Sustainable Communities Partnership

Metropolitan Council (2017-2021)



Environmental Policy (ENVR 351), Eric Wojchik
Spring 2020

Metro Climate Stats is a Metropolitan Council initiative to formalize the collection, distribution, and use of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) data for comprehensive planning in 188 communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan region. This initiative will provide a baseline of greenhouse gas emissions data and planning scenario tools needed to track progress and inform decision-making by local governments and at the regional scale.  Planning scenario tools will enable cities to set a goal and interface with different strategies to see how it changes their emissions.   

As part of this initiative, the Metropolitan Council would also like to provide cities with tools to determine unintended consequences of climate action strategies on equity, inclusion, and social justice.  In other words, the Metropolitan Council is aware that although certain climate action strategies may effectively reduce carbon emissions, these strategies could also be incompatible with goals to become a more equitable society.  Students in ENVR 351 will contribute to analyzing this dilemma through a policy based perspective.  Student will analyze equity, inclusion, and justice implications of different land use and transportation strategies that could potentially yield a low-carbon economy.


Environmental Science Senior Research Seminar/Lab (ESCI 430), Eric Chapman
Spring 2019

The Metropolitan Council operates several wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the Twin Cities area. Most of the WWTPs are located adjacent to river corridors, and in some cases form portions of sensitive wildlife habitat and native vegetation areas. Landscape design at the WWTPs has traditionally consisted of traditional mowed turf, which requires constant mowing, occasional herbicide application and irrigation, and provides little benefit to wildlife or water quality. The Council is committed to developing strategies, guidance, and implementation plans to transition the landscaping to more natural systems, incorporating native tree species, pocket prairies, rain gardens, swales, and other features at its seven WWTPs, one water reclamation plant, and other miscellaneous lift (pump) station properties.

The Empire WWTP has implemented several sustainable landscaping practices, including permeable pavement, rain gardens, a green roof and more.  However, they have a large area of mowed turf that they would like to convert to a sustainable landscape that provides ecosystem benefits.  Students will conduct a social/economic/ecological analysis to examine the costs and benefits of converting this turf area to native vegetation.  They will develop a report to guide stakeholders and decision makers through this analysis and to make a case for the implementation their findings. 

Students will also analyze water quality, flow, and trout populations in the Vermillion River stretch along the Empire WWTP, prior- and post-effluent diversion from the Vermillion River to the Mississippi River.   Students will develop a scientifically-backed proposal with tiered recommendations for MCES to identify and respond to temperature stressors in our reach of the Vermillion River.


Targeted Conversion of Turfgrass to Native Prairie in Grassed Swales, A. Gilmore and B. Mueller

The Business Case for Turfgrass Conversion at the Empire WWTP, JP Fischer and E. Zanoth

Exploration of Thermal Regime on Salmo trutta Populations in the Vermillion River Near Empire, MN, J. Abrahamson and P. Westra

Thematic and Intertextual Perspectives:  City Lights, Urban Experience (ENGL 203), Olga Herrera
Fall 2018

Students in ENGL 203, in collaboration with SCP Artist-in-Residence Sarah Nelson, will connect human experiences and climate vulnerability data through story and art.  Through library research, ethnographies, artist input, subject interviews, and information from the Metropolitan Council's Climate Vulnerability Assessment, students will explore climate vulnerability in neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, selected from the localized flooding and heat interactive story maps. The Council may use the final illustrations to communicate to their stakeholders the significance and risks of local flooding and extreme heat in urban areas.

Illustration co-created by students and SCP Artist-in-Residence Sarah Nelson:

Environmental Writing and Community Outreach (ENGL 315)Salvatore Pane
Fall 2017

The Local Planning Assistance work unit at the Metropolitan Council provides technical assistance to communities that are currently drafting their 2040 Comprehensive Plan Updates as required by state statute. Many communities are considering integrating sustainability and resilience planning related to climate change in their Comprehensive Plan. The Metropolitan Council is interested in engaging cities in conversations about community views on climate change to better understand perspectives on climate change and also to inform the inclusion of climate resiliency in a city’s vision section of their Comprehensive Plan.  Students will conduct climate conversations with a selected city and synthesize these conversations into themes that can be provided to the city to integrate into their vision section of their comprehensive plan.  Students will also write about their experiences of these community conversations to offer a guide for the Metropolitan Council and cities who would like to engage in similar community conversations about climate change.   


Addressing Climate Vulnerability | Local Planning Handbook

Writing for Strategic Communication (COJO 344), Chuck Grothaus
Spring 2018

College students are often unaware of the wide range of employment and career opportunities available to them when they graduate. This is also true with government agencies like the Metropolitan Council. The Metropolitan Council would like students to help develop a strategic communications plan to promote the Council as an employer for recent college graduates. COJO 344 students will develop a strategic communications plan in collaboration with the Metropolitan Council to promote the Council as a prospective employer. Messaging will emphasize the range of multi-disciplinary job opportunities as well as the mission-driven nature of the Council.

Environmental Studies and Geography Capstone (ENVR 401/GEOG 402), Tony Siebenaler-Ransom and Eric Wojchik
Spring 2018

The Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) project identifies potential vulnerabilities of regional systems to the increased frequency and severity of climatic events. The CVA project will guide planning and policies regarding infrastructure, assets, facilities, and the built environment to help address climate vulnerability in the region. As part of the CVA, ENVR 401/GEOG 402 students will prepare an Extreme Heat Report with maps, data analysis, case studies, findings and recommended climate adaptation or mitigation strategies.

Earth's Record of Climate (GEOL 462)Carolyn Dykoski
Fall 2017

The Local Planning Assistance work unit at the Metropolitan Council provides technical assistance to communities that are currently drafting their 2040 Comprehensive Plan updates as required by state statute. The Metropolitan Council is encouraging cities to include a chapter on planning for climate resiliency in their Comprehensive Plan.  As part of this effort, materials that explain climate science both to city staff and the general public would be useful.  Students will develop fact sheets about climate research methods for city staff and/or the general public, focusing on what Twin Cities lake core samples tell us about changes in climate in the area over time and why this information is important for climate resiliency planning.  Currently cities have state-level data available to them, but student-developed fact sheets about Twin Cities metro lakes would bring this climate science to a local level. 

Geographic Info Systems (GEOG 321), David Kelley
Fall 2017

Students will work with the Metropolitan Council on climate vulnerability and resiliency story maps of the Metro area and examine flood and heat data layers in the area.  Project details coming in October!

Environmental Studies Capstone (ENVR 401), David Kelley
Spring 2017

Project Overview

The Metropolitan Council is interested in an exploratory study on the urban tree canopy to inform their future work and research regarding the urban tree canopy.  Possible student research questions could include assessing gaps in the canopy, developing community engagement initiatives, examining the relationship between the canopy and stormwater, examining the relationship between the canopy and socioeconomic factors, etc.  Students from the Environmental Studies Field Seminar will develop and conduct a research project about this broad topic based in their disciplinary interests.  The topic of the urban tree canopy offers an array of social and environmental questions to explore, engaging students in real-world research and problem-solving that draws together their curricular work in geography and environmental studies.  At the same time, students’ research will inform the Metropolitan Council’s various areas of work related to the urban tree canopy across social and environmental dimensions.