Research Themes

To create an organizing frame for U-M's extensive array of sustainability research, we selected three broad themes that address critical sustainability challenges, leverage U-M’s broad disciplinary strengths, build upon our institutional capabilities, and have high potential for achieving significant impact.  These themes areas are: Sustainable Freshwater Systems, Responding to Climate Variability and Change, and Creating Livable Communities


Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National LakeshoreEnsuring access to clean water for drinking, food production, industrial uses, and more—while simultaneously protecting aquatic ecosystems—is a multifaceted and complex process. Solutions cannot be developed in isolation and will vary across regions, ecosystems, and economies. To address this challenge, we are focusing significant research in this area, with the goal of improving human access to clean water and developing solutions to increase the resiliency of the Great Lakes and aquatic ecosystems throughout the world.
Click here for a summary of water-related units at U-M


Wind turbinesClimate variability and change present some of the greatest challenges in human history. Solutions must incorporate increased energy efficiency, alternative energy technologies, low-impact infrastructure, clearer assessment of risks, and improved understanding of what motivates people to accept change and adopt alternate behaviors. To address this challenge, we are developing solutions for mitigating climate change and adapting to it in ways that minimize adverse impacts on human and ecosystem health.
Click here for a summary of climate-related units at U-M


CommutersExponential human population growth, dynamic demographics, and rapid economic change are accelerating global urbanization, while the absence of holistic planning strategies are leading to uncontrolled sprawl and negative environmental impacts. To address this challenge, we are developing and integrating novel information technology, transportation, and built-environment solutions to meet community-specific needs and provide people with reliable and efficient access to the resources they need.