Banner image: Winding South Fork of the Boise River leads into the distance. (Credit: Charles Knowles, Flickr.)

CU Boulder is a global leader in climate, environmental and energy research, and home to the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), Western Water Assessment (WWA), and National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Our Center for Environmental Journalism (CEJ) also houses the Ted Scripps Fellowship in environmental journalism. 

CU Boulder's earth sciences and atmospheric science disciplines ranked No. 1 and No. 2 globally in the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy’s 2022 Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS), and was ranked No. 2 in the world for geosciences and No. 16 for environment/ecology, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best Global Universities standings. 

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Recent news and research

As rising temperatures affect Alaskan rivers, effects ripple through Indigenous communities
Six decades of river data in Alaska highlight the cumulative and consequential impacts of climate change for local communities and ecosystems in the Arctic.

$7.65M grant to extend study of how climate change shapes life at 10,000 feet
Through the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research Project, housed at CU Boulder's Mountain Research Station, scientists will continue to examine the impacts of a warming world on the university's highest campus.

When Indigenous communities have legal land rights, this Brazilian forest benefits
A CU Boulder-led study shows that between 1985 and 2019 in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, deforestation decreased and reforestation increased on lands where Indigenous communities had been able to complete a legal process to receive formal recognition of their ancestral lands.

Why biodiversity matters and what the world is doing about it
Nations around the world have committed to achieve 30-by-30, protecting 30% of the planet's land and oceans by 2030. CU Boulder's Mara Goldman why this landmark is critical for the world's biodiversity, and what the challenges are to making it a reality.

Prenatal pollution exposure linked to lower cognitive scores in early life
Toddlers whose moms were exposed to higher levels of air pollution during mid- to late-pregnancy tend to score lower on measures of cognition, motor coordination and language skills, according to new CU Boulder research.

The scientific reasons you should resolve to start gardening in 2023
The first-ever randomized controlled trial of community gardening shows it boosts fiber intake and physical activity while decreasing stress and anxiety. It could even reduce risk of cancer and chronic illness. And that’s all in the first season of getting your hands dirty.

Western water

CU Boulder experts are available to discuss the policy changes needed to save the Colorado River, and what role climate change and drought may play.

Edith Zagona is a research professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES). She can discuss modeling and projections of operations and future conditions of the river, methods for decision-making under deep uncertainty and using these techniques in working with stakeholders, and how operating policies may need to look different in the future to be more robust to highly uncertain and more variable future hydrologic conditions and demands. 

Ragagopalan Balaji (Dr. Rajagopalan) is professor of hydrology and water resources in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and a fellow at the Cooperative Institute of Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). He has worked with the Center for Advanced Decision Support for Water and Environmental Systems (CADSWES) for two decades and has a profound understanding of the hydrology of the basin over short and long timescales. He can discuss the variability of flow in the Colorado River; sustained droughts, such as the current prolonged drought of over two decades, in historical and paleo context; and the sustainability of water resources in the river basin.

Noah Molotch is associate professor of geography, a fellow at and lead for the Mountain Hydrology Group at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). He can discuss mountain snowpack, water supply and drought; new satellite technology for measuring water; and the possible impacts of climate change on water availability, recreation, floods and wildfire hazards. 

Environmental policy

Mark Squillace is professor of natural resources law with a particular interest on water issues, including the Colorado River Basin. He can discuss policy changes needed to save the river and the communities who rely on it, how the seven Colorado River Basin states are doing in their work to come up with a plan to reduce river usage by mid-August of this year and other topics related to the Colorado River or the Colorado River Compact.

Max Boykoff, chair of the Department of Environmental Studies and fellow in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), can speak generally to the 2023 IPCC synthesis report and more specifically to the IPCC Working Group III report on climate change mitigation released in April 2022, as he is a contributing author on two chapters. He is also lead Project Investigator for the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) and can discuss monitoring media coverage of climate change and media representations of climate change. 

Conservation, animals, biodiversity

In December of 2023, as required by voters’ approval of Proposition 114, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) will release 10 to 15 gray wolves in the state, followed by annual releases of similar numbers for the next two to four years. Joanna Lambert, professor of environmental studies and affiliate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, served as a science advisor on the ballot initiative and has been very active in this initiative as a science advisor for the past several years. She studies wild animals in remote places such as coyotes in Yellowstone National Park and also how wild animals adapt to human dominated landscapes. Lambert also delivered the Inaugural Everest Address on Wildlife and Climate at the World’s Highest Climate Summit in Nepal in the summer of 2022.

Colleen Scanlan Lyons is an associate research professor in environmental studies and project director for the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force. The GCF Task Force, a project of CU Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science with a global secretariat hosted by CU Boulder and UCLA, facilitates subnational leadership to reduce deforestation and advance inclusive, equitable, low-emissions development in states and provinces and across entire regions. It’s the largest organization of its kind, working with 39 states and provinces in 10 countries. 

Mara Goldman is an associate professor in the Department of Geography who specializes in biodiversity conservation, indigenous knowledge and global development. She can discuss the recent outcomes of COP15 (the biodiversity COP) in December and how people around the world are part of the solution. 

Renewable energy

Kyri Baker is assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, holds a courtesy appointment in electrical, computer and energy engineering, and has a joint appointment at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) through the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI). She can discuss carbon-free/renewable energy—including nuclear power—the challenges of operating such a complex system efficiently under the effects of climate change, and cutting electricity bills. 

Bri-Mathias Hodge is associate professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering and a fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) at CU Boulder, as well as Chief Scientist in the Power Systems Engineering Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He can speak generally to renewable power systems and infrastructure system interactions, and can discuss the operational and planning challenges posed by the integration of renewable energy sources into power grids, such as wind and solar power. 

Air quality

Joost de Gouw, professor of chemistry and fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), leads a research team that has been investigating impacts of the 2021 Marshall fire on air quality and, in particular, the air quality inside homes in the path of the fire that did not burn. 

Colleen Reid, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, studies how climate change affects human health, including how air pollution from wildfire smoke influences respiratory health. 

Christine Wiedinmyer is the associate director for science at the Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences (CIRES). She’s an atmospheric scientist who studies wildfires and the impacts of their emissions on air quality and climate.

Wildfire, heat and drought

CU Boulder researchers offer insight into everything from how a changing climate will impact water supplies, crops and landscapes to how best to protect homes and our health from fire and smoke:

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Join us this fall for ScienceWriters2023! CU Boulder and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus will host this annual event October 6 — 10. Meeting program, hotel and travel information, and conference policies will be announced mid-summer, along with grants applications and other information.