A Sip of Science
Contemporary science is relevant, dynamic, and often provocative. Science Cafés and Café Scientifique events are chances for adults to exchange opinions and ideas about science and its influence on culture, the environment and everyday life.
In that vein, A SIP OF SCIENCE is a new science happy hour sponsored by NCED. It is a forum for researchers, policy-makers, musicians, and artists to put science in context through storytelling - all over beer, in a cool bar. At 5:30pm on the second Wednesday of each month, NCED will host an happy hour forum in NE Minneapolis. Expert scientists pair with musicians, artists and storytellers to explain their efforts to address some of the Earth's most pressing problems.
NCED's A SIP OF SCIENCE brings the wonder of science to happy hour.
When: 2nd Wednesday of each month, 5:30pm
Where: Aster Cafe, Saint Anthony Main, Minneapolis
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Climate change: Charting Preparation and Societal Response to Weather Extremes
May 8, 2013
Craig Edwards, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) meteorologist
Is it spring around here yet??
Climate change researchers suspect that changing global climate will lead to an increase in severe weather events, flooding, a rise in sea level, intense hurricanes and destructive tornadoes around the world. How can society prepare for these types of events? Is it possible to do so? Craig Edwards, MPR meteorologist and retired Chief Meteorologist of the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, discusses changes in extreme weather in our region and how developing educational programs to raise public awareness about climate change can help prepare our society for the impacts of future extreme weather events.
With more than 40 years of experience, MPR meteorologist Craig Edwards has a long history with understanding the complexity of Minnesota's weather and monitoring regional climate change. Serving for 15 years as the Chief Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, Craig was instrumental in launching regional weather coverage on Minnesota Public Radio. He is a member of the National Weather Association and the American Meteorological Society. His contributions and expertise have been cited in national publications such as the USA Today and the Washington Post, as well as local publications such as the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine and Minnesota Monthly. In 2010, Craig also became the first on-sight game-day meteorologist in Major League Baseball. He began his fourth season of providing weather support to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on April 1st.
The Silica Sand Mining Boom in the Central Midcontinent: Why the Boom, Why Here, and Why the Controversy?
April 10, 2013
Tony Runkel, Minnesota Geological Survey
The recent rapid expansion of silica sand mining in the central United States is driven by demand for proppant, a material used in hydrofracking to keep fractures open as oil and natural gas are extracted from the subsurface. Certain bedrock layers in the Midwest region, especially parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, are dominated by sand grains particularly well suited for use as a proppant. These layers are well known to both sedimentologists and industry as some of the most "mineralogically and texturally mature" sandstone on Earth. Tony Runkel from the Minnesota Geological Survey will provide an overview of the expansion of silica sand mining in this region, including geologic interpretations of why our "mature" sand is so special, and why the expansion has been controversial.
Tony Runkel is Chief Geologist of the Minnesota Geological Survey, and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth Sciences - both are units of the University of Minnesota. His research emphasis targets the sedimentologic, stratigraphic, and fracture attributes of Paleozoic bedrock in southeastern Minnesota (including the Twin Cities Metropolitan region), which includes the quartz-rich sandstone layers that are the focus of this presentation. Tony grew up in southeastern Minnesota, and holds a B.A. in Geology from the University of Minnesota, an M.S. from the University of Montana, and a PhD. from the University of Texas at Austin.
What the Trees See: Viewing Modern Environmental Problems through the Lens of Ancient Trees
March 13, 2013
Scott St. George, Department of Geography, University of Minnesota
Trees are wonderful things. They release oxygen into the atmosphere, reduce erosion, and provide both shade and shelter. But trees do much more than just turn carbon, water and oxygen into leaves and wood. They are also amazing natural recorders that keep a permanent history of the environment within their annual growth rings. Because trees can live for hundreds or thousands of years, tree rings provide us with an extraordinarily deep perspective on modern environmental issues. Scott St. George will explain how dendrochronology (the scientific study of tree rings) is helping to answer questions about what the future may hold for Minnesota’s environment.
As an extra bonus, one lucky guest will receive a tree-ring specimen recovered from a spruce forest growing at the very northern tip of Canada’s Yukon Territory!
Public Music, Public Land, Public Water: Connecting Sound and Sustainability
February 13, 2013
Mark Pedelty, Anthropology and Communication Studies, University of Minnesota
Hawai'i to Hurricane Sandy: Can Ecosystem Management Affect Water Resources?
November 14, 2012
Kate A. Brauman, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
Our everyday landscape is constantly evolving and changing. Whether wetlands are converted into productive agricultural fields, prairies, forests and deserts urbanized for towns and cities, or rivers channelized to minimize land loss, the way we design our landscape impacts our water resources and the ecosystem benefits we derive from the environment. With constant pressure for land conversion, we need to develop a better understanding of the impacts of land use on our water and ecosystem resources so it can better inform public decision-making.
Join Institute on the Environment researcher Kate Brauman as she explores quantifying the impacts of land-use change on the municipal water supply in Kona, Hawaii, and how that process can be translated to various environments throughout the world.
Invasive Species: The Biology and Ideology
October 10, 2012
Mark Davis, Macalaster College
Humans have been transporting species from one region of the earth to another, both intentionally and unintentionally for centuries. However, the rate and extent of species introductions have exploded during the past century. For the past several decades, scientists, conservationists, and environmentalists have consistently viewed species introductions as undesirable, and society spends considerable effort and money to prevent new introductions and to eradicate or manage species that have already been introduced. Yet, to what extent are our views of nonnative species based on good science? To what extent are they influenced by beliefs and values that are not grounded within science? Join biology professor Mark A. Davis of Macalaster College for a lively discussion.
Mark A. Davis is DeWitt Wallace Professor and Chair of Biology at Macalaster College. He is the author of the book Invasion Biology (Oxford University Press, 2009) and co-author of the influential essay “Don’t Judge Species on their Origins,” published in Nature in 2011. Professor Davis appeared on MPR and Science Friday with Ira Flatow. He was educated at Harvard and Dartmouth.
The Surprising Life of Native Mussels
September 12th, 2012
Mark Hove, University of Minnesota
Freshwater mussels are one of the most endangered animal groups in North America, but the role of these mollusks in freshwater ecosystems, including our own Mississippi River, is vital to the survival of other animals and to the stability of the food chain. Freshwater mussels improve water quality in rivers and streams, allowing greater light penetration for algae and other organisms to grow, and they act as excellent indicators of environmental changes. Mussels have mutually beneficial relationships with many species of fish, providing them with nutrients that benefit other animals and humans who eat the fish.
Join mussel researcher Mark Hove in a discussion of these aquatic creatures, including the curious strategies native mussels employ to successfully reproduce, how mussels help not only rivers but people, the anthropogenic impacts on mussels, and mussel conservation.
Outdoor StreamLab (OSL): Life-size Outdoor Experiments to Strengthen Stream Restoration Science
May 9, 2012
If you've ever visited Water Power Park, the balcony of the Guthrie Theater, or taken the elevator tour at the Mill City Museum, you've likely seen the constructed stream channel adjacent to the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. The Outdoor StreamLab (OSL), built on an abandoned floodway and fed by the waters of the Mississippi River, provides a unique opportunity to take high resolution, laboratory-quality environmental measurements in controlled outdoor conditions. This setting allows researchers to conduct experiments on stream and river processes that are dependent on sunlight, including algae growth, investigating the effect of vegetation on flowing water, or studying interactions between flowing water, sediment transport, and aquatic habitat. The OSL stream has been flowing continuously since June, 2008 (even in winter!) to maintain a natural stream ecosystem.
As the OSL moves into its fifth year of research, OSL manager Jessica Kozarek will explore what we have learned from these life-size experiments and how researchers seek to understand the effect restoration practices will have on the complex interactions between physical, chemical, and biological river and stream processes.
About our speaker:
Jessica Kozarek is a Research Associate and OSL research director at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and the National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics at the University of Minnesota. She received her BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Penn State before her obsession with flowing water (and with kayaking) brought her to a MS and PhD in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.
Geology and the Terroir of Wine Growing in Minnesota
April 11, 2012
Dr. James Cotter
These are Minnesota cold-hardy wine grapes, specially bred to bear full crops even after the vines experience the cold of Minnesota winters. The University of Minnesota has been in the grape-growing business since the late 1880s, and today, the University is recognized as having one of the top wine grape programs in the United States. Minnesota wines have won awards in both national and international competitions, and the Upper Mississippi Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is now is largest appellation (region for wine growing) in the world.
Join glacial geologist Dr. James Cotter as he illustrates how the challenges of wine growing in the Minnesota climate are met with the development of new grape species and innovative growing practices. He will also discuss how the geologic context for wine grape growing may provide insight on the future of wine making in Minnesota.
Seeing Through the Mud: Exploring the Long-Term History of Wild Rice Lakes (and Some Other Lakes Too)
March 14, 2012
Dr. Amy Myrbo
Climate change and human impacts on Minnesota's landscape have altered the habitat of wild rice (Zizania palustris; manoomin in Ojibwe, psin in Dakota). Management and restoration of wild rice can be informed by research that uses core samples from the beds of wild rice lakes. The University of Minnesota is supporting the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to trace the historical distribution and growing conditions of manoomin in the reservation's wild rice lakes, while involving middle school through tribal college students in research projects and internships. Join Department of Earth Sciences researcher Amy Myrbo for a whirlwind tour of how we can use core samples from not only wild rice lakes, but other important urban and local lakes, to get students of all ages excited about the connections between science, history, and culture in their own back yards.
Dr. Amy Myrbo is a research associate and lab manager at LacCore, the National Lacustrine Core Facility, at the U of M. She completed a BA in English lit at the U before leaping into the Geology Ph.D. program. Her research includes the geochemistry and sedimentology of lakes; she is also working on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's project evaluating the sulfate water-quality standard to protect wild rice waters.
Rivers, Plate Tectonics, and People: Life on the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta
February 8, 2012
Dr. Andrew Petter
"There is no forgiveness in nature.” – Ugo Betti
Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated and impoverished nations, occupies an extremely dynamic and hazardous portion of Earth’s surface. The ongoing collision of tectonic plates between India and Asia produces very large earthquakes within and around Bangladesh. Meanwhile, one of the world’s largest river systems, the Ganges-Brahmaputra, constantly changes the landscape through yearly monsoonal floods and channel shifting. Researchers at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) at the University of Minnesota are involved in a project to understand how the tectonic forces interact with these rivers to create the landscape on which 150 million people try to live their lives. Join Dr. Andrew Petter, one SAFL researcher, in exploring life on a tectonically-active delta.
Andrew Petter is a post-doctoral associate at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota. He completed his bachelor degree in Geology at Rice University, and his masters and PhD in Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. His work looks to understand how active rivers and deltas create sedimentary deposits and conversely, how ancient sedimentary rocks and inform us about Earth’s past.
Future Earth: Thriving on a Human-dominated Planet
December 14th, 2011
Collectively all seven billion of us now rival natural processes in modifying the Earth. We live in a world being thoroughly reconfigured by human activity. As humans we have set in motion global changes that will reverberate for thousands of years. A diverse portfolio of technologic, economic, social and political innovations is needed for people to thrive on a human-dominated planet. Earth fortunately now is home to the wealthiest, healthiest, best educated, and most innovative, creative and interconnected cohort of humans in history. What is the future we wish to create and live in? Join Patrick Hamilton in an interactive exploration of the challenges and opportunities of living on a human-dominated planet.
Currently, Patrick Hamilton serves as the Director of Global Change Initiatives at the Science Museum of Minnesota and principle investigator for the museum's Future Earth exhibit. He started at the Science Museum of Minnesota soon after graduating with his masters in geography in the early 1980s. He is the lead on several initiatives, including the Science on a Sphere Solutions exhibit, the Big Back Yard, and Earthscapes, working and partnering with groups such as University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, Columbia University, NCED, and NASA.
A Sense of Where You Are: Science and Knowing on the Mississippi River
November 9, 2011
In our increasingly connected world, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information at your fingertips. There is a growing move to build programs that can synthesize material on a topic from a vast number of sources so we can spend our time connecting and acting on important news and events rather than having to scrounge for the information ourselves.
The River Life Program connects University teaching, research and programs to off-campus partners who are working toward a sustainable river and inclusive planning for our river future. The program utilizes diverse digital platforms and makes strong use of social media to create unique learning opportunities -- students learn from practitioners, river agency staff network more with each other, and communities up and down the river can share their experiences.
Join River Life coordinator Pat Nunnally for an exploration of the Mississippi River, what we know about it, and what it means. After a brief visual tour, Nunnally will engage the audience on a highly interactive exploration of the Mississippi River close to home, right outside our doors, in fact, at the Aster Cafe. (Not to worry: we'll stay inside, and explore through images and discussion).
A Climate for Change: Agriculture and Water Quality in Minnesota
In recent decades, our growing realization of how we pollute our waterways has led to regulation of the most obvious pollution sources. Cities have updated their wastewater treatment systems and industry can no longer dump their waste products into waterways. But what about non-point sources of pollution that trickle into rivers, streams, and lakes from multiple different sources? What are the cumulative impacts of that pollution on our waterways?
Historically, Minnesota has relied on voluntary incentives to reduce non-point water pollution. Norman Senjem, recently retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, says that voluntary measures are no longer enough. In our October Sip of Science, Norman discusses how non-point pollution is severely impacting Minnesota waterways and what steps can be made to address this growing problem by creating new regulation and incentives to hold polluters accountable, and broadening the context for developing solutions to agricultural pollution.
Agricultural Crossroads: Food, Fuel and the Future
June 8, 2011
Nick Jordan (science), Mother Banjo (alt-country, Americana), Anna Clausen (images)
The rhetoric surrounding agriculture in the state of Minnesota almost invariably invokes a future of sacrifice. Some fear that maintaining the status quo will damage our ecosystems, while others are concerned that alternative approaches to agriculture will lead to economic woe and inadequate food supplies. Nick Jordan, professor of agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota, wants to change the terms of the dialog from sacrifice to shared opportunity. Jordan wants to facilitate the adoption of land-use practices that take local agriculture in a new, multifunctional direction. Join Jordan, local farmer Tony Thompson, Warren Formo from the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition, and Jim Kleinschmit and Anna Clausen from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy for a discussion of a new vision for local agricultural land use, and how we might get there from here. Join us for a discussion of Minnesota agriculture, policy, music, and art.
Muddy Waters and the Minnesota River Blues
May 11, 2011
Carrie Jennings (science), Matt Poppleton (finger picking guitar)
Civilization, by its very nature, has involved reshaping the natural environment to fit human needs. Agriculture, in the Minnesota River Basin, has been a major agent of that restructuring. The story of the Minnesota River Basin is one of a landscape reshaped by its geology and its history of human settlement. It is a story of agricultural intensification and human perturbations that have accelerated soil loss, changed precipitation, and amplified erosional processes. The futures of the river basin and of Lake Pepin, the iconic body of water it impacts, depend upon understanding how human actions are coupling with geological history to threaten these waters.
The Delta Dilemma: Man vs. Nature on the Mississippi
April 20, 2011
Chris Paola (science), Eric Mohring and gary Powell (Cajun Music)
Throughout most of the 20th century, Americans saw nature as theirs for the taking - conquer, build, transform. And we did. Much of our landscape is a testament to what technology has allowed us to achieve. Success, however, often came by deflecting problems elsewhere, and to a large extent, the future. This fact is true nowhere as much as the Mississippi Delta.
For the April 20 SIP OF SCIENCE we have a powerful story of the dynamism of the Earth's surface, the 20th century war humans waged to author its course, the loss we are experiencing in winning, and finally what we have learned about relinquishing control and allowing the natural processes of the Delta to orchestrate restoration.
The search for diamonds in North America
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Diamonds are said to be forever, but where do they originate? North America's geology has excellent potential for diamonds, but only recently has advances in science and technology made discovery possible. Join us for a happy hour discussion with Minnesota State Geologist Harvey Thorleifson on how Canada joined the ranks of world leaders in the production of high quality gem diamonds and how the methods that were key to diamond discoveries in Canada have been applied throughout Minnesota, with some preliminary success.
Road de-icing salt impact on Twin Cities waters
February 9, 2011
Nearly 350,000 tons of road salt is applied for de-icing in the Twin Cities metro area every year. The salt keeps our roads safe during winter, but where does it all go when the ice melts? Join us for happy hour to hear about University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Professor Heinz Stefan's investigation into the effects of road salt on local water quality and the steps that could be taken to address the issue.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, oh my! Shifting tectonic plates
January 19, 2011
Recent events in Haiti, Iceland, New Zealand, and elsewhere have brought Earth's shifting tectonic plates powerfully back into our collective consciousness. As unusual as the recent string of natural disasters may seem, they are the normal result of the steady shifting of tectonic plates of the Earth's mantle. Join us for happy hour as University of Minnesota Geology & Geophysics Professor Peter Hudleston puts recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and erupting volcanoes into the context of current scientific understanding of the gradual and continual changes in Earth's surface.
Weather vs Climate: A local perspective
Are summers in Minnesota really getting more hot and humid? Are we experiencing more frequent thunderstorms than we used to? If so, what does it all mean? How do we put our day-to-day weather experience into the context of a changing Minnesota Climate? University of Minnesota Climate Professor and State Extension Climatologist/Meteorologist Mark Seeley has the lowdown on the differentiation between weather and climate and what climate change has in store for the state of Minnesota. Join us for happy hour to learn the local perspective.
Out, out damn'd dam: freeing wild rivers
November 10, 2010
Gordon Grant USDA
Dr. Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist with the USDA Forest Service, works on some of the largest dam removal projects in North America. Addressing the "juicy problems" that accompany such large-scale ecological changes, Dr. Grant will lead a lively discussion on the complexities of removing a long-standing dam and environmental management in the wake of its removal.
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