Did you know that humans eat more water than we drink? That tidbit is explained in “Eating Water,” one of four three-minute films that use data and imagery to explain scientific concepts. The films were created by the Science Museum of Minnesota as part of Science on Sphere, a project of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration that aims to explain complex environmental concepts in easy-to-digest portions.
The films feature three Institute on the Environment scientists discussing their research. Kate Brauman, lead scientist for the Global Water Initiative, explains that water used to produce our food far outweighs how much we drink in “Eating Water: Agriculture and Climate Change.” Tracy Twine, co-leader of Islands in the Sun, a collaboration of IonE and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences that monitors the Twin Cities heat island, reveals that the last time CO2 levels were as concentrated as they are now, humans didn’t exist on the planet in “Hot Air: Atmosphere and Climate Change.” And Patrick Hamilton, IonE resident fellow and director of SMM’s Global Change Initiatives, talks about how humans are facing the greatest challenges while also possessing the greatest capacity for connection and innovation to solve those challenges in “The Human Era: A World of Changes.”
As you watch the videos, imagine they are being screened on a 68-inch globe — about the diameter of a compact car — hanging above your head. That’s how they are presented at SMM and more than 100 museums, zoos, universities and research institutions around the world.
Banner photo by Will von Dauste, courtesy of NOAA
If you’re wondering whether Americans care about climate change, wonder no more. The People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday drew more than 400,000 people from across the country and around the world, becoming the largest climate action in history. The event was organized under the slogan, “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone,” a call to action aimed at world leaders who were convening for the United Nations Climate Summit, which began today.
Several people affiliated with the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment took part in the march, including IonE resident fellow Peter Reich and his son, Alex. Alex Reich, a graduate research assistant with IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative, describes the scene: “It was an overcast and muggy day, with people stretched as far as we could see north and south along Central Park West. People of all sorts and stripes gathered, brought together by a collective vision that freed them to be more open and easygoing with others than they might be in another circumstance. The energy pulsed in waves from silence to raucous cheers that traveled south along the avenue. Seemingly endless streams of people emerged from the subways and side streets, joining the throngs ahead of us and keeping our group at a standstill for two hours after the front of the march had started moving.” Continue reading
How much do trees vary in the way they suck carbon dioxide from the air and use it to make roots, trunks, branches and leaves? The answer to that question is an important one because it has a huge impact on our ability to predict how destroying or creating forests influences climate change. And the correct answer is a surprising one, according to two related studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week by University of Minnesota forest ecologist Peter Reich and colleagues in Minnesota, Arizona, Australia, China, Poland and Germany.
Conventional models used to assess the impact of forests on greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere assume that the way trees use carbon to build roots, leaves and trunks is fairly constant across a range of conditions — that is, that trees everywhere devote the same fraction of new growth to each component and that components have the same durability everywhere. However, analyzing massive amounts of data gathered from around the globe, Reich and colleagues documented predictable differences in key properties of forests across north-south climate gradients. Continue reading
University of Minnesota ecologist and IonE resident fellow David Tilman has received a 2014 Balzan Prize in recognition of his outstanding scholarly contributions in ecology. The international award comes with an $800,000 prize, half of which is to support young researchers working with Tilman.
According to a release by the International Balzan Prize Foundation, Tilman received the distinction for his “huge contributions to theoretical and experimental plant ecology, work that underpins much of our current understanding of how plant communities are structured and interact with their environment.”
The Balzan Prize recognizes achievements in the humanities and natural sciences, as well as in advancing peace among humanity. The foundation varies the fields it recognizes each year with an eye to uplifting innovative research across disciplinary boundaries. Tilman was one of four scholars from around the world to receive the prize this year. Past recipients of the award include Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Office of the President of the United States announced a significant expansion of the White House Climate Data Initiative yesterday in Washington, D.C. Through a partnership with the Kellogg Company, the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative will support this effort by providing maps and data showing the potential impacts of climate change on global agriculture.
“Through his Climate Data Initiative, President Obama is calling for all hands on deck to unleash data and technology in ways that will make businesses and communities more resilient to climate change,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor, in a press release. “The commitments being announced today answer that call by empowering the U.S. and global agricultural sectors with the tools and information needed to keep food systems strong and secure in a changing climate.”
Keep your brain limber this summer by learning about cutting-edge solutions to the planet’s environmental grand challenges. During your down time, we invite you to watch video recordings of the Institute on the Environment’s Frontiers in the Environment series, a forum for experts from the University of Minnesota and other institutions to informally share their work on a wide-range of cutting-edge issues, wrapped up with a lively Q&A.
Browse the archives or choose from this list of nine, hand picked from nearly 40 talks. They are sure to enlighten and inspire! Continue reading
Several years ago, Gevo Inc., which operates a biorefinery in Luverne, Minn., approached the University of Minnesota with what seems like an obvious question: How sustainable is the corn it uses in its southwestern facility?
I say “obvious” because almost everyone (experts and nonexperts alike) thinks they already know the answer. It seems like we take it for granted that fuels and chemicals made from corn are a “bad idea” because of corn’s apparently large carbon footprint, which Argonne National Lab estimates to be 371 grams CO2 per kilogram of corn harvested on average in the U.S.
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?
That 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.
Plenty of folks were out enjoying the overdue warmth of the spring sunshine on Earth Day yesterday — appropriate weather and occasion for a TV news spot highlighting an IonE-supported study at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on how different landscapes affect local temperatures. The study is part of a project on the urban heat island effect, in which buildings and other urban infrastructure absorb and radiate the sun’s heat, causing cities to be relatively warmer than their rural neighbors. Continue reading
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.
Doering, 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.
A global partnership led by Institute on the Environment researcher Jill Baumgartner will investigate the health and climate impacts of advanced cooking and heating stoves as part of a three-year study on clean household energy technology in rural China. Continue reading
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.
That 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.”
(12/11) In March 2013, a group of University of Minnesota students – some with IonE connections – laid out for an assembly of a thousand state environmental leaders their vision and hopes for the future that belongs to them. Their future is longer than the future of the leaders, and promises to be subject to harsher climate and other environmental travails. Read more
In University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler’s year-at-a-glance video on U of M achievements, several Institute on the Environment-affiliated projects get the spotlight. Continue reading
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.”
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.
Emily 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.”
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?
That 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.
Satellite data may provide the best evidence yet for anthropogenic global warming.
Compton Tucker, scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., delivered that thought in a bonus Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Thursday on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.
In his presentation, “Satellite Climate Records: Observations Not Beliefs,” Tucker used satellite data to address some of the most common arguments from climate change deniers.
What happens at the intersection of art and science? Come to IonE’s Commons: Meeting & Art Space to see for yourself!
In the commons’ new exhibit, “Tales of Environmental Turbulence: The Common Trail of Art and Science,” 17 artists explore challenging cultural and scientific concepts. Continue reading
Think about your morning routine. You may take a shower or wash your face with soap. Afterward, you may sit down with a bowl of cereal, or perhaps you grab a granola bar as you head off to work or school. While you may not think about it, chances are you’ve used palm oil at least once before you make it out the door.
Found in everything from soaps to breakfast foods, palm oil is all around us and becoming even more ubiquitous. Kimberly Carlson, an Institute on the Environment postdoctoral research scholar, discussed the sustainability issues and opportunities of palm oil production in her Sept. 25 Frontiers on the Environment presentation.