Faculty Research

Environmental Studies faculty conduct research on a host of issues in their respective fields.  Here is a small sampling of what they are doing:


Dr. Elise Amel, Psychology


Dr. Elise Amel is a co-author of a new textbook, Psychology for Sustainability, 4th Edition.  This book applies psychological theory and research to so-called "environmental" problems, which actually result fromhuman behavior that degrades natural systemsThe 4th Edition is organized in four sections. The first section provides a foundation by familiarizing readers with the current ecological crisis and its historical origins, and by offering a vision for a sustainable future.The next five chapters present psychological research methods, theory, and findings pertinent to understanding, and changing, unsustainable behavior. The third section addresses the reciprocal relationship between planetary and human wellbeing.  And the final chapter encourages readers to take what they have learned and apply it to move behavior in a sustainable direction by presenting a variety of theoretically and empirically grounded ideas for how to face this challenging task with positivity, wisdom, and enthusiasm.


Dr. Steve Hoffman, Political Science

For almost ten years Dr. Hoffman and colleague Dr. Angela High-Pippert have been engaged in a research project focused on decentralized systems of electricity production.  They have published numerous papers, presented many conference papers, and undertaken a number of program reviews during this period.  The past two years has also seen a deepening collaboration with colleagues at the University of Minnesota and in the United Kingdom.  Most recently, they have begun to look at so-called solar gardens, a type of solar development intermediate between large-field arrays and individual residential or commercial systems.  As part of this effort, the department of Political Science co-sponsored a March 2014 conference on community solar initiatives.


Dr. Paul Lorah, Geography

Paul Lorah continues to teach ENVR 151 Sustainable Development. His students are currently using GIS to model the most sustainable neighborhoods in the Twin Cities. Students are also exploring these neighborhoods using Nice Ride bikes paid for by the Campus Sustainability Grant written by Conservation Geography students. His most recent research project started when he analyzed 41 million road segments in order to map the most isolated/connected places in the United States. This new map, in combination with data on the location of invasive species and landcover change, will be used to quantify the relationship between habitat quality and distance from paved roads.  Another current project is the creation of a GIS model targeting the most/least altered places in the United States. This “wilderness continuum,” when combined with the locations of protected federal lands (such as wilderness or national parks), will be analyzed to assess the effectiveness of federal land protection policies.


Dr. Kris Wammer, Chemistry

One of Dr. Wammer’s many research projects focuses on antibiotics in Minnesota waters. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products have gained significant attention in recent years as emerging contaminants in the environment, but major gaps still remain in our understanding of the significance and potential health and ecological impacts of these contaminants. The critical question of which, if any, emerging contaminants are of the most direct concern to human health is still largely unanswered.  Because the threat of decreased efficacy of antibiotics due to increases in antibiotic resistance levels is such a significant human health threat, this class of pharmaceuticals is a priority for further study.  The goal of this project is to study the development of antibiotic resistance due to the presence of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes in farm runoff and in wastewater treatment plant effluents, which then subsequently impact surface waters.  In collaboration with researchers from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota, we are assessing current antibiotic concentrations and antibiotic resistance levels for members of four major classes of antibiotics used in both human medicine and agriculture: tetracyclines, sulfonamides, macrolides, and fluoroquinolones. This work is funded by a grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF).

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