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CFWE student chosen to receive NASA-MSU award for professional enhancement

By April 12, 2024No Comments

Auburn University doctoral student, Ren Cao of Beijing, China, has been selected as a recipient of the NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement Award.

Ren Cao

Ren Cao, recipient of the NASA-MSU Professional Enhancement Award

Supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Michigan State University (MSU), this award provides travel assistance for outstanding scholars to attend the IALE-North American Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City. In addition to financial assistance, the program provides networking opportunities with over 200 nationally and internationally renowned scientists.

While attending the conference, Cao will present his current research project concerning the Chitwan National Park in Nepal, where his study promotes clean energy alternatives to mitigate reliance on biomass-based fuel.

Cao and his team studied the impact of payments for ecosystem services (PES) to mitigate the overuse of natural resources.

“This award supports my research on the subject of telecoupling between humans and the ecosystem near the Chitwan National Park in Nepal,” said Cao. “We all interact with nature in different ways, through different agents, which makes telecoupling necessary to understand the interaction in certain geological regions.”

Nepal Community Forest

The Nepal Community Forest in the Chitwan Valley, Nepal, where Cao and his research team collected social and ecological data.

Telecoupling is a framework that analyzes socioeconomic and environmental impacts over long distances.

Cao received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at San Diego in Political Science. He received two master’s degrees, one in food studies from the American University of Rome and one in environmental policy from Duke University.

Cao has shown determination throughout his research efforts that will guide impactful solutions through research and practice.

“I plan on staying within the research industry to continue this project,” said Cao. “I am very interested in the next steps, which include understanding the influence beyond humans.”

Nepal Firewood

The firewood extraction activity has been a main cause for human-nature conflict in the Chitwan Valley. Pictured is a “warehouse” of firewood gathered for a local household.

Cao’s major advisor, Li An, said his research generated informative results.

“I congratulate Ren for this great award! This NASA-MSU award is prestigious as it is very selective and the best applicants get awarded,” said An. “Through extensive data analysis, Ren found some very interesting results, which will help conserve the environment and related ecosystem services, and benefit local people as well.”

(Written by Mary Hillhouse)

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