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Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
SENSE e-News
    Newsletter February 2017
31 January 2017
Table of contents
SENSE alumnus Alexander van Oudenhoven (WU) Discoverer of the year 2016 of Leiden University ››
Prof. Albert Klein Tank (WU): Daily climate forecast offers perspectives to act ››
Jetske Vaas (UU): Upon leaving Saba ››
Rémon Saaltink: Poster pitch of key-results presented at the EcoSummit in Montpellier, 2016 ››
Upcoming PhD Graduations
Overview of PhD graduations upcoming period ››
Upcoming Courses
Grasping Sustainability, 13-17 March 2017 ››
A1 SENSE Introductory Course, 29-31 March 2017 ››
Overview of PhD / postdoc courses February-April ››
Overview of recently announced PhD / postdoc courses ››
Discussion Groups
Discussion group Landscape Dynamics, 31 January ››
Ecological Theory & Application Discussion Group meeting, 8 February ››
Research seminar Earth System Governance, 9 February ››
Plant-Soil Interaction Discussion group, 17 February ››
SENSE Workshop Circular Economy, 13 March ››
Discussion meeting Integrating ecosystem service, biodiversity and landscape connectivity into models, 17 March ››
Upcoming Events
Overview of upcoming events ››
Science advocacy: Get involved - Presenting science to politicians in a way they can understand can have good outcomes (Niklas Höhne, Nature, 22-29 December 2016) ››
Professional PhD Program vacancies
Job vacancies
Vacancies at SENSE Partners ››
SENSE headlines
SENSE alumnus Alexander van Oudenhoven (WU) Discoverer of the year 2016 of Leiden University
Prof. Albert Klein Tank (WU): Daily climate forecast offers perspectives to act
Grasping Sustainability course, 13-17 March 2017
A1 SENSE Introductory Course, 29-31 March 2017
Science advocacy: Get involved - Presenting science to politicians in a way they can understand can have good outcomes (Niklas Höhne, Nature, 22-29 December 2016)
Trumping Mr. Trump with bottom-up climate action

The widely hailed Paris Climate Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. Just 4 days later, Donald Trump won the presidential elections in the United States of America. Mr. Trump once said: “The concept of climate change was created by and for the Chinese, to make US-manufacturing less competitive”. For those hoping that 45th president of the US Donald Trump wouldn’t live up to this standard, think again. Shortly after the inauguration, the White House’s homepage on climate change went blank. Instead, the Trump Administration launched an ‘America First Energy Plan’ focusing on dismantling Obama’s climate legislation and exploiting the “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” (read oil, shale gas and natural gas not wind and solar power). Within a few days, Mr Trump also revived two controversial pipeline projects – the Dakota Access Pipelines and Keystone XL – deepening the fossil fuel lock-in of the US economy. His views on international climate action under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement have ranged from full rejection to “having an open mind”. However, the appointment of Rex Tillerson – a former ExxonMobil CEO – to become Secretary of State, does not necessarily reflect an open mind. Depending on the scenario, the US could leave the UNFCCC within a year.

To be clear, the US was never keen on ambitious international climate action but the new directions are clearly a step in the wrong direction. Its sheer size in terms of greenhouse gas emissions makes the US a key player if we are to limit global warming to 2 degree Celsius. It is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions per capita, and ranking second only to China in terms of total annual GHG emissions. Hence, if the US fails to reduce its emissions, it becomes virtually impossible for the rest of the world to pick up the slack. Other policy choices by the Trump administration could also have serious repercussions for other countries’ ability to curb climate change. For instance, advisers to the administration have vowed to cancel funding for renewable energy research and even dismantling NASA’s climate change program, which could inhibit important research progress on climate change. In addition, the plans for rebuilding US infrastructure will most likely also have an impact on future emission scenarios, as we talk rather about new highways than about new railways.

A less gloomy picture, however, emerges if one looks beyond the surface of US climate policy and digs into the sub-national level. Replying to rumors that the Trump Administration would discontinue the use of existing satellites for climate research, Californian Governor Jerry Brown said that “California will launch its own damn satellites.” His state has become a shining example of what local governments and regions can do to take action beyond the federal level. California has launched its own cap-and-trade scheme starting in 2012 and before that took part in the regional Western Climate Initiative, a cooperative initiative aiming to start carbon trading in seven American states and Canadian provinces. It also has among the most stringent car emission legislations in the US, forcing car manufacturers and owners to follow the ‘California Standard’. Considering that California’s economy comes in at 6th place in the global ranking of largest economy, outperforming countries such as France and Brazil, their actions on climate change are not to be taken lightly. On the east coast of the US, another sub-national cap-and-trade program has been set-up called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) between 9 states, targeting emissions from electric power plants generating more than 25 megawatts. The RGGI states have reduced their dependence on carbon-intense energy sources such as coal and petroleum from 33 % in 2005 to 8 % in 2015. The scheme has also generated over US$ 2.4 billion in revenues.

Another source of ambitious climate action has come from cities. New York, for instance, has set a target of reducing its CO2 emissions by 80 % in 2050, and Austin in Texas even wants to reduce their emissions with 90 % by 2050. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has also become a front-figure for what cities can do to mitigate and adapt to climate change. His efforts have led him to become the United Nation’s first Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

Climate action in the US does not end with the inauguration of Mr. Trump. Thousands of local and regional initiatives set up by regions, cities, companies and other civil society groups are likely to continue their work, seeking positive side-effects and understanding the necessity of curbing climate change. A global climate governance architecture that is based on the actions of ten-thousands of organizations and millions of individuals is more resilient than an intergovernmental process that can easily be derailed by the election of just one political leader. It is up to researchers such as us to understand, inform and engage in this transition of climate governance moving from the ‘top-down’ to the ‘bottom-up’.

Philipp Pattberg (SENSE General Director) and Oscar Widerberg (SENSE PhD candidate Environmental Policy Analysis IVM-VU)
SENSE alumnus Alexander van Oudenhoven (WU) Discoverer of the year 2016 of Leiden University
Environmental scientist Alexander van Oudenhoven has been chosen as Discoverer of the year of the Faculty of Science of Leiden University. Vice Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl announced this during the faculty’s New Year’s Reception on 10 January.

Discoverer of the year Van Oudenhoven examines the value of ecosystems, such as forests. These so-called ecosystem services do not only entail the financial value of for instance wood and fruit from the forest, but also the cultural services such as recreation, education and inspiration. Determining a financial value for these services is difficult; Van Oudenhoven searches for relevant indicators and makes them practicable for policymakers and administrators.

Source: website Leiden University
Prof. Albert Klein Tank (WU): Daily climate forecast offers perspectives to act
Next to the weather forecast there should be a daily climate forecast. With news about the state of the climate, warnings and practical information about climate change adaptation or risk reduction. "It offers a better perspective of ways to respond", says prof. Albert Klein Tank, extraordinary professor Climate Services in his inaugural lecture at Wageningen University & Research on 19 January.
Read more (in Dutch) ››
SENSE PhD blogs
Jetske Vaas (UU): Upon leaving Saba
Two months on Saba have flown by: interviewing people, being toured around gardens, getting a peek of local politics and becoming more and more attached to the quirks of Saba's nature and people. Since it will take a long time before our research will really have an impact on Saba, I didn’t want to leave the island without leaving something behind. Therefore Elizabeth and I made a flyer on Coralita, explaining the phenomenon and what our research aims to do.
Read blogpost ››
Rémon Saaltink: Poster pitch of key-results presented at the EcoSummit in Montpellier, 2016

> Watch the poster clip I recorded during the EcoSummit of 2016 in Montpellier about "Smart ecosystems: using the concept of eco-engineering for large-scale wetland construction in the Netherlands".
Upcoming PhD Graduations
Overview of PhD graduations upcoming period
  • Tracy Evans
    Management implications for invertebrate assemblages in the mid-west American agricultural landscape
    2 February 2017, Leiden University, Conservation Biology
  • Kanokwan Saswattecha
    Improving environmental sustainability of palm oil production in Thailand
    13 February 2017, Wageningen University, Environmental Systems Analysis
  • Bruna Figueiredo Oliveira
    Lift up of Lowlands: Beneficial use of dredged sediments to reverse land subsidence
    15 February 2017, Wageningen University, Environmental Technology
  • Getachew Feleke Belete
    Integrating models on the web: application for socio-environmental studies
    23 February 2017, University of Twente, Department of Geo-Information Processing
More upcoming graduations ››
Upcoming Courses
Grasping Sustainability, 13-17 March 2017
Explore, understand and utilise sustainability, the different concepts, objectives, indicators and methodologies.
To date, many different scientific concepts and approaches of environmental sustainability exist. What are the differences? What do they entail? How can you achieve sustainable development? How can you apply sustainability in your own research? Moreover, what is your role as a scientist and how can you deal with facts, insecurities, values and opinions?
This course will enable you to grasp sustainability and to apply concepts and approaches to your own research.
Read more and register ››
A1 SENSE Introductory Course, 29-31 March 2017
What is my work good for? Even the most nerdish PhD student asks himself or herself this question once in a while. Is it just for the sake of science or does it relate to other research or even to environmental policy? What are my SENSE colleagues working on in other departments and other universities? How does their research relate to mine?
 In the SENSE course 'Environmental Research in Context' several perspectives and approaches to analyse and to solve environmental problems are discussed. You will find out how your own research project fits within other (multi-) disciplinary approaches and you will discuss the advantages and the disadvantages of your approach compared to these alternatives.

In addition, you will evaluate some examples where questions from society were translated into scientific research projects in terms of relevance and scientific validity with experienced researchers and other PhD students.
Read more and register ››
Overview of PhD / postdoc courses February-April
Overview of recently announced PhD / postdoc courses
More upcoming courses ››
Discussion Groups
Discussion group Landscape Dynamics, 31 January
The landscape is shaped by interacting physical, chemical and biological processes. These range from tectonic processes over millions of years to extreme events which change the landscape in a matter of seconds. The impact of humans on the landscape can be direct but also indirect, by affecting the natural processes. Therefore, understanding the landscape dynamics requires an interdisciplinary view ranging over multiple spatial and temporal scales.

The discussion group ‘Landscape Dynamics’ focuses on the past, present and future dynamics of the physical landscape. During the proactive meetings, different themes will be introduced by a speaker and discussed using several propositions. Example of themes are feedbacks between soil, water, atmosphere and vegetation, the human factor in earth sciences or the issue of up- and downscaling in modelling natural processes.
Ecological Theory & Application Discussion Group meeting, 8 February
The Ecological Theory & Application Discoussion Group organises two-monthly meetings for PhD students with a broad interest in ecology. Each meeting is organised around a central ecological theme, such as distribution patterns, climate change, ecophysiology, trophic interactions, etc. 
Research seminar Earth System Governance, 9 February
The Amsterdam Laboratory on Earth System Governance is a research seminar, hosted by the IVM section Environmental Policy Analysis, on new research in the area of environmental and earth-system governance. In weekly meetings, held each Thursday 12-13 hrs, participants will be given the opportunity to present and discuss their work, and receive valuable feedback. The research seminar will provide a regular opportunity to exchange views on new research directions, concepts, themes and methods in earth system governance research. 
Plant-Soil Interaction Discussion group, 17 February
The Plant and Soil Interactions discussion group offers a platform to discuss the current and cutting edge research in plant and soil science. Meetings are aimed at facilitating networking and collaboration between young scientists researching many aspects of how soil and plants interact. Topics of the meetings are related to plant and soil research and are chosen according to the current interests of the group, e.g. topics involving nutrient and carbon cycling, plant interactions with soil biota or connections between the above and belowground communities.

17 February 2017: Johannes Postma (researcher at Forschungszentrum Jülich): "How root architectural traits influence resource acquisition and plant growth: Simulation studies with OpenSimRoot"
Interactive part: "Connecting structure-function models to root architecture in the field" 
SENSE Workshop Circular Economy, 13 March
The government of the Netherlands initiates a transition towards the circular economy. This offers a very interesting opportunity for the SENSE network to take part in this transition. Our graduate school organisation is well positioned in inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches and very well suited to assist this national process on achieving sustainability in the key resources of our societies economy.

Huub Rijnaarts, chairman of the SENSE Board initiated a SENSE network meeting / workshop on 13 March on how SENSE researchers, companies and governments can join forces to assist this process. The workshop is organised in close collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&M) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

If you are interested to participate and discuss possible future initiatives with SENSE participation, please send an email to
Discussion meeting Integrating ecosystem service, biodiversity and landscape connectivity into models, 17 March
Discussion meeting Research Cluster XIII "Land use, spatial analysis and modelling / ecosystem and landscape services"

The intention of the meeting is: getting to know each other, having an exchange of ideas, knowledge and experiences, and perhaps discussing future collaboration opportunities.

(i) What are the best features of modelling ES, biodiversity and landscape connectivity? Are they compatible? Is there space for change (technological, conceptual or of application)? 
(ii) What are the opportunities and weaknesses of integrating ecosystem service, biodiversity and landscape connectivity on environmental planning for decision-makers?
Upcoming Events
Overview of upcoming events
Recently announced:
Full list of interesting upcoming events:
See SENSE website ››
Science advocacy: Get involved - Presenting science to politicians in a way they can understand can have good outcomes (Nature, 22-29 December 2016)
With so many science-based challenges facing the world, researchers who can help to inform and affect policy can have an outsized impact. We asked Connie Lee, Tamara Galloway and Niklas Höhne to describe how they have helped to shape government policy — and how others can learn from their experiences. [...]

The facts matter
Niklas Höhne, climate scientist at Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Science covers the questions at the heart of society's problems. When it comes to climate change, it's absolutely essential that the research community helps to translate science into options for policymakers. [...]
Read the article ››
Professional PhD Program vacancies
The Professional PhD Program (PPP) aims to provide opportunities for PhD candidates to work on their transferable skills. Currently the PhD track fully focuses on an academic career, while around 80 per cent of the people who finish their PhD will continue their career outside universities. In addition to this, companies and public organizations can experience the added value of a PhD candidate. Furthermore, PPP can strengthen the collaboration between universities and non-academic organizations.
The Professional PhD Program is an initiative by Promovendi Netwerk Nederland. 
Job vacancies
Vacancies at SENSE Partners
More vacancies
During the month new vacancies are regularly posted on the SENSE vacancy page and in the SENSE LinkedIn group.

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