2011 News Archive

An archive of news released by the Institute on the Environment during calendar year 2011.

Abandoned Mines Hold Potential to Capture Wind Energy

(12/13) A study released last Friday by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute shows that abandoned open pit mines on Minnesota’s Iron Range have the potential to help energy providers more efficiently use intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind, to meet state renewable energy mandates. More info

IonE helps Kraft Foods maps its total environmental footprint

(12/14) With assistance from IonE, Kraft Foods has completed a pioneering survey measuring its impact on climate change, land and water use. The multi-year project—which also involved Quantis Inc. and World Wildlife Fund—provides an in-depth look at the company’s environmental footprint, with valuable insights on how the company can best boost its sustainability efforts.

New IonE Mini Grants Fund Spectrum of Environment and Sustainability Projects

(12/5) The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment has selected 13 interdisciplinary initiatives for funding in the second round of awards for its Mini Grant program. The Mini Grant program encourages collaboration among faculty, staff and students across University of Minnesota disciplines, units and campuses on environmental themes.

IonE fellows see global food demand doubling by 2050

(11/21) Global food demand could double by 2050, according to a new projection by Institute on the Environment resident fellow David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology in the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences, and colleagues, including IonE resident fellow Jason Hill, an assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. Read more

NorthStar Initiative offers opportunity to fund improved childhood vaccine delivery in rural East Africa

(11/14) Could cell phones and Facebook-like social media improve childhood vaccine delivery in rural East Africa? The NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise aims to find out with the help of an innovative science funding model called crowdfunding.

Momentum magazine wins ten Publishing Excellence Awards

(11/7) During the 15th-annual Minnesota Publishing Excellence Awards, the IonE’s Momentum magazine received awards in ten categories. 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 over 100 categories in the areas of editorial, design, circulation, general and overall excellence.

Global Landscapes Initiative launches new project to improve sustainability of agriculture

(10/26) – Powered by a $2.2 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment is launching a three-year project in collaboration with McGill University to improve understanding of how agriculture and the environment affect each other, and to create tools corporations, conservation organizations and countries can use to can optimize the benefits from both.

University of Minnesota conference to highlight renewable energy success stories

(10/25) Despite the economic downturn of the past few years, enterprising researchers, companies and countries have found success in the renewable energy sector. What’s their secret? The “E3 2011: The Latest in Renewable Energy Innovation” conference, taking place Nov. 7 at McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St. SE, Minneapolis, will provide answers. Hosted by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, a program of the Institute on the Environment, the annual E3 conference explores the latest technical innovations, scientific breakthroughs and policy incentives in renewable energy.

University of Minnesota robots to join search for invasive species

(10/17) – Funding from the Institute on the Environment has helped computer scientists and biologists from the University of Minnesota and two other universities land a $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to develop robotic boats for tracking a major invader of rivers, wetlands, lakes across the United States—the common carp.

IonE-Led International Team Crafts Plan for Feeding the World While Protecting the Planet

(10/12) Can we feed the 9-billion-plus people anticipated to live on this planet in 2050 without destroying Earth’s life support systems? Writing in the Oct. 12 online issue ofNature, researchers from the U.S., Canada, Sweden and Germany concluded we can – if we halt farmland expansion in the tropics, close yield gaps, use agricultural inputs more strategically, shift diets and reduce food waste.

U of M earns $8 million grant for groundbreaking population / environment data network

(10/6) An interdisciplinary University of Minnesota–led team has been awarded a five-year, $8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to boost understanding of population-environment relationships on a global scale. The project, Terra Populus, is a collaboration of The Minnesota Population Center, the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota Libraries, and faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering, as well as Columbia University and the University of Michigan. More info

Public trust doctrine applies to state conservation of wolves and other wildlife, researchers say

(10/4) When a species such as the gray wolf is removed from the federal endangered species list, states have a legal obligation to conserve it, Institute on the Environment resident fellow Sherry Enzler and colleagues contend in the current issue of the journalScience. More info

University of Minnesota and Algal Biomass Organization to show algae’s future in the northern climate

(9/28) The Algal Biomass Organization and the University of Minnesota will offer a unique workshop Oct. 24 for attendees of the 5th annual Algae Biomass Summit in Minneapolis. The workshop will feature presentations on algae growth in northern climates, a tour of the University’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and virtual tours of two algae industry firms operating in the region. More info

University of Minnesota gets major grant for research on environment-friendly plastics

(9/13) Research on creating more environment-friendly, cost-efficient plastics from natural and renewable materials got a boost recently as the University of Minnesota was awarded a $1.5 million grant over three years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Centers for Chemical Innovation program to the university’s Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP). The center previously secured seed funding provided by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) large grant program intended to help launch early-stage, high-potential projects in emerging fields of renewable energy and the environment. More info

University of Minnesota study highlights the potential for boosting global biofuels crop production

(9/13) New research published online this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters by a team from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin shows that closing agricultural “yield gaps” around the world could lead to more efficient agricultural production – and thus more biofuels – without the need to clear more land globally.

“The Other Inconvenient Truth” Selected as TED Featured Talk

(9/9) TED (“Ideas Worth Spreading”) chose IonE director Jon Foley’s TEDxTC presentation on agriculture and the environment as a TEDxTalks Editor’s Pick this week. In the 18-minute video, Foley offers a startling view of the impact of agriculture on Earth’s landscape and proposes a strategy for creating a future in which we can feed the world while protecting the planet. Watch the video

Institute on the Environment names 14 new resident fellows

(9/7) Fourteen University of Minnesota faculty from 13 departments and eight colleges and schools have been named resident fellows of the U’s Institute on the Environment. Representing a broad range of disciplines, the new fellows join 32 others in taking on the task of building bridges across disciplines to solve environmental challenges. They begin their three-year appointments with IonE this month.

Sept. 14 Conference to explore biofuels and land use

(8/31) The nation’s leading thinkers on the issues of land use, climate change and biofuel sustainability will meet in St. Paul Sept. 14 to discuss the longstanding debate on indirect land use change—known as ILUC— and set the stage for moving forward toward ensuring the sustainability of the next generation of biofuels. More info

“A Neighborhood of Raingardens” to Premiere Sept. 9

(8/26) “A Neighborhood of Raingardens,” a documentary depicting the transformation of a Minneapolis neighborhood through a community raingarden project, will premiere Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis.The 60-minute film, sponsored in part by the Institute on the Environment, follows the initiative from inception to fruition. 

Earthducation Expedition 2 heads to the Arctic

(8/11) – Earthducation Expedition 2, the second in a series of seven-continent explorations investigating education and sustainability, will set out Aug. 23 for regions of Norway located almost entirely above the Arctic Circle. Led by Aaron Doering and Charles Miller of the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development, the expedition—sponsored in part by the Institute on the Environment—will investigate oil exploration, renewable energy, sustainable fishing, toxic pollutants, and more. 

Law School Announces Environmental and Energy Law Concentration

(7/29) The University of Minnesota Law School is adding an environmental and energy law concentration this fall under the leadership of IonE resident fellow Alexandra B. Klass. The concentration will help J.D. and LL.M. students prepare to practice in a wide range of areas in environmental and energy law through capstone courses that include simulated exercises, guest lectures, and work with community members on cutting-edge policies; clinics; and vast interdisciplinary course offerings. More info

The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment at the University of Minnesota awards $4.1 million to 20 energy projects

(7/19) More affordable photovoltaic energy, better batteries, improved household energy conservation, renewable jet fuel and power-producing bacteria are among the energy innovations that will be advanced by $4.1 million in grants awarded this week by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment to 20 research and demonstration teams at the University of Minnesota.

NorthStar Initiative launches new approach to advancing business sustainability and bottom line

(7/18) Building on 18 months of groundwork laid under the guidance of scores of business, nonprofit and government partners, IonE’s NorthStar Initiative has launched a bold new approach to collaboratively meet sustainability challenges.The approach taps multi-sector teams to identify specific big obstacles to whole-enterprise sustainability that NorthStar members can directly influence. Then U of M sustainability experts take on the task of overcoming them. More info

New research will help corn and soybean farmers prepare for climate change

(7/6) A five-year, $4.1 million research project led by Institute on the Environment resident fellow Nick Jordan, a University of Minnesota  agronomy professor, will help corn and soybean farmers across the country modify farming techniques to deal with climate change. The project is part of a larger effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help agriculture and forestry producers adapt to a changing climate. More info

IonE researchers play key role in assembling global plant database

(6/29) A new database of plant traits will help scientists around the world learn more about how climate change is affecting ecosystems. Institute on the Environment resident fellows Peter Reich and Jeannine Cavender-Bares are members of the international collaborative that developed the database, which includes 3 million traits for 69,000 of the world’s roughly 300,000 plant species. More info

IonE researchers find smart decisions for changing environmental times

(6/21) Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Institute on the Environment teamed up with others at the University of Wisconsin and the Stockholm Resilience Center to construct a tool decision makers can use to formulate good choices for an uncertain future. More info

IREE-funded research showcased on Popular Science website

(6/8) A scheme jump-started by funding from the Institute on the Environment’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment garnered attention on the Popular Science website this week. Read the story about the work by College of Science and Engineering researchers Martin Saar and Jimmy Randolph to sequester carbon dioxide while producing geothermal electricity.

IonE NorthStar Initiative names new associate director

(6/6) Michelle Linhoff has been named associate director of the Institute on the Environment’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise. The North Star Initiative, a program of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, brings together companies, government, NGOs and academic institutions to address global sustainability challenges.

Novel geothermal technology packs a one-two punch against climate change

(6/2) An innovative approach to tapping the heat beneath the Earth’s surface developed by two University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences researchers is expected to not only produce renewable electricity far more efficiently than conventional geothermal systems, but also help reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), dealing a one-two punch against climate change.

Acara Selects Student Teams to Pursue Clean Water, Safe Food Projects in India

(5/26) Four teams of student entrepreneurs have been selected winners of the 2011 Acara Challenge, a competition that invites international student teams to learn about and develop social businesses. The winners will receive $5,000 plus tuition to attend the Acara Summer Institute in Bangalore, India, this summer, where they will move their proposed businesses from plan to action.

Secondhand smoke linked to elevated blood pressure in boys

(5/1) Exposure to secondhand smoke, even at extremely low levels, is associated with increased blood pressure in boys, reported Jill Baumgartner, an Institute on the Environment Global Renewable Energy Leadership Fellow, at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Denver. More info

Thomas Johnson named American Geophysical Union Fellow

(4/29) Institute on the Environment resident fellow Thomas Johnson has been named a fellow of the American Geophysical Union. A Regents professor in the Large Lakes Observatory and Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, Johnson is using his IonE fellowship to create a plan for an international institute on the shore of one of the great lakes of the East African Rift Valley – lakes that provide fresh water, food, transportation, climate regulation, and beauty to local residents. The AGU fellowship is awarded to only 1 in 1,000 members each year. More info

Sheehan Named IREE Science Director

(4/25) John Sheehan, a world leader in sustainable energy systems, has been named science director for the Institute on the Environment’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). Sheehan, whose past work includes 17 years as project manager and analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., will work alongside Dick Hemmingsen, managing director of IREE, and Rod Larkins, IREE’s special projects director. His focus will be on guiding future grant making and strategic research investments.

Dialogue Earth Announces Winners of Crowd-Sourced Energy Video Contest

(4/21) Dialogue Earth, an Institute on the Environment–affiliated media enterprise focused on increasing public understanding of societal issues, today announced the winners of a crowd-sourced video contest to explain the sources and uses of energy. The contest sets the stage for Dialogue Earth’s yearlong Media Challenge, focused on explaining a variety of energy-related topics. The energy video contest was Dialogue Earth’s second successful test of the crowd’s ability to accurately convey key science points in an engaging, non-advocacy manner.

“Water for Mulobere” wins national documentary award, chosen for screening at California festival

(4/20) “Water for Mulobere” depicts the activities of a team of University of Minnesota engineering and public health students who designed, built and installed a solar-powered water supply system for a secondary and vocational school and its surrounding community in Mulobere. Beth Anderson, IonE’s multimedia producer, received two rewards for her work: The documentary, “Water for Mulobere,” was selected as the 2011 Engineers Without Borders-USA Film Contest Best in Show award winner in March, and in April chosen for screening at the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Peter Reich named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

(4/19) Institute on the Environment resident fellow Peter B. Reich has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, Reich and the 211 other new members of the academy will join some of the world’s most accomplished leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts. Individuals named members in the past include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein, Saul Bellow and Winston Churchill. More info

IonE Announces 2012 Resident Fellow Competition

(4/14) The Institute seeks outstanding scholars who are working to transcend disciplinary boundaries and/or to extend their scholarly work into the real world. Successful applicants must have a record of outstanding research and teaching (appropriate for their level of experience). Applicants should also indicate how the fellowship would make a significant difference to their interdisciplinary research or teaching, leadership at the national and international level, and/or engagement with real‐world partners.

Wacky, Wise and Deep

Hans Rosling, professor of global health at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, will headline the second of three events held this spring by the Institute on the Environment to highlight global challenges and the people who are helping to solve them.  Known for using enlightening graphics as well as unusual props to make his points, Rosling will speak April 26 on “A Fact-Based World View.”

U of M researchers close in on technology for making renewable “petroleum” using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide

(3/23) University of Minnesota researchers are a key step closer to making renewable petroleum fuels using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide, a goal funded by a $2.2 million United States Department of Energy grant. The U of M proposal was one of only 37 selected from 3,700 and one of only three featured in the New York Times when the grants were announced in October 2009. The University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) and the College of Biological Sciences also provided funding. More info

New IonE Mini Grants Fund Spectrum of Environment and Sustainability Projects

(3/3) The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment has selected 10 interdisciplinary initiatives for funding in the first round of awards for its new Mini Grant program. The goal of the Mini Grant program is to encourage collaboration among faculty, staff and students across University of Minnesota disciplines, units and campuses on environmental themes.

IonE Yields $20 to $1 on University’s Investment

(3/1) In the past three fiscal years, IonE investment of $6.64 million of University funds and another $13.19 million in IREE pass-through funds from the State of Minnesota’s Renewal Development Fund has leveraged more than $134 million in federal, private, foundation and corporate funding to the University. That’s an amazing return of roughly $20 for every $1 in University funds invested so far. All of this funding (including indirect costs) is going straight to the units that are doing the work, thus providing tremendous benefit across the University.

Majora Carter to Kick off Momentum 2011 Event Series March 10

(1/12) Majora Carter, an internationally renowned leader in the field of smart-infrastructure and one of the nation’s pioneers of environment-centered urban renewal and green-collar job training and placement systems, will kick off the Institute on the Environment’s new Momentum 2011 event series Thursday, March 10, 7:30 p.m., at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis – part of an evening filled with presentations, conversation and entertainment.

Institute on the Environment launches six new programs with global reach

(1/10) Six new projects joined the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota Jan. 1 as recipients of a total of $1.9 million in funding through IonE’s Discovery Grant program. From reducing health and environmental harm caused by household stoves in developing countries to carrying out an adventure learning program that connects climate hot spots around the world with learners via social networking, the projects will accelerate innovation in environmental research and problem solving related to improving air and water quality, protecting ecosystems and the services they provide, and reducing the threat of global climate change.

U of M Institute on the Environment’s Dialogue Earth project taps creativity of the crowd to create factual, fun science videos

(1/10) Dialogue Earth, a St. Paul–based nonprofit media project grown out of a collaboration between the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and Foundation for Environmental Research, today announced the successful completion of a pilot test to engage an online community in the creation of innovative, scientifically sound, non-advocacy science videos.

IonE–sponsored team to set out on seven-continent education expedition Jan. 7

(1/5) Two University of Minnesota faculty, a graduate student and a videographer will set out for Burkina Faso, Africa, Jan. 7 on the first leg of Earthducation, a seven-continent journey to explore the meaning of education in different cultures and create a global narrative describing the connections between education, environment and sustainability. Traveling by motorcycle, foot, bike and SUV, expedition members led by Aaron Doering and Charles Miller, faculty in the College of Education and Human Development, will visit seven “climate hot spots” around the world – places particularly impacted by climate change – and provide daily Web updates of their experiences. More info