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Sustainability Research

Research is a vital part of our mandate as a university, and sustainability is a vital part of our research.

Below are examples of student, faculty, and Green Prairie Alliance projects related to sustainability research.

Student Research

Morris students are deeply involved in sustainability research, both in assisting faculty projects and in their own investigations:

  • Dan Seidenkranz, under the direction of Associate Professor Ted Pappenfus, published an article on benzodithiophines, compounds that are promising in the emerging field of organic solar cells, in the peer-reviewed organic chemistry journal Heterocycles.
  • Will Dolezal, Joe Hartmann, Alicia Beattie, Aaron Goemann, and Bryce Blankenfeld researched and developed an on-campus composting system.
  • Heidi Eger, Laura Yourd, Alyssa Jacobsen, Naomi Wente, Kristian Nyberg, Laura Anne Hunt, and others have worked to improve the campus food system.
  • Zak Forde and Lucas Felts initiated a green Revolving Loan Fund.
  • Chris Droske performed extensive energy conservation work on campus and in the community.
  • Seth Elsen, Melinda Kawalek, and others worked on the Students Using Natural Energy (SUN-E) team, which helped implement a solar thermal system that heats the campus pool, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Jordan Wente has researched Danish energy models.

Many students have done a variety of work in green chemistry, studied the impact of climate change on the prairie/forest transition, and more.

Faculty Research

Morris professors are conducting independent research in many areas that impact sustainability. These efforts can lead to better options for carbon-neutral energy and provide new information about the complex human relationship with our biosphere and the environments we call home.

  • Arne Kildegaard (economics/management) has worked with students to study various economic impacts of biomass, different renewable energy systems, and wind ownership structures.
  • Ted Pappenfus (chemistry) has worked with thin-films for solar cells.
  • Nancy Carpenter (chemistry) has performed algal research.
  • Timna Wyckoff (biochemistry) performed research on differences in bacterial resistance between conventional and organic dairy herds.
  • Donna Chollett (anthropology, emeritus) worked with a student to perform a community-food assessment for a region.
  • Cyrus Bina (economics/management) has researched and written widely on the geopolitics of oil.

Green Prairie Alliance

UMN Morris, along with the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) and the USDA Soil Conservation Research Center, forms an innovative research partnership called the Green Prairie Alliance.

Ongoing research by the Green Prairie Alliance includes:

  • Biomass gasification district heating and cooling
  • Wind power and gasification economics
  • Renewable nitrogen fertilizer production
  • Biomass collection, handling, densification, and storage
  • Solar energy demonstrations
  • Sustainable crop residue harvesting
  • Use of gasification ash for fertilizer

The Green Prairie Alliance aims to expand its research into the following areas:

  • Demonstration of a hydrogen fueling station
  • Smart” power distribution systems
  • Value–added biofuel products, such as ethanol from gasification syngas (synthetic gas)
  • Biofuel crops for Minnesota, like sweet sorghum, camelina, and calendula
  • Alternative polymers for photovoltaic solar collectors
  • Small-scale biomass gasification
  • Enzymes for cellulosic biofuel production