Shelie Miller Bio and Abstract

2012-13 EBI Seminar Series

Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 4 p.m., 115 EBB

Dr. Shelie Miller, University of Michigan


Estimating the Life-Cycle Impacts of Bioenergy Using Land Use Adopter Models




Shelie Miller is an Assistant Professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the environmental impacts of emerging energy technologies.   Her work incorporates nutrient and other non-climate impacts into bioenergy life-cycle analysis (LCA), and determines how adoption patterns can influence the environmental impact of a system. Dr. Miller was recently awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed upon early career scientists and engineers by the U.S. government.


Before joining SNRE, Miller was at Clemson University in the Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences department.  She received her Ph.D in Civil and Materials Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2006.  She also has an M.E. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Clarkson University and a B.S. in Chemistry from Denison University.




This research models landowner decisions to cultivate switchgrass and the resulting environmental effects.  A Bayesian statistical method estimates individual landowners’ probability of cultivating switchgrass.  Adoption patterns are combined with life cycle data to estimate the aggregate environmental effects of switchgrass adoption on a system, based on prior land use.  The environmental impacts may be either positive or negative depending on prior land use characteristics.  With a number of similarities to agent-based modeling, this approach uses a bottom-up perspective to model adoption potential, providing the ability to understand individual characteristics that lead to land use change decisions better than top-down models.


The environmental effect of switchgrass adoption largely depends on prior land use.  This model explores two potential switchgrass conversion pathways: lands previously supporting intensive row crops and marginal lands.  Agricultural modeling efforts depict two distinctly different environmental profiles for these land use changes with respect to water quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Although the primary driver for land use change is assumed to be economic, this model takes into account additional factors such as social influences and an individual’s resistance to change.  Different monetary incentives and targeted outreach programs are explored to determine their potential impact on overall adoption patterns. The I-95 Corridor, a major agricultural region in the Southeastern U.S., is used to show how adoption patterns affect the overall life cycle impact of switchgrass and how different policies can incentivize land use changes with the most favorable outcomes.