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Upcoming science-related events in Twin Cities

Here’s a fresh list of local science-related events coming up in the next few days.

Nano? Bio? What?

Nano…bio…synbio. How’s a person to keep track of all the new technologies bursting from labs these days?

The role of these emerging technologies in addressing pressing global environmental problems will be the focus of a lecture by Prof. Jennifer Kuzma of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Questions Kuzma will address include: What is the right balance for using emerging technologies with unknown consequences when they show promise but also may present irreversible harm?  What is driving their use now?  Who should make decisions about their use in the future, and what should those decisions be based upon?

She also will present case studies, for example, of nanoparticles for pollution remediation and synthetic organisms for cleaner fuels.

The talk, part of the Institute on the Environment’s fall 2010 Frontiers lecture series, is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m., Nov. 10, at 380 VoTech Building, 1954 Buford Avenue, St. Paul.

Consequences of dams

The consequences, intended and otherwise, of the many dams built on rivers in the Midwest and across the world will be the focus of a two-day University of Minnesota conference.

The keynote speaker — Christopher Sneddon, professor of environmental studies and geography at Dartmouth College — is to set the historical context in a talk titled “Concrete Revolution: Cold War Geopolitics and the Proliferation of Large Dams, 1933-1975.” His research has focused on the political ecology of river basin development, primarily in Southeast Asia.

Other sessions will cover issues of dams and rivers from a variety of scales and perspectives, including governance and human rights in the Global South; dams as part of water rights and sovereignty issues for American Indians; the hydrological impacts of dam removal; and dams and culture.

The overall goal is to develop a research and policy agenda around the long-term future of dams and other large-scale engineered structures in rivers.

The conference, free and open to the public, is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Nov. 11-12, at the university’s Nolte Center, 315 Pillsbury Drive S.E., and the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory auditorium, 2 3rd Ave. S.E., Minneapolis.

Space is limited and pre-registration is advised. To register, contact the Institute for Advanced Study at (612) 626-5054. For more information, go here

Farms and clean water

Long before the recent flap over the University of Minnesota’s handling of the documentary film “Troubled Waters,” agriculture’s impact on water was a nagging worry.

The Citizen’s League had weighed in on the discussion with a report, “To the Source: Moving Minnesota’s Water Governance Upstream.”  It concluded that in order to address the kinds of water pollution problems we face today, we must set up environments where individuals, businesses, farms and other organizations work together with government for clean water.

This pulling-together model rests on the expectation that all of the diverse players can meet their own interests in the process.

Now, the League has organized a discussion of the model for the agricultural setting.

The featured speaker is Tim Gieseke, a farmer and environmental scientist who also is president of Ag Resource Strategies in New Ulm, Minn. Gieseke has developed an index that assesses a farm’s impact on a variety of factors and gives them an overall “water quality score.” This score opens up a way for the many people and entities working on a farm to communicate and helps them coordinate their efforts towards the goal of clean water.

The event is set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15 at Aloft Minneapolis, 900 Washington Ave. South. There is a $5 charge for Citizens League members and $10 for non members. You can find more information and register here.

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