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Rolf Weberg

Resilient communities: Q&A with Rolf Weberg

by Erin Dennis
University of Minnesota’s Inquiry

Rolf Weberg came to the University’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) in Duluth in the spring of 2014 following a successful 25-year career at DuPont in global research and development. His graduation from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1982 led to a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1986 before he launched his career.

Weberg has tremendous enthusiasm for NRRI’s unique mission of sustainable natural resource management and economic development for resilient communities. And that enthusiasm is reaching out across the University of Minnesota, the state, even the globe. Fresh from a trip to Germany with Minnesota legislators to learn about new energy opportunities, Weberg effuses about NRRI’s opportunities.

It’s been a year since you left a career in industry to work in academia. What did your career teach you that we can learn from at the University of Minnesota?

One is that efficiency and sustainability is a competitive advantage – it is for my former employer, it is for Minnesota and for its citizens. If you can find a way to do things with less impact, that means less money spent dealing with waste. It’s just good business.
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ballast water coming out of a ship in Lake Superior

On the front line of the invasion

Duluth-Superior Harbor, at the most pristine end of the Great Lakes, is the freshwater port most heavily invaded with non-native species. It’s easy to understand why. Duluth- Superior is often the last stop on international routes and ballast water from all over the globe gets emptied there so ships can reload.

timber testing

Testing the timbers

Brian Brashaw recalls being under a wooden bridge years ago and seeing the cross beam squish down about four inches when a big gravel truck passed over it. You couldn’t tell from the outside, but the inside of that important bridge beam was rotted. Therein — literally — lies the problem.

Alexis Grinde with a golden-winged warbler

Young forests are for the birds

It wasn’t what she was looking for, but noting the presence of the golden-winged warbler was a special treat for Alexis Grinde this spring. Research has shown that this tiny feathered friend is experiencing one of the steepest population declines of any bird species in the past 45 years.

Whatever happened to... Extreme Panel Technologies?


New home framework being built using structural insulated panels

Back in 1994, NRRI received federal funding to promote the efficient use of wood resources.

One of many projects was research to develop structural insulated panels as energy efficient building systems. The goal was to help existing small and mid-size rural companies remain or become competitive through research and development, or provide specific technical and business expertise.

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