Frontiers in the Environment Archives

    February 17 – Can the past inform how plants will respond to future climate change?

    Joy K. Ward, Dean’s Professor of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Kansas Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

    CO2, whose increase in the atmosphere is largely responsible for climate change, is also affecting plants, which use the gas as a carbon source for photosynthesis. It is therefore critical that we understand how plants respond to rising CO2 to better predict the impacts of global change on food production, plant-pollinator interactions and ecosystem functioning. In this talk we will explore how modern experimentation and ancient plant collections can teach us how plants will respond to the ever-increasing human impacts on natural and managed ecosystems across contemporary and geologic time scales.

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    February 24 – How can humans emulate nature and recycle everything?

    Lawrence Wackett, Institute on the Environment Fellow and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, College of Biological Sciences

    For a sustainable future, humans must mimic natural systems in which one creature’s waste is another’s raw material. Many human processes create waste and disposing of that waste often has a price tag. With sufficient creativity, waste can be turned into useful materials that, instead of costing disposal fees, could turn a profit, thus creating incentive for people to participate. A single magical solution does not exist, but in this talk we will focus on a few examples of successful large-scale waste recycling initiatives and suggest possible solutions to big waste problems that must be solved to make human society sustainable in the long-term.

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    March 2 – Where does justice fit in the climate change adaptation puzzle?

    Jack DeWaard, Assistant Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Graduate Faculty, Minnesota Population Center; and Beth Mercer-Taylor, Coordinator, Sustainability Studies, Institute on the Environment

    Despite the celebratory atmosphere at the signing of the COP 21 climate agreement, the streets of Paris filled with thousands protesting for climate justice, carrying signs reading “Change the System, Not the Climate.” Protesters decried the Paris agreement for failing to address how climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable people and communities, especially those who contribute the least to greenhouse gas production. Those people who face rising sea levels, drought, severe storms and other manifestations of climate change may migrate or be displaced from their home communities unless they are able to adapt. In this session of Frontiers, we will examine what we know about how climate change will affect human settlement and migration patterns, the human rights implications and the ways the global community could better integrate climate justice into mitigation and adaptation efforts.

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    March 9 – How can infrastructure support sustainable urban living?

    Anu Ramaswami, Institute on the Environment Fellow and Charles M. Denny Jr. Chair of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    With two-thirds of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, how do we develop urban infrastructure to advance environmental sustainability, health and livability? In this talk, we’ll take a holistic look at all our urban infrastructure sectors, including the supply of energy, water, food, building materials, transportation, sanitation and waste management, and public spaces in cities. We’ll explore new ways to address the complexity of interactions of these infrastructure sectors with each other, and with people and the environment, to shape environmental sustainability, health and livability, using examples of innovative infrastructure design and policy solutions emerging in cities.

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    March 23 – Are the days of regulating water quality numbered?

    John Linc Stine, Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

    In the 40 years since the passage of the Clean Water Act, the water protection scene has changed dramatically. Today sewers, industrial discharges, stormwater and feedlots are responsible for only a small fraction of water quality impacts. Even so, the job of protecting our water is far from finished. Governor Mark Dayton has observed that, while individuals own the land, water belongs to all of us. In this session, we will examine the sources that are driving water quality degradation and explore how policy leaders can sustain efforts to restore and protect clean water in “Are the days of regulating water quality numbered?”

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    March 30 – How can Minnesota improve on the water conservation status quo?

    Anna Henderson, Energy and Environment Policy Planning Director; and Erik Cedarleaf Dahl, Rulemaking Planning Director, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board

    Minnesota is home to more than 10,000 lakes, 100,000 miles of rivers and streams, and abundant groundwater resources. Unfortunately, many of these waters are not swimmable, fishable or drinkable. Minnesotans have made investments to protect and restore our waterways by voting for a sales tax increase and enacting a law that requires vegetation buffers on more than 100,000 acres of land adjacent to water. However, as a headwater state for three major waterways, we also recognize that in too many places our investments only maintain the status quo. The state’s Clean Water Roadmap aims to increase the percentage of lakes with good water quality by 8 percent over the next 20 years. While more research is needed, we know enough about actions that can be taken now to protect and restore Minnesota’s waters. In this talk, we’ll explore how to encourage landowners to choose to protect water quality without introducing more regulations, and discuss the role of the private sector, which in Minnesota represents an enormous brain trust of global water technology companies.

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    April 6 – Is the current university funding model sustainable?

    Lewis Gilbert, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, Institute on the Environment

    The funding model for university research has drastically changed since the 1980s. Private sector investment in fundamental research has all but evaporated and federal funding across disciplines has been flat at best. In the current landscape, universities can no longer significantly grow their own research enterprise without either identifying new sources of funding or increasing their market share of federal funds. This set of circumstances requires that we develop new models for how we fund research at the university scale, that we diversify our sources of funding, and that we develop processes for articulating and prioritizing research challenges. In this Frontiers talk, we’ll provide some brief sketches of what such innovations may look like.

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    April 13 – Can new GMO crops help grow sustainable agriculture?

    Nicholas Jordan, Institute on the Environment Fellow and Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

    Humanity faces truly grand challenges in sustaining and expanding supplies of food, water and energy. To meet these challenges, genetic improvements in a wide range of crops are essential. Emerging technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 and other forms of genome editing may greatly facilitate such improvements. At the same time, they may compromise certain values or have undesirable effects on environment and health. In this Frontiers presentation, we will outline a new system for robust and expansive exploration of the merits and demerits of using these technologies in crop breeding and present a case study of the system in action.

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    April 20 – Can we change people’s minds on climate?

    Katharine Hayhoe. Director of Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and Founder and CEO of ATMOS Research

    Hayhoe’s research focuses on establishing a scientific basis for assessing the regional to local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment. She’s frequently quoted by national and international media and was featured in the documentary series Years of Living Dangerously.

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    April 27 – How can nature and design improve our mental health?

    Lacy Shelby, Principal Urban Designer, City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development; Jean Larson, Center for Spirituality and Healing and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum; and Tim Griffin, Urban Design Director, Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation

    In many developed countries such as the U.S., mental illness affects a larger proportion of the population than any other group of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Using approaches ranging from surveys and nature-immersion experiments to brain scans, scientists are uncovering evidence that suggests exposure to nature improves our mental health and well-being. Informed by this research, pioneering public health professionals, urban planners and designers have been working across disciplines and sectors to apply this research in the design of our cities and public spaces. In this session of Frontiers, an expert panel will discuss cutting-edge science and practice that explores how nature and design can improve our mental health, bringing us closer to answering the grand challenge of fostering human well-being, advance human health outcomes and develop sustainable cities.

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    September 30 — Should we eat meat?

    Todd Reubold, Director of Communications, Institute on the Environment, and Director, Ensia; David Tilman, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor in the College of Biological Sciences; Tracey Deutsch, Professor, College of Liberal Arts; and Katie Kasner, RD, LD, Nutritionist/Health Coach Boynton Health Service

    Meat production and consumption have been blamed for everything from deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution and disease transmission. Yet environmental groups and individuals who will gladly admonish you to switch your light bulbs, buy green power and drive less to save the planet, are remarkably tight-lipped when it comes to talking about what to eat. And, ironically, as we’re hearing more about the downsides of meat, carnivores have dug in their heels, promulgating protein-rich paleo diets and patronizing upscale charcuteries. This panel discussion will delve into the science, nutrition, history and future of meat production and consumption. We’ll explore questions such as: What is the impact of global meat production on the environment? What can past historical trends regarding meat consumption teach us about the future? What are the pros and cons of consuming animal products? Why do some people forgo meat? And why do others refuse to? What, if anything, is the “right” thing to do, and why?

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    October 7 –– Why do we need community solar?

    Kathryn Milun, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor, University of Minnesota Duluth College of Liberal Arts

    We have recently seen solar energy become competitive with natural gas for electricity production in the U.S. This places us at a tipping point for solar to transform the U.S. energy landscape over the next few years. What will this solar landscape look like? Is our current system of large-scale utilities sufficient to take advantage of this window of opportunity to make solar a key tool in the transition to renewable energy production? What does community solar add to this transition? Who defines what community solar is and for what purposes? Milun will explore these questions and the role of community solar in the big picture of solar energy production, providing examples from her fieldwork in Arizona and Minnesota as founder and director of the Solar Commons, a community solar project that won a U.S. Green Building Council award.

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    October 14 — How can spatial thinking solve environmental grand challenges?

    Steven Manson, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor in the College of Liberal Arts

    In this talk we will describe how the Institute on the Environment and University of Minnesota are global leaders in spatial scholarship and education for meeting environmental grand challenges. We’ll provide an overview of the fast-increasing importance of spatial thinking across the humanities, policy realms, and social, natural and information sciences. We will discuss spatial research, teaching and service on campus, and showcase exciting projects that use spatial data, analysis, visualization and thinking to address environmental grand challenges. We will draw on work from almost every college on campus, with special emphasis on work at IonE.

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    October 21 — Can we save biodiversity from climate change?

    Jessica Hellmann, Director, Institute on the Environment, and Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence, College of Biological Sciences

    Conservation biology is charged with deploying science to stem the tide of biodiversity loss. It’s a relatively young field, yet it has many established paradigms and protocols for dealing with problems such as habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, and over-harvesting. A new threat is building steam, however: climate change. Even if global carbon emissions slow and eventually decline, climate change is expected to be a dominant force molding species distributions and ecosystem composition in the coming decades. With its global scope and ubiquitous effects, climate change is unlike many other environmental factors, and some of our most prized conservation strategies might not be up to the task. This Frontiers talk will explore some of the unique features of climate change from the perspective of biodiversity conservation — features that invite us to consider new conservation tools that must be evaluated scientifically as well as economically and ethically. As a bonus, the talk will expand from a biodiversity focus to broader questions about the goals and purpose of the IonE from the perspective of its new director.

    Best Buy Theater, 4th Floor, Northrop, Minneapolis

    Special thanks to our co-sponsors for this event, Northrop and the Institute for Advanced Study.

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    October 28 — How should we “green” our most vulnerable communities?

    Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project; Kate Derickson, Professor, College of Liberal Arts; Jenna Fletcher, Program Director, Trust for Public Land; Karen Monahan, Senior Organizer, Minnesota North Star Chapter, Sierra Club; and Kenya McKnight Ahad, Met Council Transportation Advisory Board

    The environmental justice movement has drawn attention to the impacts of pollution and dis-amenities (factories, roads) on low income and traditionally marginalized populations in urban areas. These communities face a triple whammy of risks: the people who live there are more vulnerable, they live in lower quality housing, and they are located in areas with greater environmental risks and greater exposure to pollution. For people in these communities, the environment may seem like a liability rather than an asset. Urban streams are sometimes polluted or filled with garbage and crime can cause parks to be perceived as places to avoid rather than recreational amenities. At the same time, trees provide shade reducing energy costs and gardens, parks and green spaces offer cultural and aesthetic value. In this panel, we will explore the evidence for links between urban nature and the health and well-being of urban residents — both positive and negative — and what this means for the greening of neighborhoods in the Twin Cities. We will also hear from community leaders about successes and challenges associated with infrastructure costs, green housing, urban redevelopment and the equitable distribution of nature in the city.

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    November 4 — Can hybrid cooperation make Arctic offshore drilling safer?

    Hari Osofsky, IonE Resident Fellow, Faculty Director of the Energy Transition Lab and Professor in the Law School

    The rapid pace of Arctic melting has made the region’s massive oil and gas resources increasingly accessible. The 2015 controversy over the Obama Administration’s approval of Shell Oil’s drilling in the Chukchi Sea – followed by the company’s decision to pull out and the Obama Administration’s cancellation of lease sales – highlighted the need for clear and effective regulation of Arctic drilling. And the Shell Oil venture was just one among several planned and potential Arctic offshore drilling projects in the five coastal Arctic nations’ waters. This talk will explore how “hybrid cooperation” can serve as a critical tool for addressing these regulatory and governance challenges. In this form of cooperation, diverse public and private stakeholders at multiple governmental levels coordinate their efforts by creating institutions or integrating each other’s standards in agreements and regulations. We will draw from original case studies to assess the possibilities for hybrid cooperation to make Arctic drilling safer and to create more cohesive governance, and argue that this convergence of standards and stakeholders, while piecemeal, helps to develop norms for how to operate in the Arctic.

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    November 11 — When does conservation mean killing?

    Julia Ponder, Executive Director, Raptor Center and Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine

    Invasive species are a global issue with direct impacts on biodiversity. Protecting biodiversity through conservation can be an inexact science and a dirty proposition in a race against time — a high stakes contest to save species, protect populations and preserve biodiversity. With these high stakes come ethical questions. This presentation will explore: When is it right to kill one species to protect another? Do the ends justify the means? What is an acceptable level of knowledge for taking action in a world of data gaps and limited resources? What actions are justified in the name of conservation and protection of biodiversity? Who picks the winners and the losers?

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    November 18 — Are robots a boon or a bust in scientific research?

    Volkan Isler, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor, College of Science and Engineering; and Mark Ditmer, Postdoctoral Researcher, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

    Robots are increasingly being put to scientific purposes. Autonomous aerial, ground and surface vehicles are used to assess fertilizer levels in cornfields and yield estimates for apple orchards. They are also being used in a variety of wildlife management and conservation situations, such as monitoring invasive fish and tracking free-roaming wildlife. A recent study, however, found bears to have an adverse reaction to drones in their environment. In this presentation, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this evolving technology.

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    December 2 — Does competition promote planet-saving innovation?

    Alfred Marcus, Professor, Edson Spencer Endowed Chair in Strategy and Technological Leadership, Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, Carlson School of Management, and Author, Innovations in Sustainability: Food and Fuel

    Can competition between companies encourage innovations in sustainability that have the potential to solve some of the world’s grand challenges? Using a series of case studies from his recent book, Innovations in Sustainability, Marcus will examine the progress, obstacles, competition and evolution of sustainable innovations in such companies as Tesla, General Motors, Toyota, General Mills, Kellogg, Whole Foods and Walmart, reflecting on lessons learned and shedding light on the challenges that lie ahead.

    IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul

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    December 9 — Can energy use data reduce electricity costs and environmental impacts?

    Alexandra Klass, IonE Resident Fellow and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Law School; and Elizabeth Wilson, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    As state and local governments and electricity users attempt to improve the efficiency of their buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and realize the promises of improved demand-side management of energy resources, the need for electricity and other energy-related data becomes ever more pressing. Yet current law allows companies to keep a significant amount of energy use data confidential. In this talk we will draw lessons from the more sophisticated legal frameworks governing health care, education and environmental emissions data that balance public policy needs for data evaluation with privacy interests. A review of the law in these fields shows that the privacy and confidentiality interests in energy consumption data may be overstated and, in any event, can be adequately addressed in most instances by aggregating the data, using historic rather than current data, or developing contracts and other agreements to ensure security where access to individualized data is needed.

    Humphrey Forum, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Minneapolis

    February 11 — How can individual cities make a global impact on climate change?

    Simon Sharpe, Head of Climate Risk, UK Foreign Office; Martin Bigg, Professor, University of West England and Former Chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership; and Gayle Prest, Sustainability Manager, City of Minneapolis

    Tackling climate change is a global effort, requiring action on the local level. Communities around the world are taking charge by implementing sustainability measures that can add up to global impact. For example, light rail and other public transportation modes are expanding in the Twin Cities. Bristol, England, which was recently named a “European Green Capitol,” is piloting a hybrid bus program. In this Frontiers talk, Simon Sharpe, head of climate risk for the U.K. Foreign Office; Martin Bigg, a professor at the University of West England and the former chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership; and Gayle Prest, sustainability manager for the City of Minneapolis, will present local and global perspectives on addressing our warming planet. Our British guests are in town as part of the Pop-up British Consulate in Minneapolis.

    Watch video.

    February 18 — How can art and story heal the disconnect between modern humans and the environment?

    Jonee Kulman Brigham, IonE Resident Fellow, Sustainable Design Program Faculty Member in the College of Design and Visiting Scholar in the College of Education and Human Development

    The conveniences of technology can be a barrier to experiencing our interdependence with natural systems. We no longer fetch water from a stream — it comes through our tap as an industrial commodity. Jonee Kulman Brigham, an IonE resident fellow, architect and artist, will use examples of art-led environmental education projects to address questions such as: Why should we care about experiencing our connection with the natural environment? Is spending time in nature enough to heal the divide? Can technology and human-engineered infrastructure be used as a bridge to nature — to make our everyday lives feel integrated within larger earth systems? Brigham will share inspiration from her current project with an environmental charter high school called “River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi,” which shows youth how they are interconnected with their local environment.

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    February 25 — What do sustainability and happiness have in common?

    Beth Mercer-Taylor, Sustainability Education Coordinator, Institute on the Environment; Mallory Thomas, College of Biological Sciences; Stephanie Claybrook, College of Liberal Arts

    Scandinavia — and Denmark in particular — outranks countries around the world in key measures of both happiness and sustainability. Modern Denmark is known as a collaborative society with a strong social safety net and comparatively even wealth distribution. A team of U of M students will unveil Denmark’s secret through their own eyes with photos and stories from time spent in the country. Beth Mercer Taylor, Sustainability Education coordinator; Mallory Thomas, ecology, an evolution and behavior student in the College of Biological Sciences; and Stephanie Claybrook, an art student in the College of Liberal Arts, will talk about how social responsibility, participation and interdependence operate in a Scandinavian context and underlie the sustainability mindset and the remarkable level of happiness among Danish people.

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    March 4 — Is drawing down aquifers really so bad?

    Kate Brauman, Lead Scientist, Institute on the Environment Global Water Initiative; Steve Polasky, IonE Resident Fellow, Natural Capital Project Lead, and Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Sherry Enzler, General Counsel, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; and Perry M. Jones, Hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey

    Groundwater is a crucial resource in Minnesota and around the world. You might drink groundwater every day — close to 70 percent of Minnesotans do. And you’re probably eating groundwater as well — groundwater supplies about 40 percent of irrigated agriculture worldwide. But what’s the right way to manage this resource? Dropping water tables in India have been front page news. So has the discovery of giant groundwater reserves in Africa. Kate Brauman, lead scientist for IonE’s Global Water Initiative; Steve Polasky, project lead for the IonE’s Natural Capital Project and IonE resident fellow; Sherry Enzler, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources general counsel; and Perry M. Jones, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist, will discuss the implications — good and bad — of using, and sometimes using up, the water beneath our feet.

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    March 11 — Government action on the environment: what does “success” look like?

    Eric Lind, Postdoctoral Associate, College of Biological Sciences; Julia Frost Nerbonne, Executive Director, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light; Kate Knuth, Boreas Leadership Program director and former Minnesota State Representative; Jessica Tritsch, Senior Organizing Representative, Sierra Club Beyond Coal to Clean Energy Campaign

    There are many pathways to sustainability but few overall strategies that do not include some action by local, state and national governments. Yet whether reading daily news from D.C. or seeing the failures of large meetings like the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, government is seen at best as an obstacle and at worst as a meaningless actor. However, given that government involvement is necessary to solve problems like global climate change, are there success stories to share? Eric Lind, postdoctoral associate in the College of Biological Sciences; Julia Frost Nerbonne, executive director of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light; Kate Knuth, Boreas Leadership Program director and former Minnesota State Representative; and Jessica Tritsch, senior organizing representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal to Clean Energy Campaign, examine case studies of successful government action from multiple perspectives inside and outside government, that can serve as models for future efforts.

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    March 25 — How do we make advanced heat recovery in buildings commonplace?

    Patrick Hamilton, IonE Resident Fellow and Director of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Global Change Initiatives; Scott Getty, Energy Project Manager, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services; Katie Gulley, Regional Program Manager, BlueGreen Alliance; Peter M. Klein, Vice President of Finance, Saint Paul Port Authority

    Large commercial, industrial and institutional buildings consume a lot of electricity which degrades into enormous amounts of heat. The standard approach to managing this heat is to treat it as waste and expel it from buildings instead of using it to perform work. Advanced heat recovery has the potential to deliver a suite of environmental, economic and employment benefits if it was more widely implemented, as demonstrated by the Science Museum of Minnesota’s retrofit case study. Patrick Hamilton, IonE resident fellow and director of the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Global Change Initiatives; Scott Getty, energy project manager for Metropolitan Council Environmental Services; Katie Gulley, regional program manager of BlueGreen Alliance; and Peter M. Klein, vice president of finance for the Saint Paul Port Authority, will evaluate the hurdles and tipping points to the more rapid adoption of advanced heat recovery.

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    April 1 — Can social media inform the causes and consequences of environmental change?

    Spencer Wood, Natural Capital Project Senior Scientist, Stanford University; Brent Hecht, Assistant Professor, U of M College of Science and Engineering

    Managing complex social-ecological systems requires information about how humans are affecting the environment and how environmental changes affect human wellbeing. Gathering data on the interactions between people and the environment across space and time is challenging and resource intensive; the years required for data collection and model development cannot often be reconciled with the sense of urgency to inform policy and management decisions. Scientists are starting to explore the potential of “big data” sources, including data from geo-located social media, to address this challenge. Spencer Wood, a senior scientist with the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, and Brent Hecht, a College of Science and Engineering assistant professor, will describe how using several types of data from social media such as Twitter and Flickr can help researchers understand how people value and benefit from ecosystems. They will examine the potential of social media to improve our understanding of the feedbacks between human behavior and their values and environmental change.

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    April 8 — Is global wildlife trade a domestic One Health risk?

    Dominic Travis, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Shaun Kennedy, Director, Food Systems Institute and Adjunct Professor, CVM

    Most conversations about wildlife trade focus on conservation and biodiversity, illegal trafficking and the economic burdens of mitigating or eradicating invasive species. But can wildlife trade affect disease transmission to humans, domestic animals and local wildlife? Dominic Travis, IonE resident fellow and associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Shaun Kennedy, director of the Food Systems Institute and an adjunct professor in CVM, will discuss a University of Minnesota program that is assessing the pathways by which the trade in wildlife could introduce deadly diseases such as the Ebola virus into the US as well as the challenges of developing a metric for measuring the effects of trade on the animals themselves.

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    April 15 — How do we manage emerging pandemic threats at home and abroad?

    Cheryl Robertson, Associate Professor, School of Nursing; Katey Pelican, Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine; Patsy Stinchfield, Director of Infection Prevention and Control, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

    The Ebola crisis once again focused attention on the challenges of containing an epidemic in today’s world. Cheryl Robertson, a School of Nursing associate professor; Katey Pelican, a College of Veterinary Medicine associate professor and IonE resident fellow; and Patsy Stinchfield, director of infection prevention and control for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, will discuss the realities on the front lines in hospital settings in Liberia and Minnesota as well as how to develop capacity to manage the convergence of human, animal and environmental health.

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    April 22 — How can we better anticipate adverse environmental impacts?

    Bill Arnold, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor, College of Science and Engineering; Matt Simcik, Associate Professor, School of Public Health; Ronald Hadsall, Professor, College of Pharmacy

    Many anthropogenic actions have unanticipated consequences. This is especially true of chemical pollution resulting from products we use every day. Recent examples include triclosan — a chemical used in hand sanitizers — forming dioxins in Minnesota lakes; antibiotics’ potential for harboring antibiotic-resistant genes in the environment; algal toxins that form from an overload of nutrients into natural systems. Bill Arnold, IonE resident fellow and professor in the College of Science and Engineering; Matt Simcik, associate professor in the School of Public Health; and Ronald Hadsall, professor in the College of Pharmacy, will discuss methods to assess potential risks of chemicals and how chemical structure may indicate important environmental fate processes and reaction products.

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    April 29 — Can conservation be motivated by real-time visual feedback?

    John Petersen, Director, Environmental Studies Program, Oberlin College

    A new class of technologies — made possible by developments in hardware, software and networking and informed by social psychology — is enabling the emergence of novel forms of feedback on resource consumption and environmental quality. “Sociotechnical” feedback or “Ecofeedback,” delivered at multiple scales and through multiple modes, has the potential to reconnect humans to nature, stimulate systems thinking, and motivate behaviors that are more attuned to ecological constraints and opportunities. For example, in a pilot implementation of “Environmental Dashboard” in Oberlin, technology has been installed to monitor electricity and water flows through individual buildings and throughout the city. This real-time information is translated into compelling and easily interpretable animations and combined with images and words drawn from community members. John Petersen, environmental studies program director at Oberlin College, will explore the early research indicating that this type of technology enhances systems thinking skills and information retention in the classroom.

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    May 6 — Do volunteer supply chain sustainability programs really work?

    Gary Paoli, Director, Research and Program Development, Daemeter Consulting

    Raw materials used in products on today’s supermarket shelves are often sourced from tropical locales with major social and environmental problems such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and child labor. Companies are under immense pressure to exclude these ‘unsustainable’ products from their supply chains. To ensure sustainability, companies are buying certified products and partaking in public commitments such as zero-deforestation pledges. Gary Paoli,  consulting director of research and program development at Daemeter, will examine the value of voluntary supply chain approaches for reducing the negative environmental impacts of tropical commodity production. He will address questions such as: What are the barriers to implementing supply chain initiatives? How do we measure the impact of voluntary approaches? What improvements are needed to ensure the success of supply chain governance?

    Watch Video.

    September 24 — Can We Build a More Resilient Food Distribution System?

    Matteo Convertino, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor, School of Public Health; and Craig Hedberg, Professor, School of Public Health

    Despite being a global concern, food safety is addressed in a systematic way only in some developed countries. We need an integrated ‘”system science” approach to managing the global food system that considers multiple needs and constraints, as well as an efficient system for transporting food and rapidly detecting food contamination and adulterations. Matteo Convertino and Craig Hedberg will describe a project that’s using computer modeling to predict and deal with food-borne disease outbreaks worldwide based on food supply chain structures and epidemiological data.

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    October 1 — How can the University of Minnesota assist the energy transition?

    Hari Osofsky, IonE Resident Fellow, Law School Professor and Energy Transition Lab Faculty Director; and Ellen Anderson, Energy Transition Lab Executive Director

    Our energy system is transitioning in ways that create critical challenges. Evolving approaches to sources of energy, electricity and transportation, energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, climate change, and environmental and energy justice affect every community and region and every sector of the economy. We need to remove barriers to needed change at local, state, regional, national, and international levels, and identify a holistic strategy for moving forward. Energy Transition Lab faculty director, IonE resident fellow, and Law School professor Hari Osofsky, and Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson see Minnesota and beyond as a living laboratory for finding innovative solutions. They will explore how the lab will collaborate with business, government, NGO, community leaders, and university-based experts to make progress on these challenges.

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    October 8 — How Might the Twin Cities Help Catalyze Needed Global Urban Innovations?

    Patrick Hamilton, IonE Resident Fellow and Director, Science Museum of Minnesota’s Global Change Initiatives; Anne Hunt, Environmental Policy Director, City of Saint Paul; Peter Frosch, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Greater MSP; and Mike Greco, Lecturer, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    By 2050, more than 6 billion people will live in cities. The quality of life in these cities of the future — and, by extension, our planet — is being shaped by decisions we make today. Patrick Hamilton will engage panelists Anne Hunt, Peter Frosch, and Mike Greco in a lively discussion of how the Twin Cities — one of the healthiest, wealthiest, best educated, and most innovative, creative and connected urban centers in the world — might use its considerable academic, nonprofit and business acumen to shape initiatives that directly benefit its residents while also helping to advance creative urbanism everywhere.

    View the recording.

    October 15 — Should Society Put a Price Tag on Nature?

    Steve Polasky, Ione Resident Fellow; Project Lead, Natural Capital Project; and Professor, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

    Natural environments such as grasslands, forests and wetlands provide ecosystem services —benefits such as clean air and water and eye-pleasing landscapes. We value these amenities in the abstract, yet rarely figure them into a budget or balance sheet when developing a shopping mall or planting a cornfield. Steve Polasky will discuss whether society could or should place a monetary value on nature — and if so, how to incorporate that value into decisions about resource management, conservation and environmental regulation.

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    October 22 — What Does a Sustainable Clean Water Future for Minnesota Look Like?

    Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project; Deb Swackhamer, Professor, Science Technology & Environmental Policy and Environmental Health Sciences; and John Linc Stine, Commissioner, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

    Minnesota has a reputation as a land of abundant, high-quality lakes and rivers. But is our water clean enough? Addressing surface water quality problems is expensive and not without trade-offs, such as lost industry, agricultural production and development. Bonnie Keeler, Deb Swackhamer and John Linc Stine will share their visions of a sustainable clean water future for Minnesota.

    View the recording.

    October 29 — What Is the Role of the Environment in This Year’s Minnesota Elections?

    David Gillette, Special Correspondent, Twin Cities Public Television; Amy Koch, Small Business Owner and Former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader; and Mark Andrew, President, Greenmark

    With all the statewide constitutional offices up for grabs — plus a federal senate seat — it’s a busy election year in Minnesota. Surveys show that while people care about the environment, they often don’t make it the top issue when voting. How important are environmental issues in this fall’s elections? How are environmental issues being framed? What impact might the election have on environmental policy in the state? And what can University of Minnesota faculty, staff and students do to help voters understand what’s at stake?

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    November 5 —  How Can We Make the Most of Agriculture’s 21st Century Transformation?

    Nicholas Jordan, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Carissa Schively Slotterback, Associate Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    Agriculture is in the midst of a revolutionary transformation. Output is rapidly shifting from a few predominant crops and commodities to a wide array of new foods, feeds, bioproducts and biofuels. At the same time, emphasis is shifting from minimizing adverse impacts to capitalizing on the potential of agriculture to improve soil, water, biodiversity and climate. Nicholas Jordan and Carissa Schively Slotterback will describe emerging opportunities and explore how one initiative in southern Minnesota is bringing science, social science and humanities together to develop and test a process for helping rural communities make the most of the economic and environmental benefits of the new bioeconomy as it develops around them.

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    November 12 — How Can We Help Children Connect to the Natural World?

    Cathy Jordan, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Extension and associate professor of pediatrics, Medical School

    These days, kids spend more time staring at a computer monitor or playing with electronic games than they do interacting with nature. Cathy Jordan will address questions such as: What effect does this have on children’s well-being and, ultimately, the well-being of our planet? What are the benefits of connecting children to nature? What can urban planners, landscape architects, educators and parents do to foster engagement between children and the natural world?

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    November 19 — Environmentalists and Corporations Make Strange Bedfellows . . . Or Do They?

    Steve Polasky, IonE Resident Fellow, Natural Capital Project Lead Scientist and Professor, College Of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Amy Skoczlas Cole, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Pentair; J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy; Chris P. Lambe, Managing Director, Agriculture and Food Security Center, The Earth Institute at Columbia University

    When we think of a group of environmentalists fighting to protect fragile habitat, we may imagine an angry mob outside the gates of a manufacturer, chanting and waving signs. Or circulating an online petition. Or maybe boycotting a product. But the times, they are a-changin.’ Modern-day environmentalists are taking seats in boardrooms and influencing business practices on a global scale. Steve Polasky and panelists will share insights, challenges and successes in this lively conversation about these 21st century partnerships.

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    January 29 — Science Communication: Teach, Entertain or Inspire?

    Alex Reich, Peter Reich, Henry Reich: Creators of MinuteEarth

    Science affects pretty much every aspect of our lives, so it’s important that people care about science and know about science. Henry, Alex and Peter Reich are trying to work on both fronts with MinuteEarth, a YouTube channel that aims to provide an energetic and entertaining view of geology, ecology, climate science and more. Come hear how and why they started and continue to make MinuteEarth, and join in a discussion about the purpose and role of science communication in general.
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    February 5 — Intelligent Nanotechnology for Environmental Monitoring

    Jian-Ping Wang, IonE Resident Fellow and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, College of Science & Engineering

    Detecting pathogens in water and heavy metals in waste and fuels is a tricky business. Samples are often too small or diluted. And the presence of particulate and organic matter can make it difficult to separate out the targeted element. In this Frontiers talk, professor Wang will report on his research and the application of spintronic and nano magnetic technologies in detecting pathogens and heavy metals, such as mercury, in contaminated or potentially contaminated environmental sites.
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    February 12 — What IS the Green Economy? And How Do We Get One?

    Steve Polasky, IonE Resident Fellow; Regents Professor of Applied Economics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Project Lead, Natural Capital Project

    Unregulated “brown” market economies are very good at providing commodities like corn and computers but very bad at providing clean air and water, and protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. The fundamental problem with the current economy is that there are powerful incentives to produce commodities but no similar set of incentives to produce green goods. Fixing this asymmetry requires rethinking the role of markets, business, consumers, government and civic society. Join us for a look at various approaches — from government regulation to corporate environmentalism to consumer action — that can take us closer to the goal of a green economy.
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    February 19 — Where There’s Smoke…. Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements in Developing Countries

    Ellison Carter, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute on the Environment

    Household air pollution from cooking and heating with wood and coal impacts nearly half the world’s population and is the leading environmental health risk factor. Despite the compelling need for household energy interventions that reduce HAP, the majority of household energy intervention programs have been unsuccessful in reducing air pollution exposures at a population level due to a combination of cost, technology development and behavioral factors. Carter will discuss her current work developing clean energy intervention technology and air pollution measurement systems to assess the intervention’s efficacy in rural Chinese homes. The project will provide critical new information for large-scale implementation programs that seek to deliver sufficiently clean household air to families and mitigate negative impacts of solid fuel use on climate change.
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    February 26 — Water Stewardship and the Private Sector

    Raj Rajan, RD&E Vice President, Global Sustainability Technical Leader, Ecolab Inc.

    Water is a precious and finite resource. Yet traditional commercial enterprises, with their model of investment and returns, don’t always recognize the difference between price and value. Join us for a conversation about the big changes industrial and institutional sectors will need to make to manage the long-term viability of sustained growth in the context of this constraining resource.
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    March 5 — North of Sixty: Narratives of a Changing World

    Aaron Doering, IonE Resident Fellow and Director, Learning Technologies Media Lab

    Capturing stories from across the globe to educate the public about how a changing environment is affecting real communities has been a dream come true for Doering. He will speak about his latest Arctic expedition and project, entitled “North of Sixty”, as well as Earthducation, which investigates education and sustainability on every continent. Join us to discuss the intersection of education, sustainability and engaged learning! To virtually experience some of Doering’s current projects, go to or follow him on Twitter @chasingseals.
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    March 12 — Global Green Supply Chains: What Matters and What to do About It

    Timothy M. Smith, IonE resident fellow; director, NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise; and associate professor, bioproducts and biosystems engineering

    Traditionally, corporate sustainability efforts have focused on reducing and preventing direct impacts of waste or emissions. However, the majority of climate, water and pollution impacts are the result of complex supply chains strung together to deliver value-added products and services. You may see processed food and meat on supermarket shelves; what you don’t see are the environmental impacts of corn and fertilizer that go into those products. Nearly 95% of CO2 emissions produced by your favorite clothing lines are from purchased power, chemicals, textiles and transportation used before they reach the store. Voting ‘green’ with your pocketbook often means influencing your supplier’s supplier to do the same. Identifying where in product supply chains to exert influence requires unprecedented coordination and collective action. Join us for a look into ongoing supply chain sustainability initiatives coordinated by large NGOs and corporate consortia, and informed by UMN-led research.
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    March 19 — Spring Break, No Frontiers

    March 26 — Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy?

    Doug Cameron, Co-President, First Green Partners

    On one hand, much of today’s methane is produced by hydraulic fracturing, an environmentally controversial process. In addition, low-cost methane has resulted in reduced investment in renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar. On the other hand, the increased use of methane for electricity generation has resulted in the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Although most methane is derived from fossil sources, it can also be generated from renewable resources. Join us as we explore whether methane wears the black or white hat in the green economy.
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    April 2 — Developing World Changers in Graduate Education

    Kate Knuth, Director, Boreas Leadership Program, Institute on the Environment

    We’ve all heard about the many challenges the world faces. How do we develop the people to make solutions happen? The Institute on the Environment’s Boreas Leadership Program works with students across the University of Minnesota to help them develop the skills, networks and ways of working to change the world. You’ll get a full report of what Boreas has been up to and hear more about the opportunities and challenges of developing world changers in graduate education.
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    April 9 — Yellowstone: More Valuable Than Gold

    Mike Clark, Former Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition

    As head of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition during the Clinton years, Clark led a successful decade-long effort to halt a proposed gold mine on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. The mining area has since been reclaimed by the U.S. Forest Service and a vibrant tourist economy remains intact. Clark will talk about how the campaign to stop the mine was organized, the challenges of protecting public lands when mining operations are proposed, and how public lands provide the economic engine for many rural areas adjacent to protected public lands and wilderness areas.
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    April 16 — Global Capital and Disease Hot Spots

    Rob Wallace, Visiting Scholar, Institute for Global Studies

    As a new approach to public health, One Health investigates disease “hot spots” where new pathogens are transmitted from animals to humans. Up to now, One Health has focused on the developing world, from where outbreaks of diseases like avian influenza and Nipah virus geographically originate. But should New York and London be considered among the world’s hottest hot spots? Wallace asserts that such centers of capital fund the land grabbing, deforestation, and agricultural intensification that drive disease outbreaks in the first place.
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    April 23 — Scandinavia: Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility

    Robert Strand, Assistant Professor of Leadership & Sustainability, Copenhagen Business School and Director of Nordic Network for Sustainability

    Business is fundamentally about competition, right? So how does this fit with a sustainability agenda in which cooperation between stakeholders, including the business sector, is sorely needed? Strand will consider a region of the world where business is approached as a fundamentally cooperative endeavor with positive sustainability outcomes. He will also discuss what lessons may be drawn for a U.S. context.
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    April 30 — Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction

    J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy

    The United States is finally on a trajectory to limit and lower greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. What is the role of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in establishing these first-ever limits? How can Minnesota target the deep levels of carbon reduction needed to address climate change (and to meet state climate goals)? Hamilton will discuss emerging opportunities and challenges in federal and state climate action.
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    May 7 — A Watershed Approach to Understanding Urban Eutrophication

    Sarah Hobbie, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences

    Eutrophication — the degradation of water quality from nutrient-rich runoff — continues to impair the capacity for urban waters to provide clean drinking water, habitat to support biodiversity, food, and recreational and aesthetic opportunities. Hobbie and colleagues are taking a watershed approach to understanding the sources of nutrients that are contributing to urban water pollution. In this Frontiers talk, Hobbie will share insights from her research that might point toward novel solutions to urban water quality issues.
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    September 11 – Inside Food: How a Consumer Company Works Toward a Sustainable Food Supply

    Jerry Lynch, Chief Sustainability Officer, General Mills

    Society’s ability to sustainably feed 9 billion people in the next 50 years is shaping up to be a massive, complex undertaking. Hear how one food provider, General Mills, is tackling its part of the challenge.
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    September 18 – Crossing Institutional Silos for Sustainable Solutions

    Randel Hanson, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Minnesota Duluth

    As “anchor institutions” for their surrounding communities, colleges and universities are increasingly looked to for modeling sustainable transformations. Yet teaching sustainability while living unsustainably is a common reality in today’s educational institutions. This talk explores the Sustainable Agriculture Project at the University of Minnesota Duluth, a 10-acre organic university farm that teaches sustainability while growing substantial amounts of vegetables for the UMD Dining Services. In collaborating across institutional domains, we are creating resources for both academics and operations as we take the University itself as an object of study for transformation. And eating great food t’boot!
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    September 25 – The Palm Oil Problem: Tracking Deforestation and Carbon Emissions From a Booming Oil Palm Industry

    Kimberly Carlson, IonE Postdoctoral Research Scholar

    Used in products ranging from granola bars to soap, palm oil is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world. The high-yielding oil palm tree has been vilified as a leading driver of deforestation and carbon emissions, yet until recently, little robust research has confirmed this allegation. New satellite remote sensing analyses document oil palm’s accelerating expansion into Southeast Asia’s tropical forests and peatlands. Carlson will assess the environmental consequences of the rapidly growing oil palm industry, identify gaps in our understanding of how plantation expansion alters ecosystems and explore potential solutions to reconcile palm oil production with conservation.
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    October 2 – Peak Cropland: Saving Room for Nature While Feeding Humanity This Century

    Joe Fargione, Science Director, The Nature Conservancy, North America Region

    Will humanity’s appetite leave any land for nature? With growth in population, meat consumption and biofuel production, demand for crops will increase, threatening the loss of millions of acres of habitat. New research evaluates the potential for global cropland to peak this century, sparing land for uses such as nature conservation. Accelerating the arrival of peak cropland depends on two factors: increasing crop yields through sustainable intensification of agriculture and reducing birth rates through educational and economic opportunities for girls. Investments in these areas, along with sensible biofuels policy, could achieve a peak and decline in cropland this century.
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    October 9 – Energy Transformation

    Ellen Anderson, Former Minnesota State Senator and Senior Energy & Environment Advisor to Gov. Mark Dayton

    This decade is the most transformational era in our energy system since rural electrification. Anderson will discuss the drivers of change in our energy world. Most importantly, she’ll consider whether the change is for the better. What does it mean for Minnesota? And why does one Midwestern state matter in this energy transformation?
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    October 16 – Aggregating an Agroecosystem: Novel Approaches to Teaching and Learning

    Paul Porter, Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

    Across the planet, humans have transformed the landscape in an effort to feed, fuel and shelter themselves. Even the most exotic travel turns up an agroecosystem, which has at its core the human activity of agriculture. With the Earth currently supporting over 7 billion people, the scale and boundaries of agroecosystems are daunting. Porter is an entrepreneurial teacher who will discuss innovative ways of experiencing and teaching agroecosystems, both in the classroom and on the ground.
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    October 17 (Thursday) – The Satellite Record of Climate; Observations, Not Beliefs!

    Compton Tucker, Scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

    Satellite data of many types have led to an unprecedented knowledge of the Earth’s coupled land-ocean-atmosphere climate system the past 40 years. Measurements of gravity fields, atmospheric temperatures, clouds, land & ocean photosynthesis, surface temperatures, sea level, surface topography, and the Sun’s irradiance are all possible with Earth-orbiting satellites. These observations through time, coupled with non-satellite geophysical monitoring, show unequivocal evidence for human-caused global warming.
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    October 23 – The Land Grant University and Rural Resilience: A Minnesota Story

    Kathryn Draeger, Statewide Director of the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Adjunct Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

    The University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships were formed in the late 1990s to build community-University partnerships to test and apply sustainability principles. In 2008 statewide director Kathy Draeger relocated her family to Big Stone County to practice what she preached. What she has seen is a rekindling of farm-based entrepreneurial ventures, renewable energy production, and growing emphasis on “buy local.” Draeger will discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the state’s local economies. A limited number of U of M Regional Sustainable Development Partnership books (Northern Winter Greenhouse Manual and From the Farm to Table) will be handed out.
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    October 30 – The Importance of Food Literacy

    Chris Lambe, Director of Social Responsibility, The Mosaic Company

    How much do you know about your food system? Given that fact that our global food supply will have to increase 70 percent in the next 40 years; given the amount of information and disinformation about our food system circulating on the Internet; and given the fact that most of us enjoy eating, isn’t it time to uncover the facts, understand the choices we will have to make and start a real dialog about food? Lambe will explore some of the trade-offs we will have to consider, including one of the hottest debates in food: mineral fertilizer versus organic fertilizer.
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    November 6 – Divestment: A Call to Arms vs. Sustainable Investing: A Catalyst for Global Change

    Matthew Fitzmaurice, Co-Founder & Managing Member at AWJ Capital Partners LLC

    The movement to divest of fossil fuel–related companies has garnered a lot of attention recently. Some view it as a solution to climate change and its attendant issues. Fitzmaurice will discuss what has and can be achieved through divestment. He also will articulate why the movement needs to quickly move beyond divestment to additionally articulate “sustainable investment” goals. Fitzmaurice brings a valuable perspective to this important global discourse because he understands both the movement’s views and also the “institutional” investment community’s views. He hopes this new view might bridge the gap and allow results to be achieved more quickly.
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    November 13 – Redefining Agricultural Productivity: From Stuff Produced to People Fed

    Emily Cassidy, IonE Graduate Research Assistant

    Agriculture occupies more of Earth’s surface than any other human activity. What is the purpose of agricultural lands? Although most people might agree that the purpose of agriculture is to feed people, that’s not typically how we define agricultural productivity. Emily Cassidy will present the results of a study she and colleagues recently published redefining agricultural productivity from the conventional “stuff produced per area” (tons per hectare or bushels per acre) to number of people fed. Emily will discuss how small changes in diets can feed more people and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.
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    November 20 – Resonate! How 90 Seconds of Cello Music Is Helping People Connect With Climate Science

    Daniel Crawford, Undergraduate, College of Liberal Arts;
    Scott St. George, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Geography, College of Liberal Arts;
    Todd Reubold, IonE Director of Communications

    Anthropogenic climate change is one of the most challenging problems humanity faces, but public opinion surveys show that many people are skeptical about global warming. In this seminar, Crawford, Scott St. George and Reubold will share their experiences with using music to help climate science reach out to new audiences. Their first collaboration — a music video that reconfigures global temperature data as a cello composition — has been described as “amazing, and eerie” and “an effective tool to show people that our planet is changing.” Join us to learn what global warming sounds like!
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    December 4 – Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges

    Alexandra Klass, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Law, Law School

    This presentation addresses the development of physical and regulatory infrastructures for transporting oil, natural gas and electricity in the U.S. Hydraulic fracturing has allowed oil and natural gas development in parts of the country that were not major producers when pipeline networks were built. Is the regulatory structure put in place decades ago sufficient for the expansions needed today? Likewise, wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources are being developed far from population centers, with the electricity they produce transported through transmission lines. Does it still make sense for states to be responsible for siting and construction of interstate lines?
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    December 11 – Tracking the Wild Ones: Understanding the Consequences of a Changing World on Wildlife Populations

    James Forester, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences

    Across the globe, spatial patterns of land cover and human land use are changing rapidly. Coincident with these changes are shifts in the spatial and temporal patterns of weather and climate. For wildlife species at the edge of their geographic ranges, these changes can be dramatic and potentially limiting. Forester will discuss initial steps to quantify how wildlife populations are responding numerically and behaviorally to these novel combinations of climate, weather and land cover.
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    February 13 – Is Frac[k] a Four-Letter Word?

    Larry Wackett, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor, BioTechnology Institute

    The ability to frack, or hydraulically fracture, deep shale layers has unlocked enormous reserves of oil and gas. Due to its abundance from fracking, natural gas is rapidly replacing coal as the energy source for generating electricity; a complete switch could cut carbon dioxide emissions nearly in half. At the same time, the hydraulic fracturing process uses large quantities of water that become contaminated with chemical additives and shale hydrocarbons. Wackett will discuss the pros and cons of the fracturing process and discuss emerging technologies to deal with water remediation and recycling.
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    February 20 – Watersheds: Clean Water, Wild Places and Healthy Communities

    Tim Bristol, Director, Trout Unlimited Alaska Office

    Bristol will talk about the importance of protecting watersheds and the communities that depend on them. Specifically, he will discuss conservation work in the Tongass National Forest, where revisions to the forest management plan and the roadless rule and other changes have led to the opportunity for significant watershed protection in America’s largest national forest; and in Bristol Bay, where monumental challenges to the watershed and its world-class wild salmon fisheries arise out of a proposed massive copper mine in the headwaters. Both are case studies of how to address watershed threats in real time.
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    February 27 – Sound Ecology: The Environmental Effects of Mechanical Noise and Human Music

    Mark Pedelty, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor of Mass Communication, Media Studies and Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

    Homo sapiens is a loud species. Humans and human technologies have occupied every biome on Earth, contributing a cacophony of sound. From interfering with animal communication to mobilizing environmental movements, anthropogenic sounds are affecting ecosystems in ways we are just beginning to understand. Pedelty will explain how human sound is negatively impacting animal communication, foraging and reproduction and what people are doing to create more sustainable soundscapes. The presentation will also mark the kick off of the Ecomusicology Listening Room, an interactive exhibit on display in Room 350 LES.
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    March 6 – Unleashing Minnesota’s Solar Power Potential

    Michael Noble, Executive Director, Fresh Energy

    Minnesota has a great solar resource. But our state is an underperformer when it comes to translating that resource into solar market growth, largely because (unlike the leading solar states) we have yet to adopt comprehensive solar power policy. Noble will present the results of a one-year federal policy research project to unlock Minnesota’s potential of rooftop photovoltaic solar power. What would a comprehensive solar power policy look like? And what would be the benefits for private-sector investment, business innovation, state and local economies, consumer choice, economic opportunity, and clean energy deployment?
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    March 13 – A Mangrove Lagoon in the Time of Climate Change: The Politics, Science and Culture of an Intertidal Environment in Papua New Guinea

    David Lipset, Professor of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

    Tropical mangrove forests occupy bays, estuaries and river inlets. Their adaptation to waterlogged soil, ecology, reproductive cycles and native fauna have been studied by biologists. Their regional distribution has been thoroughly mapped. Most recently, they were afforded global value as the United Nations associated them with climate change mitigation. Lipset will present data from ongoing research in which he brings cosmopolitan views of mangrove environments into dialogue with local views of the Murik Lakes, a mangrove lagoon in the estuary of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea.
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    April 10 – Air Pollution Kills! So What? Air Quality Engineering to Improve Public Health

    Julian Marshall, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, College of Science and Engineering

    Urban air pollution is one of the top 15 causes of death globally, responsible for around 1.7 percent of deaths. How can we reduce its health effects? Marshall will discuss three investigations into that question: (1) Marshall and colleagues have found that air pollution is related to the physical layout of an urban area, raising the question of whether urban planning can help cities meet air quality goals. (2) In developing countries, indoor air can be especially polluted, owing to combustion of solid fuels for heating and cooking. In a rural village in Karnataka, India, Marshall and colleagues have studied whether a higher-efficiency stove improves indoor air pollution, health effectsand climate-relevant emissions. (3) Marshall and colleagues also have explored how shifting from conventional fuels to biofuels impacts air quality and who is exposed to pollution. The goal is to understand whether biofuels are better for human health and the environment than the fossil fuels they displace. A constant theme through these topics is environmental justice: which groups have higher exposures to air pollution, and how exposure correlates with attributes such as race and income.
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    April 17 – Are All Tomatoes Created Equal? Maybe It’s Not Just What We Eat, But How Our Food Gets to the Table That Matters for Health

    Kim Robien, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health

    The emerging field of environmental nutrition has been defined as the intersection between environmental health and nutritional science. Occupational health researchers have been studying how exposures to agricultural chemicals (residual fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones) are associated with disease risk among farmers or rural populations. What is less clear is the degree to which chronic, low-level exposures to agricultural and food processing chemicals through the food and water supply effect the health of the general population. Recent studies suggest that some of these exposures may, in fact, be among the many factors contributing to increasing rates of obesity and chronic disease.
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    April 24 – University–Community Collaboration to Advance Sustainability

    Carissa Schively Slotterback, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    As an increasing number of communities and universities work to advance the priorities of sustainability and resilience, their collaboration can yield wide-ranging benefits. This presentation will highlight the Resilient Communities Project (RCP)—a new and innovative model of education and community engagement intended to build long-term capacity to produce sustainable solutions and resilient institutions. RCP facilitates a yearlong partnership between the University of Minnesota and a Minnesota community, matching University expertise with local projects to produce on-the-ground sustainability outcomes and meaningful practical experience for students. The presentation will explore RCP’s work during its inaugural year and further prospects for making the University more engaged, more interdisciplinary and more strategic in responding to critical challenges in Minnesota communities and beyond.
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    Bonus Monday Talk
    April 29 (Monday) – The Future of Biodiversity

    William F. Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia and Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation, Utrecht University, Netherlands

    How many species exist on Earth? Where do these species live? And what will happen to them in the future? Laurence will explore these and other controversial issues that will ultimately determine the fate of biodiversity on Earth. There is great uncertainty about the number of species alive today, with plausible estimates ranging from 2 million to 50 million species, excluding microbes. New techniques are rapidly improving our ability to identify and catalog species. Species richness and endemism tend to be concentrated in certain locales, many of which are in the tropics and among the most imperiled environments on Earth today. These centers of biodiversity are likely to come under even greater pressures in the coming century, but the magnitude of expected species losses is hotly debated. Despite many uncertainties, it is apparent that we face two great challenges: sustaining Earth’s natural biological wealth and identifying vast numbers of unknown species before they vanish forever.
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    May 1 – Knowledge Systems for Ecosystem Services: Where Does the Cultural Dimension Fit In?

    Laura Musacchio, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, College of Design

    Musacchio is a knowledge broker. In this presentation she will provide her perspective on the opportunities, challenges and limitations facing knowledge systems to enhance the ecosystem services approach, especially in highly modified and intensively used landscapes such as urban, agricultural and industrial areas. The ecosystem services approach is one of the most promising interdisciplinary approaches because it is concerned with scientific discovery as well as professional application. Yet the exchange and translation of knowledge between the two has not reached its zenith because of a major sticking point. The cultural dimension of ecosystem services is very robust in these landscapes—and at times very unwieldy for scientists and professionals alike—because of the high complexity of society-nature interactions. To address this situation, knowledge brokers like Musacchio are emerging as an essential third culture between scientific discovery and professional application to help synthesize, translate, integrate and facilitate the development of knowledge systems for ecosystem services.
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    September 19 – Sustainable Development: “What Would Aristotle Do?”

    John Sheehan, Institute on the Environment

    These are troubled times for sustainable development. This summer’s Rio +20 Summit ended with a resounding thud. We have come to an impasse. Why is it so hard to move forward on sustainable development? Sheehan contends it’s because we have lost the ethical vocabulary needed to do so.

    The ethic of sustainable development requires a re-engagement in “The Great Conversation”—humanity’s timeless struggle with the great ideas of moral philosophy and science. Sheehan will rekindle the conversation that started with Aristotle and continues today in the writings of proponents of sustainable development such as Garrett Hardin, Stephen Schneider, Amartya Sen and E.O. Wilson. We are at an impasse. This, according to Aristotle, is an opportunity, “for the resolution of an impasse is a discovery.”

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    September 26 – The Big Blank Spot on the Map: Exploring Alaska’s Wild Frontier

    Debbie Miller, Alaskan author and naturalist

    Alaska author Debbie S. Miller recently traveled more than 600 miles by canoe and on foot to explore the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the largest tract of public land remaining in America. Her new book, On Arctic Ground, is the first to describe this vast and wild reserve in the northwestern corner of Alaska. Miller will present images and natural sounds that reflect the beauty, history and array of wildlife she discovered on her journey. She will also discuss industrial threats to the area, and how the public can help develop a strong management plan for the reserve, including alternatives that will protect several special areas. Books will be available for purchase following the talk.

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    October 3 – What Do You Do When You Can See It All?

    Paul Morin, Polar Geospatial Center University of Minnesota

    Five orbiting telescopes now collect more than 1 billion square kilometers of images of Earth. Polar scientists are beginning to cope with and use this observational gold mine. It is now possible to count every penguin, map every crevasse and create a geologic map without ever visiting an outcrop. Morin will describe the Polar Geospatial Center’s experience in mapping and monitoring 60 degrees of the Earth’s latitude with fewer than two dozen staff.

    This talk was not recorded.

    October 10 – Design + Community + Sustainability: Accelerating the Transformation

    Virajita Singh, Senior Research Fellow/Adjunct Assistant Professor, Center for Sustainable Building Research, College of Design

    In our era of social networks and global connectedness, a new way is emerging to plan and act sustainably. Using design as the driver, it engages intergenerational citizens from communities in networked partnership with the University and local governmental agencies to take sustainable action. Singh will share examples from current projects in greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities and introduce Design Thinking—a concept that uses design for breakthroughs with systemic problems—as a powerful tool for sustainable transformation of communities.

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    October 17 – From Muscles to Molecules: A Revolution in the Earth System

    Lewis Gilbert, Institute on the Environment

    Imagine what Earth looks like from beyond our planet’s boundaries. Imagine that you could have watched the evolution of our whole planet over the past 1,000 years or so from a distance sufficient to see the planet as a whole. This framework would extend our current perspective by embedding earthly activities in the context of at least the solar system. From this perspective, individual intentionality would disappear, and the outcomes of collective human activities would become central. It would be like the difference between watching the ant colony and watching individual ants. By zooming out, we could observe how a single species came to dominate many aspects of the planetary system and how the carbon dioxide content of Earth’s atmosphere recently started rising rapidly.

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    October 24 – Climate Change in Cities: Adaptation, Mitigation and Innovation

    Patrick Hamilton, Director, Global Change Initiatives, Science Museum of Minnesota

    Cities are experiencing more, and more intense, extreme weather associated with global climate change. They need to begin adapting, but also need to remain incubators of climate change mitigation innovations. Individual cities can innovate to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but these efforts will not shield them from climate change and will always be a tiny piece of total global emissions unless their efforts are widely emulated. Yet cities will intimately experience the expensive, local manifestations of global climate change and will be, in a sense, first responders. What kinds of climate change might cities need to cope with? Can some adaptation and mitigation complement one another? How do we keep the innovation engines of cities operating under conditions of growing climate stress?

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    October 31 – Toward Active Transport in Minnesota: Insights & Ideas From a Statewide Survey

    Ingrid Schneider, Professor, Department of Forest Resources and Director, University of Minnesota Tourism Center

    Active transport incorporates physical activity into the daily routine and offers numerous health and environmental benefits. While biking for recreation is extremely common, biking for transportation is much less so. Understanding differences in participation between recreational and commuter cycling provides a foundation to increase commuter cycling and boost public and environmental health. Schneider will explore differences in perceived bike safety and transportation attributes among three types of commuters, and suggest ways to increase and promote bicycle commuting.

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    November 7 – City Slicker Plants: Consequences of Urbanization for Plant Diversity

    Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Associate Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior

    Urban areas harbor more plant species than rural areas. However, urban plants in the Twin Cities come from fewer plant lineages than their country cousins. They have a narrower, more homogenized genetic base and are less likely to thrive under climate change and other environmental perturbations. City plants also harbor traits that favor their spread into new habitats unsupportive of pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Human-caused changes in diversity and function of plants in cities relative to natural areas may impact the ability of plant communities to adapt and provide ecosystem services in a changing environment.

    Watch the recording – Due to technical difficulties, the slides were not included in the recording. 11-7-2012 City Slicker Plants Slides (PDF).

    November 14 – Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystems: The Big Picture and a Few “Zoom-in” Forays

    Peter Reich, Regents Professor, Department of Forest Resources and Resident Fellow, Institute on the Environment

    Climate change is altering the face of our planet, a home already massively re-engineered by humans for agriculture, water, transport and human settlement. Climate change will act in many ways at once, modifying not just average conditions, but increasing the frequency of heat waves, droughts and major storm events, and triggering floods, fires and biotic disturbances as well. These impacts will almost certainly cause changes, many adverse, for natural and human ecosystems, and have the potential to cause substantial, and perhaps catastrophic, change for human society. Reich will provide a brief overview of these issues and describe his own work on this topic.

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    November 28 – A Story of Social Entrepreneurship

    Acara Co-director Julian Marshall, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering in the College of Science and Engineering

    How do students transition from classroom learning to global impact? Most are unsure of how make this leap. Acara’s series of classes helps students create their own path to global impact. The process involves creating a local solution to a global grand challenge. Aspects include global collaboration, overseas or domestic field study and coursework, venture development and design thinking, and identifying a self-sustaining solution. Acara is multi-disciplinary and open to students of all majors; we work on the global problems and local solutions that students identify. Acara has two missions: education and impact. Marshall will talk about Acara’s educational approach, impacts beyond the classroom, how students engage with Acara and how experiences like Acara fit within a traditional university degree.

    Original title: What Is YOUR Story of Global Impact? A Collaborative Approach to Solving Global Grand Challenges

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    December 5 – Getting Bees Back on Their Own Six Feet

    Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow, Department of Entomology

    Colony collapse disorder, the syndrome causing honey bees (Apis mellifera) to suddenly and mysteriously disappear from their hives, first captured public attention 2007. Since then, the story of vanishing honey bees has pervaded everything from ice cream marketing campaigns to plots for The Simpsons. The untold story is that these losses are a capstone to more than a half-century of losses beekeepers have faced since agricultural practices changed after World War II. The larger story still is that other bees are also suffering, and in some cases their fates are far worse. Spivak will review current research on bee health and discuss ways everyone can help bees get back on their own six feet.

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