Scientists use crowd-sourcing to help map global CO2 emissions

May 13, 2013

Climate science researchers from Arizona State University are launching a first-of-its-kind online “game” to better understand the sources of global warming gases. By engaging “citizen scientists,” the researchers hope to locate all the power plants around the world and quantify their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The game officially began May 13 and is housed on a website called “Ventus.” Ventus (the Latin word for wind) has a simple interface in which users enter basic information about the world’s power plants. By playing the game, people around the globe can help solve the climate change problem. Ventus uses a Google maps interface. Download Full Image

Kevin Gurney, an associate professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead scientist for the project, estimates there are as many as 30,000 power plants around the world burning fossil fuels. While a list of those facilities (created by the Center for Global Development) does exist, scientifically accurate information the researchers need to map each power plant’s location and carbon dioxide emissions – does not.

“Of all the fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the world, power plants account for almost half – so a pretty big portion of the climate change problem is due to the production of electricity everywhere in the world,” said Gurney, also a senior sustainability scientist with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “While you might imagine that we would know where they are and how much they’re emitting, it turns out we don’t. With the growth in countries such as China, India and Brazil, this lack of information poses challenges for both basic science and climate change solutions.”

"The Ventus project will empower citizen scientists with a simple tool that can truly make a difference in solving a significant climate change problem,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “With more accurate scientific information on every power plant in the world, international leaders in political and scientific fields can work together more effectively to address carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.”

Players who know the amount of CO2 emissions from a specific power plant have valuable information to use in the game. Additionally, Gurney and his team need three other pieces of information: the location of the facility (within a few hundred meters); the fuel used; and the amount of electricity produced. Players may enter all, or only a portion of the information. Researchers have started the process by entering approximately 25,000 power plants onto the map so people can see what already exists in the Ventus database.

“Ventus uses a Google Earth map which allows someone playing the game to drop pins on the power plants,” explained Darragh O’Keeffe, the ASU research scientist who built the website. “Our logic is that for every power plant in the world, there are probably at least a dozen people who live near it, work at it, or know someone who works at it. With the proliferation of phones and GPS, it makes it pretty easy to locate things.” In addition, the Ventus website will be translated into several other languages to help facilitate worldwide participation.

Players will be free to look at all the data researchers currently have from many power plants around the world. Then, players can adjust that information or make edits to their previous entries. The game does not require registration to play, however, Gurney and his team will choose a winner who, at the end of the first year, has provided the greatest amount of useable information. To be considered for the competition, players must register.

While crowd sourcing a problem such as this one is unusual in the science community, Gurney’s team believes this innovative effort might work to solve a fairly profound problem. And, Gurney believes that most people around the world care about what happens to our environment.

“Through Ventus, people around the world can play an active role in helping to solve the climate change problem,” Gurney said. “We hope to gather a global team of people who want to make a difference – and do so, right now. The information we gather from Ventus can ultimately help determine what we as a society can do locally and globally about climate change.”

Gurney is also affiliated with the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning. The Ventus project is funded by a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

Connect with Ventus:; Facebook:; Twitter: @ventus_project; Pinterest:


Kevin Gurney,
(480) 965-4556

Darragh O’Keeffe,
(928) 830-7244

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise


Law grad Lindsay Rabicoff receives Daniel Strouse Prize

May 13, 2013

Lindsay Rabicoff reflects on her life path: little girl from White Bear Lake, Minn., to Disney fantasy world, to Apple, to Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, wife, mother and, soon, attorney at Bryan Cave, LLP in Phoenix.

At the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law’s convocation last week, Rabicoff received the Daniel Strouse Prize, awarded by the school’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation, in honor of Strouse – a longtime center director and professor who died of cancer. The $10,000 award is annually made to the student whose academic strengths, contributions to the center and personal qualities most closely mirror those of Strouse. Download Full Image

“Lindsay is one of those unique students, whose life path makes her even more valuable as a lawyer,” said Douglas Sylvester, dean of the College of Law. “Her years with Disney and Apple gave her the real-world intellectual property experience that enhances her degree, and her time as an ambassador for Disney obviously instilled in her a desire to give back to her community. We are excited to watch her career continue to develop.”

During law school, Rabicoff was named a Willard H. Pedrick Scholar and served as the executive notes and comments editor of Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology. She also was vice president of communications for the Intellectual Property Student Association, executive board member of the Jewish Law Students Association and a student ambassador. She earned a Law, Science, and Technology certificate and was awarded pro bono distinction.

“It’s such an honor to be compared to Strouse,” Rabicoff said. “Although I never had the privilege of meeting him, I often hear about his passion and influence. As someone who plays the piano and flute, and spent over half my life dancing, I identify with Strouse’s music. I’m so glad to carry on the legacy that you can be more than just analytical, you can be a creative lawyer, go bass fishing, and deal with complex legal situations. I want to be that person, to be passionate and stay true to who I am.”

Rabicoff’s student comment, “The Hot News Misappropriation Doctrine: Confusion in the Internet Age and the Call for Legislative Action,” was published in the fall 2012 issue of Jurimetrics after being named the 2011-2012 Comment of the Year.

“It’s hard to get beyond the tritely obvious, especially accomplishing all she did as a 2L while having a baby in the middle of it,” said professor Dennis Karjala, who Rabicoff said helped her beyond belief. “She has not only those characteristics we always like to see in those we know – she’s extremely smart, has an engaging personality and works very hard.  She’s also a self-starter, someone who can and will take the initiative to get a job done. She came to me well-armed with a topic for her Jurimetrics comment, so all I had to do was make sure she did not get off track in developing her thesis.”

Professor Alan Matheson, another of Rabicoff’s favorites, agreed.

“Lindsay is an intelligent, conscientious and engaging person,” Matheson said. “It was a pleasure to have her in my class.”

Rabicoff grew up in White Bear Lake, Minn., where her father played hockey and her mother worked in finance. She moved to Arizona in high school, graduated from Desert Mountain in 2001 and went to California State University, Long Beach to study dance.

She heard that Disney was having auditions, thought it would be a great way to have a steady income and got a job with entertainment in the character department. To preserve the magic, cast members never reveal what role they play, but Rabicoff will tell you that she “worked closely” with Cruella de Vil, from 101 Dalmatians; Jadis, the White Witch of Narnia; and Lady Tremaine, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella.

What started as a summer job became a long-term passion and Rabicoff spent six years working at The Disneyland Resort, being promoted to manage 150 cast members and oversee all entertainment offerings. Eventually, she became a Disneyland Resort ambassador - an official spokesperson for the company.

“My most memorable experience was traveling to Wichita, Kan. with Mickey Mouse and visiting a little boy, Joseph, in the children’s hospital there,” Rabicoff said. “He was bandaged from head to foot, I think he had been burned, and only his eyes and mouth were showing.”

“His parents said it was the first time he had smiled since the incident. Even more than his reaction, I was moved by that of his parents, who were crying. It is a great feeling to know that you can change people’s lives and make the world a better place.”

That desire to change people’s lives, a longing for something more intellectually challenging and a gentle push from a close mentor on the Disney legal team pointed Rabicoff toward law school.

At about the same time, Rabicoff had reconnected through Facebook with Ben, a high school acquaintance and digital marketing manager at LifeLock, an identity-theft protection company. They began a long-distance romance that eventually would have a Disney storybook ending: a fairytale wedding. 

She moved home to Arizona to study for the LSAT and took a job with Apple, which was opening a new store in Scottsdale and wanted to improve the customer experience in time for the launch of the iPad and the iPhone 4.

“They needed to improve logistics and foot-traffic patterns and I had the Disney model of keeping standards high and treating the customer right.”

She applied at the University of Arizona, Georgetown and University of Minnesota, but withdrew her applications once accepted at ASU. Rabicoff chose ASU because of the Center for Law, Science & Innovation, where she planned to follow her interest in intellectual property.

“I worked with copyright and trademark at Disney,” she said. “It was part of my everyday language.”

There were no lawyers in the family, so she had to figure law school out on her own. Classes were eye-opening.

“I couldn’t believe I was here,” she said. “I was sitting next to brilliant scholars who had undergraduate degrees in biology and engineering, some of whom already were practicing attorneys,” she said. “It was challenging and every day was something new.”

Professor Art Hinshaw called Rabicoff the “right mix of intellect, determination, organizational ability and interpersonal skill for long-term success.”

“I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a student I’ve had who matches her abilities in each of these areas,” Hinshaw said.

Not one to shy from a challenge, Rabicoff decided to have a baby while in law school.

“I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how hard,” she said. “There’s no separate curve for working mothers. We have to keep up with the work. I was doing reading for my business organizations class in the hospital.”

Keegan – now 14 months old – had colic, which Rabicoff said taught her patience.

“Now, he’s hilarious,” she said. “He knows what he wants, and he tells me what he doesn’t want.”

Professor Robert Bartels said Rabicoff was well-prepared and asked good questions in the 90-plus student class on evidence, but she excelled even more in the 15-student seminar on fact investigation.

“She was an outstanding, and very active, classroom participant and she did very well in her simulated witness interviews,” Bartels said. “Her high level of commitment and preparedness was especially impressive given that she has a young child.”

Rabicoff said there were five women in her graduating class who had babies and they formed an unofficial support group.

“I did not realize the balance that would be necessary.”

Rabicoff said one of her favorite professors was Jonathan Rose, from whom she took contracts and antitrust.

“You could always find a group of 1Ls standing around the stairs outside room 114, with Professor Rose standing on the stairs talking about that day’s lecture,” she said. “He has such a passion and it feels like it’s the first time he’s taught the material. He’s brilliant at explaining and answering our questions like no one ever asked that before.”

Rose said he and Rabicoff shared the same home state of Minnesota, coming from villages on either side of White Bear Lake, and struck up a friendship.

“I got to know her in contracts,” Rose said. “She asked lots of good questions and always responded well when I called on her. Her performance in antitrust, like that in contracts, was very good. During the semester she had a baby and she didn’t miss many classes. Moreover, she got one of the highest grades in antitrust. I have always been impressed by her intellectual ability, her professional demeanor and her most personable nature."