Big Questions

How do we feed the world without destroying it? That’s the first topic we tackle in the IonE’s new Big Question video series. Watch “Feast or Famine,” share with other inquiring minds—and look for our next installment: Have we pushed Earth past the tipping point?

River savvy

Nearly 50,000 students attend the University of Minnesota at any given time. Thanks to  the Gopher Ranger program, many of these students are gaining a new respect for the river that runs through their campus. Led by the IonE’s River Life program and the National Park Service, this hands-on learning effort connects undergrads from across majors to the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area—the national park designated for the 72 miles of Mississippi that flows through the Twin Cities metro, in which the U of M is located. The students start by exploring and learning about the river, before moving into more advanced experiences like assisting with canoe trips and restoring natural habitats.

We have a winner!

This past November, Momentum took home awards from all five categories we  entered in the 13th-annual Minnesota Publishing Excellence competition, including: Gold, Best Overall Publication; Gold, Best Single Cover (premiere issue); Gold, Best Feature Article (spring/summer 2009 cover story); Silver, Best Publisher’s Letter (spring/summer 2009 Director’s Note); and Bronze, Best Overall Design. Momentum was judged as part of the Special Interest, Under 60,000 Circulation category, competing against a number of popular regional magazines. Here’s to an outstanding first year and a lot more to come.

Rain garden renaissance

Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park community is expanding the definition of “green thumb.” The three-part film, A Neighborhood of Raingardens, shows how local nonprofit Metro Blooms is working with residents to install 150 rain gardens throughout the neighborhood. Their goal: Clean up Powderhorn Lake. Part 1 of the film explained rain garden ecology and looked at Metro Blooms’ planning and volunteer recruitment, along with the challenges related to the monitoring plan. Scheduled for production in summer 2010, Part 2 will document rain garden installation, which will entail a frenzied pace of design, excavation and planting. Mark Pedelty, an IonE resident fellow and an associate professor in the U of M’s College of Liberal Arts, has received a grant from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to support Part 2, in addition to funding from the IonE.

Academic accolades

With the help of some high-status awards, two IonE resident fellows are taking their research to the next level. Regents Professor Peter Reich won this year’s BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge award in ecology and conservation biology. Reich, of the U of M’s Department of Forest Resources, was honored for his work in global metabolic plant ecology. And Ibrahim Volkan Isler, an assistant professor in the U of M’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering, is among the 2010-12 recipients of the McKnight Land-Grant Professorships for his research on “Googling the Planet: Robotic Sensor Networks for Environmental Monitoring.” Congrats!

Lectures with life

Since launching our Frontiers in the Environment lecture series this past fall, some 2,500 people have watched, listened and learned in person and online. Each Wednesday at noon (CT), our speakers explore the frontiers of knowledge in climate change, renewable energy, public health and many other environmental hot topics. If you can’t make it to St. Paul, Minn., you can join us for the live Web broadcast. All previous lectures are also archived online. Don’t know where to begin? These excerpts from fall/winter 2009 might help…

“We’re passing tipping points in the designed environment as much as we are in the natural environment, because both are caused by the same Ponzi-like scheme that has driven—and continues to drive—our relationship with nature and each other.”
~Thomas Fisher, Resilience in the (Designed) Environment - 9/30/09

“If I want to replace all the petroleum that’s consumed in the entire United States [with solar energy], then I need almost 15 million acres of land and 685 million solar dishes.”
~Jane Davidson, Solar After Dark: Storage Options - 10/7/09

 “Agricultural expansion from land clearing, an increase from meat and livestock emissions, and from heavier nitrogen fertilization, will all contribute greatly to global greenhouse gas release in a way that, right now, is barely part of the discussion.”
~David Tilman, Food, Energy and Global Climate: Solving the Trilemma - 10/14/09

“Throughout North America, there are many examples of colonial and fish-eating birds having reproductive problems or developmental problems as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.”
~Deborah Swackhamer, Fixing our Toxics Problem: Ivory Tower or White Castle? - 10/21/09

“About 100 billion gallons of oil go toward the production of polymers every day. That’s enough to fill the Metrodome 200 times a year.”
~Mark Hillmyer, Plastics from Plants: Tomorrow’s Advanced Materials - 11/4/09

“After 35 days, we had nine meters of mud to our name—and the possibility of a complete and utter failure.”
~Tom Johnson, Mud in the Eye of the Beholder: Unraveling Climate Past and Future in the African Tropics - 11/11/09