All posts by John Sisser

Frontiers: Understanding urban eutrophicationUrban runoff

When you think about the primary sources of water pollution, you probably imagine a factory pipe or perhaps massive livestock farms. But would you believe that your quiet neighborhood could be degrading water quality locally and downstream?

Portrait: Sarah HobbieThat was the topic of the season finale of Institute on the Environment’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture series on Wednesday, May 7, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “A Watershed Approach to Understanding Urban Eutrophication,” Sarah Hobbie, an IonE resident fellow and professor of ecology, evolution and behavior in the College of Biological Sciences, discussed how nutrients from lawns, pets and boulevard trees contribute to excessive algal growth in urban water bodies.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Adventures in carbon reductionElectricity transmission lines

Environmentalists in the United States have long pushed for reductions in carbon emissions. Now, it seems the era of carbon regulation may be upon us.

Portrait: J. Drake HamiltonBut implementing these complex regulations is complicated and takes place at both the federal and state levels. This was the topic of Fresh Energy science policy director J. Drake Hamilton’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, April 30 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction,” Hamilton emphasized the need to educate the public on new and existing policies impacting carbon emissions for broader public involvement.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Sustainability & corporate social responsibilityScandinvian Flags

When you think about Scandinavia, you probably think of its cold climate, warm people and high quality of life. But you may want to add “sustainable business model” to that list.

Portrait: Robert StrandRobert Strand, assistant professor of leadership and sustainability at the Copenhagen Business School and director of the Nordic Network for Sustainability, delivered his Frontiers in the Environment lecture about the Scandinavian approach to sustainability in the private sector on April 23 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “Scandinavia: Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility,” Strand discussed why large corporations are earning a bad reputation among members of the general public.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Global capital & disease hot spotsPigs

Our world is more connected than ever. It’s now easy to live in the United States, buy airfare to Europe, send money to Africa and eat food from Asia. And while this global connectivity comes with a slew of benefits, it also opens the door to the spread of disease and potential for worldwide epidemics.

Portrait: Robert WallaceRobert Wallace, visiting scholar with the Institute for Global Studies, discussed the need to rethink how we define “disease hot spots” from locations where outbreaks originate to global centers of capital that drive disease-causing practices in his Frontiers in the Environment lecture on April 16.

In his talk “Global Capital and Disease Hot Spots,” Wallace presented the concept of One Health, a new public health approach focusing on the transmission of diseases from animals to humans.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Yellowstone: More valuable than goldYellowstone

Mining near sensitive ecosystems is one of the hottest natural resource debates, pitting economic and environmental values against each other. As the controversy surrounding mining in Minnesota continues, opponents may want to take a few notes from one of the nation’s largest, successful anti-mining campaigns to date.

Portrait: Mike ClarkMike Clark, former executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, shared his experience fighting the New World mining project outside the nation’s largest national park in the 1980s and 1990s in his Frontiers in the Environment lecture Wednesday, April 9 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In ”Yellowstone: More Valuable Than Gold,” Clark discussed what makes the park and surrounding landscape so valuable and why that usually leads to conflict.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Developing graduate world changersBoreas leadership

We’ve all heard about the many challenges the world faces. How do we develop the people to make solutions happen? The Institute on the Environment’s Boreas Leadership Program works with students across the University of Minnesota to help them develop the skills, networks and ways of working to change the world. You’ll get a full report of what Boreas has been up to and hear more about the opportunities and challenges of developing world changers in graduate education.

Portrait: Kate KnuthIn a world with a growing population, limited resources and a changing climate to boot, it’s natural to ask, “Where are the leaders who are going to solve these problems?”

Well, a lot of them are in graduate school where they’re preparing to take on some of the world’s greatest challenges. So, are they getting the skills they need?

Kate Knuth, director of the Institute on the Environment’s Boreas Leadership Program, discussed how the program is helping students build on their graduate school experience in her Frontiers in the Environment lecture “Developing World Changers in Graduate Education” on April 2 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Methane: Black hat or white hat in the green economy?Northwestern North Dakota lit by natural gas flares

Satellite imagery of the Upper Midwest at night shows a massive cluster of light in western North Dakota, easily dwarfing the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee or even Chicago.

The source of this apparent high plains metropolis isn’t a city at all, but rather the Bakken shale oil field, where producers are flaring as much as 266,000 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.

Portrait: Doug CameronThis abundance of natural gas — mostly composed of methane — was the topic of First Green Partners co-president Doug Cameron’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, Mar. 26 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

In “Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy,” Cameron discussed the pros and cons of the abundant fuel source and why environmentalists shouldn’t be so quick to discount methane as a “quick fix.”

Continue reading

Frontiers: North of SixtyNorth of Sixty

Trekking across Great Slave Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Aaron Doering’s dogsled of supplies crashed through the ice. Most would see a disaster; Doering saw an opportunity to educate millions around the world.

Portrait: Aaron DoeringDoering, an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development, and director of the Learning Technologies Media Lab, discussed online distance and adventure learning in his Frontiers in the Environment lecture – “North of Sixty: Narratives of a Changing World” earlier this month.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Global green supply chainsgrocery aisle

Traditionally, corporate sustainability efforts have focused on reducing and preventing direct impacts of waste or emissions. However, the majority of climate, water and pollution impacts are the result of complex supply chains strung together to deliver value-added products and services. You may see processed food and meat on supermarket shelves; what you don’t see are the environmental impacts of corn and fertilizer that go into those products. Nearly 95% of CO2 emissions produced by your favorite clothing lines are from purchased power, chemicals, textiles and transportation used before they reach the store. Voting ‘green’ with your pocketbook often means influencing your supplier’s supplier to do the same. Identifying where in product supply chains to exert influence requires unprecedented coordination and collective action. Join us for a look into ongoing supply chain sustainability initiatives coordinated by large NGOs and corporate consortia, and informed by UMN-led research.

Portrait: Tim SmithTimothy M. Smith, IonE resident fellow; director, NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise; and associate professor, bioproducts and biosystems engineering

View recording

Frontiers: Water stewardship & industryWater droplets

Water is essential to a healthy life and a healthy business. So as the world’s water resources are becoming more scarce, the private sector is paying attention.

Portrait: Raj RajanRaj Rajan, global sustainability technical leader and research, development and engineering vice president at Ecolab, Inc., discussed how commercial enterprises must shift the way they think about water in their business models in last week’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture. His talk, “Water Stewardship and the Private Sector” took place Wednesday, Feb. 26 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Where there’s smoke…Cleaner Cookstoves

Outdoor air pollution from factories and automobiles seems to dominate the news. But there’s another, just as sinister, form of pollution and it’s coming from inside the house.

Portrait: Ellison CarterEllison Carter, a postdoctoral fellow in energy, air pollution and health at the Institute on the Environment, discussed her research on environmental and health impacts of indoor air pollution at Frontiers in the Environment in February.

In her presentation, “Where There’s Smoke…Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements in Developing Countries,” Carter explained why indoor air pollution in developing nations is a particularly challenging problem.

Continue reading

Frontiers: What IS the green economy?Green Economy - Stephen Polasky.

When you think of the economy, chances are the “green” that comes to mind is money, not nature. But what if there wwere truly a green economy – one that accounts for the value of the environment in economic decision-making?

That was the topic of last week’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture presented by Steve Polasky, an IonE resident fellow and Regents professor of applied economics. Polasky delivered his speech, “What IS the Green Economy? And How Do We Get One?” Feb. 12 at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. While economics and the environment do not always seem to go hand in hand, it was his love for nature that pushed Polasky to pursue economics.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Nanotech environmental monitoringPortrait: Jian-Ping Wang

Pollution and contamination aren’t always as obvious as a burning river or a massive algal bloom. In fact, pathogen and heavy metal contamination can be difficult to detect – even with today’s most modern technology.

Jian-Ping Wang, an IonE resident fellow and distinguished McKnight University professor, is working to change that. Wang discussed his research using spintronic and nano magnetic technologies at his Frontiers in the Environment lecture, “Intelligent Nanotechnology for Environmental Monitoring,” Feb. 5.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Science communicationFrontiers Round-Up, beginning with MinuteEarth

YouTube is usually a one-stop shop for movie trailers, music and cat videos. But one family is using the popular website to educate viewers on earth and climate science, one video at a time.

Portraits: Henry, Peter and Alex ReichLast March, brothers Henry and Alex Reich, along with their father, IonE resident fellow Peter Reich, created the YouTube channel MinuteEarth, featuring one- to three-minute animated videos focusing on topics ranging from fisheries management to atmospheric science. The three shared their experience at the Institute on the Environment’s first Frontiers in the Environment presentation of the semester - ”Science Communication: Teach, Entertain or Inspire?” – Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Tracking the wild onesTracking Deer

Climate change and overconsumption of Earth’s resources have a huge impact on humans, but understanding how these issues affect wildlife populations and behavior is important as well.

Portrait: James ForesterThat was the topic of the Institute on the Environment’s final Frontiers in the Environment talk of the semester Dec. 11 when James Forester, IonE resident fellow and assistant professor of fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology, discussed “Tracking Animals through Space and Time: Understanding the Consequences of a Changing World on Wildlife Populations.”

Continue reading

Frontiers: Transporting energyEnergy Transformation

In an age when debates over fracking and renewable energy dominate the news, it’s increasingly clear that the United States is in the midst of an “energy renaissance.” Along with a host of environmental concerns, the nation’s changing energy system faces a new, often overlooked, challenge: How can we get energy from its source to the people who need it?

Portrait: Alexandra KlassThat was the topic of Institute on the Environment resident fellow and University of Minnesota Law School professor Alexandra Klass’ Frontiers in the Environment lecture Dec. 4.

In “Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges,” Klass discussed her research on the physical and regulatory system in place for moving oil, natural gas and electricity and possible changes needed as the nation’s energy sources diversify.

Continue reading

Frontiers: Merging climate science & musicFrontiers: Crawford, St. George, Reubold

For Scott St. George, Institute on the Environment resident fellow and University of Minnesota geography professor, teaching people about climate science is music to his ears, literally.

St. George, College of Liberal Arts undergraduate student Daniel Crawford and IonE director of communications Todd Reubold shared their experience of reaching new audiences by turning climate science data into music in last week’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture, ”Resonate! How 90 Seconds of Cello Music is Helping People Connect with Climate Science.”

Continue reading

Frontiers: Redefining agricultural productivityAgricultural Productivity

Many of us do our best to make healthy food choices, but replacing that burger and fries with fruits and vegetables isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for the environment.

Portrait: Emily CassidyEmily Cassidy, an Institute on the Environment graduate research assistant, discussed the impact of global diet preferences on agricultural productivity and greenhouse gas emissions in last week’s Frontiers in the Environment presentation, “Redefining Agricultural Productivity: From Stuff Produced to People Fed.”

Continue reading

Frontiers: Divestment – or sustainable investment?Divestment

Universities, religious institutions, and even local governments around the globe are weighing the pros and cons of divestment – a climate change mitigation strategy that focuses on phasing out endowment investments in fossil fuel companies.

Portrait: Matthew FitzmauriceMatthew Fitzmaurice, founder and managing partner of AWJ Capital Partners LLC, explained the opportunities and shortcomings of divestment in his Frontiers in the Environment presentation Nov. 6.

In “Divestment: A Call to Arms vs. Sustainable Investing: A Catalyst for Global Change,” Fitzmaurice argued that divestment, while a laudable goal, may not be realistic for institutions.

Continue reading

Frontiers: The importance of food literacyFrontiers: Chris Lambe

When it comes to our food system, it seems everyone has an opinion on how we can eat healthier, feed more people and reduce our environmental impacts. But how can you separate food fact from food fiction?

Portrait: Chris LambeThat was the topic of last week’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture presented by Chris Lambe, director of social responsibility for The Mosaic Company - a crop nutrient production company based in Plymouth, Minn.

In “The Importance of Food Literacy,” Lambe discussed why it is imperative that consumers, producers and policy-makers alike have a basic understanding of how the food system works and the challenges facing food production around the world.
Continue reading