WMU News

Environmental workshop draws international experts

Sept. 27, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- More than 130 researchers who study environmental topics ranging from aquatics to the atmosphere will convene at Western Michigan University Friday, Oct. 6, through Sunday, Oct. 8.

The 23rd annual Midwest Environmental Chemistry Workshop will be held at the Fetzer Center and draw participants from such diverse fields as chemistry, civil engineering, biology, geosciences and science education. This is the first time WMU has acted as host to the conference.

"There is really an awful lot of environmental focus in the sciences here at Western Michigan University," says Dr. Steven B. Bertman, WMU associate professor of chemistry and coordinator for the conference. "We are looking forward to showcasing what we have going on here, and also talking about new work and issues in the environmental fields."

More than 80 papers will be presented, either in an oral or poster formats, on such topics as aquatic photochemistry, biosphere and atmosphere interactions, atmospheric chemistry, organic toxins and pollutants, bioenvironmental chemistry, and environmental, or "green," technology. Among the participants and attendees expected are representatives from Midwestern U.S. and Canadian universities, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and industry and business.

The workshop will feature six sessions running consecutively over two days. Each session will feature an opening presentation by an invited speaker, followed by other oral presentations. A poster session and reception will be held Saturday evening.

Saturday, Oct. 7

  • The 8 a.m. session will focus on aquatic photochemistry and feature Dr. John Hassatt, professor and chairperson of the Department of Chemistry at the State University of New York at Syracuse. Hassat's presentation, "Indirect Photolysis of Organic Compounds in Water Mediated by Natural Organic Matter: A Retrospective and Prospective in Memory of Susan Burns," will address the use of radiation to create organic species that can degrade contaminants. Burns was a WMU faculty member.
  • At 11 a.m., Dr. David Karowe, WMU associate professor of biological sciences, will kick off the biosphere-atmosphere interactions session by speaking about his research on the impact high levels of carbon dioxide have on plants and animals in "Effects of Elevated Atmospheric CO2 on Plant Chemistry and Consequences for Insect Herbivores."
  • The 1 p.m. session on atmospheric chemistry will feature Dr. John Abbatt, professor of chemistry at the University of Toronto, who will talk about the role ice plays in the impact of aerosols on the lower atmosphere in "The Chemistry of Ice in the Troposphere."
  • The 3:30 p.m. session on organic toxins and pollutants will feature Dr. Roger A. Minear, professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who will discuss safety solvents used in the early 20th century and their negative impact on the environment in "Halogenated Solvents: From the Ideal 'Safety Solvents' to Environmental Nightmare."

Sunday, Oct. 8

  • At 8 a.m., the bioenvironmental chemistry session will feature plant geneticist Dr. Hector D. Quemada of Crop Technology Consulting in Kalmazoo. Quemada will speak on "Studies of Potential Environmental Consequences of Disease Resistant Transgenic Plants."
  • At 10 a.m., Dr. Perry J. Samson, the Arthur Thurnau Professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences at the University of Michigan, will kick off the environmental, or "green," technology session. His presentation, "Exploring New Tools for Geoscience Education," will showcase some of the developing activities and tools using Internet-driven multimedia to stimulate geosciences learning at K-12 and undergraduate levels. Samson is the head of the Weather Underground at the University of Michigan and the Blue Skies program, which encourages children's interest in the sciences by having them use the Internet to correspond about their weather with other children across the globe.

"This workshop's program really bridges traditional disciplinary barriers," says Bertman. "It allows people with diverse backgrounds find common ground and make new collaborative ties with their colleagues."

A special tribute will be paid to Dr. Susan Burns, a WMU assistant professor of chemistry, at the opening of the workshop Saturday. Burns, who was coordinating the workshop with Bertman, died last year.

Registration fees for the workshop are $45. Registration information can be obtained by contacting Diana Newman in the WMU Department of Chemistry at (616) 387-4935.

The workshop is sponsored by the WMU Departments of Chemistry, Biological Sciences and Geography; the Environmental Institute; the College of Arts and Sciences; and the Office of the Vice President for Research; as well as the American Chemical Society's Kalamazoo Chapter, VRW Scientific, Dow Agrosciences and Harcourt College Publishers.

For more information contact Newman or Bertman at (616) 387-2866 or visit the workshop's Web site at <unix.cc.wmich.edu/bertman/MWECW>.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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