Day: August 1, 2011

Submit an environmental project for a team of University of Michigan graduate students to tackle

Via the GLRPPR Blog.

An appeal from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment. It appears that they will accept projects from outside of Michigan.

Every year at the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment, approximately 20-25 interdisciplinary teams of master’s students tackle real world environmental projects with a professional client organization. If you have a potential project idea, we encourage you to consider submitting it.

Master’s projects are 12-15 month long (begin in March and most are typically completed by the following April) problem-solving experiences conducted by interdisciplinary teams of SNRE Master’s degree students as the capstone of their academic program at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.  Projects provide students with a team experience that approximates a future work environment while also providing client organizations with solutions to complex environmental issues and useful products.  Clients and faculty advisors provide feedback along the way.

It’s a chance to get an interdisciplinary team of master’s students to tackle an environmental issue of importance to your organization while providing them with a real-world problem solving learning experience.


  • Climate Change Adaptation in Great Lakes Cities
  • Building a Sustainable Community in Africa
  • Assisting a tribal community with business planning and forestland acquisition
  • Green Brewery project

See more project examples here:

This list was generated from looking at the last several years of master’s project topics that were selected by SNRE student teams.  We encourage you to submit project ideas that especially focus on these general topic areas but other topic ideas are certainly welcome.  Feel free to contact Lisa to discuss your project idea.Renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal)

  1. Ecosystem/ biodiversity conservation/ restoration
  2. Sustainable agriculture/ food
  3. Ecosystem services (ex: forests as carbon sinks, wetlands as water pollution filters, etc.)
  4. Freshwater (river/ lake) ecosystem conservation
  5. Sustainable urban communities
  6. Corporate sustainability
  7. Sustainable energy financing
  8. Great Lakes
  9. Sustainable transportation
  10. Projects assisting vulnerable populations/communities
  11. Influencing environmental behavior
  12. Climate change adaptation
  13. Creating sustainable design futures
  14. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
  15. Environmental policy
  16. Climate change mitigation
  17. Ecotourism

Some additional themes identified by students (in the recent student survey) include: international projects—especially in developing nations, sustainability in healthcare, and energy efficiency.

A Master’s project is an academic learning experience that encourages SNRE students to work in interdisciplinary teams.  For example, a policy student may work on a team with GIS mapping and sustainable system business students on a wind energy project assessing policy, geographic and economic feasibility issues.  We encourage projects to include at least 2-3 different fields of study to prepare our students for real-world project teams at NGOs, consulting firms, agencies, and companies addressing cutting edge environmental challenges.  Click here to see examples of master’s projects.  Be sure to see how different fields of study were incorporated into each project.


Priority Deadline: November 1st (projects submitted by this date have a higher chance of being selected)
Final Deadline: December 13th

Questions? Contact Lisa Yee-Litzenberg, Email: or Ph: 734-615-1633

How She Leads : Arielle Bertman of Google

Read the profile at GreenBiz.

How She Leads spotlights the career paths of women who have moved into influential roles in sustainable business. Today, Maya Albanese interviews Arielle Bertman, renewable energy investment leader on the Green Business Operations team at Google Inc.

Arielle’s effort as part of Google Green has led to a number of investments into large renewable energy projects, which now total over $700 million in committed capital. Most recently, Arielle has led Google’s investments in large projects such as Peace Garden Wind, Shepherds Flat, and Alta Wind.

Building Owners Get Help Staying Ahead of New Green Laws

Read the full story in GreenerBuildings.

More than 50 cities, regional governments and nations have enacted rating and disclosure measures to regulate the energy performance of commercial buildings in the past 15 years. In the U.S., five cities and two states have put similar laws on the books in the past five years.

While the U.S. is relatively new to the process, the speed with which regulations are being developed and the federal push to make existing buildings more energy efficient make it likely that more local and regional governments will soon adopt building energy performance requirements.

The two publications reviewed in the post are:

WRI Group to Help Companies Make Climate Strategy Core to Business

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Johnson & Johnson and Staples are among the handful of companies launching a multi-industry group focused on making long-term thinking about climate change a key part of business strategy.

The Next Practice Collaborative, a project of the World Resources Institute (WRI), is founded on the concept of “next practices,” a term coined by late WRI board member C. K. Prahalad to describe actions that go beyond typical best practices and focus on future markets.

How Business Thrives in a ‘Carbon Nation’

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

I met Peter Byck in 2008, when he was making his documentary “Carbon Nation,” which focuses on climate-change solutions happening today from people of all occupations and political stripes — some of whom don’t even believe in climate change. (I have a cameo role in the film.) It’s an upbeat, business-focused film that aims to be non-preachy and non-partisan about how the U.S. can achieve national and energy security while promoting health and a clean environment.

On the occasion of today’s release of the film’s DVD and on-demand versions, I asked Byck, “Carbon Nation’s” writer and director, to reflect on the experience: what he’s learned about business, his hope for the movie, and why he remains optimistic about the potential to solve our climate challenges.

Nature’s Expert Witnesses: Plants Tell of Environmental Pollution

Read the press release.

The poet William Blake once wrote that we could “see a world in a grain of sand.” Today, environmental engineers are seeing the world beneath the surface through a greener part of nature: the trunks and branches of trees.

This practice of sampling and analyzing tissue from trees and other plants to determine the presence of contaminants in soil and groundwater holds promise because it gives engineers a quick, accurate and inexpensive way to measure the extent of environmental pollutants without having to dig into the ground.

Full citation for the article: Joel G. Burken, Don A. Vroblesky, Jean Christophe Balouet (2011). “Phytoforensics, Dendrochemistry, and Phytoscreening: New Green Tools for Delineating Contaminants from Past and Present.” Environmental Science & Technology 45 (15), 6218-6226. DOI: 10.1021/es2005286

Abstract: As plants evolved to be extremely proficient in mass transfer with their surroundings and survive as earth’s dominant biomass, they also accumulate and store some contaminants from surroundings, acting as passive samplers. Novel applications and analytical methods have been utilized to gain information about a wide range of contaminants in the biosphere soil, water, and air, with information available on both past (dendrochemistry) and present (phytoscreening). Collectively these sampling approaches provide rapid, cheap, ecologically friendly, and overall “green” tools termed “Phytoforensics”.


Maeda: to stoke American innovation, turn ‘STEM’ to ‘STEAM’

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

You can’t talk about innovation in America without including design, according to Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda.

So when officials and educators look to STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — education, they ought to include the arts, too.

It’s simple, really: add an “A” and you’re already building STEAM, so to speak.

Mayors of largest U.S. cities in lockstep to fight coal

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

America’s mayors are picking up arms against the coal industry.

The philanthropic foundation of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last week that it will commit $50 million over four years to the Sierra Club in a campaign to retire coal for cleaner sources of energy.

The grant will help retire a third of the nation’s aging coal fleet by 2020, the organization says.

Video: Building open source tools

Read the full post and watch the video at Smart Planet.

Even the simplest do-it-yourself projects require tools. So imagine what is needed to build your own civilization.

Missouri based Open Source Ecology are developing a modular construction set to build the industrial machines needed to build. The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a ‘life-sized lego set’ meant to enable the creation of a sustainable society with modern comforts. The toolkit consists of 50 manufacturing and construction devices with interchangeable, modular components. In keeping with their barrier free philosophy, all design, assembly, and budget information for the GVCS is available on the team’s wiki.

National Science Foundation seeks to put innovators back in charge of startups

Read the full post at SmartPlanet.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has just announced a new effort to help develop scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies, products and processes. Some observers say that the program will finally put engineers and inventors — not venture capitalists — back in the driver’s seat of startups.

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program will solicit volunteers consisting of technology developers, business leaders, venture capitalists, and others from private industry to mentor new ideas coming out of universities, labs, and other small ventures. To accomplish this, NSF will fund 100 science and engineering research projects every year with awards of $50,000. They will also be able to enroll in classes that teaches scientists and engineers how to apply their well-honed skills — hypotheses testing and experimentation — to business startup scenarios.

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