2014 Mini Grants

Following are brief descriptions of the fall projects and spring 2014 Mini Grant-funded projects. For more information, email ione@umn.edu.


Glacier, Agriculture, Immigration, and Earthworms

Kyungsoo Yoo; Department of Soil, Water, and Climate; College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences

Earthworms in the glaciated forests in Great Lakes Area and New England are invasive. Sweden and Minnesota offer a natural comparative experiment where we can determine how agrarian expansion, earthworm invasion, earthworm-derived alteration of forest soils, and people’s concept of “pristine” nature have co-evolved on very different time scales.

Minnesota Vernal Pool Research Group

Jennifer Olker, Natural Resources Research Institute (University of Minnesota Duluth)

Ecosystems described as  ‘vernal pools,’ fall into the category of isolated seasonal wetlands, which is a type of wetland that has received much attention nationally during the past few years. While there has been little research on vernal pools in this region, multiple stakeholders (agencies, universities, etc.) recognize their importance and susceptibility to demise/destruction. Funding will support the development of a network of vernal pool stakeholders and the first workshop in what would become a series of four workshops over the next 2.5 years.

Keynote Speaker at Waste Not Conference

Larry Baker, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Jennifer Schmidt, Institute on the Environment; Steve Kelley, Humphrey School of Public Affairs; William Lazarus, Applied Economics; Roger Ruan, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Tim Smith, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; and Gerry Shurson, Animal Science

Waste Not: Closing the Loop on Organic Wastes is a new interdisciplinary initiative funded by the Food Ventures Program. One of the goals for year 1 of the initiative is to develop a regional Waste Not Conference, which will feature a keynote speaker. Some possibilities for a keynote speaker include Marion Chertow (Yale University), an academic expert on waste flows in the context of industrial ecology; Gary Wolff (StopWaste California), a leader in organics wastes recycling; and Jean Buzby (USDA’s Economic Research Service), who has conducted numerous studies of food waste at the national scale for at least a dozen years.

Window Strikes in the Migration Path of UMD Students

Darren Houser, Art & Design; Mindy Granley, Office of Sustainability; and David Beard, Writing Studies; University of Minnesota Duluth (all)

UMD is located at a bottleneck in the migration of tens of thousands of birds every fall. As a result, bird window strikes are a common problem on office towers in Duluth. The team seeking to resolve this problem includes UMD students and faculty and several community partners. The partnership will produce a vibrantly interdisciplinary solution to the problem.

A Training Program on Bayesian Hierarchical Modeling

Charlotte Riggs, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Eric Lind, Nutrient Network, Institute on the Environment, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Elizabeth Borer, Nutrient Network, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Bayesian hierarchical modeling is a statistical tool for developing predictions from complex and heterogeneous data. Unfortunately, despite growing interest in this modeling framework among researchers at the University of Minnesota, there are currently no formal opportunities for training in this area. To address this gap, the team will develop a training program on Bayesian hierarchical modeling for interdisciplinary environmental research teams at the University of Minnesota and international collaborators.

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Creating a Roadmap for Trans-disciplinary Research at The Raptor Center

Julia Ponder, Executive Director, The Raptor Center, College of Veterinary Medicine; Dominic Travis, Ecosystem Health Division, College of Veterinary Medicine; Mark Jankowski, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Matteo Convertino, Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health; Julie Langenberg, International Crane Foundation

Over the past several years, The Raptor Center has established a diverse and growing collaborative partnership program for addressing the issue of lead poisoning in bald eagles, a project that began with seed money from the Insitute on the Environment. Building on the lessons from those experiences, The Raptor Center now looks to develop a new structure for its approach to research, leveraging trans-disciplinary partnerships to create impactful applied research. The Raptor Center will hold a one-day workshop to bring together potential research partners and to develop a comprehensive strategic research plan.

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Sustainable Concrete Sidewalks on the UMD Campus

Mindy Granley, director of the UMD Office of Sustainability; Mary Christiansen, UMD Civil Engineering

Many efforts to improve the sustainability of concrete have been implemented in the last 30-40 years. Concrete mixture designs are in the process of being developed by an undergraduate civil engineering student working through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and will be tested for compressive strength and freeze-thaw durability in order to be ready for installation as soon as the weather breaks in Spring 2015.

Climate Adaption in the Red River Valley

Linda Kingery, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships; Albert Sims, Soil Science, NW Research and Outreach Center; Ian MacRae, Entomology, NW Research and Outreach Center; Rob Proulx, Department of Natural Resources and Agriculture (UM Crookston); Dan Svedarsky, NW Research and Outreach Center

The agriculture community in the Red River Valley has experienced extreme weather since settlement. In recent years, the incidence of heavy rains and wet conditions has had a profound influence on agriculture. This mini-grant supports a series of listening sessions and roundtable discussions to help the NWROC, UM Crookston, and U of M Extension faculty, as well as farmers, commodity groups and resource managers identify education, research, and outreach priorities for Northwestern Minnesota.

Students for Sustainability 2014 Earth Day fair

Beth Mercer-Taylor, Institute on the Environment

The student organization Students for Sustainability has been awarded the opportunity to organize the University of Minnesota’s Earth Day celebrations for 2014. Among other goals, Earth Day 2014 will be a forum for individuals and groups throughout the entire campus, including students, faculty, and staff, as well as organizations beyond the University of Minnesota campus to interact with the Institute on the Environment and reflect on accomplishments over the past year regarding sustainability. Anyone can apply through Students for Sustainability to participate in the event and present their environmental initiatives, research, and programs.

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Clean Snowmobile Challenge

Emmanuel Enemuoh, Faculty Advisor; Dylan Dahlheimer, Spencer Johnson, Jack Seehof, Heather Tinus, Mark Boeckmann, Brenden Bungert, Nicole Sovde, Ryan Schefers, Nathaniel Anthony, Alexander Britz (UMD Clean Snowmobile Club)

Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a competition-based educational program set up and sanctioned by the Society of Automotive Engineers with the goal of exposing students from engineering, business, and marketing studies to a complex design project. In addition to the hands on application of improved environmental design, the team will write a technical paper describing their innovative ways of improving the sustainability of snowmobile. It is hopeful that snowmobile emissions and noise will be reduced by at least 10%.

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Air Quality Management: Workshop on Emerging Issues

Julian Marshall, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering; Jay Coggins, Applied Economics; Andrew Goodkind, PhD Candidate, Applied Economics

Outdoor air pollution kills ~3 million people per year worldwide, a number that exceeds deaths attributable to HIV-AIDS and malaria combined. Fine-particle air pollution raises rates of disease (e.g., cardiovascular disease), increasing incidence of health effects such as heart attack and stroke. This mini-grant will fund a workshop with thought leaders from the US and Canada on this crucial but understudied issue: the shape of concentration-response, the functional relationship between fine-particle air pollution concentrations and health outcomes.

Dangerous Populations: Dance for Education and Exploration of Environmentally-Driven Infectious Diseases

Matteo Convertino, School of Public Health; David Odde, Biomedical Engineering; Mike Oserholm, School of Public Health

The project is proposing to leverage the Moving Cell work to represent environmentally-dominated infectious disease dynamics at the population scale. Dance is a “human model” that can show quickly (and more reliably than mathematical models) its dependency on randomness, internal and external constraints, assigned rules, and diffused information. Therefore, the proposed dance is using art as a vehicle of scientific investigation and science as a vehicle of art exploration via new movement and rules dictated by novel socio-biological dynamics.

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Attributing Cardiovascular and Respiratory Disease Mortality on Fine-Particle Air Pollution Exposure: Is it to Blame?

Matteo Convertino, School of Public Health; Timothy Smith, Institute on the Environment; Rylie Pelton, Institute on the Environment; Mo Li, Institute on the Environment; Luyi Chen, Institute on the Environment

The project aims to develop a complex system causal model that provides robust estimates of the incidence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and their attribution to various sources of fine-particle air pollution exposure at different scales in natural and built environment. A non-linear concentration-response function adjusted for social-demographic confounding factors will be used to enable more robust predictions of the incidence of disease attributed to different sources of exposure.

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Reducing Electricity Usage at UMD

Dan Martin, Sociology/Anthropology (UMD); Ben LaFond, MPIRG environmental task force leader; Whitney Morgan, MPIRG environmental task force leader

“Smart” power strips will be installed in faculty offices to cut electricity usage. Appliances often use small amounts of electricity when turned off. “Phantom power” can contribute a notable amount to an electric bill over the course of a year. However, smart power strips shut off appliances automatically when the main source of electricity is not on.

West Bank Community Garden

T. E. Michaels, Department of Horticultural Science; Nathaniel Baeumler, Students for Sustainability; Evelina Knodel, U Students Like Good Food; Louis Mielke, Students for Sustainability; Jeremy Facklam, Students for Sustinability; Justin Halverson, Cedar-Riverside Community Outreach

The West Bank Campus lacks a welcoming place for the Cedar-Riverside community, along with a space where faculty, community members, and students can produce healthy food and address water management and pollinator habitat issues. The grant will help create the West Bank Community Garden (WBCG) through Living Labs to open up the West Bank Campus to the Cedar-Riverside community, to stimulate and support social interactions in the context of education around healthy food and environment, and to produce a healthier ecosystem.


A Dialogue With the Community

Aparna Katre, Foreign Languages and Literature, College of Liberal Arts (University of Minnesota Duluth)

Project partners will design a model for a self-funded community-building event that brings UMD students and Duluth community members together to work on cultural enterprise solutions. Past enterprise ideas include “Creative Placemaking to Save the Temple Opera Block” and “Economic Self-Sufficiency of Native American Artists in the Duluth Neighborhood.”
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Dioxin Testing in Son Tra Nature Reserve

Kevin Lang and Jonathan Clayton, College of Veterinary Medicine

Lang and team will conduct dioxin tests on a species of primate indigenous to Vietnam known to withstand the negative impacts of the dioxin used during the Vietnam conflict. The project seeks to combine animal physiology, ecology, microbiology and molecular biology to develop a new dioxin-degrading process.
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Life-Cycle Analysis Methods and Tools

Matthew Aro, Natural Resources Research Institute

This initiative will design and deliver a day-long life-cycle analysis seminar on natural resource–based, industry-accepted LCA methods and tools, their application, and their integration into current and future projects.

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Art and the Environment Exhibit

Jane Blocker, Art History (College of Liberal Arts)

Students from the class “Art and the Environment” will produce enlarged, mounted photo prints of their creations for an exhibition in the IonE Commons: Meeting and Art Space.
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Do Urban Farms Ameliorate the Urban Heat Island?

Katherine Klink, Geography, Environment and Society (College of Liberal Arts)

Klink will lead a team monitoring changes in temperature and humidity in an area that will be developed into an urban farm, hoping to understand how land use and land cover may alter the urban microclimate.
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Sustainable Acts: Mother Earth’s Embrace

Roslye Ultan, Art History (College of Liberal Arts)

Through workshops, roundtables and panel conversations involving artists, scientists and environmental practitioners, an exhibition integrating visual and musical arts and sciences will be designed to inspire audiences to participate in social and cultural change.

Planning for Bangalore’s Great Transformation

Michael Goldman, Sociology (College of Liberal Arts)

Goldman and his team will organize workshops in Bangalore and Minneapolis aiming to deepen relations across institutions to expand the study of human and environmental effects of Bangalore’s rapid urban expansion.
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The Promise and Challenge of Urban Sustainability

Cindy Christian, Alworth Institute, College of Liberal Arts (UMD)

The project entails two separate public events — a lecture and panel discussion — to examine ideas and challenges of urban sustainability, as well as look at business, nonprofit and University efforts to create sustainable living space at UMD and in the Duluth community.
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Science Chats at the Market

Peter Tiffin, Plant Biology (College of Biological Sciences)

To bridge understanding between science, technology, engineering and mathematics researchers and the general public, researchers will host a science discovery station at the Minneapolis Farmers Market to  promote understanding of environmental issues and research that too often takes place behind academic closed doors.
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Multi-Objective Management to Support Agency Decision-Making

Bonnie Keeler, Institute on the Environment

This collaborative project seeks to address the limitations of siloed state agency management paradigms — single objective management and incomplete assessment of benefits — through workshops that will bring multiple agencies together to address management issues in the Buffalo River watershed.

North by Midwest: Exploring Environmental Justice Through Music and Art

Nick Jordan, Agronomy (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Fossil Free Minnesota, the CFANS Diversity and Inclusion Office, and student groups will hold an event focused on the intersections of art, environment and social justice to explore ways in which climate change and broader environmental issues directly impact our communities.

Training Workshop for Identification of Wild Bees

Colleen Satyshur, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (College of Biological Sciences)

Satyshur and her team will organize a four-day course to train researchers to identify the more than 300 species of wild bees in Minnesota in advance of arising bee studies.

Post-Nature Garden: Green Infrastructure Demonstration Project

Matthew Tucker, Landscape Architecture (College of Design)

Tucker and colleagues will design and install a small yet highly visible “post-nature” rooftop garden at the University’s Rapson Hall as part of an exhibition on green infrastructure.

Universitywide Boreas Booyah!

Kate Knuth, Institute on the Environment

A 24-hour booyah (both a stew and the gathering to prepare it) will be held in the middle of the St. Paul campus to facilitate development of cross-disciplinary relationships, with booyah programming focusing on environmental solutions.
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Fostering the Public Utility Commission Action on Climate Change & Energy Transition

Hari Osofsky, Law School

Osofsky’s team will host a meeting of an emerging national collaboration to study the Public Utility Commission’s work on climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy transition.

Community Hydroponics in Prospect Park

Tom Michaels, Horticulture (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

Michaels’ team will collaborate with a real estate development company to design and establish a hydroponic vegetable garden in Southeast Minneapolis.

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Sustainable UMD Diesel

Michael Rother, Chemical Engineering, Swenson College of Science and Engineering (UMD)

The project will explore the feasibility of converting food service grease waste to biodiesel, including promoting sustainability, environmental responsibility and cross-disciplinary education.
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