Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Tiebout Sorting and Jurisdictional Homogeneity: Empirical Validity and Ethical Implications

    Author:
    Lee Hachadoorian
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Jochen Albrecht
    Abstract:

    In a seminal paper, Tiebout (1956) argues that a large number of small local governments will function as a market in local services, leading to efficient allocation of local public goods. This result only obtains if households actually move in response to local fiscal differences. Spatial dependence of socioeconomic variables confounds attempts to infer Tiebout-motivated residential choice from observed socioeconomic homogeneity. I correct for this by focusing on socioeconomic difference across local government borders. In an investigation of socioeconomic sorting in Queens and Nassau Counties, NY, I find strong evidence of income sorting at the level of small suburban municipalities and of racial sorting across school districts. There is no evidence of income sorting across school districts, which I attribute to NYS school districts' lack of control over zoning. This study design exploits the incongruent boundaries of municipalities and school districts in New York State. In neighboring New Jersey, school districts are by law coterminous with municipalities. I hypothesize that, where boundaries are coterminous, sorting by school district and municipality will be mutually reinforcing. This hypothesis is tested in a comparison of income and racial heterogeneity in Nassau County, NY, with Bergen County, NJ, both suburban commuter counties within the New York MSA. Sorting is not found to be higher in Bergen than in Nassau. These negative results imply that the argued advantages of coterminous boundaries in terms of citizen oversight (Schwartz 2001) need not be traded off against increased segregation. I conclude with a discussion of the scope of public services that may be allocated via the Tiebout mechanism. Education is a primary good of such importance to well-being and to democracy that a pure system of local finance violates Rawlsian principles of justice (Rawls 1971). If good reasons exist, in terms of efficiency and/or democratic participation, for supporting local control in public goods with such significant distributive impacts, equalizing transfers are necessary to achieve just outcomes. This policy of equalizing transfers is consistent both with a spatialized Rawlsian theory of justice, as well as with the welfare economist's concept of efficiency (Schwab, Oates 1991).

  • BIODEGRADATION OF FUEL OXYGENATES IN NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES AQUIFERS WITH AN ANALYSIS OF UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANK LEAKS

    Author:
    Gordon Hinshalwood
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    David Locke
    Abstract:

    Abstract BIODEGRADATION OF FUEL OXYGENATES (MTBE) IN GROUND WATER AQUIFERS OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES/LEAKING UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANK CAUSATION ANALYSIS by Gordon Hinshalwood Adviser: Professor David Locke During the past decade the application of monitored natural attenuation has become one of the predominant technologies used in the remediation of gasoline spills impacting subsurface soils and groundwater. The success of this method has depended, for the most part, on the biodegradation of those gasoline constituents that dissolve into groundwater and transport with the groundwater most readily. One of the most mobile components of gasoline formulations during the past 20 years has been methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), which has traditionally been viewed in both the scientific and the regulatory communities as relatively recalcitrant to biodegradation. However, cases of both in and ex situ MTBE biodegradation have recently been documented. In order to better understand and perhaps enhance the process of in situ MTBE biodegradation, a fundamental understanding of where, when and under what hydrogeological conditions MTBE biodegradation occurs is needed. To this end, the northeastern United States offers a wide range of lithologies to study. This study examines which subsurface conditions are most conducive to MTBE biodegradation. Retail gasoline service stations with leaking underground storage tank (LUST) releases located within a variety of hydrogeological conditions in the northeastern United States were screened for lithology, MTBE concentration in ground water, monitoring well network location, and MTBE concentration trends. Ground water samples were collected from those sites that passed this initial screening phase. MTBE from the samples collected were analyzed using stable carbon isotope ratio analysis (SCIRA) to determine where biodegradation is occurring. Geochemistry in each well was also examined to determine which hydrogeological conditions are most conducive to MTBE biodegradation. MTBE biodegradation under a variety of subsurface conditions was observed in this study. Loose soil conditions combined with reduced aquifer redox potential exhibited the greatest MTBE biodegradation frequency. Although statistically significant correlations were not found with respect to MTBE biodegradation and aquifer geochemistry, scatter plots showed notable trends with respect to pH, dissolved oxygen, and methane concentration correlated with MTBE biodegradation. Increased biodegradation frequency in the presence of increasing methane concentrations under varied aquifer redox and lithological conditions was observed.

  • The Work of the Urban Commons: Limited-Equity Cooperatives in Washington, D.C.

    Author:
    Amanda Huron
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Marianna Pavlovskaya
    Abstract:

    This research theorizes the work of the urban commons through close examination of a group of ten limited-equity housing cooperatives in Washington, D.C. Limited-equity co-ops, or LECs, are a noncommodified resource that is collectively owned and maintained by their members. I argue that LECs are a manifestation of the commons, and that they represent a specific form of the commons - the urban commons. In this research, I ask: how does the urban commons - as manifested in this case by limited-equity housing cooperatives - function? The commons, as I theorize it, is a space that both provides a basis for life outside of (or at least less dictated by) capitalism, and that requires collective work to build and maintain. The commons, Peter Linebaugh (2008) argues, is constituted through commoning - the many overlapping practices of being-in-common that allow for a collective approach to life. The urban commons, I argue, is constituted through work, and future theorizing and action around the commons needs to take work seriously.

  • SYSTEMATICS ON VIAPHACOPS MAXIMOVA, 1972 FROM BOLIVIA AND PALEOBIOGEOGRAPHY OF THE SUBFAMILY PHACOPINAE HAWLE & CORDA, 1847 FOR THE LOWER AND MIDDLE DEVONIAN, WITH A PARTICULAR EMPHASIS ON THE GENUS PACIPHACOPS MAXIMOVA, 1972

    Author:
    Yumiko Iwasaki
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Niles Eldredge
    Abstract:

    The Subfamily Phacopinae Hawle & Corda, 1847 occurs stratigraphically from the Upper Ordovician to the end of the Devonian, spanning an approximately 85 million year interval. Its global distribution allowed extensive studies and a number of monographs have been published since the mid-1800s. The first chapter analyzes Viaphacops Maximova, 1972 which is one of the genera occurring in the Lower to Middle Devonian. New material from Bolivia enabled three new species (Viaphacops spinoedgecombei, V. newelli, and V. pirovanoi) and two in open nomenclature to be described here, in addition to the four described previously. With the examination of these species, the generic diagnosis of Viaphacops is revised. Cladistic analysis was conducted for the Bolivian Viaphacops together with 8 North American species to test their monophyletic relationship. It is found that two geographically separate groups Viaphacops, those from North America and those from the Malvinokaffric Realm in Bolivia, are non-monophyletic (Bolivian species either being a basal grade or nesting in otherwise North American clades), and that the difference in environmental settings for these regions did not seem to have affected the developmental constraints of the species. The second chapter treats the phacopid biogeography for the Lower and Middle Devonian, and follows the model of rugose coral biogeography of Pedder and Oliver (1990). More than 300 species belonging to 32 established genera were analyzed. Otsuka, Dice, and Jaccard Coefficient faunal similarity indices at the generic level were used for the 15 phacopid biogeographic units. Together with an area cladogram of Paciphacops, Maximova, 1972, strong connection was established between southeastern Australia and Bolivia-Argentina by the circumpolar circulation within southern Panthalassa. The position of Kazakhstan is still unresolved, however, both Otsuka Coefficients and the Paciphacops area cladogram show its connection with Australia and South America.

  • Fate, Reaction and Transport of Groundwater Arsenic during Discharge to Waquoit Bay, USA and Meghna River, Bangladesh

    Author:
    Hun Bok Jung
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Yan Zheng
    Abstract:

    A field, laboratory, and modeling study of As in groundwater discharging to Waquoit Bay, MA, shed light on coupled control of chemistry and hydrology on reactive transport of As in a coastal aquifer. Precipitation of Fe(III) oxides, along with oxidation and adsorption of As occur at the redox interfaces above or below the reducing plume migrating toward the bay. Batch adsorption of As(III) onto orange, brown and gray sediments follows Langmuir isotherms, and can be fitted by a surface complexation model (SCM) assuming a diffuse double layer for ferrihydrite. The SCM simulated the observed dissolved As concentration better than a parametric approach based on Kd. Shallow groundwaters in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta (GBMD) are frequently elevated in Fe and As, and discharge to rivers during dry season. Sediment As enrichment up to hundreds to thousands mg/kg in the shallow subsurface along the Meghna Riverbank suggests a plausible mechanism of trapping of As by a natural reactive barrier consisting of oxidatively precipitated Fe(III) oxyhydroxides formed at the redox boundary between reducing groundwater and oxic river water during discharge. Depth profiles of sediment Fe(II)/Fe(II+III) ratios and pore water dissolved oxygen and Fe concentrations indicate that there is a redox transition zone from anoxic to suboxic from ~2 m depth to the surface, which closely associated with sediment As enrichment. Ferrihydrite is the dominant Fe mineral in As enriched Meghna Riverbank sediment by X-ray absorption spectroscopy. To study the processes relevant to sorption and desorption of groundwater As in GBMD aquifer, brown and gray sandy sediment collected from suboxic and anoxic zones in Meghna Riverbank were subject to batch sorption and desorption experiments. Sorption experimental data were well fitted to Langmuir isotherm, resulting in Kd of 1~2 L kg-1 for reducing riverbank sediments, while ~7 L kg-1 for a suboxic sediment at equilibrium with 100 mg L-1 As(III) or As(V). Amendment with 1 mM lactate greatly enhanced As release from a As enriched sediment, mobilizing ~70% of initial sediment As, while no further mobilization of As occurred for 1 month after rapid desorption of ~3 mg kg-1 As within 2 days without lactate.

  • 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).

  • 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.