Summer Environmental Fellowships
Sarah Armitage, '12
Sustainablity and Design: Scandinavian Style
Danish Architecture Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Sustainablity and Design: Scandinavian Style
Fellowship summary report not available.
Luke Aronson, EVST '11
Title Not Available
Verno Systems, Seattle, WA
Title Not Available
Fellowship summary report not available.
Amanda Bennet, '12
Title Not Available
Title Not Available
This summer I did research on the Konza Prairie Biological Research Station in Manhattan, Kansas with Smith Lab. Konza is an expansive nature preserve located near the campus of Kansas State University, and is home to many different projects. During my time there, I worked on several projects including climate research, ecology and grazing patterns. My project of focus was a current experiment studying the effects of an extreme heat wave on dominant C3 and C4 plants in the tallgrass prairie in both dry and wet conditions, aiming to mimic the expected increase in extreme climate events to come as a result of global warming. Another major study I was involved in was the Konza-Kruger grazing study, a 20-year project using the bison herd roaming about the hills of the Konza Prairie as a model for the effects of burn frequency on grazing patterns in different grassland watersheds, as well as the relationship between grazing and plant diversity. This particular study also pairs with Konza's sister site, Kruger, located in South Africa, where similar studies are being done for comparison. Having the opportunity to work with great people in a great location doing cutting edge research was amazing, and I hope to be able to continue my research there in years to come.
Joanne Choi, EVST '11
The Role of Microbial Symbionts in Jellyfish Reproduction
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University Long Island Sound, CT
The Role of Microbial Symbionts in Jellyfish Reproduction
This summer has been an amazing learning experience for me – not only concerning matters in the lab, but also regarding research as a potential career path for myself. It could not have been possible without the generous help of this fellowship, of which I am extremely grateful to be a recipient.
For ten weeks, I worked in the Turner Lab in the Yale Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology with Mary Beth Decker as my advisor. I worked on a number of different projects. First, I did research on comb jellies and the presence of possible bacterial symbionts. It is in collaboration with a researcher down at the University of South Florida with whom I will be compare results in the end. I learned research techniques in microbiology such as DNA extraction, PCR, and gel electrophoresis; I also got experience in collection techniques in the field. I will be continuing my work in this lab through the year and using it as my Environmental Studies senior project. Second, I worked on a plankton life cycle project in Long Island Sound. I was able to do plankton tows in the middle of Long Island Sound and get some experience doing research on a boat. Finally, I also conducted research on jellyfish, looking at their life cycles and physical stressors on reproduction.
Through this summer experience, I learned about and was exposed to many facets of lab research and field research, and much of the credit goes to my advisor, other professors who work in related fields, and graduate students doing similar work. They have all been extremely helpful in the lab, in the field, and also in regards to advice on career plans in general. They have opened my eyes to the many opportunities in science - especially in the marine/environmental field, in which I am now strongly considering pursuing a graduate degree. I am definitely going to come out of this summer experience even more excited than I was about continuing my studies in the sciences.
Overall, it has been an amazing summer that has only been possible because of this fellowship. Not only did I learn about research in the lab and in the field and a possible future in this field, but I also got a senior research project out of this experience. Thank you again for this opportunity!
Frances Douglas, EVST '11
Sanction Laws & Sustainable Development
International Union for Conservation of Nature, Washington, DC
Sanction Laws & Sustainable Development
Fellowship summary report not available.
Andrew Eberle, EVST '11
Seeing the Forest Through the Trees: European Environmental Policy
The Nature Conservancy, Berlin, Germany
Seeing the Forest Through the Trees: European Environmental Policy
Fellowship summary report not available.
Hilary Faxon, EVST '11
Perceptions of the Environment, Culture, and Spirituality Across Ethnicities
Harwood Museum, Taos, NM
Perceptions of the Environment, Culture, and Spirituality Across Ethnicities
In May and June I spent 2½ weeks in and around Taos Valley, New Mexico conducting research for my environmental studies senior thesis. I was originally drawn to the area because of an academic interest in the cultural and environmental history of the American West and the intersection of religion, spirituality and the environment. My personal focus centered on Taos Mountain and how various local communities – the Taos Pueblo Indians who arrived up to a thousand years ago, the Hispanic descendents of Spanish conquistadors in the 1600s, and the 19th and 20th century Anglo traders, artists and immigrants - developed in relation to this place.
During my time in Taos, I had a chance to meet, speak and work with a diverse group of individuals, all of whom had a unique perspective on how their culture, lifestyle, and personalities were shaped by the landscape they inhabited and the society of the Valley. My focus quickly moved away from the Native American story, one that has been documented or fabricated by generations of anthropologists and is a closely-held community secret, to engaging the Hispanic and Anglo populations. Especially among recent arrivals to Taos, there is a high level of consciousness of the beautiful, unique, and sacred aspects of the physical surroundings – the idea of the Taos as sacred is shared by old hippies, new off-the-grid home builders, artists of this generation and times past, and the town's P.R. director, who dubbed this summer's theme "sacred places." Discovering how and why the land and people were endowed with this special quality, and what exactly that was, required me not only to listen to the area's inhabitants, but to hike, bike, drive and live on the land itself, and to scope out the dynamics in the tri-cultural society. I approached the trip open to all experiences, and as a result enjoyed meditating with Taiwanese Buddhist nuns in a mountain monastery, branding and castrating cattle and irrigating with old Hispanic ranchers, singing in a Native American drum circle, hanging and providing literature for a photography exhibition at a local museum, and helping build sustainable "Earthship" houses made of recycled materials.
Taos is, ecologically and culturally, a complex and diverse place. Simply understanding the physical and social geography made up a large part of my visit, but three topics stand out as potential senior essay subjects. The first and most exciting to me right now is to explore the acequia irrigation system. First developed by Hispanic settlers, the acequias are still communally controlled today despite increasing pressure from the state government and private developers to gain water rights. An existent literature documents the anthropology and history of these waterways in Taos Valley and New Mexico. Contemporary attempts to separate water rights from the land make this subject especially relevant – one acequia in Taos is currently fighting the first known water transfer suit in the region. Over the summer and fall, I plan to read a list of books on this topic and keep up with the regional politics as well as my local contacts (a commissioner on a ditch in Taos, the President of the New Mexico Acequia Association, and a Santa Fe professor), to think more about the thesis of this essay and monitor how the story evolves.
Another option for an essay revolves around the extensive art and archival collection at the Harwood Museum, where I worked with the director and helped curate an exhibit with a paper I had written on Ansel Adams photography of the region. The museum's collection spans from early Hispanic art to contemporary work, and much of it uses the landscape, especially the sacred aspect of the landscape, as a subject and inspiration. During my stay I spent time speaking with experts about Navajo Sand Paintings and Taos Artist Colony work and its relation to land and spirituality – I have an open invitation to continue exploring the archives for my project.
The last subject is sustainable communities in Taos. During my trip I befriended both radical and more pragmatic proponents of energy independence. Whether constructing their living rooms from recycled tires, adobe, or rainforest timber, the choice to go off-grid completely or partially is increasingly popular in Taos County, and bureaucratic support is slowly coalescing around some attempts at widespread adoption.
All of these topics require further research and potentially another visit – I plan to use the EVST senior colloquium this fall to read up, choose and define a topic, and plan ahead for whatever primary research and writing I will undertake in the spring.
Reuben Fischer-Baum, EVST '01
The Economic Benefit and Value of Urban Trees
Serhum Saglam, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey
The Economic Benefit and Value of Urban Trees
Fellowship summary report not available.
Taylor Gregoire-Wright, EVST '12
Weathering the Tide: Coastal Ecosystems & Climate Change
La Fundacion Futuro Lantinoamericano, Ecuador
Weathering the Tide: Coastal Ecosystems & Climate Change
The Ranger Corps in Ecuador
"When did I get used to this?" I wondered as the soldier slung his M-16 over his shoulder and patted me down. I handed another one my passport. He marked it in his logbook and waved me through. It was 3:00 AM and I was somewhere between Puerto Bolívar and Guayaquil, sitting on the shoulder of the highway—exhausted—but less than six hours from yet another interview for my independent research project. Nothing out of the ordinary, though.
When, in the early morning, busses arrive in Guayaquil they funnel into the Terminal Terrestre, which thanks to a grand renovation is now more like a mall than a transportation hub. It's one a few shining gems in the midst of a dirty and dangerous, but otherwise unremarkable, sprawling city. From the Terminal I hailed a cab to the municipal government building, which I discovered I couldn't enter without knowing what floor my contact worked on. I couldn't call my contact since his phone was stolen two days before. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. I knew that somehow I would get in, so I sat in the lobby watching the goings-on for a while. After some time I was able to attach myself to a group of bearded, overweight shrimp farmers who also seemed to be looking for Raúl Carvajal and apparently knew a lot more about the municipal government building than I. When we found him, he was surrounded by fourteen of his employees in an office the size of dorm room. I patiently waited for my turn to talk one-on-one with him.
"So how do the community and the shrimp farmers view each other?" I asked loudly, trying to cut through the chaos.
"I don't know about the current situation, but when I worked with the Ranger Corps, in 2001, the community was finally beginning to see the shrimp farmers as a menace," Carvajal responded. I asked this question to everyone I talked to and always managed to wring it dry before moving on to more tangible topics. The shrimp farmers have historically been the main culprits of illegal mangrove cutting, which has led to water quality and flooding problems. If there was any way to pit the greater community against the few and often illegally operating shrimp farmers in order to preserve clean water, I was determined to find it.
Raúl continued, "Before my organization, Fundación Natura, began our project, the community leaders were furious about the water quality issues, but had no way to act on what they knew. That's when we began our efforts to embolden and strengthen the Ranger Corps."
While mangrove related issues are the prototypical coastal resource management problems in Ecuador, my investigation as a whole hinged more on the incentives involved in the day-to-day scenarios faced by all the coastal resource users. This focus stemmed from my preparatory readings and my initial responsibilities.
Before arriving in Ecuador I discussed what I would need to know with my mentor, Vincent Gravez—a French marine biologist who, after living in the Galapagos for eight years, had moved to Puerto López on the mainland coast. First, I read and summarize Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action and Understanding Institutional Diversity. These summaries (in Spanish—everything I did was in Spanish) were my first contribution to the foundation—the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, or FFLA. With them I helped to enhance my colleagues' abilities to organize their numerous observations and rich experiences into meaningful statements about the role of community action in Ecuador's coastal resource management. Additionally, these readings aided my independent research by helping me narrow down what information I needed to gather in order to craft an informed analysis.
I should back up before getting into what exactly I researched and give a little information about the foundation I worked for, FFLA. FFLA specializes in enhancing the abilities of local communities to effectively manage their natural resources. FFLA also works with underrepresented ethnic or racial groups by helping them learn and hone the skills of self-advocacy, sustainable resource management and how to participate in local decision-making processes. Vincent was the director of FFLA's coastal initiative, and so he was in charge of a portfolio of individual projects that together made up an interdisciplinary attack on the environmental management problems faced by coastal communities. In addition to assisting with workshops for local resource user groups, such as artisanal fishermen, I was assigned the responsibility of researching the Unidades de Control y Vigilancia, or, in English, the Ranger Corps.
The Ranger Corps have existed since the early 1990s, when the Coastal Resources Center of the University of Rhode Island spearheaded a drastic overhaul of Ecuador's coastal resource management strategy. Their most basic function has been to enforce national coastal resource use laws and regulations on a local scale. Several key characteristics make them unique in the region and, for most of their existence, throughout much of the world. For one, the membership of each Ranger Corps (the coast is divided into seven zones, one for each Corps) is a mix of officials from all the ministries and departments that have jurisdiction over coastal resource use. By bringing together these different authorities, sanctioning infractions is streamlined and communication is more immediate. In 1995, an all-encompassing analysis was conducted of Ecuador's Coastal Resource Management Project, the parent project of the Ranger Corps and the long-term (+25yrs) product of CRC's intense involvement during the previous ten years. However, since 1995, knowledge of CRMP's components has fractured and faded into obscurity. For instance, when I arrived in Ecuador in June, it wasn't even known by the Ministry of the Environment whether all the Ranger Corps were still functioning, let alone how effective the had been over the past fifteen years. It was my job to not only discover and piece together all the missing information about the Ranger Corps, but also to analyze their effectiveness over the past decade-and-a-half.
My research lead me up and down the Ecuadorian coast in search of answers and missing documents. At times it was true detective work. For example, I had to find people who had long since retired from the Ranger Corps or CRMP. Over the course of the summer, I wove an intricate web of contacts, but it would often be the case that no matter whom I talked to, the person I was searching for was always another step away. Or, as another example, one time when my efforts panned out I was able to find the one person in Ecuador who knew about and had access to an obscure, underground warehouse full of forgotten CRMP documents.
By the time I had to leave Ecuador, I had finished the most comprehensive history of the Ranger Corps to be written to date. Today, I'm still working on the analysis of the Ranger Corps' performance and crafting recommendations for how the Ministry of the Environment should move forward regarding the Ranger Corps. I maintain my relationship with FFLA and I plan on following the development of the Ranger Corps in response to my report.
My experiences in Ecuador taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I learned how plan a research project as well as was possible considering enigmatic nature of the topic I was investigating. I also learned how to get along without having the chance to plan anything. Often I would get a call-back from a potential contact who was available for an interview only the next day and I would have to run to the local bus station and hop on a bus to a city four or five hours away, all while managing to reserve a room in a hostel for that night while on the move. Through my involvement in FFLA's other activities, I also learned other important skills, such as how to lead a day-long conflict-resolution workshop with different resource user groups. Maybe most importantly, though, I learned how vital confidence, politeness and determination are, especially when my research required me to get into places I wasn't supposed to be allowed to go (I never endangered myself, but I often had to convince others to allow me to access confidential records, or get into buildings and offices I wouldn't usually have been allowed to enter, or to talk about things they preferred to pretend to ignore). These lessons I learned will be invaluable as I plan my senior project. The wealth of knowledge and skills I learned this summer will undoubtedly help me achieve much more during my time at Yale and afterwards than would have been possible otherwise.
As one last note, FFLA is more than willing to accept future researchers/interns, and I brought back several examples of FFLA's publications and past work if anyone's interested.
Brittney Kajdacsi, EEB '11
Molecular Phylogeny of Endangered Galapagos Tortises
Yale Conservation Genetics Laboratory, New Haven, CT
Molecular Phylogeny of Endangered Galapagos Tortises
Fellowship summary report not available.
Eli Mitchell-Larson, EVST '12
Remote Sensing as an Important Tool for Balkan Old Growth Forests
University of Ljubljana - Ljubljana, Slovenia
Remote Sensing as an Important Tool for Balkan Old Growth Forests
My summer in Slovenia was one of great personal growth in addition to providing lots of practical forest research experience. The project began when I read several scientific papers by Professor Tom Nagel (University of Ljubljana) whose research in gap regeneration in old growth remnants in Slovenia, Bosnia, and elsewhere in Southeastern Europe interested me. He agreed to take me on as a research assistant for the summer. My goals were to gain practical, field experience with old growth forestry research, continue a project I began in conjunction with Yale's Center for Earth Observation (satellite imaging study of old growth forests in Bosnia), and develop and expand my self-sufficiency and the open-mindedness required to live alone in a foreign country and build a network of support in an otherwise alien locale.
Over the course of eight weeks, I was able to participate in three separate research projects involving old growth forest remnants in different parts of Slovenia. The first project involved re-measuring and analyzing permanent plots in the Rajhenav old growth remnant (Southern Slovenia) that had been neglected for decades. Because this forest was an "old growth" remnant, learning about the natural processes of growth and regeneration within it inform efforts to sustainably manage other forests. If foresters can imitate these processes, they can minimize the ecological damage caused by tree harvesting.
The second project was a study on "protection forests" in the Slovenian Alps that help protect roads from rockfall. We used transponders to measure distances within circular plots, the data from which could be fed into a rock fall model. The results from this model inform efforts to manage these protection forests in such a way that their protective function is promoted. This work required some climbing, and was the most physically demanding and dangerous of the three projects. We also had a chance to observe Austria from a mountain top and could see how starkly differently Austrian foresters manage their forests than Slovenes (large swaths of mountain spruce were simply clear-cut and replanted). The final project had me analyzing light budgets through canopies of unmanaged and managed forests to see what difference in recruitment followed.
The fieldwork for all three project involved myself, a French student, a Polish student, a Slovene student, and various professors and assistant professors from the University of Ljubljana's Biotechnical faculty. These collaborative research efforts required a lot of flexibility among the members of our very diverse team and I learned to communicate in a mix of English, Latin names of plants, and what little Slovene I learned during my time abroad (most Slovenes speak English so it's difficult to force yourself to learn the language).
I also explored my own independence and identity by living alone for the first time and interfacing with locals and expat Americans in Ljubljana and elsewhere, forging lifelong friendships along the way. Although the projects I worked on officially were not closely related with my own remote sensing research at Yale, I traveled to Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia to visit and experience in person the sites I had previously studied only through satellite imagery. I stayed with families and friends I made in Slovenia, experiencing local culture as I made my way through the Balkans. The longest trip was a four day hike deep into the mountains of southern Bosnia's Sutjeska park and Peručica old growth forest. Here I witnessed firsthand the controversial selective cutting inside of the virgin forest (cutting that is authorized by the government of Republika Srpska) and also summated Bosnia's highest peak (Maglič) with two Bosnian-Serb forestry students I met during my travels.
On a practical level, my incredible summer could never have been realized without the generosity of the Summer Environmental Fellowship. Although the Biotechnical Faculty at the University of Ljubljana partially subsidized my housing, I still had significant room and board costs associated with living in a European capital and was working as an unpaid research assistant. As an Environmental Studies major, this fellowship allowed me to gain practical experience not just in forestry but in relating with scientists and students from diverse international backgrounds. Instead of learning from the comfort of a classroom, I was out in the forest living in a cabin with no electricity or water and working dawn till dusk on interesting and ecologically significant research projects! I made friends for life in Ljubljana, Novi Sad, and Foča whom I can rely upon in the future if I continue to work in Southeastern Europe. My interest in issues of sustainable forestry has grown as a result of this summer research project and I am now considering graduate schools that offer programs in this field.
Eli Mitchell-Larson MC '12
Caroline Nash, EVST '11
Ecological, Social & Political Implications of Dam Removal
Klamath Tribes, Chiloquin, OR
Ecological, Social & Political Implications of Dam Removal
Fellowship summary report not available.
Maclovia Quintana, EVST '11
Permaculture Promotes Sustainable Farming Communities in New Mexico
The Garden's Edge, Santa Fe, NM
Permaculture Promotes Sustainable Farming Communities in New Mexico
Environmental Studies 2011
Permaculture, Community Building, and Traditional Ecological
Knowledge in Northern New Mexico
Santa Fe and Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico
June 11-July 15, 2010
This summer, I spent a month working with Garden's Edge, a non-profit organization based in Albuquerque, NM, which runs agricultural projects in New Mexico and rural Guatemala. Garden's Edge works through incorporating the principles of permaculture with local agricultural knowledge in order to create secure and sustainable local food systems. They have had much success with their project in Rabinal, Guatemala, which works with the indigenous Mayan community that was so ravaged by that country's civil war in the 1970s and '80s. The project in Guatemala, which goes by the name Qachuu Aloom (Mother Earth), is now entirely Mayan-run (having been operating for more than eight years), and has extended its activities to seed saving, micro-lending, rainwater harvesting, reforestation, and natural building. Garden's Edge is now expanding its projects in New Mexico, and this summer led a home garden project in Santa Clara Pueblo, one of the eight Native American communities in the northern part of the state.
Permaculture, a design methodology created by the Australian Bill Mollison in the 1970s, is based on the idea that nature provides the best model for sustainable human endeavors. It outlines four basic principles of nature: 1) Nature cooperates: Nothing in nature is working alone, and often the actions of multiple elements create a single outcome. 2) For every gift to us there is a price: The use of any resource will have an effect on the broader ecosystem. 3) Everything is connected: The actions of one element in nature affect many other elements. 4) Nature is redundant in elements and functions: Every element serves multiple functions, and every function is supported by multiple elements.
Permaculture incorporates a series of design methodologies based on these principles, including observation, mapping, analysis of elements, and zone and sector analysis. Above all, Permaculture is based on three ethics: care of the Earth, care of people, and the return of all excess. Through remembering these principles and using the tools provided by the design methodologies, it is possible to create sustainable and functional homes, gardens, farms, and communities.
Using permacultural design methods along with native agricultural knowledge, Garden's Edge worked to create a demonstration garden of native plant species at the home of Luis Peña and Beata Tsosie-Peña in Santa Clara Pueblo. The Tsosie-Peña home is in a newer pueblo-sponsored housing development about five miles south of the traditional pueblo, which is a small, mostly adobe village clustered on the western bank of the Rio Grande just south of Española, NM. The housing development is farther from the river, and therefore much more arid than the original pueblo. The goal of the project was to create a multi-functional edible landscape that would be culturally and ecologically appropriate, and that would ultimately be self-sustaining.
There is a one-year probation on landscaping for every family that moves into the Santa Clara housing development. Housing is free for members of the tribe, so this probation exists in order to ensure that families are in fact invested in their homes for the long term before they can improve upon them. There are also strict rules in the development about keeping yards free of weeds. In order to simplify maintenance, most families keep their yards entirely bare. But Luis and Beata, having seen their probation period through, were quite enthusiastic about creating a permaculture design for their home. Beata had worked with Garden's Edge in the summer of 2009 to create a community garden in the old Pueblo, and it was thus that her home was chosen for the demonstration site.
Work (which was largely done by a team of volunteers, most of them friends of Luis and Beata) began at their home in the small front yard. Having had an entire year to observe their property and its environmental characteristics, they were well equipped to create an effective design. They started off with burmed pathways lined with rock and filled with layers of leaves, straw, and cardboard (a technique known as sheet mulching) to create a "sponge" that would retain rainwater. Amongst these pathways, a variety of native edible perennials were planted. In the backyard, a deep swale was dug, strategically placed on a contour so that it would catch runoff from the roof. A line of hardy plants—false indigo, chokecherry, currant, apple, Siberian pea shrub—was planted in the trench. Many of these trees have edible parts, making them appropriate to have near the house. In addition to a food source, they will also serve as a windbreak once they are established.
In addition to the edible shrub windbreak, we also created a small waffle garden in the back yard (in which planted areas are slightly below ground level in order to catch rainwater), planted with corn, beans, and squash, the traditional "three sisters" crops of the Southwest. We also dug several more swales to channel rainwater to the newly planted areas. By the time the project, which had spanned several weeks, was complete, a comprehensive groundwork for a self-sustaining landscape had been put in place, upon which Luis and Beata will be able to build in future years.
The work that Garden's Edge is doing in New Mexico is an important part of recreating a sustainable and culturally relevant food system in the state. Though the landscape at Luis and Beata's home is young, in years to come it has the potential to mature into a highly productive multi-functional garden that requires little maintenance. It is particularly significant that this project was based in working off of and strengthening the traditional forms of agriculture that are deeply rooted in the history of the area. Some of the methodologies used in implementing the garden were perhaps non-traditional, but the plant species were all native, and many of the structures, such as the waffle garden, in fact have a long history of use among Native American farmers. Through this project, the terms of permaculture were reconciled with those of more traditional practices, and implemented in such a way that they will be useful not only for the Tsosie-Peña household, but also as an example for others in the community who might wish to implement such a design.
This project is also significant for its resourceful usage of existing material and human resources. Permaculture will only a viable methodology in places such as northern New Mexico insofar as it is made accessible for people of all backgrounds. Thus, there cannot be exorbitant monetary costs for permaculture projects. In the case of the garden at the Tsosie-Peña home, most of the materials were acquired free of cost: leaves for mulch were gathered from neighbors the previous fall; woodchips came from a local wood yard, which charged only for the cost of loading them into a truck. As stated previously, labor was carried out entirely by volunteers, who were compensated at the end of the day by a meal prepared by Beata.
My interest in working with Garden's Edge was based in a desire to better understand the practical applications of permaculture, and especially how it can be used to strengthen communities and rebuild local food systems. I am currently in the process of preparing to write my senior essay on the potential for interaction between permaculture and traditional agriculture in northern New Mexico in order to create a truly sustainable agriculture in the region. My work with Garden's Edge was extremely helpful in helping me to understand how permaculture can be appropriately and respectfully implemented in a community that is simultaneously traditional and modern. It seems to me that the garden we helped to plant at the home of Luis and Beata was a good example of a project that was based as much in permaculture as it was in local knowledge, and that was carried out in such a way as to make the implementers and the recipients one and the same. Much of what I learned from this internship came also from conversations I had with Sarah Montgomery, the director of Garden's Edge, and with Edson and Julian, the directors of Qachuu Aloom in Guatemala, who were spending the month in New Mexico, working with Sarah and giving lectures and demonstrations in locations around the state. They described to me the long process of setting up the project in Guatemala and the challenges they had faced in doing so. They were able to provide me with much insight on the intersection of permaculture and traditional ecological knowledge, and how the two successfully interact—how in fact in many regards they are the same.
In the summer of 2009 I studied the basics of permaculture design, and was fascinated and encouraged by it. This project served as an appropriate extension of work that I have already done, and has been instrumental in my conception of my senior essay. Permaculture and all of its varied applications seems to me one of the most promising ways to recreate localized and meaningful food systems based in resilient, mindful, and innovative communities. As I continue my research throughout the academic year, I hope to come to a better understanding of how it might be appropriately used throughout northern New Mexico.
Leslie Roberson, EVST '11
Saving the Tropics One Small Sea Turtle at a Time
Protective Turtle Ecology Center for Training, Outreach & Research,Punta Raton, Honduras
Saving the Tropics One Small Sea Turtle at a Time
Saving the Tropics, One Sea Turtle at a Time?
An ancient radio bleated out strands of Caribbean-infused reggae music as barefoot men and women tapped their feet in the sand, peacefully bobbing their heads and ducking their shoulders to the beat as they waited for the heaping plates of caracoles and fried plantains to arrive. Although I had traveled only forty kilometers from the populated West End of Honduras' Roatan Island to reach Punta Gorda, an isolated Garifuna community on the East End, the string of transfers in different sputtering Danazi vans had resulted in an arduous three-hour journey. The men at the table next to me smiled gap-toothed grins as I swatted the sand flies and desperately fanned myself with my moleskin. We struck up a conversation, giving me the opportunity to ask them about sea turtle harvesting and the conservation of the reef. It was not until I noticed a tear rolling down the cheek of one of the young men that I realized that something was amiss in Punta Gorda. He said, in heavily accented Caribbean Spanish, "I'm sorry mamita, but my heart just can't answer questions today. They murdered my brother last night."
In Honduras, conservation has little to do with passing laws. Environmental degradation is wrapped up in a world of narco-trafficking and corruption. The general sentiment I encountered is that there is little that can be done about the greater powers that cause perpetual poverty, environmental degradation, and class conflict. are causing the world to go to hell in a hand basket. On the other hand, I am more optimistic that conservation efforts, even in developing countries, can succeed.
By studying sea turtle conservation in Honduras, I hoped to learn about the benefits and challenges of single-species protection efforts. I chose sea turtles because I am interested in the threats facing migrating marine mega fauna. Many of these important species forage and breed in tropical areas, coincidentally frequenting countries with poor governance and a lack of environmental initiative. Honduras, rated by multiple agencies as the most corrupt country in Central America, provided an interesting case study because it is representative of the issues facing many tropical nations. Unlike nearby Costa Rica, the Honduran government has not developed a plan to manage and protect its natural resources or to sustainably develop communities that depend on these resources. Since tourism and conservation are often closely related, part of my objective was to assess the relationship between ecotourism and ecosystem health. My plan was to compare two different regions of Honduras: the Bay Islands off the Caribbean coast, which generates almost all of Honduras' tourism revenues, and the South (Pacific) Coast which has few national or international visitors.
I intended to spend four to five weeks in El Venado and Punta Raton, two small fishing and shrimp farming communities on the South Coast's Gulf of Fonseca. Unfortunately, both of these communities were evacuated when Tropical Storm Agatha swept through the country in late May. The rain continued throughout the summer, rendering these remote locations even more inaccessible. As a result, I ended up spending almost the entire trip in the North Coast and on the Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila. Since I only managed to reach the South for the final three days of my trip, I essentially lost the comparison element of my project. Additionally, my plan to do an in-depth investigation of the various elements of sea turtle research and conservation was stymied when the turtles failed to arrive on schedule—leaving myself and a small group of scientists anxiously pacing the beach waiting for them to come ashore to nest.
Luckily, in my confusion about how to redesign my project, I stumbled upon a host of intriguing issues and initiatives taking place on Roatan and Utila. I decided to focus on the relationship between species conservation, tourism, and environmental problems in the Bay Islands, with the intention of using this study for my Senior Thesis. I interviewed four main groups of people: tourists, researchers, members of the local fishing communities, and people employed by government or conservation agencies. The absence of legal protocol and adequate law enforcement means that both the conservation and exploitation of coral reefs and marine resources are a free for all, with the various parties constantly pointing fingers at each other. In spite of significant revenue from cruise ships, the government has failed to provide basic infrastructure, notably adequate water sanitation and waste disposal systems, to protect the reefs. Others blame over fishing by the locals. Some blame scuba diving by tourists, a major revenue source in Honduras. The scientific perspective asserts that the decline in the coral reef is a chiefly a result of sedimentation caused by illegal development and by lack of sewage and garbage disposal. Despite the funds flowing in to the major development and conservation institutions working in the Bay Islands (The World Bank, WWF, TNC, and USAID), the reef continues to decline at an alarming rate, and the Islands still lack a cohesive plan to combat the degradation.
Investigating the shortfalls and obstacles of coral reef and sea turtle conservation introduced me to some remarkable and unfamiliar local cultures. The Bay Islands are a fascinating mix of Afro-Carib natives, European and North American ex-patriots, Latino immigrants, and a steady flow of tourists. In the early 1600s, the Garifuna speaking people were brought from St. Vincent and marooned to the island of Roatan by the British Army. They still inhabit isolated enclaves of the islands, far from the foreign-owned bars and cruise ship docks that attract up to 20,000 tourists per day. The Garifuna have retained their Carib language, natural medicine, and much of their traditional dance, cuisine, and Black Magic and pirate-filled lore. They also continue to rely on fishing. One of the major threats to the endangered sea turtles is egg and meat harvesting by these fishing communities. While some Garifunas have benefitted by landing tourism industry jobs, for the majority, tourism has resulted in fewer fish, more intrusive regulations, and a vicious subculture of violence and drug trafficking.
I was fascinated by the drama surrounding conservation and management of the Islands' natural resources. The lack of mandated structure meant that conservation agencies popped up freely, declaring protected areas and imposing restrictions on the local people seemingly without authority or a comprehensive plan for the future. Many researchers, park employees, and government representatives refuse to publish or share their studies, so although there is a substantial information base about the status of the reef and its species, this information is almost completely inaccessible. Therefore the limited funds available for research are squandered by repeating studies that have already been done. More deals were struck and projects initiated during Happy Hour at Sundowners Beach Bar than during office hours.
My interviews with the wide variety of players invested in the Bay Islands made me realize that there is an important difference between purely academic research and directed research. I was working with Dr. Stephen Dunbar of the Protective Turtle Ecology Center for Training, Outreach and Research (ProTECTOR). I assisted Dr. Dunbar with the tagging of juvenile hawksbills and with the organization and planning of his community outreach events. I saw firsthand the difficulties of NGOs managed by foreigners with minimal understanding of the local language or culture. Dr. Dunbar is generating some interesting studies and some of the only published data on sea turtles in Honduras. Yet, the connection between research and conservation is lacking. I listened to him blatantly insult community leaders, not realizing that they understood English. They countered by muttering insults in Spanish. Collecting information is a necessary step: turtle foraging and nesting grounds cannot be correctly managed if there is no data published about where these foraging grounds are located. However, most of ProTECTOR's work is purely academic and is not focused on managing the turtle populations or understanding the variables that threaten their survival. His projects have raised tourist awareness of the threats to sea turtles, but only on a very small scale. Unfortunately, these sorts of projects are often economically wasteful and have very limited influence. For conservation to take place on a larger and more sustainable scale, academic research needs to pay greater heed to the realities of local politics and economics.
Although I heard and saw many discouraging things this summer, I was also introduced to many individuals making remarkable progress. Simply by understanding local fishing habits and technology, researchers were working towards easing over-exploitation of the reef while increasing the profits of the artisanal fishermen. I collaborated with Honduran biologists passionate about saving their country's natural resources and eager to introduce me to the scientific community in their country. I met local Garifuna and Black English people who had less than six years of formal education and yet eloquently expressed the needs of their communities and environment and had an amazing comprehension of the complex forces that drive these issues.
I cannot sufficiently thank the Environmental Studies department for making such an inspiring and formative experience possible. I would also like to thank Professor Amity Doolittle and Professor John Wargo for the advice and support that has made me a more successful researcher. What I learned about research, and about myself, has inspired me to change my career path and focus on management of fisheries and marine coastal ecosystems. In addition to pursuing a Masters degree, I am looking in to working towards a PhD, something I had never considered previously.
Kalani Rosell, EVST '11
Sustainable Agriculture in Ethiopia
Human Relations Area Files, New Haven, CT
Sustainable Agriculture in Ethiopia
Fellowship summary report not available.
Hazel Scher, EVST '11
Sustainable Spaces: Converting Abandoned Real Estate in Urban Renewal
College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley - Berkeley, CA
Sustainable Spaces: Converting Abandoned Real Estate in Urban Renewal
Fellowship summary report not available.
Catherine Sheard, MATH '12
Ecology of Tropical Rainforests and Their Canopies
Institute for Tropical Ecology & Conservation, Panama City, Panama
Ecology of Tropical Rainforests and Their Canopies
Fellowship summary report not available.
Dacia Thompson, ENVE '12
Sustainable Farming Practices in the Tropics
Semillia Nueva, Xela, Guatamala
Sustainable Farming Practices in the Tropics
Fellowship summary report not available.
Cornelia Twining, EVST '11
Paleoecological Research on Keystone Fish Species
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Paleoecological Research on Keystone Fish Species
Title: The Ecological History of Two Watersheds in South Central Connecticut
Lily Twining, EVST 2011, email@example.com
This summer I conducted research for my Environmental Studies senior thesis project. My research focuses primarily on alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), a keystone fish species native to New England. Alewives are primarily anadromous, meaning that they migrate from the sea to coastal lakes to spawn in the spring. However, in south central Connecticut, there are a number of populations of landlocked alewife, which are ecologically and genetically distinct from their anadromous relatives. Genetic evidence suggests that these alewife became landlocked 300-400 ago, or around the same time that European colonists were settling the area and constructing dams across the region's streams. My research has focused on determining if alewife were landlocked due to dam construction along the streams that alewife migrated through on their way to spawn in freshwater lakes. I conducted my research primarily in two watersheds in Old Lyme, Connecticut and Branford, Connecticut.
This summer my specific questions were: is there paleoecological evidence of colonial settlement and dam construction in my two study watersheds; is there paleoecological evidence of alewife becoming landlocked; and is there paleoecological evidence of changes in the ecological community as a result of alewife becoming landlocked?
In order to begin to answer these questions, I cored the major lakes in two case study watersheds, Rogers Lake and Linsley Pond, and then analyzed the cores. In the first part of my analysis I looked at the nitrogen stable isotope ratios of sediment in the cores. Alewives contribute marine-derived nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to coastal lakes. These marine-derived nutrients are isotopically heavier than nutrients from freshwater lakes and thus I hypothesized that the nitrogen isotopes of the cores might reflect changes in alewife populations over time. However, instead of seeing a decrease in heavy isotopes around the time of colonial settlement and dam construction, I saw a steep increase in heavy isotopes that continued to the present. This is likely due to the fact that when humans clear land for agriculture and start living in an area and producing wastes year-round, they too contribute isotopically heavy nutrients to freshwater ecosystems.
In addition to looking for changes in alewife populations in isotopic ratios, I am also looking for changes in alewife populations as reflected by the zooplankton that alewife consume. I am analyzing remains of cladocerans, a group of microscopic crustaceans that includes Daphnia spp., the alewife's preferred food. Early work demonstrated that alewife selectively graze upon larger cladoceran species like daphnia and that lakes with landlocked alewife contained only small zooplankton as a result of heavy alewife predation. Thus, changes in zooplankton species composition through time in my sediment cores may indicate when alewife became landlocked and how quickly they changed their ecological communities.
Charles Zhu, EVST '11
Biking in Cities: the Relationship among Urban Landscape & Cycling
Gehl Architects Copenhagen, Denmark
Biking in Cities: the Relationship among Urban Landscape & Cycling
Fellowship summary report not available.
Julie Zhu, '12
Organization of Tropical Studies, Duke University - La Selva, Costa Rico
Fellowship summary report not available.
Brandon Berger, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisors - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science) and Ron Smith (G&G) Public Opinion and Renewable Energy Infrastructure: The Island of Culebra
(8 weeks, Culebra, Puerto Rico)
Public Opinion and Renewable Energy Infrastructure: The Island of Culebra
Brandon Berger, Environmental Studies '10
While the mitigation of worldwide environmental impact has propelled the adoption of renewable energy sources on a global scale, their viability and implementation depend greatly on more local metrics. Firstly, resource availability is crucial to successful implementation, as wind turbines need wind and photovoltaic panels need sun to provide and operational alternative to polluting technologies. Secondly, alternative, renewable sources of energy must price competitively with current sources in order to see significant adoption.
In both respects, the island of Puerto Rico stands out as an exceptional destination for the development of renewable energy. The island, the easternmost of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, has vast solar resources and significant localized wind development potential, as well as more speculative future technologies, such as ocean thermal, tidal, wave, and biomass. However, Department of Energy data up to 2007 indicates that Puerto Rico receives generates none of its electricity from non-hydroelectric renewable sources.
To support my senior research for the Environmental Studies major, I sought to catalog and explain this phenomenon by considering factors of government regulations, incentive structures, and public opinion as they relate to the gulf between potential and reality in developing wind and solar generation.
I spent eight weeks in Puerto Rico with Energios Corp., a start up renewable energy firm, as an intern doing research by way of interviews, site visits, literature review, meetings, and summits. If found that despite official government policy that promotes the adoption of renewable energy sources, the actions of the government present the largest hindrances to the development of renewable energy sources. The problems perpetuated by the government may be considered as financial (Dept. of Hacienda), regulatory (PREPA), and cultural (AAE).
Financial incentives are the backbone of renewable energy installations worldwide, but those offered by the Puerto Rican government are limited in scope, difficult to access, and unintelligently designed. The regulatory framework of the Puerto Rican energy market invests power in the state monopoly, PREPA, which has no incentive to adopt renewable energy, making integration and permitting exceedingly difficult. Finally, Puerto Rico’s government has not made renewable energy a primary concern despite the tenuous state of its energy economy, so renewable energy is a culturally liminal subject.
My findings over the summer indicate that the Puerto Rican government’s approach to renewable energy is retrogressive and at odds with the expanding private sector and environmental mandate associated with renewable energy.
 Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2009: Analysis of Trends and Issues in the Financing of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. United Nations Environmental Programme. 2009.
Jacob Berv, Molecular & Cellular Biology '10, Faculty Advisors - Gisella Caccone (E&EB) and Rick Prum (E&EB)
Genetic Differentiation of Avifauna Due to Climate Induced Geographic Isolation
(12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Genetic Differentiation of Avifauna Due to Climate Induced Geographic Isolation
Jacob Berv, Molecular & Celluar Biology '10
With partial funding from The Environmental Fellowship for Study and Research, I pursued a twelve-week summer research project in collaboration with four Yale advisors: Dr. Gisella Caccone and Dr. Jon Beadell from the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS) guided my molecular research, while Dr. Kristof Zyskowski and Dr. Richard Prum from the Yale department of Ecology and Evolutionary biology (EEB) guided field and ecological research.
Recent ornithological surveys of the Sipaliwini Savanna in Suriname by the Yale Peabody Museum imply the existence of past geographic connections between current islands of savanna in South America. The Peabody discovered that the open-habitat species in Sipaliwini are shared predominantly with the geographically far Brazilian Cerrado, rather than with other northern savannas. This suggests that the currently isolated Sipaliwini savanna was once connected to the Brazilian Cerrado, perhaps via a coastal corridor (Mittermeier et al 2009, in prep). Unlike its southern counterpart in Sipaliwini, the savanna species that occur in the northern Surinamese savannas are shared predominantly with the Venezuelan Llanos and Roraima-Rupununi savannas. For this reason, the northern Surinamese savanna birds likely share their ancestry with the northern Guyanan savannas. Answering the question of where the Sipaliwini birds came from may help to explain some of the history of the forest itself, in addition to elucidating the evolutionary history of neotropical savanna avifauna.
Voucher tissue specimens collected by the Peabody Museum expeditions provide the unique opportunity to test the Peabody’s species-sharing hypotheses with genetics. Working in the YIBS facility, I was trained to extract, amplify, and sequence, DNA from different tissue sources. I chose to use mitochondrial DNA for this project because mitochondrial loci are generally a more sensitive indicator of population structure than are nuclear loci (Bates, Haffer et al. 2004; Zink and Barrowclough 2008). The mitochondrial DNA control region has the potential to be the highest resolution indicator of short-term genetic differentiation (Ruokonen and Kvist 2002; Witt 2004), and we decided to try it. Several sets of PCR primers were tried, and custom primers were engineered based on sequence data of related (on the level of order) birds that was published in GenBank (Tarr 1995; Sorenson, Ast et al. 1999). We were able to successfully amplify and sequence (control region, CytB, and ND2) a subset of the tissues collected by the Peabody’s previous expeditions. I simultaneously spent almost two months researching, organizing the tissue databases of other institutions that hold relevant samples to complete the dataset. The requested tissues range in origin from as north as Venezuela to as south as Argentina and Bolivia. Sequence data from these tissues is required before statistical analysis can be performed, and this follow up work is planned for the 2009-2010 academic year to constitute the majority of my senior thesis project.
Another goal of this project is the integration of molecular work with a field study. In July, Dr. Zyskowski and I began planning an expedition to Suriname to collect additional, fresh samples for my project and for the Peabody’s ornithological collection at large. The objectives were to focus on northern savanna habitats, from which partner institutions or the Peabody had done no collecting. In planning for this fieldwork I was able to use the skills I have recently learned in the Yale Center for Earth Observation to identify potential sampling areas using satellite image data, incorporating GIS data to field collection of DNA samples. We chose the Zanderij savanna region based largely on accessibility and the presence of target species. Within this region, the nearby Boven-Cosewijne nature reserve was ultimately the best site for our project. During the twelve days that were spent in the field, we collected 115 individuals. Fourteen of these were genetically relevant to my project, and should provide enough data to say something about their relationships with the other savanna populations. GPS data was recorded for most collected individuals, in addition to detailed morphological, behavioral, and photographic data to archive in the Peabody’s museum database.
In addition to the collection of relevant tissue samples and bird specimens, Dr. Zyskowski and I were able to successfully demonstrate the first use of radio telemetry to localize an avian nest in South America. With my previous experience tracking large predators on a South African game reserve (Summer 2008), and Dr. Zyskowski’s expertise in nest architecture, we were able to combine our experiences to develop a novel method of nest discovery. The purpose of this technique is to track birds that have nests that are unknown to science. Since there are 114 species of birds in Suriname that have unknown nests, our August fieldwork was a perfect opportunity to test our idea. This study will likely be turned into a methodological paper for publication after we have another opportunity to experiment with it (planned for Thanksgiving break 2009).
Christopher Chau, Psychology '10,John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science) and Glenn Schafe (Pyschology) Environmental Sources of Carbon Monoxide and the Neurological Effects of Chronic Exposure in an Urban Setting (8 weeks, Shenzhen, China)
Environmental Sources of Carbon Monoxide and the Neurological Effects of Chronic Exposure in an Urban Setting
Christopher Chau, Psychology '10
Through the generosity of the Environmental Studies Fellowship Program, I was able to travel to Shenzhen this summer to explore carbon monoxide (CO) exposure in that rapidly growing urban setting. Carbon monoxide, often referred to as “the silent killer,” is a colorless and odorless gas that is a product of the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons in carbon-containing compounds such as coal, wood, peat, charcoal, and fossil fuels. I wanted to explore what the typical sources of carbon monoxide exposure that city dwellers encountered on a daily basis were and what health affects such chronic exposure to this aggregate quantity of CO there were. In order to do so, I used the Bacharach Monoxor II, a continuous CO sampling instrument, and traced the steps of a typical Shenzhen resident, taking readings of both indoor and outdoor environments as well as any CO sources of interest.
Having thus quantified the level of CO exposed to at different time points throughout the day, a comprehensive questionnaire that allowed me to link how much time was spent in each of these environments/exposed to each of these sources with carboxyhemoglobin levels (taken via non-invasive breath analysis) and the frequency with which subjects experienced symptoms typical of CO poisoning was distributed to a sample population. By these methods, I hoped to determine: (1) what sources of CO urban residents typically encounter on a daily basis, (2) how much CO they are exposed to in each of the indoor/outdoor environments they come across, (3) whether this chronic exposure yields any symptoms of CO poisoning, (4) and how the frequency of exposure affects carboxyhemoglobin levels.
The setting of Shenzhen proved to be an ideal one since levels of atmospheric carbon monoxide are higher in urban areas, as cities have more cars with a high commuting rate, a higher population density packed into a condensed area, and towering buildings that stagnate air flow and therefore retard the dissipation of fumes. As China’s first and most successful Special Economic Zone, Shenzhen serves as factory to the world in countless industries. With smokestacks lining the city, Shenzhen had a constantly elevated level of ambient CO, even when readings were taken outdoors with an abundance of fresh air (1-2ppm). Furthermore, Shenzhen residents’ main mode of transportation is by taxicab, resulting in an overabundance of idle cars, one of the biggest sources of CO exposure with readings of 47ppm emitted from the direct exhaust and within which passengers are exposed to 5ppm of CO. Similarly, the city is undergoing rapid development and expansion, which means that construction sites at which heavy machinery are in use are scattered throughout the city. The ambient CO readings at such sites hover at 6ppm, which was the highest workplace reading. China also still has the propensity to use coal stoves and upwards of 70% of the population smokes. These too are major sources of CO exposure.
Ventilation turned out to be a major factor influencing CO exposure levels. With each of the four types of stoves, CO readings rapidly decreased when a nearby window was opened or if a cooking fan was turned on (142ppm down to 10ppm for coal stoves). Even stuffy, ill-ventilated parking complexes reached CO readings as low as 1 in the early morning hours when little-to-no cars were being operated and the space had time for the CO-heavy air to circulate out. Exposure to passengers was also twice as high when the car was in standstill traffic versus moving on a highway.
Smokers and those who were frequently exposed to second hand smoke had the highest carboxyhemoglobin levels at around CO=9ppm, and these two factors tended to correlate with more frequent experiences with shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Of the many symptoms of CO exposure, these were also the ones that subjects listed as having experienced the most often. This seems to make sense, as they are the mildest symptoms, often seen with mid-level CO exposure cases. Interestingly, memory problems were also reported as a frequent symptom, especially with the older subjects. Memory issues have been known to be a result of acute CO poisoning, and it is possible that chronic exposure to elevated CO levels in Shenzhen might be causing mild cases of this serious side-effect. In addition to cigarettes, cars seem to be a significant source of CO exposure as time spent in cars and taxis also correlated positively with higher carboxyhemoglobin levels and the aforementioned symptoms that I chose to focus on.
Automobiles, cigarettes, and coal stoves were found to be noteworthy sources of high CO exposure. Of the indoor environments, the indoor parking garages were found to have the highest readings while the most CO-heavy work site explored were construction sites. The home environments proved to be relatively CO-free. Such chronic exposure is correlated with some common CO poisoning symptoms and I hope to explore the issue of the memory issues they might contribute to more in depth in the future. In the event of prolonged CO-exposure getting fresh air or increasing ventilation would be a wise first step.
John Good, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - Ellen Brennan-Galvin (F&ES)
Suburban Centers, Activity Nodes, Edge Cities: Transportation and Land Use Relationships in the Denver and Kansas City Metropolitan Areas
(4 weeks, Kansas City, KS and 4 weeks, Denver, CO).
Suburban Centers, Activity Nodes, Edge Cities: Transportation and Land Use Relationships in the Denver and Kansas City Metropolitan Areas
John Good, Environmental Studies '10
During the summer of 2009, I was collecting research for inclusion in my senior essay for Environmental Studies, which will be written about the interplay between development concentrations (“activity nodes”) and transportation behavior. I have been interested at understanding how the spatial distributions of these nodes can be conducive to transit development and alternative transportation use. In addition, I want to know more about how various morphological changes to these areas (increase in density, mixed-use character (the characteristic TOD)) and alterations in transit service are affecting people’s behavior. Broadly, I want to understand how American metro areas might be made more sustainable by directing development and transportation investments, and slowly decreasing urban and suburban auto dependence.
The major transit investments being made in American cities right now are light-rail lines, overwhelmingly. In deciding where to go, I wanted to look at a place with an established (and expanding) system, and a place that is just trying to get a system off the drawing board. I chose to look at Denver, a leader in light rail transit, and at Kansas City, perennially voting on a light rail initiative.
This summer, I worked for two different governmental institutions, for the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) in Kansas City, and for the City and County of Denver. During four weeks at MARC, I analyzed five potential rapid transit corridors on metrics of walkability and (re)development potential; these are the corridors that MARC submitted as part of stimulus funding requests this fall. During five weeks in Denver, I visited almost every operating light rail station, and analyzed many future station areas as part of RTD’s FasTracks expansion program; this work will help underpin an update of Denver’s Transit-Oriented Development Strategic Plan.
Preliminary analysis shows that Denver’s concentrated employment agglomerations in the CBD and along I-25 to the Southeast increase transit usage by providing a critical mass for enhanced transit service (light rail), and because this concentration has made area freeways heavily congested. A vibrant downtown helps as well, because most downtown workers can walk to lunch and other conveniences within the mixed-use CBD. Consequently, employment markets that are spread very diffusely across the Kansas City metro area make transit service inefficient and unattractive to the vast majority of travelers. However, downtown revitalization and job growth in the core have led to the adoption of new transit service, which has slowly improved KCATA’s image in the region.
For more information, and for pictures (coming soon), please visit the website I set up for my senior thesis, http://www.activitynodes.org. A blog is being updated with thoughts at http://www.activitynodes.org/blog
Rachel Harris, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - Cynthia Horan (Political Science)
Miami21: National Ideals Meet Local Demands in Urban Form (12 weeks, Miami, FL)
Miami21: National Ideals Meet Local Demands in Urban Form
Rachel Harris, Environmental Studies '10
This summer I interned at the City of Miami Planning Department. In 2005 the City of Miami launched Miami21, a plan to make the city more environmental and pedestrian friendly. The major component of Miami21 has been a new zoning code for the city with the same name and I focused my summer research on this code.
The current zoning code of the city, Zoning Ordinance 11000, is a use-based code like most codes in cities in the United States. A use-based code divides the land of the city into large sections which have certain permitted uses. For example, single-family residential, multifamily-residential, business, office, and industrial, are typical uses. Use-based codes generally force housing to be distant from work and entertainment environments and thus demand that residents use cars to get around, encouraging sprawl. Walking around in Miami is impractical since streets and businesses cater to the automobile with small sidewalks, large parking lots, and buildings without street frontage.
In contrast to the use-based code, the form-based code takes the form of the city as its primary focus. For buildings and lots the code specifies building regulations that create a pedestrian friendly city. For example wide sidewalks, buildings with street frontage, parking lots in back, and awnings are all demanded by the code. Yet the code also specifies a form for the city as a whole that creates areas that are more or less dense. This city-wide form is based on the concept of the transect taken from ecology. A transect is a line drawn across time or space showing transitions in physical form. Miami21 divides the city into “transect zones.” Each transect zone represents a mix between natural form and built form. There are six transect zones with each allowing progressively denser built form and correspondingly less natural environment. Transect zones are arranged in the city so that density transitions are progressive. The code also uses the ecological concept of succession to guide change in the city. Transect zone changes are only allowed to occur at certain periods and thus ensure that city officials will consider the whole city when making changes to a single part of it.
During my internship I was able to become very familiar with Miami21 and with the process of its creation. While I interned the code went for a vote to City Commission and I attended the meeting and heard what citizens felt about the code and learned who its primary supporters and detractors were. Just in the past month the code finally passed.
I am continuing to research the code and its development. Miami21 will now govern the further development of Miami and hence will be an integral part of the urban ecology of Miami. I am very interested in the fact that a code referencing ecology will govern the ecology of the city. For my senior thesis I will address this “self-aware” aspect of the code and will write on how this code developed ecologically and try to place it in the urban ecology of Miami.
Kathy Hughes, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - Oswald Schmitz (F&ES)
How Does Habitat Structural Complexity Influence the Strength of Predator Prey Interactions? (15 weeks, Yale Myers Forest, CT)
How Does Habitat Structural Complexity Influence the Strength of Predator Prey Interactions?
Kathy Hughes, Environmental Studies '10
This summer at Yale-Myers forest in northeastern Connecticut, under the guidance of Professor Schmitz, I investigated how the interactions between predator and prey change with increased habitat structural complexity. The study organisms included the generalist grasshopper herbivore Melanopuls femurrubrum and its spider predator Pisaurina mira, the grass Poa pratensis and the herb Solidago rugosa (Schmitz 2008) whose leafy structure creates the habitat complexity within the system. I hypothesized that altering the structural complexity of vegetation will alter the behavioral interaction between spiders and grasshoppers. Further, I predicted that increased structural complexity will reduce the indirect positive effect of Pisaurina mira on the system’s vegetation by allowing the grasshopper, Melanopuls femurrubrum,to forage more efficiently and ultimately affecting plant abundance and diversity.
Habitat complexity is of particular importance to conservation because it has the potential to dramatically alter the relationships and interactions between predator and prey species and ecosystems in general. Habitat complexity can modify the effect of predators on herbivores and their effect on plants. Due to the direct and indirect effects of habitat complexity, it is essential to study predator prey interactions in complex habitats in order to implement successful conservation measures. Differing degrees of habitat complexity can change the relationships species have with one another; thus, conservationists need to pay particular attention to habitat complexity and the underlying mechanisms of food chain interactions.
I have collected and entered all of the data for the experiment that took place this summer; however I have yet to begin analysis on my data. So thus far I do not have any conclusions to provide. This fall I will be conducting statistical analysis on the data as well as writing up a scientific article for publication.
Based on my knowledge of existing literature and theory, I believe results of this study might encourage conservationists protecting predator and prey species to employ ecosystem management, particularly focusing on food chain and ecosystem functions. When protecting a species, conservationists should take into consideration the species’ habitat requirements and preferences. Many factors influence habitat preference, the factors this study focuses on include habitat complexity, safety, and nutrition. Thus, I advocate looking at the bigger picture of species interactions in order to determine the best conservation management strategy.
Brittney Kajdacsi, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology '11, Faculty Advisor - Gisella Caccone (E&EB)
Extinction may not be Forever: Rescuing Lonesome George Lineage
(8 weeks, New Haven, CT; 2 weeks, Galapagos)
Extinction may not be Forever: Rescuing Lonesome George Lineage
Brittney Kajdacsi, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '10
My summer consisted of two months of molecular lab work and three weeks in the Galápagos working for the Galápagos National Park on Santa Cruz. The three weeks in Galápagos split the lab work into June and August. My July was spent writing a manuscript for the Pinta island tortoise restoration plan. Lonesome George, the last giant tortoise from this island resides at the Charles Darwin Research Station and serves as an international symbol for conservation efforts.
The lab work took place in Gisella Caccone’s lab. I aided in the ongoing genetic analysis of 1667 giant tortoise individuals from the island of Isabela on the Wolf volcano. I spent my time sequencing the ~700bp control region in the mitochondrial genome of individuals. I followed that with the necessary sequence editing. The genetic analyses continue into this fall with microsatellite analysis not finished during the summer. Pending completion of the genetic analyses, a field expedition will round up PIT tagged individuals of interest.
These tortoises on Wolf are unique due to the prevalence of hybrids due to dropping of tortoises at this northern point of the archipelago as sailors stopped after visiting smaller islands. In a previous study containing 27 individuals a male F1 hybrid with Pinta ancestry was discovered on Wolf. Therefore, this study expands the sample size to screen for additional F1 hybrids, especially females, of Lonesome George’s lineage. These hybrids can be bred with Lonesome George or used in captive breeding efforts. With selective breeding more and more of the Pinta genomic history can be uncovered, and the island repatriated with its tortoises.
My time at the Galápagos involved the conservation side of this project with the Pinta restoration plan manuscript. While there is the possibility of breeding Lonesome George and any hybrids of Pinta ancestry identified in this study, repopulation of Pinta with tortoises is a time sensitive issue and these approaches, while conserving the evolutionary history of the island, could take decades to produce any effect. The vegetation and giant tortoises were decimated after the introduction of goats to Pinta, and now that the goats have been eradicated the island vegetation is rapidly recovering. This causes concern since the island now lacks an herbivore to keep rapidly growing vegetation in check while aiding slower growing endemic species in germinating by dispersal, seed scarification, etc. A plan for repopulation of Pinta in the next couple years had to be synthesized from all the recent proposals by those involved in the project. Furthermore, this plan had to be open to the possibility of repatriation with tortoises of Pinta ancestry, from Lonesome George or selected hybrids, while giving a practical, ecological strategy for the coming years.
I wrote a plan dividing this process into phases. The first includes preliminary research and analysis of the ecological state of Pinta and the population used to repopulate. The repopulate population should have the saddleback morphology of native Pinta tortoises. If reproductive adults repopulate, practical and budget considerations should be made regarding removing the introduced tortoises should introducing tortoises of Pinta ancestry become feasible. During this stage a monitoring framework for the island vegetation and tortoise population would also be established and tested. The second phase involves the quarantine and relocation of the tortoise population. The third phase consists of continued monitoring and management. In the background of each of these phases breeding efforts to recover Pinta genomic history through Lonesome George and the Wolf-Pinta hybrids would be continued. Thus this plan incorporates the genetic work I have been and continue to do here at Yale, demonstrating the multifaceted nature of conservation.
William Kletter, Political Science '10, Faculty Advisor - Graeme Auld (Political Science)
Corporate Social Responsibility Asia - Bulldogs Program in Singapore
(8 weeks, Singapore)
Corporate Social Responsibility Asia - Bulldogs Program in Singapore
William Kletter, Political Science '10
My research this summer focused on the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is more than simply philanthropy – it’s about a strategic engagement with key stakeholders to enhance or protect a company’s brand. I worked at CSR Asia which provides consulting services for businesses to understand the CSR issue and improve their engagement in this area. My work involved performing research for our annual CSR Asia Barometer, essentially an annual report card of sorts. We examined the top 20 companies by market capitalization across nearly every major Asian stock exchange and rated them on a scale from 0 to 2 (0 for criteria not met, 1 for somewhat and 2 for ideal) in 51 categories. I performed all the research for the Hong Kong exchange and half of the research for Singapore. It is important to note that our research was about disclosure, so we looked at only publicly available data such as Annual Reports and Sustainability Reports. Our reasoning for this is that a company is not disclosing a certain CSR program, they clearly do not understand it’s value to their business. The metrics were divided into 7 categories: Corporate Governance, CSR Strategy, Health and Safety, Marketplace (Suppliers/Contractors), Workplace, Environment and Community Investment.
Another interesting trend was which kind of companies tended to score better. Petroleum companies tended score better across the board versus financial companies. We believe that this has to do with the fact that because the petroleum sector is filled with many CSR risks – from environmental damage to the more extreme cases of abuse of indigenous populations – that companies in that sector more actively manage their reputation than financial services companies. It will be interesting to examine the Barometer next year and see if banks have improved their CSR as they have entered the media spotlight. In terms of the preliminary conclusions I would draw, I’d say there are several. Firstly, companies will not engage in CSR if they operate in countries – like China or Singapore – which have politically/socially inactive populations, often resulting from press restrictions. Secondly, companies that are more concerned about brand – such as international companies – will more actively seek to manage that brand by thorough engagement in CSR. Finally, we found many companies that are attempting to engage in CSR but often fail to link socially positive activity with branding opportunities, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the CSR issue.
Peter Lu, Economics '11, Faculty Advisor - Paula Resch (English)
The Economics of Sustainable Farming at the Bilsa Biological Station, Ecuador
(12 weeks, Ecuador)
The Economics of Sustainable Farming at the Bilsa Biological Station, Ecuador
Peter Lu, Economics '11
This summer the Environmental Studies Fellowship for Research and Study gave me the incredible opportunity to work at the Bilsa Biological Station, 30 kilometers inland from the coastline of Ecuador.
I spent my time at Bilsa doing two projects. The first project was compiling a comprehensive survey of all the different fruit and hardwood species at the agro-forestry complex in order to detail rates of growth for different species. The day-to-day work in the agro-forestry reserve taught me a lot about farming models and the frame with which to look at the local farmers. I helped the ‘guardabosques’ (reserve workers) hand pick seeds, made and mixed compost, took care of seedlings germinating in the greenhouse, and transplanted saplings. While I learned new methods of composting (for example, using rice kernels when there isn’t sand), water collection methods (place the trunk of a banana tree uphill of a sapling to provide constant source of water), and a bit of proper agro-forestry (the fruit achontillo works well in clay soil underneath banana trees), the most important lesson I took away from my work was that people to people interactions have to be established before anything can be taught.
The main question I was trying to answer during the 2nd month of my stay at Bilsa was how feasible a cacao cooperative was in the region. Visiting the nearby villages, my first observation was the layout of the community: with a lack of public infrastructure, there were no roads, and thus the real ‘town’ consisted of adjacent plots of farmland with a general store and a soccer field ensconced in the middle. In the cacao farms, I worked maintaining the trees: cutting the suckers, removing fungus, and harvesting. I experimented with the process of producing chocolate too, which takes many steps: shelling the seeds, drying them, grinding the beans into a bitter purple paste, and then baking it into real chocolate. From interviews with the community, I learned that if a cooperative can only be organized when there is someone extremely dedicated who will work for years to change the public perception. Once that’s accomplished, he needs to have the prerequisite skill set in management, finance, and Spanish to give the fledgling cooperative any chance to succeed.
Working in a biological station with a high rate of endemism and hundreds of rare species created one more dilemma for me: is economic development even necessary? There is a fine line juggling forest conservation and improving economic conditions. With economic improvement (building a factory close to areas of production, building a cement road for vehicle transportation) comes increased living standards, but also new problems to the area’s ecology. It is impossible think of the rainforest as a separate entity from the farmland and development that surrounds it—despite us foreigners trying to protect the rainforest, it belongs, first and foremost, to the people who actually live there. I want to thank the Environmental Studies department for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to explore a field I’ve always been interested in. My trip to Ecuador was amazing—I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about the intricacies of farming in the tropics.
Julia Lurie, Environmental Studies '11, Faculty Advisor - J. Gustave Speth (F&ES)
Indian Youth Climate Network - Climate Solutions Project (8 weeks, New Delhi, India)
Indian Youth Climate Network - Climate Solutions Project
Julia Lurie, Environmental Studies '11
I traveled to Delhi this summer to work with the Indian Youth Climate Network on spreading awareness about climate change through on-the-ground projects to reduce the city´s emissions. However, upon arriving in Delhi it is immediately obvious that there are many more pressing problems that Delhi´s citizens face other than the illusive climate change. Millions of people live on less than $1 per day. Even in the realm of environmental problems, any visitor to Delhi can see that waste management is quickly becoming a city crisis, with waste lining the streets, clogging gutters and causing flooding, and completely filling 12 of Delhi´s 14 (all unofficial) landfills. With IYCN, I worked on two projects that focused on creating sustainable livelihoods and minimizing Delhi´s waste in the short run, and reduced emissions in the long run. Both projects aimed to create livelihoods especially for women as well as to formalize the wastepicking profession, which, while technically illegal in Delhi, provides the city´s only recycling system. In the first project, we marketed eco-products in which wastepickers or other low-income citizens used waste as a resource to create valuable products, from bags and wallets to trash cans and blankets. At the end of my time in Delhi, we had a stall at one of Delhi´s main markets in which these citizens were selling their products. The second project worked to implement decentralized, local waste management systems, in which wastepickers would be employed to pick up segregated waste from households or stores. The organic waste would be brought to a local biogas or composting plant, and the wastepickers would keep the recyclables. By the end of two months, we had four communities (each with over 1500 residents) that were seriously interested in taking on this model in their community, willing hosts of the organic waste management system in each community, support from Delhi government officials, an agreement to work with another Delhi-based non-profit that formalizes the wastepicking profession and mobilizes wastepickers, and a grant from the America India Foundation that would fund the project in all four communities.
Nisa Marks, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology '10, Faculty Advisor - David Skelly (F&ES)
Gene Flow and Temperature Dependent Development in Wood Frogs
(16 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Gene Flow and Temperature Dependent Development in Wood Frogs
Nisa Marks, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '10
I am completing a senior project in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department that uses molecular techniques to investigate the extent of migration and gene flow among populations of wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) in northeastern Connecticut. This project closely ties into other Skelly lab work that investigates the extent of phenotypic adaptation of frogs to their local environment. Further, it is part of a larger effort to understand the genetics underlying observed phenotypic trends and the relationship between local adaptation and gene flow. Finally, if the technique I am using can illuminate the impact of various landscape factors on population structure and adaptation over micro spatial and temporal scales, it could be used to develop and revise conservation strategies for species with limited available genomic information.
My analysis will be based on Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLPs), a genetic technique that generates many DNA fragments of random length by performing a restriction enzyme digest of full genomic DNA, followed by two nested PCR amplifications using selective primers to limit the number of fragments under consideration. Because of mutations changing the number of enzyme recognition sequences, each individual has a unique combination of fragments of different lengths. These mutations are heritable. Consequently, individuals from populations with random mating tend to share similar signatures in fragment analysis, while populations that do not interbreed diverge and have distinctive signatures. Statistical analysis of individuals from different populations can thus reveal the extent of gene flow among populations. Information about gene flow can then be paired with phenotypic measurements to consider cryptic variation, the importance of selection at various life cycle stages, and the relationship between migration and local adaptation.
Early this summer, I spent time in the field reciprocal transplant experiments to test the extent of phenotypic adaptation in temperature-dependent development rates in wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). I spent the majority of the summer in lab troubleshooting the AFLP protocol for these same species. The troubleshooting process includes optimizing DNA concentrations from extractions, development of appropriate PCR protocols, and appropriate preparation of the DNA for fragment analysis. Despite the amount of time I spent in lab this summer, I have not yet finished optimizing the AFLP protocol. This will be one of my objectives for the upcoming year, during which I will finish my research. To help me with the troubleshooting process, I met with professors at Dartmouth and McGill universities, who gave me valuable insight on everything from protocol recommendations to theoretical considerations that shape my analyses. These opportunities to travel and speak with foremost experts in the field of molecular ecology benefited me hugely both in accomplishing my project goals and in giving me perspective on long-term career possibilities. Overall, this summer was only the beginning of a yearlong research process, the final product of which will be my senior thesis.
Julia Meisel, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science)
Yale Dining Services and Sustainable Food Project (12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Yale Dining Services and Sustainable Food Project
Julia Meisel, Environmental Studies '10
I spent this summer in the Yale Office of Sustainability as a Clean Air-Cool Planet fellow studying sustainable food and dining at Yale. Clean Air-Cool Planet is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding and promoting solutions to global warming. My position was part of Clean Air-Cool Planet’s CHEFS (Charting Emissions from Food Services) project which seeks to identify the sources and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions from institutional dining operations. I worked with Yale Dining, the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and life cycle assessment researchers to identify the tradeoffs Yale faces in making its food and dining more sustainable, and I produced a report with framework recommendations for moving forward. Yale can achieve further sustainability in dining by adopting a modular approach when making changes and by drawing on the university’s resources for collaboration.
Jennifer Pan, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - Rob Bailis (F&ES)
A Study on Algae Biofuel: Internship with the National Resources Defense Council
(10 weeks, New York, NY)
A Study on Algae Biofuel: Internship with the National Resources Defense Council
Jennifer Pan, Environmental Studies '10
Amidst our struggling search for another source of fuel, there has been a growing interest in the potential for algae biofuel and algae biodiesel. It has been a promising consideration as a future fuel since it is relatively easy to grow compared to other biofuels such as corn and even soy. With just a source of carbon dioxide, wastewater, and decent sun exposure, algae can grow efficiently for biofuel production. However, recent developments in algae biofuel have not been at a commercial scale and there are still many challenges to overcome before it becomes a viable source of fuel.
Since this is still a relatively new research interest for biofuel companies and academic institutions, all the data and information is tentative. Therefore, this summer, I worked with the renewable fuels area of the Natural Resources Defense Council of New York to focus on a specific area of interest: carbon capture and the carbon map of the algae biofuel process. Algae require an enormous amount of carbon dioxide to grow at the rates desired and there has been a lot of investment in capturing carbon dioxide flue gas from power plants for algae production. At algae biofuel’s early stage, information about algae carbon capture technologies along with any literature has been pretty accessible since it is rather limited, except for the ones who had private investors. So after I compiled a detailed list of the different technologies, I contacted the respective companies and/or research institutions to better understand the techniques they are using.
After understanding the basic technologies for algae carbon capture, I continued my attempt to get more detailed data for a complete carbon map of the biofuel production process (from the power plant to the biofuel’s combustion). My advisor from the NRDC, Cai Steger, worked with me to get in contact with people from several of those companies but as we expected, not many were willing to talk specifics. I was able to speak with two companies in depth about their process. Sapphire Energy’s Tim Zenk, spoke with me about their progress with an algae farm at a New Mexico power plant. Although he was not willing to tell me what method they had for capturing the carbon, he did share with me their LCA of carbon dioxide per MJ of fuel consumed. Results showed that at the end of the process from start to beginning, approximately 72 g of CO2 per MJ of fuel consumed can be taken from a source and 74 g of CO2 will be released during combustion. This shows that algae biofuel production is a carbon neutral process. A separate company, the Arizona Public Service (APS), once worked with Greenfuel Technologies and has recently been granted funds from the Department of Energy to develop a reproducible way of capturing carbon dioxide and creating algae biodiesel. APS’s current technology is at a very small scale, capturing CO2 with a slip stream pipe and feeding it to relatively small amount of algae. They emphasized that there was still a long way to go in terms of the perfect technology for a smooth algae biofuel producing method.
I was able to create two basic carbon maps for both the Sapphire Energy and APS method but there are many questions and holes in the map. My advisor Cai and I both decided that algae’s novelty makes it difficult to obtain solid data and instead has caused me to start considering other aspects of algae’s needs such as land usage. Perhaps I can continue working on a more analytical level and look into the different environmental impacts algae farms may have on the surroundings.
Maclovia Quintana, Environmental Studies '11, Faculty Advisor - Melina Shannon-DiPietro (Yale Sustainable Food Project) Practical Permaculture for Sustainable Farming and Gardening in New Mexico course at the Permaculture Institute (3 weeks, NM)
Practical Permaculture for Sustainable Farming and Gardening in New Mexico course at the
Maclovia Quintana, Environmental Studies '11
This summer I spent a total of fifteen days in an intensive Permaculture Design Certification course at the Seeds of Change Organic Farms outside of Santa Fe, NM. Permaculture is an ecological design system based on patterns found in nature. It is not limited to farming and gardening, but extends to homebuilding, landscape and ecosystem design, and the creation of functional and sustainable communities. The objective of the course, according to our primary instructor, Scott Pittman, was to “reclaim sustainability.”
Permaculture, an ideology created by Australian Bill Mollison in the 1970s, is based on the idea that nature provides the best example for sustainable human endeavors. Using basic principles found in natural systems, permaculture outlines a series of design methodologies and techniques that can be used in creating anything from gardens to landscapes to businesses. Above all, permaculture is based on three ethics: care of the Earth, care of people, and the return of all excess.
Our classes took the form of a series of lectures by experts on basic permaculture design, rainwater harvesting, and community building, interspersed with hands on projects. At the end of the course, we were each responsible for a design project, which served as a synthesis of everything we had learned. The aim of the project was to create a permaculture design for a historic home on a desert piece of land, focusing on energy efficiency, food self-sufficiency, and general livability. Our final design included a home retrofitted with high-efficiency appliances, new windows and insulation, and a solar energy system; a garden full of fruit trees and edible plants; and an extensive rainwater catchment and storage system. This site would produce much of its own food, use very little water aside from rainwater, and would enjoy considerable money savings in the long run from the use of more efficient appliances and solar energy. Furthermore, the quality of life on the site would be greatly improved. Our design demonstrated how an old home on a neglected piece of desert land could become a comfortable living nestled in a verdant and productive landscape.
I feel that these permaculture classes were immensely valuable. They have really changed—for the better—the way I think about sustainability, growing food, and creating living spaces. One of the most appealing things about permaculture is that it makes so much sense. By using permaculture guidelines, one can create a productive “food forest” that is also a low-maintenance ecosystem due to the self-regulating nature of the design. Permaculture designs and techniques also can be applied to many things besides gardening and landscaping. They function as a sensible approach to businesses, communities, and myriad other issues. I would recommend learning about permaculture to anyone, and I hope to continue my study of permaculture in the future.
Matthew Ramlow, Environmental Studies '11, Faculty Advisor - Mark Pagani (G&G)
Hydrology of the Palocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Hydrology of the Palocene Eocene Thermal Maximum
Matthew Ramlow, Environmental Studies '11
This summer I use to the Environmental Studies Summer Fellowship to help research in Mark Pagani’s geochemistry lab studying Earth’s past climate dynamics with grad student Srinath Krishnan. The research was focused on the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) which was a major geological event that occurred 55 million years ago. During the PETM global temperatures rapidly increase 2-3°C and there were major extinctions in the plankton living in Earth’s sea and a significant shift in mammal species giving rise to the orders we see existing today. The PETM also exhibits a negative carbon isotope excursion which indicates a large and sudden release of carbon into the atmosphere. Our research was designed to investigate the hydrology of different global regions to gain a better perspective how a rapid greenhouse gas induced warming event could affect water resources.
How exactly do you study the global hydrology 55 million years? Well it involves many sediment cores from all across the globe, very complex instruments that love to break down, lots of chemistry, and plenty of patience. Srinath, the graduate student I was assisting, had obtained cores that other researchers had previously studied, dated, and identified as being deposited during the PETM. We took samples from the layers of each core and crushed them down into fine particles. Using various chemical techniques we would extract the ancient organic molecules and separate out the alkanes which were the most pertinent molecules to the hydrology of the region. We then used a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) system to tell us the isotope values of the hydrogen and oxygen in the sample.
Stable isotope values are a key way to study the geological history because they preserve a signature of the sources of the different elements. In our research the isotope values revealed the water sources because hydrological processes such as precipitation leave a particular ratio of isotopes for each element. We only fully processed the samples which were chemically determined to have been terrestrial sources at the time of the PETM (using carbon preference index calculations). These terrestrial sources therefore received most all of their water through rainfall so by investigating their hydrogen and oxygen isotopes we could reconstruct the hydrology of different global regions. Unfortunately I was assisting Srinath in his early data collection phases of the research so we did not have enough data to start drawing conclusions about global hydrology of the PETM. However this summer research was an invaluable experience that will help me formulate my future studies, senior project, and career pathway.
Aaron Reiss, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - James Scott (Political Science)
Greening Sprawl: Methods for Reconciling the American Dream with the Modern Sustainability Movement
(3 weeks, India; 5 weeks, Ithaca, NY)
Greening Sprawl: Methods for Reconciling the American Dream with the Modern Sustainability Movement
Aaron Reiss, Environmental Studies '10
My interest is in the rapid increase of suburban developments across the United States. Assuming that the demand for suburban housing will not significantly change in the near future, the goal of my research was to investigate ways that this popular method of development can lower it’s ecological impact. To do this, I decided to focus on intentional communities called ecovillages, which have gained popularity over the last 30 years as alternative suburban models. Ecovillages are broadly defined as housing developments intentionally built around common values in community and sustainable living. I became interested in these communities as alternative models for suburban development. My broad research question became: In what ways can new suburban developments utilize strategies employed by ecovillages to lower their ecological footprint.
The Environmental Studies Fellowship Program generously allowed for me to visit two of the most well established ecovilages in the world: a 1,800 person community called Auroville on the southwest coast of India and a 180 person community called Ecovillage at Ithaca in upstate New York. In India I gained a sense for the more foundational example of ecovillage living. Formed in the late 1960’s and currently one of the largest ecovillages in the world, the citizens of Auroville had reforested hundreds of acres of what was clear-cut forest. I spent my time here talking to residents, going through the community archives and meeting with planning officials at town hall. At my main research site, Ecovillage at Ithaca (EVI), I spent a month living with different residents, attending planning meetings, conducting in-depth interviews and distributing surveys. I learned about the daily struggles, frustrations, and sacrifices that residents faced by living in a suburban development with a relatively high density. I also spent time combing the archives at EVI for maps and data sets concerning wildlife migration and habitation patterns, biodiversity, water flow and accumulation, soil quality, etc. Additionally, some of my most fascinating research was done in investigating the legal hurdles that the community had to clear in order to build high-density housing outside of city limits. I conducted interviews with the attorney that handled EVI’s legal matters, the community founders, architects, the city attorney and the town planner. My learning here has been most interesting: by clustering homes, EVI and Auroville managed to preserve large tracts of land as untouched wilderness that would otherwise have been cut up, mowed down, or possibly paved over by typical suburban development. If suburbs are going to continue to take over ‘greenfield’ sites, analysis of the data I collected this summer will help be explore how EVI could provide a model for how to make density more livable and how to preserve valuable wilderness during development.
My time at these two sites was incredible. It was stimulating, challenging and enjoyable. As my introduction to formal, independent research my funding allowed me to spend my summer developing new skills in research methods: learning to draft surveys, conduct interviews, and frame a topic. I would certainly recommend this experience to other students as a fun and supported way to introduce them to formal academia.
Christopher Shirley, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisors - Carol Carpenter (F&ES) and Sandra Luckow (Theater Studies) Bike Collectives: A New Radical Model for Change (8 weeks, New York, NY)
Bike Collectives: A New Radical Model for Change
Christopher Shirley, Environmental Studies '10
In light of the summer experiences of some of my friends back home, I realized how incredilbe privlegded I am for beinging rewarded the EVST Department grant to chart my academic summer. I was able traverse and explore wide experiential terrain that would have been unattainable without the help of the department. This last summer, I was given a chance to stay in Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY and study the bike cooperative movement that was thriving throughout the metro region of New York City. As my senior research has developed, I have decided to use documentary to answer my senior thesis, which would is absolutely enriching and challenging endeavor to undertake in my last years at Yale.
The project began with my general interests in bikes as pure and true form of transportation for the 21st century (transits being important to me because it's one of the most direct and manipulated choices that consumers have to cut greenhouse gas emissions). Also, the bike resists the high modernist approach to problem solving by demonstrating that the many of the world's problems are from developments that created larger problems than they solved. For me the bike is a symbol of human's potential create the perfect machine and not be satisfied with it. This is of course a romantic view, but there are few things in this world for me that inspire and symbolize hope the way that the bike does.
I spent these last several years trying to understand and articulate my love for said machine, and I then discovered that documentary and video work itself is the one tool that could actually come close to bringing that to fruition. The motion picture was what I was going to use to study the bike in all it's glory! Furthermore, I was going to study bike cooperatives and collectives as they address one of my main concerns of the bike which is inaccessablity and possible stagnation in the status quo. Bike cooperatives, I found, were groups that worked collectively to teach the art of bicycle repair and maintenance, and to provide the bikes and tools for such a task. They are volunteer run and not-for-profit, which matched my altruistic dreams of someday building a gift economy free from the burdens of capitalism. So I had my work ahead of me to study to the fullest these institutions (in one way by actually starting one together with others in New Haven).
This summer I filmed with diligence and under the guidance of the Paper Tiger Media Collective. I documented the life and trails of four different bike collectives in NYC metro area, conducting interviews, filming events, and participating at most of the locations. Now, I am working on editing together a compelling documentary that tells the story of these cooperatives in an uncompormising and fresh way. I hope to then submit my film to film festivals around the world (surprisingly, there over a half dozen solely bike film festivals). I am in deep thanks to the Environemental Studies grant for making this all possible.
Adrianne Smits, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '10, Faculty Advisor - David Skelly (F&ES)
Urban/Suburban Proximity as a Possible Cause of Sexual Deformity in Amphibians
(12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Urban/Suburban Proximity as a Possible Cause of Sexual Deformity in Amphibians
Adrianne Smits, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '10
Amphibians are currently in decline worldwide, for a myriad of reasons, but current research has linked the pharmaceuticals present in human wastewater, especially estrogenic compounds, with sexual deformities and hermaphroditism in fish and amphibians. That trace concentrations of these compounds fundamentally alter the sexual development of these vertebrate groups is important on a conservation level and as a public health concern. Their effects on humans are unknown. Widely spread amphibians such as green frogs on the east coast of the United States inhabit the same water that is eventually used by humans for drinking and for agriculture; they are therefore an ideal model organism to study the effects of this contamination—a modern ‘canary in a coalmine’. Levels of estrogenic compounds in surface water and groundwater are often higher in urban and suburban areas, and a field study conducted by the Skelly lab at Yale confirmed that rates of sexual deformity, specifically the presence of testicular oocytes in the testes of male green frogs, correspond with proximity to urban and suburban land use. This summer I conducted a field survey in the greater Hartford area of Connecticut to investigate the relationship between urban proximity and rates of sexual deformity in green frogs (Rana clamitans). I measured the levels of wastewater contamination present in suburban and urban ponds and collected adult male green frogs from ponds with varying concentrations of contamination. During the next academic year I will dissect the male frogs I collected to look for testicular oocytes (eggs growing in the testes). I will also test all the ponds I visited for estrogenic compounds, natural and artificial, as well as for herbicides and pesticides. Hopefully this data will allow me to discern the relationship, if any, between amphibian sexual deformities and contamination of their habitats by wastewater. I would be thrilled if my research this summer contributed in some way to the health of these animals and to the quality of our water.
Denise Soesilo, Environmental Studies '11, Faculty Advisor - Thomas Graedel (F&ES)
Cell Phone Recycling in the European Union under the WEEE Directive
(12 weeks, Germany)
Cell Phone Recycling in the European Union under the WEEE Directive
Denise Soesilo, Environmental Studies '10
This summer I spent 8 weeks in Germany researching the implementation of the German electronics law. Since 2005, Germany has had in place strict regulations to ensure the safe and environmentally friendly disposal of electronics. Despite these laws, there are constant reports of large amounts of “high tech” wastes illegally escaping Germany to be processed and disposed of in the backyards of third world nations. This illegal escape of electronic wastes causes great concern: once these electronics escape the country’s regulation, cheap and improper disposal puts the health of entire communities of workers and ecosystems at risk by exposure to toxicants released by the burning of these hazardous wastes in open furnaces. In addition, once high tech wastes have been discarded, it is next to impossible to retrieve scarce and valuable metals contained within circuit boards of electronics.
I spent most of my summer conducting research in Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, which operates the largest sea port in Europe. Hamburg is a notorious site for such illegal shipments and seemed to be a good place to start out with my research. Within the 2 months, I conducted interviews with electronics dealers, members of research and environmental organizations, as well as staff of government agencies that are responsible for oversight of the proper recycling of electronics. In addition I was able to gain access to Germany’s state university library system to search for relevant documents and papers I was unable to previously access through the Yale library.
Information that I was able to attain via interviews and documents from the library were especially helpful in helping me understand the confusing laws and the apparatus that is in place to administer these laws. After I had gained a solid understanding of the formalities and administration structure, I focused my research on finding out about the actual implementation of the laws. I was hoping to find out whether a legal loophole or other factors contribute to the large flux of illegal shipments out of the country via Hamburg’s seaport.
My preliminary findings (pending further analysis) towards this goal look very promising. In my conversations and interviews I found evidence that cellular phone companies, possibly in order to save recycling costs, preferentially donate old and used cell phones to charitable organizations. But I also found that it is difficult for these charitable organizations to profit from most old cell phone devices unless these are processed abroad. This fact then leads to the question of where these cellular phones actually end up.
I found that discount traders often purchase old cell phones en masse to sell them to another contact person at the seaport. It is known that exporters then ship out these hazardous wastes illegally by either not declaring their shipments as what they are or by falsely labeling this waste as second hand ware. The export restrictions imposed by the electronics recycling law only apply to wastes but not to merchandize of second hand products. As a result electronic wastes are shipped out under the label of second hand products right under the nose of government agencies.
Currently I am working to determine whether a link between these charitable organizations and the port shipments can be established.
Peter Thompson, Undeclared '12, Faculty Advisor - David Post (E&EB)
Applying Eco-Evolutionary Mechanisms to the Morphology and Foraging Behavior of Bluegills in the Lakes of Southern New England
(12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Applying Eco-Evolutionary Mechanisms to the Morphology and Foraging Behavior of Bluegills in the Lakes of Southern New England
Peter Thompson, Undeclared '12
This summer, I worked for Yale’s Post Lab, a research lab focused on the interactions between evolution and ecology in the ponds and lakes of southern New England. As an undergraduate research assistant, I assisted the research efforts of several postdoctoral and doctoral students in Professor Post’s lab at the same time. While questions investigated ranged from the evolution of mouth shapes and sizes in bluegill sunfish to the habitats of predatory fish and the distribution of plankton in the water column, all studies investigated these questions using the same independent variable: the presence and speciation of alewives. Most of the Post Lab’s prior work revolved around the evolution of alewives into two distinct species, anadromous (migratory) and landlocked (non-migratory), and that variation’s effects on plankton size and distribution via trophic cascades (the effects of an evolutionary shift in one species on evolution in other species further up or down the food chain). This summer, the lab attempted to establish similar
connections between alewife evolution and evolutionary morphology and behavior in sunfish and predatory fish, and to a lesser degree between alewife evolution and plankton community structure.
The first of the two postdocs I worked with for the majority of the summer, Dr. Jakob Broderson, hypothesized several differences between predator distribution and morphology between anadromous and landlocked alewife lakes—that predatory fish were more likely to be found in the pelagic zone of lakes with landlocked alewives than in the pelagic zone of lakes with anadromous or no alewives, and that the predatory fish in landlocked-alewife lakes would have evolved body shapes more suited to hunting in the pelagic zone (in particular, a shorter, more streamlined body better for swimming quickly through open water.
The second postdoc I worked with, Dr. Jen Howeth, proposed that the greater presence of alewives in landlocked lakes force sunfish (in particular, bluegill and pumpkinseed) to a) evolve narrower gill raker spacings to take advantage of the modified plankton community structure and b) restrict their habitat to the littoral zone, where they do not have to compete with alewives for plankton. To investigate both of these sets of questions, we went on a set of surveys intended to collect a large amount of data on each lake we studied related to species abundance and morphology and water quality. These surveys generally consisted of taking water and plankton samples as well as collecting our light penetration, dissolved oxygen, and temperature data in the late afternoon (while plankton were near the surface);
electroshocking the littoral zone to capture a representative sample of littoral fish (using our electroshock boat); and fishing using both a purse sein and gill nets in the pelagic zone to capture a representative sample of pelagic fish. Three surveys in total were taken: one in early May as the adult anadromous alewives were spawning, one in early June after they had left and the juvenile alewife were born, and one in August after they had substantially grown. The massive amount of data we collected is just now beginning to be processed, but I would like to continue to aid the Lab in analyzing the data for this semester.
Michele Trickey, Physics '10, Faculty Advisor - Ron Smith (G&G)
Precipitation Dynamics on the Dry Ecuadorian Coast (2 weeks, Ecuador)
Precipitation Dynamics on the Dry Ecuadorian Coast
Michele Trickey, Physics '10
This summer, with the support of the Environmental Studies Summer Fellowship, I was able to return for three weeks to coastal Ecuador, gathering information and building relationships relevant to my senior thesis in atmospheric dynamics. My research, which I started in the summer of 2008 and will continue throughout my senior year, will establish a daily cycle of climatic variables on the Ecuadorian coast. The results will directly support a wetland management model being developed by the Center for Water and Sustainable Development at the Polytechnic School of the Coast in Guayaquil, in conjunction with a tri-continental EU-sponsored project called WETwin.
My first priority in Ecuador was to collect meteorological data and metadata that was not available online but had been kept in digital archives around the country. My second goal was to strengthen existing collaborations and build new relationships, facilitating future data collection and ensure project sustainability. There were plenty of setbacks in both areas, and I would not recommend that future students rely heavily on the reliability or accessibility of high-resolution time series of Ecuadorian climatological data. Nonetheless, I was able to obtain a 30-year wind and sea surface temperature database for seven coastal stations, as well as hourly data from three automatic rain gauges, totaling over 1.6 meters of precipitation. This is great, since data with high temporal resolution can suggest physical mechanisms for rainfall processes, a support to modeling and prediction. It’s particularly exciting that one of the three gauges came from Yale. Going forward, CADS will be collecting data regularly from that station – which will be particularly interesting during this year’s anticipated El Niño event.
Since air parcels moved by winds carry the moisture that falls as rain, tracking the source of the water helps us determine how a rainfall event developed. Since my return to New Haven, I’ve been able to use the wind time series to describe the mainly westerly (from the ocean) surface winds along Ecuador’s coast, which may suggest an oceanic source for rainwater along the coast. However, the rain gauge data, which comes from the interior of the coast, suggests a different mechanism for that area.
A preliminary survey of the rainfall data at Vinces, a site in the interior of the coast about 12 km from the Yale-installed raingauge, puts at least 60% of precipitation between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. This tendency toward nighttime events is even more marked in instances of faster rain rates. One possible interpretation of these results is that they represent a nighttime movement of thunderstorms down from the Andes onto the plains, a hypothesis which is supported by the prevalence of southeasterly winds in the middle troposphere in northwest South America.
This summer’s ups and downs have instilled in me some of the resilience, sense of humor, and belief in careful thinking essential to navigating any long-term effort. I am more committed than ever to research in the intersection of science and policy. Without the help of the Environmental Studies Summer Fellowship, I would not have been able to obtain such valuable practical experience in the realities of collaboration and research. I am deeply grateful for the growth in both my project and my level of maturity that their support has made possible.
Rebecca Trupin, International Studies '11, Faculty Advisors - Jordan Peccia (ENVE)
Pasha Moto: Biogas for Better Cities (10 weeks, Tanzania)
Pasha Moto: Biogas for Better Cities
Rebecca Trupin, International Studies '11
While the developed world is increasingly focused on how to preserve and protect the environment, third world populations tend to be far more unaware or unconcerned with the environmental impact of human activities. The toll of daily life is enough to occupy most individuals and political will is on the side of developing quickly, rather than carefully.
I spent part of my life growing up in Tanzania and have witnessed the difference of attitudes taken toward environmental protection in Tanzania and the United States. This summer, I went back to Tanzania to work on a project that is attempting to tackle one of the larger environmental problems of Tanzania: charcoal use. Joint Environmental Technics (JET) is a small, newly founded company based in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. I met one of the founders - Mr. Dennis Tessier – two summers ago on another project. He invited me to come help JET with major challenges that the company is facing, such as marketing, lowering costs, and assessing barriers to growth.
JET assembles and distributes three clean energy products: the compact biogas tank, the charcoal briquetter, and the Sarai improved cookstove. Before I arrived in Tanzania, I was helping JET build their marketing capacity for the biogas tank. When I arrived I began to help out with all of the company’s activities as they are seriously understaffed. I helped secure a website for JET, laid the groundwork for a partnership with several microfinance companies, wrote form letters for potential investors and buyers, helped produce JET’s first biogas ads, worked on reforming employee/employer relations, participated in technology training and monitoring, volunteered as a salesperson for all three products at several trade fairs, and began work on revising the Company Status Report.
One of my main initial questions in coming to this project was what could be holding back the adoption and spread of JET’s technology. I was aware that cultural norms and poverty dictate a different attitude toward the environment, but JET’s technologies are specifically designed to attract interest in such a case as they lower a family’s or a school’s energy costs and provide better health, issues which are more important to some minds. I found that lack of marketing, due to lack of sufficient initial investment, was a major factor in JET’s difficulties. Through getting to participate in trade fairs and in training and monitoring for technology installations, I was also exposed to other challenges JET faces in the adoption of its technology. For one, there is a lack of trust of many scientific tools among most people. For this reason, demonstrations are crucial to winning over potential customers. Many people are used to cooking, harvesting charcoal, and producing energy by age-old methods that are highly energy inefficient, dangerous to health, time and labor consuming, and detrimental to the environment. While some are aware of these negative effects, they accept them as a necessary evil and are not used to having these assumptions questioned. There is an attitude, typical of the third-world, that most everything must come at a high and painful cost unless one is extremely lucky.
Perhaps as a result of this initial mistrust, our technology demonstrations at trade fairs, conferences and business offices tended to be hugely successful. Consistently people would return with friends or family to show off their life-changing discovery. There were also many requests that we operate in other parts of the country so that rural people might have access to these technologies.
This brings me to another observation I made. In Tanzania, while concern for the environment seems to be much lower than in the United States, concern and responsibility for relatives seems to be much higher. Thus, JET was able to start making strides through the fact that its products can make a very large impact for a family or, in other words, at a small scale. News of JET’s technology has been spreading fast by word of mouth as individuals realize that they can help their family members in rural areas.
The charcoal industry is another barrier to JET’s technology that has lessons for environmental protection efforts in the Third World. We found that in some schools where biogas tanks were installed, the cooks would avoid using them and use charcoal instead. It seems that these cooks are probably stealing some of the charcoal for themselves or siphoning off some of the money used to buy charcoal. Thus, they have an incentive to keep charcoal in use at the school and sabotage the biogas tank or pretend that it does not work. Charcoal production is a significant source of employment in rural areas. There, trees are harvested and made into charcoal to be sold in the cities, not in the villages. In the villages, people use wood to cook. It is cities that allow the charcoal business to continue.
In such an atmosphere, JET’s charcoal briquetting technology has done particularly well. This technology allows charcoal to be made from any dry biomass or agricultural waste. Cutting trees is unnecessary. Through the briquetter, charcoal producers can keep their employment without harming the environment. Most are happy to switch as it also means that they will have a sure buyer in the city (JET) and because agricultural waste is easier than wood to find.
Alongside issues of finding alternative employment, there are matters of education, such as how much information a potential customer should get on the workings of the biogas tank or the charcoal briquetter. From my observations, I believe the more information that can be given, the better, although it must be given very simply. Many of those who inquired about the technologies at trade fairs or demonstrations had some basic knowledge of how the technologies worked.
While I was there, I also learned a fair amount about the growing industry of clean energy in Africa. The company representatives and I attended several clean energy conferences to showcase JET’s technologies and build relationships with other companies. It was an amazing opportunity to view what was being prioritized and who was getting to decide the priorities. These conferences also resulted in a partnership for JET with an organization in Burundi. JET’s technologies are on their way to expanding throughout East Africa.
Through JET, I learned a great deal about promoting environmentalism in Africa. As it is a small company, I was involved in almost all projects, had plenty of time to speak with the manager, and got to see the process behind many decisions. I would recommend taking this course if one speaks some (just a little) Swahili and is self-motivated.
Cornelia (Lily) Twining, Environmental Studies '11, Faculty Advisor - David Post (E&EB)
A Study in the Mechanism of Eco-evolutionary Feedback in Freshwater Systems
(12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
A Study in the Mechanism of Eco-evolutionary Feedback in Freshwater Systems
Cornelia (Lily) Twining, Environmental Studies '11
This summer the Environmental Studies Fellowship for Research and Study gave me the opportunity to work for the Post Lab in the Yale Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The Post Lab under PI David Post, Yale professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, works on community level ecology and studies the mechanism of eco-evolutionary feedback in freshwater systems. This entails looking at the effects that alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), a keystone species have on their environments. To look at the effects that alewife have, the lab samples lakes without alewives, lakes with anadromous alewives that migrate back and forth from the ocean to spawn annually, and lakes with landlocked alewives that live in them year-round. The different lake types are then compared to see what effect, if any, alewives have on the other organisms in the lake community. Alewives are a keystone species, meaning that their presence or absence structures the rest of the lake food web. The original work that the Post Lab worked on was based on Brooks and Dodson (1965) study of the interaction of alewife, a planktivorous fish, and the zooplankton community. Their research is now expanding to include competition interactions between alewife and other planktivores, and predation interactions between larger piscivorous fish and alewife.
I had great experience doing a broad array of tasks both out in the field around Southeastern Connecticut and inside the lab in OML. In the field I participated in both core lake sampling and the 13-lake survey. Core lake sampling consists of sampling six lakes every other week and is done year-round to establish a long-term baseline of data for the lab. At each core lake we took water samples for chlorophyll and nutrient analysis, measured dissolved oxygen and temperature from the surface to the bottom of the lake, determined water clarity with a Secchi disk, took zooplankton hauls for identification and stable isotope analysis, and collected algae off of rocks for paraphyton analysis. On the 13-lake survey we did all of the above during the afternoon daylight hours and also caught fish with gillnets, electroshocking and purse seining in the middle of the night. Each fish caught was measured and many were also weighted, tissue-plugged for isotope analysis and stomach flushed to collect stomach contents.
In addition to fieldwork, I also spent a lot of time in the lab learning to do the standard tasks that keep the lab running. I entered lots of data that will now be analyzed and acid washed hundreds of plastic nutrient bottles that the lab will use throughout the year. I also did chlorophyll analysis of the water samples we took and counted daphnia and chaoborus under the microscope. I felt like I developed very useful lab skills this summer that I can continue to use as I pursue my studies here at Yale and beyond. However, the best part of my experience the fact that the research assistants, grad students and post-docs were all very excited about their research and were happy to explain anything and everything to curious undergrads!
Chun Ying Wang, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science)
An Economic and Environmental Analysis of New York City Community Gardens
(10 weeks, New York, NY)
An Economic and Environmental Analysis of New York City Community Gardens
Chun Ying Wang, Environmental Studies '10
The Environmental Studies Summer Fellowship allowed me to conduct eight weeks of independent research on community gardens in New York City. This research was done towards my senior thesis for the Environmental Studies major. My interest in agriculture, and particularly urban agriculture, began with the rewarding work I have done with the Yale Sustainable Food Project. I chose NYC as the study site because it has the largest number and one of the longest histories of community gardens in the nation.
The other main reason why I chose NYC’s community gardens is timing. Since September 2002, hundreds of NYC’s community gardens have been legally protected from being auctioned off by a Memorandum of Agreement that was signed between then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Memorandum is expires next year in 2010. I wanted to use this summer to compare the current state of community gardens and their importance within the city to attitude towards gardens 8 years ago when the Memorandum was signed. My other research question asked how gardens would fare once the Memorandum expired.
I conducted interviews with wide variety of people involved with urban gardens like community gardeners, community garden organization employees, and employees of GreenThumb, the city department responsible for supporting registered community garden. Each interview was about the interviewee’s perspective on the current state of urban gardening and what he or she foresaw for the future of urban gardens and farms.
My preliminary finding from the summer is that New York City’s social and political atmospheres are much more amenable to the existence and development of community gardens than they were 10 years ago. Environmental and urban issues have become, in the words of one city employee I interviewed, “way trendy” since the Memorandum was signed. This bodes well for the fate of existing gardens despite the Memorandum’s expiration.
My interviews also introduced another area of inquiry in urban farms. In contrast to urban gardens, urban farms require more acreage because they engage in commercial food-intensive production. Unlike community gardeners who largely grow for personal and community enjoyment, urban farmers sell at farmers markets and seek to create financially sustainable farms. I was inspired by the enthusiasm one interviewee had for urban agriculture, John Ameroso from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Although Mr. Ameroso has worked with urban gardens for 30 years, he feels urban farms are a good way to address urban food security issues. They provide access to fresh produce to low-income areas which normally lack it. I want to extend my research this fall to discover whether urban farms have the space, literally and figuratively, to flourish in NYC as traditional community gardens have done over the past 30 years.
The Environmental Studies Fellowship Award was invaluable in allowing me to conduct research in such an interesting and ultimately rewarding topic. I would otherwise not have been able to afford living in an expensive city like New York. I hope to build on the strong foundation that I established this summer by continuing research throughout the fall.
Dana Wu, Architecture '10, Faculty Advisor - Bimal Mendis (Architecture)
Rebuilding Sichuan Sustainably: Drawing Upon Vernacular Architecture and Landscape Strategies (8 weeks, China)
Rebuilding Sichuan Sustainably: Drawing Upon Vernacular Architecture and Landscape Strategies
Dana Wu, Architecture '10
During June and July of 2009, I spent 8 weeks in Sichuan and Yunnan, China (7 weeks in Sichuan, 1 week in Yunnan) studying architectural responses to heritage and ecology in post-quake reconstruction projects as well as historical and cultural re-development sites. While the Bates Traveling Fellowship from Jonathan Edwards College funded my research in Sichuan, where I conducted the majority of my research, funding from the Environmental Studies Fellowship allowed me to spend one week in Lijiang, Yunnan Province for a valuable comparative study of a culturally-sensitive region that has redeveloped after a major natural disaster.
In both Sichuan and Yunnan, the following questions guided my research: What kinds of indigenous or local knowledge might we draw from to inform reconstruction and development, both in rural areas and historic urban neighborhoods? How do development and reconstruction projects address the diverse heritage and ecology of the region, or do they at all? What new directions might reconstruction and architecture in general take in the future in these regions?
In Sichuan, my studies focused on the Min River Basin, which includes Wenchuan, the epicenter of the 2008 earthquake. The basin is home to the Qiang and the Tibetan minorities, among others, as well as Han Chinese. I traveled along the Min River, from Dujiangyan and Wenchuan all the way north to Langmusi on the border of Gansu Province. On the eastern route parallel to the Min River, which draws fewer tourists, I traveled to Mianyang, one of the cities hit the hardest by the earthquake, as well as Beichuan, the ruins of a town that the government is preserving as a memorial site. I also traveled west through the city of Kangding and the villages of Tagong and Bamei in the Tagong Grasslands. Finally, even further west, I researched the clusters of Tibetan and Qiang architecture of the villages around Danba, which remain in excellent physical condition, less damaged by both the earthquake and the effects of tourism due to their remote location over the mountains.
In Yunnan, in collaboration with a professor from the University of Washington and a group of UW students, I studied the town of Lijiang and its immediate surroundings. Lijiang, traditionally inhabited by the Naxi people in the mountainous area of northwest Yunnan, was reconstructed in traditional materials, architectural style, and town planning/layout after a major earthquake that devastated the region in 1996. Lijiang and the surrounding area is in many ways heralded in China as a successful rebirth of an ethnic minority village in a rural area adapted to cultural tourism, but it also presents many issues in cultural and ecological sustainability. The potential parallels between the narratives of the Lijiang and several historic towns developing for tourism in Sichuan emerged clearly as I conducted my research.
My primary methods of research involved documenting the buildings and villages I visited through photographs and drawings, supplemented by extensive written notes and observations. Using these approaches, I traced patterns in material, form, layout, and program (use) across a range of projects to better understand how the architecture responds to its history and site. I also conducted interviews, ranging from informal conversations with locals (construction site workers, guesthouse owners, etc.) to official meetings with preservation agencies.
As I analyzed vernacular architecture in various states of authenticity, redevelopment, and repair, my research revealed a diverse range of architectural responses to local culture and ecology. The issues and opportunities I discovered this summer have inspired me to pursue further research or work on architecture and development in China, and I feel that the opportunity to research abroad has been crucial and formative in my personal, academic and future professional career.
Jiaona Zhang, Economics '10, Faculty Advisor - Gordon Geballe (F&ES)
The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Green Energy Lending in Asia
(8 weeks, Beijing, China)
The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Green Energy Lending in Asia
Jiaona Zhang, Economics '10
With the support of the Environmental Studies Summer Fellowship, I am currently taking part of this semester to pursue an independent research project on the impact of the financial crisis on energy policy and the corporate strategy of renewable energy companies in Asia. I am working with World Fellows through Yale’s World Fellows Program, including 2008 Canadian World Fellow John Haffner and 2003 Philippine World Fellow Vince Perez, as well as a Yale SOM student, Rajan Chandra.
Together, we have worked to understand the major issues in energy efficiency and renewable energy facing China, India, and the Philippines. We are now in the process of drafting the following deliverables: a policy recommendation for the mayor of Langfang advocating integrated design and improvements in its electricity plan (our China piece); a policy piece on off-grid renewable energy generation in rural India (our India piece); a case study for the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale (CBEY) on selecting sites for wind investment in India (a second India piece); and finally, a case study for CBEY on the corporate strategy of a Philippine geothermal company (our Philippines piece). Connecting these pieces is the theme of the impact of the financial crisis, as in each country we look at the effect of new economic stimulus packages and policies, credit issues, and more.
Originally, the aim of the project was to examine how the financial crisis has impacted green lending (i.e. energy efficiency and renewable energy projects) in Asia. However, after four months of research and informal interviews with banks and multilateral lenders, we realized that obtaining the data we needed to accomplish such a project was out of our scope; not only were most banks unwilling to release such information to us, most banks had different standards for categorizing energy efficiency projects. Furthermore, after the first quarter of 2009, many organizations such as the UNEP, New Energy Finance, and the IEA published extremely thorough reports comparing 2008 and 2009 lending levels for renewable energy projects. Therefore, it made sense for us to alter our project scope.
We decided to work on case studies for CBEY and policy pieces for publications such as Yale 360 and have a more direct impact on the Yale community; we hope to spark interest in Management students in renewable energy and sustainability issues as well as contribute to the thoughts and findings of energy experts through our policy pieces. Finally, we will be presenting our work at the biannual Back-to-Yale World Fellows Event, where World Fellows from all years are flown back to campus. Through presenting to this audience of policymakers and businesspeople, we hope to shed light on current renewable energy and energy efficiency issues in Asia and foster future partnerships between Fellows that may facilitate the greening of these countries.
Charles Zhu, Environmental Studies '11, Faculty Advisor - Gordon Geballe (F&ES)
A Field Assessment of Chinese Motivations and Opinions Regarding Private Car Ownership and its Environmental Consequences (8 weeks, China)
A Field Assessment of Chinese Motivations and Opinions Regarding Private Car Ownership and its Environmental Consequences
Charles Zhu, Environmental Studies '11
Because of the generosity of the Environmental Fellowship for Study and Research grant, I was able to go to Shanghai and neighboring areas this summer to study attitudes surrounding car culture, urban development, and public transportation. On the side, I also translated and wrote for the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots and the Chinese society blog, ChinaSMACK. My experiences brought a perspective of China I never had despite four previous trips and simultaneously, a fresh perspective on myself.
Car ownership is exploding in China and propelling environmental, public health, and urban planning problems into the heart of every major city in China. Car craze is infectious and it seems that every well-to-do professional regards having a car as crucial even though subway systems in major cities are faster than driving on the roads. As a result, thick, hazy masses of air pollution hang over cities, seeping into healthy lungs and turning them black. The car has pushed cities outwards, leading to suburban sprawl, while squeezing roads inwards as congestion causes millions of lost work hours and threatens the viability of public transportation systems. Having been hit by two reckless drivers in New Haven, I feel a personal kinship with the cyclists and pedestrians of China, from the impoverished, elderly women (my grandmother, for one) who fear walking across the street to the peasant rickshaw cyclists pedaling hundreds of pounds worth of produce for miles each day. Mirroring US urban planning in the past, it seems that the cities of China and many other developing countries have been transformed so as to place the convenience of those few who can afford the car over the safety and well-being of the majority of the people.
I set out on this project to understand why car ownership was so pervasive and what consequences car ownership may bring in the future. To do this, I first conducted surveys at two Chinese colleges in Shanghai and the less-developed Jiangsu region to obtain a combined sample size of over 1,000 students. I had multiple student liaisons who asked their professors to give six minute of class time so students could fill out the survey. With diverse backgrounds and a high likelihood of buying a car in the future, today’s students will determine tomorrow’s car culture. Next, I conducted half-hour long interviews with 12 different people, from the elderly to local university professors on urban planning. Finally, I read a range of Chinese-language articles including car advertisements, urban planning papers, and newspaper stories.
I am currently trying to write a paper about the survey results with the aim of publishing in an academic journal. Survey questions asked about the participant’s level of agreement with a series of statements describing perceptions of cars, public transportation, and more. These statements were then evaluated with respect to gender, current location, hometown size, and previous car ownership. The first half of the paper is included.
The bad news is that everyone wants cars. According to TV dating shows, one of the big “three” items a bachelor absolutely must have in order to marry is a car. Even worse, the perceived usefulness of a car far outweighs reality. In the survey, over 80 percent of people at both cities agreed or strongly agreed that a car will allow much faster commutes and traveling, though studies have shown that this is not true. The subway is actually much faster than a car over long distances. Status is also a huge factor. Li, a young man I chatted with on the subway, complained incessantly about the problems private car ownership cause, but when asked about whether he would buy a car, he responded with “once I get to a certain status in society, I will have to buy a car.” Moreover, those with cars were more likely to perceive car ownership as a necessity. The good news is that there are signs of a car slowdown; those who grew up in a big city were slightly less likely to see themselves buying a car in the near future, though they are more likely to look to status as a purpose for owning a car. Information from interviews suggested that this was because students from big cities had gotten used to the novelty of owning a private car. In fact, a student’s hometown and whether or not his family owned a car exerted a strong force on perceptions on a variety of different things related to transportation. Those with more exposure to cars and traffic in big cities were less enthusiastic about purchasing a car. Though most people would still prefer to have cars right now, it is possible that that number will decline as the novelty factor wears out.
To build from this project I would be extremely interested to learn more about how suburban sprawl and land use changes are occurring with respect to car growth. I would like to learn more about the transportation patterns and attitudes of the urban poor to complement those of college students. I would also like to do more surveys in China’s west, which has lagged behind in terms of economic development. Finally, it would be interesting to follow up with the students who took the survey and see how their attitudes change throughout young adulthood.
But outside of my research, I realized that the recent car craze is only another symptom of the consumerist mindset exacerbated by a rapidly changing Chinese society. Reading Chinese newspapers and magazines and walking around the city, I felt like car craze fit in perfectly with the replacement of old neighborhoods with the modern high-rises, rampant political corruption, obsession with brand-names, a love for all-things imported, the wealth gap, lavishly wasteful dinners, and more. I cannot doubt that the opening of the Chinese economy has led hundreds of millions out of abject poverty. Yet, when I asked my uncle whether he thought the people of Shanghai were happy, he answered with an unequivocal “no.”
This unhappiness in spite of material wealth is what I’m concerned with. Economic development is happening around the world and though billions of people remain poor, I have no doubt that we are winning the war against poverty. The next step is what is important. Happiness should take begin to take precedence over wealth. As a child, my father would tell me about the Shanghai district he grew up in, where everyone knew everyone, and the bonds within the community were an unbreakable thing. The Shanghai I knew this summer consisted of loneliness and a constant feeling of anxiety coupled with want. Private car ownership and car craze is a nuanced and interesting piece of the puzzle, a reflection of what society values. But more importantly, it has led me to see the existence of many more pieces that can fit together to create a better, happier society.
Berkley Adrio, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - Ann Camp (F&ES)
Seeds of Success Seed Banking Initiative with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (8 weeks, Washington, DC)
Seeds of Success Seed Banking Initiative with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Berkley Adrio, Environmental Studies '09
This summer, I spent eight weeks interning with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the national office in Washington, D.C. Through the generosity of the EVST Summer Internship Program and the mentorship of Peggy Olwell, BLM Plant Conservation Program Lead, I was able to get an inside look at the United States native plants development programs. The BLM is the largest seed-buying entity in the country, and uses these seeds for restoration in fire-damaged public lands in the American West.
Over the past few decades, invasive species (among other factors) have shortened fire return intervals by as much as 100 years in some systems. After the record-breaking fires of 1999 season, Congress directed the BLM to construct a seed banking initiative. In response to this directive, the BLM created the “Seeds of Success” (SOS) program in 2001. This summer, SOS signed a memorandum of understanding with their partners that officially named them the national seed banking initiative.
Seeds of Success strives to increase the number of native plants available to buyers, particularly for use in restoration of BLM lands in the western United States. SOS partners with botanical gardens and other NGOs across the country. These partners send out collections teams to harvest, collect, and catalog seeds from targeted native plant communities. Collected seeds are sent to one of several processing facilities where they are cleaned, tested, and some accessions are placed in long-term cold storage. SOS also manages the United States’ contribution to the Kew Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
SOS is essentially the first program of its kind. While many other seed collection and storage agencies exist worldwide, none take on the same breadth of tasks as SOS. Seeds of Success covers an incredibly large number of diverse ecotypes. It also aims to make seeds readily available to buyers, rather than just banking an accession to protect the genetic content of the species. I worked with Peggy Olwell, Plant Conservation Program Lead, to evaluate SOS, research other programs with similar goals, and finally, to consolidate, organize, and analyze annual seed buy data. I hope to continue work on this project into this academic year and possibly into my master’s degree as well. There is much to be done, and Seeds of Success has the foundation and resource access to tackle some of the most important goals in native plants development in the United States.
Todd Anderson, Environmental Engineering '09, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (CENG/ENVE)
Yale Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Water Project: Phase II Implementation & Phase III Assessment (4 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon)
Brandon Berger, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - Gordon Geballe (F&ES)
An Investigation into the Effects of Development and Succession on Interactions Between Andean Bears and Humans with Fundación Zoobreviven (8 weeks, Alto Choco Reserve, Ecuador)
An Investigation into the Effects of Development and Succession on Interactions Between Andean Bears and Humans with Fundación Zoobreviven
Brandon Berger, Environmental Studies '10
This past summer, I spent June and July in the Intag Valley, in the northwest of Ecuador, working with Fundación Zoobreviven, a small nonprofit that manages several private nature reserves throughout the country. At the Alto Chocó reserve, a group of volunteers work on predator monitoring, reforestation, and local development.
My attraction to the this project was the reserve’s star protected species, the Andean bear, the only ursine species in South America, and one about which very little is positively known. This valley and reserve has appeared several times in literature about the species, most of which is natural history based, about the investigation of the habits, diet, and habitat of the bear. The attraction of working with this program was that many of the problems facing these bears are issues of land use, arising at the collision of ecology and politics. I had recently written a paper on land use, development, and ecology in the American suburban grid, and I wanted the chance to see these challenges from the perspective of a nature reserve in a developing country. The valley has many human inhabitants, who tend to be poor andindigenous (Quechua) farmers. Raids by bears on cornfields have often made the relationship between the human and ursine inhabitants of the valley very tense (as is common in all five countries where the bear is found).
While in South America, I designed a project that presents a theory on the effect that land use and vegetational succession are having on the habitat use of Andean bears in the area. This project used Spanish and English language data collected and published by the reserve over the past few years on bear feeding habits, conversations with locals and researchers in the valley, library resources in Quito, and a proxy connection to Yale’s databases. The project proposes that development and disruption on the lower slopes of mountains (where it is easiest and most common) is leading to a nearly monocultural successionary generation of native bamboo in those areas, which has been shown to be a major source of the bears diet in the local area. I propose that the clearing of the forests may in this way be drawing the bears towards human inhabited areas, by changing the composition of the forest in these areas to provide very easy food for them. The result of this project was a paper, reviewing the relevant literature, describing the natural history of the bear and bamboo species, and proposing potential management strategies to cope with it, particularly by focusing of land buying strategies for secondary forests, of which there is a majority in Ecuador. The report tries very hard not to make sweeping generalizations, but to remain local in scope, because the current body of research is not only somewhat tenuous, but also indicates that different populations of bears may have very different habits. The report was written over the course of several weekend leaves from the reserve, since it had no electricity or Internet access.
Jacob Berv, Molecular & Cellular Biology '10, Faculty Advisor - Arie Kaffman (Psychology)
Global Vision International Wildlife Conservation Project (5.5 weeks, Venetia-Limpopo Nature Reserve, South Africa)
Global Vision International Wildlife Conservation Project
Jacob Berv, Molecular & Cellular Biology '10
This summer, I spent an incredible six weeks volunteering as a research assistant for Global Vision International’s (GVI) Wildlife Research and Conservation Project in South Africa on Karongwe Game Reserve. With the substantial support of the Environmental Studies Internship Program, I was able to play a key role in several of GVIs ongoing and long terms projects aimed at investigating the behavioral ecology and impact of large predators within a small, multi-predator system. These ongoing projects
include careful monitoring of the predator and prey populations with specific regard to lion, cheetah, hyaena, leopard and their territorial interactions with prey species. The long-term goal of this research is the establishment of sustainable and effective management policies for the future conservation of game reserves in Africa.
To track the study animals, UFH/VHF radio telemetry tracking was combined with traditional tracking methods. Twice daily the GPS locations of each focus animal were recorded and inputted into ArcView, a piece of software that creates a topographical map showing movement patterns and population distributions. Any other interesting sightings were also recorded, such as matings, births/deaths, dartings/relocations, intraguild interactions and interesting kills. In addition to creating a visual guide to the predators’ territories, creating this GIS map allowed us to deduce variables that influence predator movements, home range, and kills. Changes in one leopard’s territory allowed us to deduce the presence of an unknown leopard on the reserve. The health status of each focus animal was also collected on a daily basis. This became extremely important on two occasions, when we assisted in the rescue of an injured infant rhinoceros and the darting and relocation of a leopard that required oral surgery.
Some other large mammals of interest on the reserve included rhino, elephant, and water buffalo. The elephant monitoring and vegetation-mapping project on Karongwe was of particular significance because of the exponentially rising populations of elephants in Southern Africa. The implementation of outdated conservation practices led to mismanagement of elephant populations over the last thirty years, and there are currently far too many elephants inflicting an unsustainable amount of damage on the ecosystem. Hormonal contraception is in the process of being tested, and frequent vegetation surveys are conducted to determine elephant utilization of plant resources.
On Karongwe, I was given the chance to play a small but important role in the ongoing conservation effort of some incredible animals that have helped to define Africa as a continent and as a participant in the effort to minimize humanity’s impact on the Earth. In looking back on the whole experience, I gained a real understanding of what sustainability means. In an extremely practical sense, sustainability is about making sacrifices, and thinking intelligently about cause and effect. It’s about understanding a problem in multiple dimensions, and making decisions based on the goal of minimizing interference while still maintaining a balance that allows for every player to benefit far into the future.
Katherine Boronow, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '09, Faculty Advisor - David Skelly (F&ES)
Investigating the Physiological Responses of Fence Lizards, Sceloporus undulatus, to Red Imported Fire Ants, Solenopsis invicta (14 weeks, Marianna, AR, Andalusia, AL & State College, PA)
Investigating the Physiological Responses of Fence Lizards, Sceloporus undulatus, to Red Imported Fire Ants, Solenopsis invicta
Katherine Boronow, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '09
Invasive species often alter community dynamics by out-competing or predating native species. Frequently, native species are not adapted to the specializations of the invader, such as their toxins. In these cases, native species must evolve mechanisms to avoid exposure to the toxins or increased tolerance following exposure if they are to survive invasion. Over the summer I investigated one such system: invasive fire ants and native fence lizards.
Red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, were introduced to North America in the early 1930s via Port Mobile, Alabama, and have since radiated across the southern United States. They are an economic, ecological, and public health concern. Fire ant venom acts on the neuromuscular system and is used in mound defense and prey capture. One vertebrate which co-occurs with the fire ant across its invasive range is the eastern fence lizard, Sceloporus undulatus. Fire ants and fence lizards share similar habitats and often encounter each other during foraging. Previous research on this system suggests that lizards are evolving both behavioral and morphological traits to cope with fire ants. The current research examined whether fence lizards are evolving physiological mechanisms of tolerance by characterizing the whole-body and cellular consequences of fire ant venom in two populations of lizards with different invasion histories.
I spent eight weeks conducting field work in Marianna, Arkansas (not yet invaded) and Andalusia, Alabama (invaded 70 years ago), and 6 weeks at Penn State University conducting laboratory work. Lizards were caught via noosing. The hemolytic activity of fire ant venom on lizard erythrocytes was measured using spectrophotometry of partially lysed blood samples. Whole-body performance following venom exposure was assessed with three ecologically relevant fitness measures: bite force, righting ability, and sprint speed.
The hemolytic activity of fire ant venom on fence lizard erythrocytes did not differ between sites (t(22)=0.16, p=0.88). Interestingly, fire ant venom did not behave like most other venoms, which yield a dosage-response curve in which increased venom quantities correlate with decreased locomotor performance. Rather, fire ant venom appears to have a threshold effect in which the lizard experiences either no decrement in locomotor performance, or death. It seems that the behavioral and morphological avoidance of fire ants is less costly than physiological tolerance. However, the apparent threshold effect makes it difficult to ascertain differences between the populations without determining the threshold itself (e.g., the LD50). This was not investigated for ethical reasons.
This was an extremely valuable experience in terms of the level of responsibility I took for my research. It required both creativity and patience to troubleshoot unanticipated methodological problems without becoming frustrated. Regardless, field work is the most enjoyable aspect of any environmental investigation and I had a great time doing research in the South this summer.
Isabel Chen, Anthropology '10, Faculty Advisors - Karin Gosselink (English) and Stephen Stearns (E&EB)
Organization for Tropical Studies / Duke University's Field Tropical Biology Course (5 weeks, Costa Rica)
Organization for Tropical Studies / Duke University's Field Tropical Biology Course
Isabel Chen, Anthropology '10
The Organization for Tropical Studies Tropical Biology Field Course allowed me to spend a month in Costa Rica studying biodiversity and conservation biology at four separate biological stations and introduced students to a wide variety of plant, animal, and insect taxa in different ecosystems. The program also explored themes in conservation biology and their effects on diversity in Central America.
The program was academically rigorous and I particularly enjoyed the innumerable hours spent in the field collecting specimen and data. At each biological station, an independent research project was conducted under the supervision of a special visiting professor. The projects explored topics such as insect biodiversity in distinct ecosystems, changes to avifaunal migration patterns in marshland areas, impacts causing herpetofaunal decline, and reproductive patterns of ground-dwelling birds.
The most memorable research project was conducted under the guidance of Professor Mahmood Sasa from the University of Costa Rica. The experiment was conducted at La Selva Biological Station and the research question came after having read a recent study indicating that reptiles and amphibians appear to be suffering a significant population decline. Costa Rica’s forests are fragmented and contain a variety of primary and secondary forests. The study analyzed the herpetofauna biodiversity in primary and secondary forests at La Selva. In addition, we used two different sampling methods (leaf litter plots and visual encounter survey) to examine what method may yield better results for long term herpetofauna monitoring. We hypothesized that leaf litter dwelling herpetofauna will show greater biodiversity in secondary forests due to disturbances. The group surveyed the herpetofauna of using two different methods at each site, leaf litter plots and visual encounter surveys (VES).
The study compared two different sampling methods, the leaf litter plot and VES in attempt to determine whether or not a difference in biodiversity exists between the two habitats. The two sampling techniques have individual strengths that depend on the experimental conditions. The leaf littler plot is also a better method in our study at La Selva because this technique has been applied in herpetofaunal studies since the 1970s, thus providing data that can be compared to previous research in the field. The comparison between our two test sites indicates that secondary forest contains greater biodiversity and confirms our initial hypothesis. This conclusion does coincide with research indicating greater herpetofauna biodiversity in secondary compared to primary growth forests but does correlate strongly with the adaptability of the species that inhabit each area. Extant information on the observed species in our samples mostly exhibit generalist behavior; they are capable of living in diverse humid and lowland environments. The Oophaga Pomilio species, for example, prefers habitats with logs, plants, and leaf crevices and these requirements are satisfied in both of our sites in primary and secondary forests. In addition, this species of frogs is found throughout Costa Rica in elevation ranges from sea level to 900 m. This generalist behavior must be considered when evaluating the biodiversity in each habitat.
The implications of our findings may have an impact on conservation efforts at La Selva. Based on the Shannon-Weiner Index, areas of greater or less herpetofaunal biodiversity may isolate specific areas to preserve. The gradual decline in herpetofauna diversity at La Selva requires specific attention and conservation efforts must be considered in the near future.
The program was an unforgettable experience and I would highly recommend it to any students interested in Tropical Biology who would like to explore the subject in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. The context in which the subject of conservation was taught profoundly affected the concepts of sustainability, education, and awareness. I look forward to returning to Costa Rica in the near future to visit the Biological Stations and to learn more about the region’s biodiversity.
Kevin Currey, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - Susan Clark (F&ES)
Deciding to Drill: Managing the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska in the Common Interest (8 weeks, AK)
Deciding to Drill: Managing the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska in the Common Interest
Kevin Currey, Environmental Studies '09
With the generous support of the Environmental Internship Program, I spent eight weeks this summer studying the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The 23-million acre NPR-A is the largest tract of federal land in the United States and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The broad goal of my research is to investigate whether the NPR-A is being managed in the common interest. I focused my research on the 4.6 million acre northeast section of the NPR-A, because the management of this area has been most contentious.
This summer, I tried to understand the social process surrounding the dispute over the northeast NPR-A’s management and the decision process used by the federal government, purportedly to resolve that dispute. My work is guided by three main subsidiary questions: What groups are involved in the environmental impact statement process, and with what outcomes and effects? What demands do they make, based on what values and expectations? How does the BLM incorporate different perspectives into its analysis and management decisions? To answer these questions, I used a theory and methodology known as the policy sciences, a set of contextual, problem-oriented, and multi-method approaches to understanding the policy process. To obtain my data, I conducted about 40 semi-structured interviews and preformed a literature review.
I lived in Anchorage for most of the summer, but I made occasional trips to surrounding cities and also spent several days in Fairbanks. Although I did some library research, I spent most of my time in Anchorage interviewing participants in the NPR-A policy dispute. I talked with government officials from several agencies, as well as with representatives from oil companies, conservation organizations, and native corporations.
I devoted the final two weeks of my time in Alaska to traveling across the Arctic. I first visited Prudhoe Bay, where I learned about the area’s history and current industry practices from workers and operators. I then spent a week in Nuiqsut, a small native village of approximately 450 mostly Inupiaq Eskimo residents. I toured many of the town’s facilities. I also hired a local translator and interviewed five of the village’s respected elders. They helped me understand how the Inupiaq culture has changed over time and offered a variety of explanations for and reactions to those changes. On my last night in Nuiqsut, I was invited to participate in an 18-hour oogruk (bearded seal) subsistence hunt in the Arctic Ocean. I saw first-hand how subsistence hunting works in the Arctic, from spotting and killing the seals to preparing and eating the meat. Finally, I spent several days in Barrow, the northernmost town in the United States and the borough seat of Alaska’s North Slope Borough, where I met with several members of the Borough Wildlife Department staff.
Over the upcoming year, I will work to analyze my data, refine my research question, and develop conclusions and recommendations. I am confident that my experience this summer will greatly enrich my senior thesis in Environmental Studies. I strongly recommend that other students take advantage of the opportunities and funding provided by the Environmental Internship Program. Designing and conducting your own research project is a difficult by rewarding task, and there are not many opportunities to do so while at Yale. I am extremely grateful to the Environmental Internship Program for helping make my summer so productive and fun. This experience will by enormously helpful as I continue on in my studies and work to help resolve resource conflicts in the common interest.
Christine Ellman, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science)
The Energy Research Institute's Transboundary Water Project (8 weeks, New Delhi, India)
The Energy Research Institute's Transboundary Water Project
Christine Ellman, Environmental Studies '09
With the generous support of the Environmental Internship Program, I spent part of my summer in New Delhi, India working with TERI, The Energy and Resource Institute, on several projects related to climate change and water resources in South Asia. The vision of TERI is to “work towards global sustainable development, creating innovative solutions for a better tomorrow.” TERI has proven to be dynamic and inspiring in the ways it tries to find solutions to global problems in the fields of energy, environment, and development.
I first conducted research for a year-long project called Blue Skies. The Blue Skies Project aims to study changes in the structure and processes of federal governance in India with regard to the challenges posed by climate change. I conducted a literature review on a bottom-up approach to climate change governance in India. In this research, I understood that India is especially vulnerable to the consequences of climate change for several reasons. Continental countries with long coastlines, dense population, and rapid urbanization of coastal areas are most vulnerable to sea level rise. India has coastline of 7500 km and a population of over 1.1 billion people. The problem of vulnerability is further confounded by the fact that agriculture is the largest contributor to India’s GDP and 3/5 of all Indian crops are rain-fed and thus dependent on monsoon. The already poor peasant cultivators and agricultural laborers with low financial and technological adaptability are the most vulnerable to climatic and economic changes.
I also helped write a background paper for a TERI-Stimson Center conference entitled “Climate Change and Water: Examining the Interlinkages.” For this, I completed a comprehensive literature review of recent international and relevant national water reports and conducted several open interviews with key stakeholders. I focused on the following areas: 1) the current state of water in India and South Asia; 2) how water and climate change are transnational phenomena; 3) the nature and scope of climate change impacts on water bodies in South Asia; 4) climatic and non-climatic parameters that lead to gaps in water supply and water demand; 5) the social and economic impacts on vulnerable sectors and communities; 6) the linkages between water and development; 7) how this all impacts the Millennium Development Goals; and 8) how the politics of climate change needs to change.
It was my intention to write my senior thesis on water security in South Asia with a hypothesis as the following: with scarcity comes implicit mistrust and conflict, but the environmental threat of water scarcity is a common resource threat and thus, a possible trigger for long-term cooperation. However, the major impediment to this research is whether there even is data and if so, whether this data is publicly available, as there is so much sensitivity in water issues.
Nonetheless, my time spent in India was extremely worthwhile and educational. It was a truly eye-opening experience to a new and exciting culture. Also, for a short time, I became a mini-expert in water security in South Asia. I can combine this with my knowledge of water security in the Middle East, which was the topic of my senior prospectus, and the state of water in North America, from when I worked with the Commission of Cooperation in Montreal, Canada in the summer of 2007. In each of these learning experiences I have learned over and over again that freshwater is an indispensable natural resource and socio-economic good. With so many conflicting sector uses and conflicting theories in allocating water and no way to measure all its costs and benefits, there is conflict in practice. As such, sustainability in long-term water management can be difficult. Mismanagement of water can lead to water stress and water scarcity, which threatens the sustainability of the natural resource base, affects all social and economic sectors, and undermines human security by reducing the access and quality to a key resource that sustains livelihoods. With this, I plan to position my interests in water security on another location and research away.
Katherine French, Chemistry '09, Faculty Advisor - Mark Pagani (G&G)
Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (16 weeks, Umbria, Italy and New Haven, CT)
Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum
Katherine French, Chemistry '09
In the summer of 2007, the world witnessed the largest areal reduction of Arctic sea ice, and even greater ice volume loss is projected for the summer of 2008. These dramatic events are clear indications of rapid climate change. While a number of factors influence climate, current research suggests that the rapid injection of anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and oceans will increase global temperatures. In order to predict future climate response to the current carbon dioxide input, paleoclimatologists study ancient hyperthermal events. These events are characterized by a rapid carbon dioxide spike that induces a period of global warming. This summer the Environmental Internship Award made it possible for me to began developing a paleotemperature record for my senior research project on a specific poorly-resolved hyperthermal event called the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO; ca. 41-42 Ma).
The MECO has been observed at high latitude sites in the southern hemisphere. My project seeks to demonstrate the global nature of this hyperthermal event by using two low latitude sites in the northern hemisphere. Previous work conducted on the MECO used carbon and oxygen isotopes to characterize the hyperthermal event. My project seeks to generate a low latitude sea surface temperature record using the Tetraether Index of 86 Carbon Atoms (TEX86) proxy and a terrestrial temperature record using the Methylation Index of Branched Tetraethers (MBT) proxy. For this purpose, I targeted two sites in Italy, the Contessa Highway section and the Alano section, to collect samples for this work. The Contessa Highway section is an outcrop along a highway in the Umbria region of central Italy. The Alano section is an outcrop in a river bed in the Venetian Alps in northeastern Italy. These two sites were selected for their easily accessible and remarkably complete geologic record of the MECO.
In preparation for the fieldwork and sample collection, some important preliminary work was required. I needed to determine the abundance of organic content in the sediments from these two sections. This was necessary to estimate the mass of material required to generate a strong signal by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LCMS) and thus viable temperature data. I extracted the organic material from five samples from each site. Using column chromatography, the tetraethers were isolated before LCMS analysis. The preliminary work demonstrated that the organic abundance in both the Contessa and Alano sections varied but was overall lower than expected. Additionally, the methylated branched tetraethers needed for the MBT terrestrial paleotemperature record were not observed in the preliminary samples from either site. This observation could be due to a low terrestrial input in this region during the MECO, but further work up on the collected samples is required to confirm this observation.
While in Italy, I collected eighty samples from both sites at high resolution intervals in order to capture any anomalous trends within the climate event. According to the preliminary work that I had conducted at Yale, 500 g of material was needed for each sample at the Contessa site and 750 g of material was needed for each sample at the Alano site. The samples from both sites varied from softer shales to carbonates. After the fieldwork was completed, I carefully labeled, packed, and shipped over 100 kilograms of rock back to Yale to process during my senior year.
The Environmental Internship Award enabled me to travel to Italy for my first geology fieldwork experience. This summer, I learned the importance of preliminary preparation for a successful field expedition. This valuable experience was further enhanced by working with other international students in paleoclimate while I was in Italy. Consequently, I gained a broader perspective of the paleoclimate field and am more familiar with the research problems that are currently being studied in paleoclimate across the world. I am grateful for this opportunity and would certainly recommend it to another student.
Bente Grinde, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - Jeffrey Park (G&G)
Plastics in the North Pacific: Summer 2008 Semester at SEA, Woods Hole (8 weeks, Woods Hole, MA, Honolulu, HI, San Francisco, CA)
Plastics in the North Pacific: Summer 2008 Semester at SEA, Woods Hole
Bente Grinde, Environmental Studies '09
My time aboard the Robert C. Seamans in the Pacific taught me quite a lot about the ocean and how it works and it also taught me quite a lot I didn’t expect to find out about life on the ocean.
The ocean is all there is out there. Nothing exists but the sounds of wind and water and the creak of the ship’s beams, the hum of the generator and the shouts of the First Mate, the clamor of the kitchen and the songs and whispers of shipmates. It’s hard to remember what it feels like to stand on solid ground. The world is 135 feet long and skimming the surface of an incomprehensible deep, from which one can sometimes pull a familiar tuna. The only personal time is that which is stolen for sleep. The only personal place is that six-foot-long rack where I lay.
This summer, I had the chance to experience some elements of what it must have been like to have lived a life at sea during the Golden Age of Sail. I learned how to set and handle sails, plot the ship’s course on navigation charts, calculate the ship’s location on the earth’s sphere using observed elevations of celestial objects, and conducted research on the abundance of microscopic plastic particles that find their way into the Pacific Ocean.
Our research showed that there are few methods for determining which small particles are made from plastics and which are wood, dust, plankton, crustaceans, and other flecks of material such as ship’s paint. Nevertheless, small plastic pellets between 1 and 5 mm, occurring in a multitude of colors, were found in nearly every sample taken from the waters between Hawaii and the California Coast. The general conclusions are that plastics of all sizes, shapes, and colors exist in the ocean; some large synthetic objects actually provide a substrate on which miniature ecosystems establish themselves; plastics of all sizes may be a threat to animals, particularly birds, fish, and jellyfish, which confuse plastic with prey; and since there are already laws prohibiting the dumping of plastics in the world’s oceans, there may be little that can be done in terms of cleanup, owing to the sheer scale of the affected areas.
I learned a great deal on this trip about an ecosystem I have never had the opportunity to study and about a blue ocean sailing culture I had only heard of in the abstract. While I don’t plan on pursuing ocean studies, I now recognize that all environmental studies are deeply tied to ocean studies: climate, ecology, evolution, global trade, geography. It is impossible for me now to overlook the significance of the ocean, and that is the most valuable thing I could have hoped to glean from this experience as an Environmental Studies major concerned with big picture patterns of environmental systems.
Kevin Hickenbottom, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science)
Day Use in North Cascades National Park (10 weeks, North Cascades National Park, WA)
Day Use in North Cascades National Park
Kevin Hickenbottom, Environmental Studies '09
This summer I conducted a survey of the backcountry permit system in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. North Cascades National Park is located in north central Washington and is a paradise for anyone interested in hiking or climbing. I lived at the ranger station in Marblemount, Washington and went out on hiking/survey trips for as long as nine days at a time. When one wants to stay overnight in North Cascades National Park they have to obtain a backcountry permit from a ranger station in the park. This system is then enforced by backcountry rangers that go out on patrol in the park. Due to dwindling funding the ranks of the rangers are small and with only a few able to be out on patrol at any one time it’s been very hard for them to gauge people’s levels of compliance with the current permit system. Furthermore many people believe that switching to an online system is the way to go. The convenience of printing out a permit online is undeniable but most park employees believe that without the ranger middleman to lay out the park’s rules and regulations it would be chaos.
The goals for my survey were to help the rangers get a better idea of compliance in the park, gauge user interest with an online permit system and gather general survey data including approximate age, size of group, weather, stock, pets, length of trip and where they were camping that night. I would go out backpacking for an average of a week at time talking to every group that I saw. I would talk to people on the trail, at camps I was at and I sat at key trail junctions for multiple days as well. As I was only a volunteer with the park I had no uniform and only carried a radio that I checked in on twice a day. The experience of carrying a radio into the woods was an interesting one – talking into a little box when you’re by yourself at 8000 feet and its dark out is more then a little eerie. My initial conclusions are that compliance in the park is very high. I only talked to seven groups without permits and most everybody was doing what they were supposed to out there. I also talked extensively with people about the online system and although everyone’s gut reaction is that it’s a great idea there are some significant problems with it – most notably the absence of a ranger checking you over to see if he’s going to have to rescue you - that need to be addressed before it can seriously be considered.
I had an amazing time this summer and I still can’t believe that I was able to spend three months outside in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Working for the National Park Service was a great experience and I would do it again in a second. My main piece of advice for anyone considering something similar is to try and do it with someone else. Although solo hiking can be great being able to share such wonderful experiences with someone else makes it truly special. One of my favorite memories of the summer was running into an off duty ranger out on the trail and hiking with him for the next two days through some brutal ups and downs, sharing our food and laughing the whole way.
Alison Hoyt, Environmental Engineering '09, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (CENG/ENVE)
Yale Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Water Project: Phase II Implementation & Phase III Assessment (4 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon)
Sarai Itagaki, Undeclared '11, Faculty Advisor - Paul Anastas (F&ES, Chemistry, and CENG)
Developing a More Environmentally Friendly Mitsunobu Reaction: Internship with the Yale Center for Chemistry and Green Engineering (10 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Developing a More Environmentally Friendly Mitsunobu Reaction: Internship with the Yale Center for Chemistry and Green Engineering
Sarai Itagaki, Undeclared '11
This summer I worked with Dr. Toby Sommer at the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale studying the aqueous Mitsunobu Reaction. The Mitsunobu Reaction is a useful oxidation-reduction condensation reaction which links together a nucleophile and an electrophile with the loss of a water molecule. It is most commonly used to react an alcohol and a carboxylic acid to form an ester with stereochemical inversion of the alcohol. The Mitsunobu is widely employed by the pharmaceutical industry in organic syntheses despite the fact that it is decidedly not environmentally friendly for a number of reasons: the use of harmful organic solvents (either halogenated or aromatic), the need for stoichiometric (versus catalytic) quantities of the reagents, the associated dangers of said reagents (an azo and a phosphine compound), and the need for multiple purification steps to separate the product from the side products. The project strove to address the first two of these concerns by carrying out the Mitsunobu in aqueous solution while using hydrogen peroxide in place of the azo compound as a greener oxidizing agent.
However, the first step was to synthesize a suitable starting material on which to perform the aqueous Mitsunobu, a task which turned out to be more difficult than initially anticipated. The starting material needed to have a rigid structure with a carboxylic acid and a secondary alcohol with a stereochemical "handle", so that the reaction would proceed intramolecularly and with detectable inversion. The original plan was to synthesize an ideal starting material from dihydrodicyclopentadiene via oxidative cleavage of its double bond followed by additional reactions to give a carboxylic acid at one terminus and a secondary alcohol at the other. After two different attempts to cleave the double bond using ozonolysis failed to give the desired intermediate, most likely due to over-oxidation at the methine position, a different synthesis procedure relying on silica-supported potassium permanganate was tested. While the permanganate route did give the expected product, the extremely low yield made the synthesis impractical to conduct on a larger scale. Finally, it was decided to try using a less ideal, but more obtainable starting material that could be synthesized by hydrolyzing the lactone product resulting when methyl dihydrojasmonate is subjected to a Baeyer-Villiger reaction. Once a small test synthesis of the new starting material had been conducted successfully, the procedure was scaled up and an aqueous Mitsunobu was conducted. The crude product was then filtered several times and finally flash chromatographed in order to separate out the phosphine oxide side product.
Initial NMR data of the product confirmed the presence of the lactone product, but further examination was needed to distinguish whether the product was primarily the cis or trans isomer. Cis would show the stereochemical inversion typical of the Mitsunobu reaction, demonstrating that it had proceeded as expected, while trans would indicate that the starting material had simply reformed the Baeyer-Villiger lactone. Further 2D NMR study is needed to make the designation, so the project will be continued into the fall semester.
Kathleen Knighton, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science)
Historical Analysis of the Impact Aesthetic Judgements have had on the Appearance of the Landscape Along the Blue Ridge Parkway (4 weeks, Blue Ridge Mountains, NC & VA)
Historical Analysis of the Impact Aesthetic Judgements have had on the Appearance of the Landscape Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Kathleen Knighton, Environmental Studies '09
The Environmental Studies Fellowship Program allowed me to travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia in order to conduct research for my senior project in the major. The experience taught me many lessons about the nature of independent research and was an extremely valuable addition to my academic career. Through a combination of interviews, site visits, and trips to the park’s archives I obtained rich information about the historical roots and current implementation of scenic management of the landscape along the parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was conceived as a New Deal project that would revitalize Virginia and North Carolina’s economy while providing a scenic, recreational drive for a growing population of American motorists. In order to create a 469-mile road, the National Park Service was faced with the task of developing an ideal aesthetic to provide proper scenic value to entice visitors. Through my research, I found all the original land use maps that show in detail how the parkway was to appear based on the accepted notions of landscape design in the 1930’s. These maps provide rich information for my project and help situation me in the intent of the parkway’s design. However, throughout the course of the parkway’s history, several changes to the landscape, most significantly the encroachment of development along the road, have irreversibly altered the land and has limited the ability of current managers to follow the original design.
I conducted a variety of interviews throughout Virginia and North Carolina in order to understand how the landscape has changed and what factors influence those who are charged with managing the current park,. I met with the director of the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, an organization that has a partnership with the NPS to highlight views along the parkway where heavy development can be seen from the road and plant trees in order to provide a visual buffer for motorists. This strategy is one of many that have been created in order to resist the rapid changes that are thought to harm the scenic quality of the parkway experience. I also met with the director North Carolina Land Trust to learn about two more strategies to prevent marred views, land acquisition and scenic easements. Much of the data I collected came from interviews with the parkway’s landscape architects, where I found out that a Scenic Resource Management System is being created by the NPS as a way to provide uniformity to their strategies of scenic protection of parkway views. This data includes visitor preference surveys, viewshed sensitivity maps, quantifiable scenic quality assessments of each view, and economic impact reports. Once this data is collected for the whole park, the landscape architects will have a working system to inform their management decisions. This information along with the work of viewshed plantings, land acquisition, and scenic easements will allow me to understand the full story of the strategies in place for managing scenery. A comparison between this data and the archival material I found from the original design of the parkway will allow me to draw conclusions about the progression of aesthetic taste and concepts of appropriate management techniques towards the ever changing landscape along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I am very grateful to the program for giving me this research opportunity.
Elyse LeeVan, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - Durland Fish (EPH)
An Eco-epidemiological Approach to Chagas Disease at the University of Buenos Aires (12 weeks, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
An Eco-epidemiological Approach to Chagas Disease at the University of Buenos Aires
Elyse LeeVan, Environmental Studies '09
Due to the generosity of the Environmental Internship Program, I was able to perform a Chagas disease related research project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The project began with a trip to the Chaco province in the northeastern region of the country. There, Chagas disease affects more than 40% of the rural population. A laboratory team from the eco-epidemiology lab at the University of Buenos Aires had been monitoring re-infestation activities of Triatomine vectors following an application of deltamethrine, a common pesticide. I accompanied this research team to perform these surveillance activities and gather information from the local inhabitants about insect populations and their interaction with the community.
Over the course of the next five months, I designed and carried out an experiment to provide further insight into the relationship between the commonly used pesticide and the target Triatomine population. The experiment tested deltamethrine’s function as a repellant. The data I collected suggested that deltamethrine did not act as a repellant. This information may be important in the exploration of the re-infestation phenomenon, and affect the decision to continue with the current control methods.
Though the experiment targeted a very specific aspect of the Chagas transmission cycle, I learned a great deal about other environmental factors contributing to the spread of disease. The unique forest ecosystem, which provides a habitat for the disease vectors, experiences heavy logging. Both commercial and local actors contribute to this rapid deforestation. The forest provides indigenous populations with their only source of firewood. Many of the disease vectors are introduced into human communities when this firewood is carried into close proximity. As a result, I came to understand that to comprehensively control the disease, it must be placed it in the greater environmental context.
Overall the Environmental Internship Program provided me an invaluable opportunity to gain an in-depth perspective into the spread of Chagas disease in Chaqueñan communities. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of seeking out a question that proved both interesting and relevant to the communities I intended to serve. The constant support of the laboratory team, and the patience and openness of the Toba individuals I interviewed made this an incredibly rewarding experience. I thank the Environmental Internship Program for a wonderful summer.
Tse Yang Lim, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '11, Faculty Advisor - Suzanne Alonzo (E&EB)
Signaling Behavior and Parental Care in Courting Male Three-Spine Stickleback (7 weeks, British Columbia, Canada)
Signaling Behavior and Parental Care in Courting Male Three-Spine Stickleback
Tse Yang Lim, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '11
The three-spine stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus, has for decades been used as a model organism for behavioural studies thanks to its complex mating behaviour. Male stickleback construct a nest and then perform elaborate courtship rituals, involving prominent displaying of their bright red mating colouration, to attract females. Females spawn in the nests and leave; the males are left to fertilise and care for the eggs, by guarding them from predators, fanning them, etc.
Male courtship in stickleback is a form of sexual signalling. It is not known whether male signalling is honest, i.e. a reliable indicator of the direct (genetic) and indirect (e.g. parental care) benefits a male will provide as a potential mate and parent. This question is highly relevant to the study of sexual selection. The honesty of signalling affects the ability of females to choose high quality mates, which has ramifications for conflict between the sexes and may affect the structure of a species' entire mating system. The maintenance of honest signalling also has implications for the evolution of male ornament and female choice.
This summer, I spent several weeks starting a six-month long experiment to investigate this issue, under the supervision of Dr Suzanne Alonzo (E&EB) and her PhD student Natasha Kelly. The key to this experiment is controlling the condition of males through diet manipulation, and observing the effects of condition on both signalling and parental care to determine if any correlation exists. As far as we are aware, a manipulative experiment of this nature has never been carried out on stickleback before, so this experiment may provide strong new evidence for any correlation.
In order to carry out this experiment, an entire generation of fish has to be raised in the laboratory under controlled conditions, from eggs to sexual maturity. The main part of the summer’s work was spent collecting fish from our field site in the Sechelt Peninsula, British Columbia, and artificially crossing them to produce eggs, which were then raised in the laboratory. We also attempted to take some preliminary behavioural observations in the field.
Note that as the stickleback take 3 months or more to reach sexual maturity, the actual behavioural observations in the laboratory have not yet been carried out; diet and condition manipulation is only just starting at the time of this writing. There is thus no data yet available. I will be continuing to work with Natasha and Dr Alonzo over the fall semester through when the fish are ready for observation; results will therefore start to be available later in the fall. Existing field studies indicate that signalling in G. aculeatus may not, in fact, be honest (i.e. signalling effort and parental care in males are not positively correlated). However, the very reason for our experiment is the existence of many confounding factors affecting these field observations; so it is difficult to predict based on field studies which way our results will turn out.
While much work still remains to be done on this project, my summer experience doing fieldwork in Canada was an extremely fruitful experience in itself. I developed a useful set of fish handling, dissection and catching skills that could be utilised in future research (and is important to the rest of this project). I also experienced firsthand several of the difficulties associated with fieldwork – including having to deal with unexpected bad weather, the complications arising from moving live samples across long distances and international borders, and the constraints of working on a schedule which the study organisms do not necessarily follow (as we discovered several times when we attempted to conduct field observations on nesting males, only to find none of the males in the lakes were nesting yet). Spending time with experienced stickleback researchers familiar with the field sites also yielded some interesting and disturbing observations – for instance that the timing of the sticklebacks’ breeding season seemed to be changing (possibly due to changing weather patterns), or that an apparent desynchronisation of breeding timing was decreasing the mating success of the fish, a bad sign for the future of the population.
This exciting summer experience would not have been possible without the support of the Yale Environmental Summer Internship programme, for which I am immensely grateful to them. I greatly enjoy doing biological fieldwork, and the internship allowed me to combine that with my interest in animal behaviour in a way that few other programmes at Yale allow. I would highly recommend this programme not only for anyone interested in environmental work, but also anyone who wants to do summer research on ecology, behavioural ecology or evolutionary biology.
Davis Lindsey, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - Julie Zimmerman (F&ES/CENG)
Conservation Grasslands and BioEnergy: How to Sustainably Produce Bioenergy from Conservation Land in Southeastern Minnesota (8 weeks, Minneapolis, MN)
Conservation Grasslands and BioEnergy: How to Sustainably Produce Bioenergy from Conservation Land in Southeastern Minnesota
Davis Lindsey, Environmental Studies '09
For my Environmental Studies Internship Award, I spent 8 weeks in Minneapolis, Minnesota and worked with ecologist Joe Fargione and the Nature Conservancy. In Fargione’s paper “Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt,” he poses future sustainable biofuel production from the grasslands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to contradict current unsustainable energy practices from corn. Fargione also correlates the increase in corn ethanol production, and the greater demand for corn in the U.S. to recent mass conversions of CRP land to cropland. As a result, he calculates a potential “biofuel carbon debt,” or carbon dioxide calculation, from the conversion of grassland to agricultural production. Consequently, I decided to conduct open ended interviews with landowners of the Conservation Reserve Program to collect data for my senior thesis. I hoped to correlate people’s interests in the Conservation Reserve Program to their willingness to participate in bioenergy projects. Additionally, I aimed to find a more specific carbon calculation based on refusal to reenroll in CRP.
I spent my summer conducting field research in Southeast Minnesota. I targeted SE Minnesota because of the recent construction of a Cogeneration Power Plant called Koda Energy which hopes to use grasslands and other products to power its plant. Koda Energy, located on site with an established malting company, hopes to use malting byproducts, wood waste, and grassland to fuel the malting facility and a nearby Indian reservation 365 days of the year. Consequently, I targeted CRP landowners within a 50 mile radius of the plant.
After spending the first two weeks collecting information on CRP and searching for contacts of CRP landowners in the 4 counties around the plant, I finally persuaded the state FSA office to give me names and addresses of CRP landowners in the 4 counties: Carver, Scott, Sibley, and Lesueur. Thankful for my obnoxious persistence, I began to realize the heavy governmental regulations on the Conservation Reserve Program and other governmental privacy endeavors that make field research difficult.
In the meantime, I had created a survey that would serve as a guide during my interviews. With help from Joe Fargione and other associates in the Nature Conservancy, I posed questions such as: “How much CRP do you have? When does your CRP expire? When your CRP expires, will you reenroll it into grassland? If not, what payment would you want to keep it in grassland? Why did you enroll into CRP? What aspect of CRP do you value the most? Would you be interested in harvesting your CRP grassland for bioenergy? What payment would you demand to breach such an endeavor?”
I randomly selected a pool of participants and after looking through several phonebooks for their numbers, I began cold calling to schedule interviews. By the end of my research, I conducted 50 open ended interviews. Because I had to cold call my interviewees, there is some bias in my responses. I also sent out a survey to 750 out of the 1,250 CRP landowners in the four counties, asking similar questions to my open ended interviews. My hope was to get a more exact number of CRP landowners not reenrolling the program. I have received a 25% response rate.
After conducting my interviews, I recognized that the majority of the people interested in harvesting their grassland for bioenergy were the people who had a wildlife intent with their CRP land. The CRP landowners who mostly valued wildlife for hunting or aesthetic purposes also tended to have larger tracks of grassland, less concern for economics, more educated, and greater knowledge for future bioenergy initiatives. The people less interested in harvesting grasslands for bioenergy were usually enrolled in CRP for economic reasons and tended to be the average farmer in the area. It is also important to note that many were contracted to a nearby corn ethanol plant within 30 miles of their farm.
In addition to conducting interviews with CRP participants, I also interviewed local NGOs, government officials, and biofuel operators. Some of these people included wildlife experts from Pheasants Forever and the Department of Natural Resources; biofuels experts at the Department of Natural Resources and local Ethanol plant; and policymakers in Washington D.C. such as Minnesotan Congressman and the foremost policymaker of CRP.
In conclusion, my research and senior thesis work was a very valuable experience. I got to spend my days with rural farmers and wildlife enthusiasts. I spoke to them about all walks of life and learned a lot about myself and rural, farming communities. I also got to spend most days walking around landscapes and observing grass and prairie lands which had great future energy potential. I am contemplating to continue my research in grassland heavy areas such as the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Missouri to broaden my research pool and help initiate future policy incentives for conservation grassland programs for bioenergy. From a broader scope, my research has provided me with valuable experience in the alternative energy field that I hope to pursue as a career.
I would absolutely recommend other students to alternative energy research; however, my personal scenario might be somewhat unique in that it probably will be a once in a lifetime endeavor. I highly recommend students seek out experts in the alternative energy field to work under them and work on a related project.
Elizabeth Mandeville, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '09, Faculty Advisor - David Post (E&EB)
Intraspecific Variation Across a Landscape of Isolated Landlocked Alewife Populations (12 weeks, New Haven, CT)
Intraspecific Variation Across a Landscape of Isolated Landlocked Alewife Populations
Elizabeth Mandeville, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '09
Natural populations of a single species are not continuous and uniform across the entirety of their range; instead, populations exist in a geographic mosaic, where ecological variation between sites corresponds to phenotypic diversification of populations. The concept of an adaptive landscape has been suggested to explain this variation, since it suggests that there is no single fitness peak (and thus no single “best” morphology) for a species. In the adaptive landscape model, each individual population across a variable landscape moves to a different peak in the adaptive landscape. Thompson, Benkman, and others have suggested that the geographic mosaic of variation is driven in a large part by coevolution of coexisting taxa.
There is ample evidence that alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus, fish) operate as a keystone species in lakes, radically restructuring the zooplankton prey community upon introduction (seasonal or permanent) to a system. The alewives’ disproportionate ecological impact as keystone predators changes their surroundings and resource availability to the point where the alewives’ own ecological effect impacts subsequent alewife evolution. Different zooplankton communities introduce differing selection pressures on alewives in different populations. These altered selection pressures in turn affect alewife evolution, creating an eco-evolutionary feedback. Since morphological traits related to feeding are both easily measurable and likely to be sensitive to changes in the size of zooplankton prey available to the alewives, comparison of these traits form the backbone of my study.
We wished to learn how population-level intraspecific variation (of both physical and ecological traits) in Alosa has shaped the variable evolution of nearby but genetically isolated populations. The important factor here is that the strength of the alewife impact, and therefore of the eco-evolutionary feedback, will most likely vary across the landscape in a geographic mosaic. The question I address is:
How does intraspecific variation between landlocked alewife populations affect ecological variation, and to what extent does the strength of eco-evolutionary feedbacks vary across the landscape?
I hypothesized that morphological variation in different populations of landlocked alewives corresponds to ecological variation in the lakes, and that there will also be considerable variation in the strength of the link between ecology and evolution of these fish.
We already know that our data shows a surprising amount of intraspecific morphological variation among landlocked alewives, probably indicating rapid divergence of isolated populations. This summer, I completed morphology work on all populations under study, and will continue to analyze that data for my senior thesis. I also completed ambient zooplankton counts, and began work on diet composition of these alewives. In genetic analyses done by Eric Palkovacs (Palkovacs et. al. 2007), landlocked populations differ amongst themselves as strongly as any landlocked population differs from the ancestral anadromous population. This is probably true morphologically and ecologically as well. Upon completion of this research, this data may provide an interesting landscape perspective on the evolution of variation in isolated populations of a single species.
Elizabeth Marshman, Biomedical Engineering '10, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (CENG/ENVE)
Yale Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Water Project: Phase II Implementation & Phase III Assessment (4 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon)
Julia Meisel, Environmental Studies '10, Faculty Advisor - Blake Harrison (History)
Yale International Bulldogs Program: Internship with the Secretariat UN Convention on Biodiversity-Technology (8 weeks, Montreal, Canada)
Yale International Bulldogs Program: Internship with the Secretariat UN Convention on Biodiversity-Technology
Julia Meisel, Environmental Studies '10
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is one of the three UN Conventions signed as a result of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then, 191 countries have ratified this binding agreement that aims to conserve biological diversity and promote its sustainable use.
My internship (through the International Bulldogs program) was at the Convention’s Secretariat. The Secretariat, located in Montreal, Canada, supports the role of the CBD, coordinates with other international bodies and organizes the meetings and workings of the Conferences of the Parties. My internship dealt specifically with the program of Technology Transfer.
The objectives of the Convention are “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.” In order to achieve these objectives, countries must be able to access and transfer environmentally-friendly technologies that can help protect and conserve biodiversity.
One component of the program of technology transfer is the CBD’s information database. The CBD cannot hope to database every technology related to biodiversity, but in combination with interoperability projects with other organizations, the database can serve as a resource to direct Parties to technologies that they seek. One of my main projects was adding technologies to the database.
The technologies appropriate for the database are wide-ranging. The most important points are that they be specific, adoptable technologies and that they protect and conserve biodiversity. With respect to the former, this would exclude, for example, news articles mentioning a forthcoming technology that provide no valuable direction to potential adopters. It also excludes technologies that are evolving very rapidly and will quickly be replaced by better versions. The latter point, about biodiversity, serves to distinguish these technologies from generally “environmentally friendly” technologies. For example, a group such as the Food and Agriculture Organization is a source of many sustainable technologies for increasing food production. However, a narrow focus on increasing production might run counter to protecting biodiversity, as in the case of a hybrid crop variety that would be adopted to the exclusion of native crop species.
My other main area of focus was the potential Biodiversity Technology Initiative (BTI). The BTI is an initiative that would allow countries to more easily share and adopt the types of technologies included in the database. It would also be a mechanism to ensure another goal of the Convention, that all countries received fair and equitable access to and benefits from the use of genetic resources. There had been interest in a BTI at the recent Ninth Conference of the Parties, and it was my job to compile possible portfolios of activities that would show the varying scopes a BTI could possess. A narrow portfolio of activities that aimed only to build countries’ capacities to share technologies would be generally appealing to the Parties and relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, it would not have the capability of a more comprehensive (and expensive) initiative that aimed also to ensure fair access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing.
Ariel Patashnik, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - David Post (E&EB)
The Effects of Wetland Drainage and Restoration on Endangered Suckerfish in the Klamath River Basin: Internship with The Nature Conservancy (8 weeks, Klamath Falls, OR)
The Effects of Wetland Drainage and Restoration on Endangered Suckerfish in the Klamath River Basin: Internship with The Nature Conservancy
Ariel Patashnik, Environmental Studies '09
This summer I spent two months in Klamath Falls, Oregon interning with The Nature Conservancy. I was working on a sampling project aimed at measuring the habitat use of two species of endangered fish, the Lost River sucker and the shortnose sucker. The plight of the suckers came into the public eye in 2001, when a Biological Opinion by the Fish and Wildlife Service warned that low water levels caused by intensive irrigation would threaten the survival of the species, and a battle over irrigation ensued.
The dust has settled somewhat since then, but serious concerns about water in the Klamath Basin and the fate of the suckers remain. The Nature Conservancy has worked with state and federal agencies as well as private companies to purchase and restore the Williamson River Delta Preserve, an area that historically had been wetland (which is crucial nursery habitat for suckers), but was drained and dyked for farming in the 1940s. In October 2007, habitat restoration began with levee breaches to reinundate part of the delta. My work this summer was to help monitor the larval fish using this new habitat.
The basic questions that The Nature Conservancy’s fish sampling effort is trying to answer is whether endangered suckers are successfully rearing in the restored delta, and what types of habitat within the delta they prefer. Sampling has been going on for several years at two test-restoration sites in the preserve and at one site on the shore of Upper Klamath Lake. We continued sampling at these sites, but every other week sampled exclusively in the newly restored area. Once the data has been organized, it will be interesting to see how sucker abundance, length, and gut fullness compares between the new habitat, the test restoration sites, and the lake site. It will also be valuable to compare this data to results from previous years to see if there is any discernable effect of the new habitat on, for example, the proportion of suckers found at the lake site. Our findings about the preference of suckers for different habitat types (deep, shallow, vegetated, non-vegetated) will be important as well, because more solid data is needed on the ecology of larval suckers.
In addition to fish sampling four days a week, I was able to do my own research into the history of the sucker/water controversy in the Basin. I also learned a lot about the fascinating process by which The Nature Conservancy was able to begin its restoration project. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that I realized how helpful it had been to actually be on location in Klamath Falls and immerse myself in this particular conservation issue. I will continue to investigate the history and status of the suckers for my senior project, and will certainly always have soft spot in my heart for the two species. I would absolutely recommend an internship like this to students who are thinking about pursuing an internship to gain fieldwork experience. I had never done anything in the field before, and it was wonderful; I really became invested in the conservation effort. I can’t wait to get my hands on our data!
Jonathan Russell, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '11, Faculty Advisors - Paul Turner (E&EB) and Graeme Berlyn (F&ES)
Promoting Sustainable Management of Forest Resources by Incorporating Analog Forest Methods into Neighboring Farms: Internship with the Monte Saino Natural Resource Conservation Center (9 weeks, Esmeraldas, Ecuador)
Promoting Sustainable Management of Forest Resources by Incorporating Analog Forest Methods into Neighboring Farms: Internship with the Monte Saino Natural Resource Conservation Center
Jonathan Russell, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '11
With the help of the Environmental Studies Summer Fellowship, I worked for 2 months this summer as part of volunteer group on a conservation project in the coastal Esmeraldas province of Ecuador. The Ecuadorian-based conservation group Ecociencia sponsored the volunteer program as one of multiple projects across the country. I lived and worked at the Monte Saino Reserve, a small section of remaining coastal rainforest on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. The reserve sits at the intersection of two ecosystems known for their biodiversity and abundance of endemic species, specifically the heavily intervened “El Chocó” region that runs through Coastal Ecuador. It is uniquely positioned to have a dramatic impact on the conservation of one of the world’s ecological “hotspots.”
Monte Saino is working to build this sustainable model in a variety of ways. Specifically, the project is trying to regenerate forest cover by reintroducing native fruit species to partially or heavily intervened areas. The main problem with destructive agricultural practices is the tendency to clear the natural biodiversity and replace it with a profitable monoculture. Not only is this damaging to the local ecosystem, it is also done in direct contradiction to the evolution of cacao, which has evolved to grow in the shade of the rainforest. On the Reserve, a variety of fruit tree species including Borajo, Calade, Cocoa, Tagua that are native to the coastal rainforest. With the introduction of these species, the project has begun to build layers of shade using tree species that have themselves inherent value. In this way, the project extends beyond the cacao tree and seeks to integrate a large array of alternative methods to corroborate the economy of the local community. Seeds from the Tagua tree – nicknamed vegetable ivory – are widely used in handicrafts. Certain seeds can be harvested, used, and sold each year for roughly $30, while the timber of the respective tree might have only yielded $10 in profit. Thus, the Monte Saino project focus on ways to introduce new methods of cultivation to local community that are both environmentally sustainable and economically profitable.
What I found most encouraging about this project was its approach to interacting with the community of local farmers. The essence of the interaction was not “Your ways are wrong, let us show you how to farm correctly.” This would be immediately disagreeable, disengaging, distancing to a community of prideful farmers. Instead, the approach of Monte Saino was to build a successful cacao farm, reach out and invite local farmers to visit and participate in workshops. If they liked what they saw, the project would go out of its way to help the farmer and his farm, bringing seeds, planting trees, building nurseries. The biologists were brilliant in this respect, to acknowledge that conservation is not a stationary or solitary thing, but instead must thrive and spread to be successful.
This experience has been invaluable to me and I would immediately recommend this exceedingly well run program at the Monte Saino Natural Resource Conservation Center to all of my fellow students, especially those interested in Environmental Studies, Forestry, and Biology. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the Environmental Studies Department for their support in funding my experience this summer. It was so phenomenal to live and experience an entirely different culture and environment for 8 weeks. I learned so much from the people and plants I worked with and lived among. It is an experience unlike any other. It would not have been possible without your generosity and the course of my education and life will be greatly influenced by my time in Ecuador.
Irene Scher, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - Ben Cashore (F&ES)
Internationalization and the Canadian Boreal Conservation Campaign with Pew Charitable Trusts (2 weeks, Canada)
Internationalization and the Canadian Boreal Conservation Campaign with Pew Charitable Trusts
Irene Scher, Environmental Studies '09
My summer research was an attempt to determine why recent protections in Canada’s Boreal Forest have been enacted, and to understand the role of transnational actors from the US (primarily) in these recent protections. My research question was: “Despite international and domestic pressure on Canadian policy makers and firms to increase resource extraction from the Canadian Boreal Forest, why has the number of strictly protected and certified areas in the Boreal increased dramatically over the last decade?” I spent my summer working in the International Boreal Conservation Campaign’s (IBCC) Seattle office. My funds from the summer internship program allowed me to travel to Ontario and Vancouver in order to meet with knowledgeable people about my research. I met with leaders in the ENGO community, consultants to the ENGO community, Government officials in Canada, and an industry official to try to obtain a wide and balanced range of data with which to analyze my question through extended personal interviews.
I started out with the hypothesis that transnational actors were primarily responsible for recent land protections in Canada’s Boreal Forest. I initially hypothesized that these protections could be explained by “Internationalization,” a framework that describes the processes by which transnational actors influence domestic policy changes (Bernstein and Cashore, 2000). According to the framework, internationalization occurs via four pathways: market dependence, international rules, international norms, and access to the domestic policy making process. My research this summer has shown me that the role of a transnational influence varies from one protection to the next, in kind and measure.
My interviews unveiled many interesting facts and new layers of complexity to my research. The new information that has become available to me has forced me to question the assumptions inherent in my research design, and have broadened my understanding of how the various internationalization pathways can affect change across borders. For example, I assumed that the market dependence pathway could explain recent Forest Stewardship Council protections in Canada because campaigns in the US would affect the purchasing habits of US consumers, leading them away from Canadian products. While this has some truth, the Market Dependence pathway also has a weighty effect on policy. The Canadian Government wants to protect the forest products industry in Canada, and help it to continue its lucrative trade agreements with the US. As such, when foreign investors become uncertain about the environmental sustainability of Canadian forest products sector, the government may issue new conservation initiatives in order to increase foreign investor confidence in Canadian domestic markets. I have made similar progress on understanding the way in which other pathways of transnational change have affected policy changes in Canada.
Overall I am thrilled to have been able to study new developments in a campaign that has already helped to achieve an unprecedented number and area of protections. My summer research provided me with the opportunity to explore a theory and method of transnational policy change that I believe will become increasingly relevant as the global community takes on larger cross-border environmental issues. Though some Canadians are displeased with the involvement of the US in what they feel are their domestic affairs, most people have begun to recognize that ecological treasures, like Canada’s Boreal Forest, have international significance.
Matthew Smith, Physics '10, Faculty Advisor - John Harris (Physics)
Environmental Policy and Field Biology Research in Patagonia: Internships with Global Vision Internation and Fundacion Bioandina Argentina (8 weeks, Patagonia and Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Environmental Policy and Field Biology Research in Patagonia: Internships with Global Vision Internation and Fundacion Bioandina Argentina
Matthew Smith, Physics '10
I set out this summer to explore environmental policy in northern Patagonia, especially around the proactive conservation of the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus). I first participated in the condor liberation efforts of a local Argentine organization, Fundación Bioandina Argentina, to reintroduce the condor to the Patagonian coast, and then I volunteered with a British NGO, Global Vision International, helping local scientists conduct research in the Andes. During my eight week stay, I aimed to gain experience conducting field biology research, to examine the policy structure of cooperative conservation in Patagonia, to look at the perspectives of resident and indigenous populations in the conservation areas, and to improve my Spanish.
My first two weeks with FBA in Sierra Paileman near San Antonio Oeste found me bouncing around in a dilapidated pick-up with the other volunteer, picking up dead sheep to shoulder up to the top of the sierra, or monitoring condor activity using a radio transmitter. Arguably the largest flying bird, the Andean condor can live as long as 65 or 70 years, but only lays an egg every three or four, so the population is reasonably vulnerable. The birds once inhabited northern Argentina and much of Patagonia, but have retreated toward the mountains and become extinct on the coast. The juveniles released on the coast are tracked using radio markers clipped on the wings. Because the last liberation took place almost a year before, I only encountered two birds (once as close as five feet!), but still fell into the project’s routine.
With FBA I gained a truly local perspective on the conservation effort. Much of my work involved interacting with the neighboring estancias, where we got supplies for ourselves and the condors, news, and often dinner in the form of delicious authentic asados. Many of the families were Mapuche Indian. The help of these generous people was crucial to the success of the liberation project.
Directly east in the southern Andes, I joined GVI’s expedition where we collected data to help Argentine condor expert Sergio Lambertucci anticipate the plight of the main South American condor population. The research consisted of censuses at condoreras, or roosts, dramatic jagged cliff faces where dozens of the birds would unite overnight. We also walked parallel transects, counting all raptors we saw along the way. The transects served to examine the influence of the invading black vultures (Coragyps atratus)on the condor population. Though much smaller, black vultures out-compete condors and increasing human influence has brought them in droves. The condors also face danger from lead poisoning, poisoned animals intended to kill pumas, and locals that incorrectly assume that condors prey on their livestock.
My experience in Patagonia was extremely rewarding, both scientifically and personally, and I thank the Environmental Studies department for providing me with the opportunity—I recommend this direction of study to all! After this summer I feel inspired to take my physics major and pursue a more environmental bent in the future.
Laura Zatz, Environmental Studies '09, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science)
French Women Don't Get Fat or Do They?: A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study of Policies Designed to Address Environmental Determinants of Obesity with the French National Institute of Medical Research (9 weeks, Paris, France)
French Women Don’t Get Fat or Do They?: A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study of Policies Designed to Address Environmental Determinants of Obesity with the French National Institute of Medical Research
Laura Zatz, Environmental Studies '09
This summer, I spent 9 weeks in Paris, France. Since France has one of the lowest rates of obesity, despite a diet famous for “unhealthy” foods, such as wine, bread and cheese, I was interested in exploring cultural differences regarding obesity and the food environment. The primary focus of my project was to examine the regulation of food marketing in France and compare it to regulations in the United States. I wanted to determine the factors that facilitated the enactment of stricter regulations in France and compare these factors to the barriers which exist in America.
During my stay, I had several objectives: improving my conversational fluency; studying the French culture; investigating policies designed to address obesity; and, examining the food environment. I used various methods to accomplish these objectives: sociology courses with French faculty; observation of the food environment; the collection of food advertisements; and, daily interactions with French citizens. Other data came from informant interviews that I conducted with French students, university professors, adults, a researcher from INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherché médicale) (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), and program managers from the EPODE obesity prevention program (Ensemble prévenons l’obésité des enfants), (Preventing Child Obesity Together).
I noticed several important cultural differences which may contribute to a lower prevalence of obesity in France. For the French, the meal is a sacred ritual that is guided by specific rules. Compared to other European nations and the United States, the French have one of the most regulated eating styles—an eating style that is inherently linked to the commensality of meals. The French are willing to accept regulatory measures to address obesity because the rituals surrounding food are critical to the French identity. The universalistic nature of French society is another important factor affecting attitudes towards obesity policy. I hypothesize that the absence of a strong lobbying presence in France is one of the main reasons that the French government was able to enact restrictions on food marketing.
Immersing myself in the French culture helped me to identify many differences between American, French, and European cultures. While I learned a lot about the French people, I also learned a lot about myself and the problems of conducting international research. It was more difficult than I had imagined coordinating international research opportunities, and unexpected events affected well thought-out plans. I am extremely grateful to the Environmental Studies Summer Internship Program for providing me with the opportunity to research in France this summer. This research provided me with a solid foundation from which to begin my senior thesis. Furthermore, I now have established research contacts in France, which will be valuable for future collaborative efforts. I hope to continue exploring this topic by helping with a 2-year YSPH study which aims to examine public opinion about obesity, government regulation and media portrayal of the obesity epidemic. I also plant to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship after the completion of my Master’s program so that I can continue researching with Mr. Basile Chaix at INSERM.
Berkeley Adrio, Environmental Studies
'09, Faculty Advisor - Oswald Schmitz (F&ES): The Zululand Tree Project: Acacia population structure and landscape
dynamics in Hluhluwe iMfolozi park. [9 weeks, South Africa]
The Zululand Tree Project: Acacia population structure and landscape dynamics in Hluhluwe iMfolozi park
Berkley Adrio, Environmental Studies '09
With my Environmental Studies Internship Award, I was able to spend nine weeks in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The park is governed by Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and is the result of the merger of Hluhluwe and iMfolozi parks in 1989. Some parts of the park have been protected since as early as 1895. HiP covers 960 km2 and is surrounded by Zulu. HiP was the site of the breeding program (“Operation Rhino” in the 1950s) that brought the White Rhino back from near extinction, and they are now common fixtures in the park. There are also large populations of elephant, giraffe, impala, nyala, kudu, and dozens of other ungulate species in addition to thriving groups of lions, leopard, and cheetah. The park is a spectacular place to live and work.
I spent the summer doing field work for the Zululand Tree Project (primarily affiliated with the University of Cape Town) with the help of community guards and other students. I collected data on tree and grass dynamics across a broad range of ecosystems using 220 km of tourist and management roads inside the park. Transects were laid down every 500m along the road and consisted of a forty-meter transect, along which we measured, identified, and recorded every tree species within five meters of either side of the tape. We also recorded grass species, percent ground cover, and DPM every two meters along the transect tape.
The data revealed changes in Acacia species dominance and recruitment. It appears that Acacia karoo in addition to several non-Acacia species are replacing Acacia nilotica woodlands. These results give further evidence that bush encroachment is increasing on a landscape scale, as is the rate at which bush encroachment is occurring. Maytenus, Spirostachys, and Euclea are all thicket species, and research currently underway in the park is starting to suggest that Acacia karoo may be a thicket indicator/precursor species as they are often found on the fringes of developing thickets. The open grasslands of fifty years ago are swiftly dwindling in HiP, and are now mostly confined to the southern half of the park. However, it remains to be seen if this transition from grassland to thicket will eventually lead to woodland and back to grassland again. It is possible that the encroachment is part of a natural cycle, but it is also possible that once the thickets move in, we will never have savannas and grasslands again.
This uncertainty poses a difficult challenge for wildlife and park managers across southern Africa and is currently a topic of intense debate and heavy research. It is clear that the management choices we make today will play a crucial role in how savannas fare over the long term, and it is in everyone’s best interest to act with as much confidence and knowledge as possible. The Zululand Tree Project and similar organizations are working hard to provide managers with the information necessary to move forward and promote the continued health of parks in South Africa.
Nathalie Alegre, Environmental
Studies'08, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science): Elements of usage and sustainability in assessing the impact of
infrastructure-building by national public development programs in the
Peruvian Andes. [6 weeks, Peru]
Elements of Usage and Sustainability in Assessing the Impact of Infrastructure-building by National Public Development Programs in the Peruvian Andes
Nathalie Alegre, Environmental Studies '08
This summer I spent six weeks in Peru’s Southern Andes region (Department of Ayacucho) investigating social aspects of sustainable development initiatives undertaken by the Peruvian government. I focused on the relationship between officials of the “National Program for Micro-Watershed Management and Soil Conservation” (PRONAMACHCS) -- an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture whose stated mission is “to promote the sustainable use of naturals resources in watersheds of the Sierra, to better life conditions for rural populations, and the preservation of the natural environment” --, and peasants in rural communities -- the beneficiaries of the program. I was interested in understanding the perceptions of natives regarding state intervention and wanted to assess how sustainable, if at all, the program really was. That is, to what extent did projects of environmental conservation and agricultural development are continued by the local population once state supervision is no longer present and what did this depend on?
The region of Ayacucho is one of the poorest and driest of the country. It was also one of the areas most affected by the wave of political violence sweeping the Peruvian Andes during the 1980s as a result of the actions of the Shining Path terrorist movement and its consequent armed conflict with the Peruvian military forces. Afterward, the government of President Alberto Fujimori during the 1990s set a precedent for all state development action by engaging in a paternalistic relationship with the rural beneficiaries of so-called “repopulation programs.” In these, peasants would ask for help from the national government and receive aid almost exclusively in the form of infrastructure building. There was no emphasis on comprehensive, environmentally sound, and society-empowering development. I imagined that past violent relations with the government would have made peasants distrustful of government officials and that their past experiences with institutions that would simply “give them fish” and not teach then “how to fish,” would severely compromise the local sustainability of the projects PRONAMACHCS undertook by making peasants dependent on the continuing presence of the institution’s technicians and engineers.
I concentrated on seven small communities (20-50 families) in three districts of the provinces of Huanta and Huamanga, in the department of Ayacucho. Each of these communities had its own “comité conservacionista” or conservationist committee: an organized group of peasants that worked in cooperation with PRONAMACHCS under a “contract” to undertake conservation and development activities such as construction of “slow-formation” terraces, reforestation, construction and maintenance of plant nurseries, construction of irrigation channels, animal sheds, warehouses, and workshops in micro-business and micro-watershed management. The committees agreed to meet once (or twice) a week to work on activities that benefited the community as a whole, sometimes in exchange for receiving food and supplies. A technician from PRONAMACHCS, headquartered in the “agencia provincial,” or provincial agency, was assigned to visit each community on their designated work day, to help plan and supervise activities and coordinate the repartition of materials funded by the institution.
To get a better sense of the mission and goals of PRONAMACHCS and to be able to outline national policies on rural development, I gathered documents and talked to experts at the National Agrarian University in Lima. I conversed with faculty members and also with individuals that had had experience in NGO work in the region of Ayacucho. I even had the opportunity to talk to a former director of PRONAMACHCS. Most of them agreed with that PRONAMACHCS lacked the participatory focus necessary to effectively engage local rural populations in conservation and environmental development practices, and that the institution used a top-down approach in which plans for conservation were made in offices in Lima, the capital, with little to no input from the local beneficiary population. The situation proved to be more complicated than they asserted as PRONAMACHCS did, at least on paper, have a mandate to develop conservation and development plans in consultation with native peasants. However, a combination of factors including lack of funds, external pressure from the national PRONAMACHCS directory, and lack of a deep understanding of the social dynamics of each specific community limited the level of participation of natives in the planning of activities process. These last transpired from both the formal and informal interviews I conducted with officials (technicians, engineers, and administrators) in the departmental and provincial agencies of PRONAMACHCS. Officials also pointed out that in many cases the peasants just “had no interest” in engaging in conservation and environmental development activities. I surveyed technicians and engineers to also understand how they individually related to peasants.
I conducted formal and informal interviews with peasants and farmers in the seven communities. Because I thought that cultural factors (attitudes towards government officials, past experiences with development organizations, level of education, etc.) were the most influential, I asked open questions regarded those issues and encouraged individuals to tell me a little about what they thought of the program, if they knew what the program was about, what were some complaints that they had regarding the program or the technicians, and what they felt their role was in conservation and development activities, among other questions. I also tried to get them to talk about their past experiences with other organizations and with terrorism itself, to gauge whether this could play a determinant role in their attitudes towards PRONAMACHCS. Another topic that interested me was the social dynamics of the comité conservacionista itself. It was not mandatory to participate in the activities promoted by the national program, yet the whole community benefitted from soil conservation and reforestation activities (anyone in the community could ask to be given wood from the reforested areas, for example). I wanted to know how members of the committee felt about this and if this discouraged their commitment to the program in any way.
Natives’ perspective of the work they executed with PRONAMACHCS was mixed, but some general observations can be pointed out: In many cases participants in the conservation projects sponsored by PRONAMACHCS would do so because working a certain number of hours was equivalent to receiving a certain number of food supplies under a contract PRONAMACHCS had with the World Food Programme. They would be foreign to the goals and missions of the agency and unknowledgeable of the functions of a conservationist committee. Of approximately fifty people interviewed, only two identified themselves as a “conservationist.” However, about 10 freely expressed that the activities they carried out were “for their own good.” In most cases, it was unclear whether or not peasants had a complete understanding of the purpose of the activities. It was interesting to see that in some communities, participants had no idea of what organization officials were part of, but were eager to receive “apoyo,” or support, from wherever they were coming from, perhaps a sign of the degree of marginalization these communities had suffered in recent years. There also seemed to be a correlation between how far from a major city or town the communities were located and the degree of understanding of the purposes of the program. For example, in the case of a very specific project: the construction of animal sheds to protect livestock from frost, individuals in the most isolated communities would work making adobe bricks but many did not know exactly what they were building.
Most interestingly, there seemed to be a correlation between how much personal good a specific conservation activity generated and how much effort individuals put on those activities and how much they understood their purpose. It transpired in conversation with both officials and peasant as well as through observation that plant nurseries were the most popular projects. Committees would work every week on them, keep them clean, watered, and organized. Committee members and members of the community could take home plants from the nursery and use them for personal purposes. On the other hand, building warehouses and animal sheds was problematic because the benefits were distributed throughout the community. Committees lacked the organization of who was to use the warehouse or animal shed or when. In some cases, warehouses and animal sheds ended up being used as houses because they looked prettier and felt warmer than the poor peasants’ houses were.
My time spent in Peru did open up other areas of inquiry. It was very interesting to observe that the burning of garbage still constituted a big part of farming practices for peasants in Ayacucho for example, and that little to no emphasis was put by state agencies such as PRONAMACHCS, which is supposedly dedicated to environmental sustainability, in composting (as alternative to burning). I would like to investigate the extent to which sustainable and ecological practices are used in Peruvian state intervention and asses the viability of introducing such practices in the work of PRONAMACHCS.
I would also like to note that the opportunity to interact with both native peasants and state officials in one of the poorest regions of my country was of extreme personal and academic value. I have found that it is one thing to read about rural development endeavors and another to actually experience the social dynamics of these efforts. Real life is much more complex than academic papers and books suggest, so I would recommend that other students try to engage in experiences similar to mine and to the other environmental studies interns.
Adedana Ashebir, Environmental Studies
'09, Faculty Advisor - Lillian Guerra (History): The New Haven/Leon Sister City Project: Agriculture and Public Health.
[8 weeks, Nicaragua]
The New Haven/Leon Sister City Project: Agriculture and Public Health
Adedana Ashebir, Environmental Studies '09
This summer I spent two months in León, Nicaragua with the New Haven/León Sister City Project. I studied agriculture in the rural community of Goyena, a twenty minute motorcycle ride from downtown León. I shadowed two farmers, Don Humberto and Don Francisco, and learned about their farming practices, as well as their distribution methods. I also worked with youth in starting a nursery, and it showed me how agricultural projects can be used to educate, bond, and give a purpose to young people. The crop from the nursery would be both consumed and sold. Through my conversation with various farmers, I also learned about the water quality issues. Most citizens of Goyena work in the sugarcane fields and are exposed to pesticides that not only contaminate the water, but cause illness. The water in Goyena is unsafe to drink, and many sugarcane workers have experienced kidney failure due to pesticides exposure.
The highlight of my experience in Nicaragua was attending the US-Nicaragua Solidarity Conference in Managua. This conference was sponsored by an American organization, the Nicaragua Network. The Nicaragua Network was founded by American citizens who wished to support Nicaraguans in the revolution against the US backed Somoza dictatorship. This conference was attended by many NGOs, including Sister City projects from across the United States and Nicaragua. The two workshops that interested me the most were “DR-CAFTA” and “Environment and Agricultural Ecology, Food Security and Sovereignty, and Effects of Pesticide Contamination.” During these workshops I learned about the Dominican Republic- Central America Free Trade Agreement, and how it impacts both Nicaraguan and other Central American farmers. I learned about dumping and a bit of the intricacies of corn, rice, and bean trade. In the latter workshop, I heard the terms “food security” and “food sovereignty” for the first time, and became interested immediately. These two workshops were closely related, as trade agreements such as DR-CAFTA, play an important role in food security.
Aside from shadowing farmers and attending conferences, living in Nicaragua during the summer of 2007 was a learning experience in itself. Water was shut off almost everyday. The energy crisis translated to daily blackouts in the beginning of my stay in Nicaragua, although the situation improved a bit. The water and the energy crisis did not discriminate. Restaurants, small business, homes, hotels, and hostels all experienced the same water and power troubles. Our Project office didn’t receive power until 2pm daily, which made productivity difficult.
With the help of the Environmental Internship Program, I experienced the most amazing two months. I wholeheartedly recommend the New Haven/León Sister City project, but conversational Spanish skills are key. The staff is very helpful. I was introduced to new concepts that now really interest me. Although I am a year removed from my senior essay, this experience has given me ideas of topics I would like to investigate further, and I am grateful to the Program for allowing me to work this summer in León, Nicaragua.
Kathryn Au, Environmental Studies '08, Faculty Advisor - Susan Clark (F&ES) :
The Perspectives of Local Residents and the Policy Process behind the
Mexican Wolf Recovery Project. [4 weeks, New Mexico and Arizona]
The Perspectives of Local Residents and the Policy Process behind the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project
Kathyrn Au, Environmental Studies '08
I spent five weeks of this summer in the American Southwest trying to map the social and decision process behind the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) by interviewing stakeholders in Arizona and New Mexico. My main lines of inquiry during the interviews were 1) what their stance towards the reintroduction program was, 2) what they perceived as the problem, 3) what they thought the solution was, 4) how they were involved with the decision-making, 5) what their stake in the program was, and 6) if relevant to the person, why the wolf reintroduction efforts in the Northern Rockies has been so successful.
I began my project last April by attending the 2007 North American Wolf Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I became acquainted with many of the issues facing the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction as well as the people involved with the effort. From that experience I learned about the widespread discontent towards the management of the species. The 10(j) rule of the Endangered Species Act allows for this subspecies of wolves, currently the most endangered mammal in North America, to be listed as a ‘nonessential experimental population.’ That gives the policymakers and biologists flexibility in managing wolves if problems occur; in other words, Mexican gray wolves have less protection than other endangered species because they can be legally killed under certain situations. The other problematic piece of policy is Standard Operating Procedure #13, or SOP13, which mandates that wolves that kill livestock on three separate occasions within one year are permanently removed from the wild.
When I traveled to Albuquerque this summer and interviewed people from the various interest groups, it became clear that the issue was not simply a matter of bad policy. I spoke with a few ranchers and representatives of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, White Mountain Apache Tribe, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Forest Guardians, the Rewilding Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Catron County, New Mexico Cattle Growers, and the Gila Permittee Association. While nearly everyone had an opinion on the 10(j) status or SOP13, for most people those policies were not the main issue. Talking with the different stakeholders I realized that everyone was telling me a different story. My main conclusion from this summer would be that the prevalence and use of so many different narratives are the main factors preventing cooperation and collaboration between the stakeholders.
This has been a tremendous experience for me. I learned this summer that conserving a species is not just about looking at science; history, culture, and politics can have a large influence over the way conservation is carried out. I am currently drawing upon this experience to learn about more effective conservation strategies in Susan Clark’s class on Species and Ecosystems Conservation at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Through this experience I have gained valuable insight into the real dynamics of conservation.
Emily Biesecker, Environmental Studies
'08, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science): Subsistence Resource Use and Alaska's National Parks. [8 weeks,
Subsistence Resource Use and Alaska’s National Parks
Emily Biesecker, Environmental Studies ’08
Through the generous support of the Environmental Internship Program, I spent my summer in the southcentral and interior regions of Alaska, investigating the decision-making processes for subsistence hunting regulations within Alaska’s National Parks. Traveling across hundreds of miles of the subarctic landscape, I divided my time among Anchorage, Denali National Park and Preserve, Fairbanks, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The research I performed there will form the basis of my senior project in Environmental Studies. Broadly, I hoped to explore the incorporation and exclusion of local people in the management of protected areas and to combine this insight with specific attention toward American wilderness studies and the history of North American National Parks. My research also reinforced my particular interest in public participation, through formal and informal avenues, in the regulatory decision-making process.
My research was interview-based, and I was able to meet with a great variety of actors in the policy process, including (1) employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; (2) representatives of Native Corporations and Native village councils; (3) members of Federal Regional Advisory Committees, Park-specific Subsistence Resource Commissions, and State Local Advisory Committees; (4) members of the Federal Subsistence Board and the State Board of Fish and Game; (5) active subsistence resource users; and (6) recreational and professional hunters. Our conversations tended to center around the most popularly hunted species – moose, caribou, sheep, and goat, as, not surprisingly, greater competition in harvest leads to more contentious management. The interviews also revealed important considerations of trust and power-sharing among managers and resource users, and the questionable state of the science employed in the regulatory decision-making.
This summer was an invaluable experience; while in the state I was able to gain access to so many people and resources otherwise unavailable to me, such as archives, internal reports, databases, and ongoing studies. Alaska’s subsistence resource management is a topic of incredible complexity and contention. The conflicts are numerous: between subsistence, sport, and commercial hunters, Native and non-Native resource users, Rural and non-rural resource users, and state and federal management professionals. It was a situation I could not sincerely approach without being wholly embedded, and my time in Alaska allowed me to do just that. This fall, I plan to continue my research, correcting my relatively limited access to the experiences and opinions of subsistence resource users not directly involved the regulatory process, especially those who live off the road system. With the guidance of cultural anthropologists and wildlife managers in the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I will write and administer a survey to be sent to households (P.O. boxes) within the specified Resident Zone Communities of Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks.
My deepest gratitude to the Environmental Internship Program for providing me a productive summer in a beautiful land worthy of attention and protection!
Eric Bloom, Architecture '08, Faculty Advisor - Alan Plattus (Architecture): Environmental Mapping Internship: Commission for Environmental Protection,
Montreal, Canada. [8 weeks, Montreal, Canada]
Environmental Mapping Internship: Commission for Environmental Protection, Montreal, Canada
Eric Bloom, Architecture '08
My Environmental Studies Fellowship brought me to the city of Montreal, Canada, to work at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation as an Environmental Mapping Intern under Yale’s International Bulldogs Program. My intention was to explore the use of cartography in advancing awareness and understanding of environmental issues both through research into the diverse modes of representation used in cartography as well as through hands-on work with ArcGIS, a mapping software program used widely in my two long-term fields of interest, architecture and the environment. In my two months in Montreal, I learned not only that cartography is a powerful tool for representing environmental issues graphically, but also that its power is a source of controversy and contention in international environmental work.
The organization with which I worked, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, was established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to facilitate collaboration and avoid potential conflicts on environmental issues among the three North American partner countries: Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The office itself was trilingual; conversations would begin in Spanish, switch almost unnoticeably to English, and then end in French, which provided me with the opportunity to discuss the environment in all three languages. Through my internship, however, I was working primarily with the two project managers of the CEC’s North American Atlas Project.
In order both to meet the needs of the CEC and to satisfy my own interest in acquiring experience with ArcGIS in the course of my nine weeks there, the internship consisted of several phases. At first, I catalogued hundreds of the CEC’s past maps and graphics to give the project managers a sense of how the CEC had mapped North American environmental issues throughout its ten-year history. After presenting my work, the project managers and I developed a two-part plan for the remaining portion of the summer: first, to compile a feasibility report involving research into innovative mapping techniques that could be applied to the CEC’s international pollutant release data; and second, to develop my skills with ArcGIS through independent tutorials and cosultation with the project managers. By the end, I had produced a 15-page feasibility report for the North American Atlas Project and a sample map in which I employed ArcGIS to show the amount of formaldehyde released to water across North American watersheds.
While the tangible products of my experience were satisfying, my internship left me with a deeper understanding of the power of cartography in documenting environmental issues. As I proposed innovative ways of representing North American pollutants, I encountered friction among some in the organization who doubted that such maps would survive the process of deliberation and arrive to the general public. The strength of the industrial lobby in parts of North America, they warned, would see their own facilities implicated in the maps and obstruct their publication in order to preserve their opinion with the general public. I concluded, therefore, that mapping is a powerful tool whose deployment may be best achieved through a more grassroots means of dissemination rather than through the framework of an organization like the CEC whose primary interest lies in avoiding international conflicts.
Adam Bouland, Mathematics '09, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (Environmental Engineering):
Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water Project in Kikoo,
Cameroon. [2 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon]
Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water Project in Kikoo, Cameroon
Adam Bouland, Mathematics '09
The village of Kikoo is situated in the rural mountainous area of northern Cameroon. Its population of approximately 1,000 subsistence farmers uses the surrounding lands for farming and grazing livestock. The village currently obtains its drinking water from contaminated streams which run through the village, leading to high levels of waterborne illness.
There are several uncontaminated spring sources in the area, but they are too far from the population center to be accessed on a daily basis. Thus the Yale Student Chapter (YSC) of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), in collaboration with the community of Kikoo and the Social Welfare Dept. of the Catholic Diocese of Kumbo, has begun construction of a water distribution system to provide clean drinking water for the village. This distribution system consists of a spring box, several kilometers of PVC pipe, a large storage tank, and several community standpipes. This will ensure that the entire community has access to uncontaminated water for drinking and personal hygiene.
To these ends, the YSC-EWB conducted an assessment trip in which three members traveled to Kikoo in January 2007. The team surveyed the proposed piping routes and standpipe locations using GPS equipment. They assessed the community’s progress on the spring box and measured the flow rate of the spring. They also assessed fecal contamination levels (using total coliform tests) in the spring source and verified its integrity and purity. The team conducted a health survey of the village in accordance with EWB project regulations. The team assessed the availability of construction materials in nearby towns and tabulated costs of the proposed project, since all materials for the project were purchased locally.
After refining the water system design in spring 2007, the YSC-EWB conducted its first implementation trip in August 2007. I accompanied four Yale undergrads, three professional engineers from New Haven, a Yale professor and two engineering students to Cameroon for a two-week trip to the region. Our team completed several tasks during the trip, including the construction of the foundation and base slab of the storage tank, and preparation of the first standpipe location. We also assessed the quality of the spring water, surveyed and tested new water sources, and gave lessons on hand washing and sanitation at the local school. The storage tank will be completed by the end of September 2007, and the village has sufficient funding to install the first two standpipes of the system. The project may be extended in the future by creating a separate distribution system or pumping station so that water may reach currently inaccessible regions of Kikoo.
Constance Bowen, Architecture–Urban
Studies '08, Faculty Advisor - Sophia Gruzdys (Architecture): Urban Forest: Forces of Regrowth and Responsibility in
Baltimore, Maryland. [Baltimore, Maryland]
Urban Forest: Forces of Regrowth and Responsibility in Baltimore, Maryland
Constance Bowen, Architecture '08
This summer I was interested in discovering the social climate for citizen participation in environmental conservation efforts in cities and states across the country and to understand the strategies, and challenges, of making our urban centers more ‘green.’ I worked for the Parks and People foundation in Baltimore on a project to survey the city’s tree canopy as a first step in a larger project to double the canopy by the year 2036. Entirely citizen-driven, this project put me in touch with those on-the-ground making Baltimore a beacon for sustainable growth in this nation.
While in the field, between identifying tree species, measuring tree diameters, and noting dead branches and overgrowth onto sidewalks, I was stuck by a few observations: on nearly all city blocks with more trees than the average five, regardless of the neighborhood’s geographic location or socio-economic vitality, I observed people walking, chatting with neighbors, and out and about using the public space of their sidewalks and the front stoops of their rowhouses. On blocks that were impoverished of trees, (23% of all blocks surveyed had no trees or tree pits in which to plant them), other evidence of neighborhood distress was blatant; trash outside homes, vacant properties, and no one using sidewalks and interacting with neighbors could be observed.
Studies have shown, and Parks and People coordinator Kari Smith has experiencing this firsthand in her work for years, that tree health correlated to neighborhood health, and that an important factor is neighborhood awareness of the benefits of trees. As I talked to more Baltimoreans, it became apparent that many who live in neighborhoods lacking mature trees consider trees to be hindrances to their neighborhood, citing examples such as when leaves fall and begin to rot on the paint of their cars and when roots sometimes break underground water pipes. The benefits of trees— providing shade and protection to houses, drawing residents outdoors to enjoy conversations with neighbors, removing air-bourn debris from the air, and adding tremendous beauty and pride entire city blocks— are largely unappreciated in areas that are tree-impoverished.
While I was in Baltimore on many of my weekends working on ‘Tree Baltimore,’ I also interned at a national non-profit organization, Smart Growth America, in Washington, DC during week. Here, I worked closely with state-based environmental organizations across the country, with legislators, planning professionals, environmental researchers and even with international representatives from across the world to research and implement ‘smart growth’ strategies.
This environmental immersion experience opened a new world of complexities and challenges for me. I realize the importance of a scientific ecology background in understanding urban ecosystems, while also understanding that the social impacts of our communities on our environments must be examined and addressed for conservation on the urban scale to be made a reality. I am very grateful to the Environmental Studies Internship Grant for giving me this opportunity that will so inform my senior thesis work and future career plans in urban and forestry studies
Gideon Bradburd, Biology '08, Faculty Advisor - Adalgisa Caccone (EEB):
Conservation of the Harlequin Toad. [11 weeks, Costa Rica]
Conservation of the Harlequin Toad
Gideon Bradburd, Biology '08
Between May and August, I spent seventy-nine days in Costa Rica, collecting specimens of different reptile and amphibian species for the Peabody Natural History Museum and performing fieldwork for my own research on the Variable Harlequin Toad (Atelopus varius). I worked in two collecting sites, one on each coast of the country.
The Caribbean site, Rara Avis, is a nature reserve near Sarapiquí, on the edge of the Braulio Carrillo national forest. Averaging a little over 700m elevation, the primary forest at Rara Avis is home to 114 documented species of reptile and amphibian, of which I collected 191 specimens from 44 different species, including two species new to the area, as well as 664 tadpoles from 59 stream localities.
The chytrid fungus was introduced to Rara Avis sometime in the past ten years by an unknown vector, and the collecting work I did there was primarily aimed at documenting changes in the make-up and distribution of the herpetological species found in the area.
One frog in particular, the Brilliant Forest Frog (Rana warszewitschii) is of special interest, because sampled tadpoles of the species have been positively identified as having the chytrid fungus, yet it is by far the most common frog in the reserve. The fact that it is so successful, despite clearly being susceptible to this pathogen, raises interesting ecological questions as to how it is able to thrive while other species perish, and it also implies that R. warszewitschii, if it has incomplete resistance to the fungus, may in fact be the mystery vector of chytrid.
The Pacific site, Rainmaker Preserve, located near Quepos, is the last refuge of the Variable Harlequin Toad, which was actually declared extinct in 1996, but rediscovered in 2003. Since they were declared extinct, 31 A. varius individuals have been documented (the dorsal pattern is unique and variable enough to allow positive visual identification). During my time at Rainmaker, I found the 32nd and the 33rd. The 33rd was actually a yearling, which is a promising sign, as it means that the population is still reproductively active.
My proposed senior project is to analyze the genetic health of this last population, comparing current and historic levels of allelic diversity and heterozygosity using noninvasive sampling techniques of extant individuals and museum specimens as the basis of the comparison. In addition, if specimens of other Atelopus species are available in museums, I will attempt to create a comprehensive phylogeny of the genus.
Throughout the summer, I saw fantastic sights, met interesting people, and had an amazing time. Entirely based on this experience, I plan on pursuing a career in herpetology, and returning to Costa Rica the first (and every other) chance I get.
Sonia Cooke, Environmental Studies
'08, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science): US Response to the Convention of Migratory Species: A Case Study in US
Failure to Accede to a Major International Wildlife Treaty. [5 weeks, Bonn,
US Response to the Convention of Migratory Species: A Case Study in US Failure to Accede to a Major International Wildlife Treaty
Sonia Cooke, Environmental Studies '08
This summer, I completed an internship at the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species in Bonn, Germany. I conducted research to determine why the United States did not become a party to the Convention on Migratory Species. It is my hope that understanding the political, economic, and cultural factors that led to U.S. non-participation in this case may help in some way to fostering constructive US engagement in international environmental affairs in the future. This is crucial, because as the most powerful nation in the world in terms of economy, diplomatic influence, and environmental impact, the United States’ degree of engagement can severely affect the success of a global environmental project.
I conducted my research by examining historical documents and interviewing key members of the U.S. Delegation to the 1979 Conference as well as others who were present during the CMS negotiations. I also interviewed current U.S. government officials to understand current impediments to U.S. accession to CMS.
Through my research, I determined what I believe to be the main factors behind U.S. failure to accede to CMS. Among these were a lack of interest in CMS by U.S. government agencies such as the State and Commerce Departments, and the strong opposition of state wildlife managers who were keen to protect state-level jurisdiction over wildlife management. The issue of the wildlife management culture in the U.S. and its clashes with international conservation regimes is a fascinating area that I hope to explore further this year. Perceptions of the natural environment, and how it should be used, managed, and protected have played no small role in shaping U.S. foreign environmental policy. This is a particularly pertinent issue today. Because of my work this summer, I am considering expanding my thesis to trace the effect of differing value systems on U.S. participation in international environmental agreements.
I am very grateful to the Environmental Studies Department for funding my senior research. If I had not traveled to Germany, I would never have been able to visit the archives to see the documents that were absolutely vital to my research, and which provided me with the names of all my important contacts. Additionally, I found it very valuable to experience working at the United Nations. I was able to get a feel for how the Secretariat of a major international treaty functions, and submit a report to the Executive Director of CMS that he used on a mission to the United States in August.
Andrew Delman, Geology and Geophysics
'09, Faculty Advisor - Jay Ague (G&G): Restoring Native Vegetation and Establishing Sustainable Models for Farming. [6
weeks, San Cristóbal Island, Galapágos Islands, Ecuador]
Restoring Native Vegetation and Establishing Sustainable Models for Farming on San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos, Ecuador
Andrew Delman, Geology & Geophysics '09
For 6 weeks in the summer of 2007 I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Jatun Sacha biological station on the island of San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands. The Jatun Sacha reserve is located in the moist cloud forest region of the island, which was once dominated by scalesia and miconia trees native to the Galápagos, but these species have since become threatened by exotic species intentionally and inadvertently brought to the islands by humans. Despite stricter regulations following the designation of the Galápagos as a national park, invasive species have continued to disrupt native habitats. One such species is the hill raspberry (Rubus niveus), known locally as mora. Introduced 15 years ago by one individual seeking to cultivate it in her garden, the plant escaped cultivation and has since become pervasive in the cloud forest regions of the island. To combat these threats, the Jatun Sacha station is attempting to establish a successful model for eradicating invasive species, replanting native species, and cultivating the land in a sustainable fashion on its approximately one-square-mile reserve in the moist forest region.
Our work on the reserve consisted first of clear-cutting with machetes invasive species such as R. niveus and air plants (Bryophyllum pinnatum) as well as low-lying brush and grass that would inhibit planting, while leaving in place native species such as cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and non-invasive orange trees. After the ground was cleared mostly to the level of exposed soil, holes were dug and young scalesia plants (Scalesia pedunculata) were transplanted from the plant nursery to be planted in these cleared areas. Though not all of these plants will grow into full-fledged scalesia trees, the intention is to restore a scalesia forest that will support other native species of plants and even animals. In addition to conservation and reforestation, I also helped out with the reserve’s agricultural activities, planting and picking crops in contained areas which are mostly non-native but are not invasive or harmful to native species, such as banana, papaya, passion fruit, orange, tomato, cucumber, and eggplant. These activities are intended to be a model to be shared with local farmers, so that they can make a successful living off the land without growing invasive species. While at the reserve, I also participated in upkeep of the station, and helped experiment with a new method of making compost that would be used for enriching the soil that plants are planted in. I lived with anywhere from 15-35 volunteers at the station, from all parts of the world with quite varied backgrounds, in addition to the Ecuadorian staff on the reserve with whom I was able to practice my Spanish. On weekends we were able to go into town to interact with the local people, enjoy the beautiful beaches and wildlife, and even go on tours to other islands in the Galápagos. It was an incredible experience; I would definitely recommend it to anyone with even a remote interest in conservation and agriculture, and I would like to thank the Environmental Studies department for generously supporting my trip.
Conclusions and Possible Future Inquiries
It was difficult to assess how successful the conservation practices at the station were during my short time there. During my 6 weeks the approximately 20-30 volunteers at the station cleared and planted large tracts of land, yet it was not possible to see if the scalesia plants that we transplanted had grown significantly. In the parts of the reserve that had been cleared and planted first (about 3-4 years ago) there were some larger scalesia trees (about 2-3 meters tall), but even these are not fully mature, and are located in isolated stands. There were also several instances where we had to clear mora (R. niveus) that had regrown on previously cleared land, indicating that it will be an uphill battle to contain the invasive species. On the agricultural side there were more signs of success, as many different crops were grown in contained areas on the reserve without any of these species escaping and threatening endemic plants. It will likely be many more years, though, until the successes and shortcomings of the methods on the reserve become clear. The area of the reserve is only being leased by Jatun Sacha for 15 years; at the end of this time (in 2018) it is hoped that at the end of this time most of the reserve area will be self-sustaining scalesia forest, but a very small part of the reserve land has been cleared and replanted thus far. In the end, the most important legacy of the Jatun Sacha reserve may be the methods of sustainable agriculture on the reserve that are being shared with local farmers. As for my part, I have gained a great deal of knowledge on conservation and agriculture this summer, areas which I previously knew very little about. I am also intrigued by some unanswered questions concerning the island’s geography: such as why San Cristóbal is the only island in the Galápagos with permanent freshwater, and also the weather and climate of the region, which is closely linked with the surrounding oceans and ENSO (El Niño/La Niña), but is still largely unpredictable. These mysteries may form the basis for future research at Yale, and like this whole experience will certainly influence my career and work in later life.
Nicholas Del Vecchio, Mechanical
Engineering '08, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (Environmental Engineering): Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water
Project in Kikoo, Cameroon. [2 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon]
Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water Project in Kikoo, Cameroon
Nicholas Del Vecchio, Mechanical Engineering '08
The Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders is an undergraduate organization which partners with developing communities around the world in an attempt to raise the standard of living through environmentally sustainable, creative, and economical engineering solutions to community problems. We work on problems ranging from waste management and sanitation to the distribution of clean water.
This summer I was fortunate to be able to travel to the Northwest province of Cameroon in order to implement the first phase of a water project our group has been working on for the past year.
The community of Kikoo is plagued by health problems which arise from drinking contaminated water. The purpose of this project is to design an environmentally sustainable and economically viable solution in order to provide the community with clean water throughout the year.
The system that we have designed is a gravity fed water distribution system. The proposed system begins in the mountains, approximately two kilometers from the village, where an artesian spring is captured by a masonry catchment. The water flows from the catchment through a series of break tanks and into a centrally located storage tank. It is then piped to ten public standpipes, which are dispersed throughout the community. Due to the scope of the project we broke the construction into a number of phases which can be managed and funded more easily. The first phase of the project involves piping the water from the catchment to the storage tank, as well as constructing the first prototype standpipe.
It is an amazing experience to come to a community which is in need of help, and provide that assistance, and then to see that change take place. Change has begun to take place for the community of Kikoo. The relationship that has formed between the Yale chapter of Engineers Without Borders and the community of Kikoo is one that will last many exciting years, and I am thrilled that I have had the opportunity to see this relationship and this project come to fruition.
Brent Godfrey, History '09, Faculty Advisor - Stuart Schwartz (History): Historical
Perspectives on Ethanol Energy in Brazil. [8 weeks, Brazil]
Historical Perspectives on Ethanol Energy in Brazil
Brent Godfrey, History ’09
This summer I spent 2 months investing various aspects of Brazil’s ethanol energy regime. In Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilia and various parts of the interior, I met with a wide range of business leaders. government officials, representatives from non-profits and local citizens in an attempt to familiarize myself with the major economic, labor, social, political and environment aspects of the ethanol question. My main goal was to ascertain a solid foundation of general knowledge so that I might pursue more in-depth research for my senior essay on a topic related to the history of ethanol energy. Given that this was my first major experience with independent research, I would say I was reasonably successful in accomplishing what I set out to do, but the majority of lessons that I learned related to “how to conduct effective research” rather than specific knowledge about my subject. As I quickly found out, conducting independent research in a foreign country with negligible guidance and structure proved to be a daunting task.
The two most interesting and revealing experiences of my trip were interviews with the director of Government Relations for General Motors of Brazil, Pedro Betancourt, and an interview with Antonio Toniello, the owner of a large sugar can plantation and ethanol production operation in the interior of São Paulo. Both of these experiences really shed light on how terribly complex the issues are surrounding ethanol fuel. My time with Mr. Betancourt showed me how committed the Brazilian automotive industry is to developing more environmentally sensitive technologies. That said, there was also a moment when Mr. Betancourt showed me an internal company document in the form of a PowerPoint presentation that outlined some slick marketing and lobbying strategies to enhance GM Brazil’s image and boost profitability—clearly indicating that the company’s efforts weren’t exactly bold gestures of altruism.
My interview with Antonio Toniello—and subsequent tour of his refinery—broke down a lot of my previous assumptions about the sugar cane industry in Brazil. Much of the literature paints the big players in the sugar cane industry as ruthless barons of industry who exploit their laborers and wreak havoc on natural resources in search of a profit, but my experience with him humanized the planter class in a very important way. After an hour-long interview and a day-long tour of his refinery led by various members of his staff, I came to see Toniello as a considerate businessman who took commendable measures to ensure: 1) the safety and well-being of his workers, 2) the environmental quality of his land and 3) the vibrancy of his local economy.
Essentially, my brief time in Brazil only left me with more questions that I hope to investigate more thoroughly over the course of this coming year. The economic, environment, labor and social justice issues at stake are highly complex and convoluted. Given the logistical challenges I faced conducting research in Brazil, I plan to narrow my senior essay research now to a focus on U.S. interest in Brazilian ethanol energy. In March of 2007, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two nations in an attempt to improve relations with respect to ethanol energy, but the events leading up to this moment will no doubt prove to be an interesting historical case study. Obviously, there are a lot of contentious political issues with wide environmental consequences, and I hope to explore the history of the dialogue of various political interests and entities in the US (the corn lobby, Congress, the Department of Energy, etc.) with respect to Brazilian ethanol.
Allison Guy, Environmental Studies
'08, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science): Why No One Visits Paradise: Tour Guide Usage of Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve in Belize. [10
weeks, Ambergris Caye, Belize]
Why No One Visits Paradise: Tour Guide Usage of Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve in Belize
Allison Guy, Environmental Studies '08
Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve (BCNPMR), located in the north of Belize, has the potential of becoming a major ecotourism destination. The park possesses, to some degree, every attraction that draws tourists elsewhere in the country. Opportunities to observe wildlife are fantastic, with regular sightings of crocodiles, manatees, turtles, rare birds and endangered mammals such as jaguar. The snorkeling and diving are the equal of any other site in the country, and the sport fishing is widely considered to be among the best in the world. The park has the unique geological feature of Rocky Point, the only place in Belize where the barrier reef actually touches the shoreline, and where a fossil reef is exposed to the pounding waves. The park also possesses several unexcavated Mayan sites, as well as Bacalar Chico Canal, a meters-wide channel that separates Belize from the Mexican portion of the Yucatan Peninsula. Despite its numerous amazing attributes, Bacalar Chico is plagued by problems. The park is understaffed, underutilized by tourists and tour guides, and beset by poachers and drug-running operations.
I decided to concentrate my research on the scuba, fishing, and tour guides based in San Pedro, the only large settlement on Ambergris Caye. These guides act as the ‘guardians’ of the park, choosing whether or not to lead groups of tourists on sightseeing trips. Increasing the likelihood that guides feel comfortable visiting the park is key to increasing the revenues generated by park fees. High tourist interest and positive response is in turn key to raising the Belizean government’s willingness to increase the park’s budget and staff, which will prove vital to halting illegal activities within Bacalar Chico’s boundaries. More importantly, a dramatic increase in tourist visitation may prevent the further approval of multimillion dollar resorts on private land within the park, and may force current projects to more closely comply with environmental laws.
My main method of research consisted of loosely structured interviews with key stakeholders, including tour business owners, lifelong fishing guides, park rangers, and government and NGO officials. I additionally carried out a survey for those guides in San Pedro who did not regularly visit Bacalar Chico. The reasons that guides and officials gave for the park’s unpopularity were many and varied. The most cited reason for Bacalar Chico’s low visitation was the distance of the park from San Pedro and the gasoline costs incurred from such a long journey.
This was not a wholly satisfying answer, as most guides are routinely willing to travel two or more hours to less interesting sites. Subsequent interviews with the most knowledgeable of the stakeholders revealed a prevailing attitude that the main problem with BCNPMR is the total lack of advertising of the park as a destination. Only the most knowledgeable tourists are aware of the park, and must specially request a trip. Guides who have not visited the park, either for tours or for their own pleasure, believe it to be dull, isolated, and mosquito-infested. The failure of the park is not related to any fundamental flaws, but rather to a failure of the distribution of knowledge. Tour agencies and guides are content with the standard package of tours offered, and so feel no need to invest the effort to run trips to a location for which little information or interest exists. Due to Bacalar Chico’s unique characteristics, it is less suited to the traditional day or half-day trip offered by most tour agencies. Education, advertising, and a willingness to innovate on the usual tourist offerings will be vital to developing the park into the destination that it deserves to become.
While researching my project, I also worked for the Greenreef Institute. Greenreef is a small NGO that is one of the parties responsible for co-managing BCNPMR. In the course of working for the institute, I wrote a seventy page guide to the marine habitats and organisms of Bacalar Chico, and produced a brochure to be used in promoting the park as a destination for recreation as well as education.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my summer, and would recommend it to another student. I am happy I chose an interview-based format for research, as this allowed me to become integrated into the community, and to make some great friends along the way.
Lauren Hallett, Ecology and
Environmental Biology '08, Faculty Advisor - Melinda Smith (EEB): Understanding the Effect of Climate Change on Relative Growth Rates of Two Dominant Tall, Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas. [12 weeks,
Understanding the Effect of Climate Change on Relative Growth Rates of Two Dominant Tall
Lauren Hallett, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology '08
Thanks to the support of Yale’s Environmental Summer Internship program and under the mentorship of Dr. Melinda Smith, I was able to conduct research to better understand the effects of climate change on tall grass prairies at the Konza Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Site in Manhattan, Kansas.
Anticipated results of climate change include more extreme climatic events, such as larger storms and longer periods of drought, in addition to overall global temperature increase and altered rainfall patterns. My study assessed the effect of climate change on the individual growth rates of two dominant tall grass prairies species, Andropogon gerardii and Sorghastrum nutans. Past research on the effect of climate change on the two species at the physiological and population level has indicated that Andropogon is more responsive to changes in temperature whereas Sorghastrum is more responsive to changes in precipitation, although less research has focused on the level of individual growth.
To conduct this study I utilized a unique experimental design, the Rainfall Manipulation Plots (RaMPs), established 10 years ago as part of a long-term study on climate change. The 12 RaMPs function as rainfall shelters that divert rainfall and allow it to be reapplied. In 6 of the 12 RaMPs rainfall is applied to mimic ambient conditions, whereas in the remaining 6 experimental plots the interval between rainfall events is delayed by 50%, resulting in longer periods of drought and larger rainfall events, but with no change in the total water applied. Within each of the RaMPs the temperature of a subplot was increased ~2 degrees Celsius by infrared lamps. Thus, for each of the 6 pairs of RaMPs there was control condition subplot and 3 experimental subplots: delayed rainfall-warmed, delayed rainfall-control temperature, ambient rainfall-warmed.
Within each subplot 10 canopy-cover individuals of each species was tagged, resulting in an overall sample of 240 individuals of each species (60 per treatment type). The height, number of leaves, type of leaves, and leaf width and length was recorded for each individual 5 times throughout the summer. These nondestructive measurements were related to biomass through a calibration, in which plants outside the RaMPs were measured, harvested, and dried, allowing equations to be generated that related nondestructive measurements to dried biomass.
Although data analysis is not complete, preliminary analysis indicated that, consistent with physiological and population level responses, Andropogon and Sorghastrum differentially responded to changes in temperature and precipitation. Specifically, early in the season Andropogon growth rates were higher under increased temperature conditions, but later into the season an increase in temperature resulted in a decrease in relative growth. Sorghastrum growth rates were lower under the delayed precipitation treatments but were less affected by heat than Andropogon. Interestingly, Andropogon growth increased under the delayed precipitation treatment.
My experience this summer increased my research skills and understanding of grassland dynamics. At the end of the summer I was even more enthusiatic about biology than when the summer began. I am excited to continue my research throughout the year and am very grateful to the support from the Yale Environmental Summer Internship program that made my summer possible.
Angel Hertslet, Environmental Studies
'08, Faculty Advisor - Amity Doolittle (F&ES), : Perceptions and Community Dynamics in Relation to Cusuco National Park, Honduras with NGO Op. Wallace. [8 weeks, Honduras]
Perceptions and Community Dynamics in Relation to Cusuco National Park, Honduras with NGO Op. Wallacea
Angel Hertslet, Environmental Studies '08
Abstract: My project focused on a small, rural farming community in the hills of Honduras. The community sits within the “buffer zone” of Cusuco National Park. I spent my time conducting household interviews on a variety of topics with the aim or understanding the economic, familial, religious, and historical influences on life in Santo Tomas. In addition to collecting qualitative data on household economics and land ownership, I also used semi-structured interviews with each family on what it means to live in Santo Tomas. The future of the community is linked to a variety of outside actors including the Honduran state, the military, the NGO that has a base camp for scientific research located in Santo Tomas, the hydroelectric project, the international coffee market, etc. Deforestation continues within the core zone of the park because of economic pressures to grow coffee in order to buy essentials such as building supplies, food, and medicine. The data collection from the summer will be the basis of my senior essay, which will most likely focus on the power of family on land use, local economy, and migration.
My project focused on a small, rural farming community in the mountains of Honduras. The community is situated in a particularly interesting position both temporally and geographically. Santo Tomas is comprised of about thirty families that subsist on agriculture and ranching. The main cash crop is coffee, and the two main subsistence crops are corn and beans. Santo Tomas sits within a protected area, Cusuco National Park, designated by the Honduran state in the late 1980’s. The community is part of the buffer zone, meaning development and land management must adhere to a set of laws. Just above Santo Tomas the core protected area begins. As the community grows, there is mounting tension between the conservation goals of the state and the development needs of the community. They clear protected forest to plant coffee in order to feed their families.
Santo Tomas sits at about 500 meters above sea level and on a clear day you can see down to the Caribbean and up to the cloud forests above. Up until last year there were no roads or points of access to the community. All travel was done on foot or on horseback. A new hydroelectric dam project brought with it a dirt road that snakes its way to the base of the hilly community. Last year brought other changes as well—a British-based non-governmental organization set up a camp in the community to carry out research on the surrounding cloud forest. The aims of the NGO are to improve the status of the park by documenting heretofore unrecorded species so that the rate of deforestation is slowed. My role was as a social scientist within the community and affiliated with the NGO.
Originally I was interested in the community’s knowledge of Cusuco National Park and the associated rules and regulations. What was common knowledge in regards to park boundaries, to laws against cutting down trees, to killing animals within the park boundary? However, it quickly became evident that the amount of communication the community had received about Cusuco National Park was very minimal, if any at all. I therefore recast my research question to something broader in order to have enough fodder for my senior project. In addition to the household economic surveys the NGO requested I conduct, I also did a semi-structured household interview with each family. I worked with an F&ES graduate student and together we investigated the genealogy of the community, the local economy, the religious beliefs, immigration and out migration, land uses, dreams for the future and value systems, documented when and why people moved into the community, land use practices, previous crop prices, community organization, and local history and myth.
With this much wider lens, I was able to get more comprehensive and collective understanding of the heart of the community, of what it means to live in Santo Tomas. The semi-structured interview, combined with the household economy survey, provided me with both qualitative and quantitative data that will inform my senior paper in separate but powerful ways. I tentatively plan to write on the power of family within the community and how familial bonds influence land management, immigration and outmigration, and the economic welfare of the community as a whole.
The position of the community remains precarious. They are experiencing a great presence of the state in the community, eg. military personnel, with the aim of enforcing the laws against cutting trees within the protected area. The NGO has spent two summer seasons in the community, providing an enormous amount of employment for the locals, as well as exposing the community to “gringo” culture. The hydroelectric project and the road construction have also brought employment to the community and more exposure to people outside of the community. The road also brings opportunity for the community to pool their resources and buy or rent a car to bring the coffee to San Pedro Sula, a metropolitan area nearby, thereby cutting out the middle man and therefore getting a much higher price for their coffee. All of these recent developments cast the future of Santo Tomas into obscurity. Will the community continue to subsist largely on agriculture and cattle, or will ecotourism and the science community provide a continuous and reliable source of income? Will the road open access to markets below in such a way to alter the community’s economy? As one would expect, my time in the community brings more questions than answers.
In addition to the pursuit of knowledge about the community itself, I learned an incredible amount about my place within the community, how my associations with the NGO affected the community’s perception of me, and most importantly, I went through the process of social science research and all of its challenges. I now understand how difficult it is to remain somewhat of a neutral figure within a community and how important it is to do so for the integrity of the data.
The whole experience of living in a small, remote community in Honduras is still very much a part of me. I plan to return this winter break, if possible, to study the coffee harvest which takes place from October to January. All of my classes I have chosen this semester relate directly to my desire to understand and deconstruct my summer’s experience: Agrarian Societies, Social Science of Development and Conservation, Resistance, Rebellion, and Survival Strategies in Modern Latin America, as well as Senior Project Colloquium. I have also joined in the effort to reform the Farm Bill and will be traveling to DC next weekend. The Farm Bill has ramifications for our domestic farmers, as well as for the farming communities abroad who can’t compete with our subsidized, and therefore cheaper crops.
In so many ways, this summer’s experience has shaped my academic, extracurricular, and personal choices. I don’t view my summer’s experience as finished or in any way divorced from what I am doing now. If anything, it has brought cohesion to my academic and experiential perspectives.
Allison Hoyt, Geology and Geophysics
'09, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (Environmental Engineering): Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water Project in
Kikoo, Cameroon. [2 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon]
Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water Project in Kikoo, Cameroon
Alison Hoyt, Geology & Geophysics '09
In the village of Kikoo, Cameroon, villagers currently draw their water from multiple polluted streams running through the community. These streams are severely contaminated due to agricultural runoff, wandering livestock and sanitation issues. Disease due to this polluted water supply is rampant in the community. While boiling techniques are acknowledged to purify water, few villagers have additional fuel resources available for this process. Engineers Without Borders Yale Student Chapter is working on water distribution system project to make clean water available to the community.
The water distribution system will be fed by a natural spring in a densely vegetated area above the village. The spring in its natural state is not easily accessible to community members. The system will make water available through a network of several kilometers of PVC pipe which connect the spring box catchment, storage tank and standpipes. The community has been actively involved in the project and has already excavated and constructed a spring box to protect the water source. They have also begun laying pipe for the distribution system.
In January, a three-member assessment team from Yale traveled to the village to gauge progress, collect surveying data, and gather community design input. They took measurements on possible pipe network locations, flow rates and contamination in the streams and spring. They found the natural spring water safe for drinking and other household uses. Over the course of the semester, students met weekly with a Yale professor and professionals from the New Haven community to work on improving design efficiency. The group used computer-aided calculations to model pressures and flow rates throughout the system, allowing them to determine the optimal size and location of the storage tank within the network.
The August implementation trip was a chance for students to learn practical engineering skills with the help of professional New Haven mentors, local village technicians, and Cameroonian engineering students. The trip focused on the construction of the central storage tank of the distribution system. Work began with selecting the final tank location, taking into account local input, overflow logistics and system hydraulics. The tank site was excavated with strong village support and workers began to break stone into gravel. A mudslab and final concrete slab were poured as the tank foundation and masonry walls were added. All the work was highly labor intensive as the concrete was mixed and poured by hand. Work at the main tank site was supplemented with exploration trips to surrounding areas. These trips scouted alternative water sources to serve villagers outside the hydraulic reach of the system. They took surveying data, measured water quality and flow rates. Daily health and hygiene lessons with school children taught students tools to protect clean water and to stay healthy. Overall, the trip was an amazing experience which taught participants hands-on engineering and introduced them to other more complex aspects of community-based development projects.
Water System Construction
Duing the trip, we made significant progress on the water distribution system. Due to the committed preparation of the villagers, we were ready to begin work on the storage tank immediately. We chose to focus on the tank because of its technical importance within the system. Villagers will then continue to lay pipe away from the tank to standpipes throughout the village. Work began with selecting the tank location, taking into account local input, overflow logistics and system hydraulics. The tank site was excavated with strong village support and workers began to break stone into gravel. The ground was leveled and a mudslab was poured as the tank foundation. Finally, the main steel-reinforced concrete slab was poured as the tank floor. All the work was highly labor intensive as the concrete was mixed and poured by hand. The walls were built of double layer stone masonry filled with mortar.
Exploration and Future Work
Exploration trips looked for alternative water sources that could be routed to serve villagers outside the hydraulic reach of the system. A local guide directed the trips, which interviewed villagers about nearby springs and streams. Surveying data, measurements of flow rates and water quality samples were taken in promising areas. While some springs offered clean water, it was very difficult to gauge future water flows in the dry season. Other alternatives include supplying this area with a pumped or slow sand filtration system.
Ongoing Health Education Program
Each day we taught health classes in the local school. While the children were on summer recess and busy with farm work, many managed to attend the daily lessons. 95 children jammed into a single classroom. Local teachers did the majority of the instruction. Teachers are enthusiastic to continue the health curriculum throughout the school year.
Lessons emphasized the importance of hygiene in protecting clean water from contamination. We made “hand-washing stations” for each classroom of large 40-liter lidded containers fitted with spigots. The children refilled these reservoirs daily with clean spring water. Lessons taught the routine of hand washing through hands-on activities and creative games. Simple puppets allowed the children to express themselves more easily through interactive skits and were useful in addressing a wide range of issues. In one simple game children acted out scenes of daily life. The children in the audience shouted, “STOP! Don’t forget to wash your hands!” whenever appropriate. The actors tried to trick their classmates by coming up with a diverse range of situations. In another lesson the children all designed their own germs imagining specific characteristics such as how the germ entered the body, made you sick, etc. Children were not accustomed to this creative learning style, which deviated from their memorization-oriented curriculum. The children were very responsive to these new applied lessons. The teachers are well prepared to continue the curriculum into the school year. The classrooms are each outfitted with “hand-washing stations” so that children will effectively integrate hygiene into their daily routine.
The villagers were the backbone of the water distribution project. The local community provided continuous encouragement. We were welcomed with music, dancing, and opening addresses. Each day the villagers would arrive at the work site with picks, shovels and hoes to begin the day’s work. Upon our arrival, they had already laid pipe in a 2 kilometer trench, built the catchment, the low-point tank, and overflow. They worked to break stones into gravel, dig out the first standpipe location, and mix and pour concrete. With the encouragement and organizational support of the Social Welfare Department of the Kumbo Diocese, they have collected a significant portion of their monetary and labor contribution. Only a few skilled masons and technicians were hired. In our daily work the villagers provided valuable labor and technical insight.
The villagers of Kikoo taught me practical engineering skills and allowed me to appreciate the scope of the project we had designed. While I had looked forward to learning practical engineering skills, the trip taught me what it truly means to be practical, from the perspective of the lives of the Kikoo villagers. At the opening ceremony, used plastic water bottles and old peanut jars were rewarded to hard workers as valuable storage units. In the field, we learned to be resourceful and redesigned aspects of the system based on local expertise.
Above and beyond practicality, I experienced first hand the scope of the project. While I had always understood and believed that a project will not be successful unless a community fully embraces it as their own work, I did not fully appreciate the implications of this ideal until visiting Kikoo. We were immensely fortunate that the community was completely behind the project and were amazed by the ability of excellent leadership to direct their enthusiasm. I quickly became aware of the energy and community involvement that is necessary to mobilize such an extensive project, even with enthusiastic support. While I had always known that this would be a large project for the villagers, the tidy technical drawings never conveyed to me the project’s layers of complexity. Visiting the community I finally realized the scale of the project as I saw so many individuals each contribute their part in a direct and personal way. Watching all these pieces come together in the warmth and enthusiasm of each individual I met, I was continuously amazed by the immensity of the project and its power to unite a community.
Emily Jack-Scott, Environmental
Studies '08, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science): Wetlands Institute Coastal Conservation Research Project:
Variance in Beach Degradation Across Socioeconomic Level in Coastal
Communities. [12 weeks, Stone Harbor, New Jersey]
Wetlands Institute Coastal Conservation Research Project: Variance in Beach Degradation Across Socioeconomic Level in Coastal Communities
Emily Jack-Scott, Enviromental Studies '08
This summer I interned at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ. Stone Harbor is located towards the very southern tip of New Jersey’s Atlantic coastline. The Wetlands Institute is nestled within over six thousand acres of undisturbed salt marshes. The Institute is a non-profit research institute/nature center, which fosters a wide variety of projects and outreach programs to the local community. It is well known and loved by all locals, and many seasonal visitors. A great deal of the research done by the Wetlands Institute centers on diamondback terrapin conservation measures, but it does a great deal of work with shore birds, beach biology and horseshoe crab populations as well.
The department of the Wetlands Institute that I was a part of was the Coastal Conservation Research Program (CCRP), intended for college students who are devoted to local environmental and ecological research. Many of the interns were, like me, conducting research for their senior theses, and we found each other to be a great support network. Students often helped one another in performing field work, which engaged me in fields of study beyond my intended direction. This was really rewarding as it provided me with the experience to work with an array of ecological field methods and ecosystems.
I spent my summer researching the ecological fallout of human activity along the Cape May County Atlantic coastline. I sampled 27 sites along the coastline, taken from 9 towns. The towns represent a cross-section of American socioeconomic levels. This dynamic was important as my senior thesis will concentrate on the relationship between town socioeconomic level and the inequitable implementation of shore protection and nourishment programs. I tested the population density of three common beach species: ghost crabs, Donax clams and mole crabs. A major factor of human impact on beach species is the manicuring or raking of the sand for any glass or harmful materials. The process also rakes up all shells or rack along the beach, leaving behind instead a flattened, “cleaner” beach. Other factors I took into account included human foot traffic, the length of the beach and the size and substantiality of the dunes.
The results of my experiment were very interesting. As expected, those beaches that were raked showed much lower population densities of ghost crabs on the beaches. However, some raked beaches still had ghost crab holes. Upon further investigation, I noticed that these beaches were those that were very short (only about 20-30m wide), and also had substantial dunes. This could have ecological implications for the implementation of dune building, as well as for beach raking.
My summer at the Wetlands Institute was enormously rewarding. Not only was I able to execute research for my senior thesis within an exuberant support network, but I was also given a glimpse into the real life of the field ecologist, as well as that of a non-profit organization. I also discovered that I am very inclined to working so actively outdoors, and that is a true life lesson that I will carry with me long after my time there.
Jessica Jeffers, Economics and
Mathematics '09, Faculty Advisor - William Mitch (Enviornmental Engineering): Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water
Project in Kikoo, Cameroon. [2 weeks, Kikoo, Cameroon]
Yale Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders: Water Project in Kikoo, Cameroon
Jessica Jeffers, Economics and Mathematics ’09
This August nine members of the Yale Chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to Cameroon to implement a clean water distribution system in the village of Kikoo. After spending the year designing the system, our objective for this trip was to check the progress made by the village, build the storage tank and first standpipes, while also finding solutions for areas that could not be reached by the original system, carrying out community health education, and establishing solid contacts and relationships locally for our future trips. Though we did not progress on the standpipes as we would have liked, due partly to last minute changes in design and partly to the rainy season, we fulfilled the rest of our objective. On a personal level, I learned an incredible amount about the technical aspect of the work as well as the social aspect. It was also very rewarding to see where the work I had done during the year was going.
Kikoo had already progressed impressively when we came: we found water piped all the way to the potential storage tank location, representing 5 million CFA in labor ($1 = 455 CFA.) For this project, Kikoo is responsible for providing 1.2 million CFA in cash, as well as labor and primary materials like stone, sand and gravel. We began our work by analyzing the possibilities for overflow disposal at two possible storage tank locations (30 m from one another). As soon as we had finalized the location decision, digging began. Our design featured a cylindrical tank 3.5m in diameter and 2m deep embedded in a slope; a hole 6m in diameter and 1.5 m deep was dug in two days thanks to the important number of volunteers who came, on the first day especially. We also walked the entire length of the existing pipeline to check for potential problems, as well as go over the design.
Activities at the school started on Wednesday 22nd, and continued almost every day we were there, thanks to the headmaster’s dedication. Activities included introducing hand washing stations, making puppets to act out hand-washing situations, and talking about germs. Three of our group went each time, and in addition to the headmaster two teachers came regularly to help us. We discussed with them a plan for continuing these activities during the school year. By our last class, there were over 90 children in the classroom.
On the building front, we continued our week with concrete mixing, calculations for steel bars we were placing in the base slab, mortaring and digging for a standpipe. Part of the group also went on surveying expeditions in which they found other potential water sources, sampled water, and took GPS measurements. All of us were involved in interacting with the local workers, the Water Committee and the Kikoo Development Association; we also established closer ties with the Kumbo diocese, who was the instigator of this project. In addition, two engineering students from the School of Public Works in Yaoundé worked with us during the entire time, which added much to our experience. We have kept in very good contact with them since leaving.
Overall the trip was a great success. I am very grateful to the Environmental Internships award for allowing me to be a part of it, and hope to return soon to continue the project!
Xiaodong (Jessica) Jiang, Economics '08, Faculty Advisor - Robert Mendelsohn (F&ES):
Economics of Climate Change: A Foray into Uncertainty. [8 weeks, New Haven,
Anna Johnson, Environmental Studies
'08, Faculty Advisor - Melinda Smith (EEB): How is carbon sequestration in agricultural soils affected by
agricultural practices? A research internship at the Center for
Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University. [8 weeks,
Raleigh, North Carolina]
How is carbon sequestration in agricultural soils affected by agricultural practices? A research internship at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University
Anna Johnson, Enviromental Studies '08
My summer internship was at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) at NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina. I split my time between doing soil analysis in a lab and visiting farms, talking to farmers, and generally getting a feel for North Carolina agriculture.
Among the many different research stations established at CEFS, the unit I became the most familiar with was that of the farming systems trials. Here, several different farming systems (conventional, organic, crop-pasture rotation, etc) are being cultivated and studied for differences between them. These were the plots I took soil samples from to conduct my research. To study the carbon sequestration in the soil, I chose three soil parameters to measure: 1) total carbon and nitrogen 2) carbon density fractions – lighter organic material is assumed to decay more quickly than heavier organic material and 3) soil microbial respiration, which helps inform on how quickly soil organic matter decays in the soil. Preliminary data analysis showed that, even though the plots were only established eight years ago, differences in soil carbon are already beginning to emerge.
However, I did not spend my entire summer in the lab: the internship was structured so that we (there were about a dozen interns in the program) had field trips and weekly lectures on a wide variety of current agricultural topics, from integrated pest management to genetic modification of plants. I also spent my last week of the internship interviewing farmers in the Raleigh area about their farming practices, and got to see both a small sustainable dairy farm and the sweet potato farm that is the biggest provider of organic sweet potatoes to Gerber in the country. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the agricultural world.
Assuming this internship stays in its current form, I would recommend it to anyone wishing to pursue agricultural research for a summer project. There are resources for a wide variety of projects – one intern looked at ways of controlling the hornfly problem with cattle, and another looked at the success rate of grafting hardy rootstock to heirloom tomato plants. This internship was exactly what I needed. I had wanted to learn more about the realities of agriculture for the past few years, but hadn’t yet had a chance to go and live and work on it. I needed a good, supportive environment to do the research for my senior project, and the lab I worked in provided that perfectly. The good news is that I haven’t been turned off from either agriculture or agricultural research, and am still considering pursuing both after college.
Danielle Kehl, '10, Faculty Advisor - Derek Briggs (G&G): Conservation of
Coastal Diversity and Threatened Marine Turtles in Bahia Magdalena, Mexico,
with the School for Field Studies. [Four weeks, Bahia Magdalena, Mexico]
Conservation of Coastal Diversity and Threatened Marine Turtles in Bahia Magdalena, Mexico, with the School for Field Studies
Danielle Kehl '10
The town of Puerto San Carlos, B.C.S., Mexico has a population of approximately 8500 people – mostly fishermen and workers at the local cannery – who make their living directly from the resources of Bahia Magdalena, one of Mexico’s largest coastal lagoons. Bahia Magdalena is often referred to as a “bay of plenty” because it is the meeting place of the cool, temperate waters from the northern Pacific and the warm subtropical waters from the equator, creating an environment with extremely high biodiversity. The World Wide Fund for Wildlife considers the bay to be one of the most important coastal habitats in Mexico needing protection, as it is home to such an abundance of species of fish, sea birds, and marine plant and mammal species. And it was there, at the School for Field Studies’ Center for Coastal Studies campus, that I spent four weeks of my summer studying conservation of coastal diversity and threatened marine turtles.
The work that we did at the Center for Coastal Studies had three main components – the study of natural science and the resources of Bahia Magdalena, the challenge of managing these resources and developing sustainably, and the ethical and moral questions that are inherently tied to the idea of sustainable development. The purpose of this structure was not only to provide an interdisciplinary approach to environmental science, but also to demonstrate that this interdisciplinary approach can be considered the primary way to realistically tackle the environmental problems that communities like Puerto San Carlos face today. As a result of the course structure, our studies took a variety of forms, from traditional classroom lectures to field exercises and surveys of the local people.
The natural science work that we conducted was focused on the protected marine turtles of Bahia Magdalena, although we also studied and collected data on numerous other forms of marine life that can be found in the bay. We did work in the field nearly every day during the academic portions of the trip, collecting specimens for our study of the rocky shore environment, fishing for scallops to measure their abundance in Bahia Magdalena, snorkeling to study the rhodolith and sea grass populations in the Sea of Cortez, and several other activities. Although these activities were primarily concentrated in Bahia Magdalena, our work also took us to La Purisima, a desert oasis several hours from the Center for Coastal Studies, and Loreto, a town located on the Sea of Cortez on the opposite coast of the Baja Peninsula. And in addition to our contact with live animals in the water and on boats, we took part in a six mile mortality walk on the sand dunes of Magdalena Island, where we came across the remains of loggerhead turtles, green turtles, dolphins, and one whale that had washed up along the shore. Through these field exercises, I learned a great deal about the complex marine ecosystem we were studying and how to do research and take measurements in the field.
The two turtle monitoring trips that we made – overnight camping excursions in Estero Banderitas – were the highlight of these field exercises as we got to come in direct contact with the animals we were studying. We set nets across the mouth of the estuary and rotated four-hour shifts throughout the night to check the nets for any turtles that we had caught. This method yielded a number of juvenile green sea turtles for us to study. Before releasing them back into the water, we took measurements on them (curved and straight caparace length and width, length and width of their tails, and weight), mapped the barnacles on their shells, collected skin samples, and tagged both of their flippers if they had not been previously captured. This information was then entered into the turtle database for the area, to which the Center for Coastal Studies has been contributing data for several years. On the second of these monitoring trips, we were also accompanied by other researchers, whom we had the opportunity to observe taking blood samples from the turtles for their own studies. All of this data is analyzed by researchers on the peninsula to help further their understanding of the sea turtle lifestyle and sea turtle behavior.
Our hands-on work was complemented by various lectures both at the Center and in the field. These lectures covered topics that included the sea turtle life cycle, coastal and marine environments, sea turtle conservation, scallop fisheries, the rocky shore environment, sharks and marine mammals, the wetlands, and rhodoliths and sea grass. The lectures helped provide further detail and context to the work that we were doing in the field.
The second component of the course was focused on conservation management. We covered the principles of resource management, flagship species, management tools, stakeholder analysis, fisheries, data manipulation, and co-management. A great deal of this time was devoted to the comparison of different methods and tools that can be used and the relative merits of each. For example, we discussed seven different types of management tools – zonation, set-back lines and exclusionary zones, special area planning, acquisition, easements and development rights, mitigation and restoration, coastal permits, and protected areas – and the different costs and drawbacks of each of these methods. This portion of the course really made clear the challenges on both sides of the issue; not only is it difficult to find feasible ways to manage an area and work with members of the local population, but it is also difficult to choose the appropriate management tools and navigate the various levels of bureaucracy already in place. It also took us into the community Puerto San Carlos to survey the locals’ knowledge of and level of involvement with conservation, as well as on a tour of the local cannery to see the working conditions and discuss how the opening of the cannery has driven the development of Puerto San Carlos and the surrounding area. Both experiences were certainly eye-opening and helped us gain crucial insight into the community we were a part of for the month that we studied there.
Finally, the last component of the course dealt with a topic that I discovered was far more complex and interesting than I had previously imagined – the ethics of conservation. It had always seemed to me to be a fairly simple issue: conservation and sustainable development were ideals to be valued and sought, and those who were not interested in them were simply driven by apathy or the desire to make a profit. However, throughout my month in Puerto San Carlos, I began to see the delicate complexities of the issue. Who are we to enter another community and declare that development must be limited or even stopped entirely to protect the natural environment, when we ourselves may be destroying the environment or encouraging businesses that destroy it in other parts of the world? How do we even define sustainable development? What are the relationships between technology and ethics, between religion and sustainability? These questions were themes throughout the course as we studied the ethics and economics of sustainable development, the challenges of bottom-up development, park development, eco-tourism, and poverty and the environment.
The course culminated in our participation in a Directed Research (DR) project in one of the three components of the course. My group’s DR work was focused on community development, with a particular emphasis on conservation. About ten days into the trip, we helped run a Turtle Festival in the town square in Puerto San Carlos, which included activities and information for both adults and children on the importance of the preservation of turtles and on local conservation efforts they could get involved with. During the festival and in the days that followed, we asked local people to participate in a survey that we had written ourselves that gauged their level of interest and involvement in conservation, how they viewed the town of Puerto San Carlos and its future, and various other questions relating to the area’s natural resources. The first part of our DR work consisted of transcribing, sorting, and analyzing this data. Once we had a better sense of how the townspeople felt, we were able to begin work on a website for the town of Puerto San Carlos, which would contain information both for tourists who were interested in coming during whale season and locals on community events and conservation efforts in the area. The website is part of a larger effort on the part of the school to help build a community in Puerto San Carlos that values its natural resources and cares enough about them to act in environmentally sustainable ways and protect marine animals like sea turtles. By the end of our course, we were able to provide a blueprint and basic design for the website, which will be worked on further by future groups that come to the Center for Coastal Studies. Working at the Turtle Festival and on the surveys also offered me an opportunity to work on the Spanish skills that I studied at Yale freshman year.
Overall, this experience was an extremely valuable and gratifying one, as I not only learned a great deal, but also got a better sense of what area of environmental studies interests me most. The natural science part of the course was fascinating, because we had what most would consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with sea turtles and other marine mammals first hand with a distinct purpose in mind. Yet I found that my interest was most piqued by the management and ethical questions that we dealt with in the other components of the course. Most of these were questions I had never even considered before and I found that struggling to answer them was an important process. In the future, I think that I would like further this study in some capacity. I found that the course broadened my understanding of the challenges of conservation management and other environmental issues in a way that will be really meaningful in the future. Beyond that, I found the other students in the program were engaging and fun to be around and the experience of living in a small Mexican fishing community to be quite a change of pace from New York City, where I grew up. I do not think that I could have asked for a better summer.
David Kohn, '10, Faculty Advisor - Alessandro Gomez (Mechanical Engineering): Water Desalination
and Policy Implications in Israel. [8 weeks, Israel]
Water Desalination and Policy Implications in Israel
David Kohn '10
I spent 8 weeks of my summer in the small town of Sde Boker in Israel working at Ben Gurion University’s Sde Boker campus in the Department of Man in the Desert. I had two main projects while I was there. The first was to work as an assistant on an experiment involving microclimatic changes due to vegetation in the desert; the second was independent research on desalination and public policy, and Israel’s water policy in general. Each arm of the research was different, and I found that I received valuable and different experiences from each.
The first experience was hands-on work in experimental design and implementation; it gave me first-hand knowledge of the kinks that one runs into when trying to set up an experiment, how plans sometimes must be flexible, and how ingenuity and a little jerry-rigging can save a whole lot of money. The basic experimental design was as follows: two courtyards of the same shape and size were selected, one having trees and one without. Radiation, wind speed, wet and dry bulb temperature and other variables were measured in both courtyards. These variables would help determine the level of human comfort in the courtyard. Different variables were added to both courtyards at different times: shading nets on the open courtyard to test their effectiveness (at raising human comfort) in relation to the trees’ effectiveness. Grass was laid at different points in both courtyards to test its effect as well. The basic hypothesis was that evaporative cooling caused by water released from vegetation would increase the thermal comfort of humans (an important thing in the desert as anything done to increase human thermal comfort helps to decrease the need for high-energy air conditioning. This, of course must be weighed against the need to conserve water).
One of my major jobs for the experiment was to build thirteen aspirated cycrometers, which are devices used to measure wet bulb and dry bulb temperature (dry bulb temperature is the regular air temperature and wet bulb temperature is the temperature of fully saturated air), out of computer fans, water bottles, tin foil, bubble wrap, thermocouples and a lot of hot glue. I learned that sometimes devices that cost very little can be used in place of equipment costing $100 or more that are fancier than needed. I also helped implement the experiment from meetings to wiring. Preliminary results were that vegetation does, in fact, improve human comfort. Trees are quite good, providing both shade and evaporative cooling but grass does not improve comfort as much as was expected. I was quite pleased with the results as grass is quite water-intensive and the findings have implications for my other field of research, water resource management and policy.
The second major project was research on desalination and Israel’s water policy. Unfortunately, this part of my research ended up being almost entirely focused on the international literature, I was hoping to interview some policy players, but due to setbacks of almost three weeks due to technology and an illness at the end of the summer, I was unable to implement some of the plans I had. However, I still found the project quite rewarding. I am continuing work on it and plan to write an article for a Yale publication (most likely the Yale Israel Journal) on the subject within the next semester. I found that not only did I learn about water policy in Israel, but I learned better research habits though I also ran into issues because of an insufficient knowledge of Hebrew.
Though the project is ongoing, I have some preliminary findings. The first is probably obvious. The problems in Israel’s water policy are quite large and quite complex. They, like many other environmental problems, are in large part caused or intensified by bad government structures, historical misuse and disregard for water resources, and a society-wide lack of will except during water crisis. However, I also found much cause for hope. Water policy in Israel is much more advanced than in much of the rest of the world, and Israel makes do with much less water than most of the rest of the developed world and for a long period of time has been the breeding ground for desalination, drip irrigation, and other remarkably useful technologies. On the subject of desalination, I have come to believe that it is a necessary evil in Israel. I am afraid that the society will view it as a cure-all and use it as an excuse to continue living unsustainably, but I have hope, and I know that Israel has the way, if there is the will, to move toward a more sustainable water future.
I found my summer in Israel to be a most rewarding experience; it provided valuable skills in the practice of science and specifically environmental science. I have formed connections with professors and others working there that I hope will continue and grow and foster interests that I believe will take me in new and interesting directions. In addition to the wonderful scientific and educational experience, the opportunity to live by myself, especially in a small town in the middle of the desert, and to travel by myself has profoundly affected me, and I hope has made me grow as a human being and in my understanding of my own self and path in life. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to grow as a budding scientist, a student, and a human being.
Evan McCartney-Melstad, Molecular,
Cellular & Developmental Biology '08, Faculty Advisor - Thomas Near (EEB): Ontogeny and the generation of
biodiversity: an empirical study of centrarchid fishes. [14 weeks, New
Ontogeny and the Generation of Biodiversity: An Empirical Study of Centrarchid Fishes
Evan McCartney-Melstad, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology '08
My research this summer involved attempting to answer the question of whether or not developmental disparity is strongly correlated with hybrid inviability and species diversity. Much of the summer was spent isolating and sequencing DNA in order to construct a well supported phylogeny for the fish family centrarchidae, the black basses. A developmental dataset was taken from a Paula Mabee paper entitled “Phylogenetic interpretation of ontogenetic change: sorting out the actual and artifactual in an empirical case study of centrarchid fishes.” This dataset is being used to map characters onto the tree and determine how strongly developmental differences are related to species relationships. If there was a strong correlation between ontogenetic differences and phylogenetic position then there is a chance that changes in the developmental processes could be creating reproductive barriers and thus driving the formation of biodiversity. This theory of developmental incompatibility has not been adequately tested in the field so far.
Throughout the course of the summer I collected DNA from hundreds of fish in an effort to better resolve the phylogeny of the fish family centrarchidae. I also conducted field research in over 10 states in the Southeastern United States collecting fish of value to the study. After isolating DNA I sequenced three genes for each individual including calmodulin and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2. I also chose another gene to sequence which has not been used often in the fish phylogenetics world—myostatin. This is a muscle growth inhibitor. After designing and ordering a PCR primer for sequencing myostatin I have discovered that many of the individuals sequenced for myostatin are heterozygotes. Thus I have also learned how to clone genes as part of my educational experience this summer.
Other important events of the summer’s research include traveling to the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists meeting in St. Louis, Missouri to present work on an estimate of the time of divergence of two extant coelacanth species that I had completed earlier in the year with Professor Near. At this conference I got valuable feedback on my project as well learning what other areas of research are taking place around the Americas and met several possible graduate school advisors.
After a summer’s work I have a solid phylogeny upon which to map the characters contained in the Mabee paper. I am continuing to work on this question in my senior research. I will also be working on some phylogenetic questions posed by the data gathered over the summer. Overall this was an invaluable experience in terms of determining the career path I would like to take in my life. Although I had worked in a lab during the school year I had never done this sort of thing for over 40 hours a week. I was only able to get an accurate impression of what life as a research scientist is like after immersing myself in the life for months.
Arvind Nagarajan, Economics and
Political Science '09, Faculty Advisor - Benjamin Cashore (F&ES):Economic Sustainability Research at the Congal
Biomarine Reserve. [8 weeks, Ecuador]
Economic Sustainability Research at the Congal Biomarine Reserve
Arvind Nagarajan, Economics and Political Science '09
This summer, I had the unique opportunity to volunteer with an environmental NGO called Jatun Sacha in Ecuador in order to understand the current state of environmental conservation and sustainable development in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. Though my original plan was to stay at a biological station in the Choco-Darien coastal region of Ecuador for two months, the coordinator of Jatun Sacha offered me the chance to spend a month at a station on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos as well! During my eight weeks at the two stations, I participated in an array of activities ranging from monitoring sea turtles to eliminating invasive species. The immersive activities in Ecuador helped me to observe many unintended consequences of unplanned development and helped me to understand the challenge of managing economic growth without compromising the environment.
I began my summer endeavors at the Congal Biological Station, located in the southwestern Esmeraldas province of Ecuador. This region consists of mangrove and humid tropical forest habitats that contain an incredible amount of biodiversity. Each activity I participated in at the station carried important lessons in the different types of environmental problems faced in the developing world. For example, sea turtles on the coast face incredible danger at the expense of local fishermen. As sea turtles get caught on fishermen’s hooks, the fishermen kill the turtle in order to recover the hook. I worked with other volunteers to gather data on the dead turtles. We then applied for grants to pay for hooks that could be given to fishermen in exchange for not killing the turtles. In addition, we talked to fishermen to try and explain the importance of the sea turtles to marine ecosystems.
While working to reforest mangroves, I learned about the incredible uniqueness of mangrove ecosystems and their importance to innumerable species. In Ecuador, the shrimp industry has expanded rapidly and the accompanying urbanization has destroyed more than 80% of the mangroves. Now, as the people understand the damage to the environment and as the shrimp industry has become more engaged in sustainable development, the mangroves have started to make a comeback as organizations like Jatun Sacha work to reforest the region.
I supplemented the environmental work at the station by doing social work in the town of Muisne. My work in Muisne allowed me to really get to know many people in the town and understand their lifestyle. From friendly soccer games to building a swing set for the kids there, my time in the town really opened my eyes to the local community and their needs and desires. I realized that programs need to address their extreme poverty as much as the environmental degradation of the area.
After my time at the Congal Station, I then went to a station for Jatun Sacha on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. The station on San Cristobal is located in the highlands, a 45-minute drive from the dock. There, I observed entirely different challenges. While the coast of Ecuador was relatively poor and very rural and undeveloped, the great increases in tourism over the past few years have negatively affected the environmental conditions at the Galapagos Islands.
A problem on San Cristobal is that in the past, before tourism was as highly regulated, foreign species were introduced on the islands. Now, certain species have become invasive and threaten the existence of native, endemic species. I spent a lot of time removing these with machetes and then replanting native species on cleared grounds.
Outside of the reforestation of native species, we spent time on regular chores such as cooking dinner, picking fruits, laying down concrete for paths, and numerous other tasks. In addition, just being on the Galapagos Islands was an once-in-a-lifetime experience in terms of natural beauty. Spending so much intimate time with one of the pristine natural wonders of the world, I gained even more appreciation for conservation and became more committed to the cause of environmental awareness and sustainable development.
Looking back on my time in Ecuador, I could not have asked for a better experience and I would recommend it to anyone interested in environmental studies. Though the challenges were different from those I expected going in, my experience has strengthened my desire to spend my life working in developing countries on environmental issues. I loved the feeling of grassroots environmental work and seeing the environmental problems and solutions of today up close. I cannot thank the Environmental Studies department enough as I would never have had this opportunity without their assistance.
Nicholas Olsen, Ecology and
Evolutionary Biology '09, Faculty Advisor - David Post (EEB): Influences of Light and Flow Rate Disturbances on
Stream Insect Ecology, Yale Myers Forest. [12 weeks, North-Western Conn.]
Sean Pool, Environmental Engineering '09, Faculty Advisor - Julie Newman (Office of Sustainability): Sustainability
Research Exchange at Australia National University in Canberra. [8 weeks,
Sustainability Research Exchange at Australia National University in Canberra
Sean Pool, Environmental Engineering ’09
I participated in the first round of the Yale-ANU summer sustainability internship exchange from July 8th through August 16th. I also spent 5 days at the National University of Singapore, assessing their environmental management program toward the goal of establishing a similar exchange with that university in the future. These experiences were both rewarding academically and practical professionally. I will discuss each separately.
Australia National University
I spent approximately 6 weeks at ANU in Canberra, working fulltime in the ANU Green (Environmental Management) office as a staff member. My main goals were to compare and contrast Yale’s sustainability program with that of its Australian counterpart, and to gain hands on experience doing project work in an environmental management office.
ANU Green is an efficiently run office within the Facilities and Services Department within the ANU. There are three full time employees, David Carpenter, John Sullivan, and Barry Hughes, as well as part time employees and a number of student interns. The office reports to Bart Meehan, the director of facilities and services, who reports directly to the Vice Chancellor of the University.
Since, the Green Office resides within the facilities and services department, there is heavy overlap between the operations of the two. One main strength of this set is that ideas coming out of the green office are instantly absorbed for assessment by facilities management. For example, John Sullivan who manages the energy metering and utilities contracts for the entire campus, is employed directly by ANU green, reducing the number of bureaucratic steps necessary to integrate sustainable energy policies, such the increase to 20% Green Power which I witnessed while there.
Besides the close association between the idea generating Green Office and the actual implementation through facilities and services, another great strength of the Green Office at the ANU was its high degree of integration with the academic and extra-curricular life of students on the university. There are two main bodies that integrate sustainability learning with on campus operations.
The “Integrating Sustainability Project” (ISP) utilizes the University’s excellent environmental record in order link study of campus operations and sustainability with curriculum and research. The project is mandated to audit all existing classes linking to sustainability, and offer professional development training to professors seeking to incorporate perspectives on sustainability into their existing courses, as well as aligning student research interests with ANU green data gathering objectives.
The “Sustainable Learning Community” (SLC) organizes and publicizes on-campus extracurricular opportunities relating to sustainability, and fosters a growing network of individuals interested in sustainability be they students with majors in the field, Green Office Interns, graduate students conducting research or faculty and staff members.
Overall, the benefits of these programs are realized in the form of networking between students of similar interests, ease of idea transfer, and increased awareness of both on-campus operations as they relate to sustainability, and issues of sustainability and the environment as a whole. It seems to me that Yale could benefit greatly from creating some kind of integrating sustainability project of its own, in order to align the already great amount of research being done by students of Environmental Studies, Forestry, and Environmental Engineering with campus operational research. Such a program could also set as a goal to increase the number of non-environmental courses that integrate issues of sustainability into the curriculum at Yale.
While at ANU, besides observing the organizational structure, I also completed three research projects for the Green Office.
The first was a 40-page risk assessment of the Australian and international voluntary carbon market, and the associated institutions that are beginning to form. The report discussed carbon abatement activities from methane gas capture, flaring, carbon forestry, demand side abatement, and also discussed the renewable energy credits (RECs) system in Australia. The conclusions of this report were that voluntary carbon markets are still too young to have well-enough established regulatory schemes to ensure the integrity of the products being purchased. The rules of the game are still in effect developing, and not until there is a more established legal framework for verification should the ANU invest in these products.
The second report was a shorter report about student engagement and potential for linkages between two prominent on-campus environmental groups, the environmental officers of student government, and the individual residential college student-run environment committees. These various student organizations, while all concentrating on essentially the same issue, had very little communication or networking, and the potential for efficiency gains through cooperation were great, as was the potential for cooperation between the student groups and ANU Green office objectives. The newly elected student government environmental officer decided to implement a number of the recommendations put forth in this report.
The third report was another short report about marketing of ANU green on campus and, and marketing the ANU corporate image to the rest of the world. I conducted interviews with members of the marketing and communications department to find out what kind of linkages there had been between ANU and the corporate image division of the marketing department, and discovered that there was none. This report concluded that the cost of increasing on-campus advertising of ANU Green would be negligible compared to the office’s budget, and that there was a need for increased student awareness of expensive projects being undertaken on campus. Additionally, I proposed that ANU could gain a competitive advantage over rival by branding itself as Australia’s Greenest University, and attempt to link the already heavily advertised literal greenness of the campus’s excellently maintained green spaces, with the metaphorical greenness of the campus’s operational sustainability programs.
National University of Singapore
I stayed in a residence hall at the National University of Singapore for 5 days during which I was briefed by the university’s sustainability director, met the CEO of the National Environment Agency of Singapore, toured one of Singapore’s 4 incineration plants to study the waste flow and energy generation management on the island, and interviewed the president of the on-campus student environmental club called S.A.V.E. (Students Against Violation of the Environment).
National and corporate environmental management in Singapore is much more focused on waste than on energy (the opposite is true in Australia, where abundant open space allows for relatively cost-effective land-filling). Most of accomplishments of the NUS were related to establishing a campus-wide network of identical and highly visible recycling bins. It also seemed that there were a number of operations going on higher levels with regard to building efficiency, but the lack of institutional transparency made it difficult to learn just how aggressive their goals were, and to what degree the implementation of higher-level efficiency policies was taking place.
Another important difference between the NUS campus sustainability committee was that it was located within the office of health, safety and environment, rather than within the office of estate and development (the facilities office), as with ANU. This created a bureaucratic rift between environment programs and facilities management. One strength of the NUS was a very well organized and integrated student coalition on environment called SAVE. The president of the student group works directly with the director of the campus sustainability committee and is able to secure budgetary support for student initiatives that way. SAVE also organizes a yearly Green Carnival which draws 3-5 thousand participants and has a projected budget this year of S$15-20 thousand). This is an excellent educational and attitude adjusting tool, serves to integrate students with the community, and is entirely student organized. Though student groups at Yale have organized similarly themed events on earth day, nothing of this scale has been realized yet, but would be a great addition to Yale’s culture and tradition, and would help foster a sense of pride among Yale students for the environmental consciousness of their home institution.
The Take Home
Though it was the first time this internship had been tried, and the thus was experimental, ultimately this experience gave me a great amount of experience working in nascent environmental management industry. It also gave me hands on perspectives into the three different models for university environmental management (including Yale, where I was offered a year-long job in conjunction with this research). At ANU, I also conducted extensive research on carbon markets, and astounded myself when I realized I was comfortable giving a 60-minute lecture on the topic to a class of undergrads and grad students studying corporate sustainability.
I would absolutely recommend this program to undergraduates interested in studying corporate environmental management in the future, and can envision the program improving now that the first year’s trial run has yielded useful feedback to the program coordinators.
Thomas Santoro, Environmental Studies
'09, Faculty Advisor - John Wargo (F&ES and Political Science): Plastics - Bisphenol A and Phthalates: State of the Science, and
Strategies to Minimize Exposures; Student Intern and Research Assistant,
Environment and Human Health, Inc. [10 weeks, North Haven, Conn.]
Plastics - Bisphenol A and Phthalates: State of the Science, and Strategies to Minimize Exposures
Thomas Santoro, Environmental Studies ’09
This past summer, I spent about two and half months working part time as a research assistant on the project “Plastics – Bisphenol A and Phthalates: State of the Science, and Strategies to Minimize Exposures.” The project is being carried out by the nonprofit organization Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), based in North Haven, Connecticut, and “dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research, education and the promotion of sound public policy.” John Wargo, PhD, a member of the Board of Directors of EHHI and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Environmental Studies major at Yale, structured my internship and directed my research for the project. For the duration of my internship, we maintained close email correspondence and met in person every week to discuss my work.
The “Plastics” project that I worked on has numerous objectives. First, it aims to identify all of the plastic products that contain bisphenol A (BPA) and di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP). BPA, a building block of polycarbonate plastics, is an estrogenic and carcinogenic chemical. It can leach out of plastics, causing health risks to humans. DEHP, used as a plasticizer in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is a particularly harmful phthalate and can similarly leach out of plastics and cause reproductive toxicity in humans. After identifying plastic products that contain BPA and DEHP, the project next seeks to summarize all of the scientific evidence on the human health effects of these chemicals and to provide an overview of applicable federal and state regulations. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide recommendations to individuals on how to protect themselves and their children from BPA and DEHP and to elicit state and federal policy changes to better protect people from these chemicals.
As a research assistant on the “Plastics” project, my main task was to find and list all the federal regulations, guidelines, and agency health risk assessments applicable to BPA and DEHP. I searched thousands of documents from the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, and other government websites and databases to find what I was looking for. As I came to discover, there are many more regulations and guidelines concerning DEHP than there are concerning BPA, but nevertheless both chemicals remain a threat to public health under the current federal regulatory scheme. Moreover, many of the agency health risk assessments used to shape the regulations and guidelines are outdated or incomplete. My lists of all the federal regulations, guidelines, and agency health risk assessments for BPA and DEHP, as well as all the other work I completed this summer for my internship, are published on a CD and may also be published online on the EHHI website.
After researching all the federal regulations and guidelines for BPA and DEHP, I investigated California’s regulation of these chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, otherwise known as Proposition 65. It turns out that BPA is not regulated under Proposition 65, but DEHP is. California’s regulation of DEHP under Proposition 65 is both stringent and well structured and can perhaps serve as a model for more effective federal regulation.
In addition to listing regulations, guidelines, and health risk assessments, I spent some time researching human exposure to BPA and its environmental distribution and persistence in accumulation. Although I did not conduct extensive research in these areas, I can confidently conclude that BPA is prevalent in the environment and that most people are exposed, at least at low levels. I also investigated the use of BPA and DEHP as inert ingredients in pesticide products, but my findings were somewhat unclear and contradictory. Additionally, I spent a little time towards the end of my internship researching the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on human phthalate exposure, but my research here was too incomplete for me to draw any conclusions.
I concluded my internship with a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Toxicology Program (NTP) – Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) Second Expert Panel Meeting on Bisphenol A from August 6-8. At the meeting, the NTP-CERHR finalized its report on the potential reproductive and developmental hazards of BPA. In the report, the NTP-CERHR basically concluded that BPA is not harmful to human reproduction and development at current exposure levels. However, the report drew mostly from industry-sponsored studies and caused outrage among scientists from universities and nonprofit organizations.
My internship this summer was certainly an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Many thanks to the Environmental Internship Program for providing me with funding and to Professor Wargo for structuring my internship and guiding me through my work. I hope that my research proves valuable to EHHI as it continues its work on the “Plastics” project, and I look forward to the completion of the project and the positive effect that it will have on individual behavior and government policy.
Kelly Yamashita, Anthropology '09, Faculty Advisor - Helen Siu (Anthropology): An
exploration of fundraising efforts to support environmental conservation in
China, an Internship with Nature Conservancy's Hong Kong Office. [10 weeks,
Hong Kong, China]
An exploration of fundraising efforts to support environmental conservation in China, an Internship with Nature Conservancy's Hong Kong Office
Kelly Yamashita, Anthropology ’09
This summer, I worked with the Nature Conservancy in the Hong Kong/China region. I was responsible for fundraising research and general Asia-Pacific conservation research in the office. This work included creating extensive profiles of potential donors in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore, matching donor interests to specific Nature Conservancy projects, and reviewing international and regional newspapers and magazines for articles involving philanthropic activity. My research was used as part of a general appeal for more support and resources to be directed towards the Asia-Pacific region as the potential and need for philanthropic growth there is increasing daily. In addition, I undertook a fundraising project for a Nature Conservancy-sponsored NGO in northwest Yunnan, the Association of Deqin Tibetan Medicinal Study. To gather background information for developing this project, I had the great opportunity of traveling to Kunming and Lijiang, China to visit The Nature Conservancy’s offices there.
One major conclusion I can draw from my time with TNC – Hong Kong is that traditionally, much of Asian society has seen the environment as a state responsibility and therefore individuals shy away from personal involvement (either through donations or advocacy) in environmental conservation. Yet the need for resources devoted to conservation is not waning. More focused effort must be made on the part of the government, environmental organizations, and concerned members of society in order to change the cultural bias against philanthropy and to effectively curb the environmental degradation that is happening in China.
It was also eye-opening to observe the loss of traditional culture that comes with such rapid economic development. In my observations, I tried to incorporate the cultural aspect of what is happening in China into my research on environmental conservation in areas like China and the Coral Triangle (eastern Indonesia, parts of Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands). What I found was that age-old methods of agriculture and farming were quickly disappearing in the face of urbanization and the demands of an ever-growing economic powerhouse. For example, the Association of Deqin Tibetan Medicinal Study’s combats this very issue. As Western medicine spreads throughout Meili Mountain villages, the long history and uniqueness of traditional Tibetan medicine is disappearing. Many rely heavily on income from natural resource collection, but with a deteriorating health system and rising poverty in these rural areas, overgrazing, clearing and overcollection threaten the very habitats these communities (and many other vulnerable species) are so dependent upon. This NGO for which I raised money aims to extend medicinal plantations, reduce the threat of unsustainable plant life management, and improve local people’s livelihood by creating alternative sources of income and preserving the traditions of Tibetan medicinal knowledge.
I am deeply indebted to the Environmental Studies program for their generous support of my summer internship and the projects I conducted during the period.