Frontiers in the Environment

Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul
Free and open to the public; no registration required
Join us online via UMConnect

Spring 2014 Schedule

January 29 — Science Communication: Teach, Entertain or Inspire?

Alex Reich, Peter Reich, Henry Reich: Creators of MinuteEarth

Portrait: Henry, Peter and Alex Reich. Science affects pretty much every aspect of our lives, so it's important that people care about science and know about science. Henry, Alex and Peter Reich are trying to work on both fronts with MinuteEarth, a YouTube channel that aims to provide an energetic and entertaining view of geology, ecology, climate science and more. Come hear how and why they started and continue to make MinuteEarth, and join in a discussion about the purpose and role of science communication in general.

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February 5 — Intelligent Nanotechnology for Environmental Monitoring

Jian-Ping Wang, IonE Resident Fellow and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, College of Science & Engineering

Portrait: Jian-Ping Wang. Detecting pathogens in water and heavy metals in waste and fuels is a tricky business. Samples are often too small or diluted. And the presence of particulate and organic matter can make it difficult to separate out the targeted element. In this Frontiers talk, professor Wang will report on his research and the application of spintronic and nano magnetic technologies in detecting pathogens and heavy metals, such as mercury, in contaminated or potentially contaminated environmental sites.

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February 12 — What IS the Green Economy? And How Do We Get One?

Steve Polasky, IonE Resident Fellow; Regents Professor of Applied Economics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Project Lead, Natural Capital Project

Portrait: Stephen Polasky. Unregulated “brown” market economies are very good at providing commodities like corn and computers but very bad at providing clean air and water, and protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. The fundamental problem with the current economy is that there are powerful incentives to produce commodities but no similar set of incentives to produce green goods. Fixing this asymmetry requires rethinking the role of markets, business, consumers, government and civic society. Join us for a look at various approaches — from government regulation to corporate environmentalism to consumer action — that can take us closer to the goal of a green economy.

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February 19 — Where There's Smoke…. Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements in Developing Countries

Ellison Carter, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute on the Environment

Portrait: Ellison Carter. Household air pollution from cooking and heating with wood and coal impacts nearly half the world’s population and is the leading environmental health risk factor. Despite the compelling need for household energy interventions that reduce HAP, the majority of household energy intervention programs have been unsuccessful in reducing air pollution exposures at a population level due to a combination of cost, technology development and behavioral factors. Carter will discuss her current work developing clean energy intervention technology and air pollution measurement systems to assess the intervention’s efficacy in rural Chinese homes. The project will provide critical new information for large-scale implementation programs that seek to deliver sufficiently clean household air to families and mitigate negative impacts of solid fuel use on climate change.

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February 26 — Water Stewardship and the Private Sector

Raj Rajan, RD&E Vice President, Global Sustainability Technical Leader, Ecolab Inc.

Portrait: Raj Rajan. Water is a precious and finite resource. Yet traditional commercial enterprises, with their model of investment and returns, don’t always recognize the difference between price and value. Join us for a conversation about the big changes industrial and institutional sectors will need to make to manage the long-term viability of sustained growth in the context of this constraining resource.

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March 5 — North of Sixty: Narratives of a Changing World

Aaron Doering, IonE Resident Fellow and Director, Learning Technologies Media Lab

Portrait: Aaron Doering. Capturing stories from across the globe to educate the public about how a changing environment is affecting real communities has been a dream come true for Doering. He will speak about his latest Arctic expedition and project, entitled “North of Sixty”, as well as Earthducation, which investigates education and sustainability on every continent. Join us to discuss the intersection of education, sustainability and engaged learning! To virtually experience some of Doering’s current projects, go to or follow him on Twitter @chasingseals.

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March 12 — Global Green Supply Chains: What Matters and What to do About It

Timothy M. Smith, IonE resident fellow; director, NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise; and associate professor, bioproducts and biosystems engineering

Portrait: Tim Smith. Traditionally, corporate sustainability efforts have focused on reducing and preventing direct impacts of waste or emissions. However, the majority of climate, water and pollution impacts are the result of complex supply chains strung together to deliver value-added products and services. You may see processed food and meat on supermarket shelves; what you don’t see are the environmental impacts of corn and fertilizer that go into those products. Nearly 95% of CO2 emissions produced by your favorite clothing lines are from purchased power, chemicals, textiles and transportation used before they reach the store. Voting ‘green’ with your pocketbook often means influencing your supplier’s supplier to do the same. Identifying where in product supply chains to exert influence requires unprecedented coordination and collective action. Join us for a look into ongoing supply chain sustainability initiatives coordinated by large NGOs and corporate consortia, and informed by UMN-led research.

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March 19 — Spring Break, No Frontiers

March 26 — Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy?

Doug Cameron, Co-President, First Green Partners

Portrait: Doug Cameron. On one hand, much of today's methane is produced by hydraulic fracturing, an environmentally controversial process. In addition, low-cost methane has resulted in reduced investment in renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar. On the other hand, the increased use of methane for electricity generation has resulted in the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Although most methane is derived from fossil sources, it can also be generated from renewable resources. Join us as we explore whether methane wears the black or white hat in the green economy.

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April 2 — Developing World Changers in Graduate Education

Kate Knuth, Director, Boreas Leadership Program, Institute on the Environment

Portrait: Kate Knuth. We’ve all heard about the many challenges the world faces. How do we develop the people to make solutions happen? The Institute on the Environment’s Boreas Leadership Program works with students across the University of Minnesota to help them develop the skills, networks and ways of working to change the world. You'll get a full report of what Boreas has been up to and hear more about the opportunities and challenges of developing world changers in graduate education.

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April 9 — Yellowstone: More Valuable Than Gold

Mike Clark, Former Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition

Portrait: Mike Clark. As head of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition during the Clinton years, Clark led a successful decade-long effort to halt a proposed gold mine on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. The mining area has since been reclaimed by the U.S. Forest Service and a vibrant tourist economy remains intact. Clark will talk about how the campaign to stop the mine was organized, the challenges of protecting public lands when mining operations are proposed, and how public lands provide the economic engine for many rural areas adjacent to protected public lands and wilderness areas.

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April 16 — Global Capital and Disease Hot Spots

Rob Wallace, Visiting Scholar, Institute for Global Studies

Portrait: Rob Wallace. As a new approach to public health, One Health investigates disease "hot spots" where new pathogens are transmitted from animals to humans. Up to now, One Health has focused on the developing world, from where outbreaks of diseases like avian influenza and Nipah virus geographically originate. But should New York and London be considered among the world's hottest hot spots? Wallace asserts that such centers of capital fund the land grabbing, deforestation, and agricultural intensification that drive disease outbreaks in the first place.

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April 23 — Scandinavia: Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility

Robert Strand, Assistant Professor of Leadership & Sustainability, Copenhagen Business School and Director of Nordic Network for Sustainability

Portrait: Robert Strand. Business is fundamentally about competition, right? So how does this fit with a sustainability agenda in which cooperation between stakeholders, including the business sector, is sorely needed? Strand will consider a region of the world where business is approached as a fundamentally cooperative endeavor with positive sustainability outcomes. He will also discuss what lessons may be drawn for a U.S. context.

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April 30 — Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction

J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy

Portrait: J. Drake Hamilton. The United States is finally on a trajectory to limit and lower greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. What is the role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in establishing these first-ever limits? How can Minnesota target the deep levels of carbon reduction needed to address climate change (and to meet state climate goals)? Hamilton will discuss emerging opportunities and challenges in federal and state climate action.

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May 7 — A Watershed Approach to Understanding Urban Eutrophication

Sarah Hobbie, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences

Portrait: Sarah Hobbie. Eutrophication — the degradation of water quality from nutrient-rich runoff — continues to impair the capacity for urban waters to provide clean drinking water, habitat to support biodiversity, food, and recreational and aesthetic opportunities. Hobbie and colleagues are taking a watershed approach to understanding the sources of nutrients that are contributing to urban water pollution. In this Frontiers talk, Hobbie will share insights from her research that might point toward novel solutions to urban water quality issues.

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The opinions expressed in Frontiers in the Environment are those of the speakers and not necessarily of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.


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