My approach to research emphasizes collaborative, transdisciplinary efforts that are grounded in 'real world' problems. The project I work on draw on multiple epistimological traditions and a diversity of methods. In this work, I hope to engage students, scholars, citizens, and decision-makers, sometimes all at the same time. I'm currently working on six reserach projects, additional details, publications, and other materials will be available through the newly formed Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab (SUPR Lab). As a center for 'place-based inquiry', the SUPR Lab (website forthcoming) aims to offer
a decision support center where community members, decision-makers, and reserachers, work together to plan for an uncertain future.
Ecosystem Services in Urban Regions (ESUR)
Natural ecosystems provide a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits in support of rapidly growing urban areas, such as food production, drinking water purification and recreational opportunities. The ESUR program will teach future scientists and professionals how to assess the value of these services. Improving this understanding will enable better management and conservation of ecosystems. As part of the National Science Foudnation's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, the ESUR project aims to develop theory and methods for valuing ecosystems in the U.S. and several other countires. From 2011 through 2016 we will recruit four to six PhD students (IGERT trainees) to work in teams and across disciplines to understand the role of nature's services. While several faculty from PSU are involved with this project, including Professors David Ervin, Elise Granek, Darrell Brown, Heejun Chang, Veronica Dujon, and Alan Yeakley, the ESUR program will also incorporate extensive community engagement, through collaborations and studies with Heritage University, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Portland General Electric, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service’s Mt. Hood National Forest and Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Willamette Partnership and other local, national, and international partners.
Funding: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Coupling of Human and Natural Systems
The emerging science of urban ecology is arguably at the forefront of understanding the dynamics of coupled human and natural systems. This research we study contains two distinct areas of investigation. The first focuses on a pair of cities, Portland (OR) and Vancouver (WA), and examines how the role of local and state-level governance affects the provision of ecosystem services in response to different disturbance factors. Our interdisciplinry team spans three universities, as well as local and federal agencies. The second project examines the impact of rapid urbanization on water qulaity by working with colleagues in the Bangalore, India. As one of the fastest growing urban populations in the world, Bangalore offers a timely and unique oppurtunity to learn about the temporal impacts of urbanization on water resources. Through our collaboration with the Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, and the Center for Environmental Education, we are deepening the research and education opportunities for conducting comparitive urban analysis. By understanding how the spatial and temporal patterns of urbanization impact water systems, we aim to provide urban planners and natural resource managers with information about how the types and pace of urbanization can impact the resiliency of ecosystems.
Funding:National Science Foundation (NSF)
Modeling Land Use and Water Consumption
The integration of land use planning and water resource management offers an exceptionally fruitful mechanism through which urban areas can more effectively conserve regional water resources. However, an empirical understanding of the relationship between land use planning tools and water consumed in urbanizing regions requires further study. This project employs geographic information system (GIS) and multivariate regression models to assess the effect land use planning policies on water consumption in Portland, Oregon (USA). Our approach provides a framework for understanding the extent to which current land use patterns affect water resources, and a means for predicting future water demand.
Funding: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Engaging Communities in the Stewardship of Natural Resources
The emergence of environmental advocacy groups, reactions to top-down decision making, and capacity building at the local level together have given rise to an era of community-based environmental stewardship. Despite the formidable challenges of designing ways to engage citizens effectively, public participation programs addressing environmental challenges are growing and improving worldwide. While an increasing number of environmental projects make citizen participation a central tenet,
sometimes even calling environmental stewardship a 'fundamental instrument in any democratic society', much remains unknown about why some individuals or groups actively participate while
others don't. By focusing on the challenge of urban stromwater management, we are examine how an extensive integrated stromwater system can engage comunity members, while improving ecological conditions within the neighborhood and region.
Funding:City of Portland's Bureau of Enviornmental Services (BES)
Spatially-Explicit Tools for Neighborhood Sustainablity
The recent development in geographic information systems, decision support systems, and modeling frameworks has given rise to the field of participatory geographic information systems (PGIS). This ‘revolution’ in the types of tools for decision making is by environmental planners. The aim of this research is to identify the limitations of existing tools, and develop techniques for improving their effectiveness. Our focus is on understanding the extent to which spatial-planning tools are employed in the practice of environmental planning, and whether their use provides an effective means for addressing pressing issues of ecological significance. By working across disciplines at PSU, along with neighborhood associations, private, public, and non-governmental agencies, we examine the concept of EcoDistricts as an orgnaizing framework for developing theories and methods in PGIS. We are currently pursuing external funding to develop A Database for EcoDistricts of Portland (ADEPT), which will an integrative data and visulization platform for examining urban [re]development scenarios.
Funding: Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI); Bullitt Foundation
Assessing the Implications of Urban Planning Policies on Human Health
Urban developments in Oregon are caught in an "air pollution squeeze": increasing density of households within an urban growth boundary, while the total number of vehicles on urban roads continues to grow. This squeeze has the potential of exposing a greater number of urban residents to air pollutants, thereby affecting human health. Our research addresses three questions: (1) which urban populations are disproportionately affected by air toxins in the Portland metropolitan area; (2) what is the potential for mitigating mobile sources of air pollutants using vegetation; and (3) how can urban planning and design policies more effectively link air pollution and its impact on human health. The objectives of this research is to explicitly link urban planning policies and air pollution and better understand the mechanisms through which urban form affects human health. Collaborators include: Linda George (Portland State University).
Funding: Portland State University (PSU)