Environmental Science

Undergraduate Student/Faculty Research Collaboration

Leah Melnick '10 (ES&P) is conducting research with Professor Jennie Stephens focused on understanding socio-political factors limiting wind technology deployment. Leah has been working on media analysis, analyzing how the risks and benefits of wind technology are presented in newspaper articles. This research experience is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Laura Merner '08 working with Prof. Brown of the ES&P Program and Prof. Turner in Geography examined the causes of cypress tree mortality in two forests in New Orleans. Laura spent one semester in the field, collecting and analyzing water samples and examining development patterns in that region. Laura's research work lead her to conclude that human development patters are responsible for the trees' mortality by changing water levels and salinity in the delicate habitat of the cypress forest. Laura presented her research findings at the Annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers.

Sustainable University projects

All students enrolled in EN 103 The Sustainable University work on team projects that involve both research and action. This course explores both the theory and practice of sustainability and sustainable development by examining the role of the university in promoting a sustainability transition. In addition to reading and writing about the challenges of sustainability and the role of the university in promoting sustainable practices in society, the students in this course engage directly with the challenges associated with promoting sustainable behavior and fostering institutional and social change through team projects focused on initiatives on the Clark campus. Recent team projects have focused on recycling infrastructure improvements, recycling education and the waste stream, promoting sustainable transportation at Clark, developing a plan to move Clark toward climate neutrality, paper-use reduction on campus, exploring the feasibility of solar panel installation, and expanding the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) program at Clark.

ES&P Undergraduates Showcase Research at Fall Fest

Troy Hill '04 (ES&P) working with Professor Tim Downs, presented his research at the 2004 Fall Fest on "Coping with Drought in a Humid Climate: The Case of Central Massachusetts." The research examines concerns that population growth and economic development are increasing pressure on the water supplies and drought coping abilities in Central Massachusetts. The research used qualitative and quantitative methods to find that the severity of droughts has not changed in recent years, but the societal sensitivity has increased and the adaptive capacity has declined.

ES&P undergraduate students Ryan Frazier '06, Trevor Jones '05, and Chris Lippitt '05 worked with Professor John Rogan to present their research on "Monitoring Forest Cover Change in Massachusetts using Remote Sensing Data and Techniques, " at the 2004 Fall Fest.

First Local Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

At the invitation of Worcester Mayor Timothy Murray and Worcester City Council, Carissa Williams (ES&P/BA/MA '04) and Hannah Muller (ES&P/Biology BA'04) worked with ES&P Professor Halina Brown to create the first comprehensive inventory of major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Worcester. Their inventory, covered in the front page of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, will help develop a strategy on how Worcester can reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.

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/MA '03) completed 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/BA/MA '03), now pursuing a Ph.D. at Oxford University, studied the issues of developing a suitable infrastructure for cars powered by hydrogen-based fuel cells. Undergraduate Ben Rubinger (ES&P/BA '04) studied the history of the modern automobile, its impact on the society, and its likely future.

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Role of Agriculture in Eutrophication

Laura Brentner '03 (ES&P/BA) researched the role of agriculture in the eutrophication of coastal systems. Eutrophication occurs when a coastal system, such as an estuary or embayment, experiences nutrient loading, usually delivered via run-off or groundwater to the freshwater systems emptying at the coast. This causes a chain of events, beginning with a macroalgae or phytoplankton bloom, that significantly alters the make-up of the ecosystem, threatening the biodiversity of the area and some blooms are even potentially toxic. These excess nutrients in the system come mainly from two sources; housing development and their septic systems or farms and their production and use of fertilizers.

Laura describes her research: "I looked at how the contribution of these agricultural systems are determined, how much of the nutrient load agricultural practices are responsible for. I also wanted to find out about strategies used for managing the flow of nutrients from the farms and how policy is involved in this management. I worked with the Coastal Zone Management division of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs to look into the nutrient contribution of cranberry bogs to a coastal embayment in Southeastern Massachusetts."

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Undergraduate Student-Faculty Research

  • Kristen Gabis '08 compared several city- and state-level carbon trading schemes in the US, which were designed to give industry incentives to reduce green house gasses. Based on the analysis, Kristen in order to develop the most promising characteristics of a future national carbon trading program. Carbon trading is considered one of the most promising policy options for reducing the national emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Kristy Ketting '08 studied how municipalities use LEED standards for green to improve energy performance of buildings in their areas. The focus of her work was on the role of LEED standards as a possible agent of technological and policy innovation
  • Laura Merner '08 was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF Undergraduate Research Experience Program) to study the causes of cypress forest mortality in New Orleans, Louisiana. After spending a semester in the field, collecting and analyzing water samples and studying the land development patterns, Laura concluded that the land development patterns are the key factor in the cypress forest decline by altering the salinity and water levels in their habitat.
  • Kate Willis '08 developed an educational program for 5th graders in the local elementary school, with a goal of making them a active participants in reducing individual consumption of energy in the US.
  • Mattew Kaspustis '07 used GIS methods to study examine the current system for identifying threatened water supplies in Massachusetts. The results of his work are directly applicable to the state environmental agency in mapping sensitive areas and in setting priorities for action.
  • Kate Del Vecchio '07 studied the relationship between land development patterns and socioeconomic factors, and water use in a town of Ipswich in Massachusetts, and the policy implications for the future. Kate presented her findings at the annual conference of American Association of Geographers.
  • Annya Djachiachvili '07 studied the prospects for developing urban eco-villages, using the traditional rural eco-villages as a model, but also adopting hi-technology elements.
  • Stephanie Oleksyk '07 studied the remediation of groundwater contamination at hazardous waste sites using a new technology of injecting oxidizing agents to decompose the pollutants. Her project was part of an internship with environmental consulting firm Corporate Environmental Advisors.

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