Day: August 27, 2014

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.

The Best Reporting on California’s Drought

Read the full post at Pro Publica.

This year may be the driest in California in half a millennium. These reports explore how the drought is affecting agriculture, business and living conditions in the nation’s most populous state.

Seafood substitutions can expose consumers to unexpectedly high mercury

Read the full story from the University of Hawai’i Manoa.

New measurements from fish purchased at retail seafood counters in 10 different states show the extent to which mislabeling can expose consumers to unexpectedly high levels of mercury, a harmful pollutant.

Fishery stock “substitutions”—which falsely present a fish of the same species, but from a different geographic origin—are the most dangerous mislabeling offense, according to new research by University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa scientists.

Sunscreens as a Source of Hydrogen Peroxide Production in Coastal Waters

David Sánchez-Quiles and Antonio Tovar-Sánchez (2014). “Sunscreens as a Source of Hydrogen Peroxide Production in Coastal Waters.” Environmental Science & Technology 48(16), 9037-9042. DOI: 10.1021/es5020696

Abstract: Sunscreens have been shown to give the most effective protection for human skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Chemicals from sunscreens (i.e., UV filters) accumulate in the sea and have toxic effects on marine organisms. In this report, we demonstrate that photoexcitation of inorganic UV filters (i.e., TiO2 and ZnO nanoparticles) under solar radiation produces significant amounts of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a strong oxidizing agent that generates high levels of stress on marine phytoplankton. Our results indicate that the inorganic oxide nanoparticle content in 1 g of commercial sunscreen produces rates of H2O2 in seawater of up to 463 nM/h, directly affecting the growth of phytoplankton. Conservative estimates for a Mediterranean beach reveal that tourism activities during a summer day may release on the order of 4 kg of TiO2 nanoparticles to the water and produce an increment in the concentration of H2O2 of 270 nM/day. Our results, together with the data provided by tourism records in the Mediterranean, point to TiO2 nanoparticles as the major oxidizing agent entering coastal waters, with direct ecological consequences on the ecosystem.

The Quest to Scan Millions of Weather Records

Read the full story at CityLab.

Deep in the dusty catalogs of weather stations and meteorological offices all over the world are hidden treasures. They’re easy to miss if you’re not looking for them, often taking the form of piles of moldy papers. But on those pieces of paper are hundreds of years of weather records—data that could make climate science far more accurate.

The International Environmental Data Rescue Organization (IEDRO) estimates that there are 100 million paper-strip charts—records that list weather conditions—sitting in meteorological storage facilities throughout the world. That’s about 200 million observations unused by scientists, data that could greatly improve their models. Now, a few small groups of scientists are trying digitize these records, but they’re facing all kinds of obstacles.

Climate scientists often bemoan the lack of historic records. There are the famous data sets: the Vostok ice core drilled in the 1970s that looks back about 400,000 years, the Keeling curve started in 1958, data from satellites that watch sea ice retreat starting around 1979. But these are spot points in specific places that only span a short amount of time. To truly understand climate, researchers need a global records that reaches back hundreds of years.

Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself

Read the full story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution.

But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

Finding the Money for Water Infrastructure

Read the full story in Governing.

Enhancing the nation’s water infrastructure remains a challenge for public officials as they balance the need for improvements against constrained budgets. The recently enacted federal Water Resources Reform and Development Act has the potential to advance the nation’s water infrastructure by streamlining approvals for environmental reviews of projects, creating a pilot program to explore the use of public-private partnerships by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and making it easier to leverage private-sector investments to augment public funding.

As officials contemplate how they will finance water infrastructure improvements, one provision in the law, the newly created Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program, is of particular interest.

Solar fuels as generated by nature

Read the full story from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion.

Thanks to new insights into the details of photosynthetic water splitting, the prospects for the development of clean fuels based on water and sunlight are improving.

Chromium-Free Coatings Technology Nets National Innovation Award

Read the full story from North Dakota State University.

A chromium-free paint developed through research at North Dakota State University, Fargo, and licensed to Elinor Specialty Coatings, Inc., is a 2014 TechConnect National Innovation Awardee. Elinor licensed the technology through the NDSU Research Foundation, and developed Aluma45 MgRP™, a chromium-free magnesium-rich primer for use on aluminum-alloys and composites in ship, automotive and construction materials manufacturing. Aluma45™ can be used directly on bare metal, eliminating chromium-based pre-treatments, which reduces weight, manufacturing time and costs, while eliminating toxic chromium coating procedures and disposal.

 

In energy, which comes first: products or behavior change?

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Utilities are under pressure to get consumers to use less power. But how can we entice them to make permanent changes?

%d bloggers like this: