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Environment & Sustainability Program University of South Carolina

712 Sumter Street, EWS 603
Columbia, SC 29208, USA

Phone: 803.777.3921
Fax : 803.777.3922

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Research & Scholarship

Interdisciplinary environmental research and scholarship integrates the full range of natural scientific and social-cultural disciplines, and seeks to understand the extraordinarily complex interactions among organisms, their environments, and humans.  The natural environment provides us with many of our essential resources and services, but new knowledge about our environment is increasingly needed as we face serious challenges of dwindling resources, polluted habitats, stresses on health and quality of life, and adjustments in fundamental processes produced by global climate change.  The University of South Carolina has a diverse range of research and scholastic programs that integrate traditionally separate lines of enquiry, resulting in a rich assemblage of foci for research, scholarship, advanced problem-solving, and service.   The Environment and Sustainability Program provides a focal point for building interdisciplinary linkages, particularly between the natural sciences and the range of other non-science disciplines that enable the wise use and management of complex natural systems.  The extensive and diverse range of environmental research and scholastic programs can be described within six main focus areas:  (1) Eco- and Earth Systems, (2) Sustainability, (3) Climate Change and Weather, (4) Environmental Risks and Hazards, (5) Water Resources, and (6) Society and the Environment.

Eco- and Earth Systems
Understanding the mechanisms that influence natural populations of organisms, their health, and their abilities to adapt to new conditions is extremely complex and requires sophisticated interdisciplinary approaches.  Major research programs at Carolina provide new insights in the biology, physiology, and ecology of plants and animals in natural environments, with particular strengths in coastal and hydrologic systems.  University faculty address complex research questions on the physical and chemical properties of environments, and how they influence the developmental and evolutionary biology of resident organisms. 

Sustainability
To deal with increasing pressures on our environmental resources, citizens and government are realizing the need for new technological and behavioral approaches for sustaining resources for future generations.  Environmental research at Carolina develops new mechanisms and innovations in design and construction for treatment of wastes, meeting our future energy needs, and improving sustainability.  Research and scholarship also provide new insights and approaches to environmental law and regulation, while spatial studies and data analysis promote improved land use planning. 

Climate Change and Weather
Recent findings clearly demonstrate that our planetary climate is changing.  It is increasingly important to understand the causes of change, and how we can either mitigate damaging change or adapt to it.  Research on climate variability and change provides new information on climatic influences on water resources, agricultural systems, and sea level rise. 

Environmental Risks and Hazards
Humans are subject to risk through catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, or more subtle, long-term exposure to hazards, such as toxic contaminants.  Chemical, physical, engineering, and biological research provides explanations and ultimately predictions for the transport and fate of contaminants.  Additional research provides innovative methods for remediating or containing polluting substances.  Social and economic research adds critical information on risk assessment, resiliency, and behavioral responses of human populations to minimize the impacts of hazards. 

Water Resources
There are two impending freshwater crises: First, the quantity of water to support our direct needs and essential ecological functions is diminishing and already insufficient in many parts of the world. Further, due to contamination and degradation of water supplies, water quality is deteriorating, making it increasingly unfit for human use and support of natural communities.  Advanced research in water resource management helps policy makers, who must deal with the human outcomes of water resource problems.  Such problems include: degraded water quality, droughts, and the need to redistribute  water supplies because of changes in climate patterns or community water transport and storage capabilities. 

Society and the Environment
Our primary social institutions – including Law, Public Policy, and Public Communication – play essential roles in the use, regulation, and protection of our environmental resources and services.  Similarly, much of our economic structure is based on environmental resources, such as oil, gas, and water.  Beyond these basic needs, our culture is infused with environmental themes that span history and cultural sectors.  The relationships among these societal uses and the natural environment have huge implications for the health and wealth of the global community.

Eco- and Earth Systems Links:
A. C. Moore Herbarium
A. C. Moore Herbarium (USCH) Collections Database
Baruch Institute for Maine and Coastal Sciences
BioGeomorphology Research Lab, Department of Geography
Department of Biological Sciences
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences
Earth Sciences and Resources Institute
Marine Science Program

Geographic Information Science Links:
Baruch Institute Geographic Information Processing Lab, Belle W. Baruch Institute
GISciences Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, College of Arts & Sciences
Campus GIS Support Program, College of Arts & Sciences
USC Campus GIS Data Server, Department of Geography, College of Arts & Sciences
University Consortium for Geographic Information Sciences – USC Chapter

Climate Change and Weather Links:
Climate Research Lab, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Emphasis area in Global Climate Change, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences

Environmental Risks and Hazards Links:
Cancer Prevention & Control Program
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health
Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute
NASA REASoN Project, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences

Water Resources Links:
BioGeomorphology Research Lab, Department of Geography
Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Climate Research Lab, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences
Earth Sciences and Resources Institute

Sustainability Links:
Carolina Integrated Sciences and Assessments, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health
Green Quad Learning Center
Sustainable Universities Initiative

Society and the Environment Links:
Ancient Gardening in South Carolina, 10,000 B.C. - A.D. 1700
Cancer Prevention and Control Program
Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences
Environmental Law Program, School of Law
Human Geography at USC, Department of Geography, College of Arts and Sciences
Science and Health Communication
South Carolina Cancer Disparities Community Network
South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

Environmental Blogs List:
See here for the complete listing