Environment Initiative moves to next phase: UO Environment

The University of Oregon’s Environment Initiative, after three foundational and pathbreaking years of work, is transitioning to a new, sustainable model. 

The new endeavor, known as UO Environment, will leverage institutional expertise in education, research and impact on the major environmental issues facing the world. Through UO Environment, the College of Arts and Sciences will work with other colleges and schools to carry forward curricular and other work begun under the initiative to grow educational and research opportunities at UO.

In addition, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation is working with faculty leaders to explore the creation of a new center on climate change solutions policy and also will pursue a number of other areas of research. And a new UO Environment website will serve as a communications hub for news and events across the entire campus.  

The Environment Initiative was launched in 2021 by the Office of the Provost to leverage the intellectual energy and work of faculty members, students and community partners toward societal contributions through transdisciplinary research, teaching and experiential learning. 

“We celebrate the excellence in environmental scholarship from every school and college, which has created opportunities in curriculum development, research, student experience, career opportunities, donor engagement, community involvement and policy impact,” said Janet Woodruff-Borden, interim provost and executive vice president. 

Through that work, the university made 11 environmental-focused faculty hires in the last hiring cycle, and more are coming in the next cycle. The Environment Initiative also has named 10 faculty fellows, and granted 10 curriculum awards, as well as four major research awards. 

Adell Amos, Environment Initiative executive director and Clayton R. Hess Professor of Law, said she’s proud of “the way the Environment Initiative provided a platform for faculty across all the schools and colleges to join forces and think about how their work meaningfully addresses climate change and other environmental problems. The initiative laid the foundation for the targeted next steps ahead to occur under UO Environment.”

Amos is working with faculty members to explore the creation of a new policy center within the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation to address climate solutions. 

“We are grateful for professor Amos’ dedication and passion to scholarship focused on the environment and for leading the efforts to this new phase of scholarship and impact,” Woodruff-Borden said.

The new center is intended to execute policy-relevant, data-driven and evidence-based research on issues related to climate change and the environment. 

The College of Arts and Sciences will continue the transdisciplinary curricular work begun under the initiative in conjunction with other colleges and schools.

“CAS has a long history of remarkable environmental scholarship, and we look forward to continuing and advancing our research and educational programs, in partnership with other colleges and schools, to address the urgent challenges we face and to prepare our students to do so as well,” Dean Chris Poulsen said. 

UO Environment also will build on the research happening across Oregon as well as the world, including Urbanism Next, which examines how AI is changing cities; The Glacier Lab, a social science and humanities approach to studying glaciers; the Oregon Hazards Lab, which uses science, technology and community engagement to understand, monitor and mitigate multiple kinds of hazards in the Pacific Northwest; the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center in the School of Law; and the Center for Science Communication Research in the School of Journalism and Communication, which has a particular focus on the challenges of communication about climate change. 

“UO faculty are continuously exploring new approaches for environmentally informed entrepreneurship, law and policy, communications, applied science, and education,” said Vice President for Research and Innovation AR Razdan.

For example, Convergence to Accelerate Research on Biological Sequestration is a federally funded, transdisciplinary research project of the UO and the Coquille Indian Tribe. It is led by Lucas Silva, a professor of environmental studies and biology, and Lillian Aoki, assistant professor of environmental studies.

Using a combination of environmental samples, traditional Indigenous knowledge, remotely sensed observations and artificial intelligence, the research partners will develop a land management plan for a million acres spread over five Oregon counties that will sequester carbon more effectively.

Through UO Environment, those and other environment-related projects will continue and grow to help solve some of the pressing problems posed by climate change.