Category Archives: News

5 things we learned about sustainable supply chainsFlickr: Photo by CIFOR (Flickr/Creative Commons)

In the final Frontiers of the semester, Gary Paoli, director of research and program development with Daemeter Consulting, joined Frontiers to talk about the role of sustainability commitments within a supply chain. With a specific focus on palm oil in Indonesia, this lively talk looked at the needs, challenges and successes of such programs in improving corporate responsibility. Here are five things we learned. Continue reading

Grand challenge curriculum aims highCan We Feed the World Without Destroying It?

Can we feed the world without destroying it? Good question — one that students in the University of Minnesota’s Grand Challenge Curriculum (GCC) 3001 course will tackle this fall.

The University and the Institute on the Environment are committed to finding solutions to the global grand challenges facing us now and in the years ahead. One of the grandest of all is how to build a more resilient food system that can provide food security for a growing population while preserving the environment we rely on. Continue reading

Shape a brighter future? These grads are on it.Acara India Brian Bell

If you ever thought a young adult is too inexperienced to make a difference, you haven’t met the participants in the Institute on the Environment’s Acara impact entrepreneurship program.

Through Acara, students from colleges across the University of Minnesota build practical business skills and global experiences while simultaneously launching impactful entrepreneurial ventures aimed at addressing global grand challenges. They are motivated to change the world for the better, and many who participate in the program go on to do so during their careers. 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

7 things we learned about feedback technologyFlickr: Photo by keila k. (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Frontiers was joined this week by John Petersen, director of the Environmental Studies program at Oberlin College in Ohio. Through an engaging talk on technology and the ways it can be used to provide a visual representation of human impact, Petersen discussed the how the Environmental Dashboard project has leveraged the concept of feedback and the potential it has to change human behavior. Here are seven things we learned: 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

Oil and gas extraction drives ecosystem lossOil Extraction News

Present-day oil and gas extraction practices drive the large-scale loss of ecosystem services across the North American Great Plains.

That’s the take-away from a new study published today in Science co-authored by a University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment researcher. Improved drilling technologies coupled with energy demand has resulted in an average of 50,000 new wells drilled per year in central North America — displacing an area of crop- and rangeland equivalent to three Yellowstone National Parks between 2000 and 2012.  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

Study: Plants’ ability to absorb CO2 limitedTree Canopy

Does more atmospheric carbon mean bigger plants?

Not necessarily, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment researcher. Most climate scenarios, including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, assume that, since plants convert carbon dioxide to food for growth, more CO2 in the atmosphere will accelerate plant growth, thereby reducing the net amount of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. This study supports a growing body of knowledge that suggests instead that plants can’t keep absorbing more CO2 because there aren’t enough nutrients in the soil to sustain their growth.  Continue reading

6 things we learned about managing pandemic threatsFlickr: Photo by Matthew Anderson (Flickr/Creative Commons)

The April 15 Frontiers looked at ways we can manage disease threats at home and abroad. Thanks to a diverse panel including Patsy Stinchfield, director of infection prevention and control at the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota; Cheryl Robertson, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, and John Deen, a professor of Veterinary Population Medicine, here are six things we learned:
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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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Energy Transition Lab promotes 21st century upgradesWind Turbine and Power Lines

The Energy Transition Lab, supported by the Institute on the Environment, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Law School, brings together leaders in government, business and nonprofit organizations to develop new energy policy pathways, institutions and regulations.

In this audio clip, Hari Osofsky, ETL’s faculty director, Law School professor and IonE resident fellow, discusses the lab’s goals and what communities and business and utility partners are doing to bring the energy system into the 21st century with WTIP North Shore Community Radio.

Photo by mwwile (Flickr Creative Commons)

RCP recognized for excellence, innovationResilient Communities Project Drive to Discover Flag

The Resilient Communities Project has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the MAGS/ETS Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education Award. Jointly sponsored by the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) and Educational Testing Service (ETS), this annual award is given to a MAGS member institution in recognition of outstanding contributions to domestic and international graduate education at both the graduate school and program level.
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8 things we learned about health and wildlife tradeFlickr: Photo by Craig ONeal (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Combine cutting-edge University of Minnesota research and heightened interest in infectious disease due to recent ebola outbreaks, and you get a fascinating discussion on wildlife and the ways it may influence global health. At this week’s Frontiers in the Environment, Dominic Travis, IonE resident fellow and associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Shaun Kennedy, director of the Food Systems Institute and adjunct professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Kristine Smith, associate director of health and policy with EcoHealth Alliance explored the health risks associated with the global wildlife trade. Here are eight things we learned: Continue reading

Featured Fellow: Civil engineer John GulliverPeople John Gulliver

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 John Gulliver, civil engineer at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. Let the conversation begin!

What environmental challenge concerns you most?

Population control. We are overpopulating and exploiting the Earth and these are at the root of all environmental problems. I do not know how many people a sustainable world can support, but I suspect that it is less than a population of 9 billion. Continue reading

7 things we learned about social media & environmentFlickr: Photo by Kris Olin (Flickr/Creative Commons)

This week Brent Hecht, an assistant professor in the College of Science and Engineering, and Spencer Wood, senior scientist with the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, joined Frontiers in the Environment to discuss how social media can be used to inform the causes and consequences of environmental change. Here are seven things we learned:

1. We’ve entered a new era of data. The explosion of social media has created an abundance of data not previously available. Geotagged information (the inclusion of geographical information on forms media, such as marking your location in a Tweet) from social media is one way to harness these data in a useful way. Using the combination of location information in conjunction with the information included in the post, researchers can gleam new insights. Continue reading

We need system change, not regulationSystem Change

This article was originally published in The Conversation.

The higher levels of heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels are one feature of what many call the Anthropocene, a new geological era dominated by humans.

Yet regulatory approaches to managing carbon in the Earth system are doomed to fail. This is because the rise of carbon dioxide levels — what I call the CO Catastrophe — is taking place at the scale of the Earth system itself. Humans are inside of that system, COemissions are coupled to energy use, and increasing energy use is central to economic advancement. I have become convinced that it is simply not possible to manage energy usage from the scale of households to that of the planet itself using regulatory methods. Continue reading

Carver County is new RCP partnerCarver Co

Carver County, one of seven counties in the Twin Cities metro, has been chosen as the 2015–16 Resilient Communities Project partner. Enhancing bike and pedestrian facilities near park-and-ride locations, evaluating stormwater reuse opportunities, crafting an ecotourism marketing plan and exploring opportunities for preservation of a historic farmstead are among the 34 projects the county will tackle with help from University of Minnesota sustainability expertise.
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