Michigan Minds Series: Sustainability

The threats posed by the climate crisis directly impact our campus and communities, and extend far beyond that affecting areas across the globe. With a diverse array of faculty members and researchers studying the impacts and ways to implement change, the University of Michigan is distinctly positioned to help pave the best path forward.

The impacts of climate change can be felt in communities across Michigan. From working with rural Michigan communities on renewable energy development, to studying the Great Lakes water level variability, and to leveraging research to advance environmental policy, U-M experts are addressing some of the state’s — and the nation’s — most pressing climate challenges. Hear from the researchers themselves in this special series of the Michigan Minds podcast.

Sarah Mills: Renewable Energy and Rural Communities

How does renewable energy impact local communities — especially those in rural areas? Sarah Mills, research scientist at the Graham Sustainability Institute and lecturer in the School for Environment and Sustainability, is dedicated to understanding those localized impacts, the positive and negative. Mills joined Michigan Minds to talk about her work looking at rural communities in Michigan that are often the hosts for large-scale wind and solar projects.

Some of Mills’ work is focused on answering questions regarding why some communities want renewable energy projects, like wind solar farms, while others opt not to have them. She also strives to understand the interaction between state and local policies, and how that facilitates renewable energy development or hinders renewable energy development. She explains how she looks through a lens that keeps her asking: How do rural communities that would host this infrastructure see those policies?

Drew Gronewold: Great Lakes Water Variability

The vast majority of the Earth’s fresh surface water is stored in lakes, and the Great Lakes hold a significant portion — about 20 percent — of that fresh water. Drew Gronewold, associate professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability, is working to better understand water level variability on large lake systems, and how climate change and anthropogenic impacts can affect the long term water balance and levels. Most of his work is done “right in our backyard” on the Great Lakes.

Gronewold, who also holds adjunct appointments in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, joined Michigan Minds to talk about his research on water levels, how they use data to model and forecast for future decisions, and the overall significance of the Great Lakes fresh water system.

Caitie Hausman: Environmental Policy

How do energy markets interact with environmental policy? Caitie Hausman, associate professor at the Ford School of Public Policy, studies how different electricity markets contribute to climate change and air pollution, and how climate and environmental policies impact electricity and natural gas markets.

Hausman detailed her work in a Michigan Minds episode, providing insight on the significant impact that energy can have on the economy. She also talks about disproportionate pollution exposure in low-income communities and communities of color, and the need to address environmental injustice. Hausman also outlines how important it is for researchers to listen to policy discussions and continuously engage with policymakers.

Ricky Rood: Climate Change Problem Solving

How does climate change interface with society? Richard (Ricky) Rood works to answer that question, and talked with Michigan Minds about how his work. Rood is a professor at the U-M Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (CLASP), with a courtesy appointment at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability (UMSEAS). He is also the Dow Sustainability Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the College of Engineering.

His primary research interests are on climate change problem solving—in particular climate change and its interfaces with different aspects of society, and how to accelerate the use of climate information, planning and design in management. He explains how he uses climate change information to educate students on climate change problem solving, specifically when teaching students from a variety of fields.

Alex Bryan: Building Sustainable Communities

Creating a more sustainable campus community is an important element of the university’s sustainability efforts. As part of this continued work, Student Life Sustainability Manager, Alex Bryan, works to have a significant impact on campus and with students through multiple different programs and events which help educate and promote the benefits of living sustainably. In this episode of Michigan Minds, Bryan discusses the university’s sustainability efforts, Planet Blue Student Leaders, and how he and others work to gain student involvement to help reach our overall campus goals, specifically utilizing the ‘campus as lab’ approach.