More upcoming local science-related events

Here’s another rundown of upcoming local science-related events.

Grandfather of green

Germany’s “grandfather of green building” is coming to town to talk about eco-cities and designs that make a community healthy for the long haul.

Joachim Eble’s innovations have enlisted community participation in the creative and efficient use of energy, water, transportation, and healthy building materials for projects across Europe and Asia.

He led the quality support group for the European Union’s ECOCITY project. He also is Germany’s coordinator and technical partner on SNOWBALL-Energy Smart Urban Design.

Eble’s lecture at the University of Minnesota is sponsored by the Office for UMore Park Academic Initiatives. UMore Park is the U of M’s 5,000-acre project in Dakota County where planners are working to build a sustainable community integrating features similar to those Eble has introduced in Europe.

The lecture is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Sept. 28 at the U of M’s Carlson School of Management, 3M Auditorium, 321-19th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

The event is free but you should register to ensure a space. Registration and other details are available here

Halorespiration and eight-track tapes

Weekly lectures at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment will explore new environmental frontiers each Wednesday this fall. Here are details on the next two lectures:

Sept. 29 — Hooked on Halorespiration: How, Where and So What?

Chlorinated organic molecules are some of the world’s most hazardous compounds, causing effects from cancer to obesity. Developed by humans for uses such as degreasing, insulation, and fumigation, they now contaminate tens of thousands of sites in the United States alone. About 15 years ago, scientists discovered bacteria that were able to “breathe” some of these chlorinated compounds and thereby detoxify them. Astoundingly, some of these so-called halorespirers actually require chlorinated compounds to live. Scientists and engineers have since debated how these organisms came to be, whether they have a niche in uncontaminated environments, and how we can best harness their abilities. Speaker Paige Novak, Associate Professor in Civil Engineering, will talk about her work trying to unravel the natural role of halorespirers in hopes of developing better clean-up methods.

Oct. 6 — Eight-Track Tapes, Compact Discs and Solar Cells

At least a dozen existing technologies produce solar cells with overall power conversion efficiencies ranging from 5 percent to 40 percent. Given that these technologies are available, the question arises as to whether society should invest in research to develop even more new technologies, or just work to improve existing ones. Speaker Eray Aydil, professor in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, will make the case that we should continue research on new types of solar cells, basing his argument on the decision in the 1970s to develop new recording technologies beyond the eight-track tape — a decision that led to compact discs and eventually to digital formats. Even though new technologies are uncertain, Aydil will argue that they are worth pursuing on the chance they may lead to even more efficient solar cells at much lower cost, revolutionizing renewable energy.

The 2010 Frontiers lectures are scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. in the institute’s seminar room, 380 VoTech Bldg, 1954 Buford Avenue, St. Paul.

All lectures are free, no registration required. You also can catch them live on the web and view past presentations here.

Tracking the apex predators

Apex predators — wolves, eagles, bears and other alpha-creatures — live at the tops of their food chains with virtually nothing that preys on them.

Two Minnesota researchers who have worked extensively with these mighty predators are to lecture at the Raptor Center about their experience in tracking wolves, ospreys and eagles.

David Mech, is an internationally known wolf researcher and senior scientist for the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey. Mark Martell is the director of bird conservation at Audubon Minnesota and has been involved in bird conservation and studies for more than 25 years.

Their lecture is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1st, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., at Room 215 of the Ben Pomeroy Student Alumni Learning Center, 1964 Fitch Avenue, St Paul.

The event is free. You can register here.

 How healthy is the Twin Cities?

A visit to the doctor’s office typically is an isolated event. But you have to look far beyond those four sterile walls to consider the integrated factors that play upon your health.

National research suggests that a person’s health is strongly influenced — as much as 50 percent or more — by income, education, and neighborhood conditions. Tracking and analyzing that array of factors is a science in and of itself, the often neglected side of our health care research.

How does the Twin Cities area fare? A new report speaking to that question — prepared by Wilder Research and commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation — will be presented in St. Paul next week.

Topics to be covered include the links between health outcomes and income, education, neighborhood conditions, and race in the Twin Cities. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion about ways to reduce health inequities including policy changes that can make the Twin Cities healthier for everyone.

The event is scheduled for 8 a.m., Oct. 7, at the Wilder Center, 451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul.

The event is free, but registration is required. You can register here.

Sketch the natural world

The Bell Museum of Natural History is offering a chance to channel your inner artist with Roz Stendahl, a local illustrator.

Self-styled visual journalists, accomplished artists and casual hobbyists are invited to join Stendahl in sketching real museum objects.

The sketch sessions – held the first Thursday of every month — will be themed around a museum display or object from the museum’s scientific collections. The objects will range from rare animal mounts to exotic nests, skeletons, fossils and other natural history objects.

The sessions are free with museum admission. Basic art supplies will be available for purchase.

The first session is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, in the museum at 10 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis. For more information about sketch nights and the museum’s other Thursday evening programs, go here

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