HomeGrantsIonE Mini GrantNew Mini Grants fund energy, education, health & more

New Mini Grants fund energy, education, health & more

Building a bridge between a University research site and an American Indian reservation, creating natural spaces for elementary school learning and using nanotechnology to scrub mercury from crematoria are among the 16 projects chosen to receive fall 2015 Institute on the Environment Mini Grants. The projects will receive grants of up to $3,000 each for a total disbursement of $45,800.

Mini Grants are designed to encourage collaboration on environmental themes among faculty, staff and students across University of Minnesota disciplines, units and campuses. Along with funding, each recipient is provided space for meetings, workshops and conferences and some administrative support for a year.

Following are brief descriptions of the projects. For more information, email ione@umn.edu.

Healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy learners
Judy Myers, Children, Youth & Family Consortium, University of Minnesota Extension

This project will involve multiple partners in producing a detailed plan for creating and implementing natural, therapeutic learning spaces at Bruce Vento Elementary School in East St. Paul. Project partners will explore potential funding; develop a plan for involving school staff, students and community members in designing the learning spaces; and approach potential partnering organizations or vendors who could contribute to the creation and implementation process. 

The community ecology of diseases: work group on the anthropogenic impacts on avian influenza
Nicholas Fountain-Jones, College of Veterinary Medicine

Avian influenza is both an economic burden and a human health risk. Surprisingly little is known about how human forces, such as urbanization, affect the complex distribution of influenza strains in their host birds. This project will convene a two-day workshop aimed at understanding the ecology of avian influenza, with experts in epidemiology, veterinary medicine and molecular biology invited to interpret recent findings and direct future work on the disease.

Gidaazhoganikemin “We make a bridge”
John A. Koepke, College of Design/Landscape Architecture

The aim of this project is to build a trail and bridge — both literally and figuratively — between the Cloquet Forestry Center and the Fond du Lac Reservation to enhance communication and cooperation. A spring 2016 landscape architecture class will work with band and forestry center members to develop the vision.

Disease modeling in aquatic systems
Luis E. Escobar, College of Veterinary Medicine 

A three-day workshop will be held at the University of Minnesota for two visiting researchers from Latin America on disease modeling. Techniques shared in the workshop will be applicable for modeling disease outbreak and distribution in animals and plants in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, focusing on common diseases that infect human and fish populations in the researchers’ home countries.

National resiliency studio
Ozayr Saloojee, College of Design

This will be an interdisciplinary collaborative project with partners, faculty and staff from the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, Metropolitan Design Center, Center for Sustainable Building Research and the Center for Changing Landscapes. The group will convene over the course of the next year to competitively position itself to be chosen as one of three “resiliency studios,” a national project of the Architects Foundation and a major funding initiative slated for the Upper Midwest in late 2016. Resiliency studios are meant to be go-to bodies of expertise for the development of sustainable, resilient and regenerative community design proposals and initiatives.

Duluth sustainability energy workshop
Christina Gallup, Swenson College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota Duluth

This workshop will assemble people, groups and organizations interested in building on the current momentum in sustainable energy in the Duluth/Superior region. The workshop will generate lively discussions among the many potential participants on issues related to solar and wind energy, biomass, energy storage, grids and how we can remove roadblocks to developing a clean energy future through innovative collaborations.

Workshop on “energy from renewables: envisioning a brighter future”
Ned Mohan, College of Science and Engineering

For this workshop, high school principals and science teachers will be invited to help develop a course to be taught in high schools as part of the College in the Schools program. The intent of the course will be to motivate young people to think about energy and introduce and discuss renewable energy options, such as solar and wind. This course could become a model for national implementation.

Morris ecostation planning
Troy Goodnough, Office of the Chancellor, Office of Sustainability, University of Minnesota Morris

This project will convene faculty, students and staff from across the University system, as well as people from the Morris community, to create a vision for some recently acquired property. Participants will be asked to survey the 140-acre site’s unique ecological features, consider its potential for research opportunities and assess its ecological diversity and health.

Knowledge to impact workshop for Grand Challenge Curriculum
Julian Marshall, College of Science & Engineering

The project will build on work being done in the U’s Grand Challenge Curriculum courses in which students propose solutions to environmental problems. Student teams from each of the four IonE-taught GCC courses will have the opportunity to workshop their proposed solutions and receive feedback on how to refine their solutions from their peers and experts from the Minneapolis-St. Paul professional community.

Designing, protyping and field testing community trust solar
Kathryn Milun, College of Liberal Arts, UMD

This project seeks to understand various forms of solar energy ownership. One phase involves a cross-cultural study of community trust solar in India. The project team will also solidify partnerships with solar projects already on the ground in Arizona and Minnesota, as well as establish new connections with people in city government, colleagues at Arizona State University and the U of M Law School, neighborhood groups and nonprofits.

Climate change, food security, poverty and political conflict in eastern India
Singdhansu Chatterjee, College of Liberal Arts 

This project will bring together an international team from diverse disciplines, such as political science, ecology and economics, to study how climate change affects food security and its potential to exacerbate poverty and social and political conflicts in eastern and northeastern India. Projected outcomes include bringing together multiple data sets from Indian and international organizations into a comprehensive system that will serve as a “proof of concept” for a bigger grant proposal and building a data resource linking climate data, agricultural yield data, political discourse and poverty.

Nature play meets accessible play
Linda Kingery, U of M Extension, Regional Sustainable Development Partnership

This project will bring a diverse set of partners into the process of creating an accessible natural play area at Ellen Hopkins Elementary School in Moorhead, Minn. Faculty and staff with expertise in access for people with physical disabilities, child development, and landscape and sustainable design will inform the design. It will use a community-based design process as the means for collaboration and learning to allow access and experience for all children, so it engages teachers, parents and students in the design process. This project is poised to serve as a prototype for assuring access to nature play for all in the northwest region.

Development of a nanoparticle-based mercury scrubber
Sandra L. Myers, School of Dentistry 

Mercury amalgam from human teeth melting during cremation contributes to mercury pollution in the local and global environment. As more people choose cremation, mercury pollution from cremation has been projected to rise steadily over the next several decades. Since smokestack scrubbers are not feasible for the numerous small crematoria operators, this project will use nanotechnology to construct a cost-efficient mercury-capturing device that functions within the casket during the cremation process.

Understanding the zoonotic risk of echinococcosis for a northern Minnesota tribal community
Tiffany Wolf, CVM 

This project will take an initial look at the prevalence of echinococcosis infection among wolves and domestic dogs to assess the risk of human exposure and to develop community-specific recommendations for prevention of echinococcosis in the Grand Portage Indian Reservation community. The project will fortify a developing collaboration among the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Public Health and Grand Portage, as well as provide unique interdisciplinary graduate training at the interface of human and animal health.

Climate chaos: art, science and agency
Christine Baeumler, CLA 

This ecological and public art project will contribute to dialogue and transformative action on climate change in the University and Twin Cities community, to take place at the Northern Spark Festival, an all-night art festival focusing on climate change. The project will convene many partners, including the Weisman Art Museum, the Healing Place Collaborative, and IonE’s Undergraduate Leaders Program. The art projects will examine climate change science, with a particular focus on how climate change is expected to affect key ecological systems such as forests, farms and resources for vital biodiversity, such as pollinators, in our community.

Using experiments to root mathematical models of environmental niches
Emma E. Goldberg, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Although mathematical models are now used to explain many biological phenomena, the connection to empirical work is often indirect. The project team aims to gain more knowledge about how body size and temperature shape the energy budget within a species of insect, complementing existing work that has examined many species at a single temperature. The data will add to knowledge about the spotted wing drosophila, which is a pest in the United States. The relationships measured empirically will be used to validate or correct modeling assumptions.

Photo by BraunS (iStock)

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