March 16, 2018
Written by: Emily Briese

Students from UU present their research questions, objectives, and hypothesis to UT and UAB, looking for feedback on how they can better their current work. Below is a photo of the current participants before the meeting.

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Fun Fact of the Day: In the United States, 50-70% of household water use is consumed in outdoor and landscape activities (US EPA, 2009). By using rainwater harvesting and hydroponic practices, this number can be drastically decreased, lowering water bills and water footprints!

February 17, 2018
Written by: Emily Briese

Students from UT travelled to the local farmers market, working with stakeholders to better understand what kind of product would best suit their work. Students there talked to farmers who cultivate some of the following; honey, vegetables, spices, herbs, and even making barbecue sauce.

Fun Fact of the Day: Local foods can benefit the consumer immensely. Benefits include more nutrients, more flavor, and knowing exactly how and who grew the food. Go buy local and support your local economy!

University of Utah Students: Summer 2017 Recap

News and Updates: Summer 2017


July 13, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

Today was a wonderful day at ICTA, with our group being joined by our advisors from back home, Dr. Apul and Dr. Burian! The three remaining IRES students, Kelley, Sarai and myself, presented our work to the group and received great feedback on our overall work. After compiling all the work and discussing our projects in full, you can really see the progress that each of us has made! Even with a few hiccups along the way and changes in direction, it is exciting to see that the end results for each of us are really coming together. The presentations were followed with a wrap up discussion of things to get done for the rest of the time we are here at UAB...and one of these items included celebrating Xavier's birthday! The meeting concluded by sharing champagne and singing happy birthday to Xavier. Later in the evening, the IRES group of students and professors met up for dinner in the Born, where we celebrated Xavier's birthday a bit more. We stopped after dinner for some gelato, which was the students' treat to Xavier; I mean come on, what's a birthday without some type of ice cream?? Felicidades!

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Fun fact of the day: There is a restaurant in the Born that has a glass window where you can observe a well preserved stone structure of Barcelona from 3000 years ago! Xavier showed us this on the way to dinner

July 10, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

Today was David's defense of his PhD dissertation! Dr. Apul also arrived today in Barcelona as she was invited to serve on the defense committee. David did a great job defending his thesis and we were all very excited to see him earn his title of Dr. David Sanjuan-Delmás! As usual, we all celebrated with food and champagne afterwards where we were able to talk to David and congratulate him on his great presentation.
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Over the weekend we also visited Pamplona for the Festival of San Fermin. It was a weekend full of activities - street performers in the day, fireworks at night, and a never ending sea of people dressed in white and red. The event attracts between one and two million people to Pamplona each year. The running of the bulls (el encierro) is one of the major traditions of the festival. The total length of the run is 850 meters and there are approximately 2,000 people who run in el encierro each day. While in Pamplona, we also met up with Mickey for a bit which was fun!

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Fun fact of the day: A major reason The Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona became so popular internationally is largely due to Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises.

June 30, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

Today consisted of our last full IRES group meeting, before Olivia and Mickey packed up and left for the summer. We had a lunchtime meeting at a restaurant in Gracia that we have been eyeing for a while, which was great! In addition to having a delicious lunch, we talked about some concluding points and how things are wrapping up with each of our projects. We also discussed some important writing techniques for our final report and possible publications. It was bitter sweet; We enjoyed a nice lunch together as a group, but it was sad to know that this was the last time our group would be meeting as the Fab 5 :(

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Fun fact of the day: Most restaurants in Spain offer a Menu of the Day. It typically consists of some type of small plate, main dish, dessert, and a drink for a set price. I think this good to know for someone who is traveling because I saw some tourists struggling to understand when the server asked them if they wanted the menu, but were already holding menus. Plus, it is typically a pretty good deal with different choices for each course!

June 29, 2017
Written by: Mickey Navidomskis

With only 2 days at ICTA remaining for Olivia and I, we held a final meeting with some of our advisors. In attendance was Joan, Marti, Mariea, Olivia, Anna vis Skype, and myself. Olivia and I each discussed the current state of our research, presented some of our preliminary results, and outlined our next steps in our projects. Our advisors provided useful critiques of our work, provoking new considerations and adaptations for both of our methods. We may be leaving Barcelona but it is clear our ICTA advisors intend to remain apart of our projects, providing guidance and resources from overseas.
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After our morning meeting, Kelley and I enjoyed one of the many incredible seminars frequently held at ICTA. Dr. Tom Pedersen, a guest speaker from the University of Victoria gave a riveting 90 minute lecture on British Columbia's climate action saga. We learned a great deal about a variety of topics: natural gas processing, the spread of the pine beetle, the importance of leadership in fragile political landscapes, and the sometimes bizarre and illogical nature of human perception and behavior. These topics provided the framework for understanding a carbon tax adopted by British Columbia, who's early success in reducing emissions has since sputtered. Coincidentally, on the same day of our lecture, British Columbia's legislature conducted a confidence vote that could result in a shift in power that would likely change the fate of the carbon tax once more. In the hours since the lecture, I can now report that the B.C. Liberal party has lost its control over the province and a new premier has been selected. It will be interesting to see how climate action in British Columbia changes in the future.
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I'd like to say thank you to everyone at ICTA who has made the last month and a half so great! This has been such a great opportunity for me and I am very jealous of Kayla, Sarai, and Kelley who will be staying here for more of the summer. In my time here I have learned a great deal on topics too diverse and numerous to count. The advisors at ICTA make for one of the funnest and friendliest work environments I have ever encountered. I will miss it.

Thank you ICTA!!!


June 27, 2017
Written by: Kayla PiezerIMG_20170620_160030605_TOP.jpg

Today I was happy to meet with Anna on a Skype call to discuss the beginning steps to writing a paper for a journal. How exciting! After the meeting, I am eager to generate some figures and keep moving forward in writing and analyzing my results to put together a paper to submit to a journal towards the end of Summer! It feels great to have things coming together, and I look forward to putting more work in to keep up the progress. After the meeting with Anna, the IRES students worked from a peaceful corner with comfy couches because our favorite spaces were being occupied by a convention or something that was going on at ICTA. I think the summer semester classes are about to begin, so the building is filling up! The kitchen is zoned with people everyday, but everyone still chips in and makes a community effort to keep the place clean, which is exemplified in the picture to the right by these two great looking IRES students!



Fun fact of the day: My favorite candy bar here in Spain is a Bueno bar. They are chocolaty, creamy, crunchy, and have hints of hazelnut. We found a gelato stand that had a 'Bueno' flavor, and it was buenísimo!!




June 26, 2017
Written by: Emily Briese

This past week, some students at The University of Toledo went to the AEESP (Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors) conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan as well as Dr. Xavier. It was great to finally meet in person as opposed to the weekly Skype meetings this past spring. Themes from the conference ranged from Sensors and Big Data in Urban Water to Environmental Education and Workforce Development and different Environmental Contaminants.

In other news, my personal research is thriving as I conclude my results on the Energy Water Nexus Network for PV array in Toledo, OH. I have almost completed the first draft of my final report and look to the future for publication. I have done an Ecological Network Analysis on this array, identifying the symbiotic relationships, the indirect and direct interactions between compartments, the controls and dependencies between compartments, and many more. This is an extremely versatile way of analyzing a system and holds great potential for anything analyzed.

I look forward to picking up after Kayla's work in Barcelona next year.

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Above is a photo of Emily and Dr. Xavier at the poster session.

Fun fact of the day: Over one third of rare plants in Ohio can be found in Oak Openings State Park, a short drive from Toledo. The region is so spectacular that an array of different plants and plant communities can thrive here.


June 23, 2017
Written by: Defne Apul

Greetings from Toledo, OH!


Our NSF IRES collaboration is going full speed not only in Spain but also in Estats Units.

Teresa and Xavier arrived in Ann Arbor on Wednesday to attend a busy AEESP 2017 conference. We tried to have a little more relaxed time with them in Toledo afterwards but somehow the schedule got busy right away with various things to see and discuss here.

While our first cohort students (summer 2017) were sending us their first progress report, our Spanish friends, Teresa, Xavier, Marta, and Irene had lots of meetings here in the U.S. with:

Our pre IRES cohort (summer 2015): Robert Phillips and Jay Devkota
Second IRES cohort (summer 2018): Emily Briese and Brooke Mason
Wright Center Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization friends: Randy Ellingson and Ilke Celik
Lake Erie Center friends: Daryl Dwyer and Rachel Lohner
University of Toledo PIs: Defne Apul and Cyndee Gruden


Next week’s schedule will be equally busy with a lot of presentations at the ISIE-ISST 2017 conference in Chicago. I will try to upload some photos from there.
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Relaxing a little after a hectic AEESP 2017 conference.

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Lake Erie Center with a lot of visuals including the invasive zebra mussels.

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We need our Spanish friends to translate the Spanish words we found on the University of Toledo flag!

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Excited to learn about Professor Daryl Dwyer's constructed wetlands research. Yes, world is small. Teresa and Xavier know Daryl's Spanish postdoc friend from Geneva!

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Students Emily Briese (Ecological Network Analysis expert) and Brooke Mason (water expert) joining the PVIC tour. They will be traveling to Spain in 2018 and got a chance to meet Xavier in Toledo.

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PhD student Ilke Celik works in the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization (PVIC). Professor Randy Ellingson toured the PVIC labs for us.

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University of Toledo Outdoor Classroom Garden with Vegetables!

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Bye bye Toledo. En route to Chicago for the ISIE-ISST 2017 conference.


June 23, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

Today was a big day for us as we got a chance to take part in the Festival of Sant Joan! This day is a widely celebrated holiday in the Catalonia region which centers around the summer solstice. We decided to head to Barceloneta for the evening as it is a common place to be during the festival. Before heading to the beach we all shared a coca de Sant Joan, the traditional coca to eat on this holiday. The walk down La Rambla was a crowded one as large waves of people exited the metro to head to the beach. We were lucky to make it on and off of the metro considering how many people were trying to ride it at once! Fires and fireworks are a tradition of the holiday and many loud bangs and pops were heard throughout the night. Our advisor, Joan, suggested we wear hats but we all forgot to follow through with that advice. Luckily, we made it out with all our hair and all had a great time!

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Fun fact of the day: According to one source, around 70,000 people go to Barcelona's beaches to celebrate the Festival of Sant Joan!

June 22, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

We have been getting pretty cozy around ICTA. Our group has bounced around a few spots in the building for a change of pace, but recently we have been working in a small meeting room that was offered to us as a cooler, breezier option. 'The American Corner' on the exterior of the building has been heating up with the sun as the summer progresses, but this new workspace keeps us cool with a fan and automatic windows to catch the building's natural cooling patterns. The picture below (which is interestingly altered by the snapping the image through the glass window) shows everybody working diligently in the quiet area. Today we also had a meeting with the grad students and Joan to briefly discuss our progress and talk about the significance of tomorrow's national holiday: Sant Joan. Check out Kelley's post tomorrow to keep up with the festivities!

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Fun fact of the day: On Thursdays Xavier typically plays basketball at the gym on campus with other professors and students! He invited us to play, and I have been having a blast joining in on some hoops. Hopefully Mickey's ankle heals up by next Thursday so he can hoop with us!

June 21, 2017
Written by: Sarai Patterson

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Wednesday was a chill but productive day for the Barcelona crew. Kayla and I cooked Spanish tortillas for breakfast and worked in Gracia all morning before going into ICTA in the evening. Kayla completely finished the diagram of her network, a huge accomplishment for her project, and the rest of us made some significant progress as well.

For me, it has been a very enjoyable experience to work in Spain, and particularly at ICTA. The work environment here is relaxed and light-hearted but also very helpful, with a community of highly intelligent and passionate people who always are happy to support any one of us. It is also wonderful to speak Spanish every day, wander around a beautiful city, and learn firsthand about a different place far from home. Aside from everything we are learning in our research and from our mentors at ICTA, I think the travel and cultural immersion is an incredibly valuable and educational aspect of this IRES partnership!

Fun fact of the day: Barcelona was almost the home of the Eiffel tower! Gustav Eiffel originally wanted to build his tower right here in Barcelona, but Spain rejected his project, saying that it was too "radical" and would not fit with the city's architectural style. Too bad, but the city has tons of Gaudi and other beautiful architecture to make up for it!



June 20, 2017
Written by: Mickey Navidomskis

Tuesday at ICTA was another research-filled day in 'The American Corner'. Early in the day we hosted our weekly student research meeting. We have now started a new tradition of coming prepared with a Barcelona-specific topic for discussion. This week's meeting featured a discussion about the effects of tourism in the area. We also established a collective goal to better understanding Catalonia's autonomous status, as well as the prevailing political opinions surrounding Catalonian independence.

At the end of the day Sarai, Olivia, and I received another Skype call from Dr. Burian and Dana. Each member gave updates on their research and we discussed plans going forward.

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June 19, 2017
Written by: Olivia Juarez
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Fertilecity is taking over the world! Just kidding (for now)—but they were very popular at the 2017 Maker Faire hosted in Barcelona this weekend. Innovators in all sorts of sectors participated in Maker Fair to show off their cool inventions and concepts, network, and educate the public. Dr. Xavier and Dr. Joan presented on the productivity going on in ICTA and the potential for these rooftop models to make the urban foodshed more resilient, sustainable, and tasty.

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In the Courtyard at Museu-Teatre Dalí

Education is spreading on the train too. I met an ICTA PhD student while traveling to Barcelona who told me about his research, and he gave me some very thoughtful literature on the narratives that exist within urban agriculture discourse. Before my stop, we had a thoughtful discussion about complexities in urban agriculture and localism. Before I began getting into the nitty gritty of my urban agriculture research, I truly believed that urban agriculture was the end-all answer to resolving climate change and food security issues. I still think that’s true, but it’s only part of the picture. Urban agriculture can happen in farms on the dirt, in a warehouse, on a rooftop, and more, but other sectors in the food system, such as distributors, governments, educators and more need to be behind urban agriculture to make sure that it’s done fairly and sustainably. For example, urban agriculture isn’t going to solve the world’s problems if any sort of production is energy intensive, and renewable energy isn’t easily accessible. Being able to discuss urban agriculture with the perspectives of social science researchers, urban metabolism experts, and urban planners here at ICTA are helping me think about urban agriculture from perspectives outside of my own that’s heavily rooted in one small, environmentally and culturally unique environment. It truly shows that overcoming global environmental issues is going to come from a global effort to fix food systems from the bottom, up. The sheer amount of exposure I have to new ideas by having conversations with the folks of Barcelona: students, public transit operators, restaurant employees, etc. is astonishing. This experience is certainly peaking my interest for pursuing my graduate degree outside of the western U.S.
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In other news, this weekend Kayla spent time in Madrid while Kelley, Sarai, Mickey and myself had a beach day, and visited the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. Dali’s art has always been some of my favorite, so I definitely shed a few tears in Dalí’s edifice.Today, we had our USA student meeting. We gave updates on our projects and had a good discussion about Catalunyan independence, and the cultural, linguistic, environmental, and socio-economic impacts of tourism. Tourism is an incredibly complex issue with a handful of undeniable benefits in one hand and regrettable harms in the other.

As a reminder: I’m doing a Salt Lake County Urban Agriculture Social Network Analysis which will show how UA stakeholders are grouped in the community, and how resources and information flow amongst stakeholders. The IRB is in process and I’m expecting to be able to release surveys next week! It’s exciting and probably going to be the most fun of the project. I’ve been learning a lot about SNA in rStudio over the past couple of weeks and anticipate that I’ll be set to process the survey data when the responses begin to flow in!
Fun fact of the day: The Dalí Theatre-Museum we visited in Figueres was a performance arts theatre before it was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Salvador Dalí spent some of his childhood in Figueres, and was baptized in the church nearby, so he took the theatre's ruins into his hands for creating more art as well as displaying hundreds of other pieces. The theatre itself is pure art, and in it, us viewers are the performers!

June 16, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

Today at ICTA, the entire group attended a seminar by Francisco Vergas Serrano on the earth's bio-capacity and the eco-efficiency of countries in 2009 and 2013. In the data envelopment analysis (DEA) used, eco-efficiency is defined as the ratio of economic value added to environmental pressures. In this particular study, ecological footprint was used as an indicator. Interestingly, 70% of countries did not improve their ecological footprint between these years. Following the seminar, Xavier "surprised" the group with some champagne and a sweet treat that is typically served at Christmastime. After doing a little reading on traditional Christmas treats in Spain, I think we shared some Spanish turrones: a bar of eggs, honey, sugar, and almonds! Overall, it was great to end the workweek with an interesting seminar and a festive group meeting. Stay tuned for Monday's blog to hear about some weekend adventures; I will be heading to Madrid tonight :)

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Fun fact of the day: The United States makes up 25% of the global ecological foot print even though it only makes up 5% of the global population. In Serrano's presentation, he had to represent the US in billions of hectares in his graph, and all other regions were able to be represented in millions when discussing ecological footprint. That should help put it into perspective!

June 15, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

While we are making great progress with our research this summer, we also are improving our cooking skills! This evening we decided to stay in the Vila and cook tapas to share for dinner. Mickey and I cooked a tortilla con patatas, Olivia and Sarai made pan con tomate, and Kayla cooked stir fry. It has been fun to learn about the typical dishes here in Spain and then try our hand at cooking them ourselves. We definitely will have another evening like this and hopefully our cooking will only get better!

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Fun fact of the day: Food in Spain is rarely spicy! Patatas bravas translates to spicy potatoes but many orders we've had so far are very tolerable in the spice department. When we eat together at the Vila is when we get our fix of spicy foods!

June 14, 2017
Written by: Mickey Navidomskis

At ICTA on Wednesday we held our weekly student meeting. All of us gave updates on the status of our projects and the group helped troubleshoot issues where possible. In the most basic terms: Sarai and Kelley are busy collecting as much useful data as possible while refining their methods. Olivia is awaiting IRB approval to send out her SNA survey while simultaneously creating a survey for the 'Envisioning Report'. Kayla is working her way through the first iteration of her ENA, troubleshooting and improving the process so that her analysis is as informative as possible. Read their blog posts for greater detail! I don't want to misrepresent them :)
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As for me, I have now acquired enough literature-based assumptions and methods to generate a few basic water budget calculators and I have collected enough data to begin some of the most basic estimates for urban agriculture water demand and rainwater harvesting potential. Terakee Farms remains my primary case study, through which I plan to experiment with the method and eventually apply towards other case studies. While I am continuing to improve my methods, assumptions, and data sources; I can now begin to develop specific infrastructure alternatives for Terakee Farms. Developing and comparing alternatives, along with improving my method, will be my primary time allotment for the foreseeable future. I look forward to my meeting with Anna, Marti, and Marie tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss improvements to my current method and to layout some 'next steps'.

Fun fact of the day: the Catalan phrase of the week is "si us plau" or "sisplau" which means "please".

June 13, 2017
Written by: Olivia Juarez

Spain’s unemployment rate is at the lowest since 2010, but it’s still relatively high especially for such a densely populated region. With 18.6% of the population unemployed at the final quarter of 2016, 4.24 million people were without a way to secure living income. Urban agriculture can relieve some of these numbers, while increasing the city’s life satisfaction. However, according to a study on perceptions of urban agriculture in the Mediterranean, (Sanye-Miguel et. al. 2015) people initially began growing food within the city’s concrete boundaries as a primarily social goal to increase healing and happiness among Barcelona’s senior populations. Folks here perceive growing food in the city as a hobby or social activity when grown in the ground. This is both ideologically and physically limited—growing food in the city’s soil, that is. There isn’t much of it.
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View of the city from Montjuic.

Barcelona’s landscape from a slightly elevated vista is naught but rooftops. A mosaic of high rises details the city’s uppermost plane (beneath the atmosphere) and in our current day and age, they are unused spaces. Salt Lake City has this great map that highlights all arable land in the city limits—there’s a lot of arable space within the city limits, and a similar same proportion probably exists for rooftops in Barcelona. Green spaces in Barcelona are largely preserved though municipal and other formal
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Looking eastward at the Agriculture Park.
. And as such, there are only few places where food can be grown in the soil.


Last week, I visited el Parc Agrari del Baix Llobregat, an agricultural preserve maintained just outside of the international airport. Among other products, artichokes, carxofas in Catalan, are grown in the area as had been grown since the beginning of WWI. Various municipalities banded together to create and maintain this Parc as a form of preservation from the high pressure of urban development.
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Perla, the best translator ever!


Here, stakeholders from various agriculturally relevant sectors such as academia and government attended the second meeting for PROYECTO MADRE, a formal movement to advance sustainable urban agriculture (UA) in Barcelona. At a previous meeting, the stakeholders brainstormed a few of the most important issues within UA—we discussed four of them (very thankfully translated from Catalan to English by Perla) over the session:
  1. Protect and guarantee water and soil for current and future users.
  2. Increase education and awareness among the general populous for consuming local products.
  3. Foment food sovereignty local agriculture though public policy coordinating with administration, and applying the rules.
  4. Obtain public and political support for urban agriculture methods.

For each of these issues, participants discussed some ideas of how various populations and institutions can achieve each of the four topics. By the end of the session, the major theme was concerning social network development within urban agriculture (can’t get much more topical for me). The parts of the discussion I was able to interpret and that Perla explained to me left a major impression: that more stakeholders need to be involved. For example, only one farmer was present at the previous meeting, and none attended the second. From this standpoint, urban agriculture development is a top-down movement, and I think it needs to seriously engage the workers and entrepreneurs for bottom-up sustainability.
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Goal # 3 in Catalan!

Urban agriculture and urban development should be one in the same in Barcelona, in Salt Lake, in Toledo, and beyond. However, the perception as the two are almost viewed as mutually exclusive. In Barcelona’s case, urban agriculture is not for subsistence, but a form a social therapy—only peri-urban and rural agriculture is perceived as “real” economically viable agriculture. The aforementioned study noted that urban rooftop production has a high potential for intensive, high-yield food production, but socially, architects, government stakeholders, and regular consumers don’t view rooftop farming as possible in the near future. First, because it is not primarily a social activity, and second because it requires a high initial capital investment to establish the infrastructure and supporting policy.

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Two of the session's four facilitators.

Nonetheless, so did railroads and electricity infrastructure. ICTA researchers and us investigating from Utah and Ohio are working to enliven the conversation about what changes need to be made so urban agriculture is viable for all climate, and cultural contexts globally. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription that can make UA successful for every city, but I’m willing to bet that investment across Barcelona’s rooftops is a gold-medal start. It will certainly create thousands of new jobs, and increase the city’s food sovereignty at least. For example, Perla’s thesis designs and projects the possibility for Barcelona’s hundreds of primary schools dispersed through the area to integrate rooftop greenhouses on each structure and integrate cooking, biology, and other sciences into their curriculum while achieving food sovereignty and increasing health. Education, environmental sustainability and public health are direct befits made possible from thoughtfully applied urban agriculture.
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So, I contend that even though rooftop agriculture would be modeled with productivity in mind first, it’s still an inherently social activity. Business-minded folks would invest in urban rooftop farming for two reasons: to produce food, and make money. This requires employable people, skills development, education, human resources. Some new application of governance might arise to ensure the facilities are safe and clean, and that the food is accessible to the residents, workers, and visitors below. That is a future I think we can all get behind!

Fun Fact of the Day: The road we drove through to get to el Parc is known locally as the Road of Cholesterol. Artichokes can help people reduce their cholesterol, so it's joked that doctors send patients to el Parc to get exercise and carxofas for their health!




June 12, 2017
Written by: Dana Tran, a novice gardener

It’s about time that I’ve contributed to the blog!

Here in the Salty City, I’ve been working on starting a garden! The garden (a side project for a professor at Weber State University) will be used to conduct experiments on the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, a soil microorganism, on the nutritional quality of plants. This fungi has been shown to maintain the nutritional quality and improve the drought tolerance of plants growing in harsh environments. If the experiments render similar results, a case might be made that the fungi could significantly benefit plants growing in urban areas.

Moving on to the garden itself: I will admit, never have I looked at the ground for so long... and not known where exactly to begin. How do people start with land (thanks Steve) and then end up with a garden? Lo and behold, I’m learning how it’s done. Here are the steps I’ve taken thus far:

1. Find land
2. Designate area
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Some rabbits and deer joined me as I was tying off the area (9m x 3m)
3. Kill existing vegetation
This can be done by putting a tarp/newspaper over the area and leaving it for several months, or done chemically with a herbicide like RoundUp. I “RoundUp-ed” the area this past weekend, and I’m now waiting for the weeds and grass to clear.

Next steps will be tilling the soil, setting up a deer fence, and building the beds!

June 9, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

This Friday was a productive day at work. Sarai finally presented to the group on her research progress and goals. Moving forward, we are all expecting great progress with the help of each other and our assigned grad students. Mickey and Kelley are continuing to work closely with there methods, and Sarai and I have been bouncing ideas back and forth about energy and material flows. Olivia has been working closely with Perla, which has offered a couple of big breakthroughs in her in work! Collectively the team is working together really well, which helps advance our individual work. Additionally, the workspace at the ICTA building is nice because there are many quiet areas we can disperse and work. The flexibility is great; Kelley and I finished our workday while enjoying the breeze outside at a picnic bench.

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After work on Friday, we had a laid back night preparing for a weekend camping trip (tune in to Sarai's blog on Monday to hear more about this!), and roaming around the Placa Catalunya and La Rambla under the last full moon of Spring! We found a nice coffee shop down one of the side streets before having dinner at an Irish Pub.

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Fun Fact of the Day: We will miss you on this project, Nathan! Thanks for all you've contributed, and good luck on your future project in Moab :)

June 9, 2017
Written by: Nathan Jellen

The arrival of summertime is always exciting with its prospects for new opportunities and adventures. I have begun work down in Moab, UT inventorying light emissions as part of a team of engineers and ecological planners working to protect southern Utah’s night sky. Sadly, I’m afraid I have to announce this means I will be transitioning out of the IRES project. However, I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to engage in this unique and compelling project with Dr. Steve Burian, Olivia, Mickey, Sarai, and Dana, along with the research team from the University of Toledo and our collaborators in Barcelona, Spain. It’s been a real pleasure and I’ll miss you folks!

My focus has involved developing a vision report for urban agriculture along the Wasatch Front. While that vision is still in its infancy, I’ve been inspired by the many different urban farmers, developers, local officials, non-profit staff members, and local gardeners who persevere in their efforts to sustainably produce fresh food in the limited confines of our desert valleys. In the many interviews I’ve had with these local agricultural stakeholders, I’ve heard a similar vision emerging: they all foresee a day where heading to your community garden or local community supported agriculture (CSA) farm is not unusual. It’s the norm. The idea is that everyone is so engaged with gardening or interacting with farmers through CSAs and farmer’s markets that when you’re heading to those places, it’s no different than saying you’re going to the grocery store.
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Visiting a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm along the Wasatch Front.


There are some obvious and some subtle obstacles that stand in the way of the realization of this vision. Some of our interviewees have brought up the need for a local food hub that offers aggregation, processing (including cold storage), and/or distribution services. Others have pointed out that there needs to be better, more affordable supply options for small- and medium-scale farmers besides purchasing “unseen” farming supplies online. Some have pointed out that local authorities need to better protect and preserve agricultural lands against urbanization and others have pointed out the need for greater outreach to and involvement of local minority groups. Most obviously, there needs to be greater concern about water usage and developing strategies for lowering local agriculture’s water consumption.
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Brainstorming how to support small-scale urban farmers in the Salt Lake Valley.

These findings will hopefully continue to be validated by the ongoing research efforts of a new, incoming cohort of students this next academic year. As such, I intend to assist this new group of students with their transition into the project, especially where the reification of our vision report is concerned.

On a more personal level, this project has had a positive impact on my own views and way of thinking about local agriculture. In researching the vision report, I’ve been motivated to rent a small 4’ X 20’ garden plot at a community garden near my downtown apartment. Trends and issues in local agriculture have also become a regular subject in my conversations with others. My poor family and friends get to listen to me go on tirelessly about food hubs, patterns in local water usage, how to help small- and medium-scale urban farmers, and my endless brainstorming for possible solutions to food deserts in SLC. In my own small way, I see this as helping to raise awareness of this very important topic and as a manner of deepening my own sense of respect for our local agricultural and gardening industries.

I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to interact and work with this most stellar of urban agriculture teams and am excited by what we’ve found and by what we have yet to discover. Thanks everyone and best of luck!! I'll miss you all!


June 7, 2017
Written by: Mickey Navidomskis

Wednesday was our second day back to work at ICTA following the holiday weekend. With our group meeting rescheduled for Friday, many of us met with our graduate student advisors to discuss specific hurdles and speed bumps regarding our research. Collectively, we have all been making good progress and hosting internal discussions about our methods. Kayla has begun generating some early results on her ENA! Kelley and I have been working closely in refining our methods, discussing water efficiency and ecological impact indicators, and evaluating a variety of software programs that we may employ for our respective projects. It has been really helpful to have a fellow student that is evaluating similar topics and addressing some of the same method and data collection issues.

While our research projects are starting to make rapid progress, I have found myself moving at a literal slower place these days. I sprained my ankle playing beach volleyball with other residents in the Villa, and have been hobbling around since. Luckily one bandaged foot and a pair of sandals is all the rage in this summer's fashion scene! Olivia has been very gracious in offering her bike the last few days, which has helped me get around.
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For dinner Kelley and Kayla experimented with their own versions of tapas! Olivia supplied a delicious curry to follow.
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Fun fact of the day: The red and yellow striped flag of Catalonia can be seen all over town in a variety of forms. Versions featuring a lone star represent the unofficial flag representing the independence of Catalonia. Majorca's flag also features these stripes, but includes a purple castle as well.

June 6, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

Where to begin about this past weekend! Due to the holiday on Monday, we had an extra day for our adventures! Xavier invited us over to his house in Cambrils on Saturday where we enjoyed a nice cookout together with plenty of food. After dinner we headed to the Cambrils beach for some swimming and volleyball. On Sunday we visited the Picasso museum, the Sagrada Familia, shared tapas near La Rambla, and celebrated Mickey's birthday at midnight! To continue the birthday celebration (Mickey's birthday on Monday and Kayla's on Tuesday) we decided to take a trip to Girona, Spain for our day off on Monday.
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This weekend was full of traveling mishaps. We learned to always look up directions and maps prior to leaving for our destination. Also, we know now that anytime our destination lies somewhere off of the general map of the trains, we need to find the additional outlier maps. Because we failed to do this the first time on our trip to Girona, we missed the R11 train (because we didn't recognize its destination) and instead boarded the R2 train. This turned out to be okay in the end because we took the trains in the right general direction, however because of this we had to switch trains 2 more times than necessary and arrived in Girona over an hour later than we would have if we would have boarded the correct train. Despite all of these learning moments, we still kept a positive and light attitude and had a great time in Girona! As it turns out, Girona's soccer team was just promoted to La Liga (the Primera Division) and they were hosting a huge celebration that evening. Our time in Girona was more exciting than we could have even anticipated and it was a great way to celebrate Mickey's and Kayla's birthday!

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Fun fact of the day: Gaudi's Sagrada Familia has been in construction phase for over 100 years and is 70% completed. Their goal for completion is 2026 which still seems very ambitious!

June 2, 2017
Written by: Sarai Patterson

Friday was a very exciting day here at UAB. Anna Petit defended her dissertation on sustainable waste management infrastructure, and now she is officially una doctora! She expertly presented her research and handled every question like a pro, so it is safe to say that everyone at UAB was very proud and excited for her. After her defense, the judges deliberated for a few minutes (although not long because it was clear that she deserved it), and then they announced their decision and everyone headed upstairs for drinks and tapas! It was definitely a fiesta siesta kind of day.
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The custom of sharing drinks and tapas is something that seems to exemplify Spanish culture and certainly illustrates our experience here so far. People generally do not eat dinner until late, around nine or ten, and then the meals consist mainly of small plates called tapas along with a beer or a glass of sangria. The five of us have already spent many a night meandering through narrow cobble-stone streets, searching for a good spot to share some pan con tomate, patatas bravas, or a Spanish tortilla. We might sit awhile and have a drink before wandering down the road to find another little place, and after the party on Friday, we spent the evening walking around Barcelona doing just that.

Fun fact of the day: Pablo Picasso spent his formative years in Barcelona, as a young artist apprentice. The Picasso museum in the gothic Palau Aguilar contains 4,251 of his works from these years. It was amazing for us to walk through the museum and see firsthand just how skilled he was even at such a young age!


June 1, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

Today was a very productive day at the ICTA building! Personally, I have benefited from being here at work everyday because there are so many great grad students and advisors who are willing to help. Whenever we run across a problem in our work, the grad students always seem to be accessible to answer a quick question. This has helped me a lot, since I am developing a network of energy flows modeled on the rooftop garden here at the building. Everyone here is familiar with the data and information that I am working with, so I have had a lot of support with my work. It has been great, and I have been able to progress my work a lot faster than anticipated!

After work, we headed to Gracia, where Sarai is staying. We explored the town which is close to the touristy part of the city, but a lot more quiet. We went out for dinner there, and invited Pablo, another student temporarily staying in the same airbnb house as Sarai. It was fun to see the daily life of Spanish culture, not influenced too much by tourism.
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Fun fact of the day: The University of Barcelona (in the city) was founded in 1450! That's over 300 years older than our country!!!


May 31, 2017
Written by: Olivia Juarez

Today, we attended a local conference on renewable energies and sustainability, el VI Jornada Ambiental. The conference took a specific look at how to make Barcelona and Spain on track to achieving 100% renewable energy, especially as part of a European trans-national movement to eliminate fossil fuel dependency. The most important thing I took from these seminars is that global sustainability and national/ trans-national fossil fuel reduction goals are being met by municipalities doing their part. For example, Germany is among the top in rapid solar PV energy adoption. Euro Solar president Peter Droge attributes much of that to local territories’ push for renewable energies. 55 of Germany’s 75 territories have adopted 100% renewable energy by 2030 goals.
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UAB Graduate Students Winning the Poster Contest

Kayla and Kelley were a part of the student poster competition for their work on the Ecological Network Analysis of Urban Agriculture. Many of our mentoring graduate student peers at UAB entered the contest as well. They stole the show of course--Ana, Perla, and Anna took the prize for best poster on their analysis of the iRTG’s (rooftop garden lab) impacts.

In other news, I am on my way to beginning collecting data for my Social Network Analysis (SNA). The SNA involves surveying Salt Lake County’s urban agriculture stakeholders, so I have officially applied for review of this human-subjects research with the University of Utah’s Institutional Review Board (IRB)! Applying for the IRB was incredibly helpful to my research overall because it gave me the framework to clearly define the study’s methodology.

Conducting my research from UAB with new folks and perspectives has significantly improved my ability to look at Salt Lake’s urban agriculture network from an objective viewpoint. I don’t think I could truly take an objective viewpoint while I was immersed in the network as I enjoy volunteering at a garden or shopping at farmers markets. It’s incredibly valuable that I am in an environment where I can take a step back from my personal engagement with the urban agriculture in Salt Lake to engage with my community with the bigger picture in mind! It’s like the difference between looking at a topographic map and being in the mountains—from a research standpoint. Onward!

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Fun fact of the day: ln 2016 Spain produced more wind power than nuclear energy; similarly, Germany produced more solar energy than nuclear energy!

May 30, 2017
Written by: Mickey Navidomskis

On Tuesday we again had a full meeting with the graduate students and senior advisors from ICTA. Some of the graduate students presented their work, giving all of us a sense of the research being done here. The presentations gave us a better understanding of the rooftop garden system and the various studies on the system. It was also interesting to hear some of the challenges unique to Catalonia and the potential solutions they are researching. Each of us have also been meeting individually with our advisors and gaining useful insight. As an example, I have been working with Marti to incorporate infiltration estimates into my research. Kelley and I have also been reviewing water indicator methods used in some of Xavier's work to see if this type of analysis can inform our research.
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Tuesday was also Sarai's first day here! Expect her blog posts on Fridays!
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Fun fact of the day: Spain has a long and proud history of solar energy use. It installed some of the first commercial solar thermal energy towers and remains a world leader in solar thermal energy production. Photovoltaic energy production is also significant in Spain, accounting for 1.8% of PV worldwide and ranking among the top 10 countries in the world.

May 29, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

Today was our first weekly meeting with our IRES undergraduate group. In this meeting we all discussed our goals for the week, challenges we were facing, and a Catalan phrase of the week! This meeting was very helpful for all of us because we were able to give feedback to each group member and discuss our ideas. The new perspectives we gain from meetings like these help us not to get stuck and help us to make sure we are not ignoring important aspects of our research topic. That is one of the greatest benefits I've seen in getting this opportunity to be at UAB for the summer. Whether it's from each other, from our advisors, or from the graduate students here, we always have plenty of help to keep us moving forward. It shows how interdisciplinary teams are a great advantage for progress!

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Also, our past weekend was full of adventure! We accidentally followed a bus route in the opposite way of the beach, we attempted visiting the Picasso museum for free Sunday admission but the tickets were sold out, and we tried to get a Mikasa volleyball at a Decathlon store on Sunday when the store is closed. Despite our poor planning, we had a great time! We eventually made it to the beach, we ate great food, and today (Monday) we finally got a Mikasa volleyball for Mickey.

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Fun fact of the day: If someone accidentally bumps into you and they apologize, the Catalan phrase for "it's okay" or "not a problem" is "no passa res."


May 26, 2017
Written by: Kayla Piezer

Today was a great day at work, which included an brief Catalan lesson from Anna and another grad student, David. We learned that "no entrenc res" means I don't understand anything. We also talked about how Spanish in Spain differs from Latin American Spanish. For instance, in Spain, the informal verb tenses are most commonly used, whereas in Latin America the formal verb tenses are used to show respect. Additionally, the vosotros verb tense, which is used when addressing a group of people like "you all," is particular to Spain. After work we went into the city and used the metro system for the first time. We had a great time walking around Barceloneta, where we stopped for tapas and dinner along the port. The waiter gave us recommendations for other places to check out in that area in the future. We enjoyed walking around the city and eventually stumbled upon the beach! It was great to feel the Mediterranean air and water :)

Fun fact of the day: there are 11 metro lines! This does not include the train system that we take to get to downtown Barcelona, the renfe trains that travel through the city, or the abundance of bus routes. However, it is surprisingly easy to navigate the transportation system, thanks to the pleasant organization and easy to follow maps!

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May 25, 2017
Written by: Olivia Juarez

Everything is recyclable in this beautiful city of Barcelona! There are places throughout the streets where one can even deposit hard-to-recycle items such as CDs, light bulbs, and batteries. Bins exist for businesses and residents to recycle regular recyclables, glass, and all organic waste—even meat, dairy and bread products! This portion of organic waste recycling is significant because it indicates that more soil is being created for the City's use, and that the City is using an anaerobic digester to recycle the grains, oils, and dairy products. This means that less methane is created from municipal waste, as well as less land space is needed for the landfill! This certainly exemplifies one characteristic that ought to be a part of every urban center globally: zero waste!

Fun fact of the day: if you are checking out at a grocery store and the person in line behind you has fewer items and is alone, it is considered courteous to allow the person to check out ahead of you! This has already happened to me twice; I witnessed it happening to another woman as well!
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May 24, 2017
Written by: Mickey Navidomskis

Today was highlighted by a group meeting in which the four of us presented our research methods and provided updates to advisors and graduate student here at ICTA. The meeting lasted over 2 hours with extensive feedback and discussion following each presentation. In addition, each of us met individually with Anna earlier in the day. These meetings provided all of us with new ideas and useful critiques that will likely direct our research focus over the next few days.

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Fun fact of the day: A 'tortilla' in Spain refers to a potato and egg dish that closely resembles an omelet. In english, this is referred to as a 'spanish omelet'.

May 23, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

Today we met up with Anna to fill out paperwork and tour the ICTA greenhouse building where we will be working. She showed us the the upstairs greenhouse and shared many interesting facts about the building. While there are only four materials used in the building (concrete, wood, steel, and plastic), the atmosphere and aesthetics are unlike any building we've been to in the United States - in a good way! The building is intended to be sustainable and "smart." For example, rainwater is used for sinks, toilets, and watering the crops. Windows open and close themselves depending on the weather and the needs of the building and the plants. We are very excited to be working in this building along with our UAB advisors!

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Fun fact of the day: Espresso is often brewed using a stove top coffee maker (first invented in Italy). Water is boiled at the bottom of the pot an passes through the grounds, making very tasty coffee!

May 22, 2017
Written by: Kelley Davis

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After long flights and long layovers, we finally arrived in Barcelona, Spain!
Even though we were worn out from the flight, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to head into the city to explore. After unpacking some of our things we found the nearest train station and rode the train into the city. We walked up and down La Rambla, visited the market, and ate our first Spanish dinner (tapas included of course)!

Fun fact of the day: Peanut butter is an american food and is not easy to find in supermarkets!

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February 25, 2017
Students from UT visit a local urban garden in Toledo, OH that focused on a permaculture approach. Below is a photo of the students.
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February 24, 2017
Students from UU present on Social Network Analysis (SNA) of growers and water stakeholders as well as on information, communication, and technology (ICT). They introduce information including a "food computer" as well as a program called "R" which maps SNA visualizations and matrices.


February 17, 2017
Students from UT present on Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) as well as comparing ENA to Network Environ Analysis (NEA). They introduce information about these analyses that can quantify the direct and indirect flows of a system. This information can be later analyzed to obtain the symbiotic relationships of these components in a system which will be applied to their work in Barcelona.

Below is a photo of the weekly Skype meetings between UU, UT, and Barcelona.

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January 20, 2017

Group members in Toledo met with faculty from the Study Abroad office for a pre-departure orientation. Inma, a student athlete at UT who is from
Cataluña, talked to the group about the similarities and differences between customs in the United States and different parts of Spain. She gave a brief lesson on common words and phrases in Catalán and Spanish. Additionally, the group at Toledo has been connected with the South American and Hispanic Students Association (SAHSA) on campus with plans to develop cultural awareness and basic speaking skills.
Toledo students also worked on replicating data using "Energy-water nexus of wind power generation systems" by Jin Yang and Bin Chen, and have concluded their results as shown in the below photo.

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January 13, 2017

Group members from UAB, UT, and UU officially met all collaborators during the first Skype meeting of the semester