The research and creative capacity of Washington University and the strength of interdisciplinary partnerships are mobilized to advance knowledge that addresses complex environmental challenges.
The Center for the Environment is an interdisciplinary hub of environmental research that
- accelerates research across environmental solutions, biodiversity, environmental justice, and planetary health with earth systems and climate change as a cross-cutting driver.
- fosters a diverse community of faculty, staff, researchers and students with shared interests in environment and sustainability.
- amplifies transformative partnerships throughout Washington University and beyond.
- supports interdisciplinary and emerging educational initiatives and postdoctoral research.
Evolution of environmental research at WashU
The launch of the Center for the Environment, and the success it represents for Here and Next, is possible thanks to the community process that began in 2021 with the robust collaboration of the Working Group, Action Team, Implementation Team, and Internal Advisory Committee. The members of these groups contributed to the inception, planning, and launch of the Center and special recognition is given to Daniel Giammar, Lora Iannotti, TR Kidder, Lulu Li, Jonathan Losos, Beth Martin, Kim Parker, Rodrigo Reis, and Barbara Schaal for their impactful contributions.
Director for Planetary Health and Environmental Justice
Director for Biodiversity
Program and Operations Manager
The Center for the Environment is proposed to have the four interconnected initial research themes noted below and one cross-cutting theme. The most complex environmental challenges and the most exciting research needs are at the intersections of these themes.
Research on planetary health advanced by the Center for the Environment is guided by its definition as “global environmental change and its health impacts” provided by the Planetary Health Alliance, a consortium of more than 340 research and practice institutions. At Washington University in St. Louis, the theme will be broadened to reflect reciprocity in the human health-environment relationship. Themes of research advanced by the Center for the Environment will include environmental health, global health, sustainable urban design, sustainable healthy food systems, nourishing biomes, and the connection between environmental change and infectious disease. Research advances will benefit from a convergent approach that draws on expertise from public health, engineering, ecology, natural and social sciences, and architecture and urban design.
Environmental Justice is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as the equitable and ethical engagement of communities in planning, designing and implementing evidence-based policies and practices for the well-being of human and natural ecosystems and in addressing the impacts of new and existing policies across all social structures. In addition to pursuing scholarly research in environmental justice, the Center for the Environment will apply environmental justice as a guiding principle for research in the other themes. The applied nature of environmental justice requires close community engagement and transdisciplinary partnerships. These partnerships span local, national, and global contexts. With existing cross school and interdisciplinary strengths in air pollution, public health, social work, social systems and advocacy, the Center for the Environment will build upon, advance and expand existing research and collaborations.
Environmental solutions encompasses scientific, technological, and policy approaches to address environmental threats to human and ecosystem health. These solutions will also chart a pathway towards a sustainable and equitable future. The Center for the Environment will promote environmental solutions research in air and water quality, biotechnology, agricultural practices, the built environment, and decarbonization of energy and industrial systems. Environmental solutions will emerge from diverse fields, including but not limited to engineering, natural and social sciences, social work and policy, and architecture and design. The Center will examine environmental solutions across timescales and in systems spanning natural, managed, and engineered environments.
Biodiversity is the variety and variability of all living organisms on earth, from the smallest genes to organisms to ecosystems. It refers to the variation of life at different organizational levels, from individual genes to whole ecosystems. Biodiversity research supported by the Center for the Environment will enlighten our understanding of the origin, composition, function, and evolution of the biological world. The Center for the Environment will enable research that investigates the interactions between natural and human systems, the effects of climate change on biodiversity, and what can be done to ameliorate the negative consequences of this change on people and the environment.
Earth Systems and Climate Change
Earth Systems consist of the Geosphere together with the Atmosphere, Biosphere, Cryosphere, and Hydrosphere. Together these five systems interact to produce the environments that surround us. Knowledge of the interactions and dynamics within Earth Systems is fundamental to the understanding and characterization of the environment. As a result, Earth Systems and Climate Change will serve as an underlying foundation and cross-cutting theme for research fostered by the Center for the Environment. Climate change exacerbates threats to biodiversity, planetary health, and environmental justice that will require new research and solutions. The Center will also promote collaborative research into the operation of environmental systems today, reconstructions of their past function, and predictions of their anticipated behavior in light of a changing climate.
- Faculty Events and Curated Database
- Graduate Student and Postdoc Community
- Undergraduate Research
- Internal Organization Relationships
- Support Strategic Growth of Faculty
- Multi-Tier Seed Funding
- Support of Teams Pursuing Large Grants
- Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
- Ph.D. Student-Initiated Extension Grants
- Capacity-Building of Critical Needs
- “Front Door” to Environmental Work
- External Organization Relationships
- External Promotion of Achievements
- Hosting Major Events
- Internal Communication
Center for Aerosol Science and Engineering
The Center for Aerosol Science and Engineering is focused on the advancement of knowledge and technology through aerosol techniques in energy, environment, materials and health. The center is composed of a collaborative group of faculty, students and affiliates within the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering and across Washington University, as well as with partners at universities and corporations worldwide.
Center for Water Innovation
The Center for Water Innovation supports fundamental and applied research to develop advanced technologies and strategies for improving the efficiency of water and wastewater treatment as well as recovering valuable resources from wastewater. The center provides a platform for industry-university dialogue and facilitates interactions among potential collaborators towards joint research efforts.
Living Earth Collaborative
The Living Earth Collaborative is a center for biodiversity built from a partnership among three leading institutions in the study of plant and animal science — Washington University, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Zoo. The collaborative is dedicated to advancing the knowledge of biodiversity and to ensuring the future of earth’s species in their many forms.
Midwest Climate Collaborative
The Midwest Climate Collaborative is a cross-sector collaboration connecting organizations in 12 states to respond collectively to the climate crisis. Launched in 2022 and hosted at Washington University, the MCC works across sectors to accelerate climate action, knowledge generation and leader development to support its vision of a carbon neutral, climate resilient, interconnected Midwest region.
Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability leads Washington University’s efforts to transform its campuses into a living learning laboratory that connects teaching and research directly to sustainable campus operations. The Office of Sustainability facilitates, convenes and partners with university leaders and community partners to work toward a more sustainable campus and world.
Tyson Research Center
Tyson Research Center is the environmental field station for Washington University. Located just 20 miles from the Danforth Campus on 2,000 acres at the edge of the Ozark Highlands, Tyson provides opportunities for environmental research and education for students and faculty from Washington University and beyond. The center facilitates multi-scale research and teaching opportunities and collaboration across disciplines, institutions, and levels of academic training.