Great Lakes

Big questions: Frontiers’ fresh look

Read the full post from the University of Minnesota Institute on Environment.

This fall, the Institute on the Environment is refreshing our popular Frontiers in the Environment series. We’ll ask some Big Questions and host solutions-focused conversations about the next wave of research and discovery.

Below is the schedule from the web site.

Frontiers in the Environment: Big Questions

Solutions-focused conversations about the next wave of research and discovery.

Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CST
IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul
Free and open to the public; no registration required
Join us online via UMConnect

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.

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.

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.

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 moderate a discussion about 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.

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

Bonnie Keeler, Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project; Deb Swackhamer, Program Director, Water Resources Center; 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.

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?

November 5 —  How Can We Make the Most of the 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 .

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

Cathy Jordan, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium

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?

November 29 — Environmentalists and Corporations Make Strange Bedfellows . . . Or Do They?

Steve Polasky, Ione Resident Fellow; Project Lead, Natural Capital Project; and Professor, College Of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences with [panelists to be named]

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.

Waukegan reaches milestone in harbor cleanup

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Waukegan Harbor has reached a pivotal moment in its history — one that city leaders hope will revive its sagging economy — with the culmination of a 30-year, $150 million cleanup to rid the shoreline of contamination left by the city’s former industrial giants along Lake Michigan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that the harbor has met requirements to be removed from a list of 43 polluted sites dubbed the “Great Lakes Areas of Concern.” The federal agency will continue to monitor the site for an unspecified amount of time, possibly a few years, before it is officially “de-listed,” officials said.

Illinois DCEO Solar and Wind Rebate Program is now open

Guidelines and application are available here. All applications must be submitted, without exception, on the new forms for Fiscal Year 2015 and must be filled out completely and signed and dated by both the applicant and the installer/project manager. Any applications received under previous application forms will be rejected.

DCEO will accept applications for the random selection until October 10th, 2014. Applications will be assigned a number as they are received, and there will a pre-selected list of random numbers that will be used as the order we will consider applications. DCEO will keep moving down the list of applications based on the random numbers list until all rebate funds have been allocated. The remaining applications will be on a waiting list and will be considered (again, based on the random number list) as projects are cancelled or if additional funds become available.

DCEO is continuing to require that the application be submitted by the applicant. While the installer/developer may assist in filling out application and organizing the required documents, the application cannot be sent to us by the installer.

All solar PV and wind energy systems, except those that are self-installed, must be installed by a certified distributed generation installer. (Illinois Commerce Commission’s certified list is available at http://www.icc.illinois.gov/utility/Certified.aspx?type=24). DCEO will not approve an application until it can be confirmed that the installer has been certified by the ICC.

The Final Documentation Checklist (Section 4.2 and Appendix C of new guidelines) has also been updated to require that applicants provide the approved interconnection application or the Certificate of Completion from the utility (if applicable).

DCEO prefers that applications be submitted via email (ceo.rerp@illinois.gov), though applications may be sent through regular mail. However, please do not submit both ways – just need one copy of the application. If you send applications by email, you will receive a response that your application has been received.

Approximately $2.5 million has been allocated to the rebate program this fiscal year.

University of Illinois Extension Announces Successful Awards

University of Illinois Extension recently announced awards for six collaborative projects, totaling over $1.2 million, to interdisciplinary teams of faculty and staff. The awards were part of the University of Illinois Extension and Outreach Initiative, a special partnership between U of I Extension, the Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES), and the Office of the Provost. The six awards were selected from a pool of 71 pre-proposals from 16 different campus units.

“We were very pleased with the number and quality of the proposals we received from across campus in response to this initiative,” said Robert Hauser, Dean of ACES. “The six projects moving forward are outstanding examples of the impact and value that extension and outreach can provide to a variety of disciplines throughout the University.”

University of Illinois Extension is the flagship outreach arm of the University. Extension’s statewide network of educators and county-based offices provide programming in economic development, health and nutrition, agriculture and natural resources, and youth development. Traditionally, most Extension programs are related to departments within the College of ACES. This Extension and Outreach Initiative was aimed at establishing programs with departments and units elsewhere on campus.

Principal investigators and project titles:

  • Jon Gant, Library of Information Science and Illinois Informatics Institute, Graduate School of Library and Information Science. “Enhancing Economic Development in Illinois with Digital Tech Hub Creativity Studios.”
  • Kevin Hamilton, Department of Art and Design, Fine and Applied Arts. “Designing for Health in Central Illinois.”
  • Lenny Pitt, Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering. “4-H Computing Connections.”
  • Aric Rindfleisch, College of Business. “Marketplace Literacy and 3-D Printing: Enabling Economic Development for Impoverished Communities.”
  • Kim Sheahan, Spurlock Museum, Liberal Arts and Sciences. “An Artifact Speaks.”
  • Wei Zheng, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute. “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products: Extending Knowledge and Mitigation Strategies.”

Hauser explained that the Initiative was intended to expand Extension’s research base across the Urbana campus, raise awareness of Extension among faculty and stakeholders, and advance the University’s land grant mission through new, innovative partnerships.

“This year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Smith Lever Act, the federal legislation that launched Cooperative Extension at Land Grant institutions nationwide,” Hauser said. “We are working to broaden our approach to provide research-based information from the whole University.”

For more information about University of Illinois Extension, visit extension.illinois.edu. University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.

Illinois coal plant owners say they’ve done their part

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Owners of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants in Illinois told regulators Monday that they should look to other generators to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

Former Echo reporter scores another national award, gives success formula

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

A former Echo writer has won national recognition for a series of environmental stories about the Great Lakes.

Brian Bienkowski, now a reporter and editor at Environmental Health News, received second place in a beat reporting category in the contest sponsored by the national Society of Environmental Journalists.

The series is called Stories of the Great Lakes’ People, Places and Creatures.

Bienkowski, a 2012 graduate of the Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, also received the same award in the same contest last year.

While at MSU, he received the center’s Rachel Carson Award for outstanding environmental journalism graduate student. I figured it would be a good idea to probe for his formula for success: