S-A1 Opportunities for Science at the Nexus

This session will explore the diverse opportunities for science to address major challenges in the food-energy-water nexus. Each participant brings a different scientific perspective. All have been involved in workshops supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore the intellectual foundations and opportunities for impact for a major new NSF initiative that will fund pioneering research on “Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems” (INFEWS). Issues to be explored will be: advances in systems science, modelling, decision-support tools, sensors, data management. Other areas will be applied to how science can contribute to meeting the food, energy, and water needs of a growing global population in a manner that is environmental sustainable.


  • JoAnn S. Lighty, Division Director, Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems, National Science Foundation and and Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Utah.


  • Jae Edmonds, Chief Scientist and Battelle Laboratory Fellow, Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Elena Irwin, Professor, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University
  • Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Executive Director, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, University of Maryland
  • Joshua Newell, Assistant Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Michigan

JoAnn S. Lighty joined the NSF in October 2013 and serves as one of the key architects for Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS), an NSF research and education initiative. Lighty’s research has focused on the formation of fine particulate matter; the fate of mercury in combustion; carbon capture technologies; and on the formation and oxidation of soot. While serving on committees for the EPA and the National Research Council, she contributed to reports on national issues including air quality, hazardous waste management, and water quality.

Elena Irwin is an environmental and urban economist and specializes in land use economics and human-natural systems. Her research focuses on spatial modeling of land use and the development of integrated models of land use and ecosystem services at local and regional scales. Current projects include the development of empirical and simulation-based spatial models of urbanization and agricultural land use decisions to examine the influence of policies on land change patterns and impacts on ecosystem services in several US study regions.

Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm is a hydrologist and water resources engineer who has developed an ability to view science with both a business and societal perspective. He gained experience with the business aspect of scientific research while working on a portfolio of water resources project for the Inter-American Development Bank. He has also studied hydrology internationally and worked with Engineers Without Borders primarily in Latin American countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which serves the needs of disadvantaged communities through engineering solutions. Miralles-Wilhelm’s primary scientific research focus is on hydrology and climate interactions, specifically pertaining to vegetative ecosystem issues in the Everglades, where he’s worked for the past decade.

Joshua Newell is a broadly trained human-environment geographer, whose research focuses on questions related to urban sustainability, resource consumption, and environmental and social justice. Newell is the Principal Investigator of an NSF-funded workshop grant entitled “Scaling-up Urban Agriculture to Mitigate Food-Energy-Water Impacts” jpnewell@umich.edu

Jae Edmonds is the principal investigator for the Global Energy Technology Strategy Program to Address Climate Change, an international, public-private research collaboration. His research in the areas of long-term, global, energy, economy, and climate change spans three decades, during which time he published several books, numerous scientific papers and made countless presentations. His most recent book, Global Energy Technology Strategy, Addressing Climate Change, distills more than a decade of research on the role of technology in addressing climate change. Dr. Edmonds has served in the capacity of Lead Author on every major IPCC assessment to date and presently serves on the IPCC Steering Committee on “New Integrated Scenarios”. 301-314-6749 jae@pnnl.gov

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