IDCE Collaborative Research

Past Research Activities

City of Lewiston, Maine

The Somali refugee community in Lewiston, Maine, had difficulty assimilating into the city, so City Manager Phil Nadeau invited IDCE Research Professor Dick Ford and former IDSC professor Laura Hammond and a handful of IDCE students to help. Ford observed, "The conflict mediation and community building that we undertook in Lewiston, ME is a direct outgrowth of our work in Somaliland. The Somalis in Lewiston come from all different clans and bring animosities and baggage from the civil war. The first step in community building is conflict mediation; then community building can follow. The mediation skills that we honed in Somaliland were used in Maine." Better understanding and communications between the Somali community and city government are being built based on these efforts.

Blackstone River Conservation Alliance

The Metacomet Land Trust approached IDCE for technical support to create a GIS database of privately-owned open space in the Blackstone River watershed for possible acquisition and conservation. Oscar Maroto (IDSC/M.A. '03) and former GISDE Professor Eugenio Marcano produced GIS maps of privately owned open space in the Blackstone Watershed for collaborative protection efforts. Katie Scott (IDSC/M.A. '03) worked with the Metacomet Land Trust to promote the creation of a regional Blackstone Watershed Alliance, a network of 56 environmental organizations, including Mass Audubon, the Nature Conservancy, and the Narrangansett Bay Estuary.

City of Worcester

Clark has a long history as an active partner in economic and community development in Worcester. The Mayor's Office and City's GIS Department regularly contact the GISDE program with requests for student assistance. The City realizes that Clark and GISDE are a good resource for mapping assistance. In return, IDCE students get involved in an experience that gives them important, real applications here in Worcester.

For several years Worcester's Mayor has solicited Clark's assistance in doing GIS analysis of the location of Worcester's brownfields, particularly relative to their proximity to schools and water sources. In 2004, the mayor invited two GIS interns to work on maps of brownfields for redevelopment. The maps helped developers identify contiguous vacant properties or brownfields that met their square-footage needs. New businesses could view the maps to figure what vacant properties might be combined; currently only lists of vacant parcels exist with no information about their relation to each other. The search for abandoned contiguous properties that could add up for future development is clearly an important GIS application.

Environmental Impacts Assessment in Latin America

IDSC graduate students worked with Tim Downs on different fieldwork projects that took them to Mexico: Jessi Grillo (IDSC/M.A. '04) and Briera Dale (IDSC/B.A./M.A. '04) assessed the impacts on marginalized communities of land-tenure reform under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Saulo Araujo (IDSC/M.A. '04) assessed the successes and failures of watershed management approaches, with emphasis on community participation and capacity-building needs. Alex Chen-Chiquin (ES&P/M.A. '04) explored the options for integrated solid waste management in his native town in Guatemala.

Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole

The GISDE Program has a close partnership with the Marine Biology Lab (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA. Students and faculty regularly collaborate on research on the Ipswich River Watershed, the third most toxic in the U.S.

"We do the GIS research there, and MBL does the water quality research. The National Science Foundation has designated the Ipswich as a Long-term Ecology Research Site. Every year we have many GISDE students who use this data for their master's topics," says Professor Pontius.

EPA-Commissioned Mercury Study

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a study, "Determining the Vulnerability of Populations to Mercury", with IDCE research professor Rob Goble and Clark professor Dale Hattis. Other team members included Jasmine Tanguay and IDCE students Stella Capoccia ES&P/M.A. '04 and Alexandra Dichter ES&P/B.A./M.A. '04.

This study explored three elements:
1) Exposure of populations to mercury emissions
2) Susceptibility of those populations to the potential harm caused by the exposure, and
3) The ability of the exposed and susceptible populations to cope with the harm.

Vulnerability often results from the interaction these elements; however, extremes of any one of these can also signal significant vulnerability in a subpopulation.

"We were charged by the EPA to review the literature and to examine ways in which different populations can be vulnerable to mercury exposure," says ES&P Professor Sam Ratick. We created a framework to understand the coping mechanisms and vulnerability of different populations. It was a great team effort. The ES&P students organized the literature review and helped us design the research."

The report underscored that the high exposure to mercury in humans results primarily from the consumption of large quantities of contaminated fish. Most mercury released in the U.S. comes from combustion, with coal-fueled power plants the largest contributors. Much of the mercury emissions is deposited in the U.S. in patterns similar to the deposition of acid rain, with high concentrations in the waters of Northeast, North Central, and Southeast United States.

Cities for Climate Protection

On the recommendation of ES&P Professor Halina Brown and graduate student Carissa Williams (ES&P/B.A./M.A. '04), Mayor Tim Murray has added Worcester to the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign (CCP) to begin reducing local global warming emissions. Williams and ES&P undergraduate major Hannah Muller created an inventory of all major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Worcester.

YOU Inc.

YOU Inc. Director Moe Boisvert and Clara Githaka, a family stabilization specialist from Kenya, have also turned to Clark and IDCE to explore a partnership. Githaka worked with Katie Scott (IDSC/M. '03) to pursue water quality research. In September 2003 they did a child welfare needs assessment in Nairobi. After interviewing NGOs, government officials, and street children to determine needs of families, they found that no official child welfare system exists in Kenya. YOU Inc. is exploring a possible partnership with Clark to create an International Institute for Child Welfare, which could offer practitioners from Kenya and Worcester IDCE courses in project development, management, monitoring, and evaluation.

NASA Research on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

GISDE graduate students Scott Sweet, Louis Paladino, Matthew Traina, Sean Grimland and Megan Van Fossen worked on research projects with Earth Science Professor Stan Herwitz, who received a $3.76 million NASA grant for his landmark research on imaging using solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Deborah Parker (GISDE/M.A. '02) worked closely with Herwitz to interpret remote sensing imagery from coffee plantations in Hawaii to determine the optimum growing conditions. Other GISDE students in the UAV project are the primary GIS consultants in a multi-institution effort to examine the threat of mercury pollution throughout the entire northeastern North America.

Technological Innovations in Sustainable Personal Mobility

ES&P Professor Halina Brown is investigating with students new approaches to personal transportation that have lesser environmental impact than the modern automobile. Cassie Buckley (ES&P/M.A. '03) performed two case studies of three-wheeled electrically powered vehicles, focusing on their social acceptance and their impact on how individuals think about satisfying their need of mobility. Jamie Salo (ES&P/B.A./M.A. '03) studied the issues of developing a suitable infrastructure for cars powered by hydrogen-based fuel cells.

Return to top >> Current Research >>

IDCE News & Views 2009


News and Views
Download .pdf