Monday, April 17, 2006

Environmental Horizons Conference

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Next week the University of Illinois Environmental Council will host its 8th annual Environmental Horizons conference. This event invites members of the campus and wider community to experience the depth and breadth of environmental research, education, and outreach going on at the U of I.

The Environmental Horizons conference will feature three speakers. The keynote address Tuesday evening will be given by Mohammed El-Ashry, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation, and who holds a Ph.D. in Geology from the U of I. Dr. El-Ashry will provide a global perspective on the role of clean energy in sustainable development.

At noon on Wednesday, Praveen Kumar, associate professor in the U of I’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will speak on the importance of variability for the health of natural ecosystems associated with water. Dr. Kumar is engaged in developing comprehensive models for understanding the impacts of intensive agriculture and urban development on lakes and streams, with an eye toward policy and management practices that will preserve land and water resources for future generations.

Later on Wednesday, David Huggins, a soil scientist from Washington State University and director of the “Climate Friendly Farming Project,” will talk about his work with innovative, sustainable farming systems. Dr. Huggins' presentation will be followed by a panel discussion hosted by the U of I’s Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program. That discussion will focus on how research into sustainable practices will take shape at the new South Farms.

In addition to speakers, the Environmental Horizons conference will feature an open house highlighting the wide range of the environmental scholarship done on campus.

The open house is especially interesting for the opportunity it provides to see some of the innovative and exciting research being done by U of I undergraduates. Students from a variety of disciplines will be on hand with posters explaining the work they do. Among them will be one who has investigated the incidence of West Nile Virus in foxes and coyotes in Illinois, another who has been involved with experiments on the response of soybeans to global climate change, and another who is filming a documentary on how industry has impacted the health, politics and economics of the southwest Chicago suburb where he grew up.

I would emphasize that the Environmental Horizons open house isn’t an entirely left-brain affair, as it also includes a display of environmental art. You’ll be able to see paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture on environmental subjects by students and faculty from across campus.

The open house on Wednesday afternoon will also provide opportunities for connecting with some of the very engaged environmental organizations based in Champaign-Urbana. If you’ve thought you might want to get involved with groups like Grand Prairie Friends, Prairie Rivers Network, the Champaign County Audubon Society, or the Sierra Club, this is a good chance to check them out in one place.

The Environmental Horizons conference takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday. For details about time and place, please check the web site of the University of Illinois’ [click here-->] Environmental Council. Then come out and see how U of I researchers are addressing today’s most pressing environmental concerns.