George Perkins Marsh Institute

Current Research Projects

The Marsh Institute draws on expertise from the social, natural, and technical sciences to conduct multidisciplinary, integrated research programs, both nationally and internationally. Its studies typically represent the interactions in various ways of humans and the environment. Many diverse themes exist. The following are some of the Institute's current projects, listed alphabetically by principal investigator.

The following are some of the Institute's current projects, listed alphabetically by principal investigator:


The Global Shift in R&D Alliances: Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) and the Quest for the 'Base of the Pyramid' (BOP) Markets

Principal Investigators: Yuko Aoyama, Clark University and Balaji Parthasarathy, International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

In this proposed research, we examine how MNEs are devising new ways to access market intelligence by forging alliances with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and develop cases studies of organizational innovation in emerging economies. In particular, we focus on the emerging phenomenon of R&D alliances between MNEs and NGOs, and analyze the significance of global corporate R&D activities in five metropolitan areas in India. In understanding the process and organizational dynamics of innovative activities that target BOP markets, we aim to develop a new conceptual framework that explicitly recognizes innovation as interactions between technological knowledge and market intelligence. Furthermore the NGOs' new role as partners in innovation demands a broader understanding of their role in shaping the behavior of MNEs. How MNEs and NGOs co-innovate, co-develop and nurture knowledge assets, in spite of competing incentive structures, institutional objectives, and organizational cultures, require not only new solutions to multi-dimensional coordination problems, but a new conceptual framework of possibly a new form of market governance. Emerging collaborations between for-profit and non-profit entities in seeking market intelligence for BOP on innovation will provide new theoretical insights and empirical evidence into the emerging trends in capitalism and development, and contributes to broader debates on the transformation of, and the heterogeneity of capitalism(s). Through this international collaborative effort between institutions in the USA and in India, we aim at fostering an intellectual dialog among academics in the two countries on the involvement of global forces in shaping the future of the Indian economy.


Tracking the Politics of Natural Resources and Inclusive Development Over Time

Principal Investigator: Anthony Bebbington

Funding Agency: Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre, Manchester, UK

The exploitation and governance of natural resources (taken here to refer to mining, oil and gas extraction) offers a particularly insightful window onto the role of political settlements and development ideologies in shaping the prospects for inclusive development, and the significance of how our core domains of accumulation, redistribution and recognition relate to each other. It is also a domain in which transnational private and public actors have special weight. ESID Natural Resources Project One will track the historical experience of countries with long-established histories of natural resource extraction in both Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Clark University will provide Research Assistantship support to University of Manchester researchers, providing background research and briefing documents on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in Peru, Bolivia, Ghana and Zambia, and on changes in the international context of extractive industries since the 1960s with a particular focus on changes in IFI policies and practices, and changes in NGO advocacy related to extractive industries.


Extractive Industry, Decentralization and Development: An Andean Comparative Study

Principal Investigator: Anthony Bebbington

Funding Agency: Ford Foundation

The goal of this project is to enhance knowledge of the ways in which political and institutional regimes affect the extent, nature and distribution of development opportunities catalysed by the growth of extractive industries (EIs). This will be achieved through a comparison of Peru and Bolivia, and of the different taxation and redistributive regimes for hard rock mining and hydrocarbons in the two countries. The first part of the research will trace the ways in which distinct taxation and revenue distribution regimes have emerged for these two sectors in each of the countries -- this analysis will allow us to address the hypothesis that the dominant regimes for a particular extractive commodity are influenced by the institutional and political context in which the regimes initially emerged and that, once codified, these tax and redistribution regimes become difficult to change. The second part of the research will focus on the contemporary period and compare the relationships between EI taxation, expenditure and the distribution of development opportunities under the market friendly regime of Peru and the post-neoliberal regime of Bolivia. In each country, the project will assess the following measures of development opportunity related to extractive industry: the allocation of extractive rents between private capital and government; the geographical distribution of negative development impacts, especially in the form of environmental externalities; the geographical distribution of the rents that accrue to government; and the ways in which these rents are spent.


Extractives Industries, Conflict and the Possibilities of Development in the Andes

Principal Investigator: Anthony Bebbington

Funding Agency: Ford Foundation

This project will generate new knowledge regarding the relationships between socio-environmental conflict, extractive industry and sub-national development by focusing on the relationships between conflict and institutional innovation in the Andean-Amazonian region. By "institutional innovation" we refer to changes in practices, rules, regulations and arrangements for enforcement that show signs of long-lastingness and that exist in practice and not merely on paper. We will document innovations that appear to enhance synergy between extraction and development and prevent significant environmental damage, as well as those institutional changes that have caused further conflict. The hypotheses that underlie the project are that: under certain conditions, social conflict can be a potent source of institutional innovation; that this potential channel of institutional innovation is poorly understood because conflict is viewed as a problem to be managed; and that a more constructive view will open up new ways of responding to conflict that increase its propensity to facilitate institutional changes that, in turn, will increase synergies between extraction and sub-national development that are recognized by a range of actors.

The project will conduct national inventories of sub-national institutional innovations that have emerged in areas affected by conflicts around mining and hydrocarbon extraction. These inventories will then help select between three and five sub-national cases to be studied in depth, in order to understand the full range of conditions that favour the emergence of institutional innovations in the presence of conflict. This research material will be used as a basis for preparing briefing documents for the press, public authorities (state and indigenous), companies and civil society bodies, as well as for discussion meetings to be arranged with these different actors. Beyond the creation of new knowledge (which is the primary goal), the project seeks to project and debate this knowledge so that it contributes to attitudinal and ultimately strategic changes in the ways in which extractive industry conflict is viewed and handled.

The project will be implemented in Peru (with a particular focus on the South), Bolivia and Ecuador by a team of partner organizations. The lead organization is Clark University (where the PI is Professor Anthony Bebbington), and the lead partner is the Peruvian Centre for Social Studies (CEPES). Other partners include the Centro de Estudios Regionales para el Desarrollo de Tarija (CER-DET, Bolivia), Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana (Peru) and analysts based in Cuenca (Ecuador). The project also collaborates with and builds on the PI's earlier work on the political ecology of extractive industries and will use the already successful web platform built for that project www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/andes (also accessible at www.cepes.org.pe).


Mapping Overlaps between Extractive Industries, Water and Agriculture in Ghana and Peru

Principal Investigator: Anthony Bebbington & John Rogan

Funding Agency: Oxfam America

The objective of this research is to map geographically the overlap between agricultural production areas, watersheds, and areas targeted for oil and mining development in Peru and Ghana in order to see potential for competition and conflicts in land use. This initial geographical mapping will provide a sense of the need to initiate policy and advocacy work at the national level on land use and economic development planning and prioritization process issues. Further land use analysis focusing on poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods will need to follow in a second stage.


Indicators for Ecosystem Health in New England

Principal Investigator: Verna DeLauer

Initial Funding for Project from Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

More than 50 representatives from northeastern (from Long Island Sound to the Gulf of Maine) monitoring, indicator, and resource management programs are working collaboratively to create an Northeast Indicator Community of Practice to share indicator communication methods, lessons learned regarding end-user satisfaction of indicators and impacts on planning, policy and management decisions, and explore strategies for improved short and long-term indicator program collaboration.


Introduction to Qualitative Research for Coastal Training Program Coordinators at National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERRS) sites

Principal Investigator: Verna DeLauer

Funding Agency: NERRS

The goal of this project is to build intended user skills in collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing qualitative data and using the results of this work to improve the quality of meetings, foster effective project management, facilitate collaborative research projects, and ultimately to improve the effectiveness of the NERRS Coastal Training Program.

This goal will be accomplished through the process of designing and testing an online training in which participants will learn how to use qualitative data to inform design, adaptive management, and evaluation of research, stewardship, and education projects and materials. The training will combine self-paced units with real-time webinars in which participants will work and study with Dr. DeLauer who uses qualitative data in a way that reflects the job and goals of a NERRS Coastal Training Program Coordinator.

Evaluation of this project will look at 1) the effectiveness of this e-learning model to provide process-based skill building in the NERRS community, 2) the ability for Coastal Training Program Coordinators to apply information and skills learned or generated by this training, and 3) whether there is value and interest in the support of expanding the intended user audience for this training within in the NERR System and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Estimating Sustainable Limits of Incidental Mortality for Data-poor Marine Wildlife

Principal Investigator: Peter Dillingham

Funding Agency: Lenfest Ocean Program

Incidental (bycatch) mortality by fisheries is one of the most serious conservation concerns for non-target populations of marine megafauna such as marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, sharks, and other large marine species worldwide. For many of these populations, data limitations and lack of appropriate quantitative tools hinder decision-making. Clark University researcher Peter Dillingham and co-investigators Jeff Moore (NOAA), Rebecca Lewison (San Diego State University), and Alexandra Curtis (Acadia University), along with an international working group of scientists and policy experts, will develop analytical decision tools for setting take limits to help guide decision-makers. These tools will make fundamental improvements in the consistency and quality of processes by which incidental impacts on marine wildlife are assessed and managed, and are a critical step in appropriate management of these species.


National Children's Study

Co-Principal Investigators: Timothy Downs and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger

Funding Agency: National Institute of Health

Clark University researchers Tim Downs, Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Octavia Taylor and Rob Goble from the Marsh Institute and International Development, Community, and Environment (IDCE) are partnering with the University of Massachusetts Medical School based on a competitive contract awarded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) for participation in the landmark National Children's Study. This study is the largest to be conducted in the United States to assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors in children's health. The Clark team brings expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), environmental sampling and community-based participatory research.


Developing Remote Sensing Capabilities for Meter-scale Sea Ice Properties

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: US Office of Naval Research

An increasing array of higher resolution commercial satellite assets has created the opportunity to directly track meter-scale sea ice properties over large areas. These high resolution satellite assets provide panchromatic optical, multispectral optical, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities at high enough resolution (0.5-2.0m) to directly resolve features like melt ponds, floe boundaries, and individual ridges. These features have not been resolved by most earlier space-based remote sensing assets but are of substantial geophysical importance. Collecting imagery of the sea ice using these assets and applying this imagery to track these meter-scale processes at carefully chosen, regionally-representative sites will provide an important set of data products for modeling and process studies, and permit a newly comprehensive assessment of the processes driving ice loss in the Arctic. Throughout the program we will focus on disseminating both data and techniques developed to ensure the broadest possible impact of the work. The work will directly address a particular focus of the 2013 ONR core program solicitation by contributing to "the development of sea ice and ocean products derived from remotely sensed data."


An Interdisciplinary Study of Recent Ice Sheet Melt, Sea Ice Decline and Enhanced Ocean Biological Productivity Along the Amundsen Coast, West Antarctica

Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science Program

Frey is a co-PI on the 3-year $707,112 grant, collaborating with Dr. Sarah Das at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Dr. Matthew Evans at Wheaton College. This research is an interdisciplinary effort to understand the relationships between ocean and ice sheet conditions in the climatically sensitive region surrounding the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This sector is one of the most rapidly changing and least understood of all the polar regions, and alone is experiencing a mass loss of ice at rates comparable to the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. Frey's Ph.D. student Luke Trusel travelled to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in December 2010 for a six-week field mission in support of this NASA project.


The Polaris Project II: Amplifying the Impact

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The Polaris Project II seeks to amplify the impact of Polaris I (now in its third and final year) through its extension, expansion, and enhancement. The three overarching objectives of Polaris II are to 1) train the next generation of arctic researchers, 2) advance scientific understanding of the Arctic, and 3) expand public awareness of the feedbacks between the Arctic and the global climate system. These objectives will be accomplished through a multi-faceted effort that includes a summer field course/research experience in the Siberian Arctic, a series of on-campus arctic-focused courses, and a wide range of outreach activities. While undergraduate students remain the primary focus of Polaris II, participation in the annual field course will be expanded to include a K-12 teacher, graduate student, postdoctoral researcher, and visiting faculty member each year. Outreach activities will target K-12 students and teachers, undergraduate students and faculty, and a diverse public audience.

The unifying scientific theme of the Polaris Project is the transport and transformation of carbon and nutrients as they move with water from terrestrial uplands to the Arctic Ocean. Research conducted by the interdisciplinary Polaris Project team of faculty and students will make fundamental contributions to the scientific understanding of this topic, a central issue in arctic system science. While continued scientific advances are essential for arctic system understanding, prediction, and protection, tackling the climate change challenge is also a matter of education. Polaris II offers a unique experience in undergraduate research that will inspire and prepare a new generation of arctic researchers. Further, it will convey the importance of the Arctic to the public and to policy-makers, providing them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.

Karen Frey Watch an interview with assistant professor Karen Frey on The Polaris Project.



Collaborative Research: Toward a Circumarctic Lakes Observation Network (CALON)

Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The scientific goals and methods that address the intellectual merits of the research are: (1) Expand on existing lake monitoring sites in northern Alaska by developing a network of regionally representative lakes along environmental gradients from which we will collect baseline data to assess current physical, chemical, and biological lake characteristics. This will allow the project scientists to make spatial and temporal comparisons to determine the impact of warmer temperatures, changing cloud cover and precipitation patterns, permafrost degradation, and direct human impacts on lakes; (2) Implement a multiscale (hierarchical) lake instrumentation scheme such that basic data is collected from 51 lakes, while a subset of lakes are more intensively instrumented; (3) Provide regional scaling and extrapolation of key metrics through calibration and validation of satellite imagery with ground measurements; and (4) Develop and implement standardized protocols to enable inter-site comparison and to prepare for expansion towards a pan-Arctic network. The education/outreach goals that address the broader impacts of the research outlined above are: (1) Incorporate indigenous observations of lake physical and biological characteristics and changes. Innovative interactive methods of sharing information will be developed and made available through native and local organizations. Scientific and technical training will be provided to Iñupiat students for monitoring lake and drinking water quality; (2) Develop a demonstration monitoring network based on the Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) architecture and link this network to research centers, indigenous communities, and other power- and connectivity-challenged environments; (3) Develop and refine data management, visualization, and archiving activities with A-CADIS; and (4) Provide an introduction to Arctic science for several beginning investigators.


Collaborative Research: Pacific-Arctic Carbon Synthesis - Transformations, Fluxes, and Budgets

Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Predicting future conditions of the Arctic Ocean system requires scientific knowledge of its present status as well as a process-based understanding of the mechanisms of change. This research effort will synthesize a number of recent, upcoming, and historical datasets to create three regional carbon budgets for the Chukchi/western Beaufort Sea, the Bering Sea, and the northern Gulf of Alaska. As waters from the North Pacific make their way through these regions a number of transformations occur that modify them before they enter the central Arctic Ocean. In general, the waters exiting these shelf seas are fresher, colder, and have lower pH due to the uptake of CO2 and the remineralization of organic matter. Because of the importance that biogeochemical transformations have in preconditioning the waters of the central Arctic and ultimately parts of the North Atlantic it is important to gain a better understanding of how these processes impact the carbon biogeochemistry of the region. The investigators propose to address this issue by better constraining the carbon budgets for three zones in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean including coastal fluxes, rates of primary production and air-sea exchange of CO2 as well as developing algorithms with predictive capabilities for carbonate mineral saturation states. The aim of this effort is to determine how physical forcing and biological responses control the marine carbon cycle including the rates of air-sea CO2 exchange and net community production as well as ocean acidification effects in the contrasting shelf environments, and to better constrain the present stocks and fluxes of carbon and determine how climate change will affect the regional carbon cycle. The project will support four early career investigators, a postdoctoral scientist, and a Ph.D. student.


The Potential Impacts of Sea Ice Decline and River Discharge Shifts on Biological Productivity in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: NASA

Continued climate warming in the Arctic will likely have profound consequences for many systems throughout the region, including declines in sea ice cover and shifts in the quantity and quality of river discharge. It is widely expected that these changes in sea ice cover and river discharge will in turn have significant impacts on ecosystem productivity in arctic shelf seas, with globally significant consequences for carbon cycling and food web dynamics. We focus our proposed field efforts on the Chukchi/Beaufort Sea region, which is a critical crossroads for the Arctic. Not only is this region a globally important marine mammal migration pathway, but the Pacific water transiting the system is one of the largest point sources of nutrients, heat and freshwater to the Arctic Ocean. Furthermore, although adjacent, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas exhibit significantly different environmental characteristics, which will enable a better understanding of the interplay between sea ice decline, dissolved organic matter, non-algal particles, and light transmission in influencing biological productivity. In addition to focusing on the influence of river discharge, we will investigate how the timing of sea ice breakup and chlorophyll biomass production influences the strength of pelagic-benthic coupling, providing a unique opportunity to utilize upper ocean parameters that are able to be remotely sensed by satellites (e.g., sea ice and upper ocean phytoplankton variability) to give direct and critical insight into the spatial and temporal variability of benthic ecosystem dynamics in arctic shelf seas.


Satellite Observations of Sea Ice Variability and Primary Production in the Pacific Sector of the Arctic Ocean

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

The objective of the project is to gain a further understanding of sea ice variability and primary production in the Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean through satellite remote sensing time series analyses, and will result in the production of a manuscript for publication, entitled: Variability in annual persistence, breakup, and formation of sea ice cover in the Pacific Arctic region. This contribution will focus on recent variability in sea ice cover utilizing the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer - EOS (AMSR-E) time series of brightness temperature data collected from the Aqua satellite platform. These data (spanning from June 2002 through October 2011) provide a relatively high spatial resolution (6.25 km) daily time series of sea ice concentrations throughout the region. Because of the failure of the AMSR-E sensor in October 2011, it is now timely to assess this entire time series for spatial and interannual variability in the annual persistence of sea ice cover, as well as the timing of sea ice breakup and formation. Attention will be focused on comparisons between the latter portion (2007-2011) and the first portion (2002-2006) of this satellite record. Additional insight into sea ice variability and melt across the region will be provided by δO field measurements collected from multiple cruises over the past decade.


Collaborative Research: The Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO)-A Change Detection Array in the Pacific Arctic Region

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Collaborative Principal Investigators: Robert Pickart (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and Jacqueline Grebmeier (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences)

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Several regionally critical marine sites in the Pacific Arctic sector that have very high biomass and are focused foraging points for apex predators, have been reoccupied during multiple international cruises. The data documenting the importance of these ecosystem "hotspots" provide a growing marine time-series from the northern Bering Sea to Barrow Canyon at the boundary of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Results from these studies show spatial changes in carbon production and export to the sediments as indicated by infaunal community composition and biomass, shifts in sediment grain size on a S-to-N latitudinal gradient, and range extensions for lower trophic levels and further northward migration of higher trophic organisms, such as gray whales. There is also direct evidence of negative impacts on ice dependent species, such as walruses and polar bears. To more systematically track the broad biological response to sea ice retreat and associated environmental change, an international consortium of scientists are developing a coordinated Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) that includes selected biological measurements at multiple trophic levels. These measurements are being made simultaneously with hydrographic surveys and satellite observations. The DBO currently focuses on five regional biological "hotspot" locations along a latitudinal gradient. The spatially explicit DBO network is being organized through the Pacific Arctic Group (PAG), a consensus-driven, international collaboration sanctioned by the International Arctic Science Committee. This project will be a U.S. contribution to the DBO effort in the Pacific Sector, and the scientific needs to be met are consistent with research needs identified in the US National Ocean Policy planning effort, and the NOAA strategic plan. The implemented project will serve as a contribution to the US-led Arctic Observing Network and will improve international cooperative efforts for evaluating ecosystem impacts from high latitude climate change. Identifying and collecting key prey-predator biological data in the context of high priority physical and chemical measurements will allow for integration of these data into scientific community analyses and ecosystem modeling efforts. Outreach to local communities and media will ensure that both those immediately impacted and the broader public will be made aware of changes going on in this sensitive area of the Arctic.


Collaborative Research: Investigating the Influence of Sea-surface Variability on Ice Sheet Mass Balance and Outlet Glacier Behavior using Records from Disko Bugt, West Greenland

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Collaborative Principal Investigator: Matthew Evans (Wheaton College)

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This project will further understanding of ocean-ice-atmosphere interaction around the Jakobshavn Isbrae and Disko Bay region of west Greenland, with a particular focus on the role of sea surface temperature and sea ice variability in modulating past outlet glacier behavior and ice sheet/cap mass balance (snowfall and melt) over the past two centuries. The PIs will reconstruct past environmental conditions in the Disko and Baffin Bay region based on new glaciochemical and stratigraphic records from three 100-m deep ice cores, several firn cores, and geophysical studies from three sites surrounding Disko Bay. Their field activities will commence in 2013 with the primary ice coring activity in 2014 and lab and computation work following to derive climate reconstructions from the cores. The results will complement recent glaciological studies of regional ice dynamic behavior, as well as recent paleoceanographic and glacial geologic reconstructions of conditions from this area and era. Das and Frey will each supervise a full-time PhD student, and Evans will supervise undergraduate research assistants and senior theses. A high school science teacher will also participate in the field work and interact with students at his school in Massachusetts as well as from the ice.


Developing Remote Sensing Capabilities For Meter-Scale Sea Ice Properties

Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: Office of Naval Research

An increasing array of higher resolution commercial satellite assets has created the opportunity to directly track meter-scale sea ice properties over large areas. These high resolution satellite assets provide panchromatic optical, multispectral optical, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities at high enough resolution (0.5-2.0m) to directly resolve features like melt ponds, floe boundaries, and individual ridges. These features have not been resolved by most earlier space-based remote sensing assets but are of substantial geophysical importance. Collecting imagery of the sea ice using these assets and applying this imagery to track these meter-scale processes at carefully chosen, regionally-representative sites will provide an important set of data products for modeling and process studies, and permit a newly comprehensive assessment of the processes driving ice loss in the Arctic. We propose to take advantage of this opportunity by developing and field-validating remote sensing techniques to track melt pond area fraction, floe size distribution, and ice surface roughness from high resolution satellite assets. The work will directly address a particular focus of the 2013 ONR core program solicitation by contributing to "the development of sea ice and ocean products derived from remotely sensed data."


Multiple Scattering Within Snow and Ice and Its Implications for Elevation Retrievals From ICESat-2 Data

Principal Investigator: Alex Gardner

Funding Agency: NASA

NASA's ICESat-1 satellite laser altimeter has proven to be an invaluable for monitoring change in the global cryosphere by providing accurate near-repeat measurements of surface elevation. Assuring centimeter accuracy of the repeat elevation measurements is critical for measuring glacier volume change and sea ice thickness. Seemingly small biases in elevation can translate into large errors for many geophysical estimates derived from near-repeat high-accuracy altimetry. For example, an elevation bias of a centimeter or two would double the estimated mass loss coming from the ice sheets (15.5 million km2).

For this project we have identified multiple scattering of 532 nm photons within snow and ice as a potential source of centimeter to decimeter bias in elevations estimated from NASA's ICESat-2 satellite laser altimeter (planned to launch in 2016). If not properly corrected for, multiple scattering can result in spatially and temporally coherent time delays in photon returns that will result in a low bias in derived surface elevations. To minimize the impact of this bias we are preforming a suite of Monte Carlo radiative transfer simulations to characterize the 532 nm photon travel time delay resulting from surface multiple scattering for an extensive range of snow and ice conditions. We will use this data to evaluate, and hopefully improve, elevation retrieval algorithms being proposed for operational processing of the ICESat-2 data.

Comparison of Carcinogenic Potencies in Animals and Humans: Pilot Project for Developing and Validating Methodology

Principal Investigator: Dale Hattis

Funding Agency: Subcontract with ICF under EPA Prime Award

First, we have been developing a specific example of the practical use of the idea that exposures to toxic substances often can be expected to exert their effects in ways that effectively add to "background" pathological processes in the human population. The specific example we are using for this case is that toxic exposures, such as cigarette smoking can depress birth weights and cause corresponding increases in adverse effects associated with reduced birth weight, such as infant mortality and delayed neurological development.

Second, we have been exploring the use of innovative "Nexgen" in vitro assays of toxic effects as a substitute for in vivo animal testing for developing preliminary risk assessments for the many chemicals that have not yet been the subjects of conventional toxicology studies. Our initial results indicate, unfortunately, that when examined using a battery of over 300 example chemicals, there is as yet a poor correlation between the in vitro doses that induce detectable responses and more traditional measures of in vitro potency for producing the most common types of adverse effects. Based on this comparison we develop suggestions for improving the battery of in vitro tests used to specifically measure effects on communication among, rather than within key cell types (such as neurons), and interpreting the results of some in vitro tests differently than simply as a proxy for in vitro potency.


Climate Change Adaptation and Ecosystem Service Resilience in Northeast Coastal Communities: Quantifying Economic Values and Tradeoffs for Regional Decision Support

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Northeast Sea Grant consortium

Northeast coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to hazards from a changing climate, including sea level rise and increasing magnitude of storm-related floods. These communities are beginning to grapple with the realities of adapting to these coastal hazards and are seeking information to help them in their efforts. Johnston's team will develop and incorporate an economic valuation framework in the Nature Conservancy's Coastal Resilience modeling and visualization tool, providing a comprehensive understanding of the economic benefits, costs, and tradeoffs of various adaptation scenarios.


Long-Term Health Effects, Risk/Risk Perceptions, and Implications for Agricultural Product Markets: Modeling Consumption Patterns for Aquacultured Seafood

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: USDA/AFRI

Inaccurate perceptions regarding health risks and benefits of farmed seafood consumption have led to consumption patterns that do not reflect accurate risk/benefit tradeoffs. The proposed project, overseen by Professor Robert J. Johnston together with partners from the University of Rhode Island, coordinates previously detached methods to promote a comprehensive perspective on the role of long-term health tradeoffs for seafood demand. The effort will combine purchase diary, consumer survey, and qualitative data with consumer choice and risk perception models to estimate relationships among: (1) consumer perceptions/attitudes towards health risk tradeoffs in farmed seafood consumption, (2) the type, quantity and presentation of risk information, and (3) consumer preference and product choice. Outputs will include guidance regarding the use of risk communication to encourage farmed seafood consumption that reflects accurate risk/benefit trade-offs and enhances both consumer and producer welfare. Although the proposed work targets aquaculture products, the relevance of methodological contributions spans a wide spectrum of potential applications to agricultural and non-agricultural products.


Sustaining Coastal Landscapes and Community Benefits: Developing an Interdisciplinary Model for Enhancing the Impact of NERRS Science

Principal Investigators: Robert Johnston and Verna DeLauer

Funding Agency: National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System Science Collaborative

This proposal develops an innovative model for interdisciplinary research to build capacity within the NERR system. It enhances the impact of NERRS science by applying an ecosystem based management approach to address complex land use challenges and facilitate dialogue and policy deliberation about ecosystem service tradeoffs. residents, managers and stakeholder groups often engage in riparian and other land use decisions that are not in the long-term best interest of the public, because they do not have the information required to accurately consider tradeoffs between the benefits/costs of development and associated losses of ecosystem services. This lack of information persists despite the rich ecological data available within NERRS and elsewhere, because these data have been thus far poorly linked to (1) social science models required to characterize and quantify tradeoffs in ecosystem service benefits and (2) methods to translate results for effective policy guidance. The goal of the proposed project is to provide information on ecosystem service tradeoffs and values in a concrete, useful format, and to use this information in coordination with Wells NERR stakeholder groups to promote sustainable management of riparian land use and habitat.


Collaborative Research: Spruce Beetle and Wildfire Interactions Under Varying Climate in the Rockies

Principal Investigator: Dominik Kulakowski

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This research project will examine relationships between outbreaks of spruce bark beetles and wildfire activity in coniferous forests of the Rocky Mountains. Coincident with warmer temperatures, since the early 1990s synchronous outbreaks of native bark beetles have been occurring throughout coniferous forests of western North America from Alaska to the U.S. Southwest. Extensive tree mortality caused by bark beetle outbreaks is triggering major changes in forest landscapes and their associated ecosystem services. This collaborative research project will address the following questions about interactions between wildfire and spruce beetle outbreaks under varying climate and their consequences for ecosystem services: (1) How does climatic variation affect the initiation and spread of spruce beetle outbreaks across complex landscapes? (2) How does prior disturbance by windstorm, logging, and fire affect the subsequent occurrence and severity of spruce beetle outbreak? (3) In the context of a recently warmed climate, how do spruce beetle outbreaks affect forest structure and composition? (4) How do spruce beetle outbreaks affect fuels and potential wildfire activity under varying climatic conditions? (5) How will climate change and the climate-sensitive disturbances of wildfire and spruce beetle activity affect future ecosystem services in the subalpine zone of the southern Rocky Mountains under varying scenarios of adaptive forest management? The first four questions will be addressed through empirical research, including extensive tree-ring reconstructions of past disturbances, re-measurement of permanent forest plots, field measurements of effects of spruce beetle outbreaks on fuels, fire behavior modeling, and spatiotemporal analyses of the spread of recent spruce beetle outbreaks. The fifth question will be examined through simulation modeling of future forest conditions and their consequences for key selected ecosystem services, including biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and resilience to environmental change.

The project will contribute to understanding of fire-beetle interactions under varying climate conditions and their consequences for ecosystem services. The project will provide new information and insights about climate impacts on bark beetle outbreaks, feedbacks to and from wildfire and other disturbances, and sustaining ecosystem services. The project will provide current science information in support of forest management and decision making needs through evaluation of different adaptive management strategies to maintain biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change. The project will develop pre-collegiate and collegiate-level curriculum material on wildfire and bark beetle interactions. It will create field and laboratory educational and training experiences for graduate and undergraduate students as well as an early-career postdoctoral researcher. To further enhance public education on fire-beetle topics, the project will produce a documentary video as well as a website of frequently asked questions about bark beetles and wildfire in the face of climate change.


RCN-SEES: Sustainable Energy Systems

Co-Investigator: Abigail Mechtenberg

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This award is funded under NSF's Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) activities, which aim to address the challenges of creating a sustainable world. This Research Coordination Network (RCN) sustainable energy project brings together a multidisciplinary team including U.S. academics from Arizona State University, Northeastern University, Clark University and Rochester Institute of Technology, together with academics from Cardiff University (U.K.) and Mountains of the Moon and Makerere Universities (Uganda) as well as researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Based on concepts of strong and weak ties, the network will build ties among stakeholders for sustainable energy systems with subgroups focused on (1) innovations in energy technologies, (2) sustainability implications of manufacture, use and end-of-life at scale, and (3) energy and human development. Ties between and within groups will be developed through industrial, government and developing country residencies through which graduate students acquire tacit knowledge necessary to bridge various stages of the innovation system. This project develops knowledge and the human capital necessary for sustainable energy systems as well as mechanisms for interdisciplinary training necessary in a variety of technical domains.


The Role of Information-Communication Technologies in Enterprise Development and Industrial Change in Africa: Evidence from South Africa and Tanzania

Principal Investigator: James Murphy

Funding Source: NSF - Geography and Spatial Sciences and Science, Technology, and Society Programs

This project, conducted in collaboration with Padraig Carmody at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, seeks to understand if and how information and communication technologies (ICTs) might enable African enterprises to become more profitably and progressively integrated into global markets. The changing structure of international trade offers significant opportunities for African firms and some believe that ICTs can rapidly accelerate Africa's global market integration by helping small, medium, and micro-scale enterprises (SMMEs) become significantly more productive, innovative, and competitive. While there is general agreement about ICTs' importance, substantive questions remain regarding if and how they can dramatically improve SMME performance and whether investments in these should take precedence over other development needs (e.g., roads, public health, education). The project will address questions about ICTs and their significance through an in-depth examination of 'if' and 'how' mobile phone, computer, and internet use are influencing SMME development in South Africa and Tanzania's tourism and wood products industries. The study will yield findings that contribute significantly to theories of technological change and industrial development, will help policy makers more effectively target and weigh ICT investments against other development priorities, and will improve our understandings of what ICTs mean for the everyday lives of Africans. The project will also have significant educational impacts as research assistants and students in Ireland, the USA, South Africa, and Tanzania are supported and trained throughout its duration.


Pathways for Reducing the Vulnerability of Water Resources to Climate Change and Urbanization Through Land-use Planning: Comparisons Across Portland and Phoenix Metropolitan Areas

Principal Investigator: Colin Polsky

Funding Source: PSU/NOAA

Water resource management and land planning in major metropolitan areas of the United States provide a unique opportunity to examine the interactions between climate and society. With different climates but similar trends in population growth and increasing economic activity, metropolitan Portland and Phoenix are becoming increasingly vulnerable to future climate variability and change. Our research aims to assess the utility of climate information and land-use patterns for understanding water demand amidst climate variability and urbanization. Water demand is strongly linked to land-use patterns because a substantial amount of municipal water use is devoted to outdoor use (60 to 75% in Phoenix, 35 to 45% in Portland). This program uses research and outreach linking weather and climate information to land use and water consumption patterns, with the ultimate goal of developing strategies to adapt proactively to the uncertainties of climate change.


Collaborative Research: Ecological Homogenization of Urban America

Principal Investigator at Clark University: Colin Polsky

Collaborative Principal Investigators: Peter Groffman (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies), Morgan Grove (USDA Forest Service), Sarah Hobbie, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Kristen Nelson (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Sharon Hall, Kelli Larson (Arizona State University), James Hefferman, Laura Ogden (Florida International University), Christopher Neill (Marine Biological Laboratory), Diane Pataki (University of California-Irvine), and Rinku Roy Chowdhury (Indiana University)

Funding Source: National Science Foundation

Urban, suburban and exurban environments are important ecosystems and their extent is increasing in the U.S. The conversion of wild or managed ecosystems to urban ecosystems is resulting in ecosystem homogenization across cities, where neighborhoods in very different parts of the country have similar patterns of roads, residential lots, commercial areas and aquatic features. Funds are provided to test the hypothesis that this homogenization alters ecological structure and functions relevant to ecosystem carbon and nitrogen dynamics, with continental scale implications. The research will provide a framework for understanding the impacts of urban land use change from local to continental scales. The research encompasses datasets ranging from household surveys to regional-scale remote sensing across six metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) that cover the major climatic regions of the US (Phoenix, AZ, Miami, FL, Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, St. Paul, MN and Los Angeles, CA) to determine how household characteristics correlate with landscaping decisions, land management practices and ecological structure and functions at local, regional and continental scales. This research will transform scientific understanding of an important and increasingly common ecosystem type (?suburbia?) and the consequences to carbon storage and nitrogen pollution at multiple scales. In addition, it will advance understanding of how humans perceive, value and manage their surroundings. The award will leverage an extensive, multi-scale program of education and outreach associated with ongoing LTER and/or ULTRA-EX projects. Activities include K-12 education and outreach to community groups, city/regional planners, natural history museums, state and local agencies and non-governmental organizations. Graduate students will participate in a Distributed Graduate Seminar in Sustainability Science (DGSS) initiated by NCEAS and the University of Minnesota Institute on Environment.


REU Site: Land Change and Vulnerability Studies in New England: The Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO)

Principal Investigator: Colin Polsky
Associate Director: Verna DeLauer

Funding Source: National Science Foundation

Human alterations of the earth's surface represent one of the planet's most significant cumulative global environmental changes. In countries such as the US this process manifests principally as suburbanization. Our understanding of the specific causes and consequences of suburbanization--an under-studied form of landscape change--is limited because we also lack a systematic baseline description of the location, extent, timing, and rates of the changes where the process is suspected to be important. These knowledge gaps are increasingly being filled by "land change" and "vulnerability" assessments, or the integrated studies of the process, and why it matters to stakeholders. This REU Site project will build on nine years of success engaging undergraduate researchers through the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, which operates on the REU Site approach.

Two research streams are available:

  • The Forest Change Monitoring stream will produce validated measures of spatial and temporal forest composition changes in a landscape (Massachusetts) dominated by heterogeneous species assemblages and ownership groups. This stream will also contribute to the "best-practices" literature for remote sensing applications, by articulating challenges and opportunities associated with constructing and maintaining a long-term, semi-automated satellite imagery-based forest monitoring program.

  • The Vulnerability Assessment stream will examine the social causes and consequences of, and responses to, land-cover changes in the suburban Boston area, using remote sensing, statistical, and survey analytical techniques. Research products from both research streams will contribute to both substantive and methodological literatures on land use-environment, suburban studies, landscape ecology, and geographic information science.


Suburbanization, Water-Use, Nitrogen Cycling and Eutrophication in the 21st Century: Interactions, Feedbacks and Uncertainties in a Massachusetts Coastal Zone

Principal Investigator: Colin Polsky and Robert Pontius

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Coastal zone suburbanization can generate environmental impacts, such as estuarine eutrophication and the impairment of shellfish beds. Suburbanization can also produce social disruptions, as established populations (and their contributions to society and the economy) are replaced by new populations/land uses. This process of transforming land cover to support suburban land uses is so multi-dimensional that few research projects have analyzed and modeled the process in a holistic manner. This research project will examine how suburbanization affects the environment within a tightly coupled analytical framework, examining questions fundamental to social, natural, and geographic information sciences. Northeastern Massachusetts is a compelling natural laboratory for examining these dynamics, because metropolitan Boston is sprawling into this coastal area. Data gathered through interviews, surveys, fieldwork, high resolution mapping/GIS, and statistical and process-based modeling will be used to characterize, explain, and model these dynamics in a suburbanizing coupled human-watershed-estuary system in a 26-town Massachusetts study area. Click here for more information:

Clark University receives $1.4 million grant for coastal zone research
NSF Awards 12 Grants for Research on Coupled Natural and Human Systems
COLIN D. POLSKY and R. GIL PONTIUS JR- Groundwater in Massachussets
Clark shares $1.4M grant to study two watersheds
Parker River's 'suburbanization' gets a closer look


Decision Center for a Desert City II: Urban Climate Adaptation

Principal Investigator: Colin Polsky

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The scale, scope, and uncertainties associated with climate change pose formidable challenges for scientists, policy makers, and citizens. Cities in arid locales around the world urgently need integrative research with a long-term perspective to provide a sound scientific basis for policy making to improve adaptive capacity in the face of climate change. The Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), which initially was established in 2004, is a boundary organization at the interface of science and policy that advances the scientific basis for water management decision making in the face of climatic uncertainty in the Phoenix metropolitan area of Arizona. This collaborative group will use additional funding to expand its already extensive interaction with the policy-making community, thus improving links between scientific knowledge and action. The investigators will develop fundamental new knowledge about decision making under uncertainty from three perspectives: climatic uncertainties, urban-system impacts, and adaptation decisions. As a boundary organization, DCDC scientists will use social science principles to develop and test a more integrated decision-support process for policy making in this complex environment. They will examine the interconnected water, energy, and land-use decisions that exist in a complex dynamic urban system under climate change. The previously developed DCDC WaterSim model will be refined to capture the scale dynamics, economic feedbacks, and distributional effects associated with climate-change decisions in the face of climate uncertainty. The DCDC collaborative group will work closely with the NSF-funded Central Arizona Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project to measure, monitor, and model tradeoffs among ecosystem services, social equity, and economic well-being.

DCDC research will produce new knowledge about individual and societal responses to climate change and the best practices for linking science and decision making to improve outcomes. New knowledge about urban-system dynamics will provide a better scientific basis for adaptation strategies to make cities less climate-sensitive, while new knowledge about effective approaches to decision making in the face of long-term environmental risk will aid in formulating approaches to developing and implementing these strategies. DCDC research will link knowledge about water supply and demand under current and future climate conditions with social science research on decision making, thereby providing an improved basis for scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders to collaborate and to create and evaluate approaches to adaption in the face of climate change. The DCDC educational program will help educate and train the next generation of scholars who can move easily between the worlds of science and policy to improve society's ability to adapt to a changing climate. This collaborative group project is supported by the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences through its Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU) competition.


Plum Island Ecosystems LTER

Principal Investigator: R. Gil Pontius

Funding Agency: Subcontract with Marine Biological Laboratory, under NSF Prime Award

This is an integrated research, education and outreach program to understand the long-term interactions between human and natural systems at a land-sea interface. Integration of social science and environmental biology is crucial to understand how multiple stressors affect the sustainability of ecosystems. We study how changes in management decisions and ecological systems influence, and are influenced by, organic matter and nutrient biogeochemistry.


Forest Futures

Principal Investigator: R. Gil Pontius

Funding Agency: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Forest Futures is a research project funded by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO has contracted with Clark University and Professor Pontius to use the Idrisi software to extrapolate the geographical distribution of the gain and loss of forest globally to the year 2050, and to compare the extrapolation to maps of intact forests and protected areas. Research began in Pontius' seminar in fall 2012. Yelena Finegold is continuing the research during spring 2013 for her undergraduate Honors thesis. She will present the results in Thailand, and then FAO will hire her for a summer internship in Rome, Italy.


REU: Mapping Beetles, Trees, Neighborhoods, and Policies: A Multi-Scaled, Urban Ecological Assessment of the Asian Longhorned Beetle Invasion in New England (HERO)

Principal Investigator: John Rogan, Deborah Martin and Verna DeLauer

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) is an invasive wood-boring insect that is a grave threat to urban forests in New England, because it is unique among invasive forest pests for attacking a broad array of tree species. The 2008-present Asian long-horned beetle (ALB) infestation of central Massachusetts poses a greater stress on ecosystem services, as well as response groups ranging from federal/state resource managers to local residents, than any previous ALB outbreak in other localities due to the predominance of favorable host-species and the finely inter-connected nature of urban-rural forests as well as the presence of a competitive interaction at the federal-stakeholder-neighborhood level surrounding how the infestation should be treated and understood. Unanswered questions abound regarding the level of ALB impact at social and ecological levels. This REU Site renewal project is built on 12 years of success engaging undergraduate researchers at Clark University with the Human-Environment Regional Observatory--Massachusetts (HERO-MA) program on land change/vulnerability studies, which followed the REU Site approach (Polsky et al., 2007) since its inception, and as an official REU Site since 2008.


Statewide Research Partner on the Shannon Community Safety Initiative

Principal Investigator: Laurie Ross

Funding Agency: Massachusetts Executive of Public Safety and Security

In January 2013, Laurie Ross, Associate Professor of Community Development and Planning and Ellen Foley, Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change, received a $75,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive of Public Safety and Security to serve as the Statewide Research Partner on the Shannon Community Safety Initiative.

The Shannon Community Safety Initiative supports regional and multi-disciplinary approaches to combat gang and youth violence through the implementation of the Comprehensive Gang Model, an evidence-based and intentional integration of prevention, intervention, suppression, organizational change, and community mobilization strategies. This multi-disciplinary approach includes law enforcement initiatives such as 'hot spot analysis' and anti-gang task forces; coordinated reentry programs for young adults and juvenile offenders; and education and employment programs for high-risk youth. Currently 28 cities and towns in Massachusetts are funded. The communities that have received funding have:

  • High levels of youth violence and gang problems
  • A comprehensive plan to work with multi-disciplinary partners
  • A commitment to coordinated prevention and intervention strategies

As the Statewide Research Partner on this initiative, Ross and Foley's work has four main objectives:

  • To ensure that the funded partners have a comprehensive definition of the gang and youth violence problem in their communities.
  • To ensure that funded partners' strategies address the defined community problem and are aligned with best practices in the field.
  • To develop a reporting system that can capture the activities and outcomes of each community's efforts to address youth and gang violence.
  • Ultimately to conclude the impact of a "Shannon Dollar" on reducing youth and gang violence throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Collaborative Research: Smart Grid: An Analysis of How Socio-Political Contexts Shape Energy Technology Development and Policy

Principal Investigator: Jennie Stephens

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The term Smart Grid represents a complex set of technologies with potential to enhance the efficiency and reduce costs of electricity production, storage, transmission, distribution and use. Advances in nanotechnologies and new nanomaterials will play crucial roles throughout Smart Grid systems, changing electricity transmission, reliability, resilience, and energy storage, and shaping electricity use and demand management in novel ways. Although Smart Grid systems are critical to developing a sustainable U.S. energy system, significant variation is apparent in visions of what these systems are and how they are developing. By exploring the values and contexts that shape Smart Grid development and implementation, this project contributes to ongoing efforts to accelerate the transition of our aging electricity system to increase future energy security, reduce the threats of climate change, and contribute to sustainable development.

This research, funded by the CISE directorate, the SBE Nano Initiative, and the STS program, is guided by four questions: (1) What are the parameters of the political and policy debates surrounding Smart Grid? (2) How do stakeholders in different regions articulate their visions of Smart Grid development and deployment? (3) What are the major deployment challenges for Smart Grid technologies? (4) How can theory on science, technology and society, socio-technical transitions, and energy technology deployment be refined and expanded to more effectively integrate empirical components of emerging energy technology systems? To answer these research questions, the investigators will analyze Smart Grids in three electricity transmission systems of North America: the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO), the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-New England) and the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT); both MISO and ISO-New England include Canadian interconnections. The principal investigators will conduct policy review and analysis, focus groups, interviews, and media analysis to examine the values that inform Smart Grid development and use as well as barriers to implementation.

The project contributes to a growing body of social scientific research on nanomaterials and scientific innovation. In addition to increasing understanding of national, regional and state-level influences on Smart Grid technology deployment, the researchers' results will enable energy professionals, state and regional planners, policy analysts, non-profits, and businesses to develop more effective strategies for involving the public in Smart Grid technology design, technology implementation, and policy formation.


RAPID: Collaborative Research: Post-Sandy Discourse about Energy Infrastructure and Security

Principal Investigator: Jennie Stephens

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Superstorm Sandy highlighted the vulnerability of US energy systems. The storm resulted in power outages to 8.6 million customers and gasoline shortages in New York and New Jersey. Extending research already underway on the values that inform Smart Grid development and use as well as barriers to implementation, collaborators from four regions in the US will explore if and how Sandy will influence political and policy discourse about energy infrastructure and security and whether it does so in regions not directly impacted by the storm. To address these research questions, this RAPID response grant, funded by the Science, Technology & Society Program and the Energy for Sustainability Program, will document discourse among energy sector actors and the media in four different U.S. regions: New York and New Jersey (those areas hardest hit), Massachusetts (a New England region which was less severely hit), Minnesota (a Midwest region which was not directly affected), and Texas (a Gulf region which is vulnerable to hurricanes but was not directly disrupted by Superstorm Sandy).

Documenting discursive shifts or stability in different regions in the aftermath of an event like Superstorm Sandy will contribute to environmental communication theory by refining our understanding of how natural disasters combine with existing communication networks to influence political salience. This research will also contribute to the socio-technical transitions literature by illuminating the potential of natural disasters like Sandy to influence socio-technical transitions toward sustainability. The researchers' results will enable energy professionals, state and regional planners, policy analysts, non-profits, and businesses to develop more effective strategies for transitioning to more secure and sustainable energy systems.


Type 2: Cycling in the Environment: Regional-Scale Modeling of the Linkages and Feedbacks Among Atmospheric, Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Socio-Economic Processes that Influence Climate at the Decadal Scale

Principal Investigator: Jennie Stephens

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Intellectual Merit One of the greatest science and engineering challenges of the 21st Century is managing nitrogen (N) in the environment to maximize agricultural productivity while minimizing negative environmental effects. In the Pacific Northwest, the interactions of N, C, climate and human activities are complex. The region has extensive and diverse agricultural lands surrounded by pristine natural ecosystems, interspersed with heavily populated urban areas. The topography of the area is complex, and the terrain is drained by extensive river systems including the vast Columbia River Basin (CRB). Storm patterns are closely tied to the jet stream position and sensitive to long-term circulation patterns including the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO). The PDO can be especially prominent in this region, directly affecting precipitation and forest fire regimes. As an additional complication, the northwestern US is influenced by long-range transport of air pollutants from Asia. Our challenge is thus to understand and quantify the interactions and feedbacks between N and C cycling in coupled atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic systems; and to the climate system at inter-annual to decadal time-scales over the Pacific Northwest (PNW) region. Our overarching goal is to improve our understanding of the interactions among C, N, and H2O at the regional scale in the context of global change to inform decision makers for better, more effective strategies regarding natural and agricultural resource management. Our approach is to create a regional modeling framework by integrating and/or linking a network of state-of-the-art process-based models that are currently in existence and that are undergoing continuous development and evaluation. Our rationale is that by choosing among the most sophisticated models for each earth system component, and either linking or fully integrating these models into a biosphere relevant earth system model (Bio-EaSM), the integrated modeling framework can be continually improved as each contributory component develops. Our team is particularly well prepared to develop such a modeling framework because it is composed of individuals who are the primary developers or users of each of the model components to be used in Bio-EaSM. The framework includes the following components: WRF for regional meteorology, CMAQ for regional atmospheric chemical transport, VIC for regional hydrology, CROPSYS for agricultural dynamics, RHESSys for natural ecosystem dynamics and NEWS for aquatic nutrient transport. With this framework, we will conduct simulations in a series of steps with increasing model integration and coupling, including extensive model evaluation and future predictive simulations (2010 to 2050), to address questions related to 1) how climate variability affects regional biogeochemical cycling with specific focus on N and C, 2) how do regional N and C cycles feed back to climate in terms of greenhouse gas fluxes in the context of land-use change and inter-annual variability, and 3) how do land use and agricultural production decisions affect the interactions of N, C and climate and how do these interactions interplay with economic drivers. The end products will be a state-of-science regional earth system modeling framework that explicitly addresses N and C flows in the context of inter-annual and decadal climate variability and results from using the Bio_EaSM to investigate climate change and variability effects on regional ecosystem dynamics and interactions related to C and N cycling.

Broader Impacts Our integrated atmosphere-terrestrial-aquatic model will contribute directly to understanding the interactions of N and C cycling as they relate to an array of resource management issues confronting both the private and public sectors. Changes in nutrient cycling have the potential to significantly affect forestry and agriculture, important parts of the economy in the western US. We envision that our research will have an immediate and effective broader impact upon private stakeholders and public policy makers because stakeholders input will be integrated in the research process through advisory and focus group meetings and through the use of online tools. The involvement of stakeholders in the research process is planned to make the research more relevant and also, from a communication research perspective, to investigate how stakeholder involvement affects the research process and perspectives of both stakeholders and scientists. The proposed project also advances trans-disciplinary PhD research education, recognizing the value of effective communication across disciplines among physical and social scientists, economists, and engineers. We will engage doctoral students in research in atmospheric sciences, biogeochemistry, agricultural sciences, hydrology, aquatic chemistry, economics, and communications, all in a trans-disciplinary project context. These efforts are the next step building from our current IGERT grant: Nitrogen Systems: Policy-oriented Integrated Research and Education (NSPIRE) and an ongoing investment in interdisciplinary research, education and outreach at WSU.


Albedo Trends Related to Land Cover Change and Disturbance: A Multi-sensor Approach

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Masek (NASA GSFC Biospheric Sciences)
Co-Investigator: Feng Gao, Yanmin Shuai (Earth Resources Technology, Inc.)
Co-Is / Institutional PIs: Crystal Schaaf (Boston University Geography); Christopher A. Williams (Clark University Geography)

Funding Agency: NASA,The Science of Terra and Aqua

Numerous papers have highlighted how land-cover change and ecosystem disturbance can alter the surface energy balance through changes in albedo, surface roughness, and evapotranspiration. In some cases, these surface changes may constitute a larger radiative forcing than those arising from related carbon emissions. Past studies on post-disturbance albedo have been limited by the resolution of available MODIS data (500m), which is significantly coarser than the characteristic scales of ecosystem disturbance and human land use. Our project addresses this issue by creating high-resolution (30m) albedo maps through the fusion of Landsat TM/ETM+ directional reflectance with MODIS BRDF/Albedo (MCD43A) data. These maps permit trends in albedo to be evaluated at the characteristic scale of vegetation change (~1 ha).

Two algorithms are proposed to retrieve Landsat-resolution albedo: a "concurrent approach" which depends on overlapping MODIS and Landsat observations from the 2000-2010 period, and an "extended approach", which uses an a priori BRDF table to extend retrievals back to the 1980's. These fused products will be validated using in-situ Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) data. We will then evaluate the albedo trajectories for characteristic types of land cover conversion and disturbance across the globe. Specifically, we will (i) assemble a regional library of albedo values for IGBP land cover types; (ii) assemble time series of post-disturbance albedo from a latitudinal distribution of typical forest disturbance types (fire, insect damage, harvest); (iii) evaluate decadal trends in landscape albedo for "hotspots" of vegetation change; and (iv) assess the radiative forcing associated with historical (since 1700) and future (scenario-based) global land-cover change.

The outcome of the investigation will be an improved quantification of recent and historical albedo changes associated with land cover change and forest disturbance. Such information is needed to reduce uncertainties present in the current IPCC WG1 radiative forcing budget, and to forecast the effects of land management and land cover conversion on future climate.


Impacts of Disturbance History on Carbon Fluxes and Stocks in North America

Principal Investigator: G. James Collatz (NASA GSFC, Biospheric Sciences)
Co-Principal Investigators: Jeffrey G. Masek (NASA GSFC, Biospheric Sciences), Christopher A. Williams (Clark University)

Funding Agency: NASA Terrestrial Ecology

Forests of North America are thought to constitute a significant long term sink for atmospheric carbon but the relative importance of underlying mechanisms is poorly understood. This project seeks to clarify mechanisms and quantify spatial and temporal variability in forest carbon sinks. The work extends a previously NASA-funded project that involved the development of a new modeling framework characterizing carbon consequences of forest disturbance and regrowth based on Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data and remote sensing (Landsat) of forest disturbances. Prior results quantify with greater certainty the regrowth carbon sink in the conterminous US, indicating that it is about half of what is generally quoted. This current research project continues to develop and advance the modeling framework by delving deeper into the mechanisms and intensity of documented disturbances using the improved NAFD products, the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity fire data set, and forest insect damage data sets. In addition, we are engaged in a broader synthesis on the subject by integrating perspectives from flux towers, forest inventories, satellite remote sensing, ecosystem carbon modeling, and atmospheric inversions. We are exploring: (1) mechanistic attribution of forest carbon sinks to disturbance legacies versus growth enhancements; (2) spatial patterns of the continent's process-specific sources and sinks; (3) interannual fluctuations in forest carbon sources and sinks; and (4) implications for managing forests to sequester carbon. From this new work we will provide more accurate estimates of the carbon fluxes and stocks and their implications on current and future atmospheric CO2 concentrations.


I-Choose: Building Information Sharing Networks to Support Consumer Choice

Principal Investigator: Jing Zhang

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The I-Choose Network is being created to support the collaborative development of a data architecture to support the provision of a wide range of information about how, where, and by whom products are manufactured and brought to market as well as information about "green" supply chains or production methods, wages paid to producers or workers in the supply chain, working conditions, environmental impact, or a wide range of other information about the products that they purchase can be delivered to consumers. In order to accomplish this goal, the research team is in the first year of a three-year project to build an I-Choose Data Interoperability Community Network involving consumers, producers, government regulatory agencies and supply chain/distribution across multiple domains and countries. These diverse stakeholders will collaborate to create a series of products necessary for interoperability. The I-Choose Network itself will continue to expand as necessary to carry out the work of the project. These products from this effort include (1) I-Choose as a community-based data interoperability network; (2) an ontology that describes the domain of coffee production, distribution, and consumption; (3) a hierarchical taxonomy that describes the domain of coffee production, distribution, and consumption; (4) a data architecture; (5) a Preliminary I-Choose consumer preference prototype evaluated by selected stakeholder groups; (6) policy analysis and recommendations.