Initiative on Environment and Sustainability

Woods Institute, key to the Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability, celebrates five years of achievement

President John Hennessy and Lynn Orr

President John Hennessy announces the creation of the Precourt Institute for Energy with its director, Lynn Orr.

Five years after it was founded, the Woods Institute for the Environment, a cornerstone of Stanford’s Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability, has become an important player in environmental science and policy.

During an October celebration of the institute’s achievements, President John Hennessy noted that Woods has become the interdisciplinary center originally envisioned, bringing together professors from 37 departments, institutes and centers to conduct innovative environmental research, inform public policy and educate leaders.

Key to the institute’s success have been Environmental Venture Projects (EVP), which provide seed money to research projects in the areas of climate and energy, land use and conservation, oceans and estuaries, freshwater and the sustainable built environment. Since 2004, the Woods Institute has awarded grants to 33 faculty research teams working in 10 countries.

By 2009, faculty supported by EVP grants:

Four Stanford faculty teams received new grants in 2009 to tackle environmental challenges from the desert grasslands of Australia to the mountain meadows of California.

In 2009, another cornerstone of the environmental initiative was launched. The new Precourt Institute for Energy and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy was made possible by $100 million in support, including gifts from Jay Precourt and Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor. The establishment of both recognizes that energy is at the heart of many of the world’s challenges—economic, environmental and political.

The director of the Precourt Institute is Lynn Orr, the Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor in Petroleum Engineering. Orr has been the director of Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), where researchers are involved in more than 40 research projects to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy. GCEP will become part of the new institute, as will the Precourt Center for Energy Efficiency, an organization dedicated to finding ways to wring more energy savings out of buildings, cars, the electricity grid and human behavior.

In 2009, alumnus Dan Emmett and his wife, Rae, endowed Stanford’s graduate interdisciplinary environmental studies program with a $10 million gift through their Emmett Foundation. The Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources is administered by the School of Earth Sciences and is designed to train tomorrow’s environmental leaders in a variety of disciplines.