East Boston is situated on the front line of climate change. Made…
Leading a Food Revolution in Higher Ed
The world’s food system is responsible for about one-quarter of the planet-warming greenhouse gases that humans generate each year—the clearing of forests, animal manure, and fossil fuels for fertilizer and shipping food around the globe. The Hulings Rice Food Center is creating a climate-sensitive food systems model with field-to-campus dining for students, composting campus and community food scraps, managing campus gardens regeneratively, and instructing students in sustainable food production.
Offering Climate Change Studies
While Northland College incorporates climate change inquiry into its courses, it has also developed a climate change studies minor to help students become informed citizens with an emphasis on understanding and articulating why climate change is happening. Students learn how climate is modeled and gain a better understanding of political, economic, and grassroots solutions to climate change so they can lead in adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Adapting and Restoring Ecosystems
Sarah Johnson, associate professor of natural resources, merges scholarship on ecosystem vulnerabilities and risk with ecosystem adaptation and opportunity. She currently co-chairs the Plants and Natural Communities Working Group of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts that will see the first demo sites on state-owned property of wetland management that use climate change adaptation principles outlined within a publication that she co-authored with colleagues from regional agencies.
Mapping Historic Climate Change
The field of geology provides a unique perspective on climate change. Rocks, sediments (i.e. really small rocks) and ice (i.e. melt-able “rocks”) tell stories about past climate conditions on earth. David Ullman, assistant professor of geoscience is mapping historic climate change to better predict current changes.
Producing a Climate Adaptation Guide
Northern Wisconsin has begun to experience increasingly severe storms that have caused flooding, ripped open roads and bridges, and left people stranded and without basic resources. The Center for Rural Communities has developed a comprehensive guide for government, civic leaders, and business developers to help them prioritize, prepare, and plan for climate change adaptation.
Assessing Climate Vulnerability and Adaptation Opportunities for Apostle Islands Wetlands
Professors Matt Cooper and Sarah Johnson are collaborating on a project in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to determine how the park’s relatively pristine coastal wetlands will likely respond to climate change. The project will help the National Park Service bolster its capacity to adaptively manage these critical habitats.
Starting in November 2018, Northland College initiated a series of adaptation talks, bringing together the campus and community to learn, absorb, and process the realities of climate change and how to prepare for the change. (Confronting Collapse, Nov. 12, 2018; Deep Adaptation: Living with Flooding, March 18, 2019; Letters from a Disappearing World, April 2, 2019). Plus the campus collaborates in citizen science efforts for severe weather training, weather observation, and National Weather Service’s Weather-Ready Nation program.
Researching Hope and Despair in a Time of Climate Disruption
Elizabeth Andre, associate professor of nature and culture, is researching hope and despair in relation to climate change.
Promoting New Ways to Farm
Conventional farming promotes soybean-corn rotation that relies on fossil fuel-intensive fertilizers and machinery, and leaves the soil vulnerable to erosion. Hazelnuts are an up-and-coming solution, a perennial crop that decreases erosion, absorbs and stores carbon, and produces a high protein crop for humans. Northland College is working with the UW-Extension and the American Hazelnut Company, providing a space at the Hulings Rice Food Center for small-scale processing of locally grown hazelnuts; and greenhouse space for seedlings.
Investigating Cloud Cover
Climatologists consider the role of clouds together with aerosols to be the largest single uncertainty in climate prediction. In fact, the United National Intergovernmental Panel on climate change, charged with evaluating climate change science, has made it a top priority. Andrew Jensen, assistant professor of mathematics, is investigating cloud cover and how it will impact global warming or cooling.
Engineering Resilient Streambanks
The Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation is leading a project to stabilize an eroding bluff on North Fish Creek, which can crumble and collapse during severe storms. The stabilization of this bluff alone may prevent roughly six-hundred metric tons, around thirty-five to forty dump truck loads of sediment, from entering into the creek each year.
Divesting from Fossil Fuels
The Northland College Board of Trustees voted to fully divest endowment funds from fossil fuels in 2017 and have made good on that promise. “To truly embrace our environmental mission, it is incumbent upon us to mindfully remove fossil fuel companies from our endowment portfolio,” said Trustee Mike Fiorio, a Northland College alumnus, a 32-year veteran of the financial services industry and a partner of Fiorio Wealth Advisors.
Investing in Solar
Northland relies partially on solar, wind, and geothermal power, but in 2018 students took the lead, purchasing one hundred, two-hundred-watt solar shares or 20 kW of power of an Xcel Solar Connect Community project. The energy harnessed by NCSA’s 20 kW will be used to power the Larson-Juhl Center for Science and the Environment and greenhouse.
Promoting Regional Energy Independence
The Center for Rural Communities researchers analyzed the City of Ashland’s buildings and properties, energy usage, and vehicle fleet fuel usage, and provided recommendations for achieving 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. They published their results in 25×25 Plan for Energy Independence.
Implementing Zero Stormwater Discharge
In 2018, the board of trustees approved a zero stormwater discharge initiative, with a goal of reducing rain runoff from campus. “The importance of reducing runoff has never been higher with the region experiencing its third large flood event in the past six years—and rain gardens play an important role in capturing runoff,” said Matt Hudson of the Burke Center, who is overseeing the project.
Examining Climate, Atmosphere, and Wildfire
Ryan Shadbolt, assistant professor of atmospheric and climate science, is examining interconnections between climate, atmospheric circulation, and wildfire, with a focus on the Great Lakes and Southern Appalachian regions.
Researching Algae Blooms in Lake Superior
Flood events in 2012, 2016, and 2018 may have led to the increased prevalence and spatial extent of harmful blue-green algae blooms along the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior, particularly in the Cornucopia region. The Burke Center is conducting research to determine what conditions might lead to a blue-green algae bloom in Chequamegon Bay, to help inform resource managers, local communities, and public health officials about broad, potential source areas of blooms to the Chequamegon Bay region.
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BY DAVE ULLMAN, Assistant Professor of Geoscience
On those really hot days in…