Research Initiatives

Develop viable food and agricultural systems for the 21st Century

CFANS envisions a society capable of dealing with opportunities and threats to our world food system.

Worldwide demands for food increase (population of over 8 billion by 2025) while land and water become increasingly scarce and human health issues rise (e.g., zoonoses avian flu, TB, West Nile virus) and threaten food systems and their sustainability.

CFANS addresses these issues through scholarship ranging from functional genomics in model systems to crop and animal improvement for enhanced production; plant adaptation to climate change; as well as water resources conservation, wildlife conservation medicine and expertise on zoonoses.

Our intent is to bring together researchers across CFANS, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Biological Sciences to develop viable, competitive, and sustainable food, water and agricultural systems. This collective research spans the spectrum from cells to organisms to agricultural systems to ecosystems, a competitive advantage to adapt complex agricultural systems to changing environmental needs and societal demands. We will build excellence through launching new intellectual clusters and broadening student participation in research and public engagement.

Position the University as the national center of excellence in research related to energy and products from renewable resources

CFANS envisions a state significantly less dependent on oil for energy.

We are working with five other University of Minnesota units and the University's Initiative on Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) to position Minnesota as the National Center for Biofuels Research, Renewable Energy, and Bio-based Products Innovation.

CFANS is serving as the focal point for developing efficient and sustainable technologies for "lignocellulosics conversion" to biofuels and bioproducts and has unique capabilities for evaluating the economic and environmental costs and benefits of existing and emerging renewable energy technologies. Sustaining, expanding and institutionalizing IREE will position the University to be a leading agent of change in promoting statewide economic development while supporting sustainable, healthy and diverse ecosystems.

Address fundamental issues related to global climate change

CFANS envisions a campus world-renowned for its scholarship and leadership in addressing global climate and environmental change.

Climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions, is the major long-term environmental issue for society. Climate change scenarios predicated on current emission rates project complete loss of the Arctic icecap by 2070, a 20-foot rise in sea level resulting from glacial melting, and an array of biotic consequences (e.g., invasive species) of enormous import.

Faculty in CFANS are working on interdisciplinary teams to conduct research on carbon dynamics, greenhouse gas emissions and ecosystem change on agricultural, forested, and urban landscapes. They also conduct research on policy approaches that exacerbate or resolve these local to global changes. The goal is to develop viable management practices that reduce net emissions from these landscapes and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Thus, we are advancing a strategic initiative focused on understanding the underlying biological, chemical, and physical processes of greenhouse gas emissions and terrestrial carbon sequestration together with complementary research on policy solutions.

Develop capacity for collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training laboratories in support of graduate and undergraduate students

Our existing laboratory space exists in the form of single investigator laboratories, which severely limits our capacity for broad, comprehensive research involving multiple investigators.

Our plan is to bring selected laboratories together to form a collaboratory. As the College's pilot initiative for nurturing and challenging outstanding students, a WATER (Water Analysis and Training for Ecological Research) collaboratory would foster interdisciplinary research among water science faculty and their students and support training and research for students and post-doctoral fellows. Shared across St. Paul colleges (CFANS, College of Biological Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine), these labs will complement strategic positioning initiatives and will enhance advising and mentoring, leading to increased graduation rates.