2012 Mini Grants

Following are brief descriptions of the 2012 fall and spring Mini Grant-funded projects. For more information, email ione@umn.edu


Towards sustainability: building community support for net zero multifamily affordable housing

Marilyn Bruin; Associate Professor in Housing Studies (College of Design)

Through colloboration, partners will improve their capacity to secure funding, enhance public engagement between the University, the city of Fridley and Habitat for Humanity; promote discourse and support for the development of sustainable affordable housing; strengthen relationships between policy makers and the College of Design; and provide design and fund proposals for Net Zero Multifamily affordable housing.
View Final Report

Design Duluth project planning

Ozayr Saloojee; Associate Professor of Architecture (College of Design)

This project will explore questions of resiliency and failure across the architecture, landscape and urban fabric of Duluth. This planning phase will include planning and development of an exhibition, publication and symposium for fall of 2013. Students currently enrolled in the design studios that ground this project are working in interdisciplinary teams to research, document and analyze how systems (architectural, landscape, ecological, transportation, industry, health+wellness, economics and demographics) at National (Great Lakes Region), regional (Iron Range + Northern Minnesota) and local (Duluth) scales operate in layered and convergent ways.
View Final Report.

Human population: possibility and optimality

Seth Binder
; Post-doctoral Fellow
, Department of Applied Economics (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)
Forest Isbell
; Post-doctoral Fellow
, Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior
 (College of Biological Sciences)

How many people could the Earth indeed support? What population size would promote the greatest human well-being? We have the resources to begin to answer these big-picture questions: an impressive stock of accumulated theoretical and empirical knowledge, increasingly rich and spatially-explicit data, and unprecedented computational power. But navigating and leveraging these resources is beyond the reach of any one scholar or disciplinary team. This project proposes guided reading groups and a capstone symposium on some of these major issues to further discussion, set the table for future collaboration, and provide benefits to a broader academic community.
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Workshop on critical climate change scholarship

Bruce Braun; Department of Geography, Environment, and Society (College of Liberal Arts)

Recent climate change scholarship has demonstrated how the prospect of non-linear, catastrophic change in human life demands new opportunities for critical and interdisciplinary engagement. This workshop aims to contribute to these efforts and provoke new inquiries by posing the question: what is critical about critical climate change scholarship? Employing the dual implications of this phrase, we ask both how climate change demands a rethinking of the nature of critique and how innovative, critical research and pedagogy is more necessary than ever for building just and sustainable ecological futures.
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UMN Ecosystem Group: building community and pushing the scientific edge

Clare Kazanski; Graduate Student in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (College of Biological Sciences)

This project aims to build on newly instated UMN Ecosystem Group’s initial successes and provide support to extend its breadth beyond the University of Minnesota. We propose to do this in two specific ways: continue to build community across departments by adding bi-weekly discussion sessions to facilitate extended conversation within several smaller groups of people, and invite and host two additional, non-UMN speakers. With experts on campus spanning the range of sub-disciplines from aquatic to terrestrial and theoretical to empirical, there lies incredible opportunity for collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas.

Resilient Communities Project

Carissa Schively Slotterback; Associate Professor & Director, Urban and Regional Planning Program, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

RCP is currently undertaking a pilot effort with the City of Minnetonka during the 2012-2013 academic year. By the end of the academic year, we anticipate that we will have connected approximately 15 city projects with 20 courses in a variety of departments and representing at least seven colleges. RCP was started as an initiative of the UMN Sustainability Faculty Network, with the intent of advancing experiential education opportunities in sustainability. This project requires a faculty workshop, intended to bring together approximately 25 faculty members in a half-day workshop to explore the RCP model.

A partnership with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board- working to create an energy and environment report card for Minnesota and a process for citizen engagement

Troy Goodnough; University of Minnesota Morris, Office of Sustainability

There is an opportunity to engage a Morris undergraduate in an internship position with the State of Minnesota EQB board and implementation of Mark Dayton’s Executive Order to investigate potential environmental challenges that need interdepartmental investigation and collaboration. In particular, the Morris intern would work with EQB Chair, Ellen Anderson, and staff member Anna Sherman. As mentioned above, the EQB could benefit from additional staff resources to assist with this work. The work of the student intern would involve a range of activities, including supporting the development of the report card, six citizen forums scheduled across the state and the Environmental Congress.

Creating a new “sustainability semester” at University of Minnesota, Morris – developing and implementing a two-credit experiential sustainability course

Bart Finzel; Dean and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, University of Minnesota Morris

The goal of this project is to develop a 2-credit “experiential” sustainability course that would complement an existing 4-credit course that focuses on sustainability. The 4-credit course would ideally be chosen to fill an elective in the Sustainability Minor program at UMTC and the Environmental Studies program at Morris. The 2-credit course would explore what it takes to build a sustainable community, examining local food and energy solutions and ownership models, and cultivate a sense of place and community.

Initiative on Governance of Emeringing Technological Systems (iGETS)

Jennifer Kuzma, Associate Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Leili Fatehi; Research Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

iGETS will connect a multi- and inter- disciplinary network of leading University of Minnesota scholars with policymakers, industry partners and community members to advance research, facilitate dialogue, and catalyze solutions pertaining to the governance of a range of emerging technololgies (ETs) and technological systems.

Decadal predictability in the Earth’s climate system.

Scott St. George; IonE Resident fellow, Professor of Dendrochronology & Paleoclimatology (College of Liberal Arts)

This project will address a specific and critical question about the stability (and consequently, the predictability) of one of the most important influences on the long-term climate of North America. It will also act as a first step towards creating a more significant interaction between statisticians and paleoclimatologists at the University of Minnesota. Climate scientists and paleoclimatologists have been roundly criticized for conducting research that depends heavily on statistical methods without making much effort to involve professional statisticians. By bringing together faculty and students from statistics and geography, our proposed mini-project will create a starting point for the type of interdisciplinary collaborations that are needed desperately in the climate sciences.

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One Health Student Club project

Carolyn Garcia; Associate Professor, School of Nursing

This project will work from existing initiatives and platforms (i.e., National Center for Inter-professional Education and the Center for Health Inter-professional Programs at UMN) to create a tangible, self-sustaining, student-led, faculty-supported “One Health Student Club.” One Health is an approach that encourages collaboration of animal, human and environmental health students and professionals to address myriad concerns, such as ecosystem fragility, food insecurity or zoonotic disease –  in their own communities and globally.
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Interdisciplinary research in Mizoram, India

Karlyn Eckman; Water Resources Center (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Mizoram is an isolated state in northeastern India and has never benefitted from an external academic, teaching or research initiative. There are no international development organizations or United Nations presence. Mizoram University (MU) was founded in 2002. Mizoram has experienced significant issues with water shortage, poverty, deforestation, food insecurity and water-borne diseases, particularly endemic malaria. These inter-related issues are complex and involve people’s use of land and water resources, animals, unsustainable land use practices, population growth and climate change. Our purpose is to conduct interdisciplinary research on interlinked human development and water quality problems in an international setting.
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Small Scale Adventure Learning

Paul Porter; Agronomy and Plant Genetics (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Using The Learning Technologies Collaborative’s (2010) updated Adventure Learning
(AL) framework for planning adventure education we propose a small scale adventure education project within the state of Minnesota to spark discussions within and outside of the University of Minnesota surrounding the topic of “Local foods and sustainable agriculture: what is sustainable?” Two members of our team will run across Minnesota with support from a companion vehicle. Along the way, the adventurers will stop at pre-identified farms to collect media artifacts for students following the adventure through curriculum in an online learning platform. Participating schools along the route would be visited as well. Others who wish to accompany in the spirit of sustainability and adventure will be allowed to bike or run.
View Final Report

MN prairie preservation workshop and conference

Clarence Lehman; Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education (College of Biological Sciences)

The prairie is a timeless symbol of Minnesota and a prominent study system at the University. However, only a tiny portion of our native prairie remains. To address this, a major initiative was recently put forth in Minnesota, led by the DNR. In July 2012, ten prominent conservation groups signed an ambitious 25-year plan to increase and preserve prairie and wetland acreage in Minnesota and the ecosystem services they provide. The University is not a formal partner in this group but we and the Prairie Preservation Group have strong overlapping interests. We propose to have two integrated events: a half-day preparatory workshop for UMN researchers and an evening conference, inviting members of the Minnesota Prairie Preservation Group.

Conversation-E: Science + Art in Dialogue and Service to Sustainability

Peter Reich; Forest Resouces Adjunct Professor (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Conversation-E will engage artists, writers and scientists in conversation and exploration of the research at the Cloquet Forestry Center surrounding the issue of global climate change and its effects on the ecology of the climate-sensitive northeast Minnesota forests. The results will include an art/literature/environmental education exhibition and panel discussion based on that collaborative work. This will transform Institute on the Environment’s Commons into an art/education gallery that inspires provocative and lively discussion—attractive to outside visitors and the media.
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Engineering design with sustainability in mind

Ingrid Wu; Assistant Professor  (College of Science and Engineering)

Three workshops will be held on UMN Duluth campus and all students, staff and faculty members will be invited to join. The first topic will be “sustainability” and the second will be “sustainable engineering design;” both meetings will be carried out with a series of presentation, video screening and roundtable discussion. In the third meeting, the participants will be encouraged to share their ideas and discuss the specific design topics they are interested in pursuing and then the participants with similar interests (but same or different background) will form groups. Each group will start to develop a concrete, detailed plan and build a device and/or prove their work by simulation.

Workshops: local climate impacts & developing questions and nswers for local government

Brendon Slotterback; Sustainability Program Coordinator, Institute on the Environment

On May 22nd, the City of Minneapolis along with the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the Science Museum of Minnesota hosted a workshop for local governments to build knowledge around expected climate change impacts on urban communities in the Twin Cities. The workshop goals were to connect local government staff with the latest information on climate change history and future projections, understand questions that local governments have about climate trends and potential impacts and vulnerabilities, and connect local government staff with research professionals to advance applied research and meet local needs.
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Sustainability Science Course

Jeannine Cavender-Bares; IonE Resident Fellow

This course is a research seminar on core ideas in sustainability science — an emerging field of problem-driven research dealing with the interactions between human and environmental systems. The problem that motivates the course, and the field, is the challenge of sustainability: improving the well-being of present and future generations in ways that conserve the planet’s life support systems over the long term. The goal of the seminar is to introduce researchers interested in sustainability science to the field’s principle themes, cutting-edge findings, active debates and unresolved research questions.
View Final Report


Ecomusicology Listening Room

Mark Pedelty; Communication Studies and School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Pedelty will work with students to design and construct a traveling “Ecomusicology Listening Room” that allows users to explore perceptions of soundscapes and the ecology of sound, and make it available as an educational exhibit in New Orleans and Minnesota.
View Final Report.

Interactive Water Quality Infographic

Kate Brauman; Institute on the Environment

Brauman and colleagues will develop a web-based, user-modifiable infographic that provides pop-up lists of references. The infographic will inform the process of assigning value to various factors that affect water quality and serve as a model for similar interactive data displays related to other systems.
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Environmental Health Center

William Arnold; Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (College of Science and Engineering)

Arnold will bring together an interdisciplinary team to develop a proposal for a National Institutes of Health–funded Superfund Hazardous Substance Research and Training Program focused on surface active molecules and their role in environmental health.
View Final Report.

One Health Training Opportunities

Timothy Goldsmith and Larissa Minicucci; Veterinary Population Medicine (College of Veterinary Medicine)

Goldsmith and Minicucci will bring together representatives of the University’s veterinary preventive medicine residency program and others to begin developing multidisciplinary veterinary training programs related to enhancing food systems, food security and environmental sustainability.
View Final Report.

Ecosystem Services and Agriculture Land Use

Harriet Van Vleck; Institute on the Environment

Van Vleck and colleagues will hold four half-day workshops that will bring together early career researchers from academia, government and nonprofit organizations to identify trade-offs among agricultural and competing land uses and explore opportunities for using research to inform land management.
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Examining the State of Water in West Central Minnesota and the City of Morris Salt Water Project

Arne Kildegard; Troy Goodnough; Ed Brands and David Fluegel; University of Minnesota Morris

The project team from U of M Morris produced a quantitative model that represented the city of Morris’s wastewater system and successfully developed relationships with “water practitioners” from around the west central Minnesota region.
View Final Report
View Final Addendum

Environmental Hack Day

Joey Reid; Stephen Hawley; Charlotte Riggs; Christine O’Connell; Josh Quinnell; Justin Becknell; College of Biological Sciences, Institute on the Environment, College of Science and Engineering

Reid and colleagues will develop and carry out Environmental Hack Day, a 48-hour gathering of people across the Twin Cities who will use integrative leadership techniques to develop rough solutions to environmental problems.
View Final Report.

Energy Policy and Law

Hari Osofsky and Alexandra Klass; Law School

Osofsky and Klass will participate in a new national collaboration to study public utility commissions’ work on climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy transition as a step toward improving the ability of energy policy and law to support a move to a less carbon-intensive energy system.
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Wood Window and Door Conference

Patrick Donahue; Natural Resources Research Institute

Donahue and colleagues from the University of Minnesota and the International Forest Products Society will develop a Wood Window and Door International Research and
Development Conference to encourage the use of wood for doors and windows.

Community Resource Fair

Jennifer Menken; Bell Museum of Natural History

Menken will organize and carry out a community resource fair to connect various naturalist and science groups with members of the public in conjunction with BioBlitz 2012, a 24-hour biological diversity survey to be held in June at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve.
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Lake Superior Herring

Steve Bardolph; Art and Design (University of Minnesota Duluth School of Fine Arts)

Bardolph and colleagues will collaborate with scientists, local fishermen, restaurateurs, chefs, grocers, Minnesota Sea Grant and the UMD Viz Lab to develop a video and poster to raise awareness of Lake Superior herring as a sustainable local food source.
View Final Report.

Student Sustainability Symposium

Carissa Schively Slotterback; Urban and Regional Planning, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Schively Slotterback will organize and hold a systemwide student sustainability symposium to encourage graduate student research around issues of sustainability and catalyze new collaborations among students across University colleges and campuses.

Black Environmental Thought Conference

Rose Brewer; African American & African Studies (College of Liberal Arts)

Brewer and colleagues will facilitate the participation of sociologist Monica White in the second Black Environmental Thought Conference to expand ongoing conversations and theory building related to incorporating black environmental thought into the search for ecological balance in food systems.
View Final Report