Sustainability Research

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UMD is a recognized leader in research and has many research centers, institutes, and laboratories.  There are also many different funding programs and resources for students to get involved.

In 2014, researchers, faculty members, and students at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) worked on sustainability research and public service projects with active funding of more than $14 million. A list of projects is located in this Bridge magazine article on Sustainability Research.

A few key players and examples of research efforts around sustainability are listed below.  See the UMD Research site for a complete listing of funded projects.


UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) focuses its research on industry growth and utilizing natural resources in the best ways possible. Projects include building hybrid homes with efficiency in mind, mattress recycling program feasibility, and thermally modified wood. For more information on these and other NRRI projects, check out the NRRI Now newsletter.

Sustainable Development Research Opportunity Program

UMD undergraduate students have an opportunity to be a part of sustainable development projects in the local Northeast Minnesota community, based on their interest and qualifications. The Sustainable Development Research Opportunity Program (SDROP) provides students a $1500 stipend for projects that can last up to 1-year.

Example of SDROP in action in downtown Duluth:

UMD Solar Research Project

Solar Malosky

UMD’s solar panel Arrays provide hands on research into alternative energy for UMD students.

Solar energy is converted into alternating current for use in the Malosky Stadium. A weather station was installed on the roof to aid research in the area of concentrated photovoltaic systems (CPV). Watch the live solar output and learn more about this project.


UMD Small Wind Research Project

The Zero Contact Transmission Drive

A multidisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students from sustainability, biology, geography, and engineering departments are working together on a project to install a small 5-kilowatt wind turbine in the center of the working UMD Farm along Riley Road.  

Visit for more information.

Sustainable Agriculture Project @ UMD

 The Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP@UMD) formed in 2009 to institute education, research, and community engagement around local food systems and food security in the western Lake Superior region. SAP@UMD is an interdisciplinary faculty collaborative that provides overall leadership and is housed in the Center for Sustainable Community Development. SAP@UMD was awarded stewardship over fifteen acres at UMD’s Research and Field Studies Center (formerly the Northeast Agricultural Experimental Station), including a five acre heritage apple orchard and a ten acre field for experiential learning and research.

In Spring, 2011 SAP@UMD participated in the “Communities Take Root” contest to restore the five acre apple orchard. In the contest, orchards are awarded to communities that are able to collect the most votes. The effort gained the support of thousands of votes. On June 1, 2011 SAP@UMD was announced as a winner in the contest.

Victus Farm


This project features a unique partnership between UMD’s Center for Sustainable Community Development (CSCD) and the City of Silver Bay, MN. The goal is to develop an integrated fish, plant and algal production system that will allow communities to create jobs producing their own healthy food and clean energy.

Our challenge is to create a sustainable facility and production system (minimizing the quantity and environmental impacts of any necessary inputs/outputs) at the smallest possible economically viable scale. Our emphasis is on closing input/output loops, minimizing capital and operational inputs (i.e. electrical and heating loads and labor) while creating a healthy and humane working environment. Redundancy is also integrated into the operation to provide flexibility during changing market conditions. The end result is an 9,000 sq. ft. facility in Silver Bay, MN’s eco-industrial Park.

Large Lakes Observatory

Located on the UMD campus, the Large Lakes Observatory (LLO) is the only institute in the country dedicated to the study of large lakes throughout the world. The LLO focuses on the global implications of our investigations in the areas of aquatic chemistry, circulation dynamics, geochemistry, acoustic remote sensing, plankton dynamics, sedimentology and paleoclimatology. 

UMD Sea Grant

Minnesota Sea Grant helps coastal communities wrestle with economic, social, and environmental issues by: Developing tools to help communities better understand and manage impacts of existing and potential future development on water and environmental quality, developing and evaluating approaches for balancing a sustainable economy with a healthy environment and communicating results to the public, and encouraging adoption of an integrated resource management approach to natural resources.

UMD Research

Links to all UMD Research Centers, Institutes, Labs, and Projects can be found here.

U of M’s Environment and Sustainability Portal

The University of Minnesota is one of the most sustainable campus systems in the country. From the first large-scale wind turbine ever constructed at a U.S. public university to some of the nation’s leading green campus and energy savings initiatives, the U of M is a model for green campuses around the world.

Experts from the University

With more than 1,000 faculty and staff members, UMD harbors a wealth of information for journalists needing facts and professional perspectives. Professors, researcher’s and other university leaders contribute resources on topics that impact the world today. These faculty and staff members have agreed to speak at community and national events and answer questions in their area of expertise.

Looking for ideas for a student research project or internship? Check out this list of potential student projects.