"A" for Sustainability

The U of M was one of seven U.S. higher education institutions to earn an “A” grade this year from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the nation’s premier source of sustainability rankings for campuses. Why? Answers abound on the new Environment and Sustainability Portal, Check the site for info on classes and research related to sustainability, how sustainability is being incorporated into University operations, green news and events, and lots more.

Earth Entrepreneurs

IonE welcomes a new partner this fall: Acara, a nonprofit program that encourages the creation of student-led businesses that apply innovative solutions to environmental challenges in developing countries. Among other activities, Acara holds a competition each year for multinational student teams with ideas for sustainability-promoting businesses, then provides a two-month paid internship to help winners turn their ideas into action. Learn more at

Online Options

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Photo Finish

Congratulations to Maga Gei, who took top honors in Momentum’s biodiversity photo contest with this photograph of a treefrog (Smilisca phaeota) in a young heliconia leaf. Gei snapped the prize winner at La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Join the Momentum Facebook page to receive notification of our next photo contest. View the slideshow

Gold Rush

At the 14th annual Minnesota Publishing Excellence Awards ceremony, Momentum magazine received honors in seven categories: Gold, Best Overall Design; Gold, Best Feature Story (Polar Energy); Gold, Best Technical Article (Nanotech: A History Lesson); Gold, Best Publisher’s Letter (Hold the Red Herrings, Please); Silver, Best Feature Story (Growing Pains); Silver, Best Single Topic Issue (Land Issue); and Bronze, Best Overall Publication. Momentum was judged as part of the “Special Interest, Under 60,000 Circulation” category, competing against a number of prominent regional magazines.

Crops and Carbon

Nature’s ability to store carbon, the element at the heart of global climate change, is eroding as forests turn to farm fields, according to a study published by a research team including IonE director Jon Foley in the Nov. 1 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The report, authored by graduate student Paul C. West, shows the effect is most acute in the tropics—providing valuable guidance for strategies to meet increasing demand for food while minimizing disruption to nature’s capacity to remove climate-disrupting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


If you currently keep up with Momentum through the Institute on the Environment’s Facebook and Twitter, you may also want to become a fan on Momentum Facebook or follow us on Twitter. In addition to regular up-dates on issues, articles and Web exclusives, you can learn the latest about our eye-opening Momentum 2011 event series launching this spring.

Better Biomass

IonE resident fellow Jason Hill (CFANS) is co-principal investigator on a five-year U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded in September to compare the environmental and economic impacts of various biomass production options. Hill and colleagues will use the grant to develop recommendations for enhancing the sustainability of biomass energy.

Liquid Sun

Earth receives more energy from sunlight in one hour than humans use in an entire year. So why is it so hard to tap solar energy? One challenge is our limited ability to store the sun’s energy and convert it into usable forms, such as liquid fuels. To address this challenge, mechanical engineering professor Jane Davidson (CSE) and U of M and CalTech colleagues will use a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, leveraged by funding from IonE’s IREE program, to test whether metal oxides can be used to turn solar energy into liquid fuels. The approach would allow large quantities of energy to be stored over long periods of time with minimal energy loss. —Theresa Bipes

20% by 2030

The U.S. aims to get 20 percent of the nation’s energy from wind by 2030. One big barrier to achieving this goal is that we lack a great way to store wind energy for use on calm days. Mechanical engineering faculty member Perry Li (CSE) is leading a group of researchers aiming to tackle the wind energy storage conundrum with an NSF grant based on research started with a $68,800 seed grant from IonE’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). Li’s research will allow wind energy to be stored where current cost-effective and environmentally sound energy storage options are not feasible. The NSF grant is one of only four awarded in the Renewable Energy Storage Category. —Theresa Bipes

Funding the Future

From reducing pollution from cookstoves in developing countries to connecting climate hot spots around the world with learners via social networking, six new IonE Discovery Grants totaling $1.9 million over four years aim to improve understanding of the world around us, and apply that understanding to enhancing air and water quality, protecting ecosystems and the services they provide, and reducing the threat of global climate change. Congrats to lead investigators Aaron Doering (CEHD, adventure learning in climate hot spots), Efi Foufoula-Georgiou (CSE, enhancing water sustainability in India and East Africa), Sarah Hobbie (CBS, boosting the benefits of urban vegetation), Julian Marshall (CSE, improving cookstoves), Peter Reich (CFANS, integrating plant data across time and space) and Peter Snyder (CFANS, reducing urban heat islands).



COLLEGE KEY: CBS, College of Biological Sciences; CEHD, College of Education and Human Development; CFANS, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; CSE, College of Science and Engineering