Sarah Mittlefehldt, as associate professor in the Earth, Environmental & Geographical Sciences (EEGS) Department, is Northern Michigan University's 2020-21 Excellence in Scholarship Award recipient. She is working on two National Science Foundation-funded projects related to wood energy in Michigan and sustainable coastal development on Lake Superior's South Shore.
The first project examines the development of wood energy in Michigan, and the socioecological implications of differently scaled technologies including residential woodstoves, community-scale boilers and biomass power plants.
Using archival analysis, semi-structured interviews, a survey and spatial analyses, Mittlefehldt is working with colleagues at Michigan State University to investigate the sociopolitical factors that have led to adoption of woody biofuel technologies.
“This research offers collaborative new approaches for thinking about the relationship between renewable energy development and environmental justice,” she said.
Mittlefehldt has worked with NMU faculty colleagues Jes Thompson of the College of Business and Scott Jordan of the School of Health and Human Performance on the second project, which is part of the National Science Foundation's Coastlines + People program.
“This interdisciplinary project brought together scientists from a range of disciplines, planners and community members in a series of workshops to plan for sustainable coastal development on Lake Superior's South Shore,” Mittlefehldt said. “The workshops roughly looked at the past, present and future of coastal development in our region.”
Results of the project can be viewed at the following link: https://www.flipsnack.com/Northernmagazine/nmu-cope-mag_2020/full-view.html
As co-chair of NMU's Sustainability Advisory Council, Mittlefehldt helps to track data on the university's performance in that area.
“One of the most impressive things we learned from a recent survey of NMU faculty is that nearly 25% of all tenure/tenure track faculty engage in sustainability-related research or scholarly activities,” she said. “One of the most fulfilling aspects of my work at NMU is being part of a larger group of committed educators and scholars who are working to prepare the next generation for the environmental and social justice challenges of the 21st century.”
Mittlefehldt joined the NMU faculty in 2015. According to her nomination, she has secured more than $518,000 in grant funding, given more than a dozen research keynotes nationwide and 10 conference panel and workshop presentations. She also received the 2019 Blegen Article Award for best article in forest and conservation history from the American Forest History Society.