Welcoming Back Professor Jennie Stephens

Stephens Photo updateJennie Stephens is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, as well as the Coordinator of the Undergraduate Program in Environmental Science & Policy. Her research, teaching, and community engagement all focus on social and technical change toward sustainability, with a particular focus on how society responds to climate change and energy system innovation.

Professor Stephens is back on campus this fall after an exciting sabbatical year focused on energy and climate related research and community engagement. Following SuperStorm Sandy in October 2012, Stephens and her colleaguesreceived an NSF RAPID grant to explore how the disruptive event changed climate and energy discourse in the mainstream media.  She and her research team also spent last year conducting a series of focus groups with different energy-related actors to comparatively assess competing visions of Smart Grid – electricity system innovations that are happening all over the country.  This research will contribute to a book on the complexities of Smart Grid that will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.

During her sabbatical she worked as an associate of the Energy Technology Innovation Policy group at the Harvard Kennedy School where she contributed to the Project on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development.

She also made several trips out to the Pacific Northwest (Seattle and Pullman Washington) where she is heading up the communication research team and the stakeholder engagement process for a large climate modeling project.

Last March, Jennie was awarded the Colleges of Worcester Consortium Faculty Community Engagement Award, and she gave a keynote address at the Massachusetts Sustainable Communities and Campuses Conference at the Worcester DCU center in April.

Currently, Professor Stephens is teaching a Sustainability and Higher Education course, as well as a Climate Change, Energy and Development Course, which are both offered for graduates and advanced undergraduates. She is excited to be back on campus, and is ready to start the year at Clark!

Professor Stephens and Colleagues in Ireland

Professor Stephens and Colleagues in Ireland

Jenkins Macedo (IDSC 2012/ES&P 2014) Advancing to Second Stage for U.S. Graduate Students Fulbright Fellowship

74d7aeb6a8e2d7c665b201e096a9f2b5-2Congratulations to Jenkins Macedo, IDSC’12/ES&P 2014 whose proposed research to Clark University’s Fulbright Selection Committee was unanimously endorsed to advance to the second stage of the U.S. Graduate Students Fulbright Fellowship 2014-2015!

Macedo’s research seeks to investigate methods used to enhance soil nutrient status and water productivity among smallholder farmers in the Greater Mekong Sub-region in Laos. Combining the advantages of field-based geographic methods with narratives of ethnographic approach, his research will involve personal observations, on-farm discussions, surveys administration, soil samplings, and analyses through on-farm demonstrations and replications to determine soil organic matter content, carbon cation exchange, the effects of soil temperature and conductivity on crop growth and development, soil pH levels, micro and macra-nutrients status, and soil water holding capacity. The hypothesis that will be tested is that regenerative amendments of soil nutrient status, such as composting, green manuring, and biochar application correlates with soil nutrient and water enhancement.

We wish him the best of luck!

Shan Yi Koay (IDSC ‘2013) featured as a Central MA Up and Comer by local magazine.

Shan Yi Koay (IDSC 2013)

Shan Yi Koay (IDSC 2013)

IDSC alum, Shan Yi Koay (2013) recently joined Ivy International as an executive assistant to the President and CEO. She is featured as a Central MA Up and Comer by glolocalworcester.com.

Ivy Child International is a non-profit organization that works to improve the mental health and well-being of children through community health programs such as yoga and mindfulness.

Read more about her current job, aspirations, and some of her recent activities: http://www.golocalworcester.com/news/central-ma-up-comer-ivy-child-internationals-shan-yi-koay/

GISDE Student Wins 2013 Summer of Maps Fellowship

DahlbergAzavea, an award-winning geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company, has announced that Tyler Dahlberg (GISDE ’14) is one of three students named winners of its second Summer of Maps. Inspired by the Google Summer of Code, Azavea Summer of Maps is a program that offers $5,000 stipends to student GIS analysts to perform pro bono geospatial data analysis projects for nonprofit organizations during the summer of 2013. Azavea received applications from students and nonprofits from across the United States.

Dahlberg will be working with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia on the analysis and visualization of bicycle activity in Philadelphia; and with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger on the visualization of high-need residents and underserved areas in the city.

Like the first Summer of Maps in 2012, this year both national and regional nonprofit organizations applied with a wide array of potential spatial analysis projects that spanned domains as varied as arts and culture, environment, community and economic development, public health and food, elections and politics, transportation, and family services.

The majority of the student applications came from students at regional Philadelphia universities like Temple University, University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr, but a significant number were submitted from as far away as Middlebury College, Harvard University, The New School University, University of California Davis, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From June to August, the fellows will:

  • Work on a spatial analysis project that supports the social mission of two nonprofit organizations
  • Work with Azavea mentors to improve their GIS and project-management skills
  • Receive a monthly stipend
  • Gain work experience implementing real-world GIS projects.

“The quality of the applications we received from both the nonprofit organizations and students was outstanding,” said Robert Cheetham, Azavea CEO and president. “Competition was fierce, which made it challenging for us to select winning organizations and students. What this showed us, though, is that a lot of nonprofits are asking very sophisticated spatial data analysis questions in support of their missions. I am very excited that Azavea will have a chance to work with these top students implementing projects with social and civic value.”

Dahlberg graduated from Iowa State University and currently works as research assistant for Professor Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger and as a writing tutor in the International Development, Community, and Environment Department at Clark. He is primarily interested in GIS as it applies to issues of public health and environmental exposure, as well as water conservation issues. Prior to coming to Clark, he worked as a GIS analyst for the New York State Department of Health’s Center for Environmental Health, and for the NYSDOH Bureau for HIV/AIDS Epidemiology. Dahlberg recently won a Geller Grant from Clark University to travel to Uganda and perform GIS research on sustainable microgrid development in 2013.

This story first appeared on the Clark News Hub.

GIS Students Research Habitats of African Elephants and Guanaco

Clark undergraduates Michelle Andrews ’14 and Christina Geller ’13 and a group of graduate students enrolled in the Wildlife Conservation GIS Research Seminar taught by Associate Professor of Geography John Rogan and Research Assistant Professor Florencia Sangermano, recently traveled to the Bronx Zoo, the headquarters of the Wildlife Conservation Society, to present policy recommendations to WCS staff about species habitat protection for guanaco in Argentina and elephants in Tanzania.

Clark students and professors pose with WCS representatives at the Bronx Zoo

Caption: (back row, from left to right) David Wilkie, Ph.D. (WCS), Luisa Young (GISDE/M.A. ’13), Christina Geller ’13, Michelle Andrews ’14, Jessica Mortimer ’09, Laura Hansen (BA ’12, M.A. candidate), Russell Sands (GISDE/M.A. ’13), Arthur Elmes (GEO/Ph.D. candidate), Associate Professor John Rogan and Robert Rose, Ph.D. (WCS). (Front row, left to right) Research Assistant Professor Florencia Sangermano, Liudmila Osipova (ESP/M.A. ’13), Chenyang Zhao (GISDE/M.A. ’13), and A.J. Shatz (BA ’12, GIS/M.A. candidate).

The nine students enrolled in the seminar were divided into two groups, the first of which examined the conservation status of Guanaco (humpless camels in southern Argentina) and assessed the threats to viable habitat caused by livestock and ranching activities as well as the sensitivity of the region to climate linkages such as El Nino.  The second group examined the potential impacts of expanding wheat agriculture north of the Tarangire Park (Tanzania) on elephant movements, using radio-collar GPS data, as well as the relationship of precipitation in the region to warming in the Indian Ocean.

The main outputs of both studies were the selection of potential conservation areas to protect the habitat of the target species.

The students in the seminar were very diverse: two undergraduate students, two fifth-year master’s students in geography, four IDCE-GISDE master’s students and one doctoral candidate in geography.

the map of the guanaco habitat

“This diversity allowed all students to contribute to different aspects of the research and to learn from each other,” said professor Sangermano.

According to Andrews, a geography major who was the sole undergraduate in the first research group consisting of five students, “It was good to learn from [the others] as they all had more knowledge and experience in GIS and remote sensing than I did at the beginning of the project.  This situation made the experience even more valuable to me.”

David Wilkie, director of conservation support at WCS, and Robert Rose, species range-wide priority setting program lead at WCS, played the role of the “client,” requesting research from the students.  Wilkie and Rose provided important insights related to the specific conservation problems, provided data, facilitated discussion and regularly participated in online meetings with the students.

Andrews said she found developing research questions, compiling the data and processing it correctly, changing objectives and questions, and changing study areas to be challenging.

Geller, a double major in economics and geography, worked with the graduate students who were charged with providing policy recommendations on habitat protection of the African elephants in Tanzania, a species that is classified as “vulnerable” due to habitat loss, fragmentation, anthropogenic interactions and ivory poaching.  Her group used GIS and remote sensing techniques to create priority conservation maps that can be used to protect the habitat of the African elephant in northern Tanzania.

Andrews described the opportunity to do GIS consulting and research as “enlightening” and “eye-opening;” Geller described it as a “huge challenge.”

“I’ve normally been told the methodology I need to follow to create a final result, and this project required us to think critically, design our own methods, and constantly reevaluate our work,” said Geller.  “Unlike other classes, you have no idea if you are on the right tract until you do a check-in with WCS and they express their disapproval or pleasure with your results.”

Map analyzing elephant habitat

According to Wilkie, by working with students at Clark, WCS has made significant progress on six important questions for conservation.

“The quality of the work by the students has far exceeded expectations and has been extremely well received by WCS staff in the field programs associated with each project,” he said.

In April of 2012, Clark Labs announced their partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to provide this research seminar geared specifically for real-world conservation projects. The seminar explores various remote sensing techniques and spatial analytical tools for different patterns of environmental degradation in different landscapes. The projects are linked to landscapes and regions where the WCS is actively working.

Professor Rogan says the seminar allows the Clark students to apply all the knowledge they’ve gathered throughout their education at Clark to solve real-world conservation problems.

“Very few universities do such tight collaborations,” said Rogan.

“This relationship contributes to Clark University’s newly launched Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) initiative by providing an invaluable applied research experience that not only allows students to gain an education in GIS, remote sensing and conservation practices, it builds a skillset for the real world by also incorporating project management, professional presentations and networking.”

This news story first appeared on the Clark University News Hub.

Climate Change Book Series Features IDCE Contributors

Climate-change-bookA new book series about climate change has Clark University written all over it.

The four-volume “Climate Change: An Encyclopedia of Science and History” is co-edited by Jennie Stephens, associate professor of environmental science and policy, and boasts contributions from a host of Clark faculty, students and alumni.

The series provides a holistic consideration of climate change that goes beyond pure science, fleshing out the discussion by considering cultural, historical, and policy-driven aspects of this important issue.

The articles in “Climate Change: An Encyclopedia of Science and History” are designed to inform readers’ decision-making through the insight of scholars from around the world, each of whom brings a unique approach to this topic. The book explores the ideas that have converged and evolved to clarify our current predicament.

Among the series’ many features are:

• Contributions from more than 100 experts

• Excerpts from reports from international organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

• Transcripts of speeches from world leaders on the climate change issue

• Sidebars on the “climate-history connection,” exploring the possible links between climate and key events through history, such as the Classical Maya collapse.

Multiple members of the International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE) and Geography departments at Clark University have contributed to “Climate Change: An Encyclopedia of Science and History.”

Faculty contributors are Karen Frey (Geography), Rob Goble (Environmental Science & Policy/IDCE), and Steve McCauley, Ph.D. ’09 (ES&P/IDCE and Geography).

Students contributors are Julia Lenhardt ’13 (Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment) and Melissa Skubel ’13-M.S. ’14 (ES&P), and geography Ph.D. candidates Pheakkey Nguon and Christy Wood.

Several Clark alumni also contributed, including IDCE alums Elizabeth Allen ’12 (ES&P), Elisa Abelson ’11 (ES&P), Adrienne LaPierre ’11 (International Development and Social Change), Igor Rubinov ’11 (IDSC), Kristin Sherwood ’10 (IDSC), and Geography alums Roberta Hawkins, Ph.D. ’12, Elia Machado, Ph.D. ’11, and Prajjwal Panday, Ph.D. ’13.

This news story first appeared on Clark University’s News Hub.

New NSF-funded Research on Post-Sandy Climate and Energy Linkages

faculty_stephens_jennie_large2In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a new research initiative is exploring how societal discourse of energy systems and climate change is changing in response to the storm’s devastation and disruption.  Jennie Stephens, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy in IDCE, and her collaborative research team have received funding ($60K) from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science, Technology and Society Program to study how Superstorm Sandy is influencing discourse linking energy infrastructure and climate change.  This research was funded through the NSF’s RAPID program which provides fast-tracked proposal review and awarding of grants for time-sensitive research.  This research takes advantage of the fleeting opportunity during the months directly following the storm to characterize energy and climate discourse among energy sector actors and the media in different regions of the U.S.

The storm highlighted the vulnerability of energy systems including electricity infrastructure damage that resulted in power outages to 8.6 million customers and gasoline distribution challenges leading to severe gasoline shortages in New York and New Jersey. Superstorm Sandy also re-introduced climate change into the political discourse of the 2012 Presidential election, where it had been conspicuously absent.  Stephens and her collaborators at University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, and SUNY-ESF are characterizing post-Sandy levels of societal awareness of linkages between energy systems resilience and climate change vulnerability through media analysis, interviews and focus groups with energy sector actors in different regions of the country.

Professor Stephens was invited to present initial findings of this research at a conference on “Climate Change and America’s Infrastructure” held at Arizona State University in January.  Clark student Lauren Ziemer (Environmental Science BA ’13 / ES&P MS ’14) will be working with Professor Stephens’s research team as a research assistant on this project.