HomeGrantsIonE Mini GrantAnnouncing the Fall Mini Grants: Springboards to a more sustainable future

Announcing the Fall Mini Grants: Springboards to a more sustainable future

Two times a year, the Institute on the Environment awards Mini Grants of up to $3,000 to interdisciplinary teams and sustainability-focused projects across all five University of Minnesota campuses. The impact of these grants is anything but mini, however: They are an important part of how the Institute works to lift up critical – and inspiring – collaborative work to create a more equitable, sustainable world.

The word “inspiring” perfectly describes this newest crop of Mini Grants. The diverse work of our Fall 2019 recipients spans from a project to translate signs about on-the-ground adaptation efforts in the Chippewa National Forest to Ojibwemowin to installing boot-brush stations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to collect samples and educate visitors about the spread of invasive species.

IonE is thrilled to serve as a springboard for all of these projects in any small way, helping propel them toward increasing sustainability in Minnesota and around the world. So it is with great enthusiasm that we announce our Fall 2019 Mini Grant recipients.

And stay tuned! The Institute will be releasing its Spring 2020 call for Mini Grant proposals in early March.

UMN Health Sciences Schools Sustainability Event
Human health, animal health, and the health of our planet are inextricably connected. With recent momentum toward addressing climate change and planetary health at the University of Minnesota, it is paramount that administrative staff understand their responsibility to protect the planet in support of the health of the humans and animals that depend upon it. The proposed Health Sciences Schools Sustainability Event will be an educational and interactive experience focusing on staff in the six Health Sciences schools to promote environmental sustainability adoption. Prior to the opening of the Health Sciences Education Center (HSEC) is an ideal time to convene groups of staff interested in sustainability efforts to learn and share best practices and implement meaningful changes at work through interprofessional teamwork. At the Sustainability Event, staff will learn about current practices on campus, explore implementation techniques for change, and experience what it means to host a zero-waste event. PI: Breanne Krzyzanowski, School of Nursing.

Training Students to Facilitate Deliberative Conversations in the Murray County Rural Energy Dialogue
The development of renewable energy sources in rural Minnesota is necessary for achieving the state’s ambitious goals for decarbonization, but residents of rural areas are often skeptical of the value of renewable energy and concerned about the impact of such development on their quality of life. Since 2014, two Minnesota nonprofits, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Jefferson Center, have used deliberative methods of public engagement to facilitate conversations about climate and energy issues in rural Minnesota through a program called the Rural Climate Dialogues. This proposal will train three University of Minnesota students in facilitating deliberative conversations about contentious environmental issues and their participation as facilitators in a three-day Rural Climate Dialogue event about wind energy development in Murray County. This will provide students with a unique opportunity for community-engaged learning and will lay the framework for future collaborations between these organizations and the University. PI: Charles Daniel Myers, College of Libreal Arts

Duluth’s Creative Economy: Knowing, Mapping and Storytelling
This new initiative strives to realize the full potential of the creative economy in the Duluth (Twin Ports) region by helping to create a shared understanding of the concept, by developing methods and tools to identify and engage regional actors, and by communicating the concept, “craft”, and conclusions to participants, stakeholders and key decision-makers. Mini Grant funds will help to make possible this cross-disciplinary, cross-campus, and community-engaged endeavor. Students and faculty in UMD’s Cultural Entrepreneurship program will gather preliminary data for seven sectors of the creative economy and will begin to frame a Story Map-style visualization with stories from about 100 organizations. Capstone students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs will connect with the UMD-CE program to help bring the Story Map from concept to reality, and then to bring that reality to community leaders with potential to shape and enable the sector’s growth and impact. PI: Dave Wilsey, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, IonE Educator.

Law, Policy, and Business Collaborative on Energy and Environment Community Engagement & Student Enrichment Programming
The University’s Law, Policy, and Business graduate schools are all experiencing increased interest in their respective environmental and energy programs. These fast-growing areas are hyper-dynamic and interdisciplinary. The Law, Policy, and Business Collaborative on Energy and Environment (also referred to as the West Bank Environment & Energy Collaborative) emerged from students’ desire to learn across disciplines in order to become more competent practitioners. We aim to provide professional development to students and foster connections in the environmental and energy world among students, established practitioners, and the wider academic and professional community. This grant will provide funding for a nuclear plant tour, an interdisciplinary career panel, skill-building workshops, and networking events. Each of these components are part of our mission to provide students with opportunities to engage with the environmental and energy world in an exciting, collaborative way. PI: Olivia Schares, Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Forests of the Future: Ojibwemowin Translation of Climate Adaptation
Efforts to adapt forests to future climate must include Native Nations. Success of these efforts depends on addressing knowledge barriers arising from differences in language and culture. The Chippewa National Forest in north-central Minnesota, site of the ASCC [Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change] project, is a critical location to work towards cultural bridging. ASCC explores landscape-level management strategies to adapt forests to climate change. ASCC is located on Anishinaabe homelands, specifically the Leech Lake Reservation. Informational and educational signs encourage community visitor engagement while guiding understanding, and transmitting Indigenous and scientific knowledge. Translating signs to Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe Language) connects on-the-ground adaptation efforts directly to local communities, increases inclusivity, and enhances community visitor experiences. The proposed project develops critical relationships among researchers, managers, language speakers, and community members, through a highly collaborative translation project. This project will produce signs across the research site in Ojibwemowin and support engagement of community members throughout and beyond the project. PI: Rebecca Montgomery, Department of Forest Resources.

Creating Agency in Water Equity
Defining water equity and what it means for individual communities is a current challenge that transcends all communities across the United States. Conversations are complex and involve varied and diverse stakeholders. Imbedded in this diversity are a range of perspectives. For communities across Minnesota it is critical that we listen to the wisdom, best practices, and “ways of knowing” that other communities and stakeholders can offer. This project will bring together experts from across North America, representing different communities, for a Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) 2020 Annual Meeting special session titled “Creating Agency in Water Equity” here in Minneapolis. From rural towns to indigenous populations to minority and immigrant communities, the panelists will share insights and stories on how their communities define “water equity” and how agency in water is being created – from grassroots efforts to advanced technology platforms. PI: Jeff Standish, BTI / MnDRIVE Environment, IonE Associate.

The Relentless Business of Treaties Reading Groups Introduction
The Institute for Advanced Study, the IonE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and other partners will convene campus and community groups to read and discuss Martin Case’s book The Relentless Business of Treaties: How Indigenous Land Became U.S. Property. A public panel discussion among Indigenous scholars and the author will kick off the reading groups. They will offer perspectives on the historical experience of Native American nations to frame the book and raise questions for exploration by the reading groups. Understanding how land cession treaties supplanted Indigenous kinship and communal relationships to the land and natural resources with the property relationships that now structure US society provides a foundation for sustainable approaches to land and water use. It encourages a more diverse, inclusive environment through understanding and acknowledging the University’s ties to settler colonialism. Reading together also strengthens University networks and experience with collaboration across campuses and communities throughout the state. PI: Jennifer Gunn, Associate Professor, Director of Institute for Advanced Study.

Power Dialogs: Intergenerational, Student Researched, Hosted and Assessed Civic Conversations on Climate Change/ Energy Transition in the Lake Superior Watershed
In the face of catastrophic global warming, all stakeholders need to join the conversation about how and how fast we transition to a carbon neutral energy system. Educators in public school systems face enormous challenges in helping our students enter this unprecedented and urgent civic conversation. The Duluth Power Dialog is an annual event hosted by social science students in Anth3300 Energy, Culture, Society. Held in a local community theater, this free, open public conversation invites energy policy leaders on stage to answer students’ questions about local impacts of climate change and local plans for energy transition. In Spring of 2020, students plan to experiment by inviting local high school students to co-host, theater students to dramatize, and a professional comedy improv troupe to moderate. Research professors will assess and offer an iterative format so that Power Dialogs could be compelling annual events throughout the Lake Superior watershed region. PI: Kathryn Milun, UMD-Duluth Associate Professor & Director of the Center for Social Research

Winter Dynamics of Invertebrates in Trout Streams of Minnesota and Wisconsin: How Can the Public Connect with and Contribute to Research?
We will plan and conduct three outreach events that are designed to help us integrate a network of citizens volunteers that may have interests in sport fishing for trout. We will focus our content on winter-active insects and plan activities that will provide directions on ways in which volunteer activities can expand and enhance our knowledge of the roles aquatic insects plan in the diets of trout and overall trout stream dynamics in winter. The organizational structure that we will provide to interested volunteers will improve the quality of the data that they can gather, and their efforts will enhance our ability to develop a highly competitive grants proposal to the MN LCCMR program in spring of 2020. PI: Leonard C Ferrington Jr, Department of Entomology.

Establishing Long-Term Projects to Promote Wise Use at the UMN Morris EcoStation
A quarter-section of land in west-central Minnesota was recently entrusted to UMN Morris for wise use as an EcoStation. The mixed-use parcel contains wetlands and uplands, with farmland, prairie and hardwood forest. It is planned to become a living laboratory for environmental education, restoration, research, and preservation. However, it is located an hour away from UMN Morris campus with no onsite accommodations yet. This makes it difficult for the population that would benefit most—undergraduate students—to regularly engage in research, education, and creative activities at the EcoStation. This proposal begins another phase of a long-term endeavor. We plan to form new partnerships to participate in a decade-long research project administered at the UMN Twin Cities, as well as to characterize the natural resources at the EcoStation and share that in a report. We are seeking funding for travel and student support. PI: Margaret Kuchenreuther, UMN Morris Division of Science and Mathematics.

Predicting Spatial Disease Dynamics on Changing Landscapes from Animal Movement and Behavior
Contact patterns among individuals affect disease outbreak dynamics and persistence. Drivers of contact patterns in animal populations include social relationships and landscape-based movement. Advances in movement ecology have provided tools for understanding individual movement at a fine spatial scale, and the field is well poised for extension to studying interactions among individuals. However, it remains unclear how fine-scaled spatial ecology can be scaled up to describe population-level contact. We propose to bring together experts in disease, movement, and behavioral ecology at UMN for a workshop April 13-15, 2020. Our interdisciplinary team will tackle the significant challenge of developing theory for scaling up animal spatial ecology for predicting disease dynamics. Deliverables from the workshop will include a white paper for an appropriate funding solicitation and a mature outline for a conceptual article(s) that advances the field of disease ecology using interdisciplinary science. PI: Meggan Craft, Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine.

Uncovering Environmental Drivers of Tick-Borne Diseases in Minnesota
Minnesota is located in one of the epicenters in the nation for tick-borne diseases. Human cases here are increasing over time and spreading across the state. The system is complex, multi-host, and environmental. Understanding it and ultimately reducing the burden of tick-borne diseases requires expertise in ticks, small hosts, deer, public health, infrastructure planning, and more. Interdisciplinary researchers in Minnesota need a way to share expertise, protocols, research sites, resources, and personnel. There is currently no local conference, workshop, or formal communication channel for environmental determinants of tick-borne diseases in Minnesota. The IonE mini-grant would fund the formation of such a collaborative network. Specifically, the grant would fund in-person meetings that align with the LCCMR grant cycle. Therefore the mini-grant would result in a new research network as well as seed potential LCCMR grant applications that includes interests from multiple agencies, perspectives, and locations throughout the state. PI: Shelby Loberg, UMN Morris Division of Science and Math, Assistant Professor.

Decolonizing Science for Environmental Justice
Science for the People is an organization of scientist activists with a membership base comprising scientists from across the biological science departments at the University of Minnesota. We are committed to directing scientific efforts in collaboration with and towards the needs of the people. Perhaps the most pressing of these needs today is environmental justice. Because of our connections with the wider environmental justice movement, we are uniquely positioned to facilitate conversations between the community, activists and researchers. The present project has two objectives. First, to develop a critique of the ecosystem services framework by centering indigenous perspectives on the environment through talks and workshops in the spring. Second, to continue organizing community outreach events to build momentum on pressing environmental justice struggles in the Twin Cities. PI: Shane Loeffler, UMN-Duluth Earth Sciences.

Implementing Rapid Field Diagnostics to Screen for Foodborne Pathogens from Subsistence Species in an Indigenous Reserve in Guyana
The consumption of wildlife is critical to the food security and cultural livelihoods for millions of people throughout the tropical world, particularly in Amazonia. However, hunting, butchery, and consumption of wild meat (bushmeat) provides a high-risk interface for zoonotic disease transmission. Our research focuses on how to better implement field-based diagnostics for rapid detection of zoonotic pathogens from bushmeat. The study site for this research is the Konashen Community Owned Conservation Area (KCOCA), an indigenous reserve in Guyana, South America, populated by indigenous Waiwai who rely on bushmeat for protein. Our research questions are: 1) What is the risk of zoonotic pathogens to the Waiwai from major mammalian subsistence species? and 2) Can field-based diagnostics be used for rapid detection of zoonoses in the KCOCA? The research at this site can be used as a model to promote sustainable and safe subsistence hunting among other indigenous communities throughout Amazonia. PI: Tiffany Wolf, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, IonE Associate.

Support for “We Are Water Exhibit” and Water Ethic Building in West-Central Minnesota
The University of Minnesota Morris was selected by the Minnesota Humanities Center as a host site for the “We are Water” exhibit. This interactive exhibit travels around the state and explores the connection between humanities and water and is complemented by public events, curriculum, contests, local storytelling and more. The exhibit will come to the UMN Morris Morrison Gallery in fall 2020. Our West-Central Minnesota “We Are Water” team includes a broad range of educators, environmental non-profits, and governmental partners who are committed to growing a water ethic in our region. PI: Troy Goodnough, UMN Morris, Sustainability Director, Office of Sustainability.

Supporting Climate Smart Municipalities Partnership at UMN Morris
UMN Morris Office of Sustainability (MOOS) supports the IonE Climate Smart Municipalities program. Specifically, MOOS works to connect students from across UMN with the IonE-led course, Germany: Leading the Renewables Revolution. To support this partnership: MOOS recruits students into the program, provides transportation between UMN Morris and UMN TC for pre-trip classes, MOOS sustainability director serves as a co-instructor in the course, MOOS engages UMN students in the Climate Smart Municipalities Program after students return from Germany, and MOOS hosts German interns from Muenster University of Applied Sciences in Morris. MOOS requests funds to offset costs related to supporting this ongoing and important partnership. PI: Troy Goodnough, UMN Morris, Sustainability Director, Office of Sustainability.

“What is on Your Shoes?” Boot Brush Stations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to Educate Visitors about the Spread of Invasive Species
When visiting a park, garden, or natural area, invasive species can hitch a ride without your knowledge. An easy, yet overlooked way of preventing the spread of pests is the cleaning of footwear. Boot brush stations will be installed in high-traffic areas at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with signage that educates visitors about the types of species present on our land and why we need to prevent their spread to homes and other natural areas. Horticulture interns will collect soil and debris from the stations to culture the species removed from footwear to demonstrate how easily pests move from one area to another. Cultured bins will be used at the Arboretum’s Learning Center and Farm at the Arb to show students enrolled in programs and visiting via field trips why it is important to brush your shoes. PI: Erin Buchholz, CFANS, MN Aboretum.

Energy-Efficient Building Control to Compensate for Fluctuations in Solar Power Generation
With growing renewable energy penetration, power grids face severer supply and demand imbalance issues. Because generally renewable energy (e.g., solar photovoltaic (PV)) cannot adjust their output to reflect changes in demand. On the demand side, traditionally, the Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems act autonomously without any coordination with electricity (renewable) supply. With the advanced development of sensing and metering technology, the HVAC systems are smartly controllable and can be used as virtual storage resources to absorb solar PV generation. The goal of the project is to optimize the HVAC system schedule to absorb most PV generation while delicately maintaining a desired room temperature via mathematical programming. One challenge of making a scheduling decision is to obtain an accurate estimate of PV generation ahead of time. In this project, we aim to design a mathematical model to balance risk and operational costs without knowing the exact PV generation. PI: Yiling Zhang, Industrial and Systems Engineering.

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