Initiative on Environment and Sustainability

Partnerships and research promote sustainable development

Scholars in biology, aquaculture, environmental law and other fields will work together to protect the world’s oceans, thanks to a$25 million grant from the Packard Foundation. The 2008 grant created the Center for Ocean Solutions, a partnership among the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Institute for the Environment, the Hopkins Marine Station, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.


The new center is among Stanford’s efforts to help societies meet resource demands without undermining the planet’s ability to provide for future generations. The University’s Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability focuses on freshwater, climate and energy, land use and conservation, oceans and estuaries, and the sustainable built environment.


At the core of Stanford’s efforts is the Woods Institute, an interdisciplinary hub for research and teaching. The Woods Institute shares the new Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building with the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Environmental Earth System Science, the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, the Global Climate and Energy Project, the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources and other programs.

In 2008, the Woods Institute awarded Environmental Venture Projects grants to faculty teams solving sustainability challenges ranging from salmon farming in Chile to farmland irrigation in California to coral reef ecosystems in the Pacific.

Through GCEP and other programs, the University seeks to further expand its activities in the area of renewable energy and its deployment. For instance, grants were made in 2008 for research that promises to create models for reducing energy use and improving efficiency. Faculty are developing biodegradable foam materials for structural insulated panels, assessing how weather and demand from plug-in hybrids will affect California's ability to deliver electricity from renewable sources, and studying methods for quantifying the environmental impact of diesel and ethanol fuels.


Researchers led by Martin Fischer, professor of civil and environmental engineering, also are performing a $1 million energy retrofit—paid for by Stanford—for Santa Clara County’s Main Jail North to develop computer simulations and a model that can be widely shared.