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Global Engagement

Our ultimate goal is to help the University of Michigan contribute to impacts that benefit the environment and society over the long run, and which result from the work of multiple actors over many years. While all of the work we support is designed with impacts in mind, we emphasize achieving outcomes, which are positive external changes resulting (at least in part) from the work we support. Sample projects are featured below.

National and International 

Testing water in Ghana

“As one of the facilitators of this process, I have confidence that these data and response options will positively influence and inform emerging ASGM [artisanal and small-scale gold mining] policy in Ghana and internationally, and ultimately, improve the millions of people engaged in ASGM world wide.”

— Dr. George Owusu Essegbey, Director, Science and Technology Policy Research Institute, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Accra Ghana

This team identified resource-limited alternatives in Ghana that allow gold-mining to occur in ways that are safe for environmental and human health without decreasing economic prosperity. The research team worked with stakeholders to develop inexpensive, sustainable, low-tech, health promoting, and socially acceptable solutions for water-related problems associated with small-scale gold mining. One viable alternative is neem seed oil production. Completed: November 2015.

Researchers: Basu and Neitzel (SPH), Renne (LSA)


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The team collected silt samples from 33 farm ponds to analyze the effects of de-silting on water capacity of the ponds and improving soil quality of fields where silt is applied. The analysis showed farmers, NGOs, and the government that the use of silt from these ponds provides nutrients and reduces fertilizer and pesticide consumption, and a 40-90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the viability of this method as a viable sustainable irrigation method. Completed: December 2014.

Researchers: Miller (SNRE/CoE) and 7 students from SNRE, SPH, and Taubman.


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“It is great to have this outstanding team from the Graham Institute help guide critical resource management actions for the international Detroit River watershed meet phosphorus loading targets. Input from the Graham team was instrumental in developing binational phosphorus targets for Lake Erie adopted by the United States and Canada. This project carries that expertise forward to identifying actions that will make a difference for the health of Lake Erie.

— Gail Hesse, Great Lakes Water Program Director, National Wildlife Federation

The U-M Water Center assembled a diverse bi-national team of lake modelers and models capable of developing nutrient loading dose-response curves for toxic algae and hypoxia in Lake Erie. The results were used by the US and Canadian governments to set new phosphorus loading targets for Lake Erie. The Center then assembled a team of watershed modelers from multiple institutions to run scenarios and provide advice to agencies and agricultural and environmental communities on the adjustments needed in agriculture to meet the new loading targets. Completed: Modeling Report (March 2015); Recommendations Target Report (May 2015), Recommended Implementation Report (March 2016).

Researchers: Scavia (Graham Institute), Zhang and Obenour (SNRE), Bocaniov, Bertani, Kalcic and Meunich (Water Center), and 20 scientists from 9 other universities and organizations


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The Climate Center provided information on potential climate change impacts on the wolf-moose eco-system on Isle Royale at National Park Service scenario planning workshops. The NPS integrated the resulting information into management approaches focused on evolving the maintenance of the Island based on future conditions, rather than on conserving past species and ecosystems. Completed: January 2013.

Researchers: Rood (CoE), Briley (Climate Center)


Local, State, and Regional 

Fracking Image Courtesy Circle of Blue

"The rules that took effect this week regarding high-volume hydraulic fracturing were developed while key decision-makers from the state were participating in the first phase of an integrated assessment by the University of Michigan's Graham Institute. The state looks forward to reading the final assessment and considering whether further rule changes or other improvements should be proposed."
 — Governor Rick Snyder

A partnership involving Graham, U-M Energy Institute, Risk Science Center, the Erb Institute, industry representatives, environmental organizations, and state regulators examined multiple aspects of hydrofracking with an emphasis on impacts and issues related to the State of Michigan. The Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan Integrated Assessment project created and integrated detailed reports on seven key topics with additional peer-reviewed materials, stakeholder input, and expert peer review. The report offered an analysis of Michigan-specific policy options with a focus on issues related to public participation, water resources, and chemical use. Completed: September 2015.

Researchers: Basu, Meeker and Bowman (SPH), Burton and Lacy (SNRE), Ellis (CoE), Gosman (Law), Hoffman (Ross), Kellogg and Nadelhoffer (LSA), Schwank (CoE), Wolske (Ross), Zullo (IRLEE)


Worst Case Scenarios for Enbridge Line 5

Computer simulations of the waves and currents at the Straits of Mackinac demonstrate the potential impact of a spill should the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines rupture. The Michigan 2015 Petroleum Pipeline Task Force used this report. Previously, the task force recommended an independent risk analysis and adequate financial assurance for the pipelines that the State subsequently pursued. The full analysis represents the most comprehensive evaluation of potential Line 5 oil spill impacts publicly available. In that study, Schwab provides probabilities of open-water and beach fouling from potential oil discharges of 5,000 bbl, 10,000 bbl and 25,000 bbl. Completed: Pilot Study (July 2014), Full Analysis: March 2016.

Researchers: Schwab (Water Center)


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A report summarizing impacts on community health from climate change highlights five key areas of concern and provides a localized summary of impacts for 9 climate regions across the state. The report was highlighted in a recent NRC report and is being used to frame new community health training for municipal staff across the state. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will begin testing the new health interventions at the community level based on the identified vulnerabilities. This work is also framing a partnership with the U-M School of Nursing to integrate climate information into its curriculum. Completed: April 2016.

Researchers: O’Neill and Walker (SPH), Larsen (Taubman), Briley, Brown and Gibbons (Climate Center - GLISA)


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"Hundreds of students, faculty and staff have studied campus operations, from greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency to how we use water and the types of food we purchase.  We don’t know of any other university that has conducted such an extensive, democratic assessment of its operations. We carried out this evaluation because we must, and we will, reduce our footprint.  This is one time I want the University of Michigan to do less rather than more."

— U-M President (ermerita) Mary Sue Coleman

As part of the Graham Institute's efforts to integrate academics and campus operations - and to help advance environmental sustainability on our campus - the Institute and the Office of Campus Sustainability led the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment. Students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders examined and made recommendations related to buildings, energy, transportation, land & water, good, purchasing and recycling, and culture. In FY 2015, teams of students, faculty and staff reviewed and updated plans for GHG reduction, waste prevention, and culture. Completed: September 2011 and 2015.

Researchers: Jolliet (SPH), Jones and Keoleian (SNRE), Larson, Levine and Thun (Taubman), Marans (ISR/Taubman), Talbot (Ross), and 75 student assistants


Washtenaw County Storm Drain, Photo courtesy ROBERT LAWTON / EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG

The Climate Center provided climate information for the Huron River Watershed Council’s work with stormwater managers across Washtenaw County focused on climate change impacts education. As a result the managers updated the countywide stormwater rules to adapt to changing precipitation totals. Completed: December 2014.

Researchers: Lemos (SNRE), Rood (CoE), Brown (Climate Center)


Photo courtesy of

Building on a three-year engagement enhancing climate resilience in cities across the Great Lakes region, this team worked with Toledo staff and officials to identify flood prone neighborhoods and revise the City’s 10 year-old stormwater credit program. Neighborhood prioritization took into account flood risk, social aspects of vulnerability, and infrastructure condition. Toledo adopted the recommendations creating priority zones and including new stormwater management approaches in their credit manual. Completed: December 2013.

Researchers: Dueweke (Taubman), Larsen (Taubman), Lemos and Agrawal (SNRE), Rood (CoE), Gerber (Ford), O’Neill (SPH)


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“The U-M work supported by the Graham Institute was absolutely essential to our success in being selected as one of the first two EcoDistricts in Detroit. We drew heavily on the fact that an integrated baseline assessment had been completed, and that we had a complete open space inventory and typology in place.”

— Debbie Fisher, HOPE Village Director

With a focus on urban sustainability, the Graham Institute supported an innovative project that connected a diverse array of U-M faculty with Focus: HOPE – a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization. Through this partnership to improve a 100-block residential area in Detroit through the HOPE Village Initiative (HVI), the project team addressed environmental, economic and social issues critical to the success of the HVI. Partnership accomplishments include visioning plans and design strategies for potential park space, identifying opportunities to improve safety, and developing a master plan to prioritize investments. HOPE Village demonstrates a commitment to green, community-driven development, prioritizing robust community engagement and equitable decision-making. Becoming an EcoDistrict increases opportunities in the future. With access to resources provided by community partners, EcoDistricts commit to make continuous progress on three issues: equity, resilience, and climate protection.

Completed: December 2013.

Researchers: Alicia Alvarez, Law School; María Arquero de Alarcón, Architecture & Urban Planning; Priya Baskaran, Law School; Craig Borum, Architecture; John C. Burkhardt, School of Education; Aline Cotel, College of Engineering (CoE); Margi Dewar, Architecture & Urban Planning; Paul Draus, Public Affairs, U-M Dearborn; Eric Dueweke, Architecture & Urban Planning; Robert Grese, Natural Resources & Environment; Jen Maigret, Architecture; Lorelle Meadows, CoE; Betty Overton-Adkins, School of Education; Bruce Pietrykowski, Center for Labor & Community Studies, U-M Dearborn; Juliette Roddy, Public Affairs, U-M Dearborn; and Roland Zullo, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy.