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Life Below Water

About the Goal

14. Life Below Water

The United Nations aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

Northwestern is engaged in a broad range of research projects and other initiatives aimed at realizing this goal, including efforts to engage diverse industrial, government and community partners in developing globally translatable solutions for regional water problems, contribute to fundamental advancements in water science, and develop  experimental methods of addressing challenges associated with contaminated sediments and microplastics in waterways.

Northwestern Experts and Initiatives

Patricia Beddows

Patricia Beddows is the Director of the Environmental Sciences Program, Assistant Chair, and Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern.  Beddows’ research examines karst, caves, and the paleoenvironmental records of sea level, climate change, and landscape evolution.  Her applied research examines water resource management, remote mapping of hydrological resources, biological interactions at the ecosystem to the bacterial level, geo-archaeology, and water born contaminant and disease vectors.  Beddows is also the creator of the Cave Pearl Project, which is focused on the development of a submersible data logger system for long term environmental monitoring projects.

Patricia Beddows
Vinayak Dravid

Vinayak Dravid

A Northwestern University-led team has developed a highly porous smart sponge that selectively soaks up oil in water without harming marine life or further damaging the environment.  Typically, oil spill clean-up is an expensive and complicated process, but the smart sponge is able to absorb more than 30 times its weight in oil, and can be used to inexpensively and efficiently clean up oil spills while also being reused many dozens of times without losing its effectiveness.  The research was led by Vinayak Dravid, who is the Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.