“The Bold Future of Alternative Energy”

Dr. Jay Keasling
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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In 2009 Jay Keasling received the first Biotech Humanitarian Award for using synthetic biology to develop a microbial-based version of the antimalarial drug artemisinin at a cost affordable for the world’s poor. Nearly 1 million people, many of them children, die from the disease yearly.

The synthetic biology behind that medical breakthrough also set Keasling and colleagues on the road to producing the next generation of biofuels. Working with collaborating scientists, Keasling and associates at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed a strain of Escherichia coli to produce biodiesel fuel directly from biomass.

Now they’re seeking ways to maximize the efficiency by which the genetically engineered strain of E. coli can convert biomass to biodiesel. Developing carbon-neutral biofuels that provide a more secure energy future is a major push in synthetic biology, and Keasling is a leader in the field.

A native Nebraskan, Keasling is Chief Executive Officer and Vice President for Fuels Synthesis at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, which is one of three Bioenergy Research Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels.

He is the Hubbard Howe Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, the co-author of over 230 refereed journal articles, and a partner on 14 patents. He also is Associate Laboratory Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Director of the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center; and Nanyang Professor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Read IANR news release on his lecture: Biomass Expansion Would Revolutionize World Politics, Economies

“Water for Food: Think globally, act locally”

Prof. Roberto Lenton, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012

Hardin Hall
33rd and Holdrege, Lincoln, NE

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New Water for Food Institute Director: Challenges Global, But Solutions Must be Local

LINCOLN, Neb. -- It's important to have a global understanding of water issues, but in the end solutions will come locally, said the newly arrived director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute.

Roberto Lenton, who assumed his job at the new institute earlier this month, spoke Monday as part of the Heuermann Lectures in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The title of Lenton's talk, "Water for Food: Think Globally, Act Locally," is a key theme for the University of Nebraska's Water for Food Institute. Lenton said he expects the institute to play a key role in solving the challenges facing a world that will need to feed a population expected to grow from about 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050 on finite resources such as land and water.

Already, Lenton noted, agriculture worldwide consumes 70 percent of available water. In some parts of the world, a trend of decreasing precipitation is having an impact even as the world becomes more urbanized, meaning "thirsty cities" will compete with agriculture for water.

Lenton noted that water availability and uses depend on local conditions, and technological and policy options also are locally driven. So, one-size-fits-all solutions to getting "more crop per drop" are not realistic.

"It's very important to have a global understanding, but in the end these solutions are inherently context-specific and must be locally determined," he said.

Lenton said the Water for Food Institute is well situated at a land-grant university in Nebraska to be a key player in the research, policy and technology challenges to come. The state is home to the largest aquifer in North America, with decades of data on which to draw; major river systems; diverse climates and soil types; a reputation for successful management of water resources; and a keen interest in the issue.

As an example, Lenton pointed to the turnout of 600 to 700 people last week for an E.N. Thompson Forum lecture at UNL on the global water crisis. "You couldn't get 600 to 700 people in New York or Washington to talk about water," he said.

"If you're going to have a water institute, you'd better have it in a place where water is vital and where there is local experience you can draw on," said Lenton, an internationally recognized expert in water management and development who most recently served as chairman of the independent World Bank Inspection Panel.

The University of Nebraska is such a place, with more than 120 faculty, on all four NU campuses, involved in all aspects of water. And UNL's land-grant tradition will be key, Lenton added.

"There should be a focus on innovation and connecting the research with practice and policy," Lenton said, predicting, "the greatest revolution in technology might actually come at this stage in information technology, not irrigation technology."

"We have a huge task ahead of us," Lenton concluded.

The Water for Food Institute was established in April 2010 with a $50 million founding gift commitment from the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation to the University of Nebraska. The institute already is forging key public and private partnerships in the Netherlands, Brazil, India, China and the United States, Lenton said. Just last week NU and the U.S. Agency for International Development agreed to collaborate on expanding research and development capacities related to water management in the Middle East and North Africa, work that will be conducted through the Water for Food Institute.

Lenton also is former chairman of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and of the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership; lead author on the final report of the United Nations Millennium Project Task Force on Water and Sanitation, which he co-chaired; director of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Division of the United Nations Development Programme in New York; and director general of the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka.
 

"Green Ag Biotech”

Stewart Brand, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012

Hardin Hall
33rd and Holdrege, Lincoln, NE

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Biotechnology’s role in agriculture to help feed the world and meet the challenges of climate change is the topic when Stewart Brand, a recognized voice in environmental issues since the 1960s, delivers the fourth Heuermann Lecture.

“In the face of climate change, everybody is an environmentalist,” Brand wrote in his 2009 book “Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.” Brand founded the “Whole Earth Catalog” in 1968.

He says three worldwide events – climate change, urbanization and biotechnology – are having lasting effects on the planet, and are requiring people to make hard ideological shifts. These shifts are hard, Brand says, because they mean reversing long-held opinions and supporting tools once distrusted.

Brand is co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation, which works to make long-term thinking more common as a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture. He also co-founded and works for Global Business Network, which helps clients address critical challenges and gain what they need to shape the future.

Brand has authored and edited a number of books since he began “The Whole Earth Catalog,” and is the subject of two books, “From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism,” and “Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism.”

IANR news release Jan. 18, 2012: Brand: 'Wild and Woolly' Times for Genetic Engineering
 

“Conflict and Resolution on the Missouri River”

Bob Kerrey, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011

Hardin Hall
33rd and Holdrege, Lincoln, NE

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The 2011 flooding of the Missouri River spawned what is just the latest in a series of conflicts that stretch back to European settlement of land influenced by the river, notes Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator.

Kerrey’s Heuermann Lecture focuses on three critical moments when the resolution of conflicts regarding the Missouri River produced federal and/or state laws that continue to affect lives today.

A native Nebraskan, Kerrey served as governor of Nebraska from 1983-1987, and as a U.S. senator from Nebraska from Jan. 3, 1989 to Jan. 3, 2001.

He was president of The New School in New York from 2001-2010, and in July 2011 joined M&F Worldwide Education Holdings as company chairman. There he is responsible for the company’s education businesses and leads strategic initiatives and evaluation of future investments in the education sector.

Since leaving the Senate, Kerrey has continued to be involved in public service, as a member of the 9-11 Commission, as a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s action committee, and more. He served three years in the U.S. Navy and is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

Full IANR news release on Kerrey's talk: More Local Authority Needed over Missouri River Basin

"Setting the Stage: Why Agriculture"

Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger,  Nov. 10, 2011

University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus

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The second Heuermann Lecture featured Dr. P. Stephen Baenziger, the first UNL scientist to hold the Nebraska Wheat Growers Presidential Chair, an endowed professorship through a licensing agreement between NUtech Ventures and Bayer CropScience.

Baenziger, who honors the work of scientists who’ve gone before him and describes himself as the current steward of the university’s wheat-breeding program, has been working to help Nebraska growers improve their crops and help feed the world since he joined the university in 1986. He will discuss the importance of agriculture in our future.

The small grains breeder in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture in IANR, Baenziger is an honoree in the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement and recipient of the Nebraska Agri-business Club Public Service Award, the Crop Science Society of America Crop Science Research Award, the American Society of Agronomy Agronomic Achievement Award – Crops, and other awards, as well.

Recognized internationally for his work, Baenziger and the Director General are the only Americans serving on the 15-member board of trustees of the prestigious International Rice Research Institute.

Read a full news release - Crops Breeder Baenziger: Ag Challenges to Feed the World are Unprecedented

“Food Security in an Era of Price Volatility and Climate Change

Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, Oct. 10 , 2011

Hardin Hall
33rd and Holdrege, Lincoln, NE

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 Read more about Dr. Swaminathan's visit

The inaugural lecture in the series was presented by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, first World Food Prize laureate. A plant geneticist by training, Swaminathan received the World Food Prize in 1987 for introducing high-yielding wheat and rice varieties to India’s farmers. The award often is described as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in agriculture.

Swaminathan has been called a living legend, the father of economic ecology, and the catalyst of the green revolution movement in India between 1960-1982 that moved the country from having the world’s largest food deficit to producing enough grain to feed all its people.

His advocacy of sustainable agriculture leading to an ever-green revolution makes him an acknowledged world leader in sustainable food security, and he is known for his significant contributions in promoting the knowledge, skills and technological empowerment of women in agriculture.

The recipient of 62 honorary degrees from universities that range from his native India to the Netherlands, and from Chile to the U.S., he has received 32 scientific awards and 31 international awards. Currently Swaminathan heads, in an honorary capacity, a research center for sustainable agriculture in Madras, India.

 


Anyone who requires reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act, such as interpreters, transcribers, assistive listening devices, special seating, or accessible media, please contact Judy Nelson at (402) 472-3031, jnelson5@unl.edu, two weeks prior to the event to discuss arrangements. We are committed to providing reasonable accommodation to all individuals with disabilities attending any conference or meeting at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.