Feature Stories

Two research projects were awarded funding by the WRC in the 2012 grant competition.

The projects tackle water challenges in Minnesota and the Gulf of Mexico. Pinpointing the sources of excessive nitrogen in the Gulf and creating a framework for sustainable water management in Minnesota will be explored by the projects’ Principle Investigators (PI’s).

The USGBC of Minnesota approached UMD Continuing Education about developing an online educational course focusing on stormwater management. In response to this request, UMD Continuing Education partnered with Jesse Schomberg from the Minnesota Sea Grant program to design the Stormwater Management in Cold Climates course. While this course was designed for LEED professionals, anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the issues related to stormwater management will benefit.

About 300 people crowded into a University of Minnesota theater Tuesday, February 12, 2013, to hear a stimulating, informative – and, ultimately, inspiring — lecture by Sandra Postel, an author and advocate for protecting and conserving the world’s water.

The Freshwater Society interviewed Postel about her work, her goals for the lecture and her hopes for the future. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity and brevity.

An environmental engineer who investigates how infrastructure can protect public health and the environment, LaPara’s recent work has zeroed in on the most pressing threat to modern medicine—the rise of antibiotic resistance in the environment. 

The project will first develop a protocol for system assessment and then implement the assessment on five sites. The assessment will include evaluating the current system components, identify any deficiencies and provide recommendations for improvements, if needed. Initial grab sampling of wastewater characteristics including flow and effluent quality will be obtained, if accessible, and a sampling protocol developed for the system operator. The first five sites to be evaluated will help develop a risk-based assessment model focusing on site and wastewater characteristics specifically for the MnDOT sites. The remaining 46 sites will be evaluated based on the procedures developed and prioritized based on the risk-based assessment model.

In the land of 10,000 lakes, one lake has been the starting place for research with implications for big lakes around the world. According to a study published online this week in Science, University of Minnesota researchers, building from studies of nitrogen levels in Lake Superior, uncovered a good news/bad news scenario for lake health that has long-term, global implications for pollution control efforts.

University of Minnesota Extension educator Randy Pepin, a former livestock industry consultant, hopes to make grid soil sampling a common practice among farmers who choose to use livestock manure. Grid soil sampling can be a cost effective way for farmers to target their nutrient application while reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the watershed.

The policy and economics of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, management of surface and groundwater, and the political polarization of science were on the topic menu at the 2013 Minnesota Water Conference, held October 15 and 16, at the St. Paul RiverCentre. The conference opened with the presentation of the Dave Ford Award. Civil Engineering Professor Emeritus Heinz Stefan, a former Dave Ford Award winner, presented this year’s award to Professor John Gulliver (WRS faculty, CE). The award recognizes individuals whose lifetime accomplishments contribute to improving Minnesota's water quality. Stefan enumerated Gulliver’s many professional achievements in studying surface gas transfer early in his career, up to his current role in investigating aeration on turbine blades and in turbine draft tubes to raise dissolved oxygen levels downstream from hydropower stations. Recently, Gulliver and his students developed urban stormwater best management practices that remove nutrients, chemicals, and sediments from urban stormwater runoff. Stefan also noted Gulliver’s significant role as mentor in the lives of his students, “He has had an impact on the development of many engineering students, and has advised over 70 graduate students to the completion of their degrees. Some of them are here with us today.”

In 2008, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) piloted a 14-month training program for Dakota County snowplow drivers aimed at improving operator effectiveness and reducing the amount of sodium chloride entering nearby lakes and streams. The training program was developed by Connie Fortin of Hamel-based Fortin Consulting, an environmental consulting firm that specializes in water quality projects.

As part of the project, the MPCA turned to Water Resources Center senior researcher Karlyn Eckman, an expert the Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) study method, to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.

At the inaugural Preparing Minnesota for Climate Change: A Conference on Climate Adaptation, climatologist Mark Seeley brought home the effects of climate change by making it personal. Seeley opened conference at the Science Museum of Minnesota, November 7, 2013. He told the 250 plus audience members that we can see the effects of a warming climate in our own backyard. More disease and pests are surviving our warmer winters. Roads deteriorate faster as the asphalt thaws and freezes more frequently throughout the winter season. Minnesotans sensitive to mold and allergies are enduring longer allergy seasons.

Summer is bringing more heat wave episodes, which directly affects our lives and livelihoods, as stressed livestock are less productive, lakes create an overabundance of algae blooms, stressing water wildlife, while air conditioning bills soar.

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