Our Approach

Our Research Approach

Our Research Approach

Research for the future we want.

Our approach combines capacities in ecological and economic modeling, policy and social research, and stakeholder engagement to discover new insights about how to achieve food, energy, water, and ecosystem security in agricultural landscapes of the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

As a scientific project, we are working toward the following goals:

  • The state of FEW and ecosystem security in the region now and into the future to 2050, particularly given abrupt and long-term changes in environmental and policy conditions
  • Management and policy options that will result in resilient landscapes and FEW systems
  • The scale of land-use changes necessary to achieve goals for FEW and ecosystem security

Ecosystem and Economic Modeling

Our state-of-the-art modeling combines agroecosystem dynamics and socioeconomic scenarios to unpack the following:

  1. The current status of food, energy, and water security in the Basin, and how much change may be necessary to meet United Nation Sustainable Development Goals, as applied regionally
  2. Possible consequences of change to FEW systems, including both abrupt changes, such as floods and global trade shifts, and slow changes, such as global warming
  3. The effects of potential policy options on the security of food, energy and water systems and ecosystems

We are examining potential pathways to FEW security in the region by developing scenarios of ecological, economic, and political change to the year 2050. We will assess future conditions from two angles: 1) the whole Upper Mississippi River Basin to examine impacts of global change and regional policies, and 2) four representative sub-regions of the Basin to test outcomes of local changes on the provision of ecosystem services.

Policy and Social Research

We are assessing beliefs and preferences about policy options and outcomes for reducing risks to food, energy, water, and ecosystem security through surveys with regional stakeholders from the agricultural, natural resource management, and policy sectors.

We are particularly interested in what it will take to motivate individuals and organizations to make practice and policy changes at the scale necessary for achieving goals related to FEW and ecosystem security.

Stakeholder Engagement

We are engaging key stakeholders who are addressing nutrient management challenges in the Basin, including state and federal agencies and land grant university scientists and educators, to inform our model inputs, scenarios, and research implications for policy and management.

By working and learning together with relevant decision-makers and influencers, our goal is to strengthen the usefulness of our science to society and help policymakers and managers make decisions with greater confidence and better outcomes for people and nature.