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Cover of the Spring 2008 issue


VOL. 34, NO. 3





Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor
James Schauer receives 2008 Romnes Fellowship

James Schauer

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor James J. Schauer is among an elite group of University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty to receive the 2008 H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship.

Funded via the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Romnes award helps younger UW-Madison faculty further establish their scholarly careers.

Schauer is an international expert in using chemical tracers to pinpoint sources of atmospheric aerosols. In addition, he is a world leader in using such data to assess the effects of atmospheric particulate matter on health, climate and the environment. His research has applications in studies of human health, urban air pollution, ecosystem changes and global climate change throughout the United States and in many areas around the world.

The world, literally, is Schauer’s laboratory. “Air pollution problems are very diverse,” he says. “You can’t do a study in Los Angeles and say, ‘OK, this is the same problem in Beijing or the whole of Pakistan.’”

With funding from such local, national and international entities as the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium, the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the United Nations Environment Programme, Schauer is studying air quality issues worldwide.

In the Great Lakes region, his research group is identifying sources of air pollution to determine the relative importance of local sources and the transport of pollution from other regions. In Los Angeles, his group is collecting data in a yearlong study to help researchers and regulators understand the relative impact of different types of vehicles on air pollution. With researchers at the University of California, Davis, and UW-Madison Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Tracey Holloway, his group is examining how such climate-relevant factors as changes in emissions, temperature and cloud formation will affect the atmospheric mercury cycle.

Schauer’s group also is collaborating with University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, researchers who study the health effects of particulate matter.

Around the world, Schauer’s group is analyzing shallow snow pits collected on the Greenland ice sheet to learn about long-term pollution deposition there. Part of an initiative in South Asia called Project Atmospheric Brown Cloud—in which researchers worldwide are studying the long-term effects of air pollution on regional and global climate change, water balance, agriculture and public health—Schauer’s group is establishing observatories in Nepal, the Maldives Islands and Kyrgyzstan. He also is leading research teams that are studying air pollution in 11 cities scattered around Israel, Palestine and Jordan, as well as in Lahore, a megacity in Pakistan.

The Romnes award provides $50,000 over five years, and Schauer says he plans to use the funding to leverage his current research. “If there are opportunities where we can incrementally make a big gain, I think that’s what I’ll be looking for,” he says.

In many cases, that big gain might result from sharing his tools and expertise with colleagues around the world. “We have quite a few visiting faculty from other parts of the world,” says Schauer. “So, I hope we can leverage opportunities to build seeds for new activities that have profound impact on the study and mitigation of air pollution around the world.”

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