Feature Stories

The wet wipes clogging the equipment that University of Minnesota’s Onsite Sewage Treatment Program researchers use to study septic system effectiveness were the first clue as to why systems serving adult foster homes experience system failure at a greater rate than other residential treatment systems. Results of a study conducted by staff from the University of Minnesota’s Onsite Sewage Treatment Program at six foster homes in Chisago county show that adult foster care homes produce wastewater that is different than typical residential wastewater, with higher levels of contaminates that may contribute to decreased septic system performance. Bleach and other strong cleaning products for example, interfere with organisms required to break down solids in the wastewater.

Recently the USACE called upon a group of researchers, including Dr. Deborah Swackhamer and Marc Dettman from the University of Minnesota, to determine how adaptive management is currently being utilized in the USACE, and also to make recommendations for improving adaptive management practices within the USACE. The research team conducted several interviews of USACE personnel in an effort to determine how adaptive management is being used in a variety of USACE natural resource management projects.

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.

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).

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. 

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.

The Water Resources Center will host the annual conference at the St. Paul RiverCentre, October 14 and 15, 2014. Conference goers can expect a variety of new water resource solutions, management techniques, and current research about Minnesota’s water resources. Concurrent sessions throughout the day will offer information on engineering projects, best practices in design and application of water resource management methods, water policy and emerging issues. A morning plenary session begins each day of the conference, and luncheons will also feature a speaker. Topics this year include climate impacts on water resources, invasive common carp, and using LiDAR and spatial analysis.

Although she’s stepped down from the co-directorship of the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center (WRC), don’t expect Deb Swackhamer to fade away. She remains a University professor of science technology and environmental policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, a professor of environmental health sciences with the School of Public Health and leaves a legacy of water protection literally, on the books.

When John Bilotta set sail aboard the Nancy Foster on June 17 as part of NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea project he was eager to apply his teaching mantra of “see, touch and smell” to his own education. “I spend so much time talking and teaching about the oceans that I was just excited to apply that philosophy to my own learning.”

For fifteen years, DNR MinnAqua supervisor Roland Sigurdson occupied an office cube at the Water Resources Center. A scan of his desk and walls reveals a life in balance. The displays are remarkably focused, reflecting his love of family, friends, fun, education and fishing. His wife Stacey and daughter Natalie beam from multiple photos, there are childhood pictures of Roland and his siblings on the farm, images of Roland the educator before groups of fascinated children, and lots and lots of fish.

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