Pollinator-friendly Habitat Planted at West Bank Solar Array
Thursday, December 9, 2021 - 15:47

Jacob Bechtold, Industrial Engineering major and IonE Student Staff

On a chilly morning in November, a team of volunteers led by Aaron Hanson, a researcher from the Institute on the Environment, spread pollinator-friendly seeds at West Bank’s solar array. Volunteers raked and dethatched the soil in the grassy area surrounding the array before planting the pollinator habitat. The University received the seeds from the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund.

Sarah Bauer, J.D. Candidate, University of Minnesota Law School

Briana Beck, O&M Project Supervisor | Energy Division MNL, (center) discusses proper seed spreading technique

In addition to the planting, a second crew installed soil moisture monitoring equipment beneath the solar panels. Volunteers dug post holes and set up equipment in an effort to measure the co-benefits of mitigating stormwater runoff. The deep-rooted nature of the new plants will break up the soil and increase infiltration to help keep soil in place during heavy rainfall, preventing it from producing runoff into the river. The moisture monitoring probes are placed at both 6 inches and 12 inches deep in the full sun, as well as under the solar panels’ drip edges where concentrated runoff will occur. The ground underneath the array will also be monitored where rainfall does not directly reach.

Aaron Hanson and Bradley Luchsinger, Philosophy major and IonE Undergraduate Leaders Program Alumni install soil moisture monitoring equipment

Data will be collected for years to come as part of the Living Lab program, becoming measurable as the pollinator habitat becomes established and as the root depths increase. Although this is the only equipment being installed for the time being, other research activities around the West Bank solar array include site observation, such as looking for bees and butterflies and an increase in their visits to the site to find food. Hennepin County also hopes to use the site to monitor for avian activity and gather data on whether birds use the site as ground nesting or feed on the increased population of insects. This research will be useful going forward to see how a pollinator habitat can develop on a solar site in an urban setting.

Aaron Hanson and Bradley Luchsinger, Philosophy major and IonE Undergraduate Leaders Program Alumni install soil moisture monitoring equipment

A community grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) made it possible for the University to receive the research equipment and additional seeds, and the University received consulting and implementation services from Minnesota Native Landscapes (MNL). Thank you!

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The Office of Sustainability is updating its climate action plan (CAP), which will focus on reducing the University’s greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for a changing climate. The Climate Action Intern will be an integral part of the team developing content for the Twin Cities’ CAP and will work with full-time staff, other student staff, and participants in the process. The Intern will support working groups by researching best practices, collecting and visualizing data, and providing general support as working groups identify and evaluate potential strategies for inclusion in the plan.

This position has multiple openings and is open to undergraduate and graduate students. To learn more, search job ID 351579 at hr.umn.edu/Jobs/Find-Job

Join us for the All Campus Sustainability Fall Kickoff, a systemwide University of Minnesota event on October 29th on the Twin Cities campus.  

The All Campus Sustainability Fall Kickoff is hosted in partnership by the Institute on the Environment's Sustainability Education Team and the Office of Sustainability. The event will take place on Saturday, October 29th, 2022 on the Twin Cities campus and will connect sustainability-minded individuals from all 5 University of Minnesota campuses for a day of learning and connection. This is a great opportunity to meet fellow students from across the system and learn more about sustainability on the Twin Cities campus.

Visit the Twin Cities campus to get a behind the scenes look at how the campus operates sustainably! Activities will include attending a Gopher football game, going on a Zero Waste tour of Huntington Bank Stadium and learning about how sustainability can be incorporated into sporting events, taking a closer look at local food systems and how we can feed our community sustainably, touring a local organic farm, and more.

The event is expected to last all day, depending on the time of football kickoff (TBD). All expenses including lodging (if applicable) will be provided.

If you are interested in participating, please fill out this application form.

We're hiring! Join the Office of Sustainability as a Student Communications AssistantLearn more >

Office of Sustainability. We're hiring Director of Sustainability at the Twin Cities campus. Job ID 349298

We're hiring! Join the Office of Sustainability as Director of Sustainability for the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Learn more >

Departments, units, and student groups across campus are offering events for Earth Month! Check out the list: z.umn.edu/earthmonthevents

The University of Minnesota Office of Sustainability and the Twin Cities Sustainability Committee invite you to the Climate Action Planning Town Hall, Wednesday, May 4th, 2022, 4-5:30pm at the CMU Theater. Hear from a panel of University sustainability staff, committee members, and experts, and submit questions for a Q&A. More info  Add to Google Calendar
Event recording:

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Do you know an undergraduate, graduate student, or student group on any University of Minnesota campus that has made significant contributions to creating a more sustainable future? The University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and the Office of Sustainability invite nominations for the inaugural systemwide Student Impact Awards, honoring undergraduate and graduate student efforts to lead the way toward a future in which people and the environment prosper together. Nominations are due Wednesday, April 6th, 2022. Learn more

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