Research Activities

Guangwei Huang (Professor)

Research Project: Water-centered sustainability study

Background: It targets an agriculture-dominated region under severe natural constraint in Northwest China. The underline assumption is that rural areas in developing countries are much more difficult to get on board of the sustainability train, and especially for rural areas having severe water shortage. Unless sustainable water resources management is implemented, human population itself could not be sustained because 39% of current global grain production is not sustainable in terms of water use, not to mention environmental concerns. And it is particularly true in China since it has more than 20% of world’s population but only 7% of global water resources. Sustainability studies for arid and semi-arid regions are extremely important for achieving global sustainability.


  • To offer students a platform for conducting sustainability research in arid region
  • To provide students with on-site training for environmental field survey
  • To find ways to turn a water-constrained region to a water-pivoted sustainable society
  • To develop methodologies for cross-disciplinary research


  • Huang, G.W.: From Water-Constrained to Water-Driven Sustainable Development-A Case of Water Policy Impact Evaluation, Sustainability, Vol. 7, 8950-8964, 2015.
  • Huang, G.W.: Validation of Late Season Cornstalk Nitrate Test under Different Natural and Social Environments for Better Fertilizer Management in China, Oriental Journal of Chemistry, Vol. 29, No.4, 1381-1389, 2013.

Anne McDonald (Professor)

Research project:Increasing adaptive capacities of fishing communities and resilience to climate change through integrated community-based policy design

According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change 4th Assessment Report, global warming is unequivocal and the costs of inaction will result in aggregate costs for future generations. The impacts on coastal systems in the future are certain to be overwhelmingly negative, identifying small islands among the three key hot spots of societal vulnerability. FAO State of Fisheries Report 2010 states that climate change is adversely affecting fishing communities, governments need to act to build capacity of fishing communities to reduce vulnerability and develop new policies.
Considering the vulnerability of small island fisher coastal communities, developing policies for small island fishing communities is an aim of this research project. Resilience and adaptation policy questions will be addressed through a socio-ecological study of the climate change-related observations and experiences of female ama divers who make a living by harvesting shellfish and other seafood around Hegura Island, a small island with a surface of 1.04 km2, located 50 km off the coast of Japan's main island of Honshu. Scientific studies of the island have found evidence of climate-related environmental change. Between 1909 and 2009, recorded ocean temperatures around Hegura Island rose 1.2°C; the global average for the same period was 0.5°C. A study of the female ama divers' traditional and experiential knowledge of their environment may potentially complement scientific findings towards a strengthened understanding of local and regional-level impacts of climate change.

Research project: Ridge-to-reef practices of the Tokugawa Era revisited: integration and divide between marine and land-based drivers of human activities examined

In the aftermath of March 11, 2013, when talking with communities about disaster resilience in Tohoku, an area with a long history of natural disasters and thus with a rich culture built around disaster management, many talked of the teachings from days past. Of the many stories about disaster history and the knowledge sets transmitted through the generations were those related to coastal forests. Though I had heard about watershed forests maintained by fishers in the past in other fishing communities in Japan, in our talks about building resilience and future sustainability, the conviction of some communities that knowledge sets from the past should be mainstreamed and incorporated into contemporary resource management policies made an impression on me. As human society has become sectoralized, work compartmentalized, so has human societies relationship with nature, was a comment from many. Holistic approaches that don't draw boundaries and cut nature into separate pieces are what Tohoku needs, added some. As a researcher of environmental history, specifically focusing on marine environmental history in recent years, I found myself revisiting the theme of integrated management approaches from days past.
From here, I began to delve into a new research activity through the lens of environmental history to explore the past in an attempt to contribute to current and future sustainability potentials of coastal fisher communities.

Akemi Ori (Professor)

Research project: Turning "waste" to "resources" study

Because of the limited resources on earth, sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources have become more and more important. We need to change the concept of "waste" to "resources". Japan has enacted legal systems such as the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law and the Home Appliance Recycling Law to move toward resource reutilization rather than waste, but in reality, many recycling policies have faced the barrier of the "waste" concept. Against this backdrop, the EU has been discussing topics such as "Extended Producer Responsibility: EPR", "the end of waste definition", "Resource Efficiency: RE", and "Circular Economy Packaging: CEP". To achieve sustainable management, my research seeks to find out what kind of policy approach is effective at promoting recycling from the legal perspective as well as from the perspective of quality standards. This research also includes methods such as site survey of companies.

John Joseph Puthenkalam (Professor)

Research project: Inter-disciplinary approach to find solutions to the problems of poverty, education and environment in developing countries by focusing on infrastructure and railway network

This research project focuses on finding solutions to the problems of poverty, education and environment in developing countries in Africa and Asia by using an inter-disciplinary approach of engineering as well as social sciences like economics and education. Our research mainly focuses on countries in Africa and Asia.

Masachika Suzuki (Professor)

Research project: Clean energy technology development

The development of clean energy technologies is a central issue in climate change negotiation. The signatory countries to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change agreed to organize the Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network to innovate and diffuse clean energy technologies. The objectives of this research are twofold. The first objective is to show a broad landscape of barriers in technology development. This research project attempts to uncover technology-specific barriers in technology development. The second objective of this research is to highlight and define roles of international institutions in overcoming identified barriers in clean energy technology development.

Research project: Drivers for the introduction of clean energy technologies and products: differences and similarities among key industry sectors in the EU and Japan

Introduction of clean energy technologies and products is becoming a key strategic and managerial issue for companies in various industry sectors. Many companies report their performance and initiatives in this area in their corporate sustainability reports. There are substantial research suggesting both tangible and intangible benefits for the companies that have successfully adopted clean energy technologies including reduction of operational cost, mitigation of regulatory risk, successful marketing technologies and products among energy cost conscious customers and enhancing their corporate brand in some cases. This study attempts to classify different drivers for the introduction of clean energy technologies and products among key industry sectors.

Research project: Survey study on citizens’ views and priorities over SDGs and indicators

In September 2015, new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the United Nations. This research project conducts a survey study on citizens’ views and priorities over SDGs and indicators in several countries including Japan, US, Thailand and Indonesia. The purpose of this study is to understand the issues and the area of citizens’ concerns and priorities over SDG indicators and goals.

Yoshinari TANAKA (Professor)

Research project: Research project: Development of a comprehensive ecological risk assessment system of chemicals based on the tri-trophic ecosystem model

For fulfilling the WSSD 2020 goal for the sound management of chemicals that “chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment”, the Japanese government has made an effort in amending the Chemical Substances Control Law in accordance with the world-wide management policy of chemicals. However, as for the method of minimizing the adverse effects of chemicals to the ecosystem, further studies are in need for establishing the protection goal and the scientific method of risk assessment.
This research project, for replying to these needs, is developing a comprehensive ecological risk assessment method based on an aquatic ecological model (“Aquatic Tri-trophic Ecological Risk Assessment Model”, A-TERAM), which simulates biotic communities consisting of three trophic levels (the phytoplankton-zooplankton-fish system) in aquatic ecosystems and utilizes the basic ecotoxicity data following the standard test protocols publicly employed by many countries. A-TERAM takes the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of ecosystem function as the ultimate protection goal, and integrates important ecological factors such as the interspecific interaction and the life history characteristics of composite species into toxicological aspects of chemical substances. To facilitate application of the proposed risk assessment method to chemical regulation or management policies, simple and workable software A-TERAM has been developed in collaboration with National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan. Practical issues that would limit its application to the environmental policy and to the management of chemicals will be explored to figure out their resolutions.