Dedicated to advancing scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America, the Center supports research, teaching, and reporting about western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

With Visually Striking Series on Ocean Acidification, The Seattle Times Wins Knight-Risser Prize

Photograph: Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times

The reporter Craig Welch and photographer Steve Ringman of The Seattle Times have been named winners of the 2014 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism. Their series, “Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn,” examines and illuminates ocean acidification, the lesser-known twin of global warming.

“Aquifer at Risk,” by Ian James and Jay Calderon of The Desert Sun, was honored by the judges with a Special Citation. Judges commended it as a well-researched and clearly written series that deepened the public's understanding and resulted in local discussion and action.

The Knight-Risser Prize recognizes the best environmental reporting on the North American West — from Canada through the United States to Mexico. Named for James Risser, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and director emeritus of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, the prize is co-sponsored by the Knight Fellowships and the Bill Lane Center for the American West, with an endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

The prize includes a cash award of $5,000, and the winner participates in the annual Knight-Risser Prize Symposium, which brings journalists, researchers, scholars and policy makers together with public audiences to explore new ways to ensure that sophisticated environmental reporting survives in the West. The symposium will be held in early 2015 on a date to be announced soon.

Seeking Research Assistants to Investigate California's Conservation History

The Bill Lane Center for the American West is seeking to hire an undergraduate researcher to join our research team on reconstructing California conservation history. Students will have an opportunity work with former postdoctoral fellow Maria Santos and director Bruce Cain. More details and application information follow below.

This era of change presents an opportunity to assess our legacy on the landscape and understand successes and challenges in the conservation and restoration of natural resources. Such an assessment enables us to move forward and propose strategic conservation plans for the future. To this end, this project aims at reconstructing of the conservation history of California, that is, the evolution of historically restored ecosystems in Open Space-designated areas.

We are looking for a motivated and independent student to answer the question, “Does the time since Open Space designation affect the likelihood of successful restoration?” We will build on previous work conducted during the summer of 2014 and administer questionnaires to Open Space managers to:

  1. Asses the management activities that have occurred within the land they manage
  2. Assess their opinion about the success of restoration
  3. Compare the survey results with changes in land cover over the last 80 years

We are accepting applications until Sunday, January 4, 2015. This job is 10 hours per week at the rate of $16/hour through winter and spring quarters, with the possibility of extension if both the RA and mentor think it would be mutually beneficial.

Read more about the position »

Water, Energy Take Center Stage at State of the West Symposium

Full video of the symposium is available for viewing in the player above and on YouTube.

Water and energy issues were front and center as the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research co-hosted the fourth annual State of the West Symposium on November 13. The symposium focuses on the economic and fiscal health of western North America.

Leading off the day was Narayana Kocherlakota, President of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. Kocherlakota discussed the economic effects of fracking on western North Dakota, in addition to monetary policy (video).

Next came a panel on moving water in the West, featuring Jonathan Foley, the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences; Patricia Mulroy, the former general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; and former Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes, now a distinguished visiting lecturer at Stanford Law School (video).

A second panel--Lawrence Goulder, the Shuzo Nishihara Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics; Douglas Larson, the executive director of the Western State Energy Board; and Blas Pérez Henríquez, the director of the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the Bill Lane Center--examined California's greenhouse gas emissions legislation, AB32, and whether it has had regional impact (video).

The event closed with a keynote address by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who struck a note of regional cooperation on such topics as drought and fire management, and who celebrated the predicted $80 billion to $100 billion impact of the new Tesla electric car plant in his state (video).

Utah's Eccles Family Gives $4 Million to Endow Center's Directorship

David M. Kennedy, left, speaks with Cleone, Hope and Spencer Eccles at the 2012 Conference on the Rural West in Ogden, Utah.

The Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Family – including Stanford University alumnae Hope Eccles, ’83, and Katie Eccles, ’87, JD ’90 – is making a $4 million gift to endow the directorship of Stanford's Bill Lane Center for the American West. The family, which has deep western roots spanning five generations, is making this gift from its charitable foundation, led by Spencer F. Eccles and his children, who include Lisa Eccles and Spencer P. Eccles, in addition to Hope and Katie.

Spencer Fox Eccles is the former chairman of First Security Corporation and chairman emeritus of the Intermountain Region of Wells Fargo Corporation. His late wife, Cleone Peterson Eccles, was a civic leader and philanthropist who served on the University of Utah Board of Trustees and many other community boards. Both are descendants of pioneering Utah families that established many of region’s key business enterprises in industries such as banking and finance, sugar beet refining, lumber, construction, ranching, mining and railroads. Hope Eccles also serves as a member of the Bill Lane Center for the American West’s Advisory Council.

Funds from the gift will help support the Center’s programs, including its study of the rural West, its examination of western water and energy issues, and its development of courses that educate the region’s future leaders.

“We are westerners through and through, with a generations-long love for and commitment to western values and way of life, which makes this gift particularly gratifying,” says Spencer F. Eccles. “Realizing that wide-ranging challenges will continue to face western North America, we are hopeful that this investment in the Bill Lane Center will enhance and enrich its programs, particularly those in undergraduate education. In areas from water, energy and other natural resources to law, governmental policy, commerce and health care, we hope this gift will foster an understanding and appreciation of western history, geography, literature, art, culture and more.”

Seeking Research Assistants to Study Metropolitan Areas

The Bill Lane Center for the American West is seeking to hire two undergraduate researchers to join our research on Measuring and Visualizing Metropolitan Areas. Students will have an opportunity work with visiting student researcher Thomas Favre-Bulle and director Bruce Cain. More details and application information follow below.

Metropolitan areas provide useful models to describe the functional environment in which urban Americans live their everyday life. The Office for Management and Budget’s (OMB) definition of metropolitan areas uses two criteria: a large urban center and a certain proportion of commuters in the population. This project aims at testing the robustness of OMB’s definition, expanding it to other metrics, and validating potential alternatives.

Depending of the composition of the RA team, the project can be divided into two interconnected lines of research. The first is focused on the metrics themselves and their behavior over the space of metropolitan areas in contiguous Unites States, as well as over time. This line is centered on the research question: what are the relevant metrics to understand American metropolitan areas? The second line of research is focused on visualizing and apprehending the distribution of metropolitan areas in space and expanding the Metropolitan Atlas. This line is centered on the question: how to visualize and compare trajectories, and find patterns of comparable metropolitan areas?

We are accepting applications until Monday, November 17th. This job is 10 hours per week at the rate of $16/hour through winter and spring quarters, with the possibility of extension if both the RA and mentor think it would be mutually beneficial.

Read more about the position »

More than Just Research

Image: Taylor Burdge hiking in the Tetons Range.

By Taylor Burdge
B.S. Earth Systems, 2016
Summer Intern at the Henry's Fork Foundation

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

In the middle of June, I arrived at the doorstep of the Henry's Fork Foundation's office in Ashton, Idaho, unsure of what this summer would bring. I had a general idea of what I would be doing and a vague understanding of the geographical area. However, I was oblivious to the importance of the Henry's Fork Watershed and the role it plays in Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This summer furthered my appreciation for the American West, built on my field research experience, and allowed me to observe grassroots conservation efforts at work. However, my summer was more than just research – I lived in Idaho for 10 weeks and gained an appreciation for the friendly people, clean air, and laidback life that Idaho has to offer.

California Dreamin'

Image: Artifacts from the Heyday offices.

By Kristine Chen
B.S. Product Design, 2016
Summer Intern at the Heyday

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

Conducting sales research on prospective partner organizations and book buyers, namely nature groups and historical societies, was my primary responsibility as a marketing and events intern for Heyday. I also completed a data management project involving bookstores that carry Heyday titles, organized an evaluation of Heyday’s current website, and devised a marketing plan for the upcoming publication Under Spring.

These are the concrete means by which I measure the 10 weeks that I have spent at Heyday this summer. Yet they do little to illustrate my experience in its entirety. Heyday’s structure as both a nonprofit organization and a publishing house is nearly unprecedented – a carefully struck managerial balance. Openly communicative, lacking in bureaucracy, and focused on products as well as communities, the Berkeley-bred curiosity embodies values and characteristics that I would previously have placed in opposing camps.

Memories and Insights from Denver

By Justin Lin
B.A. Political Science Research Honors Track, 2016
Summer Intern at National Conference of State Legislatures

Read about our summer interns on the Out West student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.

My experience at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has met my expectations and more. At the beginning of the summer, I expected to have a good knowledge and understanding of the initiative and referendum process as well as find out about some of the most important issues on our ballot this year. This much I did acquire, but I was also able to learn about different topics regarding state governments and legislatures that are very relevant to the issues that concern voters, such as term limits, recount law, and voter registration. Through this experience, I realized the amount of knowledge and expertise that NCSL is able to provide through the research that it does on state law.

State legislatures, media personnel, and citizens often need ready information on elections that concern them, and this information can be very wide-ranging. Not many, if any, organizations have this information available, and NCSL is able to compile information in very accessible and easy-to-read formats, be it through the various databases, reports, webpages, or manuals. Should people not be able to find what they are looking for, NCSL has ready information through documents or can direct them towards the right place to look. In this regard, NCSL provides unique and valuable information on different subjects concerning states that other organizations simply do not have.

Stanford’s Small Green Spaces: Places for People and Birds

Photo: Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, one of the six study sites.

Yari Greaney is a senior pursuing her bachelor's degree in earth systems with an emphasis in land management, and will graduate in winter 2015 with a master's degree focused on freshwater management. She spent the 2013-2014 academic year with the Bill Lane Center as an independent student researcher seeking to understand how nature behaves in lightly urbanized areas. Her research project explores how Stanford University's green spaces function as habitats for native species and as spaces for human activity.

We live in a highly modified landscape. Urbanization has fragmented natural land, disrupted ecological communities, altered water and nutrient flows, degraded soil, and restructured ecosystems into simplified, less resilient forms. So it is understandable that there is a tendency for people, including researchers, landscape architects, and urban planners, to view developed landscapes as separate from, and even conflicting with, natural ecosystems.

However, as undeveloped land faces increasing pressure and as we continue to tax our natural resources, it is important to reintegrate robust ecosystems into developed areas so that we can preserve ecosystem functioning in the same places where we require ecosystem services. In order to accomplish this, we need to determine how to best design green spaces within developed areas to provide not only for human social, personal, and recreational needs, but also for biodiverse, functional ecosystems.

My research project tackled one small piece of this challenging problem: What characteristics of small green spaces in a moderately developed area best promote positive human activity and bird diversity? While it is an imperfect proxy, biodiversity can provide some insight into the resiliency of ecosystems. The Stanford campus was an excellent location for my study, given its moderately low level of development and its abundance of small green spaces. For this project, I studied six green spaces on campus: the Bytes Café lawn, Encina courtyard, Terman field, Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, Governor’s Corner lawn, and the Oval ear.

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