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Common Ground

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This article is part of a series of profiles of IonE resident fellows highlighting the value of their collaborations across the U of M, Minnesota and the world.

Conventional wisdom has it that farmers and conservationists don't see eye to eye. Conservationists want to see farmers plant diverse vegetation, in addition to crops like corn and soybeans, that produces ecosystem services; farmers' main priority is earning a living. Right?

"Farmers care just as much about the environment as anyone, but there are financial realities," says Nick Jordan, a resident fellow with the Institute on the Environment and an agroecology professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Tim Gieseke, a fourth-generation Minnesota farmer with a background in environmental science, explains that it's just not that easy to plant multiple crops on a landscape. "Adding crops means more work, more equipment, more time. Plus, lots of third- and fourth-generation farmers don't know how to grow crops other than the ones they've been growing," says Gieseke. "The level of expertise for the crop they know is high and the margin of error is tight. You only get one season, one chance."

How can these interests be reconciled? With the help of two cool technologies, Jordan and a cross-disciplinary team from the University of Minnesota are bringing farmers and conservationists together in an attempt to satisfy both economic and environmental bottom lines.

Can Technology Save the Planet?

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The Thinking Ahead Seminar Series: Emerging Technologies and the Environment, hosted by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs with funding from an Institute on the Environment Mini Grant, explores the newest technologies from multiple disciplines inside and outside the University and their potential to help solve the most daunting environmental challenges. 

On Feb. 25, Larry Wackett, IonE resident fellow and Distinguished McKnight University professor in the College of Science and Engineering, discussed the role of hydraulic fracturing in the new energy landscape and how fracking water is being recycled, conserving the finite resource. "Hydraulic Fracturing, Energy and the Environment" can be viewed online

On March 25, R. Lee Penn, IonE resident fellow and associate professor of chemistry, will discuss the role of nanotechnology in the production of safe, clean and sustainable energy in "Nanoparticles in the Environment: Challenges for Science and Policy." Join the talk from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Humphrey School room 180.

The monthly talks are part of the Initiative on Governance of Emerging Technological Systems in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and funded by an IonE Mini Grant. IonE Mini Grants help spur new collaborations by providing small amounts of funding (from $500 to $3,000), administrative support and space to interdisciplinary groups of faculty, staff and students from across the University of Minnesota system. 

For more information and a list of future speakers, contact Leili Fatehi at fateh002@umn.edu.

Image: Matthias Weinberger (Flickr Creative Commons)

I Am Water

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Throw a pebble into a lake or stream and ripples will radiate out from the place of entry, breaking the inertia at the surface. Minneapolis artist Camille Gage hopes her art piece, "I AM WATER," will have a similar effect on people, catalyzing their sense of responsibility for tackling one of the biggest challenges we humans face: protecting Earth's finite water reserves.

Water Stewardship and the Private Sector

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Thumbnail image for 02-26-Rajan.jpgWater is essential to a healthy life and a healthy business. So as the world's water resources are becoming more scarce, the private sector is paying attention.

Raj Rajan, global sustainability technical leader and research, development and engineering vice president at Ecolab, Inc., discussed how commercial enterprises must shift the way they think about water in their business models in last week's Frontiers in the Environment lecture. His talk, "Water Stewardship and the Private Sector" took place Wednesday, Feb. 26 on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus.

Message in a Bottle

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BY LORI C. MELTON

University of Minnesota Duluth student Sam Knuth was having a hard time getting enough H2O. With no drinking fountain on his residence hall floor, he had to fill his water bottle in the dorm's bathroom sink. The faucet was short, his bottle was tall. Sam actually had to bend his water bottle to squeeze it under the faucet, making it a crumpled mess. Not to mention, he was a little freaked out by whatever germs could be making contact with his water bottle. "I was like, 'This is so dumb. Let's do something about this.'"

Kaler's Spotlight Shines on IonE Projects

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In University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler's year-at-a-glance video on U of M achievements, several IonE-affiliated projects get the spotlight.

A MODEL OF COLLABORATION - The Resilient Communities Project is an initiative of the U's Sustainable Faculty Networkwith funding and administrative support provided by IonE and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. In its second year RCP is partnering with the city of North St. Paul to address community-identified sustainability projects. 

HIGH NOTES -  Daniel Crawford, College of Liberal Arts undergraduate; Scott St. George, IonE resident fellow and professor of geography, College of Liberal Arts; and Todd Reubold, IonE director of communications, put their heads together to develop "A Song of Our Warming Planet," which sets climate change data to music.

ALL THE MORE POWER - The University of Minnesota Morris - West Central Research and Outreach Center project that uses wind energy to produce anhydrous ammonia that can be used as fertilizer was funded through an IonE Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment grant. The project is part of a larger goal to reduce fossil fuel consumption in agriculture. 

Connections not featured in the video but ones of which we are equally proud are UMD's Large Lakes Observatory, which is supported by IonE, and Sarah Hobbie, who is an IonE resident fellow. Both are listed on the president's "2013 A Year to Remember" Web page.

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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