Category Archives: Event


Network’s Annual Meeting Includes Interdisciplinary Skills Workshop

Students participating in the Interdisciplinary Skills Workshop 2016
August 27, 2016

The annual meeting of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network convened on August 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The first component of the meeting was a course for graduate students on Interdisciplinary Environmental Study of Urban Sustainability.  32 students from all 8 of the participating universities gathered to learn the Network’s research design and practical application of a research framework to help inform policy and action.

Students learned how interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches can address grand challenges in urban settings.  Tours to distributed infrastructure sites around the University of Minnesota and the City of St. Paul highlighted real-world solutions.

Engaging with Network faculty and city partners in the next few days will introduce students to best practices for working across academia, private sector, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).


Co-PI Orlove Connects Urban Planning and Glacial Flooding

August 25, 2016
SRN Co-PI, Benjamin Orlove, Columbia University,  was a keynote speaker at the International Glacier and Mountain Ecosystems Forum, held 10-12 August in Huaraz, Ancash region, Peru. The event was hosted by a newly formed organization, the National Research Institute on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems, whose goals are to promote research and action on these climate change issues.

Professor Orlove’s SRN research and the goals of this group overlap on the topic of urban planning. “Peru is highly unusual in that, in mountain regions, though the towns have higher income and access to government services than the rural areas, the towns are also more vulnerable to glacier lake outburst floods. The towns are concentrated along major rivers. The rural agricultural people live more scattered on hillsides. so there are the issues of promoting early warning systems, despite people’s unwillingness to evacuate even when warnings are issued. They fear that thieves will come to evacuated areas. Weak planning/enforcement leads to rebuilding in flood zones, which are close to transport routes, despite risks,” says Orlove.

Learn more at ABC News.


Co-Director Culligan Contributes to Report on Smart Cities

Photo Credit: Patricia J. Culligan
July 27, 2016

A report from a National Science Foundation Workshop on Smart Cities held on December 3-4, 2015 in Arlington, VA was recently approved for release.

Patricia Culligan, Professor of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Columbia University and co-Director of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, was an invited attendee at the Workshop, and contributed to the Breakout Session Report on “Infrastructure and Technology for Smart Cities”. The Workshop was structured to include presentations and discussions focused on what is possible for Smart Cities and, more broadly, Smart and Connected Communities.

The workshop report provides recommendations on foundational research needs over the next decade to enable Smart Cities opportunities while, at the same time, mitigating unexpected consequences that might adversely affect urban dwellers.

The workshop report can be downloaded from:


SRN Researchers Present at Gordon Research Conference

Nagpure, Fang, Boyer, Tong, and Ramaswami.
July 14, 2016

SRN faculty, students, and post-docs participated in the Industrial Ecology Gordon Research Conference from Jun 18-24, 2016 in Stowe, VT. The theme of the conference was “Opportunities for the Critical Decade – Decoupling Well-Being from Environmental Pressures and Impacts”. Scholars from Minnesota, Georgia Tech, and Michigan presented on the topics listed below:

Professors Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota) and Josh Newell (University of Michigan) presented invited talks on “Urban Infrastructure Systems for Environmentally Sustainable and Healthy Cities” and “The Foundations of Political Industrial Ecology”, respectively.

Ajay Nagpure (Minnesota) presented the poster entitled “Characterizing the Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Open Burning of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Indian Cities”. In this study he discussed new methods for measuring the spatial frequency of open-burning of municipal solid waste and analyzed results of three neighborhoods of varying socioeconomic status (SES) for the Indian megacity of Delhi. He discussed how differences in socio economic conditions in neighborhoods are responsible for variation in MSW burning. According to his study daily mass of MSW-burned was 90−1170 kg/km2-day and 13−1100 kg/km2-day in highest to low SES neighborhoods, in winter and summer, respectively during year 2015.

Andrew Fang (Minnesota) and Raj Lal (Georgia Tech) presented a talk and poster regarding “Assessing Air Quality Co-Benefits of Carbon Mitigation and Urban Efficiency Strategies in Chinese Cities”. The work analyzed the cost-effectiveness of urban policies related to industrial efficiency, building efficiency, waste heat exchange, and transportation in the Jiangsu province based on the health benefits of PM2.5 reduction.

Dana Boyer (Minnesota) presented a poster on how future urban changes may affect food demand and associated energy and water requirements as well as presenting which food system interventions are most effective in mitigating urban impact and reliance on natural resources.

Kangkang Tong (Minnesota) presented work on how Chinese cities’ economic typology influences the scaling relationship between population and urban life parameters. The results indicated that scaling factor between population and GDP, energy and water use in cities are sensitive to economic structure of cities.


Director Ramaswami to Chair GRC

Professor Anu Ramaswami, University of Minnesota
July 14, 2016

Anu Ramaswami, Charles M. Denny Jr. Chair Professor of Science Technology and Environmental Policy and the Director of the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, was recently elected Vice Chair of the Industrial Ecology Gordon Research Conference (GRC). She was elected by conference attendees at the recent Industrial Ecology GRC held June 19-24 in Stowe, Vermont.

Held every two years, GRCs are meant to “promote discussions and the free exchange of ideas at the research frontiers of the biological, chemical and physical sciences” with a focus on pre-published research.

As Vice Chair, Dr. Ramaswami will help organize the Industrial Ecology GRC to be held in 2018  alongside Chair Stefanie Hellweg, ETH Zurich. Dr Ramaswami will then assume the role of Chair for the subsequent conference in 2020.


New Faces to the SRN and One Farewell

Top: New faculty, Chan and Curley. Bottom: New staff, Johns, Kruit, and Douma
July 12, 2016


Please join us in welcoming Gabriel Chan and Cali Curley to the Network’s team of faculty!

  • Gabriel Chan is an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota. He will investigate the design and performance of community-scale solar energy initiatives, using Minnesota’s community solar garden program as a test case.  Learn more about Gabe.  
  • Cali Curley is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a Courtesy Professor at Florida State University. She will be coordinating the Tallahassee utilities relationship and managing the utility level data.  Learn more about Cali. 

See a complete list of faculty collaborating on our Network.


On July 8th, we said farewell to our Managing Director, Luke Hollenkamp.  Luke accepted a new position with the City of Minneapolis’ Sustainability Office.  We wish him the very best in his new role!

Joining Tracy Fallon, our Operations Manager, are three additional team members.  Please welcome Robert Johns, Katja Kruit, and Frank Douma to the Network!

Robert (Bob) Johns will be our Senior Strategy Advisor.  Bob returned to the University of Minnesota as a Senior Fellow this January after serving as Director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.  His experience and expertise will guide the internal management of the Network and will advise on strategic connections with external partners.  Learn more about Bob.  

Katja Kruit will be our Research Manager.  Katja brings experience in managing other NSF research grants at the University of Minnesota and an expertise in sustainability science and renewable energy.  She will coordinate research in Theme 1, the Energy/Water Testbed, and the Green Infrastructure/Urban Farming Testbed, as well as manage the budget and contractual agreements.

Frank Douma is building on his responsibilities at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs by joining us as a Senior Fellow.  Frank will be coordinating research within the Transportation testbed, Theme 2’s social actors study, and Theme 3.  Learn more about Frank.  


SRN Successfully Presents First Year Progress to NSF

Fallon, Culligan, Russell, and Ramaswami presented first year progress at recent NSF Reverse Site Visit in DC.
July 06, 2016

June 30 and July 1, 2016

Our cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation allows us to present them with our progress annually. PI’s Anu Ramaswami, Trish Culligan, and Ted Russell, and Operations Manager, Tracy Fallon, were in Washington DC last week to share information with NSF staff and other Sustainability Research Networks (SRNs).

Each SRN gave an introduction to their project and presented their progress in the following areas:

  • Education and Outreach
  • Special Topics to Working in a Network
  • The Role of Social Sciences in SRN Research Programs
  • The Role of Natural Sciences in SRN Research Programs
  • The Role of Engineering in SRN Research Programs

The annual meeting concluded with each Network meeting face-to-face with their NSF program officer to receive feedback.  We are happy to report that the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network is on track and received praise for a productive first year!

Fellow SRNs

  • SCRiM (Sustainable Climate Risk Management)
  • AirWaterGas
  • UWIN (Urban Water Innovation Network)
  • UREx (Urban Resilience to Extremes)


Professor Botchwey to Present at GIS and Health Symposium

Georgia Tech professor, Nisha Botchwey
April 27, 2016

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), in partnership with the American Public Health Association (APHA) is hosting the 2016 GIS and Health Symposium “Mapping the Way to Healthy Communities”. Dr. Nisha Botchwey and Ph.D. candidate, Carla Jones were accepted to present at symposium on work related to the Sustainable Research Network. They will be presenting on the development of the Health, Environment, and Livability Platform for Fulton County, GA and on a project with Morehouse School of Medicine examining the relationship between cardiovascular disease, physical activity, and the built environment.

For more information about the event, please see

Related to the Health, Environment, and Livability Platform, on May 5th, Dr. Botchwey and Ms. Jones will begin training all of the districts within Fulton County, Georgia on the Health Impact Assessment process and how they can use the Health, Environment, and Livability Platform to assist in identifying areas of need. Results from those trainings will be available shortly thereafter.


SRN Faculty and Students to Present at Food-Energy-Water Nexus Conference in D.C.

January 15, 2016

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) is hosting its 16th annual conference in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21.  This year’s topic is the Food-Energy-Water Nexus.  Participants will fully understand how the three sectors are a system of interdependent components and how to develop solutions based on multi-sector engagement.

Faculty and students from the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network will be presenting the following symposia:

  • January 19th, 1:45 PM – Opportunities for Science at the Nexus – Joshua Newell (University of Michigan) will be a part of a panel that will identify advances in systems science, modelling, decision-support tools, sensors, and data management.
  • January 19th, 1:45 PM – Cities at the Nexus – Anu Ramaswami (University of Minnesota and SRN Director) will be a part of a panel to introduce how the core needs of food, water, and energy can be, and are being, integrated into sustainable planning of cities and surrounding areas.
  • January 20th, 10:50 AM – The Nexus in Cities: Measuring Impact and Exploring Solutions – Panelists will discuss how urban residents, city planners, and policymakers can shape the sustainability of food, energy, and water demand and supply to cities. The discussion will be moderated by Anu Ramaswami and Patricia Culligan (Columbia University and SRN Co-Director). Panelists will include Joshua Newell and Dana Boyer (University of Minnesota Ph.D. candidate and SRN research assistant).

The Sustainable Healthy Cities Network consists of universities, cities, governments, NGOs, and industry partners, who together will co-develop the science and practical knowledge that enables urban infrastructure transformation toward environmentally sustainable, healthy, and livable cities.  Their focus is on evaluating key knowledge gaps around distributed infrastructure.  A unique feature of the Network is their systematic studying, comparing, and contrasting of social, behavioral, and institutional phenomena across three testbeds/sectors: Energy and Water/Wastewater, Transportation, and Green Infrastructure and Urban Farming.

The National Council for Science and the Environment is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the scientific basis for environmental decision-making.  Their national conference will bring together over 1,200 scientific, educational, business, civil society, and government professionals from diverse fields to explore the connections between science and decision-making associated with a particular high-profile environmental issue. Learn more about the event.


Columbia University holds an Interdisciplinary Workshop on Urban Green Infrastructure

credit: Dr. Tyler Carson.
November 24, 2015

On November 6th 2015, Columbia University hosted about fifty researchers, government, industry and non-for-profit stakeholders at a workshop focused on urban green infrastructure solutions in New York City. Workshop, presentations and discussions explored how advances in monitoring, modeling and design are shaping the future role of green infrastructure in urban stormwater management, sustainability and resilience. SRN co-Director Patricia Culligan presented the results of a multi-year research project to quantify the ability of green roofs to capture stormwater volume and reduce pollutant runoff, while SRN faculty Richard Plunz and researchers from Columbia University’s Urban Design Lab proposed innovative solutions to the management and maintenance of green streets and public right-of-way bioswales.

Much of the work presented at the workshop showcased research evolving from an NSF funded interdisciplinary project aimed at developing high performance green infrastructure systems for coastal cities. Learn more at the Urban Design Lab webpage.