Category Archives: IonE Resident Fellow

As NatCap turns 10, a Q&A with co-founder Stephen PolaskyPhoto by Jeffrey Zeldman (Flickr/Creative Commons)

This article is repubublished with permission from the Natural Capital Project and the author, Stacey Solie.

How much does clean air contribute to a society’s well-being? Or having access to the calming shade of a city park? Economic systems that shape our built environment often fail to account for the contributions of natural systems, such as those that naturally filter and cool the air we breathe. The Institute on the Environment’s Natural Capital Project works to change the way people think about nature and to integrate the value it provides into land use and development decisions.

Economist Stephen Polasky co-founded NatCap at a time when economics was still viewed with suspicion by many conservationists. In an interview commemorating his 10 years with the organization, Polasky, a professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and an IonE fellow, opens up about what it was like to be seen by some as an enemy of conservation. He also talks about what’s inspired him along the way, including how both China and Rwanda have embraced conservation as a way to bring prosperity to people, and whether NatCap has accomplished what he imagined back in the beginning. Continue reading

Vines inhibit forests’ ability to store CO2Photo by RegiMu (iStock)

This article is republished with permission from Inquiry and the author, Deane Morrison.

The liana vines that wind their way to the top of tropical forest canopies have the potential to significantly reduce those forests’ ability to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a study by University of Minnesota researcher and IonE resident fellow Jennifer Powers and two colleagues.

Based on data from the lowland semi-deciduous forest of Panama’s Gigante Peninsula, the researchers estimate that over the next 50 years, lianas could potentially slash long-term storage of carbon in New World lowland tropical forests by 35 percent. These forests include most of the Amazon basin, as well as similar forests in Central America. Such a slowdown in this carbon “sink” would weaken the planet’s ability to dampen rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Continue reading

5 things we learned about spatial thinking and environmental challengesFrontiers October 18 – How can spatial thinking solve environmental grand challenges?

Space and place permeate today’s pressing problems, so spatial thinking can help.

That was the message of IonE’s October 14 Frontiers on the Environment talk, in which Institute fellow Steve Manson listed example after example as he addressed the Big Question, “How can spatial thinking solve environmental grand challenges?”

In addition to his IonE title, Manson is a professor of geography, environment, and society in the College of Liberal Arts and director of U-Spatial, an initiative that has worked with every college on campus to offer software, training and consulting for spatial thinking. Here’s what he made clear: Continue reading

IonE fellow to author study of biodiversity in AmericasPhoto courtesy of CBS

This article is reprinted with permission from the College of Biological Sciences and the author, Stephanie Xenos.

Jeannine Cavender-Bares, an IonE resident fellow and associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences, and Forest Isbell, associate director of the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve and an adjunct faculty member in CBS, were selected to participate as lead authors in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services,  an independent intergovernmental body open to members of the United Nations. Authors contribute to periodic reports on biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services, ranging from regional assessments for the Americas, Africa and Asia to thematic papers and broad global assessments.

Cavender-Bares is a coordinating lead author of a chapter of the Americas assessment on the status, trends and dynamics of biodiversity and ecosystems in the region. Isbell is a lead author of a chapter of the Americas assessment considering drivers of changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services. Continue reading

NiSE director to influence how U.S. buys greenPhoto by Photos by Clark (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Consumers aren’t the only ones overwhelmed by the growth and diversity of environmental labels attached to the products they buy, from breakfast cereal to furniture. U.S. government purchasing agents also struggle to identify which standards and ecolabels to consider when buying greener products.

Timothy Smith, director of IonE’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise and an IonE resident fellow, is about to make going green easier for the U.S. government — the single largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. Along with a select panel of experts, Smith will oversee and coordinate a series of pilot tests of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new draft guidelines advising government buyers on how to take product environmental performance standards and ecolabels into account when making purchases. Continue reading

Food for thought: The Sustainable Agriculture ProjectPhoto by Jeanette (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Amidst uncertainties over how the global food system will respond to climate change, and the potential conflicts and resource scarcities that may accompany it, communities are turning more and more to locally grown and distributed food. The Sustainable Agriculture Project at the University of Minnesota Duluth is one such effort to build a resilient regional food system.

Randel Hansen, IonE resident fellow and assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Duluth College of Liberal Arts, explores how the SAP farm provides both local food and opportunities for students to explore the connections among agriculture, water and energy on WTIP North Shore Community Radio.

 

IonE resident fellows are faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries and are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges.

Photo by Jeanette (Flickr/Creative Commons)

IonE fellow to lead global project on sustainable citiesPhoto by m01229 (Flickr/Creative Commons)

What is a healthy city? How does society weigh the conveniences of transportation, readily available water and electricity, and placement of that new shopping center against the environmental impacts of those assets?

With more than half the world’s population living in cities, building resilient and healthy communities has never been more important. Estimates indicate that by 2050, some 3 billion more people — two-thirds of the world’s population — will inhabit urban areas, increasing pressure on water, energy and land resources. Continue reading

Featured Fellow: Roboticist Volkan IslerPhoto by Jennifer C. (Flickr/CreativeCommons)

Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Volkan Isler, associate professor in the College of Science and Engineering. Let the conversation begin!

What is your current favorite project?

Our lab [the Robotic Sensor Networks Lab] is building robotic systems and deploying them in environmental applications. We have developed a network of robotic boats to track invasive fish. We are now developing a team of unmanned aerial and ground vehicles that can do in-field measurements of crops such as apples. Hopefully soon, we will be able to perform other kinds of in-field inspection, such as disease detection.

So far, the success of robotics is mainly in factory settings that can be controlled. Taking them into the field, into an unstructured environment, allows for uncertainties to be introduced. This makes structured and uniform agricultural settings, such as apple orchards or cornfields, ideal for the transition to more natural environments. Continue reading

What does climate change mean for Minnesota’s trees?Photo by Justin Meissen (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Climate change is affecting weather patterns across the globe — and on our doorstep. As temperatures warm and moisture availability shifts as a result, what effect will these changes have on Minnesota’s trees?

IonE resident fellow Rebecca Montgomery, associate professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, talked with WTIP North Shore Community Radio about an ongoing study that is revealing what trees might disappear from Minnesota’s north woods and which are likely to take their place.

IonE resident fellows are faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries and are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges.

Photo by Justin Meissen (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Featured Fellow: Food systems expert Randel HansonPhoto by jb (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Randel Hanson, assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of MInnesota Duluth. Let the conversation begin!

What’s the most interesting thing you’re reading now? 

I have been deeply moved by Dipesh Chakrabarty’s work on thinking through the new reality that we humans collectively and differentially face with anthropogenic climate change: this emergent reality engages in new ways the conjoinment of the history of the Earth system, the history of life (including human evolution) on our planet, and the history of industrial “civilization” and capitalism. Each of these histories has its importance in terms of understanding where we’re at today and yet, as he explores, they are intertwining in ways that deeply challenge how our knowledge systems and our disciplinary systems organize how we approach the world. How do we sufficiently grasp the complexity and enormity of this moment in these histories? And how do we create understandings and actions requisite to our time? For me his work is the richest engagement that I’ve come across in exploring these questions. He doesn’t provide the answers, but he is moving the ball compellingly forward in terms of grasping the complexity of our times. Continue reading

Conservation and conversation in Costa RicaCCCR

Can communication improve conservation? That was the goal in early June, when more than 80 biologists, conservationists, students and journalists gathered from around the world for a two-day open house to share ideas and experiences, network, and strategize how to communicate the value of the research and conservation activities going on at the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (Guanacaste Conservation Area) in northwestern Costa Rica.

ACG spreads across 402,781 acres of rain forest, dry tropical forest and cloud forest, as well as a marine reserve in the northwestern corner of Costa Rica. Scientists and ACG staff are engaged in about 150 different research projects there, from studying ants, primates and sea turtles to observing tropical forest regeneration and how it affects water availability to local communities. Continue reading

Featured Fellow: Epidemiologist Dominic TravisElephant Dominic Travis

Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Dominic Travis, epidemiologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Let the conversation begin!

What’s the most interesting thing you’re reading now?

I like to read 10 to 15 books at a time. Maybe because I’m subject-ADHD and a slow reader, I have many different reading moods. One book I am reading is the locally published Borlaug series (three volumes) by Noel Vietmeyer. It is amazing to see how the father of the Green Revolution had some of his formative years at the University of Minnesota and then to compare to the current culture here — I think the IonE concept follows on that fairly well.  Continue reading

University-Rosemount partnership “a gift”courtesy of City of Rosemount

This article was adapted from the original by Emily Zimmer for Rosemount Town Pages.

During his speech at the Resilient Communities Project end-of-year celebration May 1, Rosemount, Minn., mayor Bill Droste called the partnership a “great gift.”

The University of Minnesota Resilient Communities Project celebrated the conclusion of its one-year partnership with Rosemount during a luncheon at the McNamara Alumni Center. Continue reading

Featured Fellow: Anthropologist Mark PedeltyRitual Mark Pedelty

Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Mark Pedelty, professor in the College of Liberal Arts. Let the conversation begin!

What’s your current favorite project?

I am writing a book whose working title is Environmentalist Musicians: Cases from Cascadia for Indiana University Press’s Music, Nature, Place series. It is based on six case studies of musicians working with environmental movements, starting with Dana Lyons and ending with the Idle No More movement, performers who mobilize communities through music. They shared their ideas, techniques and experiences with me over the course of two years. Continue reading

Elizabeth Wilson named Carnegie FellowDriven to Discover Flag

This article is reprinted with permission from the University of Minnesota.

IonE resident fellow Elizabeth Wilson has been selected to the inaugural class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. Wilson, a leading researcher in energy and environmental policy and law, is one of 32 scholars chosen from more than 300 nominees. She will receive a $200,000 award to support her research examining the complex relationship between renewable and nuclear energy, climate change and economic development, and how policy drives the evolution of energy systems. Continue reading

IonE fellows named Distinguished McKnight ProfessorsGoldy Campus Identity

The Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost has announced that University of Minnesota Law School professor  Alexandra B. Klass and College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences professor George E. Heimpel have been named Distinguished McKnight University Professor—two of just five U of M faculty members to receive the distinction this year. Klass and Heimpel are also U of M Institute on the Environment resident fellows. Continue reading

10 things we learned about chemicals & environmentFlickr: Photo by Bert van Dijk (Flickr/Creative Commons)

What better way to commemorate Earth Day than by learning about how our everyday actions affect the environment? This week’s Frontiers focused on common chemical pollutants and their impacts. IonE resident fellow and College of Science and Engineering professor Bill Arnold kicked off the talk, followed by Matt Simcik, associate professor in the School of Public Health and Ron Hadsall, professor in the College of Pharmacy. With conversations ranging from flaming couches to perspiration and peeing, here are 10 things we learned: Continue reading

Featured Fellow: Industrial Ecologist Tim SmithCrops Tim Smith

Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Tim Smith, associate professor of environmental sciences, policy and management, and bioproducts and biosystems engineering in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences. Let the conversation begin!

What’s the most interesting thing you’re reading now?

I am currently reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty (along with just about everyone else . . .). I love the fact that, through his own admission, the book is as much a contribution to our understanding of economic history as illuminating key dynamics shaping wealth and inequality. Our understanding of big thorny problems and our ability to implement potential solutions are rarely isolated within individual fields of study or areas of practice. His interpretation of the societal, political and economic balancing act dictating the roles of income and capital across countries is fascinating. Continue reading

Featured Fellow: Environmental Educator Patrick HamiltonPhoto by Arend (Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Patrick Hamilton, program director of Global Change Initiatives at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Let the conversation begin!
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