2010 Workshop Agenda

Twelfth Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists
Energy Impacts: Environmental Science for Journalists
June 6-11, 2010

Day 1
Science From the Ground Up
Welcome and Introductions

Evening Presentation
The Building Blocks of Scientific Knowledge
SUNSHINE MENEZES, Metcalf Institute; SCOTT MCWILLIAMS, URI Department of Natural Resources Science
Although scientists see peer review, prior to the publication of a study, as an essential stage in the development of scientific consensus, the average news consumer is not exposed to the process of peer review. Familiarity with the different stages of scientific inquiry is critical to understanding the culture of science. Presenters will review the culture and practice of science, ranging from the identification of research questions and the nature of scientific uncertainty to the peer review process.

Day 2
A Case Study in the Transition to Clean Energy

Fieldwork (Charleston Beach)
Biological Data for Energy Siting
SCOTT MCWILLIAMS, KRIS WINIARSKI, URI Department of Natural Resources Science; KIM GAFFETT, Ocean View Foundation
In order to most effectively site an offshore windfarm for Rhode Island, researchers are gathering ecological, economic, cultural and physical data to develop an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) to inform the siting process. The plan will use research from spatial and temporal patterns of bird abundance in Rhode Island coastal waters as part of the assessment. This morning, University of Rhode Island researcher and professor Scott McWilliams will demonstrate a field method for estimating population density of birds that is commonly used in avian studies including the Ocean SAMP research on Block Island. Known as a point count, the method involves an observer standing at a fixed point and recording all birds seen or heard within fixed distances from the observation point and within a certain timeframe. McWilliams will also describe other bird population monitoring activities that inform the Ocean SAMP, including radar and mistnetting fieldwork.

Tour, Block Island Power Company
The Catalyst for Change
DAVE MILNER, Block Island Power Company
Metcalf Fellows will tour the facility that has been providing the main source of electricity on Block Island since the 1940s. The Block Island Power Company runs off the grid on diesel fuel and sells ten million kilowatt hours to 1,800 customers per year. On the tour, Fellows will see the switchyard and the computers that run the power plant and gain a basic understanding of the operation.

Block Island Town Hall and homes of Kim Gaffett and Everett Littlefield
A Case Study in Energy Economics: The Early Adopters
KIM GAFFETT, Ocean View Foundation; MARC TILLSON, Block Island Town Hall
Kim Gaffett, life-long Block Island resident and director of the Ocean View Foundation, will lead Metcalf Fellows on a walking tour to see how some Block Islanders have responded to their reliance on fossil fuels. After learning about Block Island Town Hall’s use of solar energy, the group will walk from there to Gaffett’s home to learn about residential use of solar energy and life off the grid. From there, Fellows will visit the home of Everett Littlefield, retired from the U.S. Navy and a liquified petroleum gas business on the island, who will talk about residential use of wind power as generated by the wind turbine on his property.

Tour (Southeast Light and Avian Radar Unit)
The Role of the Developer in the Transition Process
BRYAN WILSON, Deepwater Wind, LLC
The Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island is a symbol, for many islanders, of their commitment to conservation, both of open space and historic and cultural properties–which makes it an ideal point of view for the proposed windfarm, according to former Block Island Town Council member and on-island representative for Deepwater Wind, Bryan Wilson. Wilson will describe the offshore wind projects proposed by Deepwater Wind for Block Island and Rhode Island Sound, including simulated post-construction views of the sound, and the prospects for wind energy nationally.

Day 3
Using Multidisciplinary Science to Inform Energy Policy Decisions

Fieldwork and Lab Practicum
Integrating Geological and Biological Data for Habitat Assessment
Metcalf Fellows will participate in a two-part exercise to assess marine habitats. We will explore the benthic environment of the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from a 30’ research vessel equipped with acoustic mapping and field sampling gear. While gathering acoustic data in real-time, Fellows will learn how acoustic energy is used to map the seafloor and how to interpret the data. These acoustic data will be used to choose a location for taking a sediment sample using a Smith-McIntyre grab sampler. Fellows will examine the grab on deck, and participate in taking sub-samples for grain size analysis and in sieving the remaining sediment away to examine macrofauna (organisms living in the sediment).

In the lab, Fellows will see how multiple data sources are integrated to provide information about habitat classification and quality. For each habitat mapping tool, we will discuss the type of data that can be derived, the scale at which the data are applicable, and whether the different data are comparable. After viewing completed habitat maps we will discuss links to ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning, and how the habitat maps and the data-collection process itself informs these management efforts.

Panel Discussion
Marine Spatial Planning: Connecting Ocean Science with Policy
RU MORRISON, Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems; GROVER FUGATE, Coastal Resources Management Council; SUSAN FARADY, Roger Williams University School of Law
Marine spatial planning (MSP) has gained popularity in recent years as a useful tool for making best use of marine resources by identifying and balancing the needs of multiple interests–environmental, cultural, and economic. Panelists will describe the scientific data needed to inform MSP, limitations to this approach, and how these planning efforts fit into national ocean policy strategies. The discussion will showcase the Rhode Island experience with marine spatial planning with regard to siting a windfarm in Rhode Island Sound.

Public Lecture
Transforming America’s Energy Systems: Challenges and Opportunities Along the Nation’s Coastal and Marine Environments
SUSAN TIERNEY, Analysis Group, Inc.
For many years, the national economy has depended on energy systems and infrastructure built in coastal and marine locations. Coastal areas have played important points of access to energy supplies, and off-shore areas offer prospects for new resource development in the future. But developing, permitting and operating these facilities is fraught with challenges. Adaptation to climate change impacts in coastal areas and interest in new ocean management tools add new twists on an already complex set of challenges for the nation’s energy infrastructure. Drawing on her regional and national experience in energy policy, infrastructure siting, ocean management planning, and other relevant topics, Tierney will address these important opportunities and challenges as the nation modernizes its energy systems.

Meet the Speaker

Lab Practicum
Integrating Geological and Biological Data for Habitat Assessment
Presenters will discuss and demonstrate multiple techniques for geological and biological habitat assessment. The laboratory exercise will continue as originally described above.

Day 4
Applied Science: Producing and Distributing New Fuel Sources

An Introduction to Biofuels
WENDY LUCHT, Ocean State Clean Cities
In this session, Fellows will gain a basic introduction to existing and widely used biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel. Lucht, coordinator for Ocean State Clean Cities, part of a U.S. Department of Energy program, will discuss the differences between these fuels, the policy drivers behind their production and distribution, environmental considerations and emerging biofuel technologies such as biobutanol and biogas.

Tour (Newport Biodiesel, LLC)
The New Oil Boom: Out of the Fryolator
NAT HARRIS, Newport Biodiesel, LLC
Newport Biodiesel produces a clean-burning and sustainable fuel from waste vegetable oil collected from over 500 Rhode Island and Massachusetts restaurant partners. Newport Biodiesel has found success with a localized model of collection, production, and distribution to homes and business throughout the state. Fellows will tour the facilities, explore the refining and quality assurance process, and gain a broader sense of how a biofuel facility must navigate local, state, and federal regulations and subsidies to become successful.

Journalism Lab
Graphing for Communication of Complex Data
HELEN CZERSKI, GSO Post-Doctoral Fellow; MATT HORN, GSO Graduate Student
Presenters will provide an introduction to the basics of interpreting graphs and some commonly used statistical tools. Fellows will review techniques for visualizing data and apply these techniques in an informal challenge to interpret more complex graphs.

Journalism Lab
Science Translation I: Deconstructing a Scientific Publication
METCALF FELLOWS; DAVID SMITH, ROB POCKALNY, GSO; MARTA GOMEZ-CHIARRI, URI Department of Fisheries and Animal Veterinary Science; HELEN CZERSKI, GSO Post-Doctoral Fellow; MATT HORN, GSO Graduate Student
For the first of two Science in Translation sessions (the second follows tomorrow), Fellows will partner with scientists in five groups. Using a pre-assigned paper as a model, each group will discuss science translation tools that can be used to effectively read and “translate” a science journal article for a news audience. At the end of the exercise, each group will share a specific tip gained during the session.

Public Lecture
Powering the Future: How Renewables and Efficiency Can Remake the Grid
JENNIFER WEEKS, Freelance Writer, moderator; TIMOTHY ROUGHAN, National Grid; RILEY ALLEN, Regulatory Assistance Project; SETH KAPLAN, Conservation Law Foundation
How will the U.S. power grid accommodate intermittent renewable energy sources? Can improved grid efficiency salvage a system that was developed for a fossil fuel-based economy? Panelists will discuss the role of local electricity generation in reducing demand on the grid.

Meet the Speaker

Journalism Roundtable
Covering the Energy Beat
JENNIFER WEEKS, Freelance Writer; CHRISTINE WOODSIDE, Freelance Writer and Editor
Led by veteran energy reporters Jennifer Weeks and Christine Woodside, Fellows will discuss effective approaches toward pitching and reporting energy stories. This interactive session will address trends in the beat and some successful approaches toward multimedia tie-ins for your stories.

Day 5
Engineering Sustainable Solutions

Tour and Discussion (Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living)
Energy Efficient Design for Residential Buildings
MARK KRAVATZ, Apeiron Institute
Designed by a team of experts in sustainable design and technologies, the Apeiron Institute’s Center is a house showcasing environmentally friendly systems, technologies, and products, including: passive and active solar energy systems, natural, recycled and non-toxic building materials and construction, straw-bale walls, radiant flooring, permaculture landscaping, and so forth. Apeiron Institute staff will describe the housing model’s features, including how they differ from traditional systems, their cost-effectiveness, and their payback periods.

Tour and Discussion (United Natural Foods, Inc.)
Energy Efficient Design for Commercial Buildings
TOM DZIKI, United Natural Foods, Inc.; GARRY BLISS, City of Providence; MARK WINSLOW, Gilbane, Inc.
Corporate headquarters for United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) is located in the American Locomotive Works complex, a Brownfield site originally developed between the 1880s and 1960s. Dziki will discuss the features that made the UNFI headquarters meet the LEED® Silver standard and the additional steps involved in working with a designated brownfield. Bliss will describe the efforts by the City of Providence to encourage sustainable development and Winslow will discuss the role of building codes in encouraging and discouraging projects like this one.

Journalism Lab
Science Translation II: Telling the Story
METCALF FELLOWS; DAVID SMITH, ROB POCKALNY, GSO; MARTA GOMEZ-CHIARRI, URI Department of Fisheries and Animal Veterinary Science; HELEN CZERSKI, GSO Post-Doctoral Fellow; MATT HORN, GSO Graduate Student
For the second Science in Translation session, Fellows will again gather in five groups. Building on the science translation tools identified on Wednesday afternoon and with the help of the participating scientists, Fellows will read and translate a science journal article and identify one or two key conclusions from the paper. Fellows will then take the lead by working with their scientist partners to identify an possible news hook for the article. For each group, a journalist will summarize the conclusions of the scientific journal article, and the scientist will give a brief pitch for a news story relating to those conclusions.

Public Lecture
Documentary Films: Subjective or Objective Journalism?
PETER BYCK, Independent Filmmaker
While documentary films give the viewer a feeling of objectivity, that is just an illusion, according to Byck, director of the soon-to-be-released film, Carbon Nation. Without a fact-checking standard or industry-wide watch group, documentaries can give rise to temptations to manipulate an audience with soft facts or simple untruths. But with journalistic integrity, films about humanity’s effects on the world can be catalysts for change. This is the goal of Carbon Nation: to inspire people to take action. Byck will describe his process of directing a film that may do just this.

Evening Presentation
What the Non-Profit News Model Means for Environmental Journalism
Lustgarten will describe his experience working for a non-profit news outlet and how this compares to his experience with traditional for-profit mainstream news outlets. He also will discuss the innovations that have helped ProPublica succeed while so many other news organizations have floundered and how these affect environmental coverage. At a time when so many outlets are limiting or eliminating their environmental coverage, why has ProPublica committed to cover this beat? Finally, Lustgarten will describe his two most intensive reporting projects there, an investigation into the environmental impacts of drilling for natural gas, and BP’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Day 6
Connecting Research to Policy

Journalism Lab
Computer-Assisted Reporting
Many environmental stories require a familiarity with the use of databases. Whether searching for the economic impacts of renewables in your region or a history of mercury emissions at a local power plant, a journalist’s story will be much stronger with hard numbers to support the lede. Schwadron will give an overview of the use of databases for journalists, as well as some methods and resources to learn more about computer-assisted reporting.

Public Lecture
Comprehensive Energy Policy: Planning for a Clean Energy Future
Although many agree that the U.S. needs a new and comprehensive energy policy, there are many points of contention. What policy approaches can encourage renewable energy production while providing a viable way to meet our national energy needs? Will the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico impact the Congressional approach toward this thorny issue?

Following Senator Whitehouse’s overview of where energy policy is headed, DENNIS NIXON, URI GSO Interim Associate Dean for Research and Administration, will give a special update on the legal repercussions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Liability for the Deepwater Spill: the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 Fails its First Major Test
DENNIS NIXON, URI Graduate School of Oceanography
The Deepwater spill has caused unprecedented damage to the Gulf ecosystem, vast economic damages for the entire Gulf region, and impacted the daily lives of millions of Americans. URI’s own Research Vessel Endeavor has been diverted from a long-planned cruise to conduct research on the spill’s impacts at sea. Meanwhile, new class actions are being filed every day seeking damages against British Petroleum and Transocean. The principal federal statute that governs spill liability, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 or OPA 90–which was passed after the grounding of the Exxon Valdez–dramatically raised liability limits for tank vessels, but offshore drillers had their liability raised to just $75 million. Why Congress allows liability to be limited at all has been hotly debated in since the spill. and this presentation will examine the choices currently being considered.

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