Yale F&ES Doctoral Conference

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Student Presenter Abstracts

Aquatic Science, Policy and Management

Noel Aloysius - Hydrology of the CongoRiver Basin

Faculty Advisor: James Saiers

The Congo River and its tributaries flow through the second largest rainforest in the world, second only to the Amazon, and are regulated by several natural lakes and wetlands. The river basin possesses significant natural resources, but lacks economic growth due to the continuous political crisis. Published studies describe deforestation as a result of industrial logging and expansion of agriculture and increasing trends in temperature and precipitation as causes of environmental change in the region. These changes are expected to persist in the future and are likely to alter the spatiotemporal variability of the basin’s blue water (rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater storage) and green water (evapotranspiration) flows. Rapid population growth will further exert pressure on available water resources. These changes endanger the health and resilience of ecosystems and their services within the Congobasin.

In order to explore the effects of climate and land use on the water resources of the basin and to identify strategies to manage the basin’s water resources for their long-term sustainability, we are conducting an assessment of the basin hydrology. A semi-distributed hydrological modeling framework is being used to simulate the hydrology of the basin. The information on the region’s climate, soil properties and land use and land cover are used in the model. The first phase of the modeling involves simulating the historical hydrology of the basin. The projected changes in climate and land use and land cover will, then, be used to predict the changes in blue and green water flows in the future.


Sean Johnson - Investigation of acid neutralizing capacity and its effects on heavy metal dissolution in urban stormwater and receiving waters

Faculty Advisor: Gaboury Benoit

Stormwater runoff from urban areas is a leading source of metal pollution in waterways of the United States.  Urban stormwater is characterized by high acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), which prevents suspended particulate heavy metal pollution from becoming fully dissolved and more mobile within the environment.  Stormwater has been researched in isolation at its high ANC, possibly resulting in underestimation of heavy metal mobility.  This study will investigate mixing of stormwater and a receiving water body.  Field Flow Fractionation and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry analysis (FFF-ICP-MS) will be used to determine dissolved concentrations and particulate masses of Lead, Cadmium, Copper, and Zinc in urban stormwater from Southington, CTand in the QuinnipiacRiver, which receives stormwater from Southington.  The fractions of dissolved and particulate metals will be compared in pure stormwater and in the QuinnipiacRiverto determine the effect of mixing and ANC change on metal dissolution and mobility.  This study will also investigate concrete and other impervious surfaces as sources of ANC in urban stormwater.


Maura Bozeman - Dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition shapes microbial competition for nutrients, carbon (C) fate, and ecosystem stability in lake water microcosms

Faculty Advisor: Peter Raymond

Allochthonous loads of dissolved organic matter (DOM) and inorganic nutrients subsidize ecosystem metabolism and organic matter production in lakes and therefore impact ecosystem stability. Bacteria can deplete inorganic nutrients and exacerbate nutrient limitation of autotrophs with DOMimport and can decrease CO2 fixation and particulate organic matter (POM) production. However, chemical characteristics of imported DOMlargely temper heterotrophic competition for nutrients. We added DOMvarying in chemical composition (glucose, wetland derived, and algal derived) over a range of inorganic nutrient concentrations to microcosms of pelagic lake water to determine the interaction between these two external drivers on net metabolism and POMproduction. We also test the theory that recalcitrant DOMstabilizes ecosystems due to the slow degradation and input of organic carbon and nutrients. Glucose fueled rapid bacterial growth and nutrient immobilization, however, this extreme heterotrophy induced DOMlimitation and autotrophy recovered as the immobilized nutrients were remineralized. Algal derived DOMsustained constant but lower bacterial growth, which maintained low inorganic nutrient availability and lower autotrophy. Bacteria used little wetland derived DOMand unrestricted autotrophic uptake of inorganic nutrients increased algal exudation. Exudates stimulated bacteria and wetland DOMdecomposition and the highest net POMproduction. Separately, DOMand inorganic nutrients can increase ecosystem instability by stimulating biotic activity and variation in net ecosystem production. Together, DOMand inorganic nutrients can greatly increase or calm instability based on how microbial interactions respond to import, which is largely controlled by DOMcomposition.


Troy Hill - Salt marsh drowning in Long Island Sound: Causes and biogeochemical consequences

Faculty Advisor: Shimon Anisfeld

Salt marshes in Long Island Sound are gradually converting to unvegetated mud flats, a process referred to as marsh drowning. Marsh drowning in this estuary is fairly well-documented, but its causes and biogeochemical consequences remain poorly understood. The limited evidence available suggests that drowning marshes are sediment deprived systems. This study will further investigate the sediment-deprivation hypothesis by constructing long- and short-term sediment budgets for drowning and healthy marshes using a combination of dated sediment cores, sediment traps, and sediment supply measurements. In addition to understanding causes, the proposed research will evaluate the consequences of marsh loss in terms of their function as sinks for trace metals. Specifically, I will test whether drowning marshes are net exporters of metals and sediments over long- and short-term time scales. Metal concentrations in sediments and in tidal waters will be measured and used to calculate changes in metal storage over the last thirty-five years, as well as the current direction and magnitude of metal flux between marshes and the estuary. This research will contribute important information to the management and policy communities by studying the potential for deteriorating marshes to become non-point sources of metal pollution, a shift with serious implications for environmental and human health.


Forest Ecology and Management

Daniel Piotto - Spatial dynamics of forest recovery after swidden cultivation in the Atlantic forest of southern Bahia, Brazil

Faculty Advisors: Florencia Montagnini and Mark Ashton

When do primary forest species reappear in secondary forest succession?  When does high species diversity return in a regenerating forest?  These are two of the questions my research on ecological processes driving species composition in secondary forests will help answer. The study has been conducted in recently established protected areas in the Atlantic rain forest of southern Bahia, Brazil, one of the World’s biodiversity hotspots. In my research I attempt to understand secondary forest succession after swidden cultivation by accounting for temporal and spatial variation in dispersal, recruitment, and species turnover. I have used a chronosequence of secondary forest stands to assess the effects of distance from remnant old-growth forests on the structure and composition of the overstory, midstory, and understory of the adjacent secondary forests. The chronosequence used in this study captured changes in two of the four structural stages of the stand development process, i.e. “stand initiation stage” when processes of dispersal and colonization influence community composition; and “stem exclusion stage” when growth and mortality are more likely to influence community composition. I have used the same experimental approach to study the effects of distance from remnant old-growth forests on soil fertility, soil bulk density, light environments, litterfall deposition, seed rain, soil seed bank, and seedling recruitment and turnover in adjacent secondary forests. My ultimate goal is to describe spatial patterns and assess the processes driving forest recovery in the study region by combining information on established vegetation, dispersal, recruitment, and the physical environment.


Thomas James - Biophysical drivers of forest establishment and succession in northern Mongolia

Faculty Advisor: Mark Ashton

The larch forests of northern Mongoliarepresent an ecological transition zone between the Siberian taiga and the central Asian steppe, and provide numerous tangible and intangible ecological benefits. As industrialization of Mongoliacontinues, pressures to develop sustainable forest management protocols are increasing. Temperatures that are warming at nearly 3 times the average global rate and limited knowledge of natural disturbance processes are challenging the capacity of a fledgling National Forest management system. In an effort to curb illegal logging while balancing conservation goals and forest resource requirements by subsistence users, Mongoliahas developed a nation-wide community forestry initiative. This work seeks to clarify the relationship between forest disturbance, climate and forest development. A parallel community forestry initiative will serve as an outlet for technical protocols identified and developed through interpretation of scientific findings.


Elaine Hooper - Effect of forest fragmentation on seed dispersal, seed predation and forest regeneration in the Brazilian Amazon

Faculty Advisor: Mark Ashton, Douglas Daly

The effects of forest fragmentation on neotropical forest regeneration and the factors driving regeneration dynamics are poorly understood. I hypothesized that forest fragmentation negatively affects the diversity of regenerating neotropical forests and alters species composition of forest regeneration through changes in seed dispersal and seed predation. I tested these hypotheses in the Brazilian Amazon where I measured tree and shrub species richness and composition in 120 plots located in continuous forest controls and forest fragments of different sizes (1, 10, and 100 ha). To measure seed predation, I placed seeds of 5 tree species near these plots and recorded percent seed removal after one month. To quantify seed dispersal, I placed two seed traps near each of my experimental plots and recorded density and species composition of seeds falling in these traps for 2 years.

Results / Conclusions ─Seed rain species richness was lower, and seed predation was higher in forest fragments compared to continuous forest. Species richness of tree and shrub seedlings was lower and species community composition altered in forest fragments compared to continuous forest. Regression and multivariate analysis results indicate a significant relationship between percentage seed removal (seed predation), seed rain species richness (seed dispersal) and seedling species richness and composition. The impact of altered seed dispersal and predation in fragments depends on seed size and dispersal syndrome; the implications of these findings will be discussed. I conclude that high seed predation and lowered seed dispersal are important factors contributing to lower species diversity and altered species composition of forest regeneration in forest fragments in the Brazilian Amazon.


Environmental Policy and Economics

Laura Bozzi - Who owns the mountains?  The politics of mountaintop removal mining and patterns of land ownership in Appalachia

Faculty Advisor: Ben Cashore

Mountains are no longer a constant in the environment; their peaks can be – and are – removed so as to facilitate the removal of the coal located within them.  Why has this operation, called mountaintop removal mining (MTR), increased in prevalence and intensity in recent years across a thin swath of southern Appalachia?  Technological improvements and competitive market pressures explain much.  However, the long-term, structural (socioeconomic and institutional) conditions in the Appalachian region also likely hold a substantial explanatory role.  Particularly, the conditions of concentrated land and mineral ownership have been applied in scholarship to explain Appalachia’s persistent poverty.  In 1900, for instance, outside capitalists owned 90 percent of the coal in two counties in southern West Virginia.  Land ownership still remains heavily concentrated in the hands of ‘absentee’ (out-of-county or out-of state) and corporate land companies.  Surveyed in the late 1970’s, the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force found that 80 percent of mineral rights were absentee-owned in the region.  My doctoral research looks to determine the degree to which these patterns also make sense of the political dynamics surrounding the rise of mountaintop removal, and the difficulty grassroots and national level opposition groups have faced in countering it.  This presentation will provide a basic overview of MTRand the politics of opposition, describe the basic land ownership patterns in the region, and set out preliminary research questions and data challenges.    

Laura Bakkensen - The economics of climate change and tropical cyclones

Faculty Advisor: Robert Mendelsohn

Tropical cyclones currently cause billions of dollars of damages to humans and property each year around the globe, and the existing literature expects this number to increase over the next century due to climate change. But how are damages distributed geographically across the globe, given various climate projections? How can we model disaggregated damages into components such as wind, storm surge, and inland flooding, and chose the correct econometric estimation technique to offer more accurate predictions of vulnerability to storms? Lastly, how can humans properly prepare for, insure against, and recover from low probability, high risk natural disasters?

Building upon the previous economic analysis of my advisor, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, and hurricane simulation data from MIT climate scientist Dr. Kerry Emanuel, my presentation will describe my plan to tackle these questions and more.


Nathan Chan - Can green goods help us avoid the Tragedy of the Commons?

Faculty Advisor: Robert Mendelsohn

As our society becomes more environmentally conscious, we are faced with an ever-increasing array of "green" goods, like shade grown coffee, renewable energy, and biodegradable cleaning products.  Advertisers bombard consumers with these green products, but the true impact of such products is not always clear.  How much can green goods actually benefit the environment and our society as a whole?  Past research has examined a special case of green markets, and my own work seeks to generalize and expand on the previous models.  While it may seem counterintuitive, past results show that, in some cases, the introduction of green goods to the marketplace may actually decrease the stock of a public good.  Furthermore, overall welfare may also decrease as a result.  Though decreases in public good provision and welfare do not always occur (public good provision and welfare can indeed improve), it is important to be wary of these possible outcomes.  My research seeks to determine the underlying factors that lead to decreased public good provision and decreased welfare, as this will help us predict the true effect of new green goods.


Wildlife Ecology and Conservation

Jonathan Richardson - The landscape well traveled? Comparative population structure of two amphibian species across New England

Faculty Advisor: David Skelly

My dissertation research addresses how the landscape can affect the movement of wildlife and, consequently, how various degrees of landscape connectivity can alter population dynamics. Today I will present on one component of this research that uses gene flow as a metric of dispersal capabilities for populations of two amphibian species throughout New England. I am using a landscape genetics approach to estimate the effects of specific landscape features on population connectivity in the spotted salamander and wood frog – two vernal pond-breeding species widely distributed throughout this region.

Genetic differentiation among populations was low but detectable at a significant level for both species. Genetic divergence was much higher for the salamander populations than the wood frogs. There was a significant correlation between genetic differentiation and geographic distance for both species. Bayesian clustering tests indicate that there are fewer distinct, but more geographically localized, genetic groups for the wood frog than salamanders. However, the genetic breaks observed do not appear to consistently coincide with specific landscape features. Lastly, autocorrelation tests support a smaller genetic neighborhood size for the salamander than the wood frog. Together, these results suggest that the landscape was highly permeable for the movement of these two species at one time. However, the two species seem to be affected quite differently by the landscape in this region, with wood frogs exhibiting greater movement capabilities than spotted salamanders. I am currently working on a model selection component of this project that will use least-cost path analyses to quantify the effects of particular landscape configurations on these species.  

Kathryn Richards-Hrdlicka - The evolutionary history of the amphibian chytrid fungus

Faculty Advisor: Jeffrey Powell

Nearly thirty percent of amphibian species are declining.  Chytridiomycosis, an epidermal infection caused by the emerging infectious fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is a major driver.  Strong evidence suggests Bd has been the proximate, if not the ultimate, cause of multiple population crashes and even extinctions.  Over 400 species of amphibians from five continents have been found infected with Bd, which represents one of the most devastating and widespread emerging diseases in world history.  For my dissertation research, I analyze the genetic variation of Bd on a global scale to address its origins.  I also apply similar techniques to describe how Bd has evolved through time in a focused region of the world, New England (NE), by comparing genetic variation from contemporary and museum-preserved Bd DNAfrom within host (amphibian) tissues.  We know little about Bd prevalence in NE; reportedly, it is endemic.  But most important, NE has been suggested as the origin of its worldwide spread.  Results from my dissertation research will identify where Bd came from and how it evolves (i.e., a possible increase in virulence) through time and space, using NE as a focal region to test hypotheses.  In addition to my explicit dissertation objectives, field samples that are positive for Bd will accomplish many goals: 1) data from fieldwork will culminate into the largest, most comprehensive survey for Bd in NE to date, and we will understand how Bd is distributed by 2) host species, 3) location, and 4) throughout the summer months.


Jennie Miller - Future effects of climate change on tiger and ungulate resource availability in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India

Faculty Advisor: Oswald Schmitz

Climate and species interactions are two primary factors that shape ecological communities. Climate change is impacting ecosystems throughout the world, yet few studies have explored its effects on predator-prey relationships. I propose to model the effect of climate change on tiger and ungulate prey populations as a function of food and habitat preference in India.

One of the last populations of Bengaltigers is found in Rajasthan, India, a desert region that will likely undergo dramatic climate shifts over the next century. In eastern Rajasthan, climate change is predicted to raise surface temperatures, skew rainfall patterns and increase the overall frequency of drought. Climate shifts will likely cause forest communities to change in composition, potentially altering forage availability and populations of ungulate grazers and affecting top carnivore population viability.

I propose to measure tiger and ungulate resource utilization in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in eastern Rajasthan. Tigers marked with VHF collars will be monitored for habitat usage and kill sites and scat will be collected from the greater population to record prey preference. Prey species populations will be assessed for abundance and habitat usage with transect counts. I will use habitat and food preferences projected with regional climate change and forest models to predict how shifting forest communities may affect populations ofungulates and tigers in Ranthambore over the next century.


Global Change

Martin Bouda - Achieving Realism in 3D Virtual Representations of Plant Root Systems

Faculty Advisor: James Saiers

Modeling plant root systems’ extraction of soil water is essential for understanding both the effect of plants on subsurface water and water-mediated plant competition. Detailed ecohydrological simulations in 3D are currently the best way to study the effect of root system architecture on plants’ ability to compete for and extract soil water. The first prerequisite to conducting such simulations is a viable and realistic way of representing root systems in computer simulations. This project is aimed at achieving maximum possible realism in root system representations, with respect to root system architecture and water transport. A general approach to constructing root system representations will be outlined and an original algorithm for constructing them will be presented briefly. Constructed representations of a taproot system and a pectinate (sinker-root) system will be demonstrated and discussed, along with the algorithm features that allow for the construction of their particular forms. The representations will be evaluated for realism quantitatively – by comparison with quantitative measures of real world examples of such systems.


Alark Saxena - Evaluating the effectiveness of CBNRM in increasing the resilience of complex social-ecological systems

Faculty Advisors: ChadOliver and Robert Bailis

Climate change due to its impacts on natural and social systems has been identified as the single most important environmental threat and an overarching development issue that the world is facing today. A new set of scientific inquiry which integrates both physical and social science and moves beyond their traditional methods is required to deal with the complexity of issues like climate change and its impact on our social-ecological systems. Of the many, resilience approach built around the theory of complexity has been proposed to prioritize adaptation works around the world. Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) on the other hand, is also being seen as a promising strategy to increase resilience of local communities. My Doctoral research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of CBNRM in increasing the livelihood resilience of forest village social-ecological systems to droughts by using Cross Scale Resilience Analysis (CSRA). Qualitative tools like historical and case study analysis will be used to understand historical and present resilience of the systems. A hybrid approach of merging complex system modeling tools like System Dynamics and Agent Based Modeling will be used to evaluate the future livelihood resilience of the local forest village systems.


David Butman - Stream and river CO2 evasion from the coterminous US

Faculty Advisor: Peter Raymond

The contemporary global carbon budget continues to undergo refinement and until recently, the evasion of carbon from inland waters has been omitted as either a source or sink for atmospheric CO2.  Although still based on incomplete spatial coverage, CO2 evasion from fresh water systems is now included in global carbon budgets, with recent estimates placing it between 0.7 and 1.4 Pg.   This range of estimates is derived from gross extrapolations from small scale studies.  Difficulties with scaling stream and river fluxes beyond small catchment systems has been the result of a paucity of accurate CO2 measurements through time globally and the lack of a framework to scale the geomorphologic controls of CO2 exchange across large watershed drainage networks.  Here I will present the results from an analysis of high resolution spatial geomorhplogical data and ~10,000 spatially explicit CO2 concentration estimates from across the USutilized to estimate for the first time a direct flux of CO2 from streams and river to the atmosphere from the coterminous US.


Environment and Health

Keita Ebisu - Levels of Fine Particulates Chemical Constituents: Are they homogeneous within a community?

Faculty Advisor: Michelle Bell

Studies of the health impacts of airborne particulates’ chemical constituents typically assume spatial homogeneity and estimate exposure from ambient monitors. In another words, the estimated exposure for a given community is equal to the spatially averaged ambient pollutant level. However, factors such as local sources may cause spatially heterogeneous pollution levels, which could affect results of epidemiological analysis. This work examines the degree to which constituent levels vary within communities and whether exposure misclassification is introduced by spatial homogeneity assumptions. Analysis considered PM2.5 elemental carbon, organic carbon matter, ammonium, sulfate, nitrate, silicon, and sodium-ion for the U.S., 1999-2007. Pearson correlations and coefficients of divergence were calculated and compared to distances among monitors. Linear modeling related correlations to distance between monitors. Spatial heterogeneity was present for all constituents, yet lower for ammonium, and sulfate. Lower correlations were associated with higher distance between monitors, especially for nitrate and sulfate. Analysis of co-located monitors revealed measurement error for all constituents, especially EC and Na+. Exposure misclassification may be introduced into epidemiological studies of PM2.5 constituents due to spatial variability. The reliance on the monitoring networks is likely to continue given the substantial data already available and the relative ease of their use. To avoid exposure misclassification, denser monitoring networks would be ideal, but it is not a practical approach due to the cost. When assessing health effects of PM constituents, new statistical methods are needed for estimating exposure and accounting for exposure error induced by spatial variability.


Mercedes Bravo - Estimating populations' exposure to ambient air pollution: Modeling vs. measurements

Faculty Advisor: Michelle Bell

Ambient monitors are often used to estimate exposure for epidemiological studies. Air quality modeling is less frequently applied but has potential to address some critical limitations of monitoring networks, including improved spatial coverage and temporal resolution.

To investigate the strengths and weaknesses of using air quality models for health studies, separate exposure estimates were generated for PM2.5 and O3 using monitoring data obtained from the U.S. EPA Air Quality System (AQS) and modeling results from a 2002 simulation of the Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) model.  Census data at the county-level was obtained for the study domain defined by the CMAQ model.

Counties with PM2.5 or O3 monitors were compared to counties without PM2.5 or O3 monitors with respect to several demographic variables, as a measure of whether counties with monitors had different population characteristics than counties without monitors. CMAQ model results were also compared, using several different metrics, to monitored concentrations.  Exposure estimates for PM2.5 and O3 were calculated for all counties containing monitors meeting inclusion criteria (370 and 454 counties for PM2.5 and O3, respectively) and for all counties (1861 total) falling within the model domain.  

Preliminary results suggest that counties with monitors are more urban than counties without monitors, with significant differences in percentage of black residents, college graduates, population living below the poverty line, and median income. Generally, CMAQ did a good job of modeling PM2.5 concentrations, with a tendency to underestimate PM2.5 at low concentrations (e.g., <10 μg/m3) (average mean fractional bias = 10.8%).  The model consistently over-estimated O3 concentrations (average mean fractional bias = 36.1%).

Social Ecology of Conservation and Development

Adrian Cerezo - Eight hundred eighty four (884) poopy diapers: Using analytical design to document, assess and convey the complex-dynamic network of early childhood development

Faculty Advisor: Stephen Kellert

Human children, particularly young children (from conception to 3 years) are embedded in, and dependent of, a complex dynamic system of physiological, familial, socio-cultural and ecological interactions in order to survive and develop. This project pursues two questions:

1) What are the elements that constitute the early childhood development network in a particular community? and;

2) How can we document, assess and represent the quality of this early childhood development network?

Historically, these questions have been considered from the perspective of key indicators (i.e.: what are the elements most likely to affect most of the children the most). While this approach has been successful at improving quality in certain areas, it has also had the perverse effect of promoting damage in other areas. For example, the identification of infection as a key driver of infant mortality and the deployment of strategies to specifically reduce the risk and impact of infection, have improved the rates of survival very significantly, but has also had negative impacts in the overall quality of human development and our relation with broader eco-systems. In advancing the our understanding of early childhood it is fundamental to move towards integrated, complex, dynamic perspectives in order to expand our understanding of the problems and become aware of the potential impacts of prescriptions.

This presentation will explain how Analytical Design methods can be used to aggregate masses of dense complex data to construct a conceptual map of the network of early childhood development in a community. Beyond the research questions, it is hoped that he use of analytical design concepts and tools will allow the documentation of these dense complex systems to be more readable and (potentially) useful to policymakers.


Alder Keleman - Local purchase and local diversity: Agrobiodiversity and food assistance in Guatemalaand Bolivia

Faculty Advisor: Michael Dove

This presentation explores the relationship between food assistance and agrobiodiversity conservation, fields which are related in theory, but quite separate in practice. In recent years, food assistance has been re-conceptualized to include an emphasis on the “local”- e.g. on sourcing food products from within the country or region receiving aid, rather than importing them from farther afield. Meanwhile, current trends in agrobiodiversity research stress the importance of crop genetic diversity for food security, both at the household level, and in terms of world agricultural production.  

Here, I report on qualitative research from Boliviaand Guatemala, two countries with extremely high levels of malnutrition, which are located in crop centers of origin and diversity. In-person interviews and a small number of site-visits were used to explore ongoing initiatives to include locally produced foods in food aid and school feeding programs.

Such projects draw significant interest, but also present numerous obstacles. Many of these obstacles parallel the challenges small-scale farmers face in accessing markets more broadly, including organizational management issues, and difficulty assuring the timely delivery of a high-quality, innocuous product. However, conceptual challenges also exist, particularly regarding the time-scale on which interventions are conceived. Food-assistance organizations tend to operate on a logic of immediate interventions, seeking to maximize the resources at their disposal to deliver food to the greatest number of people possible. Meanwhile, organizations promoting agrobiodiversity tend to take a longer-term view, and suggesting that both in-situ conservation and food security are best served by long-term investment in community development. These approaches parallel broader debates about the merits of food security as opposed to food sovereignty, suggesting that further institutional common ground must be sought in order to solidify links between food assistance and agrobiodiversity conservation.


David Kneas - From dearth to El Dorado: The history and culture of mineral resources in the Ecuadorian Andes

Faculty Advisors: Michael Dove, K. Sivaramakrishnan

This research project builds on the conflict over copper mining in the Intag region of northwestern Ecuador.  Despite sustained interest by a number of mining companies for two decades, communities adjacent to the mineral concession have blocked engineers from accessing the area. Though no major mining projects have developed since World Bank sponsored mining reforms in the early 1990s, Ecuador’s current government remains certain not only of the country’s mining potential, but of the Intag region’s role as the nation’s flagship source of copper.   

Contemporary claims of mineral wealth, however, stand in stark contrast to previous assessments of mineral dearth.  Indeed, through most of the 20th century, geologists described Ecuadoras a country noted primarily for its lack of mineral resources.  Until their considerations in the 1970s of plate tectonic models of copper deposits, mining geologists repeatedly stated that Ecuador’s geology would not support industrial-scale mining.  Based on Ecuador’s transformation from a country of mineral scarcity to one of mineral plenty, and drawing on the conflict over copper mining in the Intag region, this research asks:  How are mineral resources in the Ecuadorian Andes historically constituted, socially constructed, and differentially imagined?

The goal of this research is to de-naturalize mineral resources by investigating the historical, political, cultural, and geological contexts through which mineral deposits, especially copper, materialized as objects of economic significance in Ecuador.


Jennifer Gaddis - Sustainable living practices: the role of technology and skills in the transition process

Faculty Advisors: Karen Hebert, Anthony Leiserowitz

There has been a recent surge of interest in exploring how Americans can achieve secure, fulfilling lives during a time of economic, ecological, and social crises. This goal, often described as ‘sustainable living’, rests in opposition to mainstream consumption-oriented lifestyles. To achieve a societal shift towards sustainable living, we must understand the process and lived-experience of transforming everyday life practices. Currently, there is a shortage of information about the spread, development, and interrelationships between pertinent knowledge, skills, and technologies. My research focuses on these aspects of the transition process, as embodied by an individual’s possession of both physical artifacts (e.g. resource-conserving technologies, self-provisioning equipment) and specific forms of knowledge and skill. The transition process will be explored using the following alternative living arrangements as case studies: (1) LEED certified green housing complex, (2) ecological co-housing, and (3) urban collectives. Residents of these three types of housing likely rely on various combinations of technology (newly provided by the builder or retrofitted by the resident), sustainable living skills, and social capital to lower their ecological impact. Presumably the urban collectives, whose residents are simply modifying existing apartments and everyday living practices, rely more on their own skills, retrofitted technologies, and social capital, whereas the green building residents rely primarily on the technologies embedded in the new green buildings, and the ecological co-housing residents fall somewhere between. Through these cases, I hope to provide a more nuanced understanding of how to foster the development of sustainable-living behaviors based on diverse personal contexts.


Sara Smiley Smith - Lessons from the heap: Five years of move-out reuse efforts at Yale

Faculty Advisor: John Wargo

Inspired by increasing global demand for sustainable practices, colleges and universities around the world are taking the lead in developing systems and policies that achieve a higher environmental standard. One of the most visible and actionable components of a sustainable system is a waste management strategy that incorporates waste reduction and streamlined recycling and reuse. On campuses around the country, the end of the year poses a formidable waste minimization challenge as students quickly vacate dormitories. The transient nature of student life, with annual cycles of moving, makes durable goods less desirable and disposal of items before the end of their useful life a more common occurrence. Focusing on five years of data from YaleUniversity's move out recycling and reuse evolution, this paper examines the lessons to be learned from the items students discard and the challenges in collecting them for reuse. We present the change in methods of collection and redistribution on campus over time to highlight the evolution of the program, as well as data on items collected each year indicating behavior shifts among the student population. Through this analysis we were able to review the success of methods as they evolved, and identify opportunities to avoid premature disposal from both an institutional policy perspective as well as through student behavior change. Armed with this wealth of information, the move-out recycling efforts will continue to evolve and inform stronger campus waste minimization efforts. 


C. Anne Claus - Cultivating conservation: The lure of “traditional” fishponds in Southwestern Japan

FacultyAdvisor: Michael Dove and William Kelly

In 2006, a coastal village in southwestern Japanrebuilt a fishpond that had disappeared fifty years earlier. This presentation tracks this fishpond as part of a contested development initiative that seeks to rebuild traditional fishing technologies in order to meet conservation ends. Intriguingly, identity rather than ecology forms the basis for this movement. Conflicts surrounding this technological revitalization abound however, as assigned identities fail to account for the multifaceted ways residents perceive themselves. Close attention to such disagreements reveals differing local, organizational, and national philosophies regarding nature and development. I interviewed university researchers, conservation practitioners, and residents of three fishpond communities in the East China Seain order to identify currents of continuity within these philosophical positions. I complemented this ethnographic research with historical research on regional fishing methods in order to understand the technological context of the fishpond revitalization movement. Effective conservation requires understanding the complex reasons that motivate coastal residents to conserve. This research illustrates that, for residents of these islands, environmental behavior is based on more than just economic or ecological variables. Recognizing the strengths and pitfalls of conservation that adopts narratives ofidentity, ethnicity, or indigineity is necessary for crafting more robust conservation policies. 

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