Renewable Natural 

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RNRF, Member Organization, and International News

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Renewable Natural Resources Foundation


David ConradThe RNRF Washington Round Table on Public Policy met with Association of State Floodplain Managers water policy consultant David Conrad at the Washington, D.C. office of the American Society of Landscape Architects on October 13, 2017. Conrad spoke about the challenges of crafting effective and impactful flood management policy at the national level. This talk was targeted towards solutions for Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

Conrad focused his talk on issues within the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). He observed that the vast majority of federal funds for the NFIP was going towards repetitive loss properties, with around 2% of properties claiming nearly 40% of NFIP funds. The best solution, therefore, is to buy back repetitive loss properties, ideally immediately after a recent storm. This would prevent losing more funds to reconstruct homes that will again be destroyed. Conrad also identified the "moral hazard" of subsidizing flood insurance costs for low-income households, as this may expose economically vulnerable people to untenable financial risk should their houses flood.

Additionally, Conrad noted that many of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps are inaccurate or out of date, and stressed the importance of updating flood maps to reflect actual risk. Maps also need to be developed for cities that face flooding risks but that do not currently meeting FEMA's minimum drainage area of 1 square mile. While he suggested that flood insurance costs should increase according to the updated maps, he recognized the difficulties of dramatically increasing insurance premiums– a move that is politically unpopular and frequently challenged in court by homeowners whose houses have subsequently lost value.

With these challenges in mind in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Conrad recommends focusing buyout efforts on buildings most in danger of flooding again, and concentrating future building in the 70% of Houston that was not affected by Harvey flooding. He also suggests more transparent disclosure of flooding data so that potential homeowners or builders have a more complete understanding of their risks. Finally, Conrad lamented the repeal of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard by the Trump Administration two weeks before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The act would have helped federal planners build more flood-resistant public works projects.

Conrad served as a water resources specialist at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) for 23 years. Since 2011, Conrad has been consulting with the Association of State Floodplain Managers on federal water resources policy.

During his time at NWF, Conrad led the "Higher Ground" project as the Federation's senior water resources policy specialist. This landmark report was conducted in response to the catastrophic Great Flood of 1993 in the upper Midwest, which killed 50 people and caused $15 billion in damage as hundreds of levees failed on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Major findings of the report included the extreme costs over time to rebuild, rather than remove, structures repeatedly damaged by flooding.

As discussed at the round table, many of the issues Conrad highlighted in "Higher Ground" still plague flood-prone cities like Houston today. Although flood risk mitigation comes with daunting political and social challenges, addressing the need for disaster mitigation and planning reform in Houston and other at-risk cities has never been more urgent or necessary.

Conrad's presentation is available for download here.


Sayyed Attiya Sayyed of Maryland has joined RNRF's staff as a program manager. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Maryland (College Park) with a B.S. in environmental science and policy, with a concentration in society and environmental issues. She received an M.A. in global environmental politics from American University in 2017. On her way to earning a master's degree, she studied for a semester at the University for Peace, chartered by the United Nations and located in Costa Rica.

Sayeed served as an academic research assistant (at American), interned in the office of the Mayor of Denver (2016 Sustainable Denver Summit), interned and also worked full-time at Earth Day Network (communications tasks related to Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day), interned with The Palladium Group (researching bids for USAID projects), and interned at EcoPeace.

Sayeed works with RNRF committees in developing and implementing programs such as public policy conferences, congressional forums, RNRF's Washington Round Table on Public Policy, and the annual awards program. She also will have editorial responsibilities for the Renewable Resources Journal, Renewable Resources Report (RNRF's blog) and RNRF's website. She will be collaborating with other program staff and board members in charting the expansion of RNRF programs—including international initiatives.


Goldston The RNRF Washington Round Table on Public Policy met with David Goldston, director, Washington Office, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on July 19, 2017. Goldston spoke about how universities can most effectively engage with policymakers about scientific information relevant to complex public policy challenges. He also spoke about strategies for advancing funding and the application of science in the current, unprecedented political environment.

Goldston became director of the MIT Washington Office in May 2017. Prior to that for eight years, he was director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group where he helped shape NRDC's federal political strategy, policies, and communications. Before his time at NRDC he spent more than 20 years on Capitol Hill, working primarily on science and environmental policy, including serving as chief-of-staff of the U.S. House Committee on Science from 2001 through 2006.

After retiring from government service, Goldston was a visiting lecturer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and at Harvard University Center for the Environment. He is currently an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. He holds a B.A. (1978) from Cornell University and completed course work for a Ph.D. in American history at the University of Pennsylvania.

RNRF Leaders Discuss Advocating for Science

ASLAThe American Society of Landscape Architects hosted the RNRF Spring Meeting of leaders and guests on May 12, to discuss their recent activities to sustain and strengthen the use of science to inform public policy and management. While specific organizational activities varied, all focused on improving communications within the scientific community, and improving outreach to and among scientists, government officials, congressional members, and the public. Everyone observed that their organizations' individual members had been supportive of efforts to advocate for science, design and management in furtherance of sustainability practices and goals.

American Geophysical Union


Open, accessible, and high-quality data and related data products and software are critical to the integrity of published research. They ensure transparency and support reproducibility and are necessary for accelerating the advancement of science. In many cases, the data are one-time observations that cannot be repeated. Unfortunately, not all key data are saved and even when they are, their curation is uneven and discovery is difficult, thus making it difficult for other researchers to understand and use the data sets.

To address this critical need, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has awarded a grant to a coalition of groups representing the international Earth and space science community, convened by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), to develop standards that will connect researchers, publishers, and data repositories in the Earth and space sciences to enable FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and resuable) data— a concept first developed by— on a large scale. This will accelerate scientific discovery and enhance the integrity, transparency, and reproducibility of this data. The resulting set of best practices will include: metadata and identifier standards; data services; common taxonomies; landing pages at repositories to expose the metadata and standard repository information; standard data citation; and standard integration into editorial peer review work-flows.

"AGU's commitment to open data and data stewardship started in 1997 when we developed one of the first society position statements on open data. We developed that position statement because we recognized properly documented, credited, and preserved, data would help future scientists understand the Earth, planetary, and heliophysics systems, and that is an integral responsibility of scientists, data stewards, and sponsoring institutions to ensure the preservation of that data," said Chris McEntee, AGU's executive director/CEO. "Today, with the generous support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, our community is working together to ensure that the Earth and space sciences, including more than 50,000 publications, will then be the first scientific field to have open and well-described data as a default, making that data discoverable and freely accessible across our sciences, as well as other scientific disciplines and the public."

Scientific results are increasingly dependent on large complex data sets and models that transform these data. This is particularly true in the Earth and space sciences, where critical data increasingly provide diverse and important societal benefits and are used in critical real-time decisions.  The partners will work with major Earth and space science data repositories, publishers, editorial work-flow vendors, researchers, and allied stakeholders to develop common standards and work-flows for submission of data, connect repositories and publishers, develop and implement tools needed for search and discovery, and enhance quality peer review. This process will help: 1) researchers understand and follow expectations regarding data curation; 2) publishers adopt and implement standard and best practices around data citation; and 3) make data discoverable and accessible, including to the public.

Read AGU's position statement on data here:

World's Largest Earth and Space Science Meeting to Take Place in New Orleans, then Washington, D.C.

AGU has announced that its annual Fall Meeting, an event that regularly attracts more than 25,000 Earth and space scientists and other participants from around the world, will move to New Orleans in 2017 and to Washington, D.C. in 2018.

For nearly 50 years, the AGU Fall Meeting has been held in San Francisco. During that time, it has grown from a gathering of a few hundred researchers to the largest Earth and space science event in the world. In 2015, it included more than 23,000 poster and oral presentations; hundreds of networking, education and social events; lectures from prominent speakers like Elon Musk and Dr. France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation; and the launch of a new XPRIZE for ocean discovery. Construction associated with a major renovation of San Francisco's Moscone Center that would impact needed space for the meeting prompted the move.

"The Fall Meeting is a major force in advancing the Earth and space sciences. If you look back over the last 50 years, the number of discoveries that were first reported during one of our sessions or in our poster hall is staggering," said AGU's Executive Director/CEO Christine McEntee. "Maintaining that level of excellence is a significant responsibility for AGU, and we are committed to finding new and innovative ways to help our attendees share their science with one another and with the world. I believe the opportunities that await us in New Orleans and Washington will contribute greatly to the achievement of that goal."

This world-renowned event draws scientists from around the globe and across the spectrum of the Earth and space sciences, including areas such as hydrology, climate science, ocean research, space physics, planetary science, seismology, tectonophysics, volcanology, atmospheric science and Earth and space science informatics. Attendees come from academia and the public and private sectors, and typically represent nearly 100 different countries. In 2015, more than 7,600 students attended the meeting. The event also draws hundreds of exhibitors and vendors, ranging from equipment manufacturers and technology companies, to academic institutions and government agencies.

The meeting was held in San Francisco in 2016, and plans are underway to return to the City by the Bay, in 2019 when AGU hopes to celebrate its Centennial in the newly renovated Moscone Center.

For more information contact AGU, 2000 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 462-6900,

American Meteorological Society


The provision of adequate fresh-water resources for people and ecosystems will be one of the most critical and potentially contentious issues facing society and governments at all levels during the 21st century. Water is fundamental for all life on Earth— for agriculture, energy production, sanitation, ecosystem health, transportation, and recreation. Yet, the demands upon water resources are ever increasing from population growth and migration, land use changes, and pollution on the local, national, and global levels— problems likely to be exacerbated over the next several decades by hydrologic change.

UN-Water, 2013, defines water security as "the capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability." As such, we understand that water security is a leading element of U.S. National Security.

In light of these challenges, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) issues this statement and is committed to work with public, commercial, and academic organizations at all levels, and seeks the support of the Congress, the Administration, and international partners in pursuing sustainable solutions. The broader water resource community must be engaged with the atmospheric science community using collaborative and integrative methods to identify key priorities and to meet information needs. Two grand challenges are identified below:

Quantifying and Adapting to Hydrologic Change:

New approaches to incorporating information about water-related risks will be needed to support adaptation. The AMS community can contribute by providing insights on the likelihood of near-term extreme weather as well as water resource impacts that will result from hydrologic changes. Given that precipitation is a primary factor in hydrologic models, an increased focus on improving quantitative precipitation forecasts is needed; improving the reliability of short-term to seasonal hydrologic forecasts, through better computation and data resources, and new space- and ground-based observations must also be a priority.

Planning under Multifaceted Uncertainty:

To be effective, robust planning requires a sound understanding of what is and is not known about future hydrologic change at specific locations. The AMS community can contribute by identifying hydrologic scenarios that adequately represent both natural variability and climate change uncertainties, while the water management community can provide guidance on the relevance of those efforts. A two-way exchange between the atmospheric science and water resource management communities will allow mutual learning and close collaborative exploration of potential solutions. This coupling and synthesizing of comprehensive interdisciplinary scientific information will be critical for successful planning and adaptations in the 21st century.

For more information visit:

American Society of Civil Engineers


The ASCE Board of Direction voted unanimously at its July meeting to adopt new language in the Society’s Code of Ethics that expresses a professional obligation to provide fair and equal treatment for all.

The ASCE Code of Ethics, adopted in 1914, lays out the model for professional conduct for ASCE members. The newly adopted canon – Canon 8 in the Code of Ethics – states:

    Engineers shall, in all matters related to their profession, treat all persons fairly and encourage equitable participation withou tregard to gender     or gender identity, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, or family, marital, or economic     status.

    a. Engineers shall conduct themselves in a manner in which all persons are treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.

    b.Engineers shall not engage in discrimination or harassment in connection with their professional activities.

    c. Engineers shall consider the diversity of the community, and shall endeavor in good faith to include diverse perspectives, in the planning and     performance of their professional services.

“ASCE has been working to advance diversity and inclusion within the engineering profession for many decades, and the Board’s recent action of codifying its longstanding policy in the Code of Ethics reflects our collective responsibility to promote a diverse and inclusive profession,” said ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith, ENV SP, CAE, F.ASCE.

The addition of Canon 8 marks the first revision to the ASCE Code of Ethics since 2006.

“With this support, our Society is pledging to professionally treat everyone fairly and promote equitable involvement,” said Board member Melissa Wheeler, M.ASCE, Region 5 Director. “I’m honored to be part of a Board of Direction that would unanimously support adding Canon 8 to our Code of Ethics.”

Read the entire ASCE Code of Ethics here:

American Society of Landscape Architects

ASLA opposes elimination of the federal flood risk management standard (ffrms)

In response to President Trump's executive order intended to streamline the environmental approval process for major infrastructure projects, Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), released the following statement:

"ASLA is deeply concerned with the executive order's roll back of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). This order ignores both existing risks of flooding and future impacts of climate change, thereby increasing the risk of loss of property and lives. Responsible planning and development must address issues of floodplain management and incorporate green infrastructure in order to improve the resilience and security of our communities.

"We need the kind of infrastructure plan that helps our nation thrive, grows jobs and improves community health and resilience. ASLA priorities for the nation's infrastructure, outline in "Landscape Architects Leading Community Infrastructure Design and Development," center on green infrastructure solutions in four areas:

  • ° fixing our nation's water management systems;
  • ° upgrading to a multimodal transportation network;
  • ° recognizing public lands, parks and recreation as critical infrastructure; and
  • ° designing for resiliency
"We will continue to work at the intersection of design and smart policy, working with legislators and stakeholders on green solutions that work. ASLA intends to remain at the forefront of this conversation, especially through our upcoming Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience, which will take place September 21-22 at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C."

For more information contact ASLA, 636 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 898-244,

American Water Resources Association


AWRA’s Annual Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon, November 5-9, 2017. The conference will feature almost 300 abstracts received, 70 oral sessions, posters, workshops, and other special events.

Sunday preceding the conference will feature three events unique to the Pacific Northwest: a drone workshop on the banks of the Columbia River, a field trip to Clean Water Services’ renowned Landscape Conservation Program in the Tualatin River Watershed, and a field trip to historic Willamette Falls in Oregon City.

Monday’s plenary will commence with a look at current events, re-affirming AWRA’s commitment to science, transparency, and inclusivity in the management of our treasured water resources. With five concurrent sessions and 17 topical (special) sessions throughout the week, this conference will address emerging issues related to technology, flowing waters, future risk, public policy, and more. Back by popular demand, “lightning talks” will give participants a fascinating glimpse into the newest web-based and field-based technologies in the water resources arena. In addition, look for sessions designated as “The Road to Brasilia: Preparation for the 8th World Water Forum.” The 8th World Water Forum will convene in March 2018 in Brazil and AWRA will host discussions and presentations in the areas of water and energy, climate change adaptation, and integrated water resources management.

The 2017 conference committee has developed a program with a focus on students, young professionals, and the young at heart. A fun run along the Columbia River is scheduled before the Tuesday sessions. The conference will also have a student competition and the free young professionals’ speed networking event.Water as portrayed in art and photography will be on display (oils and photography) on Monday and Tuesday of the conference. April Waters, conference artist-in-residence will exhibit her oil paintings of water scenes in the Pacific Northwest. Photographers Timothy Palmer (a guest speaker), Kevin Coulton and Gary Whitton will be displaying their photography as well. AWRA’s main social event will take place in downtown at the newly opened Portland Food Hall, featuring Portland’s famous food carts and local beverages.

During Tuesday’s Lunch ‘n’ Learn, celebrated authors Bill and Rosemarie Alley will share their new book, High and Dry: Meeting the Challenges of the World's Growing Dependence on Groundwater. Join us for their lecture, Q&A, and book signing. During Thursday’s Lunch ‘n’ Learn, Professors Adell Amos and Bill Jaeger will present findings from a multi-year NSF-grant project Willamette Water 2100. See what some of the brightest lights in Pacific Northwest water predict our region will look like in the year 2100.

For more information visit AWRA’s 2017 conference website at: Portland2017/

Geological Society of America


The Geological Society of America is pleased to announce the formation of a new Interdisciplinary Interest Group (IIG) to serve as an intellectual hub for scientists who use continental scientific drilling to understand fundamental geological processes.

The new IIG aims to (1) promote research using continental scientific drilling, (2) foster collaboration among scientists in continental scientific drilling projects form all divisions of GSA, (3) present and publish continental scientific drilling project results, and (4) involve students and early career scientists in continental scientific drilling projects.

These goals will be met through cooperation with other Diversions, IIGs, Sections, and officers and committees research pertaining to continental scientific drilling. The IIG will help to facilitate presentation, discussion, education, and public outreach of the results of continental scientific drilling and coring projects.

"GSA is very excited to provide a home for the continental drilling sciences and researchers. This interdisciplinary group is an excellent fit with GSA's Divisions and mission, said GSA Executive Director, Vicki McConnell.

The IIG will be seeking a member to be appointed to the GSA Joint Technical Program Committee (JTPC)— the body that helps shape the GSA Annual Meeting technical program— to ensure the science is well represented.

For more information visit:

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


Register by 29 September for SETAC Africa 8th Biennial Conference which will be held from 17-19 October in Calabar, Nigeria.

The theme for the SETAC Africa 2017 conference is "Quality of African Environment; The Roles of Science, Industry and Regulators." This meeting promises stimulating lectures and presentations on landmark scientific researchers, professional training opportunities, and lots of time to connect with colleagues for new collaborations.

SETAC will provide a forum for novel discoveries and approaches related to environmental research for Africans and by Africans. The conference shall be a mixture of participants from academia, industries and government agencies.

The conference topics are:

• African environment— Aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology
• Effect of pesticide use and quarrying over time, space and level of biological organization
• Emerging and re-emerging contaminants: fate, effect and environmental risks
• Environmental "omics" and adverse outcome pathways of toxic substances and risk assessment
• Life cycle assessment and sustainable natural gas development
• Modeling approaches for chemicals' fate and exposure; risk assessment of chemical
• Risk assessment, mitigation and monitoring
• Special sessions

For more information and to register, visit:

Society of Wood Science and Technology

2017 COST Action fp1407 conference

SWST is co-hosting the 3rd conference of the COST Action FP1407, entitled "Wood Modification and Research Applications," which will take place from September 14-15, 2017 at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Kuchl, Austria .

The conference will focus on presenting innovative materials and process developments for various wood modification technologies, ecologic solutions and further related challenges with the focus of improving the properties of timber to guarantee a more sustainable usage of wood. Special emphasis will be given to innovative bio-friendly wood protection techniques and preservatives.

The conference committee is also open to accept a variety of contributions with the target objective in line with "green" principles and with particular interest for studies that deal with timber quality enhancements.

The registration deadline for the conference is August 16th, and interested participants can register here.

For more information contact Gianluca Tondi at

International News

United Nations Environment

World Comes Together to Tackle Mercury Poisoning

The Minamata Convention on Mercury came into force August 16, 2016. The Convention commits its 74 Parties to reducing the risks to human health and the environment from the harmful release of mercury and mercury compounds. This is the first international Convention in nearly a decade to protect environmental and human health.

Governments that are party to the Convention are now legally bound to take a range of measures to protect human health and the environment by addressing mercury throughout is lifecycle. This includes banning new mercury mines, phasing-out existing ones, and regulating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, manufacturing processes, and the production of everyday items such as cosmetics, light bulbs, batteries and teeth fillings.

The convention also seeks to reduce emissions as side effects from other industrial processes, such as coal-fired power stations, waste incineration, cement clinker production, and contains measures on the interim storage of mercury, on mercury waste and on measures to reduce the risks of contaminated sites.

"The Minamata Convention shows that our global work to protect our planet and its people can continue to bring nations together. We did it for the Ozone layer and now we're doing it for mercury, just as we need to do it for climate change — a cause that the Minamata Convention will also serve. Together, we can clean up our act," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

There is no safe level of exposure to mercury, nor are there cures for mercury poisoning, which at high levels causes irreversible neurological and health damage. Unborn children and babies are the most vulnerable, along with populations who eat fish contaminated with mercury, those who use mercury at work, and people who live near a source of mercury pollution or in colder climates, where the dangerous heavy metal tends to accumulate.

A 2017 study comparing mercury levels among women of child-bearing age in the Asia and Pacific regions revealed high traces of mercury in 96 percent of the women tested from Pacific communities who have high fish diets.

"As part of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been charged with raising and disbursing grants for projects and programs to reduce and eliminate mercury pollution. On behalf of the GEF, I am delighted to join others in the international community and celebrate the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It is an honor for GEF to be tasked with providing grants for projects and programs to reduce and eliminate the use of mercury. We are ready to continue to help countries conducting inventories, implementation plans, and investment in technology to make mercury history," said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson.

Up to 8,900 tons of mercury are emitted each year. It can be released naturally through the weathering of mercury-containing rocks, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, but significant emissions also come from human processes, particularly coal burning and artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Mining alone exposes up to 15 million workers in 70 different countries to mercury poisoning, including child laborers.

Other human activities that may be sources of mercury pollution include the production of chlorine and some plastics, waste incineration and use of mercury in laboratories, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, paints and jewelry. Since the element is indestructible, the Convention also stipulates conditions for interim storage and disposal of mercury waste.

Like other heavy metals, mercury persists in the environment and builds up in humans and animal tissue, particularly in fish. Because it is easily vaporized, mercury can be transported through the air over long distances far removed from its original emission source, polluting air, water and soil.

Signed by 128 countries, the Convention takes its name from the most severe mercury poisoning disaster in history, which came to light in Minamata, Japan in May 1956, after sustained dumping of industrial wastewaters in Minamata Bay, beginning in the 1930s. Local villages who ate fish and shellfish from the bay started suffering convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness and coma. In all, thousands of people were certified as having directly suffered from mercury poisoning, now known as Minamata disease.

For more information visit

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