Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • The Interfaith Center: The Construction and Consequence of Interfaith Space

    Author:
    Cristina Notaro
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Marianna Pavlovskaya
    Abstract:

    This project examines the social and cultural phenomenon of the interfaith center as an intentional response to religious diversity in the United States. The interfaith center is an effort of multiple religious and secular organizations and individuals with missions of social action, education, dialogue and relationship building. Centers are formed within the context of a local community, but include interactions on a regional, national or international scale and intersections into public, private, civic and religious spheres of influence. The interfaith center is a growing force in religious pluralism, playing a constructive role in the social and cultural processes of a community, the attitudes and perceptions of religious groups and the production of interfaith space. The interfaith center is producing physical and social space to act as a mechanism for social cohesion and a focal point for addressing social issues and building community relationships. This research is an examination of both the construction and the consequence of this place.

  • The Environmental Justice Implications of New York State's and New York City's Brownfield Policies

    Author:
    Michael Porter
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    William Solecki
    Abstract:

    This dissertation assesses the environmental justice implications of New York State and New York City laws designed to encourage the cleanup and remediation of contaminated and vacant properties, also known as brownfields. To do so, the dissertation asks three questions. First, do brownfield policies promote the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites in areas with predominantly poor and minority residents? Second, when brownfield development does occur in these neighborhoods, does it improve environmental conditions? And third, to what extent do brownfield policies offer residents, business owners, and others living, working, and playing near brownfield sites a voice in the remediation and development process? To answer these questions the dissertation uses a two-step, multi-scalar, and mixed-method approach. In the first step, the dissertation uses methods of randomization to describe the characteristics of populations and properties near sites enrolled in New York State's brownfield program at the scale of the city. In the second step, the dissertation investigates the impact of brownfield development in three case study neighborhoods -the Gowanus and East New York neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Melrose Commons in the Bronx. Through these analyses, the dissertation concludes that the environmental justice implications of New York State's and New York City's brownfield policies are uneven. While state and city policies may encourage development in areas with higher property values and a higher proportion of white and wealthy residents, for the most part, they have little impact in areas with predominantly poor and non-white residents. When brownfield development does occur in these neighborhoods, it tends to exacerbate existing environmental injustices. Although the clean-up and development of contaminated sites may protect human and ecological health within the site's boundaries, it often exacerbates environmental problems in the surrounding areas. City and state brownfield policies further exacerbates environmental injustices by providing few opportunities for nearby resident and business to influence remedial methods or future land uses. There are, however, exceptions to these findings. In neighborhoods with a history of community, comprehensive, and area-wide planning, brownfield policies are much closer to fulfilling the policies' stated ambition.

  • LONG-TERM WARMING AND THE SIZE AND PHENOLOGY OF LONG ISLAND SOUND PLANKTON

    Author:
    Edward Rice
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Gillian Stewart
    Abstract:

    In coastal ecosystems with decades of eutrophication and other anthropogenic stressors, the impact of climate change on planktonic communities can be difficult to detect. A time-series of monthly surface water temperatures in the Central Basin of Long Island Sound (LIS) from the late 1940s until 2012 indicates a warming rate of 0.03°C per year, with recent summer temperatures increasing most consistently. During this warming trend, the proportion of chlorophyll produced by smaller phytoplankton and flagellates appears to be higher during warmer summer and fall months, enabling an increase in annual chlorophyll despite static nutrient levels. The phenology of phytoplankton and zooplankton abundance also appears to have shifted. Relative to the 1950s, winter and spring chlorophyll blooms are reduced, summer and fall zooplankton size has decreased, the proportion of small zooplankton has increased, and summer zooplankton abundance is reduced. These changes have occurred despite a lack of evidence for increasing gelatinous zooplankton abundance, which has been suggested as a causal mechanism for reduced summer copepod abundance and enhanced summer/fall phytoplankton abundance in other systems that have experienced long-term warming. These changes confirm general predictions for the direct impacts of climate change on aquatic communities, but also highlight the important of indirect impacts due to altered trophic dynamics.

  • Developing geochemical proxies for a high resolution hydroclimate record in Mono Lake basin

    Author:
    Rahul Sahajpal
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Hemming
    Abstract:

    Abstract Developing geochemical proxies for a high resolution hydroclimate record in Mono Lake basin. by Rahul Sahajpal Advisor: N. Gary Hemming Hydrological fluctuations of Mono Lake, a terminal closed-basin lake in the western Great Basin, are related to the regional climate fluctuations. These hydrological changes lead to variations in paleosalinity which may be recorded at a high resolution by the geochemical proxies in the lacustrine Wilson Creek Formation sediments of the Mono Lake basin. Authigenic minerals like calcite and Mg-smectite in the lacustrine sediments record the fluctuations in the lake level through the last glacial period. During the course of this research project, I have developed leachable Li (hosted by the Mg-smectite) and other leachable ions as geochemical proxies for paleosalinity (and thus paleohydrology) in the Wilson Creek sediments. I applied a multi-pronged approach, including measurements of leachable ions. I followed these results and tested my hypothesis for their behavior by construction of empirical evaporation and mixing models using Geochemist Workbench and PHREEQC. I used this strategy to demonstrate that the freshening of Mono Lake during the last glacial period could explain the variations. These investigations in the Mono Lake basin have shown that leachable Li along with leachable ions like Ca, Mg and Sr closely follow the documented lake level based on stratigraphic and geomorphic evidence. The empirical models used to predict the geochemical evolution of Mono Lake with hydrological variations allow the accurate prediction of the behavior of authigenic mineral phases like Mg- smectite and the calcite proxy record for the paleolake level changes.

  • A Life-Time Mortality Risk Analysis and Cost-Benefit Analysis Associated With Asbestos Exposure From The Collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11: Does the Cost of US-EPAs Residential Dust Clean-up in Lower Manhattan Exceed its Benefit?

    Author:
    Benjamin Sallemi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Robert Nolan
    Abstract:

    Pursuant to the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001, the presence of chrysotile asbestos in the dust plume raised concern about exposure to Search and Rescue workers, Clean-up and Recovery workers, and Residential exposures that might result during the ground zero clean-up and removal efforts. Asbestos related air monitoring included Analytical Transmission Electron Microscopy (ATEM) analysis under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) protocol; Phase Contrast Microscopy (PCM) and ATEM measurements on the same filters; and Phase Contrast Microscopy Equivalent (PCMe) using ATEM. This study focused primarily on the exposure of emergency responders, clean-up workers, and residents to the presence of asbestos, taking asbestos fiber-type and size into consideration. The three exposure scenarios evaluated show that cumulative residential exposures ((0.02 asbestos fibers per milliliter-year (af/mL-yr)) were the greatest, followed by Clean-up and Recovery exposures (0.007 af/mL-yr), then Search and Rescue exposures (0.003 af/mL-yr), which shows that the lower residential dose over a longer period of time would result in a greater cumulative exposure then either the Search and Rescue, or Clean-up and Recovery scenarios. A risk assessment for the three cumulative exposure scenarios was conducted using the US-EPA's 1986 aggregate risk model which presumes equal potency for all asbestos fiber-types, and the 2000 Hodgson & Darnton model which considers the potency of differing asbestos fiber-types, and is more current with the historic epidemiologic literature. A marked difference between the US-EPA aggregate model and Hodgson & Darnton model exists with the later showing an approximate 240-fold decrease in risk for the lower Manhattan population when chrysotile fiber-type potency is considered. Using the calculated cumulative exposure data a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) was performed to show whether the social benefit associated with a reduction in the asbestos contaminant levels warranted the total cost of providing specialized equipment to lower Manhattan residents and remedial cost of conducting the US-EPA Residential Dust Clean-up Program. As expected, the CBA shows that the social benefits of averting asbestos-related morbidity and mortality outweigh the costs under the US-EPA's risk assessment protocol. However, using the Hodgson and Darnton risk assessment protocol, the benefits do not outweigh the risks and the US-EPA would have been expected not to provide specialized equipment to lower Manhattan residents or conduct the residential dust cleaning program.

  • Carbon and nitrogen dynamics from slow pools of soil organic matter in a temperate forest: pyrogenic organic matter and and root litter

    Author:
    Fernanda Santos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Bird
    Abstract:

    Soil organic matter (SOM) is the dominant reservoir of organic carbon (OC) in terrestrial ecosystems, storing approximately three times the size of the C pool in the atmosphere. In temperate forests, a major fraction of the SOM consists of slowly decaying soil organic C (SOC) pools. While slowly cycling C pools constitute a large reservoir of stable C in soils, the dominant environmental factors controlling this C pool remain unresolved. This research investigates two significant, but poorly characterized slowly decaying C pools: fine root litter (< 2mm) and thermally altered plant biomass (pyrogenic organic matter, PyOM). Specifically, I used compound-specific stable isotope analysis (13C and 15N) as my main methodological approach to examine the (1) decomposition of root litter and PyOM in temperate forest soils, and (2) the factors (soil type, nitrogen addition, and SOM) that affected the stability of these two SOC pools. This was accomplished by integrating the results of: a 180-d incubation study on PyOM decomposition, a study on the molecular composition and physicochemical structure of PyOM, δ13C measurements of PyOM molecular markers (13C-benzene polycarboxylic acids) in soils, measurements of atmospheric PyOM-C deposition, and a 2-yr field study on root litter decay. PyOM-C at 450oC had a centennial mean residence time (MRT) in temperate forest soils, and the mineralization of PyOM-N was affected by reactive mineral surfaces. Future tracing experiment studies will greatly benefit from the use of 13C-BPCA approach to quantify PyOM turnover rates in soils. In northern Michigan, PyOM-C deposition fluxes from the atmosphere to soils were low, but provided background data relevant for future assessments of atmospheric PyOM-C concentration. Lastly, maple roots decomposed faster than those reported by previous studies in temperate ecosystems, suggesting that root litter C is not a stable SOM pool in northern temperate forest soils. To improve long-term predictions of the impact of climate change on SOC fluxes, ecosystem scale C models should consider root detritus as a fast-cycling C pool in northern forest soils, incorporate the effect of soil mineral assemblage on the stability of SOM, and no longer assume that PyOM has a millennial MRT in soils.

  • TV AUDIENCE FRAGMENTATION: MEASUREMENT, CAUSES, AND ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES

    Author:
    Jaroslaw Schellner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Lisa George
    Abstract:

    Modern video distribution has increased the quantity and variety of programming available to viewers. Multichannel broadcasters using high-bandwidth distribution mechanisms such as satellite and cable television are able to deliver hundreds of channels to each home. Video on demand (VOD) allows users to select and watch video content at will. Digital video recorders (DVRs) have made it possible to watch any program at any time using an electronic program guide and recording shows onto a hard disk. Yet attention remains limited, as audience members are able to watch only a limited number of programs offered by different networks. As a result, the viewing audience today distributes itself over a larger set of programs than in the past. This process is called audience fragmentation. Television audiences are fragmented to different degrees, even if the set of available viewing options is similar. The level of audience fragmentation depends on factors such as the audience's geographic location and its demographic composition. A fragmented audience is more difficult to reach with advertising. Knowing the factors that determine audience fragmentation could be important for advertisers who are trying to send marketing messages to a certain group of consumers, as well as for programmers designing entertainment targeted at different groups. This thesis seeks to explain the relationship between audience characteristics, audience fragmentation, and advertising prices.

  • WE WORK, WE EAT TOGETHER: Anti-authoritarian Mutual Aid Politics in New York City, 2004-2013

    Author:
    David Spataro
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    New York City's neoliberal restructuring has fundamentally transformed the city's labor market and privatized many important aspects of a once robust municipal welfare system. In this research I examine one radical response to these changes: anti-authoritarian mutual aid groups that blend Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture with direct action politics. These are projects where activists attempt to build strong communities of resistance by organizing collective forms of social reproduction. I find that these projects are a threat to neoliberal urbanization because they reorganize reproduction beyond the household scale while simultaneously criticizing the social relations of capitalism as the root of household insecurity. At the same time, this research reveals that mutual aid projects coming out of the white North American anarchist social movement culture are filled with conflicts and contradictions. Activists who create "geographies of autonomy" often struggle to reconcile their imperative against hierarchy with needs for a horizontal management of the commons. Additionally, I find that although these projects take social reproduction as an object of struggle, they are prone to undervalue gendered and racialized work in a way that mirrors the same neoliberal social relations which mutual aid groups seek to escape. The conflicts that ensue from these contradictions can and often lead to women and people of color (and others) withdrawing energy or support in order to create stronger forms of mutual aid. These cleavages between activists can be best understood through black feminist and Marxist feminist theories of care in social struggle. Conflicts reveal the need for mutual aid groups to develop a social practice that revalues reproduction work in social movements and celebrates those who have done it in the past and continue to do it today.

  • The Remote Sensing and Measurement of Melting Processes on Greenland and Antarctica

    Author:
    Nicholas Steiner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Marco Tedesco
    Abstract:

    We report measurements of melt-related processes for Antarctic and Greenland made using novel remote sensing algorithms and in-situ measurement techniques. First, persistent melting is mapped over Antarctica at high resolution using a novel melt-detection algorithm, based on wavelet-theory and multiscale analysis for the duration of the QuikSCAT satellite record (1999 through 2009). This novel approach is compared with threshold based methods, where melting is detected at 3dB below the winter mean backscatter, indicating an agreement to within 7 percent accuracy in yearly melt index [days-km2] and within 10 percent accuracy based automated weather station (AWS) comparisons due to the omission of short-duration melting events. In further comparison with Special Sensor Microwave/Image (SSMI) melting records, a higher degree of agreement (9 percent relative difference) is obtained by employing the wavelet-based approach than threshold-based (11 percent relative difference) methods. Secondly, we assess the validity of remote sensing based multispectral bathymetry from the analysis of concurrent in-situ multi-spectral and depth measurements collected over a supraglacial lake during early July 2010 in West Greenland (Lake Olivia, 69º36'35"N, 49º29'40"W). In particular, we evaluate lake bottom albedo and the water attenuation coefficient. Analysis of in-situ data (using a remotely controlled boat equipped with a GPS, sonar and a spectrometer) illustrates the exponential trend of the water-leaving reflectance with lake depth. The attenuation factors obtained are compared with those proposed in the literature. Finally, measured ablation rates at the bottom of the two lakes, collected during the summers of 2010 and 2011, are on the order of ~ 6 cm/day, versus a rate of ~ 2.5 - 3 cm/day in the case of bare ice of surrounding areas. These measurements are compared with a thermodynamic model forced with the outputs of a regional climate model. In general, the model is able to satisfactorily reproduce the measured quantities with RMSE of the order of 3 - 4 cm for the ablation and ~ 1.5 ºC in the case of water temperature. Results confirm that the ablation at the bottom of supraglacial lakes can account for close to ten percent of the total lake depth.

  • Water Conservation to Reduce Wet Weather Pollution Loads to the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY

    Author:
    Suzanne Stempel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Zhongqi Cheng
    Abstract:

    Public participation plays an important role in wet weather pollution management. However, the effects of participation programs on local water quality are often difficult to quantify. This project aims to quantify the potential effects of a community based, non-structural, BMP aimed at controlling inputs to combined sewage systems by encouraging residents to reduce their water use during rain events. A household could participate by reducing the amount of water they use for flushing toilets, washing dishes, taking showers, etc. during rain events; thereby reducing stress on the system during the time of highest demand. The Gowanus Canal sewershed in Brooklyn, NYC was used as a case study for this project. The proposed management practice was tested using (1) sewershed modeling to assess technical feasibility, and (2) a quantitative community survey to gauge local interest. Modeling results showed that while projected reductions in flow volume were quite low, reductions in pollutant loads were promising. Modeled pollutant load reductions, specifically those for Fecal Coliform and Nutrients were favorable compared to those typically achieved using green infrastructure approaches. Survey results indicated positive interest in participating in the water conservation program. Results regarding public understanding suggest that educational efforts aimed at increasing sewershed awareness and specific training regarding the effects various types of water use have on water quality would be beneficial to the success of such a program. Overall, results indicate that with further evaluation, the practice of conserving water during storm events may serve as a community-based complement to engineered pollution controls in urban regions.