UT Researchers Visit China to Explore Biofuels, Ecosystems, Climate Change

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Earlier this fall, a team of UT scientists traveled to Beijing for the fourth annual workshop of the China-US Joint Research Center for Ecosystem and Environmental Change (JRCEEC).

The workshop was structured around the theme “Energy, Ecosystem and Environmental Change” and organized by the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). More than 160 researchers from numerous Chinese and US universities and institutes participated in the September workshop.

JRCEEC was established in 2006 by UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE), the UT/Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Joint Institute for Biological Sciences (JIBS) and CAS. The partnership now includes Purdue University’s Center for the Environment and the University of Science and Technology of China.The annual China-US workshops are hosted reciprocally by US and Chinese partners. Last year’s event convened at ORNL.

UT's Miriam Kramer (front row, left), Jennifer DeBruyn (front row, second from left), Alison Buchan (back row, left), Steven Wilhelm (partially obscured, back row), and Erik Zinser (front row, right) visited the Great Wall of China after attending the fourth annual workshop of the China-US Joint Research Center for Ecosystem and Environmental Change (JRCEEC) in Beijing. The UT team is pictured with researchers from Purdue University's Center for the Environment.

“The Joint Research Center’s annual workshops have grown fourfold in size and scope since we held the first conference at UT in 2007,” said JIBS Director Gary Sayler, distinguished professor in UT’s Department of Microbiology. “In the process, the joint center has nurtured friendships and created a sturdy collaborative bridge between Chinese and American scientists and students, many of who are contending with common problems in the areas of climate, energy and ecological health and restoration.”

Sayler, ISSE Director Randall Gentry, and ISSE Research Director Jie (Joe) Zhuang were among the founders of the China-US partnership. Zhuang also serves as JRCEEC coordinator.

UT presenters at the workshop included Steven Wilhelm, Alison Buchan and Erik Zinser from the Department of Microbiology; JIBS Director Gary Sayler; JRCEEC Coordinator Jie (Joe) Zhuang; Barry Bruce from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology; Jennifer DeBruyn from the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science; David Mann, a post-doctoral research associate, and graduate students Mathew Halter and Jason Burris from the Department of Plant Sciences of UT’s Institute of Agriculture; and Timothy Rials and Sam Jackson of UT’s Biofuels Initiative.

Sayler, Zhuang, Bruce, Rials, Jackson, Mann, Halter and Burris arrived in Beijing in advance of the main workshop to take part in a two-day topical workshop on the “Biotechnology of Bioenergy Plants,” which was organized by CAS’s Institute of Botany. Feng Chen and Max Chen, from UT’s Department of Plant Sciences, played roles in the earlier workshop.

The workshop concluded with field trips to noted historical sites and research facilities in China, including the Forbidden City and the Great Wall in Beijing, CAS’s Institute of Water and Soil Conservation on the Loess Plateau near Xi’an, and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences’ Institute of Karst Geology in South China’s Guangxi province.

The fifth annual joint workshop, “Global Sustainability in Energy, Climate, Water and Environment,” will be held at Purdue University in September 2011.

For more information on individual presentations, JRCEEC or workshop abstracts and proceedings from past conferences, visit the JRCEEC website: http://jrceec.utk.edu/workshops/workshops.html

Source: Miriam Kramer

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