, the association cited Weschler for “distinguished contributions to the field of indoor chemistry, particularly for improving our understanding of chemicals present in indoor air, their sources and their fate.”


A new study co-authored by RCI Affiliate Rachael Winfree demonstrates that researchers have taken the first step toward bee conservancy by creating the first modern map of bee species represented globally, writes CNN. Accurate information about the number of bee species and patterns across the globe has been limited until now, and this map will allow researchers to address threats to bee populations such as habitat destruction and climate change.


RCI Affiliate Robert Kopp discusses why the climate has not hit a 'point of no return' in a recent
Mashable article. He notes that climate researchers have not observed permafrost regions reaching a purported "point of no return," and he emphasizes the need to stop producing greenhouse gases immediately. "Every bit we emit causes more damage," said Kopp. "The sooner we stop emitting, the less damage we’ll cause.";

Watch the First Meeting of the Structured Expert Dialogue of the UNFCCC. Thursday November 26th and Friday November 27th. 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM EST. RCI Affiliate Professor Pam McElwee will be one of the US experts who will discuss how recent IPCC reports might inform existing and new pledges under the Paris Agreement.
More information here.

Pam McElwee

Congratulations to RCI affiliates who were named 2020 Excellence Award Winners. Yair Rosenthal (Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences) is a globally recognized leader whose research focuses on exploring and studying the composition and structure of Earth's ocean basins. He received the Research Excellence Award. Richard Lathrop (Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources) and Janice McDonnell (Department of 4-H Youth Development) are members of the Rutgers 4-H STEM Ambassador Team and received the Team Excellence Award.

A Rutgers-led team will study how red algae survive in extreme conditions. This research could benefit environmental cleanups and the production of biofuels and other products. Additionally, this study could also provide opportunities for using red algae stress-resistance genes to engineer commercially important algae and plants that are protected from environmental harm, such as from drought and heavy metal contamination. Read the full interview with lead investigator and RCI Affiliate Debashish Bhattacharya in Rutgers Today.

According to new Rutgers co-authored research, warm, moist rivers of air may have continent-wide effects and influence climate change, reports Rutgers Today. The report examined the Weddell Sea region of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, where sea ice holes, or polynyas, developed in 1973 and 2017. “Polynyas strongly influence the physical and ecological dynamics of the Southern Ocean,” said co-author Kyle Mattingly, a post-doctoral researcher at the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. He also noted that understanding how sea ice holes form and their impact is a crucial step toward understanding climate variability and climate change in these regions.

New Rutgers co-authored research shows that wild-catch marine fisheries will not offset the loss of food grown on land after a nuclear war, reports Rutgers Today. “Nuclear war that causes global climate cooling could lead to far less food from farms on land, and increased fishing would not be a panacea,” said co-author and RCI Affiliate Alan Robock. “We should do everything possible to prevent even a small, localized nuclear war since that could have dire consequences for people and our planet.” According to the report, nuclear conflict could disrupt the Earth’s climate by injecting millions of tons of soot from massive fires into the upper atmosphere, blocking sunlight and causing the earth to cool. This would decrease the growth of fish biomass and agricultural production and disrupt food security.

Read an interview with RCI Affiliate Xenia Morin in The Daily Targum. She discusses her role on the Rutgers Climate Task Force as part of the working group “Food and Water Systems" explaining sustainability initiatives taken by Rutgers Dining Services.

Rutgers research shows that 5G wireless may lead to inaccurate weather forecasts, reports Newsroom. The study, coauthored by RCI affiliates Ruo-Qian (Roger) Wang and Joseph Brodie, ran a computer model to examine how signals from the 5G frequency bands could potentially leak into the band used by weather sensors on satellites which provide data for weather forecasting and predictions.

Governor Murphy signs legislation to ban single-use plastic in NJ, reports The Daily Targum. The bill addresses the problem of plastic pollution with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen the environment. According to the press release, these products, in addition to disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam, will be banned starting May 2022.

New Rutgers research shows that ocean viruses actually live in harmony with algae, only killing them off when the infected algal cells become stressed, such as when they run out of nutrients, reports Newsroom. The study examined viral infection of a form of algae that is responsible for generating much of the oxygen and carbon cycling on Earth. They found that the infected cells multiplied and bloomed for a while before dying off in a coordinated manner. The algae-virus dynamics have important implications for the outcome of infections and the flow of carbon and may lead to scenarios where carbon dioxide is sequestered, or stored, in the deep ocean rather than retained in the upper ocean, said senior author Kay D. Bidle.

RCI Affiliate David McDermott Hughes wrote an article for the Boston Review about electricity and climate change. He discusses the need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, remarking on the difficulties created by the constant need for energy. Hughes advocates for “planned interruptions” and “intermittency of electricity.” “Continuity costs too much,” he writes. “Climate change kills, and it kills vulnerable people first. Intermittency saves lives.”

Rutgers will hold two Climate Task Force Town Hall events in November, reports The Daily Targum. Carbon neutrality will be the focus of the first Town Hall event on November 11, while the second Town Hall on November 12 will focus on climate resiliency. Rutgers Today interviewed task force co-chairs Kevin Lyons and RCI Affiliate Robert Kopp, in which they discuss how climate change is already affecting New Jersey. Register for the Town Hall here.

As climate disasters pile up, the radical proposal of solar geoengineering gains traction, reports The New York Times. Solar geoengineering, or climate intervention, entails reflecting more of the sun’s energy back into space, reducing global temperatures. A nonprofit organization called SilverLining announced $3 million in research grants to several institutions including Rutgers University. RCI Affiliate Alan Robock, who researches geoengineering, recently co-authored a study positing that geoengineering in theory could be just a partial solution to fight climate change.

Alan Robock Headshot