Feature Stories

This fall WRS student Taylor Nelson will be investigating MDOT rest stops, studying the efficiency of the rest stop septic systems. This is not how Nelson, as a Biology/pre-med freshman at Luther College in Decorah Iowa, would have envisaged her post-graduate work.  

The Minnesota Water Resources Conference will convene again on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Paul, October 18-19, 2016. The Water Resources Center hosts the annual conference which presents innovative water resource engineering solutions, management techniques, and current research.  This year’s conference plenary speakers will address nonpoint source water pollution, atmospheric and coastal research with NOAA, and policy lessons learned from the Flint water crisis. 

The Water Resources Center awarded funding to three research projects for 2015. The funded research projects include improving the mechanics in drinking water filtration systems, the effect of invasive mussels on the marine environment, and finding a safe balance between the economic boon of mining operations and sulfite damage to wild rice habitat.

With over 30 percent of new neighborhoods installing decentralized wastewater systems, the creation of a simplified, individualized web-based operation manual for individual homeowners or those living within a community septic system only made sense. 

When it comes to environmental issues, most people probably consider scientists to be the thought leaders and change agents. But it is often the world’s great communicators—journalists, essayists, and philosophers, novelists and poets—who succeed in moving society toward shifts in attitude and action that positively impact the environment. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson are among those whose writings have raised awareness about the environmental and conservation challenges that have faced us for decades. 

Through wastewater education and research projects, onsite specialist Sara Heger is making a difference for the environment in her home state of Minnesota and across the country.

Aided by a Water Resources Center grant, University of Minnesota Soil, Water and Climate assistant professor Brandy Toner and professor Ed Nater have been sampling glacial aquifers in west central and south central Minnesota in an effort to map the stratigraphic and mineralogical sources of arsenic in groundwater.

This summer, researchers from the University’s Biotechnology Institute were awarded a $600,000 federal grant to develop technology to treat flowback water. Led by College of Biological Sciences professor Lawrence Wackett, the team includes Alptekin Aksan, professor in the College of Science and Engineering, and Michael Sadowsky, a Water Resources Sciences graduate program professor in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

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.”

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.

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