2009 Urban Fellow Justin Freiberg's short film about the Urban Foodshed Collaborative.
Following are brief project descriptions and research paper links for the 2000 through 2010 fellows.
Due to shortcomings in traditional methods for detecting and quantifying the presence of fecal waste in waters new methodologies are being explored, with special attention being given to the ability to identify sources of the contamination. In this study, an alternative methodology, which uses Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) to detect host specific genetic markers to distinguish between human and non-human sources of contamination, was applied to beaches in Connecticut that were experiencing various levels of contamination. Despite some difficulties with this new approach, it was ultimately useful for identifying waste of human origin. Though not quantitative, this study qualitatively provided important baseline information for further studies by indicating beaches to target for more in-depth tracking procedures to detect and correct these human sources impacting the contaminated waters.
This study is one of a growing number that seeks to address materials flows and management options from the scale of each building material type, up to the whole building, and further up to the range of buildings in an entire city – in this case, New Haven, Connecticut. Solid waste generated in the removal or renovation of buildings is a massive and often poorly described waste stream. Construction and demolition waste (C&D) is also largely unregulated in its quantity and composition, if not its disposal fate. Buildings are large, complex, and highly varied objects, and their component materials differ by building type, construction cohort, size, style, and many, many other factors. Reducing the solid waste generated in building removal and renovation, recouping building material for reuse or recycling, preventing some of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with C&D disposal, shifting jobs towards construction laborers, and reducing costs are all goals of deconstruction, a source separation building removal technique. A dynamic systems model was built using a bottom up approach to accounting for the building material flows in New Haven. Several scenarios for different waste management options were tested over a 25 year time horizon to evaluate the relative advantages and disadvantages in terms of waste diverted from landfill, greenhouse gas emissions, cost, and jobs created of each of the scenarios. The model was also provided to City of New Haven policy-makers to use as a building waste management tool.
The sulfur dioxide (SO2) cap and trade program established in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments is celebrated for reducing abatement costs ($0.7 to $2.1 billion per year) by allowing emissions allowances to be traded. Unfortunately, places with high marginal costs also tend to have high marginal damages. Ton for ton trading reduces emissions in low damage areas (rural) while increasing emissions in high damage areas (cities). From 2000 to 2007, conservative estimates of the value of mortality risk suggest that trades increased damages from $0.8 to $1.1 billion annually relative to the initial allowance allocation and from $1.5 to $1.9 billion annually relative to a uniform performance standard. With USEPA values, trades increased damages from $2.4 to $3.2 billion annually compared to the initial allowance allocation and from $4.4 to $5.4 billion compared to a uniform performance standard. It is not clear that the ton for ton SO2 cap and trade program is actually more efficient than comparable command and control programs. The trading program needs to be modified so that tons are weighted by their marginal damage.
My report, inspired by the work of a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. that seeks to promote social revitalization through environmental restoration, offers recommendations for the development of green roof subsidy and promotional programs targeting Washington D.C.’s underserved communities. I used results from sewer system modeling, academic studies on green roof performance, and thermal satellite imaging to identify areas of the District that would benefit most from the stormwater and cooling benefits green roofs provide. Lessons learned from first-hand involvement in past green roof subsidy programs inform my recommendations on how future programs could more effectively serve underprivileged communities. While the recommendations are specifically intended to give rise to programs that will more strategically maximize the environmental and socioeconomic benefits of green roofs in Washington, D.C., many of the findings could have implications for organizations working towards similar goals in other urban areas.
Emily Stevenson: "Closing the Loop: Alternative Land Management at Yale"
Compost tea is a soil amendment often used as an organic alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Compost tea is purported to increase soil microbial biomass and organic matter, creating a healthy and dynamic soil ecosystem that supports various ecosystem services. Healthy urban soils promote healthy vegetation, mitigate storm-water surges, improve nutrient cycling to minimize losses by leaching and run-off, and increase soil’s capacity for carbon storage. This research project established a pilot program on Yale University’s campus that assessed the above and below-ground responses to the use of compost tea versus the synthetic fertilizer and herbicide used under current management. Soil samples taken from twelve experimental plots located across the university’s campus were analyzed to assess microbial community response to the alternative land management program. Compost tea application took place over a twelve week period in Fall 2010; soil microbial biomass and catabolic evenness were measured across the treatment timeline to see how microbial communities differentiated under the different treatments. The tea applications effected microbial dynamics, but not as hypothesized. Compost tea treatments showed relative decreases in microbial biomass and catabolic evenness when compared to soils under current treatment. This study, after just 12 weeks of treatment, provides an early look into the dynamics of shifting soil communities under differing treatments.
Excess phosphorus inputs to Lake Champlain are causing unwanted algal growth resulting in decreased lake water transparency, odor, and reduced dissolved oxygen levels, while the presence of pathogen-indicating bacteria in the lake cause occasional beach closings. This has implications for both recreational and drinking water uses of the lake. It has been determined that non-point sources of phosphorus, mostly from surface runoff, are responsible for 80% of the phosphorus inputs to Lake Champlain, mostly from agricultural runoff. Pathogenic bacteria are also associated with agricultural runoff – particularly from livestock operations. Simple, low-cost technologies for phosphorus and pathogen removal from stormwater and agricultural wastewater are needed. One such technology is an on-site, combined constructed wetland-EAF steel slag filter system.
The past few years have witnessed a proliferation of studies using spatial metrics to examine spatial structure of land cover change. Urban analysts are no exception, applying landscape metrics to study and model patterns of urban growth. While the majority of this research examines emerging urban structures by measuring changes in their aggregate forms, these spatial patterns are often dominated by stable regions at the urban core. This study proposes the direct measurement of discrete changes across the urban landscape, testing the technique through a comparative assessment of aggregate and discrete land cover changes across seven classified Landsat images from China’s Pearl River Delta. The study presents results on area and compactness metrics computed with Fragstats 3.3 software, which reveal distinct trends between two complimentary methods. Analysis of this data suggests a potential role for discrete pattern analysis as a compliment to aggregate change analysis, particularly suited to detecting and characterizing process dynamics involved in urban expansion.
Urban street trees face adverse growing conditions: compacted soils, extreme heat, lack of nutrients, drought, car damage and vandalism. Limited funding, however, is cited by urban tree-planting organizations as their major obstacle. To maximize budgets, many organizations along the eastern United States have planted bare root trees as a less expensive alternative to balled-and-burlapped (B&B) trees. Existing research indicates equivalent survival rates between bare root and B&B trees; but no research has examined this in community group-planted urban street trees. Bare root trees are additionally advantageous in community-based plantings because they are much lighter and easier for volunteers to handle. This study evaluated the influence of stock and other site factors on street tree survival and growth measures (diameter at breast height, percent canopy cover, and percent live crown), while controlling for species and age. Site factors included street traffic intensity, site type (curbside, park, yard, or commercial corridor),wound presence, and sidewalk pit cut dimensions. 1159 trees (representing ten species) planted by Philadelphia community groups under the guidance of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society from 2006-2009 were sampled. Overall, trees showed a high survival rate of 95%, with no significant difference between B&B and bare root trees. Species with the highest survival rates were Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), Platanus x acerifolia (London plane tree), and Acerginnala (Amur maple). Heavily trafficked streets exhibited lower survival, percent canopy cover and percent live crown. Larger growth measures were expected and found in B&B trees, as they have historically been planted larger than their bare root counterparts. Findings support planting larger trees (such as B&B and/or larger bare root trees) along commercial corridors. Species in the Rosaceae family (Amelanchier spp., Malus spp, and Prunus virginiana) exhibited lower percents canopy cover. Wound presence and pit cut size were not major factors affecting the 1-5year old street trees sampled in this study. The major management implication of these findings is that bare root trees are a viable alternative to B&B trees in community-based urban forestry initiatives. Tree-planting campaigns with similar climactic conditions to Philadelphia can use this study to inform selection of stock and species.
Justin Freiberg: "The Urban Foodshed Collaborative"
The Urban Foodshed Collaborative (UFC) aims to provide a space and structure for New Haven youth and Yale FES students to connect to the potential of the land around them right in New Haven, and to realize the potential in local, collaborative solutions. It does so through the transformative act of growing food within an entrepreneurial model. I founded UFC in the spring of 2009 in response to a number of trends that I hoped would allow it to succeed: the desire of restaurants and markets to source locally-produced, community-enhancing produce, the many vacant lots that could be turned into productive space, and importantly, the continued need for urban youth to have valuable experiences that also pay a deserved wage. This paper examines the first summer of work of UFC, looking at some of the groups we partnered with, some of the lessons learned, and of course, the context in which it was founded. Alternative solutions to new challenges illuminated during this first summer of work will be evaluated. Further, I have developed a guidebook that will be used to welcome in the next generation of urban farmers to the Urban Foodshed Collaborative. Website: urbanfoodshed.org.
Lauren Adams: "Perceived and Actual Urban Water Quality Risks"
Ubiquitous non-point source (NPS) pollution is a dominant cause of biogeophysical degradation in urban catchment systems, the residual effects of which damage community health, safety and property values. Remediation of water resources contaminated by NPS requires both political participation as well as scientific information, particularly for drinking water supply sources, where the human impacts of NPS pollution are more acutely realized. To better understand the relationship between the demand for clean water and the supply of scientific education and information, my research compared actual and perceived pollution risks within the urban Mill River watershed in New Haven, Connecticut to determine the magnitude and characteristics of the watershed’s manufactured risk. The preliminary results from this study found that people have a difficult time describing their local water supplies both at the source and from the tap and that a general lack of interest in and understanding of the mechanistic links between watershed, human and ecosystem health prevails, despite people’s intense preference for the trusted delivery of clean water supplies within their urban homes.
My research grant from the Hixon Center allowed me to spend the summer exploring the motivations and resources for sustaining neighborhood level urban ecological stewardship activities in the Madison/East-End, Southwest Baltimore and Pigtown communities of Baltimore City. Using the ethnographic methods of semi-structured interviews, oral history and participant observation, I gathered qualitative data from community members and institutional informants on past and present urban ecological stewardship projects in these three communities. I sought to supplement the on-going research findings of the larger-scale Baltimore Ecosystem Study and the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project by contributing a richer understanding of what motivates urban stewards to initiate neighborhood-scale projects and what resources, both material and social, they depend upon to sustain them. My final paper includes both a typology of motivations for neighborhood-level stewardship and an analysis of the social and funding networks built around and depended upon by stewards in these neighborhoods.
Haley Gilbert: "East Rock Park: Inside and Out"
East Rock Park: Inside and Out is an interactive web based project empowering local communities to map how they use a local park – East Rock Park. The website was created to explore emerging community mapping technologies and uses like neogeography. Since the introduction of geobrowsers, like Google Maps, the layperson has been empowered to create and share spatial information over the internet with ease. This project examines community mapping trends, the technologies associated with neogeography, and details the process of creating the Inside and Out website. Can community groups or neighbors band together to apply these technologies to map their communities and local ecosystems? Experience from the website and research supports the position that the technologies are easier to use, the financial investments have been reduced, and people are actively engaging with these types of interactive mapping websites. In conclusion, community groups and neighbors can create, engage and utilize interactive mapping websites. However, more research still needs to be conducted to learn if groups are using these sites to improve, enhance, or protect their communities and/or local ecosystems.
Helen McMillan: "Urbanization of New England Wetlands: Evaluating the Effects on Pond-Breeding Amphibians"
Urbanization often causes wetland loss and alteration, which can have significant effects on amphibian populations that utilize wetlands for breeding and adult habitat. Reduced connectivity and density of ponds, alteration of the surrounding terrestrial habitat, and changes to the chemical, physical or biological characteristics of wetlands may all be possible contributors to decreases in amphibian populations. This study evaluated these potential causes of decline on two species of tree frogs in Connecticut: the gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) and the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). I surveyed 30 ponds located along an urbanization gradient in the Salmon River watershed of eastern Connecticut during the spring/summer of 2008. Many pond characteristics, such as salinity and the presence of fish, showed clear differences with increased urbanization. In contrast to other studies, I found amphibian diversity to be highest in suburban areas, likely due to the combination of more permanent ponds that many species require and the relatively close proximity to forested areas. However the factors that best predicted amphibian density varied with each species, indicating that in order to effectively protect amphibians a variety of habitats need to be protected.
Norio Takaki: "Municipal Waste Management in Two Brazilian Cities"
The present work compares municipal waste management practices in two Brazilian cities in terms of their potential as mechanisms for the social inclusion of trash pickers. The Federal District, home to the Capital, is taking measures to implement an integrated waste management program that aims to improve recycling rates through curbside collection of separated recyclables and support the work of trash pickers through the creation of cooperatives. In contrast, the city of Porto Alegre has had such a program since 1990 and thereby constitutes a valuable reference framework for Brasília. The comparison focuses on the advances Brasilia’s cooperatives have achieved as well as the obstacles they face to establish themselves structurally and administratively. Some of the more important lessons learned from this investigation come from the recognition that Porto Alegre’s program, despite its near twenty-year experience, has not contributed significantly to the social inclusion of trash pickers, neither in terms of income nor in terms of effecting operational and financial self-sufficiency amongst cooperatives. Since the situation in Brasilia is still in a process of incubation, local stakeholders and institutions could use Porto Alegre’s case as a cautionary example of the potential political and economic pitfalls facing the emerging system of cooperatives.
Gerald Bright analyzed how an instream habitat restoration application affects both instream flow variability and habitat quality for invertebrates, on the main stem of Pennypack Creek in Philadelphia, PA. Often, restoration applications are completed without a full understanding of process and violate the dimension, pattern and profile of a stable river. Using River2D, a two-dimensional (2D) hydrodynamic model, Gerald modeled natural and modified instream hydraulic conditions at a range of discharges to test for differences in hydraulic conditions and habitat suitability. Analysis of model outputs from River2D yields promising conclusions as to the utility of modeling the effects instream habitat restoration structures. The ability of 2D hydrodynamic models to resolve spatial variability in hydraulic conditions can provide opportunities for their use in making predictions about hydraulic conditions in systems with altered flow regimes. Conditions present in impacted urban systems could support the use of 2D models in the development of watershed management strategies given the influence of anthropogenic and land-use effects on flow regimes and habitat quality.
Steven P. Brady: "Wetlands in disturbed landscapes support higher avian biodiversity"
Steve Brady examined the distribution of wetland dependent birds across three types of land cover: urban/ suburban, agricultural, and forest. Many studies indicate the negative consequences of habitat conversion on native wildlife, however recent investigations suggest that some species may respond positively to human dominated landscapes. While the negative response of forest songbirds to land development is well documented, the response of wetland dependent birds is less known. Steve conducted this research in the CT River Valley and the Yale Forest in Union, CT. He used point count surveys to record bird abundance and diversity at each of 16 wetlands. His findings indicate that wetlands in human dominated landscapes support larger and more diverse communities of birds. These results suggest that the response of wildlife to land conversion is context dependent, and that human dominated landscapes may offer opportunities for conservation of wetland dependent birds.
Jen Lewis conducted her research with support from The United Nations Human Settlements Programme in Mexico. She focused on land tenure legalization and service provision in peri-urban communities in Mexico. She worked in Xalapa, Veracruz developing criteria for future initiatives that link legalization and service provision processes. Key elements of this initiative included a comprehensive study of historical land use planning, environmental indicators, and political processes for property rights and services. Ultimately, the results of this research project offer an initial historical review of land rights and planning programs in Mexico. An additional outcome is an innovative proposal for sustainable development in peri-urban communities of growing cities as well as an academic analysis of current urban land use policy in Mexico.
Ali Senauer evaluated and is currently testing a novel method, based on global positioning system (GPS) technology, to better understand children’s exposure to their outdoor physical environment in urban areas. Through numerous studies and the development and application of new tools and techniques over the past several decades, we have become acutely aware of the direct linkage between non-human organisms’ distribution, health, and survival and the quality, quantity, and spatial distribution of their habitat. Unfortunately, while there has been increasing emphasis on understanding non-human organisms and their habitat needs, there has been relatively little focus on understanding human habitat needs. Ali is interested in using GPS technology to advance our understanding in this area. Towards this end, she evaluated a number of commercially available GPS instruments and is currently developing a custom unit to meet her research needs. This work will directly inform and advance Ali’s dissertation research, which is focused on understanding how the structure of children’s physical environment impacts their experiences and health.
Brenna Vredeveld examined how specific economic, social, political and biophysical variables motivate or hinder urban growth in Quito, Ecuador’s second largest city. Specifically, she focused on understanding the influence of these variables in three peri-urban communities located in two important watersheds southeast of the city. The three communities represent a gradient of urban development defined by presence of formal infrastructure. In order to understand historical growth trends in these areas, Brenna conducted interviews with community leaders as well as with regional urban planning and environmental departments. She also used community surveys and an informal GIS analysis to observe changing demographies and associated land covers in order to gauge the importance of biophysical variables on urban growth. Overall, she found that the contribution of each variable to urban growth varies across the three communities. In addition, land cover changes are often influenced by the effectiveness of planning policies, the attraction of markets, opportunities for livelihoods and resource availability.
The increasing threat of emerging infectious diseases in both wildlife and humans has spurred interest in the causes of disease emergence, including the role of anthropogenic change. A prior field study of infection patterns in amphibians suggests that echinostome infection may be an emerging disease of green frogs, Rana clamitans, living in urbanized environments. We examined the impact of echinostome infection on green frog tadpoles at a wide range of developmental stages (Gosner stage 25–39). Echinostome infection was associated with green frog mortality rates of up to 40% in an early developmental stage, and none in later developmental stages. Tadpoles exposed to higher echinostome doses exhibited higher edema rates, a potential sign of compromised renal function. Histopathological analysis further supported the hypothesis that echinostome-induced tadpole mortality resulted from compromised renal function. Given that the timing of highest cercarial shedding can coincide with the most vulnerable stages of green frog tadpole development, echinostomes could significantly impact green frog survival in nature.
It has been suggested that reductions in nitrogen loading to estuaries should be accomplished by implementing watershed specific programs that target the dominant nitrogen sources. The area surrounding Long Island Sound has been intensively developed and the watersheds contributing water and nutrients to the Sound are subject to a variety of density in urbanization. The loading of nutrients due to urban development to the Sound is influenced by urban infrastructure and the density of human populations and their associated activities. Efficient management of water quality in urban systems requires the identification of elements that contribute most to the loading of various pollutants. Caffeine is unique to sewage sources in the Northern Hemisphere, and could be used as a tracer for sewage contamination and evaluation of landscape elements which contribute to nitrogen loading via sewage effluent. I measured caffeine concentration in a fresh watershed along an urban-rural gradient which exhibited a variety in development intensity and infrastructure connection. Caffeine was detected and resolved a pattern that increased with urban density and correlated to other water quality parameters. The evaluation of caffeine as a tracer for sewage contamination as well as a tool for understanding how urban landscapes contribute nutrients to the environment is promising but requires further study.
Urban water management has specific institutional challenges that must be addressed in order to improve freshwater access in developing countries. This paper uses case studies from the Philippines to address the political and regulatory barriers that hinder improvements to water services. The central aim is to move past the typical public versus private debate that has dominated international discussions about investment and management of water utilities over the last two decades. The paper describes the scope of the water access problems, examines the need to move past ideology in water management decisions, provides case study examples to illustrate relevant issues, suggests context-specific factors that must be considered, and develops suggestions for policy approaches to reform. The main conclusions are that decision makers need to consult with a broader spectrum of stakeholders when undertaking water sector reform, better understand the local context and existing water provision systems before enacting new regulations and structures, draw on theories and experiences of institutional organization to find context-appropriate systems for water resources, and increase transparency, accountability, and flexibility in governance.
Mohamad A. Chakaki: "Can Tears and Blood Sprout Olive Trees?"
Mohamad A. Chakaki (MEM ’06) traveled to Syria where he worked in "Neirab Camp," a Palestinian refugee camp. Mohamad went to Neirab to help introduce sustainability to the camps, which were designed as temporary refuges but have evolved into more permanent homes. Mohamad worked for the UNRWA, the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees. He discovered that developing greenspaces in such a complex environment was a challenge. Questions of "home," ownership and identity are not clearly answered in Neirab, whose residents have always thought of themselves as visitors and yearn for their home in Palestine. Mohamad attempted to untangle how to speak with the refugees about environmental sustainability when there are so many other priorities.
Joel Creswell: "Mercury Concentrations in an Urbanized Watershed"
Joel Creswell (MESc ’06) analyzed water samples from four streams in the three main watersheds of the City of New Haven for mercury content. By analyzing streams in both forested and urbanized landscapes, Joel hoped to determine whether different land uses affected mercury concentrations in streams. Preliminary results show that mercury is inversely correlated with watershed urbanization under dry conditions. Joel expects storm data to show the opposite relationship. Joel’s research will help urban planners and stormwater managers understand the impacts of urban land use on the levels of mercury—a harmful pollutant—in streams.
Tomas Delgado (MEM ’06) focused his internship on improving the understanding of sustainable urban building. The low density "sprawling" neighborhoods that dominated building in the last decades of the 20th century are undesirable in terms of energy, land use, material use, and also in terms of less tangible factors like the lack of "sense of place" they promote among their inhabitants. By studying new designs, like that of downtown Mansfield, Connecticut, Tomas attempted to understand how rating systems like LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) can be used to evaluate the sustainability of urban design. By working on a new rating system, the "LAND code," being developed at Yale, Tomas worked to incorporate important aspects of land use not thoroughly considered using LEED®.
Rachel Gruzen (MEM’06) explored the complicated challenge of sustainable shrimp farming in Madagascar. Armed with a video camera, Rachel explored how the growing global demand for shrimp is affecting the diverse, pristine mangrove shorelines of the East African country. In her research, Rachel traced how the government and aquaculture companies are addressing the social wellbeing of their employees. She was especially interested in determining which factors—community development programming, town planning, partnership-building, and policy frameworks—are tending to encourage socially and environmentally sustainable shrimp farming in Madagascar. The result of Rachel’s work is a documentary.
Manja P. Holland: "Urbanization and the Impact of Emerging Disease on Amphibians"
Manja Holland (PhD Candidate) spent her summer investigating emerging disease in amphibians in Northeastern Connecticut. Emerging wildlife diseases are of concern both from conservation and human health perspectives, as many can be transferred between wildlife and people. Urbanization and other forms of anthropogenic change have been linked with increased emergence of wildlife disease, but the mechanisms underlying these patterns remain poorly understood. By understanding how echinostomes, a widespread amphibian macroparasite, impact green frogs (Rana clamitans), Manja hopes to contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms by which diseases, especially those that can be transferred to humans, can emerge as a result of urbanization.
Robyn Meeks: "Water Governance Programme"
Robyn Meeks (MEM ’05) worked at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Headquarters in New York City with the Water Governance Sub-Practice. The Water Governance Sub-Practice promotes sound and effective governance of water resources. In this capacity, Robyn assisted in activities pertaining to transboundary waters and integrated water resources management (IWRM). Studying IWRM, she researched the outcomes, lessons learned, and achievements of UNDP’s transboundary rivers initiative. Robyn participated in the planning of community stakeholder dialogues to empower and involve historically marginalized groups in decision-making proriver basin organizations. Each year the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology sponsors summer internships designed to encourage students at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to pursue projects that focus on increasing the understanding of urban ecosystems. During the summer of 2005, seven Hixon Fellows worked all over the world, from the streams of Connecticut to the refugee camps of Syria and the mangroves of Madagascar. Fellows studied topics as far ranging as amphibian disease, water governance and green building.
Amy Kimball: " If They Don’t Count, You Don’t Count"
Amy Kimball (MF ’05) worked with the Trust for Public Land in Washington, D.C. to conduct nationwide research on the user profile of urban park visitors. After speaking with park managers from around the country, she compiled a list of best practices for enumerating and understanding park users. Her findings concluded that surprisingly few urban park systems have a reliable and consistent method for assessing how many people frequent these public amenities. However, in the case of parks that count and communicate with their users, the data indicate the importance of these public spaces to cities. Amy’s findings will be incorporated into a larger Trust for Public Land project to assess the economic value of urban parks.
Emily Levin: "Water Wisdom"
Emily Levin (MEM '05) traveled to New Delhi, India to work with the Centre for Science and Environment. Her research addressed community-based water management in India’s urban and rural regions. Emily assisted with the design of rainwater harvesting systems for sites across New Delhi, a city that faces a crisis due to plummeting groundwater levels and an unreliable municipal water supply. She also documented case studies of decentralized wastewater treatment and recycling systems, which may help to reduce the discharge of untreated sewage to Delhi's Yamuna River. Lastly, she investigated the effectiveness of rural watershed programs in three arid states. This fall, Emily authored an article about using local water harvesting as an alternative to the development of large dams in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Amy Shatzkin (MEM ’05) worked with the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives to research the connection between smart growth measures and domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Under the auspices of the organization’s Cities for Climate Protection program, Amy developed a resource guide on sprawl and climate change for city government official and drafted the template for a municipal greenhouse gas protocol. In assessing the greenhouse gas inventory reports of 26 municipalities, she also found that green building design measures were the most frequently adopted and evaluated, while land use planning measures were the least frequently implemented and enumerated. Conducting greenhouse gas inventories allows planning officials to evaluate work towards reducing their community’s impact on global climate change while also assessing the efficacy of smart growth measures.
Daniel Stonington: "Essay on the Federal Role in Advancing Smart Growth"
Daniel Stonington (MEM ’05) conducted projects with the Growth Management Leadership Alliance (GMLA). The group is a network of leaders from state, provincial and regional organizations in the United States and Canada that carry out programs to directly shape and implement smart growth policies and actions. Dan researched current federal policies that directly effected land use decision-makers at state, regional, and local levels. He also worked to develop preliminary findings and conclusions for changing federal land use policies. Drawing on his research, Dan drafted an executive summary of findings to explain how the federal government should focus on strategies for communication and implementation of smart growth policies.
Jonathan Strunin: 2004 Internship Report
Jonathan Strunin (MEM ’05) created a variety of reports and online articles for InfoOakland, a small NGO based in Oakland, CA. The organization is dedicated to informing low-income groups and communities of color about resources and information available to them. Jonathan worked on the organization’s Oaktown Datahouse to facilitate citizen access to a variety of information about the city, to provide information about housing and redevelopment and to train residents about using these resources for advocacy campaigns.
Elena Traister (MESc ’05) spent the summer and fall of 2004 collecting and analyzing water samples from eleven sites throughout the Hoosic River Watershed in northwestern Massachusetts. Her research was undertaken to better understand the temporal and spatial patterns of bacterial fluctuation to better understand how riparian systems are impacted by bacterial pollution. Her preliminary findings indicate that diurnal and storm-related patterns of e.coli concentration exist in the watershed. Elena’s work will enhance the effectiveness of the methodologies used by water quality monitoring programs in the watershed, and improve the ability of these programs to deal with water quality issues in the future. Finally, her research will contribute to a broader understanding of the behavior of pollutants and their ecological effects on rivers over time.
Raji Dhital studied the rural-urban linkages in the agriculture market system between two villages and a city of Eastern Nepal. She studied the local and global forces that shape the agriculture market system, which have micro-level implications in the lives of rural farmers. In case of Nepal, some of the most important factors that affected the rural urban agriculture market were the land distribution, national policies of Nepal and trade relations with India- all of which are deeply connected with the political history of Nepal.
Margarita Fernandez: "Cultivating Community, Food, and Empowerment: Urban Gardens in New York City"
Margarita Fernandez’s research consisted of identifying the social benefits provided by community gardens. Working with Operation GreenThumb, who recommended the 10 research garden sites in the Melrose section of the South Bronx, Fernandez also ascertained the types of management schemes community leaders have developed to manage these community spaces.
Cindy Kushner: "Starting a Community Forestry Project in Greater Boston"
The Urban Ecology Institute’s most recent initiative, the Community Forest Partnership, is a partnership of several public and private organizations working to improve the urban forest. As the first intern for the Community Forester Program, Cindy Kushner worked with three well-established non-profit groups on a variety of projects. Each had its own goals, though all ultimately hoping to build environmental stewardship and a stronger community by improving the urban forest and motivating people to come together and work in ways they may not have in the past.
The paper discusses challenges, trends, and transitions in the urban environment field and offers an approach to meeting Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets in water supply and sanitation in urban areas. It updates the author’s 1994 publication Urban Environmental Challenges: New Directions for Technical Assistance to Cities in Developing Countries, published by the World Resources Institute. This paper begins by describing governance, decentralization, and privatization trends and drawing lessons from international development experiences in cities in developing countries. It argues that pervasive governance problems have led to environmental service deficits, particularly amongst the poor,who, at the same time, have demonstrated tremendous ingenuity in obtaining for themselves what their municipalities have not provided. The paper examines the global urban environmental agenda through a review of summit meetings and key initiatives of major international development agencies.This review of the global agenda – from Rio to Johannesburg – leads to the judgment that the most important urban environmental challenges today are defined by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It argues that meeting MDG targets related to poverty alleviation, access to water and sanitation, and improvements in the lives of slum dwellers will provide the greatest improvement to environmental quality in urban areas.
Called “a city on the environmental edge,” New Orleans has probably always seemed (to the outsider) to be both impossible and inevitable. New Orleans’ location in the highly productive but fragile deltaic plain of south Louisiana has proved to be of unparalleled strategic value throughout the city’s history, while at the same time defying human attempts to discipline the landscape. The following interrelated ecological factors affect the biophysical ecosystem of southern Louisiana: the Mississippi River trying to change course, land subsidence, coastal erosion, sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, a predicted increase in destruction from hurricanes, increased incidence and severity of flooding, and a spreading apoxic lesion in the Gulf of Mexico. Whether or not these factors can be treated is a question that will only be answered after billions of dollars are spent on restoration projects.
Austin Zeiderman: "Community Forestry in the Urban Environment: Some Lessons Learned in Baltimore, Maryland, 1989-2003"
The primary goal of the project was to contribute to the search for effective, efficient, and equitable ways to improve social and environmental conditions in inner-city neighborhoods. This 90-page document is too large to link it directly to this site. Please email us for a copy.
Olivia Carpenter: "Rainbows in the Puddles: A Covenant of Hope in Manifest Neglect"
Carpenter is studying the social ecology and environmental values surrounding a 40-acre park in Camden, NJ. She is using the park’s dilapidated state to illustrate the disconnect among planning, education and environmental agencies and services within the city.
• high resolution PDF (23.5 MB)
• low resolution PDF (1.6 MB)
Edgerton is working with the Hamden, CT community to conduct a health study of the neighborhood across from Hamden Middle School. The school and neighboring community were built on soil contaminated by the landfill-borne waste from an ammunitions plant. While the school site had been the focus of attention, the community across the street and Vic’s work are now the subject of public interest.
William Finnegan: “Assessment of Hands-on Multi-media Environmental Education for Urban Adolescents in New Haven, Connecticut”
Finnegan is using his skills as a filmmaker to teach children how to document their environment and community. At the end of his environmental education/documentary filmmaking program, he will assess whether or not environmental education can change students‚ perceptions about the environment and whether or not those changes in perception will lead to changes in behavior.
Brian Goldberg: “Partnerships for Successful Urban Open Spaces”
Goldberg identifies the characteristics of successful urban open spaces, looks for such spaces in Bangkok, Thailand, finds that several of the spaces are partnerships, and then asks what makes those partnerships successful. He determines four key features that significantly contributed to each partnership’s effectiveness in the creation of successful urban open spaces, such as  secured land control by a landowner;  a top-down land allocation process;  a political champion; and,  resources provided by each partner. These findings provide guidance for officers of public agencies, communities and corporations who seek to partner with the private, government and, community sectors to create successful urban open spaces.
Javier González-Campaña: “From Promenade Plantée to the New York High Line”
Campaña is studying the development and architecture of the Promenade Platee in Paris, an abandoned raised railroad track converted into a park. This process and design reveals the potential for New York’s proposed High Line, a neglected elevated rail structure built in the 1930s on the West Side of Manhattan. He is comparing the architectural, economic, and natural aspects of both projects to assess the development potential of the High Line.
Menone worked with the Council on the Environment of New York City this summer to build databases and produce maps showing the relationship between community gardens and neighborhood demographics. His research will study the stewardship and effects of community gardens in the City.
Miller began his research at the Portland, Oregon office of sustainable development, where he studied issues of urban runoff and incentive programs to develop rainwater catchments. He then compared residential applications of these systems to the requirements of LEED guidelines, and is currently pursuing research into how both applications tie into human values of water.
Pascasio is studying the complexities of large-scale watershed planning and management. Her research uses a policy sciences methodology for “mapping the social context” to examine the conflict over the use of water resources within the watershed of the São Francisco River in Northeast Brazil. The methodology identifies participants and their perspectives in the debate over water use and is used as part of a larger process that seeks to develop public policies in a manner that promotes the common interest.
Shah is researching the establishment of a pricing system for reliable water services in Zanzibar Town on the island country of Zanzibar. His work will include using contingency valuation methods to evaluate government policy options for financing and managing public water supplies.
Catherine Ashcraft: “Water Quality in Sodom Brook”
Ashcraft tested water quality in Sodom Brook. This research was part of continuing studies of bacteria levels in tributaries of the Quinnipiac River. Her data showed that Sodom Brook regularly exceeds water quality standards for both fecal coliform and Escherichia coli, with a larger percent of exceedences occurring during wet flows. She concluded that due to these differences, an accurate sampling strategy would include both wet and dry flow data.
Camacho used epigaeic insect fauna to develop site evaluation criteria for urban lots based on conservation value. Camacho gathered data from various urban areas. He found that the slowest-dispersing insect species are the most vulnerable, and the most biologically diverse sites are those near urban natural areas.
Etre tracked vacant properties in urban areas. The reuse of urban vacant land can bring higher densities to the urban core, while helping to curb urban sprawl by reducing the demand for development in suburban greenfields. Etre found that approximately one-half of U.S. cities do not formally track vacant land, while just over two-thirds of cities do not track abandoned structures. The major barrier to conducting inventories appeared to be the costs of staffing and technology. A national inventory-funding program could assist cities with overcoming these cost barriers.
Fisman explored how greenspaces affect children's development. An exploratory study was performed with two third-grade classes at Worthington Hooker Elementary School in New Haven. The research highlighted information that can be utilized in future studies, such as mechanisms behind solitary play, identifying the types of spaces and activities that encourage social integration and the role of the “natural” versus the “built” environment of the children’s behavior in the schoolyard. Fisman emphasized the value of children as designers of the schoolyard, as they are the ones who use the space.
Thurlow analyzed the formation of Dominica’s public-private partnership in the provision of energy services. She developed a case study to both illustrate and examine the private sector’s ability to provide energy, especially regarding issues in the protection of Morne Trois Pitons National Park. She also looked for ways to expand public involvement in these partnerships that provide urban services. This research was part of a larger project on the socioeconomic analysis of tourism strategies in Dominica.
Alexis Dinno: “Community Health and Urban Residential Lot Study”
Dinno examined the impact of URI community Greenspace programs on both the socio-physical character of abandoned lots and on the well being of residents living on blocks that contain abandoned lots in the Fair Haven neighborhood of New Haven.
Shane Rosenthal: “The Manila Water Concessions and Their Impact on the Poor”
Rosenthal studied the impact on the urban poor of the privatization of metropolitan Manila’s water and sanitation network.
Shemitz studied the history, science and policy regarding lead poisoning. By drawing upon lessons learned by scientists in the field, Shemitz researched how environmental hazards are detected, obstacles to the accurate measurement of these contaminants, and variation in exposure patterns of special subpopulations.
Jennifer Wells: “Development in Ringwood”
Wells studied the causes of sprawl in Ringwood, New Jersey and the large-scale dynamics of state and regional agencies affecting land use in the Highlands, and areas that runs through the northern part of the state. Based on her study, Wells found that the causes of sprawl include a lack of regional planning and ecological accounting.