The State of Water


The Water Council is pleased to announce the addition of seven new members:
  • Catherine Bruns, PhD student, Communication Studies,
  • Afton Clark-Sather, Associate Professor, Program in Geography (UMD),
  • Andy Erickson, Research Associate, Anthony Falls Laboratory, College of Science and Engineering,
  • Diana Karwan, Associate Professor, Department of Forest Resources,
  • Bonnie Keeler, Assistant Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs,
  • Crystal Ng, Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences,
  • Nicholas Phelps, Assistant Professor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Director, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

The Water Council was founded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and serves to bring together resources from across the University of Minnesota System to address the pressing concern of access to clean water for the 21 Century – the state of water.




Dan Gilchrist

Dan Gilchrist

Communications Director, Office for the Vice President of Research

Dan leads OVPR’s communications department, which plans, coordinates, and implements communications strategies that highlight the importance of the U of M’s research enterprise and its role as a partner in economic development and technological advancements. He advises the vice president for research and his executive leadership on communications and government relations and assists with issue management related to research for OVPR and the University. He previously served the University as a speechwriter to two presidents, federal relations coordinator, and Extension program coordinator. He holds two policy-related degrees from Stanford University.

Bullet Points

  • Our researchers are reimagining urban ecosystems to recycle water for increased economic productivity and healthier water systems. Learn more. 
  • University of Minnesota research is helping farmers manage irrigation, runoff and drainage waters to reduce pollutant loss; keeping our economy pumping and our waterways healthy. Learn more.
  • Minnesota’s rivers flow from the Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Our research helps protect Minnesota’s 92,000 miles of rivers from habitat loss, pollution, and bank erosion. Learn more.
  • Minnesota is home to over 17,400,000 acres of forests, which help to provide clean water for the state. Our researchers are developing new tools for forest and wetland management. Learn more.
  • If you count all the lakes in Minnesota down to ¼ acre, we have 4.6 million, with shoreland that is worth $80 billion. Our scientists work to protect this strategic resource. Learn more.
  • Lake Superior is one of five lakes on earth that contain more than half of the planet’s liquid surface freshwater. Through outreach, we share our expertise in large lake science with citizens across the state. Learn more.
  • Minnesota’s 130-year legacy of iron mining continues to support the growth of the nation. We research opportunities for economic mineral development while preventing impact on freshwater resources. Learn more.
  • Three out of four Minnesotans rely on groundwater for their drinking supply. Our scientists are researching the distribution and availability of groundwater to protect drinking water. Learn more.
  • Water drives our climate and sustains the world’s people and ecosystems. Our scientists study global water and design water solutions for every continent. Learn more.

Lian Shen

Lian Shen

Director of SAFL
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Lian Shen is the Director of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, the Director of the Fluid Mechanics Lab and is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

He primarily works on the computational and theoretical study of fluid dynamics in areas including turbulence, boundary layers, water waves, multiphase flows, and flow-structure interaction. The projects originate from a wide range of applications, including mechanical engineering, environmental fluid mechanics, geophysical fluid dynamics, renewable energy, and biofluids; however, basic research aiming at the fundamental mechanisms in fluid dynamics is always a major theme.

His research is supported by NSF, DOE, ONR, NOPP, NOAA, and private industry. He received his Doctorate of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Caleb Levar: From PhD to Taproom Tech

Caleb Levar: From PhD to Taproom Tech

Caleb Levar: From PhD to Taproom Tech

Bringing Science to the Art of Brewing

When Caleb Levar decided to become a microbiologist during undergrad, he embraced that decision in all aspects of his life. “What that meant for me was starting a sourdough culture for bread, making cheese, and fermenting sauerkraut,” he says. “Beer was something I did as well, and it turned out that I was alright at it.”

After graduating from the Bond Lab one year ago with his PhD, Levar took his talents to the taproom, joining Fair State Brewing Cooperative as resident microbial expert. “The goal of an academic program is to teach people how to be better problem solvers,” he says. “Everything that we do every day in the brewery is problem solving.”

For instance, many common types of beer are brewed using pure cultures of standard yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, due to its reliable consistency. Yet adding in unique fermenters like Lactobacillus (a common microbe in yogurt and sauerkraut) can dramatically enrich and diversify a brewery’s offerings. That’s why brewers of all sizes are now experimenting with cultures of mixed microbes.

Working with multiple bacterial species or strains, however, introduces the risk of cross-contamination. Additionally, different microbial communities often compete for or work together synergistically to consume available sugars in the slurry. Levar often makes use of his academic training to precisely manage the complex microbial interactions occurring in every batch.

At a large brewery, experimentation with mixed culture fermentations is more difficult due to sheer batch size. At Fair State, however, a batch might fill only a handful of barrels, which makes the problems that arise more manageable and reduces the risk of dumping huge volumes of botched beer.

“Brewing is not a glamorous job,” says Levar, noting that 90% of the work is plumbing and janitorial. Tanks must be frequently scoured and waste disposed of. Because different activities occur on different days, wastewater quality can vary dramatically from day to day at microbreweries. “There’s water everywhere, and a lot of it goes right down the drain,” he says. All of this leads to a heavy load on the municipal wastewater service, creating a need for new ways to clean up.

“One of the fundamental missions of the U of M and the BioTechnology Institute is to interface with the public and with industry and to help find solutions to uniquely Minnesotan problems,” says Levar, who will shortly open the doors to Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery, a brand new venture in Northern Minnesota. Meanwhile, he continues to nurture that exact same sourdough culture he started in undergrad.

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