HomeNewsMini Grants support carless tailgating, wildlife camera traps and more

Mini Grants support carless tailgating, wildlife camera traps and more

Promoting carless tailgating in Minnesota, installing wildlife camera traps in Botswana and connecting Native American students to indigenous communities are among 21 projects chosen to receive fall 2016 Institute on the Environment Mini Grants. The projects will receive grants of up to $3,000 each for a total disbursement of $57,373.

Mini Grants are designed to encourage collaboration on environmental themes among faculty, staff and students across University of Minnesota disciplines, units and campuses. Along with funding, each recipient is provided space for meetings, workshops and conferences and some administrative support for a year.

Following are brief descriptions of the projects. For more information, email ione@umn.edu.

Angler survey: Feasibility study of interest in research participation
Ryan Hueffmeier, Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth

A promising alternative to collecting fish for scientific study is using fish already caught by anglers. This project will enlist student workers to survey anglers at the St. Louis River Estuary near Duluth to determine feasibility of angler participation in a research program using their daily harvest. Survey data will provide information on how much participation might be expected as well as angler success and species harvested.

Carless tailgating: A safe and sustainable alternative to a sporting tradition
Tiffany Richardson, College of Education and Human Development and Institute on the Environment Educator 

University of Minnesota sports researchers and professionals will study carless tailgating at University of Colorado Boulder. The research would be the first in sport management literature to explore the implementation of environmentally friendly programming and events in a collegiate sport environment. The project team will apply lessons learned to a pilot project at UMN next fall.

Ecosystem services and inequality in urban watersheds
Kate Derickson, McKnight Land Grant University Professor, College of Liberal Arts and IonE Associate

While substantial advances have been made in recent years in accounting for the economic value of ecosystem services, far less is known about the distribution of ecosystem services across socio-economically diverse and geographically segregated urban environments. The project team is interested in developing a proposal for the National Science Foundation Coupled Natural Human Systems call to investigate these processes. The Mini Grant will cover travel and lodging for intensive team workshops in Atlanta and the Women’s Environmental Institute Eco-Retreat Center in North Branch, Minnesota, to prepare and collaborate on the NSF grant proposal. 

Energy, water and community engagement: A transdisciplinary approach to research and teaching
Elizabeth Hill, Swenson College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota Duluth, and IonE Educator

The grant will be used to bring faculty and undergraduate researchers to the St. Louis River summit in March 2017, and to host three meetings to advance the creation of a model for leveraging student and faculty transdisciplinary research to address significant community sustainable energy needs in the Western Lake Superior Region.

Exploring ecology: Camera traps in the classroom
Craig Packer, College of Biological Sciences and IonE Fellow

This project will lay the groundwork to duplicate the successful “Snapshot Serengeti,” a long-term monitoring program that captures the dynamics of charismatic African species through 200-plus camera traps deployed in Serengeti National Park. The Mini Grant will fund travel to Botswana to meet with two African-based nongovernmental wildlife protection organizations, where they will develop the classroom and field components of the project.

 Girls can code in science: Let girls learn
Mohamed Yakub, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Coding and bioinformatics are important components of data analyses in environmental and agri-sciences, especially as data sets get larger and more complex, while computing has become well-established in daily life. Yet the gender gap in computing continues to widen. This project aims to mend the gender disparity in the field by hosting a course consisting of 10 workshops in which experts teach the basics to graduate students, who then instruct and engage undergraduates, who pass along their knowledge to high school students.

Learning from the experts: How to implement renewable energy technology at the community scale
Alison Hoxie, CSE UMD and IonE Associate 

This Mini Grant project will send two graduate students to visit communities abroad that have successfully adopted renewable energy technologies, one in Switzerland and another in Germany. There, they will meet with policy-makers, educators and plant operators and learn about the successful drivers for making energy technologies more financially attractive, gain understanding about getting buy-in from community members, learn how to disseminate energy knowledge at all levels of education, and study the daily challenges and benefits of developing sustainable communities.

Living collections as a tool for plant conservation
Daniel Stanton, CBS

The project will focus on building a cross-disciplinary team of researchers interested in plant conservation through horticulture. To accomplish this, the team will host a symposium on conservation horticulture featuring prominent experts in spring 2017, and develop and teach a fall 2017 course on conservation horticulture for upper-level interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate students.

Minnesota American Indian Rights Research Tour
Mary Oldham Hanneman, Institute on the Environment

The Mini Grant will support 20 American Indian middle school, high school and college students on a four-day civil rights research tour across Minnesota to visit sites significant to Dakota and/or Ojibwe people including Fort Snelling, Mankato, Lower Sioux Indian Community, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Sugar Point, Sandy Lake, Fond du Lac and Duluth. The tour combines experiential learning, participatory research, and exposure to indigenous ways of knowing and relating to the land to empower native students to share and communicate their stories.

Mobile art engagement in Twin Cities communities of color
Jessica Lopez Lyman, College of Liberal Arts

Working with several community organizations involved in environmental justice campaigns and advocacy planning, the project team will conduct surveys on transportation and food systems planning in communities of color in the Twin Cities using a mobile screen-printing tool. The mobile art tool promotes interactive art-making to deepen relationships and is a valuable method for educating the broader community about social issues. The project will culminate in an art-based tool kit applicable to future transit and food systems research.

Morris climate education
Troy Goodnough, Office of Sustainability, University of Minnesota Morris

The project team seeks to expand on UMM’s multi-year project of energy conservation, clean energy, community resilience and climate education. This grant project will assess and expand climate and energy education in Morris area schools by building relationships with key school officials and teachers; assessing current efforts in K–12 education in energy and climate; studying how sister city Saerbeck, Germany, integrates climate and energy education into its K–12-equivalent education; and expanding UMM campus engagement with the Morris schools to provide new opportunities for students to learn about energy and climate issues.

Movement patterns of fishes in western Lake Superior
Andrew Bramburger, NRRI, UMD

This study will provide baseline information on the importance of the St. Louis River Estuary as habitat for migratory, transient and permanent fish residents. Knowledge gained through this study will help to inform management of estuarine habitats and pelagic fisheries. Immediate project outcomes will include the formation of a team of expert collaborators and development of methods for examination of otoliths (ear stones), which leave a record of water chemistry that may be used to infer residency and movement patterns.

Piloting structured decision-making workshops at IonE to help UMN bring solutions to local natural resource management problems
Eric Lonsdorf, IonE

The project team will pilot a three-day workshop addressing a local environmental issue that involves one or more groups of multiple stakeholders, guiding them through the steps of structured decision-making. The workshop would ultimately develop a first prototype of the solution for the issue and identify the information or data needed to inform and build confidence in a more formal decision.

Planting prairies: Collaboration to increase native seed for restoration
Ruth Shaw, CBS

Less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s native prairies remain, weakening the resilience of plant populations and impairing the ability of prairies to provide critical ecosystem services. The project team will use the Mini Grant to host meetings with Minnesota producers and large-scale consumers of native seeds to ascertain the major obstacles to seed production and propose steps for addressing these challenges, and produce a white paper summarizing participants’ views and consensus regarding native-seed production.

Putting suppliers on the map
Kelly Meza-Prado, Institute on the Environment Natural Capital Project

Securing freshwater by compensating upstream residents for land management actions that improve downstream water supply is an increasingly common type of ecosystem service project. This Mini Grant project team will study a water fund in Columbia MD to understand the perspectives of suppliers of ecosystem services, aiming to develop a model for ecosystem service programs that are sustainable and effective.

Solar arts workshop
Christine Baeumler, CLA and IonE Fellow 

The project team will host a day long, hands-on workshop exploring mobile photovoltaic applications suitable for sustainable public art projects. Solar Installation and design experts from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, local K–12 educators and artists will present examples of solar projects that range in size and impact from off-grid lighting and sound to educational outreach and curriculum, with the aim of providing practical resources for artists to use solar power in their work and open up new aesthetic spaces within urban and rural landscapes with limited or no access to power.

Sound and extinction: Noise pollution explored through acoustic ecology, sound studies and musical performance
Mark Pedelty, CLA and IonE Fellow

The project will bring together art and science to explain and explore sound pollution, drawing upon research by acoustic ecologists to visually and aurally illustrate what is currently known about the effects of noise pollution on bird, whale and human communities. The project team will create a musical composition, facilitate a live performance in the IonE Commons and produce a music video illustrating how anthropogenic noise disrupts animal communication.

Sponsorship support for 2017 Transportation Resource Board Committee on Resource Conservation and Recovery summer workshop
Lawrence Zanko, NRRI 

The project team will collaborate with the Center for Economic Development and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to cohost a summer workshop in Duluth. The workshop will provide an opportunity for researchers and practitioners from the region and around the country to interact and share their resource conservation and recovery experiences and practices relative to transportation, and will enable workshop attendees to learn the latest about related activities in Minnesota from the perspective of an interdisciplinary representation of participating UMN, state agency, and private and public sector stakeholders.

St. Paul campus food forest
Michele Mansky, CBS

This project team will install a seven-layer food forest as a functional demonstration site for students, staff and the visiting public. The food forest is intended to supply campus communities with fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs as well as serve as an outdoor classroom, teaching about edible plant identification, soil quality, water catchment systems, etc. The food forest will be a model that can be replicated in anyone’s backyard.

Sustainable systems for water resource management
Melissa Maurer-Jones, SCSE, UMD

Maintaining and managing sustainable water resources is critical to addressing global water scarcity and access. A group of UMD faculty who are interested in or are currently doing environmental water chemistry or water technology research will meet monthly throughout spring 2017 to facilitate and support conversations that lead to curricula development, interdisciplinary collaborations, and grant proposals for fundamental and applied water technology science.

University of Minnesota Sustainability and Energy Expo
Eray Aydil, CSE and IonE Fellow

Despite an impressive array of research and extracurricular initiatives, the UMN campus lacks a cohesive sustainability community. UMN Energy Club, in collaboration with IonE Sustainability Education, will host a campus-wide Sustainability and Energy Expo to highlight student initiatives and research across the University. The Mini Grant will partially fund the effort to create an environment for students to exhibit their work, discover each other, and connect to inspire friendships and collaborative works.

Photo by Erika Gratz (UMN Photo and Video Library)

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