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Science & Technology - Society & Culture

2021 Global Research Symposium: International Solutions for A Global Crisis

April 20, 2021

During his Global Research Symposium presentation “Snails Over Time,” Paul Callomon, manager of the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Malacology Department, showed a snail shell that has been partially dissolved.
During his Global Research Symposium presentation “Snails Over Time,” Paul Callomon, manager of the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Malacology Department, showed a snail shell that has been partially dissolved.

As part of Drexel University’s 2021 “Climate Year” initiative to support and advance ongoing and new climate work and sustainable solutions at all levels of the University, the Office of Global Engagement invited Drexel researchers and international colleagues to virtually convene and share their research and work measuring, addressing and finding solutions for climate change.

Held on April 15, the 2021 Climate Year: Global Research Symposium featured five-minute flash presentations from 15 Drexel faculty and professional staff (from six colleges and schools and the Academy of Natural Sciences) and their work related to the global climate crisis. Faculty from international partner institutions also presented, including those from the Politecnico di Milano in Italy and the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, as well as a presenter from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Colombia.

After welcome remarks from Rogelio Miñana, PhD, vice provost for global engagement, and Jennifer Britton, director for communications and special projects in the Office of University and Community Partnerships, representing Drexel’s Climate Year Committee, the faculty researchers presented five-minute flash talks about their globally themed research, as was typical of the annual international research showcase held by the Office of Global Engagement. But this year, unlike the past four years, was a little different: it was centered on a major topic for presenters of all disciplines.

“This year, to celebrate Drexel’s Climate Year, we decided to invite faculty to present about their research related to climate change from the lens of their academic discipline,” said Casey Devine, coordinator in the Office of Global Engagement, who helped organize the event. “We also sent a call to action and invited our international partners to attend and present at the Symposium to foster further connections and potential future collaborations between Drexel and non-Drexel faculty.”

As part of the University’s initiative to support applied climate and sustainability-focused research — one of the five key goals of Climate Year — this year’s Global Research Symposium was a way in which faculty, professional staff and students could learn more about this kind of faculty research, and for the faculty presenters to be more engaged with a complementary part of the University’s research community and potentially find future collaborators.

The full video recording of the presentations can be found here. But for a snapshot of activity in that research sector:

Faculty discussed climate change both near (Ezra Wood, PhD, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, presented on methane emissions in Philadelphia, including those measured on Drexel’s campus a few years ago) and far (Sean O’Donnell, PhD, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, shared his work on seed-harvesting ants in Israel’s Negev desert, as it relates to desert vegetation affected by climate change). 

The research also focused on modern documentation of climate change (Suruchi Sood, PhD, associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, reviewed climate change-related storytelling used in 21st century popular media, including television, print, radio and social media) and centuries-old evidence of it (Paul Callomon, manager of the Malacology and General Invertebrates collections in the Academy of Natural Sciences, showed snail shells originally collected in Japan in the 1880s that, due to shells absorbing chemicals and otherwise being shaped by weather and oxygen levels, offered a snapshot of the environment’s landscape and weather in a time before pesticides and  industrial pollution).

And as its name suggests, the Global Research Symposium featured presenters with a history of international collaboration. Gary Rosenberg, PhD, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and Pilsbry Chair of Malacology at the Academy, discussed the Academy’s participation and inclusion in thematic collections networks, in which partner institutions upload, verify and combine digitized specimen data online to detect the effects of changing conditions on plants and animals populations around the world. Eugenia Victoria Ellis, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering, presented on the benefits of urban agriculture and vertical farming, and her longtime research partner and colleague Giuliana Iannaccone, PhD, an associate professor and director of building and architectural engineering at Politecnico di Milano in Italy, presented on the environmental benefits of using bio-based materials in construction; more information about their partnership and joint teaching, and how that led to Drexel President John Fry’s pre-pandemic appointment as a Fulbright Specialist with a then-planned summer 2020 residency at the Politecnico di Milano, can be found in this DrexelNow article.

The Global Research Symposium is another example of the University’s broadened and strengthened global networks and faculty-based sustainability research. A DrexelNow article published earlier this month announced the University was accepted to the international University Climate Change Coalition (UC3) composed of over 20 North American partner colleges and schools developing and disseminating climate change solutions.

“Since 2015, at the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the Office of Global Engagement has supported the University's participation in the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), which holds the annual global climate change conference called the Conference of Parties (COP). We hope events like the Research Symposium will continue a trend of thinking about climate change as a global challenge that we, as a Drexel community, must be engaged in,” said Adam Zahn, director of global engagement in the Office of Global Engagement, who also helped organize the event.

To continue the University’s goal of supporting climate-related research and experiential learning, the Office of Global Engagement is also now offering Global Climate Action Funding awards for faculty and professional staff to apply for small seed grants (between $500 and $2,500) for new or existing research projects (including those with a global collaborator or a visiting scholar) and opportunities for students. Interested Dragons can apply here.