Lightning Talks

Gavin LuterReal-World Sustainability Problem-Solving: The UniverCity Year Experience

By: Gavin Luter

Learn about concrete ways UW–Madison students, faculty, and staff are helping communities across Wisconsin make progress on their defined sustainability goals through courses!

Gavin Luter is the Managing Director of the UniverCity Alliance, a network of leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison serving as the front door for local governments who want to leverage teaching, research, and service to improve their communities. Gavin’s expertise is in developing and growing university/community partnerships and has created models and frameworks about how to achieve sustainable, equitable, and democratic partnerships. He carries a special interest in K-12 education partnerships, by virtue of him receiving his doctoral degree in Education Administration from the University at Buffalo where he ran university/community/community partnerships in the Fruit Belt and Commodore Perry Neighborhoods. He also spent time as the Education Projects Coordinator at United Way of Greater Knoxville after working at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Howard Baker Center for Public Policy as Student Civic Engagement Coordinator.

O’Brien, Where Art Thou?

By: Alex Frank

Energized in 2021, the O’Brien Solar Fields provide 20 megawatts of renewable electricity to the local community, half of which are allocated to the UW-Madison Campus. Producing energy for the two years this flash talk with summarize the impact of program, the systems performance against expectations, and lessons learned for future investments in renewable energy.

Alex Frank brings a background in sustainability planning, program management, cross-sector innovation, and data management to the Office of Sustainability. As a Sustainability Analyst, Alex works to provide data and analysis to support decision-making on programs that improve campus sustainability. In this role, he led the University’s efforts to complete a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) report, and is supporting strategic planning efforts.

Integrated Decision-Making Approach for the Simultaneous Design of Food Packaging and Waste Management Technologies to Achieve a Circular Economy

By: Paola Munoz-Briones

The following work presents a circular economy system engineering framework and decision-making tool that examines different food packaging and waste management possibilities. The present case study determines the optimal combination of ground coffee packaging and recycling technology based on economic and environmental criteria.

Paola is a second-year graduate student in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at UW-Madison. She works with Dr. Styliani Avraamidou on developing decision-making tools based on optimization techniques to promote the transition toward sustainable food supply chains. Paola obtained her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and gained industry experience as a consultant for Hazard Communication Programs. In addition to her academic and career pursuits, Paola enjoys teaching and dancing salsa, cooking Ecuadorian dishes, and playing tennis.

2021 Oceanic Atomospheric and Space Sciences Faculty, Staff and Student Portraits. Photography by Todd Brown/UWSMPH Media Solutions.

Do Nature-Based Climate Solutions Work?

By: Ankur Desai

Nature-based climate solutions seek to enhance climate change mitigation through manipulation or management of ecosystems. Actions include enhancing carbon sequestration in soils or limiting methane emissions from wetlands. However, assessing whether those interventions work is not straightforward. I discuss current research approaches into improving verification of these activities.

Ankur Desai is Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His lab studies and has authored nearly 200 articles regarding ecosystems, weather, and climate. This work spans from Wisconsin to the globe and uses both long term observations in nature and advanced computer simulations. He received his Bachelor’s degree in computer science and environmental studies from Oberlin College, a Master’s in Geography from University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in Meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University. Ankur is also an American Meteorological Society Certified Consulting Meteorologist and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Cleaning For Our Future

By: Jodi Krause 

Share the experience of building a sustainable cleaning program and using an onsite generated cleaning and sanitizing product, Stabilized Aqueous Ozone, (SAO) and the impact and benefits it has had.

I am one of the Assistant Directors of Building Services for UW Housing. Currently, I oversee the Building Services teams at Sellery, Witte, Ogg, Smith, and Merit Halls. I’ve worked for UW Housing for 25 years and am a graduate of UW Madison. I also primarily oversee the cleaning program and product purchasing for Housing. In this role, I helped implement the usage of Stabilized Aqueous Ozone (SAO) as our primary cleaning product and sanitizer. I continue to work with vendors and our staff to build out a program to be completely sustainable. In addition to Housing, I am also a member of the Healthy Green Schools and Colleges Steering Committee where I work with Green Seal and the Healthy Schools Campaign in expanding the use of environmentally sound products and equipment and educating others on doing the same.

Data Science Institute: Forwarding Sustainability on Campus and Beyond

By: Kyle Cranmer

I will highlight the Data Science Institute’s sustainability-focused activities with groups on and off campus and opportunities to partner with DSI.

Kyle Cranmer is the David R. Anderson Director of the UW-Madison Data Science Institute and a Professor of Physics with appointments in Statistics and Computer Science. Professor Cranmer obtained his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering in 2007, the National Science Foundation’s Career Award in 2009, and became a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2021 for his work at the Large Hadron Collider. He is also the Editor in Chief of the journal Machine Learning Science and Technology and serves on the advisory board for UW-Madison’s UniverCity Alliance.

Sunshine, Students, Buses, & Screens

By: Ian Aley

A team of students, faculty, and staff seamlessly integrated solar panels into our existing bus shelters, resulting in meaningful learning opportunities, innovative designs, and tangible improvements to the sustainability of the UW–Madison campus. The talk will share the story of this collaboration.

Ian Aley brings a professional background in student engagement, food systems, sustainable agriculture, social justice, capacity building, and cross-cultural collaboration to the Office of Sustainability. In his role as Green Fund Program Manager, he supports student ideas that improve campus sustainability.

Ian is trained as an urban planner, holding an M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning from UW–Madison. He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto and holds a Permaculture Design Certificate.

For the past ten growing seasons, since moving home to Wisconsin, Ian has been a member of a multicultural collaborative farming community called the Farley Center for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, located just west of Madison. There, he and his family care for and harvest wild and cultivated plants.

Michelle MillerFood Systems, Foodsheds

By: Michelle Miller

Food systems research on campus has flourished for 20 years. Now what?

Michelle Miller is a Nelson grad (1992) working on food systems challenges through participatory action research at CIAS. In addition to research, she brings farming and food service experience to systems analysis of supply networks. She co-founded F H King Students of Sustainable Agriculture in 1981.

Office of Sustainability Student Intern Program: Training the Sustainers

By: Tim Lindstrom

This flash talk will present an overview of the Student Intern Program at the Office of Sustainability. The talk will highlight the program’s development of interns’ professional skills and their sustainability literacy, and discuss the outcomes of that development through the campus-based work that the student interns perform.

Tim Lindstrom is the Intern Program Manager at the Office of Sustainability and an instructor at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. As the Intern Manager, Tim works alongside undergraduates to create a culture of sustainability on the UW–Madison campus. As an instructor, Tim uses the UW–Madison campus as a living laboratory for environmental and sustainability education. Tim’s research on campus-based sustainability education and the life cycle impacts of expanded polystyrene formed the foundation of his PhD dissertation, which he completed at the Nelson Institute in May 2020. He began graduate school at the Nelson Institute in 2012 and completed a Master’s degree in 2015 with a certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy. Prior to graduate school, Tim worked from 2006–2009 as the laboratory supervisor for the physics department at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois. From 2009–2011, he taught science at the Internationella Engelska Skolan in Gävle, Sweden.

U.W. Madison College of Engineering Dept of Civil & Environmental Engineering Portraits of faculty & staff

Sustainability Research Hub

By: Matt Ginder-Vogel

The Sustainability Research Hub is a service of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Office of Sustainability. The Hub is designed to make UW–Madison a preeminent destination for sustainability research.

Dr. Matt Ginder-Vogel is an associate professor in the Environmental Chemistry and Technology program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prior to joining the Madison faculty, Dr. Ginder-Vogel was the manager of process and analytical chemistry at Calera Corporation. At Calera he led teams responsible for production of cemetitious materials derived from industrial CO2 sources. Previously he worked at the Delaware Environmental Institute at the University of Delaware. He received his Ph.D. in soil and environmental biogeochemistry from Stanford University.

Reducing Food Waste in Dining & Culinary Services with Leanpath Tracking Software

By: Malorie Garbe

This presentation explores how a student proposal and Green Fund support helped Dining & Culinary Services implement Leanpath food waste tracking software to reduce operational food waste by over 40% at Rheta’s Market in 2023.

Malorie received her MS in Environmental Conservation from UW–Madison’s Nelson Institute and has worked in the field of higher education sustainability and campus farms for 10 years. She currently serves as the Sustainability Coordinator for University Housing where she works to lead operational and educational sustainability initiatives in the residence halls and dining facilities, including sustainable Move In and Move Out donation and recycling efforts, the Electric Eats sustainable food truck, the Dining & Culinary Services Campus Farm, and the Resident Sustainability Ambassador peer outreach program.

Innovation in Transportation Technology for Societal Benefits

By: Wissam Kontar

This talk explores the multifaceted implications of emerging transportation technology on society and elucidates how innovation in this field can be steered to realize the desired benefits of sustainability, energy efficiency, and mobility accessibility.

Wissam Kontar is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2022, he earned his Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering at UW-Madison. Wissam’s research is on the design, control, and modeling of emerging modes of transportation. Broadly, his research efforts focused on developing decision-making methodologies tailored for transportation systems in the era of connected and automated systems. His current research focuses on investigating the system-level impact behind adopting emerging modes of transportation as self-driving vehicles, electric vehicles, and electric-bikes, and how to better design and deploy these technologies in ways that are not myopic but consider system-level benefits and achieve sustainability. In 2022, Wissam was named a Rising Star in Cyber-Physical Systems (National Science Foundation) for his research work on self-driving vehicles. His research has been featured in IEEE, ERL and attracted attention from prominent media outlets such as Popular Science, Gizmodo, Phys Org, Science Daily, Politico, and others.


Free Food Alert

By: Travis Blomberg

UW–Madison is piloting the Free Food Alert system through the end of the calendar year. Available to all students, faculty, and staff, the system sends emails and/or push notifications to participants whenever there is free food available on campus.

Travis Blomberg (he/him/his) coordinates campus’ zero waste efforts. Specifically, Travis aligns sourcing/procurement practices, consumption behavior, and diversion opportunities for recoverable materials. Travis works closely with various stakeholders including, but not limited to, purchasing departments, Physical Plant, research offices, academic enterprise, Capital Planning and Development, business operations, facility and office managers, the UW System, students, student organizations, Wisconsin Union Directorate, University Athletics, University Housing, municipal governments, waste/recycling companies, suppliers, economic development councils, and community business partners.

Working Towards a Fashionably Sustainable Future with Rewear It

By: Anna Staresinic

The presentation will include a brief history of the background of our RSO, the main things we try to accomplish, how we accomplish them, recent achievements with the Green Fund and new SAC space, and where we want to go in the future.

My name is Anna Staresinic, and I am a junior here at UW-Madison majoring in Information and Data Science with certificates in Computer Science and Sustainability. I am interested in creating a campus that is as sustainable as it can possibly be, and the main way I have tried to do that on my own time is through being involved with Rewear It, a sustainable fashion RSO, since my freshman year. I currently work as the Swap Director, where I organize our bi-weekly clothing swaps for students and staff. Outside of Rewear It, I am also a member of the Wisconsin Alumni Student Board, a DJ at WSUM Student Radio, and a Student Technology Trainer at Software Training for Students.

Malu MenonThe Role of Agrivoltaics in the Journey to Planetary Health

By: Mridula (Malu) Menon

There is a growing need to increase food production, establish renewable energy infrastructure, and promote ecosystem services on our lands, and agrivoltaics seems to be a promising avenue to tackle them all at once. The UW–Madison Office of Sustainability is pioneering what that may look like in the Wisconsin landscape.

Malu is a Project Assistant with the Office of Sustainability working with the Green Fund and Clean Energy teams. She is a second-year graduate student in the MS Agroecology program and is interested in the role of agroecosystems to preserve soil health and biodiversity while ensuring food security. Her interests led to her involvement in the agrivoltaics project at the Kegonsa Research Station to explore the potential of dual use of land for energy and agriculture in Wisconsin and she is excited to coordinate the research that would be taking place at the site.

Ecohydrology of Solar Farms

By: Steve Loheide

The rapid expansion of solar farms across Wisconsin and in other northern states where it had not previously been economically feasible is a substantial development in increasing our renewable energy portfolio. However, the effect of solar arrays on vegetative and hydrologic processes in Temperate climates. We are exploring the hydrologic and ecological consequences and co-benefits that may be associated with solar farming.

Steven Loheide is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geological Engineering, and Freshwater and Marine Sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research focuses on the interactions between ecological and hydrological processes in natural and built systems with special attention to the role of groundwater. His approaches use a combination of field data, remote sensing, and numerical modeling to understand the feedbacks between vegetation patterning, vegetative water use, soil moisture availability, groundwater regimes, and stream-aquifer interactions. This work is focused on improving the scientific basis for stream, floodplain, meadow, and wetland restoration efforts; quantifying the provisioning of hydrologic ecosystem services under current and future scenarios; evaluating interactions among groundwater and urban, agricultural, and natural environments; and solving problems that span interconnected food, energy, water, and environmental systems.

How to Talk to Conservatives about Climate Change

By: Markus Brauer

Attempts to increase support for climate change policies often backfire. Markus Brauer discusses recent research about messaging that appeals to conservatives without decreasing support among liberals.

Markus Brauer is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has secondary affiliations in the Wisconsin School of Business and the School of Medicine and Public Health. He is also the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity Science. Born and raised in Germany, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He then worked for 17 years as a research scientist in the “Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,” the French counterpart to the National Science Foundation. He joined the University of Wisconsin in 2011. In his research, Markus Brauer studies the social aspects of human cognition, motivation, and behavior. He develops and tests interventions aimed at changing people’s behaviors in a variety of domains, such as diversity, sustainability, and workplace behaviors. He is the author of more than 100 scientific articles and chapters, has obtained numerous grants, and is member of the editorial board of the top scientific journals in his field.

Marek MakowskiWriting Against Climate Change

By: Marek Makowski

The Sustainability Writing Awards started with a simple premise: in the climate crisis, writing can inspire us, bring us together, and catalyze us to act. I will present on this year’s winning essays and on what writing teaches us about interdisciplinarity and the importance of the arts in galvanizing climate action.

Marek Makowski, a PhD candidate, writes and collaborates on writing programming for the Office of Sustainability. His writing has appeared in venues such as the LA Review of Books, World Literature Today, Hyperallergic, and The Point. He researches the history of literary and scientific experimentation and how writers experiment in response to global crises like climate change.