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Sustainability in Research

The University of Iowa prides itself on excellence in scholarship and research. Several departments, centers and institutes are involved in sustainability-related research and engagement.

The UI Office of Sustainability aims to support research on campus, and we offer several resources for students, faculty, and research staff. Learn about the many research opportunities for students interested in sustainability below, find a UI faculty member or student on the cutting edge of sustainability research in our Sustainability Scientists and Scholars database, or apply for a grant for your research through our Interdisciplinary, Scalable Solutions for a Sustainable Future Project.

Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research

The Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research promotes interdisciplinary research on many aspects of global environmental change including natural ecosystems, environments, and resources, and effects on human health, culture, and social systems. CGRER accomplishes its goals through awarding seed grants, fostering interdisciplinary courses, providing research facilities, and holding seminars and symposia. CGRER works with Iowa agencies, industries, institutions, and citizens to prepare for environmental change. CGRER’s research projects have included the Johnson County Air Quality Study, research on the effects of climate change on agriculture, and air quality monitoring and modeling in the European Union.


The Iowa Flood Center was created after the Flood of 2008 as a center for flood research and education. Current Iowa Flood Center research includes watershed flood mitigation projects to reduce flood damage in select Iowa watersheds and a study to improve the accuracy of long-range flood probability forecasts.

IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering is a world-renowned center for education, research, and public service focusing on hydraulic engineering and fluid mechanics. IIHR sustainability research includes carbon cycle research and a project to create an intelligent digital watershed to monitor, model, and predict water and water quality within a watershed.

The Sustainable Water Development graduate program is training new generation of water sustainability professionals to address the tangle of water, food and energy challenges facing resource-limited communities, which include rural, often agricultural based communities, as well as poor urban centers and developing countries.

Public Health

The Environmental Health Sciences Research Center’s research focuses on addressing environmental health problems across the urban-rural continuum. The EHSRC’s specific goals are to develop and expand innovative interdisciplinary environmental health sciences research regarding adverse health effects of current and emerging environmental contaminants among rural and agricultural populations and to provide outreach and engagement in an effort to translate research findings into improvement in the health and environment of rural people in the Midwest and the nation. EHSRC researchers have investigated aerosol dispersion rates, the controversy over the use of DDT to control malaria, and the air quality of concentrated animal feeding operations.

The Prevention Research Center for Rural Health’s mission is to improve the health of rural communities in Iowa. The PRCRH’s core research projects include a study to develop a practical and affordable intervention to encourage healthy eating in rural owner-operated restaurants and projects addressing childhood obesity in Iowa communities.

The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health is one of nine agricultural health and safety centers funded by the National Institute of occupational Safety and Health to protect and promote the health and safety of farmers, agricultural workers, and rural residents. The GPCAH’s recent research includes an intervention project to reduce air pollutant exposures in concentrated animal feeding operations and a population-based study of health status and environmental exposures of a random sample of residents in Keokuk County, Iowa.

Public Policy Center

The Public Policy Center investigates policy issues related to the environment, health, housing and land use, social science, and transportation. PPC also offers applied research training opportunities for over 40 graduate and undergraduate students and offers lectures and symposia designed to bring together researchers, policymakers, business leaders, students, the public, and other key stakeholders.

Recent PPC research includes projects related to ecosystem management of regionally abundant invasive plants, economic growth and the environment, and smart growth and housing affordability.