Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • An Analysis of the Performance of Public Elementary Schools in New York City During 2001-2005 from a Geographical Perspective

    Author:
    Ylli Kellici
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Sean Ahearn
    Abstract:

    This study examines from a geographical perspective the factors that impact the performance of public elementary schools in New York City during 2001-2005, a period when its schools were undergoing major reforms at both the local and national level. Education reforms have focused their attention on schools by increasing their responsibility and autonomy concurrent with an increase in accountability. This increased focus on schools as the main agent of change presents a challenge for geographers to investigate the impact of the geographical context on school performance. Although school achievement has a geographical component, the contribution of geographers on this issue has been limited. There are several major findings of this research. Despite a general increase in educational achievement in the public elementary schools in New York City during the period of this study, the race/ethnicity achievement gap remains substantial and does not change in space or over time. Findings indicate that there is spatial clustering in school performance the majority of which is explained by the spatial pattern of students' socioeconomic characteristics. There is no major spatial variation in the relationship between school performance and student and school characteristics and such relationships do not change over time. The presence of spatial dependence in school performance, not accounted for by student and school characteristics, necessitates the use of spatial regression models. The spatial model estimation indicates that in the first three years of the study period the spatial error model is a better fit of the data whereas in the last two years the spatial lag model is a better one. The switch from an error to a lag model, occurring in the first academic year (2003-2004) when education reforms were implemented in New York City, is an indication of a global change which can be identified with the effect of reforms throughout the City's public schools. Regression analysis shows that some school districts have an impact on school performance, after accounting for the student and school characteristics. From a policy perspective, the concentration of social disadvantage in space and over time should be taken into consideration in policies regarding allocation of resources that should be spatially focused. Furthermore, the education reforms should consider not only schools but also school districts in their accountability system. In addition to its findings, this research contributes to the geographic literature by introducing a robust framework to explore the impact of the geographic context. This framework, with the Square Combining Table method at its core, includes also Bisquare Weights and Multiple Comparison procedures. Another important methodological contribution is the introduction to educational literature of the Jackknife technique to examine the spatial variation of the relationship between school performance and student and school characteristics. The methods applied on the jackknifed coefficient values to study their variation in space and over time can similarly be used in other geographical phenomena.

  • LATE PLEISTOCENE TO HOLOCENE EVOLUTION, SEDIMENTATION PROCESSES, AND ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACT OF A COASTAL SYSTEM: RARITAN AND SANDY HOOK BAYS, NEW JERSEY

    Author:
    Elana Klein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Cecilia McHugh
    Abstract:

    The objectives of this study were: 1) to decipher the late Pleistocene to modern- day evolution of a coastal system; 2) determine the impact of natural processes such as longshore currents and storms on its sedimentary patterns; and 3) assess the impact of anthropogenic activities due to the proximity of a large metropolitan region. An ultimate goal was to assess the health of the ecosystems within the coastal environment. The study area included the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays, New Jersey, located just south of the terminus of the maximum extent of the Laurentide ice sheet. The area has long been affected by the growth of a spit, storms, and anthropogenic pollution. Seismic reflection profiles provided a framework for the evolution of this simple-fill estuary since the Last Glacial Maximum. Studies of Vibracores from Sandy Hook Bay revealed that the latest Holocene sediment in the bay is dominated by low energy deposition in a back- barrier environment created by the development of the Sandy Hook Spit, interrupted by storm events (e.g., storm surge, fluvial flooding) which have either left unconformities due to erosion, or mass-wasting deposits. Radiocarbon ages of two shallow marine (i.e., low tide- 10 m) mollusks (Anomia simplex; Anadara transversa) suggest sea level entered the Sandy Hook Bay at ~6.1 cal. ka BP, similar to estimates by Fairbanks (1989), Siddall et al. (2003), and Wright et al. (2009) that sea level reached its present day height ~ 6.0 ka BP. This suggests the land was not affected as greatly by the forebulge than areas previously depressed under the glacial ice. Five mass-wasting deposits were dated (from 970 AD, 1399 AD, 1525 AD, 1591 AD, and 1778 AD; mean ages) with radiocarbon ages of shells retrieved from the cores and correlated with storm deposits identified in previous studies of Long Island, NY, and the New Jersey coast. These findings show that large areas of a coastline need to be studied to characterize a long-term prehistoric record of storms. Results from X- ray fluorescence, magnetic susceptibility, loss on ignition, and short-lived radioisotopes, revealed that metal concentrations were greater in the upper sediments of the bay, primarily in the backbarrier sections and proximal to the beaches. Coarser-grained sediments near the tip of the spit were associated with less contaminants in the upper sediments, most likely related to dredging, or the higher energy related to tidal currents and waves. Initial results from wet chemistry (ICP Spectrometer) tests conducted by an independent laboratory showed Pb was present at levels determined by Long et al. (1995) to have adverse effects on organisms. Future research is necessary to identify and designate sections of the bay where fish and shellfish should not be harvested from, due to metal concentrations that may adversely affect the health of organisms that inhabit the substrate.

  • ELECTRICAL RESISTIVITY IMAGING STUDY OF NEAR-SURFACE INFILTRATION

    Author:
    Angelos Lampousis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Patricia Kenyon
    Abstract:

    High resolution electrical resistivity images (ERI method) were obtained during vadose zone infiltration experiments on agricultural soils in cooperation with Cornell University's Agricultural Stewardship Program, Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Extension Education Center, Riverhead, New York [as well as Cornell University's Long Island Horticultural Research & Extension Center (LIHREC) in Riverhead, New York]. One natural soil was also studied. Infiltration was monitored by means of image analysis of two-dimensional array resistivity generated by a Syscal Kid Switch resistivity system (Griffiths et al, 1990). The data was inverted with the computer program RES2DINV (Loke, 2004). The agricultural soils considered were Riverhead sandy loam (RdA), Haven loam (HaA), and Bridgehampton silt loam (BgA). The natural site was located in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. The soils there are classified as Schoharie silty clay loam. The electrical images of the three sites were compared against established soil properties, including particle size distribution, available water capacity, and soluble salts (from the literature), as well as against site-specific soil samples and penetrometer data, which were collected along with the geophysical measurements. This research evaluates the potential of acquiring high resolution, non-destructive measurements of infiltration in the uppermost 1.5 meter of the vadose zone. The results demonstrate that resistivity differences can detect infiltration in soils typical of the north-eastern United States. Temporal and spatial variations of soil water content in the upper 1.5 meters (relevant to agriculture) of the subsurface can be monitored successfully and non-destructively with ERI. The sensitivity of the method is higher in subsurface environments that demonstrate high overall apparent resistivity values (e.g. high sand content). Under conditions of increased soil heterogeneity, instead of the formation of a continuous water plume as occurred in the homogeneous agricultural soils, the location of the infiltrated water seems to be highly influenced by the soil heterogeneity, and the water front is scattered into discontinuous layers and travels in additional directions. The geophysical results during infiltration correlate well with soil compaction data. It follows that the ERI method can be used as a proxy for soil compaction and water content variations in agricultural applications. In a natural environment, ERI successfully maps the tree root zone of mature trees. Applications include continuous water content monitoring in high value cash crops, such as viticulture (precision agriculture).

  • ELECTRICAL RESISTIVITY IMAGING STUDY OF NEAR-SURFACE INFILTRATION

    Author:
    Angelos Lampousis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Patricia Kenyon
    Abstract:

    High resolution electrical resistivity images (ERI method) were obtained during vadose zone infiltration experiments on agricultural soils in cooperation with Cornell University's Agricultural Stewardship Program, Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, Extension Education Center, Riverhead, New York [as well as Cornell University's Long Island Horticultural Research & Extension Center (LIHREC) in Riverhead, New York]. One natural soil was also studied. Infiltration was monitored by means of image analysis of two-dimensional array resistivity generated by a Syscal Kid Switch resistivity system (Griffiths et al, 1990). The data was inverted with the computer program RES2DINV (Loke, 2004). The agricultural soils considered were Riverhead sandy loam (RdA), Haven loam (HaA), and Bridgehampton silt loam (BgA). The natural site was located in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. The soils there are classified as Schoharie silty clay loam. The electrical images of the three sites were compared against established soil properties, including particle size distribution, available water capacity, and soluble salts (from the literature), as well as against site-specific soil samples and penetrometer data, which were collected along with the geophysical measurements. This research evaluates the potential of acquiring high resolution, non-destructive measurements of infiltration in the uppermost 1.5 meter of the vadose zone. The results demonstrate that resistivity differences can detect infiltration in soils typical of the north-eastern United States. Temporal and spatial variations of soil water content in the upper 1.5 meters (relevant to agriculture) of the subsurface can be monitored successfully and non-destructively with ERI. The sensitivity of the method is higher in subsurface environments that demonstrate high overall apparent resistivity values (e.g. high sand content). Under conditions of increased soil heterogeneity, instead of the formation of a continuous water plume as occurred in the homogeneous agricultural soils, the location of the infiltrated water seems to be highly influenced by the soil heterogeneity, and the water front is scattered into discontinuous layers and travels in additional directions. The geophysical results during infiltration correlate well with soil compaction data. It follows that the ERI method can be used as a proxy for soil compaction and water content variations in agricultural applications. In a natural environment, ERI successfully maps the tree root zone of mature trees. Applications include continuous water content monitoring in high value cash crops, such as viticulture (precision agriculture).

  • The Elwha Dam Removal Project and the Dematerialization of Nature

    Author:
    Enrique Lanz Oca
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    Throughout the twentieth century dams have been used to bolster America's power, prestige and sense of itself as a nation capable of producing energy for all of its citizens. In the golden age of dam building, from the 1930s to the 1960s, dams' praises were sung by folksingers, Hollywood actors, and government propagandists alike. Big dams such as the Hoover or the Grand Coulee emerged as iconic features of the national landscape, symbolizing the governments' power to do everything from defeat the allies, jumpstart the economy, or control nature by converting wild rivers to natural energy reserves. However, recent data indicate the arrival of an era of dam removals, as dams across the nation have begun to be dismantled at an unprecedented rate beginning in the late1980s. It is vital to document this trend because it indicates a change in the way in which energy is being produced, consumed, and understood in this country, which is reshaping our conceptions of nature. By studying the largest dam removal project in the world and the second largest ecological restoration in the country, the Elwha Plan in Washington State, this dissertation reveals how energy is being reconceived at the local level precisely at the moment when the U.S. is reinvigorating its search for energy resources. This study examines the ways in which the government, corporations, community members, conservationists, and tribe members in Port Angeles all contribute to producing nature anew. It traces how in the wake of the dam removals, private and public interests are combining in novel ways and invoking the ideologies of restoration, bioregionalism, and renewable energy in order to further penetrate nature. Such new configurations of capital are redeveloping the electricity grid in Cascadia in ways that exploit regional identity in order to remap the region and change the way that energy is flowing throughout the nation. As dams are demolished across the nation and private renewable projects replace them, hitherto public domains, such as the electricity grid, are privatized. Once heralded as national icons, dams are disappearing from the landscape and nature is losing powerful materials.

  • Building Like Moses With Jacobs in Mind: Redevelopment Politics in the Bloomberg Administration

    Author:
    Scott Larson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Neil Smith
    Abstract:

    For decades the legacies of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses have loomed over redevelopment politics in New York City, serving as ideological opposites in ongoing struggles to influence the form of the city’s built environment. Yet recent revisionist readings have sought to reframe popular perceptions of the pair. Moses’ supporters argue that his public works have positioned the city to remain ascendant into the 21st century; opponents counter that Jacobs’ ideals continue to provide the prescription for curing contemporary urban ills. In devising its own vision of the city, the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg has sought to bridge this divide, countering that it is “building and rezoning today once again like Moses on an unprecedented scale but with Jane Jacobs firmly in mind,...” (Burden, 2006). This project aims to critique the narrowness of this debate, arguing that both Jacobs and Moses represent a class-based strategy for remaking the city. While Moses’ modernism might appear to stand in stark contrast to Jacobs’ localism, when synthesized in the Bloomberg agenda both represent a call for the building and rebuilding of the city for people of middle rather than lesser class privilege.

  • CHARACTERIZING VEGETATION STRUCTURE AND BIOMASS USING LIDAR REMOTE SENSING

    Author:
    Shihyan Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Wenge Ni-Meister
    Abstract:

    Precise characterization of vegetation structure and biomass is significant due to current high uncertainty in estimating global terrestrial carbon sink, ranging from 10 to 60% of total fossil fuel emission. LIght Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) remote sensing is an advanced tool developed for this purpose, and recent identified problems in this area include the need of interpreting lidar height on slopes and estimating forest above ground biomass. This research focuses on these two aspects by assessing the feasibility of analytical solutions, as well as investigating alternative physical interpretation of lidar data. A recently developed slope correction scheme based on a Geometric Optical and Radiative Transfer (GORT) model was used to quantify the topographic impact on lidar measured vegetation height. By using this scheme, data from spaceborne Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) were compared to airborne Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) and small-footprint lidar data, where LVIS data is regarded as less affected by slope, and small-footprint lidar data is regarded as ground truth. Analyses show slope-corrected GLAS vegetation heights match well with both small-footprint lidar (R2 = 0.77, RMSE = 2.2 m) and slope-corrected LVIS heights (R2 = 0.64, RMSE = 3.7 m). Both slope-corrected GLAS and LVIS height biases are independent on slope. The investigation of the relationship between lidar data and in-situ measured vegetation structure parameters showed that it is scale- and vegetation type- dependant. For dense forest stands, vegetation biomass is more related to lidar height; while for sparse stands, lidar estimated canopy cover can be more important parameters in approximating tree density variation. To better link lidar data with vegetation structure, a lidar biomass index was developed based on height and estimated canopy cover profile to approximate vertical tree density distribution. Analyses in three different types of forests showed high correction (R2=0.75-0.83) and near stable relationships between this index and in-situ measured biomass. This index also helps to explain why some height metrics are optimal based on the vegetation structure and topography. The results presented in this dissertation suggest that the theoretical development can improve the accuracy and interpretation of lidar data, which, in turn, provide unique remote sensing datasets for studies of vegetation structure and biomass, and ultimately decrease the uncertainty in estimating terrestrial carbon sink.

  • CHARACTERIZING VEGETATION STRUCTURE AND BIOMASS USING LIDAR REMOTE SENSING

    Author:
    Shihyan Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Wenge Ni-Meister
    Abstract:

    Precise characterization of vegetation structure and biomass is significant due to current high uncertainty in estimating global terrestrial carbon sink, ranging from 10 to 60% of total fossil fuel emission. LIght Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) remote sensing is an advanced tool developed for this purpose, and recent identified problems in this area include the need of interpreting lidar height on slopes and estimating forest above ground biomass. This research focuses on these two aspects by assessing the feasibility of analytical solutions, as well as investigating alternative physical interpretation of lidar data. A recently developed slope correction scheme based on a Geometric Optical and Radiative Transfer (GORT) model was used to quantify the topographic impact on lidar measured vegetation height. By using this scheme, data from spaceborne Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) were compared to airborne Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) and small-footprint lidar data, where LVIS data is regarded as less affected by slope, and small-footprint lidar data is regarded as ground truth. Analyses show slope-corrected GLAS vegetation heights match well with both small-footprint lidar (R2 = 0.77, RMSE = 2.2 m) and slope-corrected LVIS heights (R2 = 0.64, RMSE = 3.7 m). Both slope-corrected GLAS and LVIS height biases are independent on slope. The investigation of the relationship between lidar data and in-situ measured vegetation structure parameters showed that it is scale- and vegetation type- dependant. For dense forest stands, vegetation biomass is more related to lidar height; while for sparse stands, lidar estimated canopy cover can be more important parameters in approximating tree density variation. To better link lidar data with vegetation structure, a lidar biomass index was developed based on height and estimated canopy cover profile to approximate vertical tree density distribution. Analyses in three different types of forests showed high correction (R2=0.75-0.83) and near stable relationships between this index and in-situ measured biomass. This index also helps to explain why some height metrics are optimal based on the vegetation structure and topography. The results presented in this dissertation suggest that the theoretical development can improve the accuracy and interpretation of lidar data, which, in turn, provide unique remote sensing datasets for studies of vegetation structure and biomass, and ultimately decrease the uncertainty in estimating terrestrial carbon sink.

  • The interaction between arsenic and struvite during coprecipitation and adsorption processes

    Author:
    Ning Ma
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Ashaki Rouff
    Abstract:

    The formation of struvite, MgNH4PO4*6H2O (MAP), from wastes is one of the methods that can be used to recover P from wastes efficiently. However, since there are usually toxic components in the wastes, like arsenic (As), the possibility of having toxic contaminants in MAP is a big concern. So, the interaction between As and MAP during coprecipitation (CPT) and adsorption (ADS) processes were studied at pH 8-11. MAP precipitated without As at pH 8-11 was also characterized. During CPT process, the MAP was precipitated from a MgCl2-(NH4)2HPO4-NaCl-H2O system spiked with As at an initial pH (pHi) of 8-11. The batch experiments showed that more As was found in the solids at higher pH and pentavalent As, As(V), was the favorable As oxidation state in the solids. The results from X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (XAFS) indicated that As(V) was incorporated in the solids; whereas the trivalent As, As(III), was adsorbed on the mineral surface. The solids precipitated at pHi 8-11 without the addition of As were also characterized. The 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) confirmed that over 95% of phosphate was in MAP at pHi 8-10, with newberyite (MgHPO4∙3H2O) as a minor crystalline phase. At pHi 11, only 60% of the phosphate was in MAP, with 22% and 18% in an amorphous phase and sodium phosphate, respectively. The As adsorption using MAP and hydroxylapatite (HAP), Ca5(PO4)3OH, studied in a MgCl2-(NH4)2HPO4-NaCl-H2O system with pH fixed at 8-11. As the pH was increased, more As(V) was removed from the solution for both MAP and HAP; for As(III), the removal by either MAP or HAP were limited for pH 8-11. Using radioactive 33P, a faster phosphate exchange at the mineral-water interface was found on HAP. The XAFS results showed the adsorbed As(V) formed monodentate mononuclear surface complexes on MAP and, for HAP, As(V) was incorporated near the mineral surface. The studies in this thesis about the interaction between MAP and As can be helpful in producing low-As MAP with maximum recycle of P from wastes with high As concentration and using MAP as an adsorbent to remove As from phosphate-rich wastes.

  • Chronic Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter and Heart Failure in New York City: A Methodological Exploration of Environmental Justice and Health

    Author:
    Andrew Maroko
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Juliana Maantay
    Abstract:

    Increased exposure to air pollution has been connected with environmentally-linked diseases (increased morbidity), decreased lifespan (increased mortality), environmental injustices (inequitable distribution of pollution based on population characteristics), reduction of quality-of-life, and increased health care costs. The main goals of this work are to analyze and quantify the potential association between chronic fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure and heart failure hospitalization rates in New York City and to explore the possibility that specific populations (e.g. racial and ethnic minorities, less educated populations, lower income populations) suffer from increased chronic exposure to PM2.5 from local stationary sources when compared to other populations in the context of environmental justice. Fine particulate matter exposure in New York City was estimated using proximity analysis, air dispersion modeling, and land use regression modeling. The characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of each technique were compared and contrasted. A number of statistical techniques were also employed to assess and quantify these associations (odds ratios, ordinary least squares regressions, spatial autoregressive models, and geographically weighted regressions). The utility and appropriateness of each of these statistical models were examined. The results of the analyses suggested the presence of environmental injustices, although the relationships appeared complex and non-linear. The environmental health analyses found a positive association between intra-urban chronic exposure to fine particulate matter and heart failure hospitalization rates when controlling for socio-demographics in New York City.