IDCE Collaborative Research

Putting Theory into Action

Many students at IDCE take advantage of opportunities to do their own research, under the guidance of IDCE faculty. The following are abstracts taken from presentations at Clark's 10th Annual Multidisciplinary Conference, sponsored by the Clark University Graduate Student Council.


Current IDCE Student Research Activities

Statewide affordable housing: rebuilding for the future. Foreclosed property acquisition model feasibility analysis

Sarah Dupere Ostro
IDCE/ GSOM • Advisors: Dr. Mark Tigan and Dr. Laura Graves

Statewide Affordable Housing (SAH) is a small affordable housing developer in Rhode Island. Faced with the retirement of their long-time executive director, SAH's board sought to reinvigorate the organization through the use of a new acquisition model, whereby foreclosed properties (or Other Real Estate Owned, OREO or REO) would be acquired for rehabilitation via bank donation. This Master's Paper is a feasibility analysis of the board's proposed model, and uses market research, needs identification and financial modeling to determine that, with sufficient leverage of existing board relationships, acquisition of REO properties via donation could be a viable method for SAH.

Organics management at Sodexo: case study at Clark University Dining Services

Melissa Joyce
IDCE/ GSOM • Advisors: Dr. Halina Brown and Dr. Laura Graves

In a regulatory atmosphere which increasingly emphasizes source reduc­ tion and diversion from disposal, operators of college and university food service establishments experience inexorability linked issues of business and environment. This case study analyzes the extent and distribution of the tangible and intangible economic costs and benefits of Clark University's existing organics management program. Results of this case study confirm that the contractor, Sodexo at Clark Dining Services, and the client, Clark University, continue to economically benefit from the successful execution of the organics management program. The win-win scenario demonstrates potential in the institutional food service industry for organics management programs to positively impact stakeholders' bottom lines while reducing negative environmental impacts resulting from the disposal and incineration of organic waste.

Growing the Worcester local food system: a food hub analysis

Brian Monteverd
IDCE/ GSOM• Advisor: Dr. Mark Tigan

The purpose of this project is to explore how a food hub can integrate food justice, workforce development and food technology in a way that enhances regional economic development. A food hub is a facility or organization that aggregates produce from small to mid-sized farms to assisting in marketing and distributions. It can also be utilized as a shared resource that enables farmers to access new markets, provide jobs and education on food justice.
The project will define what a food hub is and will provide a discussion of the programs and services that are commonly offered. It will look at the current food distribution system and show how a food hub can fulfill current deficiencies and correct some common problems. The large number of farms in central Massachusetts and the various community organizations in Worcester provide the perfect opportunity to create a food hub.

Social support as a buffer against the effects of maternal stress for Ghanaian women in central Massachusetts

Jacqueline Osei-Owusu
IDCE • Advisors: Dr. Marianne Sarkis and Dr. Ellen Foley

The project on which this paper is based was motivated by an alarming increase in the last fifteen years in the infant mortality rate to African-born women in the United States. This paper discusses findings based on a year-long multi-sited ethnography investigating the relationship between perceived stress and social support at different stages of childbearing for Ghanaian women in Central Massachusetts. Interviews, participant observations and surveys were conducted with women in Ghana and the United States to compare their experiences and practices during pregnancy. The main finding suggest that while Ghanaian women experience stress at both locations, social support could  serve as a buffer against the effects of stress during and after pregnancy.

A spatial-temporal analysis of the relationship between MODIS AOD and PM2.5 in Massachusetts

Qiao Li
IDCE • Advisor: Dr. Jie Tian

This study intends to find the most effective spatial-temporal scale for correlating MODIS AOD with PM2.5 in Massachusetts. Both the satellite data and ground measurements are collected, sampled, and then paired based on location and time. A series of experiments are performed to test the sensitivity of the correlation to spatial and temporal aggregation and
to seek for the"optimal" scale in the context of AOD-based PM2. 5 predic­ tion. A GIS tool is developed to support the research by automating the data processing, collocation and analyses, and can be easily adopted by others to conduct research of similar kinds. The results showed that the MODIS AOD data acquired from summer 20IO in Massachusetts seemed to have higher agreement with ground-based measurement of PM2. 5 in the time interval of 19 hours and a spatial aggregation of inverse distance weighting interpolation.

Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Danang, Vietnam: 3R Approach Focusing on Community Participation

Hoang Dao
IDCE • Advisors: Dr. Timothy J. Downs and Dr. Verna DeLauer

Building a more sustainable society drives Danang to improve the current solid waste management (SWM) system. The 3R program that has been implemented successfully in several countries is considered a feasible solution for the city to resolve its existing solid waste-related pollution problems. Through examining Danang's current SWM system, this study delved into the demand and available resources for implementing the 3R initiative in a specific region. Additionally, this research sought to determine the level of public awareness and attitudes toward the city's current SWM and 3R programs. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 30 households in ward three, Cam Le district. The results indicated that most respondents were unsatisfied with particular elements of the SWM system. Respondents want the city to improve curbside containers, collection activities, waste fees, and street sweeping. The majority of participants thought that 3R is a good program and revealed their willingness to participate. The existing large fraction of compostable materials in the solid waste stream (76%) and the willing­ ness of 53% of respondents to compost at home are advantageous for designing policies encouraging household composting. The results also showed that 6o% of respondents favor implementing the "pay as you throw" program. The results provide policy makers, environmentalists, and authorities with essential information in designing educational programs and making improvements in SWM policies and technologies. These improvements assist Danang to develop more sustainably.

Automated map design research with the Cartography & Geovisualization Group at Oregon State University

Jacob Wasilkowski
IDCE • Advisors: Dr. Ogneva-Himmelberger and Dr. Bernhard Jenny (OSU)

This presentation encompasses two research projects focusing on map design and geovisualization conducted at Oregon State University during the summer of 2012. The first, entitled ''Automatic Generation of Pseudo-natural Maps," includes developments made in designing a cartographic style mimicking natural appearances commonly found in manually-created landscape panoramas and natural-color terrain representations. Furthermore, initial progress was made in automating the processing of spatial data and the design process, with the overall goal of providing this to the public as a new web map service. The second research project- ''Adaptive Composite Map Projections for Web Maps"- introduces an alternative set of map projections to users of web maps. Typically, web maps (e. g. Google Maps, Microsoft Bing Maps) are restrained to a single map projection, but each type of projection has unique advantages as well as drawbacks. This project seeks to offer an Internet browser-based platform that allows web maps to dynamically change their projection as the user changes zoom levels or pans their view of the map away from the Equator. A brief video demonstration will help illustrate how this technology currently operates.

The value of common lands ecosystem to local communities: an analysis with the application of the economic caluation approach in Jhadol block of Udaipur district, India

Arun Poojary
IDCE • Advisors: Dr. Timothy Downs and Dr. Samuel Rarick

In the dry land regions of India and around the world, the village pastures and community forests play a critical role in supporting local livelihoods especially during the frequently occurring drought periods. Common lands as wastelands by the government agencies have higher socio-cultural values to the local communities. Local communities are collectively managing and fighting for the protection of these common lands against the degradation, illegal encroachments and privatization efforts. This study on valuation of common lands tries to analyze value of these lands to local communities and the factors influencing the people's interest to protect commons. People are asked to state their willingness pay (WTP) for the protection and management using Contingent Valuation Methods. In addition to this, study also used free list technique to analyze the socio-cultural importance of common lands to local communities. Communities found to associate the commons with the ideas of communal and collective responsibility. The factors of benefits such as grass, firewood and minor forest benefits found to have a positive influence on the WTP, while factors of encroachment and distance have a negative influence. The mean WTP value of INR 18 31.22 (usn 33.82) per family per annum expressed by the respondents is lower than the mean economic benefits they receive from the common lands. However, the qualitative data suggests that people place high value on socio-economic importance of common lands.

At a crossroads in the Bolivian Chiquitania: a case study of the Pailon Highway

Alyssa Villalba/ Mario Torrico
IDCE • Advisor: Dr. Denise Humphreys-Bebbington

This exploratory research looks at a section of the Interoceanic Highway (known as the Pailon Highway) in the Bolivian Chiquitania. Using qualitative analysis from semi-structured interviews, we explored the "benefits" and emerging tensions on a local and national scale. Our main findings suggest that there was little opposition to the construction of the highway and a growth in the support for private-led industries in the region. Greater physical connectedness has not translated into greater attachment to the central government for the local populations. There are emerging tensions between the Chiquitanos and inmigrant peoples (who have arrived in greater numbers because of the highway) over business opportunities and the protection of the environment. Finally, social and economic imaginaries are being constructed on the emerging tourism industry. These findings lead us to conclude that road building without the inclusion of all stakeholders in its planning, will further disadvantage local populations.

Enhancing soil nutrients and water conservation through sustainable farming techniques: afield research component of the IWMI's project on sustainable groundwater irrigation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region of Lao PDR

Jenkins Macedo
IDCE • Advisors: Dr. Timothy Downs, Dr. Marianne Sarkis, Dr. Ye­ lena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Dr. Paul Pavelic (IWMI), Dr. C. T. Hoanh (IWMI)

Water scarcity for agricultural production during the hot dry season
in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (MS) in Lao PDR continues to be a major challenge among smallholder farmers who rely on farming
for their livelihoods. This project is based on an on-going research project being implemented by the International Water Management Institute (I WMI) in collaboration with other partners in enhancing the resilience and productivity of rainfed irrigation through sustainable groundwater irrigation. The overarching objective of this proposed project is to contribute a component to the water scarcity needs and usability among smallholder farmers through regenerative and resource conserving technologies (RCTS) to enhance soil nutrients and water productivity through drip irrigation systems. The proposed project will be conducted at two trial plots (15m X 15m) in both Vientiane and Champasak provinces in Lao PDR. Results from pre-planting, planting and post-planting analyses of soil nutrients, soil water content and soil pH will be integrated into existing datasets to create a geodatabase that will be used by IWMI and its partners as additional resource for further research and informational purposes.




From deficits to assets, exploring positive youth development as an alternative framework in a total institution: a case study of the Child Care and Development Center of Mongolia

Esayas Wureta
CDP • Advisor: Laurie Ross

Utilizing mixed-method action research, this research analyzes the extent to which the Child Care and Development Center orphanage prepares the young people in its care with the skills, knowledge, and capacity they need to become healthy, independent adults. Incorporating the lessons learned from the integration of positive youth development in the America juvenile justice system, this research explores the possibility of positive youth development as a framework to mitigate the negative implications of total institutions on youth. In the context of an orphanage facing obstacles such as poor youth engagement, a lack of youth inclusion in decision making and corruption, the research suggests that positive youth development can provide the necessary framework to develop independent and high functioning youth while mitigating the cognitive and social development impediments caused by child care facilities functioning as total institutions.



Where are the women in cattle raiding? A gendered analysis of militarized cattle culture in South Sudan

Cassie DeFillipo
IDSC • Advisor: Marianne Sarkis

Cattle raiding has been common in pastoralist communities in South Sudan for hundreds of years. In the past, it was a means of replenishing resources and asserting manhood, yet it was always supposed to follow certain guidelines. These guidelines included the protection of women. The onset of militarization in South Sudan since their independence in 1956 replaced these rules with ak-47s. This has removed many of the past rules of war and left women especially vulnerable. This paper’s gendered analysis of cattle culture in South Sudan aims to show, through both primary and secondary literature, that the militarization of South Sudan has increased the amount of patriarchal structural violence experienced by women in cattle camps. There are five primary and secondary findings of this research: bride price plays a role in the continuation of cattle raiding, ideas of manhood play a role in the continuation of cattle raiding, the commoditization of women occurs in South Sudanese culture, militarization has led to more violent cattle
raids, and women have become increasingly vulnerable in South Sudan’s militarized society, in part due to increased duties and decreased decision-making abilities. This report uses ethnographic and secondary research in order to understand how pastoralist culture, especially women’s roles in pastoralist culture, has changed due to militarization. The ethnographic research was collected during a one-month stay in South Sudan, primarily through participant observations and informational interviews. The primary research was then compared to available secondary research.



Exploring the association between low birth weight and exposure to air pollution in Massachusetts: air pollution concentration monitoring

Hong Xia
GISDE • Advisor: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger

Low birth weight (LBW) is closely related with fetal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, inhibited growth and cognitive development, and chronic diseases later in life. Thus, we had proposed the project Exploring the Association between Low Birth Weight and Exposure to Air Pollution in Massachusetts" as a case study on the association between LBW and six common air pollutants on EPA’s National Ambient Air  Quality Standards (NAAQS) in Massachusetts. We have obtained the LBW data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MassDPH). It is available down to the census block level and recorded 623,844 births from 2000 to 2007. We collected the air pollutant data at 120 locations covering Massachusetts since the EPA air pollution models only provided the data of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM), ozone and lead, while only 30 monitoring sites were unevenly distributed in Massachusetts. The collected the air pollutant data of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (pm10), Particulate Matter (pm2.5) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) were used to generate concentration surfaces which enabled us to explore the amount of pollutants that each birth was exposed to and its relationship with birth weight. A Geographically Weighted Logistic Regression is used to explore this relationship and characterize the spatial heterogeneity of this relationship.



Can any model be geographically weighted? Exploring the association between low birth weight and exposure to air pollution using geographically weighted logistic regression

Chia-Rung Yang
GISDE • Advisor: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger

This study is aimed at examining the association between low birth weight (LBW) and exposure to chemicals that are listed in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in Massachusetts. We explored the relative levels of exposure in every 810 by 810m cell using the risk scores estimated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) Model. Logistic regression is commonly used to explore the relationship between one binary variable and multiple independent variables in spatial epidemiology. However, applying one single model to entire study area is not sufficient to characterize the spatial heterogeneity within the study area, while the current local regression models, such as geographically weighted regression (GWR), cannot describe the associations involving binary variables. Thus, we developed a geographically weighted logistic regression to explore the relationship a binary variable and several numerical variables. We also evaluate the relevancy of applying this method in our case. Our results indicate that in addition to developing geographically weighted models, researchers should also be aware of the limitations of logistic regression itself in order to take advantage of using this model.


Spatiotemporal analyses of mortality in the City of Worcester 2000–2008

Jing Wang
GISDE • Advisor: Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger

Mortality is an important health related indicator which reflects the environment, socio-demographic condition impact on human welfare over time and space. Focusing on the city of Worcester, this study examines the spatial pattern of the deceased record from 2000 to 2008 in a two-year interval (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008) against the demographic, socio-economic and environmental characteristics of Worcester. The finding will reveal the change in the number of overall mortality, disease-caused death and crime/accident driven death for the nine year period and the association between high/low mortality and underlying factors. The results can be adopted by other studies on this area or applied to similar research in other places.



Researchers’ perceptions of stakeholder engagement in the development of a regional earth systems model

Elizabeth Allen
ES&P • Advisor: Jennie Stephens

Engaging stakeholders in the development of earth systems models has potential to improve model accuracy and enhance model relevance for decision makers. It is vital to understand how researchers in academia perceive the role of stakeholders in order to design effective engagement strategies. Analysis of researchers’ perspectives was conducted using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with each of the 18 principal investigators involved in the BioEarth regional earth systems modeling initiative. BioEarth aims to improve understanding of climatic and anthropogenic impacts on environmental nitrogen and carbon cycling in the Pacific Northwest. Integrating input from natural resource managers and other stakeholders will ensure that project outputs are applicable to industries and communities in the region. This research reveals that there is significant variation in principal investigators’ conceptualizations of stakeholder identities. Assessments of the benefits and challenges of stakeholder engagement varied with regard to scientists’ level of experience with stakeholder-oriented research. Insights gained from the questionnaire and interview analysis provide valuable information about scientific communication as well as project specific insights that will guide the design of stakeholder engagement strategies as the BioEarth research initiative progresses.


Only in Olneyville: geographically specified subsidies

Emily Vander Does
GSOM/CDP • Advisors: Mark Tigan and Mary-Ellen Boyle

Olneyville Housing Corporation (OHC), a non-profit community development corporation, acquired Paragon Mills, a dilapidated industrial property in Olneyville. The 120,000 square foot complex will be renovated into commercial real estate. The organization contracted Emily Vander Does, a Clark University graduate student, to evaluate Olneyville’s development climate. Economic development is a feedback loop; investment in tangible and intangible assets increase individual’s and community’s opportunities to make choices they have reason to value. Every level of government extends public resources to private businesses to spur economic development. OHC has an opportunity to direct resources to revitalize Olneyville’s struggling economy. The development climate in Olneyville is heating up. OHC can influence this process to advance its mission. This report recommends the following:

1. Prepare a business attraction strategy and marketing plan for Paragon Mills. The attraction strategy will use competitive advantages to identify target markets. The marketing plan will coordinate efforts to attract businesses to Paragon Mills.
2. Leverage subsidies to identify and attract target markets to Paragon Mills.
3. Expand subsidies available to Olneyville businesses.
4. Build a sense of community among area businesses by identifying common interests and disseminating pertinent information.

I provide support for these recommendations based on an inventory of geographically specified subsidies; business, community, and government stakeholder perceptions of identified subsidies; the financial impact of identified subsidies on businesses; a measure of degree of difficulty associated with identified subsidies; and recommendations for OHC’s short, medium, and long term business attraction efforts.


Liberian refugees in Ghana: environmental security implications of the indiscriminate disposal of municipal solid waste

Jenkins D. Macedo
IDSC • Advisors: M. Sarkis, A. H. Fabos, and, Jude Fernando

Liberian refugees have been seeking refuge at the Buduburam Refugee Settlement (BRS) in Ghana for more than two decades. There have been two successfully held elections in Liberia since the end of the 14 years civil war in 2003. Drawing from these elections, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) terminated all humanitarian assistance to Liberian refugees in hope of a return. In spite of this, Liberian refugees continue to live at the BRS in deplorable sanitary conditions. This thesis explores the environmental security implications of the indiscriminate disposal municipal solid waste in the local environment at the BRS. In this study, I used the mixed methods research approach to collect data through personal observations, free lists, pile sorts, survey, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups directed towards the refugee population, state and non-state actors. MSW data were collected from the sanitation team of the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS) at the BRS and the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) to record waypoints of open dumpsites. The results show that the indiscriminate disposal of MSW in the local environment is associated with high increase of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), land pollution and the outbreak of waterborne diseases at the refugee camp.


guanying li

Flood risk assessment for the middle and lower sections of the Gan River Basin, China

Guanying Li
GISDE • Advisor: Hamil Pearsall

Intense rainfall in the middle and lower sections of the Gan River Basin in the Jiangxi Province of China creates floods in the summer, which can lead to extensive damage of property and loss of human lives. This research uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing techniques to develop a comprehensive flood risk assessment using the framework of hazards, vulnerability and risk. Elevation data, environmental, demographic and economic data, and land cover maps derived from Landsat thematic Mapper imagery were used to create flood hazard and flood vulnerability maps. These two maps were weighted and aggregated to produce the flood risk map. Results indicate that high risk areas are primarily located in Ji’an Urban area, Nanchang County, Fengcheng, Zhangshu and Xinyu City. Governmental or other organizations should pay more attention to these high risk areas, to reduce loss of life and property due to flooding.


Evaluating deforestation, topsoil erosion and sedimentation in MaMaBay, Madagascar from 2000 to 2010 – a remote sensing approach to assess human impact on ecosystem

Jing Wang
GISDE • Advisors: John Rogan and Florencia Sangermano

MaMabay in northeastern Madagascar preserves 1% of the Earth’s biodiversity in its three components, the Antongil Bay, Makira Natural Park and Masoala National Park. This area is prone to anthropogenic influences, particularly in the form of deforestation for agricultural purposes and logging. This deforestation leads to significant topsoil erosion, which produces sedimentation in the bay itself. By analyzing satellite imagery from Landsat-7 ETM, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), as well as ancillary data such as Food and Agricultural Organization Soil Maps, the dynamics of this watershed are explored from 2000 to 2010 in a low-cost methodology to determine the extent of degradation. The result can be adopted to evaluate land cover change, prioritize conservation area, and improve policy.



Business plan for small business lending program in Ghana

Akuoko Anthony Oduro
IDSC/GSOM • Advisor: Mark Tigan

The emerging criticism of current micro finance schemes, call for a program that will fill in the gaps left by existing schemes. In Ghana even though there are numerous micro finance programs, the demand for small loans is increasing. In response to this demand, a Ghanaian philanthropist has found it necessary to start a small business lending program in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, with the aim of providing a business program that makes use of existing savings schemes in a modified manner; that address the financial needs of the borrower- taking into consideration the socio- cultural complexities that presents challenges to the small business owner; but which are not being addressed fully by the existing micro finance schemes. This project aims at developing a business plan that fills the existing gaps; which is friendly to the small business owner and also financially sustainable in the long term. The product and services offered by this program include: small loans, savings facilitation, micro insurance facilitation, business education and development and the safety net fund to cushion the small business owner from default in times of temporary distress. Hence the program has been designed to address the risks associated with lending to small business owners and the same time providing the needed financial assistance to the small business owner.



Institutional dilemmas: a multi-scaled analysis of risk management within a non-governmental organization

Heather Tomlins

IDSC • Advisors: David Bell and Denise Bebbington

This research explores the dilemmas created by dithering perceptions of "risk management" at multiple levels within one NGO. The research is based on fieldwork carried out in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. The fieldwork included implementation of a programmatic risk assessment on youth development programs, and reporting gaps in risk management to the state and national branches of the organization. This analysis found that risk appears to be transferred in multiple directions, resulting in a dissonance between mandated institutional norms communicated via policies and the actualization of programs, services, and projects on the ground that do not connect with institutional standards of "risk management." The paper argues that risk is "scaled up" through the organization due to differences in tolerability to risk at all levels, but awareness of these processes may assist the organization with adopting a more culturally and institutionally appropriate risk management framework.
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