Faculty and students awarded Sustainability Innovation in Research and Education grants

May 2, 2014

Several Nelson Institute faculty, staff and students are among the recipients of the 2014 Sustainability Innovation in Research and Education (SIRE) awards from the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability. To view a complete list of winners.

For the first time this year, the SIRE program now offers three award types to support projects that meet different aspects of the program’s goals: Educational Innovation Grants, Research Initiation Grants and Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Award recipients from within the Nelson Institute include: 

SIRE-Educational Innovation Grants

Behavior change: Testing the power of social media

This new course proposal introduces the importance of systems thinking to sustainability discussions and has students explore the power of social media to generate behavior change. In many ways, students need to move from understanding sustainability as a theoretical issue to one that becomes part of day-to-day decision making in a variety of institutions and organizations. This proposal funds the development of a class that investigates the power of social media to generate behavior change, and has students apply their skills in developing website content, short videos and other outreach materials on the subject of climate change. The real world experience, coupled with a grounding in systems thinking, will form the backbone of a new course, ES402 Systems Thinking and the Road to Sustainability, taught by Tom Eggert in Spring 2015.

Tom Eggert, Senior Lecturer; School of Business
Kathy Kuntz, Executive Director; Cool Choices

SIRE-Research Experience for Undergraduates

Summertime response of air emissions to ambient temperature in the eastern United States

Higher daily surface temperatures in the eastern United States drives residential and commercial energy use, and subsequently NOx, SO2, and CO2 emissions, in those states and those surrounding. Using North American Regional Reanalysis meteorology and out-of-the-stack emissions from the EPA’s Clean Air Markets database of power plants, over the summers of 2003 through 2012 in several states, including Ohio, Kentucky, and New York, this relationship has already been proven in preliminary work. More research must be done to show if these quantified relationships hold year to year in the distant future, and can be verified by other meteorological and emissions monitoring sources.

Tracey Holloway, Associate Professor; Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment
Student Recipient: Ryan Kladar

Fueling the future: Examining the impacts and sustainability of biofuel alternatives in Uganda

97% of Uganda’s population relies upon charcoal or firewood to meet their basic energy needs. As fuelwood resources become increasingly expensive and increasingly scarce, biomass-dependent communities have been forced to consider alternative sources of energy, such a micro-scale anaerobic digesters that transform organic wastes into clean-burning renewable energy. Are these biogas systems having an appreciable impact on fuelwood demand in Uganda? With the support of SIRE-REU, Environmental Studies undergraduate, Anna Meding, will have an international, sustainability research opportunity under the mentorship of two Nelson Institute PhD students working to answer this question in an ongoing USAID-supported research project. Project Duration: May 19, 2014 – December 8, 2014. Approximately 220 hours of research assistance from Anna Meding.

Robert B. Beattie, Faculty Associate; Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Student Recipient: Anna Meding

Effect of cropping system on soil water holding dynamics and resilience to climate change

Soil water holding and retention capacities are important factors influencing how well crop production systems are buffered against the challenges of climate change, and may be influenced by agricultural management practices. The SIRE-REU student will conduct distributed soil water content measurement across several different cropping systems, during the 2014 growing season, to explore the effects of cropping system on soil water retention. The student will further participate in and contrast his or her work with complementary projects
underway within the same experimental system.

Matt Ruark, Assistant Professor; Department of Soil Science
Sarah Collier, Postdoctoral Fellow; Office of Sustainability

Student Recipient: Paige Lyons