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Dr. Yiwen Chiu
Associate Professor

1 Grand Ave., Cal Poly
NRES 180-504
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
TEL: 805-756-2972
yichiu at

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Back to topresearchThe understanding of environment-socioeconomic nexus in sustaining natural resources appears to be one of the emerging challenges in this century owing to the increasing climatic uncertainty, demand, and change of technology. To understand and quantify the dynamics of this nexus require taking comprehensive measurements to integrate consumption schemes, technology development, environmental characteristics, and political paradigms. The strategic plans of reaching the goal of sustaining natural resources must reflect local considerations in resources distribution, ecological integrity, and socioeconomic development.

Advancing Agricultural Sustainability Practices

Our research focuses on integrating various modeling tools, including life-cycle analysis (LCA), system dynamics model, and geospatial tools (GIS), to quantify environmental impacts and consequences associated with anthropogenic activities and decisions. Our research particularly reflects the interests on bridging gaps between scientific findings and policies. QuantSus Team has devoted ourselves in transforming theories to practices which can make impacts on sustaining natural resources to improve environmental quality for all beings.

Dynamic Life-cycle Analysis: New Model Development and Testing on Agricultural Impact Assessment (sponsored by ARI)

This study aims to develop a pioneer analytical framework that integrates system dynamics modeling and LCA (SDLCA) to simulate the flux of environmental impact associated with seasonal variances of agricultural input and output flows, including the input of energy, water, fertilizer, and pesticide. This is a three-year project focusing on tool development, case study, and dissemination in different project stages. Project PI: Dr. Yiwen Chiu, Co-PIs: Dr. Scott Steinmaus (Horticulture and Crop Science Department) and Dr. Yi Yang (Young’s Consulting LLC).

Dynamic Carbon Stock and Flow in A Mixed Land-use Watershed (sponsored by Mcintire-Stennis Grant)

This study aims to develop a system dynamic modeling framework to simulate the carbon stocks and flows within a watershed-level close system that consists of various land-use types. The framework will take into account major driving forces regulating carbon stocks and flows to investigate potential opportunities that can enable a watershed agency to facilitate a carbon-neutral watershed management scheme based on quantitative evidence. Project PI: Dr. Yiwen Chiu.

Optimizing Agricultural Water Use Efficiency: An Integrated Remote Monitoring System (sponsored by CA DWR)

The goal of the proposed project is to systematically understand the water conservation efficiency and productivity of crop fields by integrating the continuous temporal dimension. This project will develop a wireless water monitoring network to aid a simulation model which integrates biomass development and nitrogen/water dynamics in the crop fields managed by Cal Poly. The implementation of this project will enable us to identify alternative solutions to improve agricultural water use efficiency and reduce water use impacts. Project PI: Dr. Yiwen Chiu, Co-PI: Dr. Bwalya Malama.

Developing Life-Cycle Analysis Framework for A Coupled Livestock-crop Water Recycle System (sponsored by ARI)

Led by Dr. Yiwen Chiu (PI), this project served as a pioneer study to develop a life-cycle analysis (LCA) modeling framework for assessing the environmental performance of a collaborative production system (CPS) coupling livestock wastewater treatment and irrigation application. A local CPS system integrating animal feedlot wastewater treatment and irrigation application at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) was selected as a primary study target in this project. This water treatment scheme was developed under the collaboration led by PI and Mr. Kevin Piper, Director of the Agricultural Operations at Cal Poly.

Environmental Cost-benefit Assessment of Restoration Projects (sponsored by Mcintire-Stennis Grant)

This aims to analyze the environmental costs of a restoration project located at the Swanton Pacific Ranch by adopting life-cycle analysis (LCA). The average carbon footprint per mile of riparian restored was selected as a primary indicator for identifying the major contributor of environmental impacts. The result can not only substantially change the paradigm of restoration practices, but also provide a crucial perspective how to solve an appearing issue without shifting the challenge to other unexpected aspects. Project PI: Dr. Yiwen Chiu.

Sustainable Wine Industry: Environmental Portfolio under Different Price Scenarios (Sponsored by Cal Poly Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities Grant Program)

This study aims to create a computation framework for quantifying the life-cycle environmental impacts associated with California wine’s production scheme under different cost scenarios. The wine industry has taken significant efforts to improve the environmental performance of the wine-making processes in the past decade. However, the environmental profile of wine industry widely varies location by location from a life-cycle perspective. Thus, starting from grape cultivation to production of bottled wine, numerous factors can contribute to shape wine’s environmental profile, resulting to significant variations in different categories of environmental impacts. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand not only California wine’s environmental profile, but also to identify the key contributors leading to the most significant environmental impacts. The proposed study can leverage the expertise of NRES  and WVIT (Wine and Viticulture) faculty to better assist local wine business to blend sustainability into their existing business models by reducing wine industry’s impact footprint. Project PI: Dr. Yiwen Chiu.

Enhancing Communication and Reasoning in Sustainability Science

Given the complex of sustainability science, how to communicate and reason analytical results and interpret relevant data is a crucial component to implement sustainable practices. Sponsored by the USDA HEC program, QuantSus team is able to initiate the study to improve students' competence in not only quantifying sustainability, but also to communicate numerical findings. Project PI: Dr. Yiwen Chiu, Co-PI: Drs. Jason Peters and Dawn Janke. For more information, please visit "Writing the Science of Sustainability" webpage.

Promoting Student Engagement in Scientific Research

QuantSus has also dedicated to promote undergraduate research and expand research capacity to foster undergraduate engagement in multidisciplinary studies. Our mission is to create an academically and culturally diverse platform that can serve as a cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary cradle to provide a fertile learning and research environment. Interacting and collaborating directly with multidisciplinary students, scholars, and local communities, QuantSus students can have the opportunity to discover a wide spectrum of social and scientific challenges.

Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) 2016

Two NRES students were selected by Dr. Yiwen Chiu to carry out two independent studies, including: (1) Environmental Implication of Micro-scale Farming System, and (2) Environmental Implications of the California SIP Certification Program. Each student received $2500 of summer stipend to support their studies. At the end of the term, students successfully delivered their research results and gave an open presentation to a diverse group of audiences.

Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) 2017

NRES students, Brittany Fox and Daniel DeBrito, were invited to participate in this year's SURP project. Unlike last year students carried out individual studies, Brittany and Daniel work as a team to conduct a comprehensive project aiming to determine the effect of transportation scheme on the environmental performance of organic produces by adopting life-cycle analysis. The result will be presented on August 31st at the SURP poster symposium.

Student Senior Projects

  1. Laura Palmer: Implication of farming scale on the environmental performance of agriculture - Using lettuce as an example, 2017.
  2. Kori Nielsen: Sustainability Tracking on the Facilities and Operations of Santa Barbara City College, 2017.
  3. David Yocom: Using Life Cycle Assessment as a Communication Tool to Measure Consumer Willingness to Pay for Environmentally Superior Goods: A Case Study Comparing Organic and Conventionally Grown Coffee, 2016.
  4. Etienne Bergounhoux: Assessing the Change of Wind-power Potential in Responding to Ecological Constraints, 2016.
  5. Tyler Davis: Benthic Macroinvertebrate Monitoring for a Stream Restoration in Mediterranean Climate, 2016
  6. Elizabeth Silva: Enhance STEM Educational and Learning Quality by Adopting Service-Year Experience, 2016
  7. Indigo Bannister: Water Footprint Analysis for Wastewater Irrigated Feed Crops, 2016.
  8. Evan Motoshige: Energy Consumption Analysis of Dairy Production, 2016
  9. Tyler Brown: Determining Algal Oil Production Potential in California using Municipal Wastewater, 2015
  10. Alyssa Luna: Creation of Infiltration Potential Maps for San Luis Obispo County Utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technology and ArcGIS® Software, 2015
  11. Rayna Del Rosario, Comparing the Life Cycle Analysis of the Production of Multifilament and Polyester Tennis Strings, 2015
  12. Julie B. Ridgeway: A Watershed Moment: Innovative Training in Sustainable Resource Management through a Field-based Science Camp, 2015

Other Projects

Following is a list of relevant projects participated or contributed by QuantSus Group Leader, Dr. Yiwen Chiu. This can also provide a big picture of our study interests and specialties.

  1. Climate Effects on Water Footprint Associated with Perennial Grass Bioethanol (PI, funded by Argonne National Laboratory, 2015)
  2. Developing and Launching a Web-Based Water Footprint Tool: The "Water Analysis Tool for Energy Resources (WATER)" (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, 2011 – 2013)
  3. Assessing County-Level Water Footprint of Forest-Based Biofuel in the United States: Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, 2013)
  4. Sizing Study of Cellulosic Biorefinery Using Woody Residue: a multidisciplinary project conducted under the collaboration among several national labs (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, 2013)
  5. Perennial-Grass Bioethanol’s Implications on Water Sustainability: Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, 2012)
  6. Algal Biodiesel Production Potential under Water Constraints: Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, 2011)
  7. Water Demand and Water Footprint of the Biofuels Generated from Multiple Feedstocks: Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, 2010 – 2012)
  8. The Future of Energy and Minnesota's Water Resources: Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota (funded by Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, 2008 – 2010)
  9. Spatially Explicit Water Budget Analysis Using GIS-based System Dynamic Model: Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota (funded by Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, 2008 – 2010)
  10. Corn-based Ethanol Water Use Impact: collaborative project established with ETH Zürich (2009)
  11. Public Drainage Ditch Buffer Study: Water Resources Center, University of Minnesota (funded by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, 2006)
  12. Soil Respiration and Tree Photosynthesis in Different Forest Ecosystems: Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota (funded by the Kearney Foundationof Soil Science, 2005)
  13. Improvement of River Environment and Management: Water Environment Research Center, National Taipei University of Technology (funded by the Water Resources Agency, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan, 2002)
  14. Restoring Waterfront Ecological Integrity and Establishing Ecological Working Methods (I – IV): Water Environment Research Center, National Taipei University of Technology (funded by the Water Resources Agency, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan, 2000 – 2003)
  15. Watershed Management and Public Engagement, under the Master Plan of the Water Environmental Research Center (I – IV): Water Environment Research Center, National Taipei University of Technology (funded by the Water Resources Agency, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan, 2000 – 2003)
  16. Assessment of Reservoir Management and Regulations: Water Environment Research Center, National Taipei University of Technology(Water Resources Agency, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan, 2000)

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