2016 Sustainability Progress Report


Climate variability and change present some of the greatest challenges in human history. To address this challenge, U-M researchers are developing solutions for mitigating climate change and adapting to it in ways that minimize adverse impacts on human and ecosystem health.

  • 6 tribes/intertribal authorities received tailored climate resources
  • 8 cities in network focused on climate adaptation & resilience strategies

Climate adaptation

The Great Lakes Integrated and Assessments project, managed by the School of Natural Resources and Environment, serves as a bridge between the research community and practitioners in the field by providing useful and useable information, informed by science. Climatologists, social scientists and others, contribute to the long-term social, economic and environmental sustainability of the Great Lakes region.

Historic Milestone

Historic Milestone

Nuclear Research

A small nuclear reactor is built on North Campus in 1948 to facilitate research into the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

View other historic milestones

Impacts to the Northwoods Forest

One project focused on the Northwoods Forest region, which covers 64 million acres of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, explored how rural and tribal communities could increase the adaptive capacity of their forests, waters and livelihoods by communicating climate science and engaging a broader, regional network of tribal partners to implement a climate adaptation plan.

The Menominee Conservation District and the Red Lake Nation Band of the Chippewa Indians were the two Northwood communities involved in the project, “Implementing Forest and Water Climate Adaptation Solutions to Build the Resilience of Two Northwoods Communities.” The Model Forest Policy Program supported these communities in addressing their governance challenges, as well as adopting a regional, multisectoral approach to achieve more effective climate adaptation implementation.


Diversity matters for better biofuels

A naturally diverse mix of species will help reduce the chance of crop failure when growing algae in outdoor ponds as a next-generation biofuel, according to a study by researchers.

Algae-derived biocrude oil is being studied at U-M as a potential renewable-energy alternative to fossil fuels. The work was funded by a $2 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation.


Tech startup bets on slow water to power our future

Submerged under 26 feet of water in the St. Clair River lies the first commercial-scale prototype of a device designed to generate electricity from slow-moving river and ocean currents. Called VIVACE, the device harnesses a phenomenon called flow-induced motion and weighs 12 tons. U-M startup Vortex Hydro Energy, founded in 2004 by Michael Bernitsas, the Mortimer E. Cooley Collegiate Professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at U-M, is working with the U-M Marine Renewable Energy Laboratory to build and market a device that could last decades underwater, churning out power for utility companies. Their present research is funded by the U.S.Department of Energy.

A public health threat

Changing climate conditions—including warmer temperatures and an increased frequency of heavy rainstorms—represent “an emerging threat to public health in Michigan.”

Based on current climate trends and projections, U-M researchers and state health officials identified five health topics of concern:

  • Respiratory diseases.
  • Heat-related illnesses.
  • Water-borne diseases.
  • Vector-borne diseases.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and weather-related injuries.

Biological invasions threaten biodiversity, economy in developing countries

Non-native plants, animals and pathogens threaten the economies and livelihoods of residents in some of the world’s poorest nations, according to a study by an international research team including a U-M biologist.

The damage caused by invasive species threatens global biodiversity and cost global economies $1.4 trillion annually. They can transmit disease, choke river systems and wells, prevent cattle from grazing and out-compete or eat native species.