Shelie Miller: Environmental Sustainability…and Curler Derby?


Mike Wooden: Welcome again to a different episode of Michigan Information Past the Headlines, the podcast that does simply that takes you past the headlines to me. College of Michigan school within the information. I’m Mike Wooden. I’m a video producer and host of the podcast right here at Michigan Information on the campus of the College of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Shelie Miller is an affiliate professor of setting and sustainability right here on the College of Michigan. She’s additionally the director of program within the setting, although she’s a profitable scientist in her day job.

Wooden: Shelie’s success doesn’t cease there.


Wooden: Properly, similar to she used to shake folks up on the curler derby monitor, she likes to shake folks up along with her generally controversial analysis and through Zoom, she’s right here with us now. Hello, Shelie.

Shelie Miller: Hello, Mike. It’s nice to be right here.

Wooden: Properly, final fall, I produced a video with you that targeted in your analysis about misperceptions of plastic. And in that video, you talked about taking a life cycle, viewer life cycle evaluation of merchandise we devour. What do you imply by that?

Miller: So life cycle evaluation is admittedly having a look at our merchandise and actually pondering of them as having very wealthy lives, understanding the environmental impacts all through your complete lifetime of our merchandise and actually making an attempt to reduce the environmental impacts of a merchandise life.

Wooden: So principally, like as an alternative of claiming, OK, I’ve this plastic bottle and I’m going to recycle it and I do know they’re going to make it into one thing nice. It’s like wanting on the manufacturing unit that needed to make that and the vehicles that needed to ship it within the water is that what you imply?

Miller: Precisely. And so it truly is simply making an attempt to think about it’s not simply, “Hey I’ve a plastic recycleable bottle and I’ve a glass bottle, you recognize which one is extra recyclable or which one goes to be recycled by my facility”. That’s essential. However it’s additionally essential to appreciate, OK, how a lot supplies and vitality went into making that tumbler, how a lot supplies and vitality went into making that plastic. So it truly is making an attempt to suppose by means of all of these lifecycle phases, taking a holistic view quite than simply the only view of what occurs after I dispose or recycle one thing.

Wooden: Properly, that jogs my memory after we—after I did the video with you, you defined how scale back, reuse, recycle is a hierarchy like these issues are, you recognize, so as of significance. And I by no means even realized that, you recognize, we predict, oh, we recycle and that’s good. I recycle each week. However I by no means consider the- and I reuse issues, too. However the lowered half, you recognize, I feel is misplaced on lots of people. Clarify the hierarchy of scale back, reuse, recycle and the way that matches into your lifecycle view.

Miller: Yeah, and I feel that’s you recognize, so many individuals have that very same perspective is it’s you recognize, we repeat the scale back, reuse, recycle, however then we simply form of get caught on that final one and we are saying, oh, if I recycle, nicely, then I’m doing my half for the setting. And it actually is admittedly pondering by means of the three R’s in a way more hierarchical manner of claiming, “In case you can probably scale back what your consumption patterns are, do this. In case you can’t scale back your consumption patterns, are you able to reuse the issues that you’ve? And if all else fails, are you able to really recycle the waste?”. And there’s definitely caveats to that making. There’s numerous methods to make that extra difficult, however that’s the overall thought. As customers, recycling is the straightforward one although, proper? I imply, you probably have a recycling bin, we’ve created the infrastructure, you say, oh, I see that this really will go in my recycling. And there I’ve carried out my half. Doing all your environmental half is extra than simply recycling, and it actually is solely interested by that produced piece, and that’s a lot more durable to truly begin interested by what our shopper habits is. And do we want all the stuff that we really purchase quite than simply saying, nicely, we’ll purchase no matter we wish after which recycle it later?

Wooden: Your research have generated plenty of buzz and push again and made folks have a look at issues a unique manner. Do you suppose it’s essential to place issues on the market that possibly shake folks up a little bit or form of seize their consideration, make them suppose in methods they hadn’t earlier than?

Miller: Sure. If we will provide you with a research that has a very good hook, it’s actually helpful to have the ability to begin partaking these extra deep conversations.

Wooden: You’re an affiliate professor within the College for Setting and Sustainability right here on the UofM, and likewise the director of Program within the Setting right here. What do you do in that position and are you continue to instructing and doing all your analysis?

Miller: I nonetheless proceed to show and do analysis as a result of that’s the enjoyable of being a university professor. However my position as director and program within the setting, it’s a program within the setting, it’s an interdisciplinary undergraduate program. It truly is a liberal arts schooling that spans all facets of setting. And so it’s a terrific main and nicely that we provide a variety of minors as nicely for college kids who’re considering setting broadly conceived and all the completely different ways in which the setting impacts our lives.

Wooden: So not essentially someone who’s a scientist or, you recognize, in the actual science finish of it, that they will form of mix it with different issues or?

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Miller: So plenty of our college students twin main with a science like Earth in Environmental Sciences or in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. So our school actually do vary throughout the pure sciences, social sciences, humanities, engineering, artwork and design. So we really carry school collectively from six completely different schools throughout the college. It’s very cool and really distinctive. And so our curriculum actually does exhibit the breadth of how setting interacts with our lives. And in order that goes from a coverage standpoint, but in addition actually understanding the science of what’s occurring within the setting.

Wooden: Huh. That’s attention-grabbing. As director, what do you do in that position?

Miller: So I do plenty of administrative wrangling I might say. So as a result of we pull school from so many various locations and our college students are—have so many huge number of pursuits. Loads of it’s program constructing. It’s actually the behind the scenes piece, administrative items of creating our applications run.

Wooden: Cool. I do know you instructed me that you just normally train at Camp Davis each summer season. To begin with, what and the place is Camp Davis and what do you train there?

Miller: Camp Davis is an outstanding useful resource of the college. So it’s a summer season camp out west in Wyoming or Jackson Gap. It’s owned by the Division of Earth and Environmental Sciences. They provide all kinds of discipline experiences there. I coteach a category up there in vitality assets with my fellow instructors, and it truly is taking a look at all the complexities of our vitality system. So Wyoming is nice within the sense that it has oil and pure fuel and wind and photo voltaic and hydro assets. And we take our lessons to go to all of those services. We really get to go on high of a fracking rig. We see coal being mined. We go inside a wind turbine. However we additionally really get to speak to the folks within the communities which can be a part of this vitality and the vitality transition that’s occurring. And so we get to go to coal nation and really speak to people who find themselves shedding their jobs within the transitions of coal. And so I feel college students get this actually, actually wealthy understanding of not simply the environmental impacts of various vitality assets, not simply type of the pen and paper definition of what an vitality switch means, however actually get a way of the particular folks in tales and whose lives are being affected as we’re transferring towards a inexperienced vitality system.

Wooden: In order a as a bunch of faculty environmentalists working round, how do you get permission to go like on the fracking rig or the coal mine or all that? Do you get any pushback when you’re there?

Miller: You understand, so we find yourself having some actually good, wealthy conversations. And I feel we’ve established a repute over time that we do attempt to present a very truthful and balanced view of vitality assets and actually attempt to showcase what the communities actually wish to say. And so many individuals are literally actually keen to speak to us. You understand, the industries that do the fracking and the pure fuel, they actually wish to present college students up shut what it really means past possibly a number of the knee jerk reactions you may have. And so, like all vitality useful resource, there are commerce offs related to fossil fuels and renewable vitality. And the aim of the category actually is to showcase these commerce offs to color a full, advanced image, which I’m unsure that we all the time adequately symbolize.

Wooden: So the place did you develop up and what have been you pondering of doing for a profession while you have been like 15 or 16?

Miller: Yeah, so I grew up in a type of a blue collar suburb outdoors of Cleveland. You understand, I actually appreciated out of doors actions. You understand, I grew up close to a type of group park rising up. I all the time appreciated using my bike outdoors. My household did plenty of tenting and so we might go tenting on holidays. And so I all the time actually appreciated being open air and experiencing setting. And I additionally actually appreciated science as nicely. So I loved my highschool chemistry class and I used to be fairly good at math, because it turned out. So I used to be all the time considering in some way determining a option to marry my curiosity in being outdoors and defending the setting with additionally some technical science abilities. And in order that form of led me to get a serious in chemistry in faculty and it’s form of gone from there.

Wooden: So did you all the time anticipate to go to varsity or have you ever thought of anything?

Miller: I’m a primary era faculty scholar. I did have two older brothers earlier than me who additionally went to varsity and stayed within the space. So I feel I all the time anticipated to go to varsity not directly simply because I did actually like studying. However I got here from a group the place solely a 3rd of my graduating highschool class did go to varsity. So it wasn’t one thing that was essentially anticipated of many people. However I all the time form of noticed myself the the faculty position. And I feel it has definitely been a monitor that I’ve appreciated pursuing.

Wooden: That’s superior. So I bear in mind you telling me as soon as that you just have been provided a job to don’t go to varsity and possibly keep in your hometown? What was it?

Miller: Oh, my highschool job was working at a backyard middle, and they also provided me an assistant supervisor place. I bear in mind my dad telling me, you recognize, he’s like, “That is really a very good supply. You would possibly wish to take into account doing this”. And I stated, “Ehh, I feel I feel possibly the faculty monitor goes to be the place I keep”. However I feel it might have pretty simply gone the opposite manner and I might be managing backyard facilities someplace proper now, probably.

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Wooden: I feel the faculty factor works out fairly nicely to date.

Miller: I feel it labored out simply advantageous.

Wooden: He additionally instructed me that your loved ones are massive Cleveland Browns soccer followers.

Miller: I grew up in the course of the Kardiac Children years. And for these of you who comply with NFL soccer in any respect, that actually ingrains in you as a child. So some very heartbreaking losses within the playoffs, the eighties. You understand, I’ve a Bernie Kosar jersey to at the present time and watch the Bruins each Sunday. And I’ll say as a protracted struggling Cleveland Browns fan, it looks as if possibly, simply possibly they is perhaps across the nook. However we’ve stated that lots prior to now a long time.

Wooden: As a Detroit Lions fan I completely perceive the place you’re coming from. You instructed me that your mother began faculty, you recognize, later in life. What did she do and what was your response to that when she stated, I’m going to go to varsity?

Miller: So my mother was a homemaker most of my childhood and nicely into my highschool years. I feel I used to be the youngest within the household. And in order she noticed her youngsters, you recognize, rising up and leaving the home and going into faculty, you recognize, I feel she was making an attempt to consider what the subsequent part of her life was. And so actually, she began group faculty most likely midway by means of my highschool expertise, simply doing an evening class right here and there. And, you recognize, on the time, I didn’t actually suppose a lot of it. It was simply one thing my mother was doing. However I feel now I noticed that she actually began a brand new part of her life, a very new part of her life. At in regards to the stage of my profession that I’m now, which I feel I actually, really recognize a complete lot extra now than I did then. And what an enormous step that was, to go from beginning is simply type of evening lessons at group faculty and actually rethinking what a profession was. So I’ve all the time thought that it was very cool, my mother. And so it all the time form of thrown a wrench into whether or not or not I’m first era faculty. If my mother really graduated faculty after I did, you recognize, she began out doing class by class group faculty. She ended up getting an affiliate’s after which ended up enrolling in a 4 12 months program and ended up getting a Bachelor’s finally, which is extremely cool. She labored as a social employee a variety of years after all of us left the home.

Wooden: That’s actually cool, actual inspiring. Who’s Imply Josie Inexperienced?

Miller: Oh, Imply Josie Inexperienced, she’s been retired for a short while, however Imply Josie Inexperienced was my alter ego again after I performed girls’s flat monitor curler derby. So it’s—for these of you who are usually not aware of curler derby, it’s performed fully on curler skates, not curler blades, precise curler skates. And infrequently folks tackle varied personas. And mine was Imply Josie Inexperienced.

Wooden: So I didn’t understand that curler derby was an precise sport. What’s, in a nutshell, form of what’s the the purpose of a a recreation, I assume? And are there any leagues round right here or is it—how massive of a deal is it?

Miller: Oh, curler derby is a large deal and I can let you know it is extremely a lot a sport. So there’s a variety of actually nice leagues within the space. Each Ann Arbor and Detroit have nice leagues and really aggressive leagues. However so far as how the precise sport is performed, you may have durations of as much as two minutes of motion at a time and there’s 5 gamers on a staff that take the monitor. There’s just one participant from every staff who can rating factors and she or he’s referred to as a jammer and she or he’s indicated by a star on her helmet. And the best way you rating factors is by lapping gamers of the opposite staff. And so the opposite members of your staff are enjoying offense and protection concurrently making an attempt to assist their jammer get by means of the pack and rating factors to different gamers whereas stopping the opposite jammer from breaking by means of and scoring factors. So it finally ends up seeming like plenty of chaos on the market for these particular person jams. However I can let you know, there’s plenty of technique and plenty of physicality and observe that goes into with the ability to play soiled.

Wooden: How did you get began in that and the way lengthy did you do it for?

Miller: So I performed for about 4 years. I began in a league in Greenville, South Carolina, after I was a professor at Clemson College after which performed for a few years on the Detroit groups. And so I actually bought concerned in derby as a result of I felt like I had exhausted all of my different choices in rural South Carolina, fairly frankly. And so when you may have run out of social choices as residing, you recognize, your late 20s in rural South Carolina and also you see a flier that claims, hey, there’s curler derby tryouts, you suppose I haven’t been on skates for most likely 20 years? What’s the worst that would occur? And so, you recognize, I went to my first observe. I placed on curler skates for the primary time in a long time and gave it a shot. And by chance, they took me on. I relearned the way to skate and I discovered all the varied hitting and positively following drills so as to have the ability to be efficient. And so I had a great 4 12 months profession enjoying throughout the 2 leagues.

Wooden: That’s wild. It looks as if curler derbies all the time function girls. Are there leagues for males?

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Miller: So there are-

Wooden: Not that I’m considering beginning this.

Miller: Properly, so I might say there’s a spot for all genders within the derby. And so there are there are definitely male particular leagues. There are all gender leagues. And I feel Girls’s Flat Monitor is admittedly the showcase of the Derby group, but it surely actually does a minimum of attempt to be very all inclusive sport.

Wooden: That’s cool. I perceive, you have been awarded a Presidential Early Profession Award for Scientists and Engineers. When did you obtain that award and what did that honor imply to you?

Miller: It’s an extremely nice honor. I used to be awarded the it’s referred to as PECASE Award. So the presidential early profession award, it’s given up by the White Home yearly. I used to be lucky sufficient to obtain it in 2009 by the Obama administration. There’s some actually, actually cool reminiscences of with the ability to go to the White Home, really meet Obama and shake his fingers and actually form of get a way of the group of, you recognize, early profession people occurring and making an attempt to make a distinction of their varied disciplines. However it was, it was very cool to be acknowledged with that.

Wooden: That was actually cool. When many individuals consider environmental scientists, they assume that you just exit and also you acquire water, air samples and also you return to the lab for evaluation. Is that the case or what do you really do?

Miller: Once I had a imaginative and prescient in my head of what I used to be going to be and what my profession can be as an environmental scientist, what actually did entice me was this concept of, you recognize, getting a Jeep and having a canine and going out and amassing stuff from the sphere and bringing it again. And there are various, many nice environmental scientists who do precisely that. My profession took a barely completely different path. I used to be initially actually considering air pollution and particularly I used to be actually considering hermaphroditic fish. So the concept that air pollution was really altering the sexual reproductive capability of amphibians and fish. And so I wished to know this, and I wished to know how air pollution was affecting these organisms and the way we might really clear up the air pollution. After which I went to grad faculty and or I began wanting round at grad colleges and I met my advisor. And so I met who ultimately turned my advisor. And he stated, yeah, that’s nice. And plenty of good folks do this. And that’s actually the analysis as a result of like, you recognize, in the event you actually wish to change the world, it is advisable to work out the way to not make that air pollution within the first place. So, sure, you may work out the way to clear up the waste, however wouldn’t or not it’s a complete lot higher if we simply didn’t make that waste within the first place? I used to be like, you recognize what? That may be higher. And in order that’s the place I actually ended up in my profession. Is it actually pondering by means of this concept of life cycle evaluation and this concept of how do you really not create air pollution within the first place to be able to decrease environmental affect earlier than the environmental affect really even happens?

Wooden: Is there any analysis you’re engaged on proper now that you could share with us?

Miller: We’re engaged on a variety of completely different research which can be taking a look at environmental impacts of merchandise. And so, one of many items of analysis that we’re persevering with is making an attempt to essentially perceive the environmental impacts of shopping for issues on-line. And so it’s one thing that many people have carried out a complete lot of in the course of the previous 12 months. And what’s the precise environmental affect of shopping for one thing from Amazon quite than a giant field retailer? One factor I’m notably considering is the city rural divide in the case of shopping for issues on-line.

Wooden: How does one go about that? I imply, is it taking a look at downloaded knowledge units that folks have compiled on, you recognize, miles of truck journey for a supply firm? Or how do you—how does one do this?

Miller: Yeah, it simply finally ends up being plenty of math. And so my college students are inclined to have numerous completely different spreadsheets going. And by chance there are some rather well established databases. So we do have numerous knowledge units to construct from. And generally now we have to, you recognize, create our personal major knowledge by going out and measuring or taking surveys of individuals.

Wooden: Properly, thanks for all of your work that you just do. I’m looking for options to those environmental and sustainability issues. And thanks for sharing your story in the present day. I actually recognize it.

Miller: Thanks a lot, Mike. This has been nice.

Wooden: And thanks all for listening. I’d additionally wish to thank the entire staff right here at Michigan Information for his or her assist of this podcast as we carry College of Michigan tales to the world. In case you’d wish to be taught extra about Shelie’s analysis or see the video I produced along with her, click on on the hyperlinks within the episode description of this podcast. In case you appreciated what you heard in the present day and wish to hear extra inspiring tales, seek for Michigan Information Past the Headlines, wherever you get your podcasts. And bear in mind to hit that subscribe button so that you gained’t miss an episode. I’m Mike Wooden, be nicely, be protected and I’ll see you past the headlines.


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