HomeGrantsIonE Mini GrantFrom Minneapolis & Morris to Spain & India: Fall 2022 Mini Grants Create Local and Global Impact

From Minneapolis & Morris to Spain & India: Fall 2022 Mini Grants Create Local and Global Impact

The Institute on the Environment supports interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability projects through IonE Mini Grants. These mini grants of up to $3,000 are awarded to teams to explore research, leadership, education, storytelling, and outreach activities. Since 2011, IonE has awarded over one million dollars to support mini grant projects and their pursuit to help with new research and awareness.

Our fall mini grant recipients are pursuing projects with foundations in inclusivity, educational resources, and how to improve the livelihoods of many communities. Read more about the 10 awardees of the Fall 2022 IonE Mini Grants below and how they prepare educational and visual materials, train professionals to incorporate the environment in their work, address concerns on biodiversity, and more.


Toxic Tour: Environmental Justice and Health in North Minneapolis

Due to generations of structural injustices, communities like North Minneapolis are disproportionately burdened by the health impacts of pollution. Despite their role on the front lines of health care, physicians are not trained to care for patients who are affected by pollution and climate change. 

In partnership with Community Members for Environmental Justice, this project plans to host a tour in North Minneapolis for students pursuing health professions. The tour will highlight the community sites and voices most impacted by environmental injustice. Participants will also engage in a skills workshop to learn how to screen for environmental exposures and discuss mitigation strategies during patient encounters. Through the tour and workshop, future health providers will see, smell, and breathe the impacts of environmental injustice and will be better prepared to care for patients affected by climate change and pollution.


Principal Investigator (PI): Vishnu Laalitha Surapaneni, MD, MPH; Department of General Internal Medicine, UMN.

Team Members: Sarah Rasmussen (medical student, UMN Medical School), Medical Students for a Sustainable Future UMN Chapter (UMN Medical School), White Coats for Black Lives (UMN Medical School), Community Members for Environmental Justice (community partner), Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity (community partner).


Connecting and Engaging Young Indigenous Voices in Agricultural Science: Encouraging Leadership to Tackle the Food Climate Crisis in Indigenous Agriculture

Globally, there are an estimated 476.6 million Indigenous people. Despite having a population larger than the combined populations of the United States and Canada, their voices and knowledge have been underrepresented in the scientific community, particularly in agricultural science. Meanwhile, Indigenous people have suffered greatly as a result of the climate crisis and food insecurity. As we develop climate-resilient food systems, it is critical to increase Indigenous knowledge and participation in agricultural science. 

This project plans to connect Indigenous leaders and Indigenous undergraduate students in agricultural sciences from Mixe, Mixtec, and Anishinaabe communities through online workshops and networking. The project aims to increase Indigenous young people’s interest in agricultural science while also preparing them for future agricultural leadership roles.


Principal Investigator (PI): Kyungsoo Yoo; Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, UMN.

Team Members: Julie Grossman (Department of Horticulture Science, UMN), Juan Angel Tinoco Rueda (Chapingo Autonomous University), Tania Eulialia Martinez Cruz (Indigenous Peoples Unit at FAO), David E. Sickle II (Plant, Forest, Wetlands, and Wildlife Forest Stewardship Plan Writer), Oswaldo Cabrera Vidal (Consulate of Mexico in St Paul), Mae Davenport (Department of Forest Resources, UMN), Darren Snyder (Agriculture/Horticulture and 4H Young Development, University of Alaska – Fairbanks).


How to Create a Community-Led Biodiversity Peace Corridor? Storytelling Through Case Study Evidence from Northeast India

With the increase of travel and expansion, humans are the primary reason for the decline in inviolate spaces, a space that has been left untouched or undamaged for wildlife, and continuing human-wildlife interaction. Pressures on bio-resources and unsustainable ways of extracting non-timber forest products (NTFPS) become more complex for biodiversity rich areas with a long history of communities living alongside wildlife. The northeastern region of India is a biodiversity hotspot and is known as a migration corridor for avian species like the Amur falcons that risk being hunted in huge numbers. A successful biodiversity corridor was established by a local conservationist, Nuklu Phom, in the northeastern state of Nagaland, India. 

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, working with community partners in Nagaland, India, will explore, describe, and document the process of creating a successful biodiversity corridor and its impact on the local tribal communities and the conservation of wildlife, particularly the Amur falcons.


Principal Investigator (PI): Elizabeth Abraham; Institute on the Environment, UMN.

Team Members: Nilanjan Chatterjee (Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, UMN), Victoria Hall (College of Veterinary Medicine, UMN), Limasenla (Aesthetic Animal Care Veterinary Clinic; Nagaland, India), Nuklu Phom (Lemsachenjlok Longleng; Nagaland, India).


Envisioning our Zero Waste Future with UMN Morris, city of Morris, and Stevens County — and Applying the Lessons from Garbology

UMN Morris works in partnership with the city of Morris, Stevens County, UMN West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris Area School District, and others to advance shared sustainability aspirations. Together, they are striving towards becoming a zero-waste community. 

For this project, UMN Morris and its partners will invite Edward Humes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and the author of “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash” to Morris to engage with the local community in a variety of ways. The goal is to inspire the community towards greater dialogue and action, as several important zero-waste initiatives are launching and will need additional aspirational fuel for community participation. Humes will connect with students, the Morris Model team members, the local school district, and the community by giving a public presentation to discuss his observations and learnings, and to share guidance to shape a zero-waste culture and community.


Principal Investigator (PI): Troy Goodnough; Office of Sustainability, UMN Morris.

Team Members: Clement Loo (Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, UMN Morris), Ed Brands (Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, UMN Morris), Griffin Peck (City of Morris, Morris Model), Sydney Bauer (Stevens County Compost Coordinator), Lisa Harris (Director of Facilities Management, UMN Morris), Vance Gullickson (Recycling & Compost Coordinator, UMN Morris), Bryan Herrmann (Vice Chancellor of Finance and Facilities, UMN Morris), Edward Humes (Author).


Embedding Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Nature-Based Learning Teacher Professional Development to Enhance Minnesota’s Sustainable Future

Nature-based learning (NBL) across the curriculum is a best practice to meet learning outcomes and offers effective opportunities for learners to develop a sense of connectedness to nature and conservation attitudes and behaviors. Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Indigenous world views help incorporate DEIJ into education, and TEK especially is becoming increasingly recognized as critical to the preservation of our planet and the fight against climate change and biodiversity collapse. However, TEK is not integrated effectively into the K-12 curriculum, and nature-based learning is an ideal context to do so. 

With the help of two Indigenous educators that will help participate in delivering teacher training grounded in TEK, this pilot project will provide intensive in-service teacher professional developments to increase teacher comfort, confidence and competence in utilizing nature-based instructional approaches. 


Principal Investigator (PI): Cathy Jordan; Institute on the Environment, UMN.

Team Members: Jim Rock (Indigenous Educator, UMN Duluth), Roxanne Gould (Indigenous Educator, UMN), Carrie Jennings (Freshwater Society), Kate Pound (Freshwater Society), Patty Born (Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Studies, Hamline University). 


UMN Community Summit: Building Twin Cities Community-University Relationships for Environmental Research & Justice

Racial and urban health disparities are the result of multiple forms of structural oppression. Communities of color experience higher pollution than white communities, and often lack access to research tools useful in advocating against environmental injustices. The UMN Community Summit seeks to improve environmental justice and health equity within the Twin Cities as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion within environmental sciences at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. 

The summit will bring together community organizations and UMN environmental and health scientists to build awareness, understanding, and capacity for community-centered research. The relationships built from this event will hopefully inspire community-driven research, outreach, and curriculum that supports the community’s priorities. It will also be an opportunity to invite urban communities and communities of color into the environmental sciences to begin transforming the sciences into a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable space.


Principal Investigator (PI): Clare Boerigter; St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), UMN.

Team Members: Jabari Jones (SAFL, UMN), Amanda Patsis (Biotechnology Institute, UMN), Kat Cantner (Continental Scientific Drilling Facility, UMN), Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati (SAFL, UMN), Christof Zweifel (graduate student, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (ESCI)), Gracelyn McClure (undergraduate student, ESCI), Maddy Nyblade (graduate student, ESCI).


Wine, Water, and Ways of Life: Climate Journalism and Community Knowledge in Andalusia, Spain

The Mediterranean coastal region of Andalusia, Spain has supported a thriving wine industry for centuries. Unfortunately, climate change has worsened water scarcity within the region, forcing winemakers to choose between adapting their practices or upholding generations of tradition until it becomes unviable. Although policies and climate projections aim to encourage agricultural adaptation, affecting change in winemaking is as much about understanding how humans define and evaluate climate expertise as it is about presenting new adaptation strategies. 

This project plans to explore this behavioral disconnect in winemaking by exploring how Spanish climate policy informs, supports, or contradicts community climate knowledge in the Andalusian wine region, and how local media discourse facilitates this knowledge exchange. An exploratory pilot study will interview Andalusian wine community stakeholders to understand what policies, media, and traditions inform adaptive decision making, thereby revealing the material and cultural tensions that exist within specialty crop production.


Principal Investigator (PI): Dr. Mary Vavrus; Department of Communication Studies, UMN.

Team Members: Catherine J. Bruns (Department of Communication Studies, UMN).


The Sacredness and Rights of Makwa Bagaanag

Native hazelnuts (makwa bagaanag in Ojibwe) are a sacred food and a relative to Ojibwe people throughout the Great Lakes region. Ongoing genetic breeding programs on hazelnuts at UMN threaten to jeopardize the food sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. Unlike manoomin (wild rice), non-indigenous people may not understand the importance of makwa bagaanag to Indigenous people.

There is a pressing need to compile and summarize existing information on the subject and to document accounts and stories from modern-day Indigenous elders and their ways of knowing regarding makwa bagaanag. The nature of this project would spark new collaborative efforts on addressing past harms, equity, and help bring about change at the intersection of environmental and food justice. The project will also serve as a foundation for future work with Indigenous elders and knowledge sharing about makwa bagaanag.


Principal Investigator (PI): Dr. Marcella Windmuller-Campoine; Department of Forest Resources, UMN.

Team Members: Hailey Shanovich (Natural Resource Science and Management Program, UMN), Shirley Nordrum (external advisor).


Food Forward: Exploring Innovative Local Food Pathway from Growers to Food Insecure Families

There are increasing calls and a sense of urgency to develop new local food pathways from growers to low-income families facing food insecurity. Food Forward, an early-stage social enterprise, provides healthy meal kits for low-income families in Duluth’s Central Hillside, a neighborhood where 64 percent of households receive food stamps. Building on Food Forward’s experience in the summer of 2022 to incorporate produce from local growers (UMD Land Lab and Rising Phoenix Farm) into the meal kits, this project plans to conduct a feasibility study for the food pathway. A 12-week experiment in the 2023 growing season will be conducted to test the viability of the food pathway through the lenses of economic viability, logistical planning and execution, and customer adoption.


Principal Investigator (PI): Aparna Katre; Department of World Languages and Cultures, UMN.

Team Members: Teresa Bertossi (Land Lab, UMN Duluth), Heather-Marie Bloom (Rising Phoenix Farm), Amber Pelfrey (Food Forward), Jodi Braodwell (Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative), Brianna Raddatz (undergraduate student, College of Education and Human Service Professionals, UMN Duluth), Emma Fest-Wilson (undergraduate student, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, UMN Duluth).


Fostering the Formation of “Friends of” Groups through the Dissemination of Locally Relevant Environmental Science and Media Production: A Field Project and Documentary

“Friends of” groups perform an essential stewardship function and create a valuable ecological service. They have been known to assist land managers, organize the local community, plan events, and – most importantly – inform the public about the places that they collectively own and share. However, only a small percentage of public lands and waterways have friends’ groups associated with them. Expanding the number and success of friends’ groups would advance conservation, foster biodiversity, improve environmental health, and increase environmental equity.

A feature length documentary will be created and shot about the creation of the “Friends of Obstruction Pass State Park.” The film will assist the nationwide “friends of” movement by informing viewers at environmental film festivals, in distribution through the nationwide friends’ network, along with inspiring upcoming generations through use in college curriculum. 


Principal Investigator (PI): Mark Pedelty; Department of Communication Studies, UMN.

Team Members: Sharon Abreu (Irthlingz Performance Group), Carolyn Cruso (community-based performer and leader), Kirsten Foot (Department of Communication, University of Washington), Elja Roy (Department of Communication and Film, University of Memphis), Annie Crawly (marine photographer and videographer).


Michael Zarbock is a senior studying Strategic Communications and is the IonE Communications and Editorial Assistant.

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