2012 News Archive

An archive of news released by the Institute on the Environment during calendar year 2012.

The Green Revolution is wilting

(12/18) The Green Revolution has stagnated for key food crops in many regions of the world, according to a study published in the Dec. 18 issue of Nature Communications by scientists with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Read more

Student project to create cooking fuel from aquatic plant wins $10K Dow SISCA Challenge prize

(12/03) A student proposal to help West African people turn Typha australis, a destructive aquatic plant, into cooking and heating fuel captured the $10,000 top prize in a Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) competition held Nov. 29 at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Read more

Study offers new tool for incorporating water impacts into policy decisions

(11/12) If you’ve eaten fish, gone for a boat ride or even taken a drink from the tap, you know clean water is a valuable commodity. But just how valuable? That’s always been a tough question for policy makers to answer as they weigh the worth of clean water against societal needs that compromise it, such as the need to grow food or produce fossil fuels. Now, however, their ability to do so has been greatly enhanced by a new policy-making framework developed by a team of scientists led by Institute on the Environment research associate Bonnie Keeler. Read more

Momentum to expand reach, impact with support from Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

(10/31) Momentum – an independent publication of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) – is dramatically expanding its print and online magazine and event series, thanks to a two-year, $370,000 grant from the Palo Alto–based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Earthducation Expedition 4 Heads to South America

(10/26) Earthducation Expedition 4, the fourth of seven explorations investigating the intersection between education and sustainability with support from the Institute on the Environment, is now underway in South America. Led by curriculum and instruction professors Aaron Doering and Charles Miller, the team is traveling to some of the most extreme environments on the globe. Read more

Oil palm plantations threaten Borneo’s tropical forests

(10/12) The loss of tropical rainforests in Borneo due to pressure to produce palm oil is resulting in carbon dioxide emissions at a level of global concern, according to a paper published this month in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. Lead author on the paper is Kimberly Carlson, a postdoctoral research scholar with the Institute on the Environment. Read more

Diverse cropping systems maintain profitability while reducing environmental impact

(10/11) Cropping systems can be more environmentally sustainable without sacrificing food production or profitability, a team of scientists including Institute on the Environment resident fellow Jason Hill, an assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, reported last week in the journal PLOS One. Read more

Too little nitrogen may limit plant CO2 storage

(10/2) Plants’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air may have been overestimated, according to a new study by IonE resident fellows Peter Reich and Sarah Hobbie. The study, published this week in Nature Climate Change, shows that even though plants absorb and benefit from large amounts of CO2, they may not get enough nutrients from typical soils to absorb as much CO2 as previously thought. Read more

Study offers new hope for increasing global food production, reducing environmental impact of agriculture

(8/29) Can we have enough to eat and a healthy environment, too? Yes—if we’re smart about it, suggests a study published in Nature this week by a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and McGill University in Montreal.

“Friend” a package, save the planet?

(8/21) What if your cell phone and social network could help deliver packages for you? This may be more likely, easier and more beneficial to the environment than you might think, researchers at the Institute on the Environment’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise and Seoul National University report in the current issue ofEnvironmental Science and TechnologyRead more

M. Sanjayan video from Momentum 2011 now available

(8/21) What will it take to create a truly sustainable relationship with our environment? M. Sanjayan, lead conservation biologist for The Nature Conservancy and a contributor to CBS News, explored that question and more when he visited the Twin Cities this past spring. His talk – “Awakening the Environmental Movement” – was part of the Momentum 2012 series presented by the Institute on the Environment. Watch the video

IonE names 11 new resident fellows

(8/20) Eleven University of Minnesota faculty from 10 departments and five colleges and schools have been named resident fellows of the Institute on the Environment. Representing a broad range of disciplines, the new fellows join 47 others in taking on the task of building bridges across disciplines to solve environmental challenges.

Farming changes can limit risk

(7/26) Writing in The New York Times, IonE director Jon Foley outlines a plan for mitigating the impacts of the ongoing drought affecting vast swathes of the country. “It is hard to imagine a system more susceptible to bad weather than the American corn and soybean belt.” Read more

New study shows suburban plants play important role in trapping carbon

(6/27) Trees and other plants in the wild play an important role in counteracting climate change by trapping carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels. New research from the University of Minnesota and UC Santa Barbara shows that suburban vegetation play an important role in net CO2 exchange – with different plants contributing to reducing CO2 by different amounts. Read more

University of Minnesota, Sustainable Rail International to develop biocoal-powered locomotive

(5/22) Plans to create the world’s first carbon-neutral higher-speed locomotive were announced today by the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), a collaboration of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI). CSR draws on the biofuel research expertise of the University and the mechanical engineering capabilities of SRI to develop the most powerful carbon-neutral locomotive to date.

Former Acara students to launch social venture in India

(5/21) A student project aimed at boosting local economies in India has obtained funding for a for-profit social venture that will offer efficient drip irrigation systems to rural farmers. MyRain LLC began as the brainstorm of a team of participating in the 2010 Acara Challenge, a course and competition sponsored by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment that helps budding social entrepreneurs plan businesses that make a positive change in the world. MyRain co-founder and CEO Steele Lorenz is heading to India June 1 to get the program off the ground. Read more

Announcing the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA)

(5/9) Graduate students enrolled at the University of Minnesota are invited to apply for the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA), a program of IonE and the Dow Chemical Company that provides awards of up to $10,000 for research that encourages and promotes sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.

Registration now open for May 22 Sustainability Summit

(5/8) Environmentalist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken will present the keynote speech May 22 for Solutions Summit 2012, a first-ever gathering of corporate, nonprofit, government and academic sustainability leaders at the University of Minnesota to showcase and develop strategies for collaboratively solving key sustainability challenges. Hosted by the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise (NiSE), the daylong summit will bring sustainability leaders from around the world together to share sustainability success stories, identify the biggest sustainability challenges and home in on best strategies for solving them. Read more

Plant diversity is key to maintaining productive vegetation, U of M study shows

(5/3) Vegetation, such as a patch of prairie or a forest stand, is more productive in the long run when more plant species are present, a new study led by forestry professor and Institute on the Environment resident fellow Peter Reich shows. The unprecedented long-term study, published in the May 4 issue of Science, found that each plant species plays a role in maintaining a productive ecosystem, especially when a long time horizon is considered. Read more

IonE mini grants fund spectrum of environment and sustainability projects

(5/1) An ecomusicology listening room, a wood window and door conference, Lake Superior herring promotion, research on public utility commission renewable energy initiatives and an environmental hack day are among the 13 projects selected for up to $3,000 in funding through IonE’s Spring 2012 Mini Grants program.

Nature Conservancy Leader M. Sanjayan to speak in Twin Cities May 10

(4/30) What will it take to create a truly sustainable relationship with our environment? M. Sanjayan, lead conservation biologist for The Nature Conservancy, will share his vision for rebooting the environmental movement Thursday, May 10, 7:30 p.m., at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis.

Study sheds light on debate over organic vs. conventional agriculture

(4/26) Can organic agriculture feed the world? Organic techniques may not be able to do the job alone, but they do have an important role to play in feeding a growing global population while minimizing environmental damage, according to the authors of a new study published in Nature this week. Read more

U of M experts available to discuss Earth Day and ways to live a greener lifestyle

(4/20) This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day, a day when the health of the planet is put center stage and supporters rally behind environmentally friendly initiatives. But how can we live greener lifestyles and make every day Earth Day? University of Minnesota experts are available to offer insights and advice. 

Live fast, die young

(4/17) A new field study led by Jeannine Cavender-Bares, associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences and resident fellow of the Institute on the Environment, shows urban plant communities have traits that make it harder for them to adapt to change than their countryside counterparts. Read more

Environmentalist Paul Hawken to keynote Solutions Summit 2012

(4/16) Internationally renowned environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken will give the keynote speech at Solutions Summit 2012, a May 22 gathering of sustainability practitioners and researchers from around the world convened by the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Development.

From wood waste to diesel fuel

(4/4) Bolstered by funding from IonE’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, College of Science and Engineering professor David Kittelson and international partners aim to develop an efficient, clean, potentially carbon-neutral substitute for diesel fuel from waste products generated by Minnesota paper mills.

University of Minnesota alumnus & GIS pioneer Jack Dangermond to speak at the U of M April 10

(3/28) Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute), will give a public lecture, “Mapping and Geographic Analysis Supports Collaboration and Decision Making,” at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Read more

National Geographic Photographer Paul Nicklen to kick off Momentum 2012 on April 5

(3/26) National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen kicks off the second season of the Institute on the Environment’s popular Momentum event series Thursday, April 5, 7:30 p.m., at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis. Read more

IREE-Funded research leads to new technology start-up

(3/23) Research funded by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment has led to the launch of a start-up company that aims to commercialize a novel filtration system that could reduce the economic and energy costs of making gasoline and plastics. IREE, a program of the Institute on the Environment, provided seed funding five years ago that gave College of Science and Engineering professor Michael Tsapatsis and colleagues the momentum needed to garner additional support for their innovative idea.

Minnesota researcher extracts more value from distillers grains

(3/2) New technology developed by a researcher at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota – Duluth with support from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment promises to improve ethanol’s net energy balance and enhance the profitability and viability of ethanol plants.

National security and our energy future

(2/28) Join the Institute on the Environment  for a public forum on economic and national security threats posed by overreliance on fossil fuels this Friday, March 2, 3–4:30 p.m. in the University of Minnesota’s Cargill Building in St. Paul.

Carbon storage – and more

(2/21) Sparked by funding from IonE’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, two University of Minnesota researchers have imagined a new process for generating electricity while at the same time sequestering CO2. The University has applied for international patents, and a start-up company is seeking capital to build a pilot plant.

Partnerships power a clean energy future

(2/7) Commercializing clean, sustainable home-grown energy is one of America’s most pressing challenges. The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment has jump-started promising research by building collaborations with an eye toward bringing the best ideas to market.

Mindy Lubber to speak March 1 on incorporating water sustainability into business practices

(2/2) Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts to advance environmentally sustainable business practices, will deliver a free lecture, “Investing in Sustainability: Building Water Stewardship Into the Bottom Line,” March 1, 7 p.m. in St. Paul. The lecture, sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, will include a panel discussion with Tim Smith, director of the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise at the Institute on the Environment.

NorthStar Initiative launches free corporate sustainability webinar series

(2/2) The NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment is launching a free quarterly webinar series aimed at identifying new challenges and opportunities for advancing corporate sustainability through research. The first webinar, “Procurement in Sustainability: From Buying Green Products to Creating Green Solutions,” will be held Tues., Feb. 21, 1–2 p.m. CST.

Stories From a Changing Planet: 2nd annual Sustainability Film Series starts Feb. 2

(2/2) Beginning Feb. 2, the University’s Bell Museum of Natural History and Institute on the Environment are inviting visitors to explore sustainability issues through the powerful medium of film. From China to Brazil and Europe to Appalachia, this year’s four-part Sustainability Film Series takes a global look at the impacts of large-scale human activities on four landscapes and the people that inhabit them.

U.S. and India student teams compete to launch environmental social ventures

(1/31) Twelve international teams of student entrepreneurs mentored by Acara, a program of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, will present business plans for initiatives that address global societal challenges at the Acara Fall 2011 Challenge Finals Feb. 2 and 3 in St. Paul and India. The St. Paul event is open to the public, and presentations will be webcast live around the world.

Momentum looks at what it would take to solve Earth’s biggest challenges

(1/31) What would it take to solve Earth’s grand environmental and sustainability challenges? For our first-ever special issue, Momentum magazine invited more than two dozen experts from around the world to give us their take on how we might craft solutions to some of our planet’s biggest problems. Check out M. Sanjayan’s suggestions for stemming the loss of biodiversity, Peggy Liu’s perspectives on supplying global energy needs with renewables, Alex Steffen’s vision for sustainable cities and lots more. View the magazine

Earthducation Expedition 3 explores ecology and education down under

(1/31) Earthducation Expedition 3, the third in a series of seven-continent explorations investigating the intersection between education and sustainability, begins Feb. 27 in Australia. Led by IonE resident fellow Aaron Doering and colleague Charles Miller, faculty in the College of Education and Human Development, the team will discover how education and sustainability intersect on the driest inhabited continent on Earth. Read more