Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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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.

  • 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.

  • Toward A Spatial Understanding of Latin American Immigrant Worker Population Fatalities

    Author:
    Robert Stewart
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Ines Miyares
    Abstract:

    The object of this dissertation was to conduct a geographical immigrant labor population analysis of the work spaces where Latin American immigrant worker fatal accidents occurred and were investigated by OSHA in NYC's Brooklyn and Manhattan from 1995-2004. The purpose of this analysis was to identify spatial trends and to develop a spatial profile or spatial model of these fatal accident sites. With the identification of spatial factors that are related to Latin American worker fatal accidents, OSHA could implement an improved spatial strategy for identifying hazards, issuing violations, and thus preventing these fatalities before they occur. The US Dept. of Labor/ Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that the total amount of occupational fatal accidents went up from 1,729 to 1,966 in the years 1997 to 2005. In addition, in the U.S., the Hispanic worker fatality rate has increased sharply from 4.50 per 100,000 in 2003 to 4.90 in 2004. This is an 11% increase (Smith, S., et al, 2006). The New York State (NYS) Trial Lawyers Association of OSHA reported that from 1994-2004 in NYS, most of the occupational fatal accidents occurred in New York City (NYC), and in NYC most occupational fatal accidents occurred on construction sites. Sixty seven percent occurred with workers who spoke a foreign language on the job, usually Spanish. Brooklyn was reported as the county that had the most accidents in the state (NYS Trial Lawyers Assoc. of OSHA, 2005). These statistics clearly identify a need to reduce the occupational fatal accident rate, especially for Latin American immigrants in NYC. The research concludes that Latin American occupational fatal accidents do have a unique, and a statistically significant relationship with the following independent variables: union status; job size; median residential household income; and residential population density.

  • Toward A Spatial Understanding of Latin American Immigrant Worker Population Fatalities

    Author:
    Robert Stewart
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Ines Miyares
    Abstract:

    The object of this dissertation was to conduct a geographical immigrant labor population analysis of the work spaces where Latin American immigrant worker fatal accidents occurred and were investigated by OSHA in NYC's Brooklyn and Manhattan from 1995-2004. The purpose of this analysis was to identify spatial trends and to develop a spatial profile or spatial model of these fatal accident sites. With the identification of spatial factors that are related to Latin American worker fatal accidents, OSHA could implement an improved spatial strategy for identifying hazards, issuing violations, and thus preventing these fatalities before they occur. The US Dept. of Labor/ Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that the total amount of occupational fatal accidents went up from 1,729 to 1,966 in the years 1997 to 2005. In addition, in the U.S., the Hispanic worker fatality rate has increased sharply from 4.50 per 100,000 in 2003 to 4.90 in 2004. This is an 11% increase (Smith, S., et al, 2006). The New York State (NYS) Trial Lawyers Association of OSHA reported that from 1994-2004 in NYS, most of the occupational fatal accidents occurred in New York City (NYC), and in NYC most occupational fatal accidents occurred on construction sites. Sixty seven percent occurred with workers who spoke a foreign language on the job, usually Spanish. Brooklyn was reported as the county that had the most accidents in the state (NYS Trial Lawyers Assoc. of OSHA, 2005). These statistics clearly identify a need to reduce the occupational fatal accident rate, especially for Latin American immigrants in NYC. The research concludes that Latin American occupational fatal accidents do have a unique, and a statistically significant relationship with the following independent variables: union status; job size; median residential household income; and residential population density.

  • STUDY OF TROPICAL DEEP CONVECTIVE PROCESSES AND WATER VAPOR VARIATIONS USING NASA A-TRAIN DATA AND GEOSTATIONARY SATELLITE OBSERVATIONS

    Author:
    Hanii Takahashi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Earth & Environmental Sciences
    Advisor:
    Zhengzhao "Johnny" Luo
    Abstract:

    The theme of this dissertation is to use various satellite observations to seek new insights into our understating of tropical deep convective processes and water vapor variations. Three subjects are investigated: 1) observational determination of level of neutral buoyancy (LNB) for deep convection, 2) characters and life stage view of tropical overshooting convection (OSC), and 3) variations of water vapor and clouds during East Pacific (EP)- and Central Pacific (CP)-El Niños. The first study conducts a near-global survey of LNB for tropical deep convection using CloudSat (LNB_observation) and makes comparison with the corresponding LNB based on the parcel theory using ambient sounding (LNB_sounding). The principal findings are as follows: First, although LNB_sounding provides a reasonable upper bound for convective development, ambient sounding contains limited information for predicting the actual LNB. Second, LNB_sounding significantly overestimates the "destination" height level of the detrained mass. Third, LNB_observation is consistently higher over land than over ocean, although LNB_sounding is similar between land and ocean, suggesting some fundamental differences between land and ocean convection. The second study uses CloudSat data together with ISCCP CT to study tropical OSC properties and the convective systems in which they are embedded. Our results find that, nearly 21 % of tropical deep convection is overshooting; the occurrence frequency is only slightly higher over land (~ 50.2 %) than over ocean (~ 49.8 %). Various proxies of convective strength are analyzed showing consistently that continental OSC is stronger than the oceanic counterpart. Moreover, majority (2/3) of the OSC occurs during the growing stage of the convective systems. About 1/3 occurs during the mature stage, which are more abundant over land during noontime. The third study shows that EP- and CP-El Niño events produce different patterns of water vapor and cloud anomalies over the tropical ocean. Regression of water vapor anomalies onto the Niño-3.4 sea surface temperature shows a clear "upper tropospheric amplification" of the fractional water vapor change. Furthermore, water vapor and cloud anomalies in different circulation regimes are examined. Finally, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory AM2.1 model simulations of water vapor and clouds are compared with the satellite observations.