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Event-related articles will now be posted at the Eye on Earth blog, here on the IonE.  Subscribe to the feed to find out more about upcoming events and other big ideas happening at the Institute on the Environment!

Eye on Earth gives our scientists and staff a chance to jot down their ideas and share them with the world. Both prominent and promising leaders in land use, renewable energy, environmental communications and other topics sound off on the issues that matter most to them. The blog also serves as a journal for the ever-growing IonE community, providing candid accounts of our research findings, field hearings and more.

It's time to Rock! (for Raingardens)

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Rock for Raingardens - Thursday, December 2

U of M faculty and student musicians will be performing for clean water on Thursday, December 2 at the 400 BarRock for Raingardens will feature "The Gated Community" (8:30), "Hypoxic Punks" (9:30), and "The Big Strong Men" (10:30), voted U of M's best student band. 


All proceeds will go to Metro Blooms, an organization dedicated to cleaning up Minnesota's "troubled waters." Buy your $5 ticket at by tapping the "Rock for Raingardens" link. Tickets can also be purchased through Tickmaster (search "Metro Blooms").

More info: 

Tickets (

Tickets (Ticketmaster)

Gated Community

Hypoxic Punks

Rock for Raingardens

Please join IREE supporter, North Central Cleantech Open, in celebrating its first year and the accomplishments of its participant companies.

The event will feature the announcement of the North Central finalists who will move on to Silicon Valley to compete with Cleantech entrepreneurs from around the country for a grand prize package of up to $250k of investment and services!

There will also be a trade show with exhibiting and showcasing of our participant companies, partner organizations and sponsors.


Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401


5:15 pm -- Trade show starts with exhibits from 2010 Participant Companies, Partners and Sponsors.

6:15 pm - 8:30 pm -- Awards program, including announcement of 2010 regional winners.

*Awards program will also include a keynote and insights from prominent industry experts.

Who Should Attend

Entrepreneurs, Investors, Corporate, Media and Civic Leaders who want to help foster the local cleantech and renewable economy, and learn more about the exciting contestant companies who will represent North Central in the world's largest cleantech business competition. The North Central region includes participant companies from various states including Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin.

For more information, visit

With the start of the semester falling upon us, it's time to start up the Frontiers in the Environment seminar series again.  Following in last year's successes, we've got a great lineup of environmental all-stars this semester, starting on September 22.   Here's a sneak peak at what's coming up this fall in Frontiers in the Environment.


Wednesdays, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
IonE Seminar Room R380, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus (map)
Free and open to the public; no registration required
Join us online via UMConnect

Biochemical Bloodhounds: Using Enzymes to Detect Toxins

Larry Wackett, Distinguished McKnight Professor, BioTechnology Institute

Toxic chemicals have always been with us, but today's toxins are more problematic than ever: They are often made by people instead of by plants, bacteria, or other living things, and are found in places and even as part of objects we generally assume are safe. How can we detect toxins' presence and so avoid harm? Wackett is working on enlisting enzymes to sniff out the presence s-triazine ring compounds, a major class of manmade chemicals used as disinfectants, dyes, drugs, monomers, pesticides, and explosives. His talk will focus on melamine, which was used as a food adulterant and hit the news in 2008 for sickening hundreds of thousands of children in China. Wackett will show how fundamental enzyme research provided the key ingredient for a melamine test kit as well as valuable insights into the mechanism of melamine toxicity.


Hooked on Halorespiration: How, Where and So What?
Paige Novak, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering
Chlorinated organic molecules are some of the world's most hazardous compounds, causing effects from cancer to obesity. Developed by humans for uses such as degreasing, insulation, and fumigation, they now contaminate tens of thousands of sites in the U.S.  alone. About 15 years ago, scientists discovered bacteria that were able to "breathe" some of these chlorinated compounds and thereby detoxify them. Astoundingly, some of these so-called halorespirers actually require chlorinated compounds to live. Scientists and engineers have since debated how these organisms came to be, whether they have a niche in uncontaminated environments, and how we can best harness their abilities. Novak will talk about her work trying to unravel the natural role of halorespirers in hopes of developing better clean-up methods.

Eight-Track Tapes, Compact Discs and Solar Cells
Eray Aydil, Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
At least a dozen existing technologies produce solar cells with overall power conversion efficiencies ranging from 5% to 40%. Given that these technologies are available, the question arises as to whether society should invest in research to develop even more new technologies, or just work to improve existing ones. Aydil will make the case that we should continue research on new types of solar cells, basing his argument on the decision in the 1970s to develop new recording technologies beyond the eight-track tape - a decision that led to compact discs and eventually to digital formats.  Even though new technologies are uncertain, Aydil will argue, they are worth pursuing on the chance they may lead to even more efficient solar cells at much lower cost, revolutionizing renewable energy.

Other featured Frontiers speakers this semester include:
Jason Hill (Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering)
Martin Saar (Geology and Geophysics)
Alexandra Klass (Law)
Jeff Bender (Veterinary Public Health)
Jennifer Kuzma (Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs)
Jim Harkness (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)
Elizabeth Wilson (Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs)
Tim Smith (Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering)


Fall 2010 Frontiers in the Environment schedule & descriptions
IonE Events Calendar

Public Form on Renewable Energy Opportunities & Plans for a Sustainable Community at UMore Park

Thursday, July 29, 2010
5:00 to 7:15 p.m.
Banquet Room, Rosemount Community Center

Learn more about the launch of wind energy research at UMore Park and opportunities for related renewable energy innovation.

  • Learn about the wind energy research consortium project launching at UMore Park, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Discuss innovations in renewable energy in the context of a sustainable community
  • Explore opportunities for regional economic development through renewable energy technologies
  • View informational exhibits and talk with researchers about aspects of the wind energy research project, as well as other energy-related research and education activities
The event will include a light meal and refreshments starting at 5:00pm.

Featured speakers:

  • Carla Carlson, Executive Director, Office for UMore Park Academic Initatives and VP for Operations
  • Mostafa Kaveh, Associate Dean for Research and Planning, College of Science and Engineering
  • Ronald E. Thomas, Ph.D, President, Dakota County Technical College


Julie Bodurtha, or 612-626-8431

More information >>


If you missed Phil Pienkos' presentation, "Rebuilding the Aquatic Species Program at NREL" you can watch it here.

Below are photos from Pienkos' visit.  Click any of the photos to see them full sized.

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Rebuilding the Aquatic Species Program at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Phil Pienkos, Principal Research Supervisor, NREL

Presented by the Institute on the Environment's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE)

Low petroleum prices and the projected high costs of algal biofuel production contributed to DOE's decision to terminate the Aquatic Species Program in 1996. Ten years later, petroleum cost volatility and increased interest in energy security and greenhouse gas emissions led to a reevaluation of the potential for algae-to-biofuels. As a result, NREL restarted its algal biofuels program. This presentation will outline NREL's current efforts to rebuild an integrated algal biofuels program and will spotlight recent data from projects begun in the last three years. A networking reception will be held at the conclusion of the presentation.

This event will be broadcast live online via UMConnect:

 Please check back on the IonEvents blog on Thursday, July 8 for a link to a recording.

pienkos.jpgAbout Phil Pienkos
Philip T. Pienkos has over 25 years of biotechnology experience in the pharmaceutical, chemical and energy sectors. He is a co-founder of Molecular Logix, an early stage drug discovery/development company, and Celgene, an established biotech/pharma company. He has served as research director at Energy BioSystems where he led a group involved in fermentation development and biocatalyst improvement and at Enchira Biotechnology where he led a group responsible for protein therapeutic discovery and production. While at Celgene he worked on the development of biotechnology-based methods to produce pharmaceutical intermediates, and worked at Lederle Laboratories, where he developed novel mode-of-action screens for new antibiotics. Dr. Pienkos is a co-inventor on two patents and two additional patents pending, has co-authored numerous technical publications (including papers on chloroplast replication in algae and nitrogen fixation in cyanobacteria), and regularly speaks at national and international conferences. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin and post-doctoral training at the University of Texas. He served six years on the editorial board of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, is a founding member of the Algal Biomass Organization, and has recently been reelected for a second term on the board of directors for that organization. He is part of a team of algae experts from NREL and Sandia National Laboratory who worked with the Department of Energy to organize National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop held in December, 2008 and currently at work putting together a roadmap document to help accelerate the commercialization of algal biofuels.

Public Forum: The Climate Misinformation Campaign that Confused America

Featuring special Guest, Dr. Naomi Oreskes, author of the recently published Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming with Erik M. Conway.

Science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, explains what--or rather who--is to blame for the climate misinformation campaign. It's the troubling story of how a cadre of ideologues clouded the public interpretation of scientific facts to advance a political and economic agenda.

"Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have written an important and timely book. Merchants of Doubt should finally put to rest the question of whether the science of climate change is settled. It is, and we ignore this message at our peril."
- Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium
University of Minnesota, West Bank Campus
301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55455
Wednesday August 11th, 2010, 6 P.M.

In case you weren't able to catch Dr. Jonathan Patz's presentation last Friday,  "Climate Change & Health: Looming Clouds with Silver Linings" is now available to watch online.

Watch now: Climate Change & Health (UMConnect)

Let us know what you thought of this presentation in the comments section below!

Special Seminar:
Friday, April 9 - 11:00AM
IonE Seminar Room

"Climate Change and Health: Looming Clouds with Silver Linings"

by Jonathan Patz

Dr. Patz is professor of environmental studies & population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. He Co-chaired the health expert panel of the US National Assessment on Climate Change and was a Convening Lead Author for the United Nations/World Bank Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. For the past 15 years, Dr. Patz has been a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) - the organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

His presentation will focus on climate change, energy systems and their impacts on human health.

More information>>

Watch online via UMConnect>>

This presentation will be broadcast live via UMConnect.  Check back to the IonEvents blog for a link to the recording of the event.

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.

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