Sustainability Research Development Grants

Recent Grant Recipients


Project Title: Analyzing Turfgrass as a Pretreatment for Prairie Restoration

Description: There is a growing consensus among urban planners and developers that green infrastructure is necessary to mitigate the impacts of global warming and climate change on the health of cities. An emerging form of green infrastructure in cities is micro-prairie reconstruction projects as a sustainable landscape technique. Most projects involve converting once vacant lots into biologically rich ecosystems. Infestations by exotic invasive species are common challenges in these systems. Current pre-treatment methods involve different mixtures and methods of herbicide application to suppress weeds. Large applications of pesticides necessary for many of these projects can be detrimental to people and urban wildlife and can contaminate urban streams. Turfgrass forms a dense blanket of roots, and pilot tests and published literature suggests it can suppress weeds and invasive species. Therefore, turfgrass might be a useful pre-treatment for converting weedy urban plots into rich native prairie. Research will be conducted on the inhibitory effects of a conventional residential turfgrass mix on invasive species. Experimental approaches will include laboratory, field and greenhouse experiments. Surveys of micro-prairie projects in other Midwest communities will also be conducted to gather further data and information on organic site preparation techniques.

Project Title: Dryland Food Security Through Diversification 

Description:A  complex relationship exists between smallholder farmers, their farming systems and local climate in drought-prone rainfed agricultural systems, such as those in Southern Province, Zambia. Continuous maize production has dominated Zambian agricultural landscapes for decades and maize is often produced with little or no agriculture inputs. While the prevalence of maize production is driven largely by longstanding cultural preferences amongst smallholder farmers (Sitko, 2008), goverment incentive programs such as the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), which subsidizes agricultural inputs (namely hybrid maize seed and fertilizer) for utilization by farmers, also play pivotal roles. Over the past year, FISP has begun piloting the use of electronic vouchers, which farmers redeem for their choice of a wide range of agricultural inputs. I aim to research how varying levels of access to improved seed carieties affects on-farm crop diversification by farmers in rainfed systems within southern Zambia. I will investigate whether farmers that previously utilized FISP packages in maize-dominated farming systems diversify their crop selection with the advent of the electronic voucher system, or continue maize-dominated farming systems in light of changing precipitation patterns and increasing drough events. 

Project Title: Environmental Management: Decision-Making Processes Among Large-Scale Landowners in Brazil 

Description: As Brazilian Amazon deforestration rates finally shrank between 2004 and 2011, the contribution to deforestation occurring on small-scale farms increased whereas that of large-scale landholdings decreased dramatically. Such a behavioral change from the category of large-scale landowners remains unexplained in most parts of the Amazon. For instance, in the northern-central part of Mato Grosso, a powerful group of large-scale, highly capitalized landowners located along the BR-163 highway has been driving the soybean production boom starting in the 1990s, causing major deforestation in the area. However, these landowners seem to have changed their attitude toward the environment in recent years, perhaps following the strengthened enforcement of environmental policies and pressures from commodity traders who signed a moratorium in 2006 on soybean purchases coming from land cleared after 2006. Why do we observe such a behavioral change from the category of large-scale landowners. 

Project Title: Fighting Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Environmental Policy Effects on Landowners' Decision-Making and on Land-Use and Land-Cover Change

Description: I am analyzing the effects of environmental policies in curbing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. At the same time the region has accommodated several developmental initiatives, environmental regulations have consistently failed in governing land-use and land-cover change in Amazonia. The result goes beyond impacts related to deforestation and forest degradation, threatening the sustainability of the whole system both in socioeconomic and ecological aspects. However, specific environmental regulations have successfully reverted that picture, pushing landowners towards compliance with the law and controlling LULCC in some municipalities. One interesting example occurred in 2008, when the Brazilian government released what was called the deforestation blacklist, sanctioning municipalities with higher deforestation rates in the region. Grounded on the methodological framework developed in the Ostrom Workshop, my research proposal is to deepen my analysis about what led a different set of actors to collectively engage and craft strategies to curb deforestation in such areas, making these successful arrangements a model that has currently been followed at larger scales in the whole region. 

Project Title: Water Works: A Game to Teach Water Systems Thinking 

Description: Water is the elixer of life. Although 71% of our planet's surface is covered by water, only 2.5% of this water is accessible as fresh water. A lack of deep systems understanding of how water needs to be treated to be delivered to the home and what happens to the water once it leaves the home can pose severe sustainability and adaptation challenges. Our game, called WaterWorks, simulates a localized region where the player is responsible for building and maintaining a water system. We aim to test whether increased understanding of water related risks leads to fostering water conservation. 

Project Title: Group Formation and Stewardship of Renewable Energy Resources: A Case Study of Iceland 

Description: This research project aims to explore the ways in which individuals form stakeholder groups based on shared environmental, economic, and cultural values and how these groups engage in the stewardship of Iceland's renewable energy resources, including abundant geothermal and hydropower resources. 

Project Title: Creating Local Quinoa for a Global Marketplace: Geographic Indications and Collective Action in Peru's Quinoa Bust

Description: In the past decade, quinoa transformed from a derided "Indian food," produced and consumed almost exclusively in the Andean highlands, into a global "superfood" found on supermarket shelves worldwide. My dissertation research uses Quinua Puneño as a case study to examine the semiotic and material work that goes into creating and maintaining value and meaning for a "local" food in flobal markets, and the ways the Quinua Puneño project affects on-farm production practices.  

Project Title: Cultural Competency in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement 

Description: In many metropolitan areas of the United States, populations of immigrants and refugees live with high instances of poverty and food insecurity. Those among this population whosurvived as subsistence farmers in their home countries often hold a wealth of knowledgeregarding agricultural practices that have practical application on a localized level. Issues suchas food insecurity are commonly addressed by urban sustainable agriculture projects seeking amore just, and environmentally sound approach to food production. This research seeks tostudy migrant populations from the Global South who have applied their traditional farmingtechniques and knowledge to their new midwestern home as a culturally appropriate adaptationto the contemporary sustainable agriculture movement. 

Project Title: Sustainable Production in Theatre

Description: Through this new project, we endeavor to choose one musical or play and intimately study the productions development “from page to stage” and develop sustainable strategiesWe will attempt to implement these approaches and identify impediments  i.e. artistic concerns, limited funding, and behavioral norms. From this case study, we aim to develop a green certification program,which can be implemented across an entire season of plays and apply to other academic and regional theatres. Launching a green certification program will help bring sustainability to the forefront of theatrical production.

Project Title: Linking Household Perceptions and Ecosystem Impacts 

Description: More than three-quarters of households in Sub Saharan Africa rely on fuelwood, either firewood or char-coal, as their primary source of energy. Funds will go toward an integrated approach in measuring trends of savanna quality and extent as they relate to household energy resource needs in the miombo woodlands of southern Zambia. In part, the project will make use of a weekly ‘text-message’ survey to gather information on the seasonal and spatial characteristics of household fuelwood harvesting. Spatial measurements of forest quality and household use characteristics will highlight how household perceptions and practices differ from observed ecosystem quality. The work will provide insight for potential practical policy approaches toward improving the relationship between the multifaced resource needs of households and ecosystem health in African savannas.

Project Title: Soundscape Analysis of Human-Environment Interactions in the Cloud Forests to Ecuador 

Description: The objective of this study is to understand the role of sound in coupled human-environment interactionsSpecifically, this project will focus on how sound is used and understood by community members on a private conservation reserve and sustainable farm in the cloud forests of Ecuador.


Project Title: Conservation and Human-Wildlife Conflict: An Experimental Study of Collective Action Involving Discounting and Uncertainty

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Project Title: Oil Workers, Disappearing Wetlands, and Submerged Memory in Southern Louisiana

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Project Title: Elucidating the Mechanisms of Endophyte Symbiosis for Sustainable Agricultural Practice

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Project Title: Estimation of Aquatic Chlorophyll Concentrations Using Remotely Sensed Data

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Project Title: Making Sustainable Energy Policies Count: Modeling Consumer Behavior

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Project Title: Exhibiting Extinction: Negotiating Climate Change Education in Museums

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Name: Deconstructing Detroit: An Ethnographic Investigation of Blight Management in the Motor City Introduction

Name: Implications of Herd Reduction on Humans and the Forest

Name: Local Foods for All in South India?: NUS Promotion and Divergent Food Cultures

Name:Laboratory and Modeling Studies of Weathering of Coal Combustion Products Used in Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation

Name:Anthropological Investigation of Sustainable Practices on the Zapotec Frontier

Name:Leadership & Governance: Sustainable Urban Water-Bodies in India

Name:The Next Experiment: Liquefied Natural Gas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Mainland

Name:The Dynamics of Development Pressures and Sustainability in Lake Hovsgol National Park, Mongolia

Name:Mapping Mental Models of Water Supply


Name: Groups, Dictators, and Natural Resources: An Experimental Study of Collective Action among Heterogeneous Groups

Project: We aim to study, in a laboratory setting, how groups of individuals interact when managing a shared resource. Natural resources are finite, and individuals often overexploit these when they encounter other individuals that also have access to the resources in question. Collaboration and teamwork may help individuals overcome this overexploitation, allowing more individuals to enjoy resources equitably. But what happens when there are multiple teams; teams that do not necessarily have the same values or capabilities? It is possible that the benefits of teamwork might be undone when groups of cooperating individuals encounter other group. Our experimental treatments will allow us to better understand the limits of cooperation and the behavior of groups in strategic settings.

Updates: We have designed and programmed our core experiment, as well as several interesting treatments (i.e., variations of the core experiment) that will allow us to explore fundamental aspects of group management of a shared resource. The next step is to test our experiment to (i) identify and troubleshoot errors in the program and (ii) make certain we are measuring the variables that we mean to measure. Once we are satisfied that everything works as it should, we will recruit subjects to participate in the experiment. We need to balance a number of factors in this process. We want enough subjects so that our analysis of the experiment is statistically robust, but we have to pay our subjects, providing a clear limitation on the number we can actually recruit. We also need to consider how representative our subjects are of the broader population so that we have some idea of how the lessons we learn apply to the real-world.

Describe what you are learning about sustainability.: Our findings so far are not especially optimistic. But neither are they totally defeatist. We know that individuals often over-extract from or under-invest in communal resources for selfish reasons, and initial results suggest that individuals operating in groups may be even more aggressive in their pursuit of self-interes. Certain institutional and contextual factors, however, may moderate such behavior and lead to more altruistic management of a shared resource. For example, a person’s willingness to invest in a public good appears to depend not only on the rules her group adopts to govern the resource, but also on the kinds of rules other groups adopt.

Have you experienced any challenges in the research process?: The existing literature on our area of study turned out to be less developed than we initially realized. This discovery is exciting for us as researchers because it means that there is much novel, fruitful work to be done. But there are costs, too. Chief among them: There is little consensus on how to measure many of the concepts central to our study. Accordingly, we must consider a range of possible measures, each with unique pros and cons. And because our question is of tangential importance to so many fields, the central concepts themselves are discussed with jargon that varies widely across disciplines. We must be deliberate in our progress to ensure that the gains we make satisfy scholastic standards from across the academy.

Name: Groups, Dictators, and Natural Resources: An Experimental Study of Collective Action among Heterogeneous Groups

Project: I am leveraging my internship in the Department of the Interior’s Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service to interview those that work on partnerships at the departmental level and at the bureau level, mainly at the National Park Service. The plan is to interview solicitors, partnership coordinators, park superintendents, and others who can provide insight into my research question. The hope is to better understand what legal authority exists to make partnerships and if there are any holes in that legal authority that impede the National Park Service from making innovative partnerships that would help further its mission. If sufficient legal authority exists, this will be an important finding for lawmakers as then they will know that no further legal authority needs to be given and the National Park Service should focus on changing its culture to better take advantage of their legal authority to form partnerships. Further, I also want to understand if the legal authority to form partnerships is adequately explained to those at the field level. If it’s too complicated, it may be that those at the field level do not make partnerships because it’s too big a barrier to take the time to understand what partnerships the legal authorities allow them to establish and what is required of both sides when forming a partnership.

Updates: I have continued to interview partnerships professionals for the research, mainly those outside of the National Park Service that can give me the perspective of those wishing to partner with the NPS on what legal requirements create hindrances. I have also worked to make sure that my literature review is up to date. My plan is to begin writing the paper in the coming weeks. I just submitted an abstract to the International Public Affairs Association Conference that takes place annually on campus and am hopeful I will get an opportunity to present at the Conference. One of the main reasons that I want to present at the Conference is to get feedback on my findings that I can then use to craft a paper to the high quality needed for submission to an academic journal.

Describe what you are learning about sustainability.: I am learning that when it comes to working with the government on sustainability issues, there are a number of obstacles to working collaboratively with the government. One view is that this is good because the government represents the people, and we need to make sure there are adequate safeguards in place to ensure risk is minimized and that the people benefit. However, I think that the government needs to find a way to make the process of collaborating with it as easy as possible especially in these times of smaller and smaller budgets for areas like natural resources management.

Have you experienced any challenges in the research process?: Honestly, one of the main challenges is finding the time to take a break from my law school classes and look through all my interview notes and research so that I can find the main insights and organize the information in a compelling and useful way. Once I do that, I’ll be able to finish off my paper and also find holes in my research that I can plug with more interviews or a wider literature review. Luckily, people have been extremely generous with their time so having opportunities to interview people who deal with partnerships issues on a frequent basis has not been a challenge.

Name: Contamination, Risk, and Sustainability in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident

Project: This ethnographic study intends to examine how individuals and social groups conceptualize radioactive contamination and evaluate the environmental effect and impact of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) accident. The 2011 Northeast Japan Earthquake and tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, and radioactive effluents reached and fell on farmlands in certain areas. In order to decontaminate the land, the city administration collected radioactive surface soil and forage grass. Concerned farmers and residents have been negotiating final disposal sites and processes for the collected wastes. This research aims to examine farmers’ on-going efforts to remedy the soil, ensure food safety, and sustain their livelihood in the time of uncertainty and ambiguity. It focuses on the complexity and dynamics of radiation risk assessment and communication at and between different levels of the Japanese society.

What are the connections to sustainability?: I conceptualize sustainability as community’s capacity to achieve balance between environmental health, economic viability, and social equity. This study focuses on how a disaster-affected community negotiates courses of action and vision for the “clean” environment. I aim to discover the link between perception of radioactive contamination, social construction of risk, and people’s everyday practice to seek environmental and economic sustainability after the detrimental natural and technological disasters.

Will there be any implications for the IU-Bloomington communities?: This pilot study provides a snapshot of the struggles that people in the radiation-affected communities face at levels varying from policy-making to neighborhood. It offers an interdisciplinary approach to investigating consequential damages of technological disaster to the environment and society. Thus, this study offers a comparable case that is relevant to on-going research projects on environmental contamination such as Indiana’s superfund sites.

Name: The impact of different arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal species on the establishment of rare tallgrass prairie plants

Project: My research will investigate whether different mycorrhizal fungal species vary in how they affect the establishment of a planted and seeded prairie community. My experiment will take place at Hilltop Gardens at Indiana University. Plots will be inoculated with one of six species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that have been isolated from natural prairie communities. Each plot will be planted with the same 23 native prairie plants that range from being easy to very difficult to establish in prairie restorations. Plots will also receive a diverse prairie seed mixture. Beginning in 2014 and continuing throughout my dissertation research, I will measure the survival and growth of planted species, the germination and growth of seeded species, and I will measure plot level community diversity. After multiple growing seasons, this research could provide insight as to whether mycorrhizal fungi aid the growth of difficult to establish prairie plant species. Additionally, this experiment could inform whether specific fungal species can be applied during restorations to increase the growth and survival of specific target plants.

What are the connections to sustainability?: Prairie plant species have very colorful flowers and distinctive leaf morphologies, characteristics valued by many people. Moreover, these species are long-lived perennials and tolerant of extreme weather including drought and inundation, conditions which make them important components for sustainable landscaping. Diverse prairie plant communities also provide valuable ecosystem services that contribute to a sustainable Earth, such as carbon sequestration, increasing the stability of soils, and providing essential habitats for migratory birds, insects, and microbial populations. Identifying what factors limit the restoration and establishment success of prairie plants would have positive effects on the restoration of native diversity and potentially open up new opportunities for sustainable landscaping.

Will there be any implications for the IU-Bloomington communities?: My research will provide opportunities to educate young scientists (K-12), college students, and Indiana University staff about this rare ecosystem. This restoration will receive many visitors due to the large number of gardening clubs, school groups, and community classes that are held at Hilltop Gardens. I plan on recruiting students from the IU Biology Club and from the L-350 Environmental Science course to help with planting and data collection for the experimental restoration. We also plan to install flower beds with interpretive signage at Hilltop Gardens using some of the rare prairie species used experiment so that visitors can practice plant identification, and read information about the tallgrass prairie community.

Name: Agricultural systems in the Mount Kenya region: Sustainable practices, adaptation, and participatory learning

Project: Environmental consequences stemming from climate change produce extensive livelihood adjustments, particularly for people in acutely vulnerable social-ecological systems.  Water scarcity resulting from climate change is a major global sustainability challenge.  Livelihood systems in the Mount Kenya region rely on small-scale agriculture and are directly dependent on water availability. However, climate change, population increase, and water scarcity make livelihoods particularly vulnerable. To cope with difficult environmental conditions, such as water-scarcity, poor soil quality, and high temperatures, farmers apply principles of sustainable agriculture, such as mulching and intercropping.  Effective water governance within the Mount Kenya region is increasingly important as population pressures increase and irrigation becomes more prominent.  Water management at the local and regional levels involves multiple actors and rules which ensure that water is used efficiently in times of both water scarcity and abundance.  This research investigates the water governance structure as well as the sustainable agricultural practices throughout the Mount Kenya region in an effort to understand systems that may be better equipped to cope with changing water availability.  The research takes a participatory approach where both researchers and farmers actively exchange ideas and knowledge through workshops, community meetings, and participatory video making initiatives.

What were the first steps that you took to start your research?: To start the research, we needed to develop surveys to administer to households and water managers within the Mount Kenya region.  After testing questions and revising many times, we finalized the two survey products.  Upon arriving in Kenya during the summer of 2013, immediate obstacles such as securing the appropriate means of transportation and training the enumerator team needed to be overcome.  Fortunately, these challenges were effectively resolved and a successful three month fieldwork campaign resulted.

What are your working conditions?: Fieldwork in Kenya takes place in rural villages on the northwestern slopes of Mount Kenya.  Our research team visits agricultural homesteads in locations near the more populated upper-slopes of the mountain as well as more remote downstream locations, where infrastructure is poorly developed and roads are, at times, difficult to traverse.  Typical working days included seven to eight hours of interviewing farmers, collection of extensive GPS data sets, and data cleaning and recording of notes upon returning from the field.  

Do you have a mentor that you are working with?: My mentor is Dr. Tom Evans in the Department of Geography, and I am collaborating on this project with Jampel Dell’Angelo, a post-doctoral fellow from Italy.

How has the grant helped you? How are you using the funds?: The grant helped cover the cost of revising and printing surveys while in Kenya, which summed to a total of 750 surveys printed.  The grant has also helped pay for camera equipment, which aided in the filming of a documentary on Kenya’s water governance system during the 2013 fieldwork campaign.  The video is currently being edited, and we hope to provide it to the IU community soon.

Name:The RAIN Initiative - Examining the Efficacy of Green Infrastructure 

Team: Maggie Messerschmidt, Tim Clark, Jeffrey Meek, Raija Bushnell, Valerie Lonneman, Rachael Bergman, Micky Leonard, Alexandra Aznar, Bridget Borowdale, Krista Manstch, Allen Reimer, Amari Malone (formerly The Cutters)

Project: The IU Championship Golf Course borders the IU Research and Teaching Preserve (IURTP) and large ravines and eroded areas have developed as a result of golf course runoff during rainstorm events. Our research tests the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning hypothesis that species diversity promotes enhanced functioning of ecological processes. We hypothesize that species-rich plantings will perform better than low richness plantings at trapping sediment, absorbing nutrients, and slowing flow velocity during storm events. Downstream water sampling sites will be established at each experimental ravine to monitor sediment yields, nutrient outfalls, and water flow as a function of diversity treatment.

Updates: Our project, now deemed The RAIN Initiative (Restorative Adaptations for Infrastructure), has undergone both advances and setbacks in the recent months.  Our work has resulted in the formation of class at SPEA focused on Best Management Practices for Watersheds, campus outreach on green infrastructure, and the completion of an EPA federal grant application to expand the project.  However, the severe weather has made obtaining consistent measurements difficult this winter.  We installed several weirs in December only to find that the storm events thereafter washed under them.  However, we still have two working weirs and will continue to collect stormwater data once the snow turns to rain.  We will repair damaged when the ground thaws. Our pilot berm is still scheduled for construction this spring in coordination with the Office of Sustainability.

Describe way you are learning about sustainability.: We are learning about the field of eco-hydrology, including its tools, paradigm changes, and policies. We are working to create opportunities for students to learn how sustainability can be achieved through water cycle and watershed management. Several members of our team have been inspired to delve deeper into the field and to apply our knowledge in new settings.

Have you experienced any challenges in the research process?: To get past the challenges names above, we are looking forward to spring rains to be able to get more measurements, and we look forward to finally constructing the first berm!

Name: States as Pilots and Peers: the Path to Sustainable Energy Policy

Project: Issues of sustainability pose complex challenges to policymakers, and over the past two decades a majority of American states have enacted energy policy reforms attempting to address these issues. These reforms embody a wide range of innovative approaches to stewarding scarce resources, developing new ones, and averting unwanted environmental and economic impacts. At the same time, however, other states (including Indiana) have resisted this trend. Through a set of comparative state-level case studies, this research seeks to identify what characteristics identify states as “peers” most likely to facilitate the diffusion of one another’s energy policy innovations, and to identify the channels of communication through which policymakers inform themselves about the activities of those peers.

What are the connections to sustainability?: Hopefully, by identifying the influences and trends that have facilitated (or obstructed) states’ efforts to identify and emulate best practices in the energy sector, this research can open up possibilities for further policy innovations and more effective impacts on sustainability.

Will there be any implications for the IU-Bloomington communities?: It is noteworthy that even as IU works toward an ambitious and laudable set of sustainability goals, the state of Indiana itself has an energy policy that lags far behind its neighboring states and its political and economic peers. If IU is to live up to its ambitions and fulfill its institutional responsibility to guide the state, and the academic community, toward more responsible stewardship of our environment, it will be through multidisciplinary projects like this one, uniting policy analysis, energy sector expertise, political science principles, and practical research strategies.

Name: Understanding Spatiotemporal Variability of Fine Particulate Matter Concentrations and Human Exposure in Indianapolis, IN

Project: Both long-term and short-term exposure to elevated concentrations of atmospheric aerosol particles poses a significant threat to human health.  Marion county (in which Indianapolis is based), was nonattainment for the national air quality standard for fine particulate matter (solid or liquid particles less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers in diameter, referred to as PM2.5) from 2005-2012. Our research objectives are to: analyze spatiotemporal variability of PM2.5 in an urban environment; investigate sources of PM2.5 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and specifically try to differentiate the impact of local versus distant or regional sources; investigate causes of observed extreme concentrations; quantify the exposure of residents of Indianapolis to harmful air quality; and identify neighborhoods at particular risk for exposure to air toxins. Our research comprises two key experimental components:  Fixed site monitoring across the city and mobile sampling collected during bicycle transects of the city.  Fixed monitoring can only be conducted at a few specific locations. Mobile sampling will help to better understand the degree to which particle concentrations (and human exposure) vary across a city. In the longer term – through our close collaborations with the IUPUI Center for Urban Health, our colleagues, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, we hope to be able to identify measures that can be put in place to reduce human exposure to air toxins and thus to improve the sustainability of Indiana’s largest urban area.

What were the first steps that you took to start your research?: Monitoring of continuous particulate concentrations has continued at our four fixed sites.  Mobile sampling was conducted with the instruments attached to bicycles during transects through Indianapolis in August 2013.

What are your working conditions?: Monitoring of continuous particulate concentrations has continued at our four fixed sites.  Mobile sampling was conducted with the instruments attached to bicycles during transects through Indianapolis in August 2013.

Do you have a mentor that you are working with?: Yes, Dr. Pryor is mentoring this project.

How has the grant helped you? How are you using the funds?: The grant funds have helped defray the costs associated with the mobile sampling campaign and for routine instrument maintenance including transportation between Bloomington and Indianapolis, and supplies for operating the instruments (batteries, filters, etc.).

Name: Evaluating The Outcomes of Neighborhood Urban Forestry

Project: Our research evaluates the tree-planting programs of 5 nonprofit organizations in the eastern U.S. We're interested in discovering what types of ecological and social impacts collective tree planting and maintenance has on neighborhoods and individuals. For instance, our nonprofit partner organizations have noticed that some of the neighborhoods in which they plant trees then go on to do other types of group activities, like a neighborhood crime watch. But so far, these are just anecdotes; we're interested in putting real data behind the question to see what impacts tree planting has. Our project will collect data on the trees planted between 2009 and 2011 to measure survival rates and growth rates. We will also survey and interview people who live in neighborhoods where trees were planted as well as in neighborhoods that did not plant trees to measure the differences in neighborhood and individual characteristics such as trust and neighbor-to-neighbor familiarity. The IUOS grant funds will be added to almost $400K in existing project resources, and will specifically help increase the number of people we can survey in each city

Updates: My research group is in the process of finalizing our questionnaire and are about ready to begin mailing out our survey to ~15,000 households in 5 U.S. cities.

Describe what you are learning about sustainability.: Our survey asks individuals about their perceptions of their neighborhood, hoping to learn about neighborhood cohesion, collective action, environmental knowledge, and tree-planting project experiences. We think that these are all things that might be related to neighborhood sustainability.

Have you experienced any challenges in the research process?: Cutting down our list of survey questions is difficult! There are so many things we’re interested in knowing about neighborhoods, but in order to make sure people answer the questionnaire, we have to make it as short as possible. We’ve got the questionnaire down to a list of questions that we think will take respondents 20-ish minutes, and we’re hoping that’s short enough to encourage lots of responses. We’ll see – we’ll be starting to mail out questionnaires in the next few weeks!

For more on this project, visit the website.


Project: Developing an Urban Site Index (USI) for Sustainable Urban Tree Planting Programs -- Burnell Fischer, clinical professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, along with SPEA graduate students Jessica M. Vogt and Matt Patterson, will study the effectiveness of the Urban Site Index, a rapid site assessment tool used for analysis of tree planting strategies for urban areas. The USI scores a potential street tree planting site on four soil parameters and four street parameters. The team plans to perform detailed soil analyses and monitor mortality and growth rates of recently planted trees to determine how well the USI identifies suitable planting sites -- and in turn, its effectiveness as an urban sustainability planning tool.

Project: Bloomington, Indiana, PCB Oral History Project -- Associate professor Phaedra Pezzullo of the Department of Communication and Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences, together with Communication and Culture graduate students Joshua Barnett, James McGuffey and Jacquelyn Shannon, will work to establish a public, digital archive of oral histories from people who have been most directly involved in the use, disposal, remediation and political controversies related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Bloomington. The collected personal histories of local residents involved in the PCB history will shed light on national and international discussions about toxic pollution and sustainability in ways that make evident the intertwined fates of environmental, economic and social equity relations.


Project: Collaborative Provision of Low-Carbon Distributed Energy in Developing Countries -- Jennifer N. Brass and Sanya Carley, assistant professors at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), and Ashraf El-Arini, Master of Public Affairs/Master of Science in Environmental Science student at SPEA, will study the conditions for successful (and therefore sustainable) implementation of distributed generation programs in developing countries, looking at both program and country levels of analysis and the role of non-governmental organizations at both levels. With both tracks, the team aims to provide a better understanding about how complex problems of sustainable energy provision are being solved -- or not -- in poor countries and provide a baseline of knowledge for new scientific research in the future.

Project: The Impact of Institutional Mechanisms on Sustainable Urban Development -- SPEA professor Burney Fischer, joint SPEA and Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change graduate students Sarah Mincey, Mikaela Schmitt-Harsh and Rich Thurau and community affiliates Lee Huss (Bloomington city forester), Tom Micuda and Linda Thompson (Bloomington Planning Department), and Laura Haley (Bloomington city GIS) will employ spatial, institutional, and statistical analysis tools to assess how urban forest sustainability (via urban tree canopy cover) is influenced through municipal zoning ordinances. The broader impacts of this research lie in its relevance to urban planning and the development of institutions that promote the retention of urban canopy cover.


Project: Management and Ecosystem Composition in Mexico's Agroforestry Systems Rinku Roy Chowdhury, assistant professor of geography, and Michael Perkins, Ph.D. student in geography, will study and characterize the diverse agroforestry management regimes in the community lands of southern Mexico, and document tree and associated soil microbiota species composition under the main management types. The research will lay the foundation for a larger, collaborative project investigating how landscape context and land manager decision-making shape agroforestry ecology and sustainability in southern Mexico and similar regions of the (sub) humid tropics.

Project: Evaluation of the Gifts In Kind International/Home Depot Framing Hope Product Donation Program on Sustainability: Energy Savings and Landfill Impact -- SPEA professors Lisa Bingham and Evan Ringquist will evaluate whether Framing Hope has an impact on community sustainability by estimating material diverted from landfills and energy savings from this program.

Project: Exotic Invasive Remediation in Dunn's Woods: Integrating Research, Teaching & Outreach for Sustainability -- Heather Reynolds, associate professor of biology, Roger Hangarter, Class of 1968 Chancellor's professor of biology, Jim Capshew, associate professor of history and philosophy of science, and Jonathan Bauer, biology master's student, supported by professional staff Mia Williams (University Architect's Office), Anthony Minich (Ph.D. student, Educational Psychology, IU Office of Sustainability) and Anita Bracalente (IU Art Museum), and community experts Ellen Jacquart (Nature Conservancy), Steve Cotter (City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation) and Spencer Goehl (EcoLogic Inc.), will develop an integrated program of research, teaching and outreach focused on mitigation of exotic invasive plant species and restoration of native biodiversity in IU's iconic Dunn's Woods, as a microcosm for promoting sustainable human-environment interactions.

Project: Quantifying and Combating Food Waste at IU -- Rick Wilk, professor of anthropology and gender studies, Peter Todd, professor of cognitive science, informatics and psychology, and Sara Minard, anthropology Ph.D. student, will examine the institutional structures and individual choices that lead to food waste by student consumers on the IU Bloomington campus.


Project: Studying the Sustainability of Urban Social-Ecological Systems through the Urban Forest: Development of the Urban Forestry Resources and Institutions (UFRI) System -- SPEA clinical professor Burney Fischer and doctoral students Sarah Mincey and Richard Thurau will lead a project to develop and test a new methodology for assessing urban forest sustainability.

Project: Third Party Sustainability Certification: Does the Forest Sustainability Certification (FSC) Program Deliver? -- SPEA associate professor Kenneth Richards and master's student Miranda Hutten, in collaboration with Steven Rayner of Oxford University, will investigate whether forestry certification programs increase the global application of credible sustainable forest practices.

Project: Sustainable Development Strategies in Western Amazonia: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis of Land Use, Livelihood and Institutions -- Eduardo Brondizio, associate professor of anthropology, and SPEA doctoral student Francisco deSouza will evaluate changes in land use, livelihood and institutions under three land tenure types in Acre state, Brazil.

Project: Sustainable Land Use: An Assessment of Technology Transfer Programs in Rural HondurasSPEA professor J.C. Randolph, assistant professor of anthropology Catherine Tucker, and SPEA doctoral students Monica Paulson Priebe and Carlos Gonzalez Jaimes will study the degree to which technology transfer initiatives by non-governmental organizations influence environmentally sustainable land-use practices, using the example of NGO interventions in the aftermath of Hurr.

Project: Transportation Sustainability at Campus Level: Students' Residential Location Choice and Transportation Mode ShiftSPEA associate professors Diane Henshel and David Good, master's students Yonghua Zou, Craig Harper, Max Jie Cui and Courtney Bonney, supported by adjunct advisers Kent McDaniel (IU Transportation Services), Rob Fischman (IU Maurer School of Law) and Nicole Schonemann (Office of Service Learning), will focus on the relationship between alternative transportation incentives and students' residential and behavioral choices and their impact on goals of transportation sustainability.

Sustain IU

Office of Sustainability
704 E. 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408
Phone: 812.855.9195