Since the Earth Summit in 1992, climate change and biodiversity loss have been recognized as twin environmental challenges impacting people worldwide. The planet has already warmed more than halfway to some of its costliest tipping points, and extreme weather is becoming increasingly frequent, intense, and damaging. Human activities have directly altered at least 70% of the planet’s land surface and two in five plant species are currently threatened with irreversible global extinction. Many of nature’s benefits to people directly depend on biodiversity, including the production of wood in forests, livestock forage in grasslands, pollinators in croplands, and fish in aquatic ecosystems. Biodiversity also helps regulate the climate and ensure the reliable supply of nature’s benefits to people in the face of global changes. According to the World Economic Forum, experts now rank three environmental risks as the most severe risks over the next decade: climate action failure, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss. These environmental risks were ranked above all other risks, including those related to human health (infectious diseases), the economy (debt crises), and geopolitics (geoeconomic confrontations).
Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly challenging to clean our water, air, and soil. For example, human activities have more than doubled the amount of reactive nitrogen in the environment with cascading damages to drinking water, human health, and climate change. Additionally, PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ are being found in new places, and new warnings this year indicate they can threaten human health even at extremely low or undetectable levels.
UMN researchers are leading the way toward identifying sustainable solutions to these environmental challenges. For example, UMN has more highly cited researchers in the Environment/Ecology category than any other institution worldwide, according to Clarivate. Additionally, UMN is ranked second globally in Ecology and fourteenth globally in biotechnology by the Shanghai Ranking. Environmental research is one of UMN’s greatest strengths.
The future quality of life in Minnesota and beyond requires the identification, development, scaling, and implementation of sustainable solutions. Before it’s too late, we must slow climate change, reverse biodiversity loss, and clean or prevent the contamination of our water, air, and soil. Public and private investments in sustainable solutions will continue to grow. Novel and creative ideas are needed to maximize the benefits of these investments. The MnDRIVE Environment program supports world-class research and local partnerships that provide sustainable solutions here in Minnesota and beyond.
Seed Grant Program
Seed Grants support innovative solutions at any stage of development, ranging from early tests of novel and potentially transformative solutions to later stage scaling and implementation of solutions. Learn More about 2023 Seed Grant funding.
Demonstration Grant Program
Demonstration Grants support proposals that take proven solutions and scale them up for implementation in our sustainable economy.
Undergraduate Research Funding
Through our partnership with the Louis Stokes North Star STEM Alliance MnDRIVE offers summer research opportunities to undergraduates from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM. Learn more about undergraduate research funding.