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Feb. 4, 2016

As the world grows more connected, “out of sight, out of mind” looms as a perilous consequence of globalization. A sustainability scholar presents an integrated way to track the many footprints that are made in global transactions in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment this month.

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Perhaps the most revelatory lesson from pandas and people is that the lessons hold even without pandas.

The truths learned from 20 years in Wolong resonate in other parts of the world, even if the particulars are different. Consider Nepal: Benign pandas inspire adoration, while Nepal’s tigers have their own fans, but with an element of fear.  Pandas, after all, eat only bamboo. Tigers, on occasion, attack people.

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Words that describe the Wolong Nature Reserve:  Remote. Rural. Rustic.

Global.

Yep. Global works. Understanding how the flora and fauna in Wolong coexists with the people who live there offers a model with how that web of connection spans the globe.

In today’s world of hyper connectivity, “remote” isn’t so much anymore. Let’s talk about the pandas themselves: Between 2004 and 2010 alone, 63 Wolong pandas have been loaned to zoos in China and throughout the globe (you can see them in Washington, DC, and San Diego, CA). 

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Elegant policy carefully informed by good interdisciplinary science sounds like a dream ending, right?

Think again.

Wolong has taught us even successful policy really is just a lovely introduction to a new chapter of a coupled human and natural system. The real test comes in sticking with that situation to carefully monitor and continuing the research. It needs to be just the beginning of holistic relationship. 

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Science is all about data points, but insight comes from not just doing research – but living it.

In Wolong, the research team has dissected what motivates people to act in the best interest of the environment and questions such as the role money plays in sustainability – when it motivates, when it doesn’t and when other things matter more.

Yet data alone does not fully give insight that helps strike a successful balance between people and the environment.

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Understanding coupled human and natural systems is key to sustainability – and holds the promise of recovery – from natural disasters like earthquakes to the ecological affronts of mismanagement and exploitation.

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Feb. 1, 2016

A marriage has occurred in the remote forests of China that promises to unite two important forces to better inform the health and future of biodiversity. The union is reported in this week’s journal Ecological Indicators by Michigan State University (MSU) researchers.

The marriage is between powerful data – the big-picture spaceship view of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), which sweeps the Earth’s entire surface every one to two days, and Landsat, which focuses on smaller pieces of land, but only produces pictures every 16 days. 

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January 28, 2016

Conserving wildlife habitat sounds noble, but when it comes down to work or sacrifice, cold hard cash – a decent amount of it – goes a long way.

Researchers at Michigan State University and their colleagues took on the task of definitively determining if conservation programs that compensate citizens for changing habitat-damaging behavior really works. They examined a sweeping program in China that aims to restore forests and habitat for the endangered giant panda, but their unique analysis holds promise to evaluate such programs across the globe.

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Jan. 18, 2016

Three diverse publications this month by one researcher explore changing stream temperatures in Michigan, trophy northern pike management in Minnesota, and ecological effects of massive flooding of the Missouri River.

Andrew Carlson, a new PhD student at Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and
Sustainability, publishes work he did as a master’s student at South Dakota State University and his early doctoral work.

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Jan. 13, 2016

A year and a half after entering into a declared partnership with a powerful Brazilian research organization, Michigan State University (MSU) is launching into an ambitious global initiative on food security and land use.

Top-tier scientists at MSU are joining some of the best minds in agricultural and sustainability research in Brazil, the United Kingdom and China to better understand the finer realities of global food security and its effect on land use as the world struggles to feed its increasing population and protect the environment.

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