2009 News Archive

An archive of news released by the Institute on the Environment during calendar year 2009.

IREE Annual Report

(12/22) In fiscal 2009, the IonE’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment invested nearly $6.3 million in 28 research projects. Close to $900,000 in additional matching funds are earmarked for projects that could bring another $13.6 million to the University of Minnesota and its partners. Check out IREE’s 2009 Annual Report to see how IREE is advancing the development of economically and environmentally beneficial renewable energy systems.

Read an article on Martin Saar’s IREE-funded research

NorthStar Consortium inaugural meeting

(12/21) On Dec. 4, 2009, executives and global thought leaders from some of the world’s most progressive organizations gathered on the University of Minnesota campus for the inaugural NorthStar Consortium meeting. This core group of individuals will help shape the scope and direction of the new consortium over the next 18 months. A key investment of the Institute on the Environment, the NorthStar Consortium aims to leverage private-sector expertise toward vital social and environmental change. During the meeting, participants discussed potential approaches to shared challenges and opportunities in land use, freshwater access, climate, and production-consumption systems. The results of this dialogue will form the basis for a collaborative research agenda that links the interdisciplinary scholarship of the IonE with the practice of finding sustainable solutions.

GoNorth! travels to United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen

(12/4) University of Minnesota professor Aaron Doering, an IonE resident fellow, and program director Mille Porsild, both part of the GoNorth! adventure learning series, are traveling with a group of 20 teachers and students from the United States, Canada, Norway and Greenland to the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark. While at the conference, the youth will speak and perform at numerous events; on Dec. 10, they will open a photo exhibition of their lives in the Arctic at the Danish National Museum. The event was developed in partnership with Chris Germano of the Many Strong Voices program (part of the Global Risk Identification Program within the United Nations Environment Programme). The unique exhibit will travel around the world following the Danish premiere. 

Elevated CO2 levels may mitigate losses of biodiversity from nitrogen pollution

(12/3) Rising levels of carbon dioxide may overheat the planet and cause other environmental problems, but fears that rising CO2 levels could directly reduce plant biodiversity can be allayed, according to a new study by University of Minnesota scientist and IonE resident fellow Peter Reich. In fact, rising CO2 may actually help counteract losses of diversity from another environmental villain: the global rain of nitrogen from fertilizers and exhaust fumes. The study, published in the Dec. 4 issue of Sciencemagazine, involved a 10-year open-air outdoor experiment in which 48 plots planted with 16 different species of grasslands plants were tested using ambient and elevated levels of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Link to study

Carbon emissions and management scenarios for consumer-owned utilities

(11/17) Consumer-owned electric utilities contribute significantly to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but are often excluded from energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. They sell a quarter of the nation’s electricity, yet the carbon impact of these sales is not well understood, due to their small size, unique ownership models and high percentage of purchased power for distribution. A recent paper in Environmental Science & Policy, co-authored by the IonE’s Tim Smith, situates consumer-owned utilities in the context of emerging U.S. climate policy, quantifying for the first time the state-by-state carbon impact of electricity sales by consumer-owned utilities. 

Advances in geothermal energy

(11/16) “Instead of adding CO2 to geothermal energy plans, the University of Minnesota’s geofluids research group, one of the Department of Energy’s awardees, proposes to add geothermal energy extraction to existing plans for carbon capture and storage,” states a recent article in MIT’s Technology Review. This project is led by Martin Saar, an assistant professor with the U of M’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, and is partially funded by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, an IonE signature program. Read the article (see page 2)

Informing the green marketing discussion

(11/12) Tim Smith, director of the IonE’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, has been tapped to serve on the steering committee of the Green Marketing Roundtable, organized by The Keystone Center. This forum is balanced by stakeholders interested in the benchmarking of the eco-labeling landscape; the question of what makes a good eco-label and a credible environmental claim; and the development of consensus-based guidance on green product marketing and principles for eco-labeling. In October, Smith presented data and assessments from his research during a roundtable in Washington, D.C. Issues discussed during the event included the problem of defining what counts as an eco-label, as well as who has the authority to influence the rules of the sustainable products game.

Walking and clean air

(11/11) A new study, conducted for the metropolitan area of Vancouver, British Columbia, compares neighborhoods’ “walkability”—the degree of ease for walking—with local levels of pollution, and reveals some interesting findings. Among them: Some neighborhoods might be good for walking but have unexpectedly poor air quality. The study, published in the November issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to explore interactions between neighborhood walkability and air pollution exposure. Julian Marshall, a resident fellow of the IonE, is a lead researcher on the study.

University of Minnesota to Host Midwest’s Premier Energy, Economic and Environmental Conference

(11/9) How do we provide sustainable fuel, food, fiber and freshwater to a global population of 9 billion people in our lifetime? That’s one of many urgent questions on the agenda during E3 2009: The Midwest’s Premier Energy, Economic and Environmental Conference, taking place Nov. 17 in St. Paul, Minn.

Momentum magazine wins Publishing Excellence Awards

(11/6) During the 13th-annual Minnesota Publishing Excellence Awards, the IonE’s Momentum magazine received awards in all five categories the editorial team entered, including: Gold, Best Overall Publication; Gold, Best Single Cover (for the premiere issue); Gold, Best Feature Article (for the spring/summer 2009 cover story); Silver, Best Publisher’s Letter (for the 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 prominent regional magazines. The Minnesota Publishing Excellence Awards recognize and foster outstanding publishing achievements from across the state; the competition includes 88 categories in the areas of editorial, design, circulation, general and overall excellence. The IonE’s five submissions represented the first three issues of Momentum, from fall 2008 to spring/summer 2009. More info

Can Biofuels Be Carbon Friendly?

(11/4) Right now, indirect land use related to biofuels isn’t included in proposed climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate, as well as proposed agreements that will be on the table in Copenhagen. In a recent policy piece published in the journal Science, Princeton University’s Tim Searchinger and colleagues wrote that such a policy “erroneously treats all bioenergy as carbon neutral,” calling it a major “accounting error.” To discuss these complex issues at length, Science Insider recently conducted an e-mail conversation with Searchinger and the IonE’s John Sheehan, an international expert on biofuels and sustainability. 

Geothermal grants heat up in Minnesota

(11/4) Geothermal energy development in Minnesota and around the country has received a multimillion-dollar boost from the U.S. Department of Energy for projects ranging from an ice sheet in Eagan to carbon sequestration and heat capture at the University of Minnesota. The funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, totals $338 million, of which more than $7 million will be spent in the state. At the U of M, assistant professor Martin Saar of the geology and geophysics department received a grant for $1.55 million as part of a project to explore the use of geothermal heat to generate electricity via carbon sequestration. Saar’s project builds on significant funding, including a 2009 large grant, from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, an IonE signature program. More info

U of M part of global pandemic team

(11/2) Experts from the University of Minnesota will soon be on the frontlines working to help developing countries better respond to emerging animal diseases that pose a threat to human health. The U of M is part of a multidisciplinary team that will implement a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cooperative agreement with funding up to $185 million. Faculty from six colleges, including IonE resident fellow Katey Pelican, will travel to hot spots (likely located in Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon Basin) to try to prevent the next pandemic. 

U of M researchers win $2.2 million federal stimulus grant to use bacteria to produce biofuel

(10/27) A team of University of Minnesota researchers and BioCee, a university start-up company, have been awarded $2.2 million from the Department of Energy for a research proposal using bacteria to produce biofuel. The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, a signature program of the IonE, provided early-stage support and matching funds of $300,000 for the project.

Foley contributes to The New York Times

(10/26) With food prices remaining high in developing countries, the United Nations estimates that the number of hungry people around the world could increase by 100 million in 2009 and pass the 1 billion mark. What will drive the next Green Revolution? Is genetically modified food an answer to world hunger? Are there other factors that will make a difference in food production? IonE Director Jonathan Foley joins five other experts at The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” forum to weigh in on this complex question. More info

Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund

(10/16) The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources has selected 48 projects for its appropriation recommendations to the 2010 Minnesota Legislature. Several projects involve IonE fellows and researchers, including David Tilman, Peter Reich and Roger Ruan. More info

Foley joins Nature Conservancy Science Council

(10/16) IonE Director Jon Foley has been appointed to the Nature Conservancy Science Council. He’ll join the University of Minnesota’s Steve Polasky, Stanford University’s Gretchen Daily and other noted scientists to help make the organization’s conservation efforts more effective. Since 2005, the Science Council has included board scientists and external experts from diverse disciplines, perspectives, experiences and geographies. Their expertise has included marine conservation, ecology, economics, global climate change and ecological genetics, among many other topics. More info

U of M-led consortium wins major DOE wind energy award

(10/15) U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the University of Minnesota is among three university-led consortiums that will receive significant funding for wind energy research facilities. The U of M and its collaborators will receive up to $8 million to support research and development programs to improve wind turbine performance and reliability, as well as provide educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in wind energy technologies. The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, a signature program of the Institute on the Environment, convened the consortium and provided significant early-stage funding.

Bioenergy and Wildlife

(10/1) In a paper published in the October 2009 issue of BioScience, researchers from the University of Minnesota, the Nature Conservancy, Michigan Tech and elsewhere point to diverse native prairie as holding promise for bioenergy feedstock yields, while minimizing harm to wildlife. Harvesting diverse prairie, which is dominated by perennial plants, could deter negative environmental impacts linked to expanding cultivation of corn for ethanol, such as declining wildlife habitat and high fertilizer runoff. It could also prevent the threat of invasion posed by the cultivation of exotic biofuel crops. Three Institute on the Environment resident fellows, including Jason Hill, Clarence Lehman and David Tilman, contributed to this paper. More info

Kuzma receives NSF grant for plant genome engineering

(10/1) Jennifer Kuzma, an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, is part of a team recently awarded $3.3 million from the National Science Foundation for “Precise Engineering of Plant Genomes Using Zinc Finger Nucleases.” Kuzma will serve as a co-project investigator, taking the lead on the societal implications component of this research. Specifically, she will investigate stakeholder, expert and public perceptions of a novel technology for modifying plant genomes. Kuzma and a University of Minnesota student will work with U of M plant biologist Dan Voytas, along with Jae Joung of Massachusetts General Hospital, and Iowa State University’s Kan Wang and Drena Dobbs.

Planetary Boundaries: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity

(9/23) Over the past century, human activity has changed the global environment more than any natural process in Earth’s recent history. Due to such massive, human-caused change, many parts of the planet are quickly approaching a breaking point. In response, an international team of researchers, including Institute on the Environment Director Jon Foley, has taken the first step toward defining a “safe planetary operating space” that will guide civilization into the future. In the article “Planetary Boundaries: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity”—published Sept. 24 in the journal Nature—28 leading scientists attempt to quantify the safe biophysical boundaries outside which, they believe, Earth’s natural systems cannot function in a stable state, the state in which human civilizations have thrived for 10,000 years.

Biofuel insights from Brazil

(9/21) Nathan Mueller, a second-year doctoral student working with the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative, recently returned from the first Brazil-U.S. Short Course in Biofuels Technology in São Paulo, Brazil. Along with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from both countries, Mueller studied current industrial practices, next-generation biofuel feedstocks, new processing technologies, and the sustainability of biofuels. “This course was an incredible opportunity to learn from experts and peers around the globe,” he says, “and I know it will prove invaluable background for my research.” The course was organized by Fulbright Brasil and the Brazil-U.S. Higher Education Network.

Sheehan testifies on the expanding role of biofuels

(9/2) U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) invited the Institute on the Environment’s John Sheehan, program coordinator for biofuels and the global environment, to testify as part of a Senate field hearing on “The Expanding Role of Biofuels for America.” The hearing of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry took place Sept. 1 at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City, Iowa. Watch a news segment about the hearing, including an interview with Sheehan.

IonE/IREE funding helps secure $2 million from National Science Foundation

(8/12) The National Science Foundation recently awarded Michael Tsapatsis and his colleagues in the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology $1.9 million for a project, titled “Conversion of Biomass to Fuels using Molecular Sieve Catalysts and Millisecond Contact Time Reactors.” The goal of this research is to develop a continuous and scalable auto-thermal catalytic process for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels. The Institute on the Environment and its signature program, the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, supported early collaborations on the project.More info

IREE-supported research advances in national funding competition

(8/11) The U.S. Department of Energy has selected five proposals from the University of Minnesota, after receiving more than 3,500 entries, as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The DOE invited the chosen researchers to submit full proposals to the ARPA-E program, which supports research that shows potential for high commercial impact, but is deemed too risky for industrial investments. In the past few years, the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment has provided significant funding to support the energy technologies behind each of the four proposals. Final awards ranging from $500,000 to $10 million will be announced this fall.

Legal opinion poses threat to endangered species

(8/4) If the federal government implements a 2007 legal interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, the likely result will be a reduction in the number of species listed for protection. Researchers from Ohio State and the Institute on the Environment analyzed the potential impact of a legal memorandum issued in March 2007 by the Department of the Interior, which advised the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that only an endangered species’ current range need factor into whether the species is listed for protection. Sherry Enzler, executive director of the NorthStar Consortium, was a researcher on the study.More info

IREE announces 2009 scholarship winners

(7/21) The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, an Institute on the Environment signature program, in partnership with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, has selected 14 student projects to receive stipends of up to $1,700 each. The students must assist with a faculty member’s research or carry out their own projects under faculty supervision. To fulfill the scholarship objectives, the projects must focus on expanding IREE’s renewable energy research portfolio at the University of Minnesota.

Leading national experts reach consensus on beneficial biofuels

(7/16) “Done right,” biofuels can be produced in large quantities and have multiple benefits, but only if they come from feedstocks produced with low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimal competition with food production. This consensus emerges in a new journal article by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Princeton, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley. The article, “Beneficial Biofuels—The Food, Energy and Environment Trilemma,” appears in the July 17 issue ofScience. Noted ecologist David Tilman, the lead author and an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, says the paper resulted from a year of discussion among the nation’s top biofuel experts.

Biofuels and the conundrum of sustainability

(6/12) The Institute on the Environment’s John Sheehan has contributed an in-depth review article to the June 2009 issue of Current Opinion in Biotechnology. In his review, Sheehan focuses on the dialogue around and analysis of the sustainability of biofuels, particularly in the past two years. He notes that one of the biggest challenges facing sustainability analysts is the pace with which policymakers are moving forward with laws to promote sustainability, and how the field is struggling to keep up with these demands.

Sheehan provides key input on Renewable Fuel Standard Program

(6/12) John Sheehan, a scientific program coordinator with the Institute on the Environment, recently participated in a workshop in Washington, D.C., to help inform the proposed revisions to the national Renewable Fuel Standard Program. Hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the workshop focused on life-cycle greenhouse gas analysis, including the direct and indirect consequences of biofuels around the world. Stakeholders from the academic, industry and government sectors debated the issue at length. Sheehan was part of a heated panel discussion focused on GHG emissions from land use change.

IonE receives $1.35 million gift

(6/11) The Institute on the Environment has received an anonymous gift of $1.35 million to support new projects across a range of topics, including water quality, land use and other issues surrounding environmental sustainability. The funds will be placed in an endowment and spent at the discretion of the IonE director, Jonathan Foley. The donor cared deeply for the natural environment, both its health and beauty, and wanted the bequest to further environmental scholarship and education at the U of M.

IonE partners with Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

(6/4) While biofuels may help to solve energy and climate change issues, current studies show their widespread production could disrupt global food security, biodiversity and water quality. To weigh the pros and cons precisely, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center has joined forces with the Institute on the Environment. Sponsored by the Department of Energy, the partners will produce the first geographically-detailed assessments of land availability for bioenergy production. The experts will measure feedstock yields from croplands, pastures and forests using satellite- and census-based data, as well as new statistical fusion techniques. They’ll also look at the pressures on food supply and natural ecosystems.

U of M researchers help New York City generate clean energy

(5/28) Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory have received $400,000 to help generate clean energy for New York City. Fotis Sotiropoulos, director of SAFL, will lead a team of researchers in developing computational models for optimizing underwater turbines to help Verdant Power generate power from tidal, river and ocean currents. This effort is jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, an Institute on the Environment signature program, in collaboration with Verdant Power, Sandia National Labs and private industry.

New U of M center focuses on biobased plastics research

(5/21) With start-up funds from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment’s large grants program, the University of Minnesota recently launched the Center for Sustainable Polymers. The team of scientists and engineers aims to develop commercially feasible products including pressure-sensitive adhesives, toughened plastics and polyurethanes from renewable resources. The researchers will partner with industry, train students in the field of sustainable materials, and engage the public through initiatives led by the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy within the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

IonE fellow Steve Polasky elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

(4/20) The American Academy of Arts & Sciences has announced its election of leaders in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector. The 212 new fellows and 19 foreign honorary members join one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a center for independent policy research. Stephen Polasky, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics and an Institute on the Environment resident fellow, was elected as a fellow in the AAAS, Section 4: Evolutionary and Population Biology and Ecology. More info

IREE awards more than $745,000 in seed grants to 12 new projects

(4/2) The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, a signature program of the Institute on the Environment, has selected 12 projects to receive more than $745,000 in seed grant funding. IREE’s 2009 seed grants program will help launch high-potential projects that are in the initial phase of development. The goal of this program is to promote early-stage research in renewable energy and the environment and to position the work for future extramural funding opportunities.

Landscape found to influence spread of malaria in Amazon

(4/2) The spread of malaria may have more to do with landscape than precipitation as the world warms, according to a new study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. An international team of researchers, including Institute on the Environment Director Jonathan Foley, reports that as the climate changes and alters patterns of precipitation, malaria may become more prevalent in areas with less surface water, a finding that contradicts models that predict a uniform uptick in the incidence of the disease in places like the Amazon. Sarah Olson, a University of Wisconsin, Madison graduate student, led the study, with contributions from Foley and colleagues in Madison. More info

Plan for renewable energy production from Minnesota resources

(3/29) Thanks to partial funding from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, the University of Minnesota has released studies commissioned by the Minnesota Legislature that document state biomass resources in two target areas and outline plans to convert those resources for renewable energy production. The study looks at the capacity to sustain and harvest grasslands, brushlands, agricultural residues and forests in an area of western Minnesota around the White Earth reservation and in an area of east central Minnesota anchored by Chisago, Isanti and Pine counties. It considers both economic and environmental impacts in plotting a course that will utilize renewable state resources to produce biofuels. More info

IREE awards $4.85 million in large grants to seven breakthrough projects

(3/23) The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, a signature program of the Institute on the Environment, has selected seven projects to receive a total of $4.85 million in funding. IREE’s 2009 large grants program will help launch early-stage, high-potential projects in emerging fields of renewable energy and the environment. In addition to scientific and technical merit, considerations applied during the final selection process included the potential for major breakthroughs on national and global scales, an alignment with Minnesota’s competitive advantages, a strong interdisciplinary approach, and a clear business plan and exit strategy for securing future support.

U of M’s Engineers Without Borders student group awarded $50,000 for projects in Haiti and Uganda

(3/18) The Institute on the Environment and its signature program, the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, recently awarded $50,000 to the campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders. The student-led organization, which was established in 2005, will use the funding to advance its global mission: To work directly with disadvantaged communities to improve their quality of life through the implementation of economically sustainable and environmentally friendly engineering projects.

New energy and economic benefits of corn stover

(3/2) According to new research from the University of Minnesota, densified corn stover is better for the economy and the environment than previously recognized. The research shows that, as a fuel for heat and power applications, corn stover reduces the life-cycle fossil-fuel emissions of carbon dioxide by factors of approximately 15 and 25 compared to natural gas and coal, respectively. This means significant amounts of renewable electricity can be generated in a distributed fashion with lower overall emissions at ethanol plants and other facilities. The research was funded, in part, by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, a signature program of the Institute on the Environment.

Multiple strategies are needed to reach state’s GHG reduction goals

(2/26) Reaching Minnesota’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 80 percent by the year 2050 will require a range of strategies, according to a new University of Minnesota study. Because most greenhouse gases are created through electricity generation and passenger vehicles, energy-conservation policies would likely have the greatest and most immediate impact, the authors say. Such measures might include halving the number of miles driven by Minnesotans; a 55-mpg fuel efficiency standard for new cars; and reduced use of electricity in homes and offices. The study is published in the online version of the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The authors include scientists from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; the Humphrey Institute; the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative; and the Institute on the Environment.

IonE announces new Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships

(2/18) The Institute on the Environment is partnering with the Graduate School to offer four new Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships in 2009-2010. The Ph.D. students must already be enrolled at the University of Minnesota and must be nominated by their program’s director of graduate studies. The awards will go to outstanding graduate students whose current or proposed dissertation topic is interdisciplinary, and who would benefit from interaction with Institute researchers. These fellowships provide a unique study opportunity for students whose interests complement those of the IonE. Recipients of the fellowship will receive a stipend of $22,500 for the academic year, plus full tuition. The nomination deadline is March 27. More info

IonE selects new Discovery Grant projects

(2/3) The Institute on the Environment has selected five new projects to receive major funding from its Discovery Grants program. The Discovery Grants program is part of the IonE’s high-impact investment strategy, which aims to accelerate innovation in environmental research and problem solving across the University of Minnesota. The announcement of the grant awardees follows a highly competitive selection process. Approximately 25 teams of university faculty members and external partners submitted proposals for funding. All five of the selected projects build on the unique strengths of the university, engage both faculty and external organizations, and provide opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral leadership training, as well as undergraduate research.

Cellulosic ethanol may benefit human health and help slow climate change

(1/30) Filling our fuel tanks with cellulosic ethanol may be better for our health and the environment than previously recognized, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The study, which will appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences later this month, finds that cellulosic ethanol has fewer negative effects on human health because it emits smaller amounts of fine particulate matter, a harmful component of air pollution. “Our work highlights the need to expand the biofuels debate beyond its current focus on climate change to include a wider range of effects such as their impacts on air quality,” says lead author Jason Hill, a resident fellow of the IonE. Funding was provided, in part, by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.

IonE selects new resident fellows

(1/26) The Institute on the Environment is pleased to announce its first cohort of resident fellows. The fellows will begin their three-year appointments with the IonE in June 2009. Each of the IonE’s resident fellows will receive flexible funding to engage in creative research and problem solving, to develop new models of teaching and training, and to build new networks and partnerships. In addition, the fellows will take part in leadership development activities, along with ongoing seminars, roundtables and other public engagement efforts.

Resetting global expectations from agricultural biofuels

(1/14) A new study, led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the Institute on the Environment, offers a first-of-its-kind analysis of global biofuel yields. This analysis is based on a newly available database of crop yields that synthesizes worldwide satellite measurements and detailed census records. Published Jan. 13 in the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters, the study shows the global yield of biofuel crops is significantly lower than what has been reported in earlier biofuel production assessments. More info

John Sheehan to join the Institute on the Environment

(1/8) Noted biofuels expert John Sheehan is joining the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment in February 2009. As the scientific program coordinator for biofuels and the global environment, Sheehan will pay special attention to the direct and indirect consequences of biofuels production on land use around the world.