Chris Costello joined Penn State in December 2019 as an assistant professor of industrial ecology in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and a research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute.
Her core areas of expertise include quantifying the environmental impacts of agricultural and food systems and simulating future hydrology and crop responses under a changing climate to anticipate adaptive management needs. She is motivated in her work by a faith that humanity can and will choose to optimize the systems we create to improve the quality of life for all humans as well as the ecosystems that support them.
Costello uses life cycle assessment and fate and transport models to link land-based anthropogenic activities to impacts incurred by ecosystems. She is particularly focused on food consumption and the role of human behavior as a driver for agricultural production. Specifically, she uses environmentally-extended input-output life cycle assessment (EE-IO LCA) techniques to evaluate environmental impacts throughout production supply chains in the U.S. economy.
She also evaluates biofuels at the systems level using sustainability metrics, e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, and nutrient pollution. Similarly, she models how biofuel co-products, e.g., distiller’s grains, impact livestock and human feed/food production and supply chains.
Prior to joining Penn State, Costello was an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering and an assistant research professor in Biological Engineering at the University of Missouri. She also held courtesy appointments in civil and environmental engineering and the Truman School of Public Affairs at Mizzou.
She received her BS in environmental engineering technology from Temple University, her MS and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. She has worked as a consultant to industry for environmental remediation projects and as an intern with the Environmental Protection Agency.