Each year, Earth & Environment Professor Duncan Fitzgerald and his ES 142 Beaches and Shoreline students take an annual trip to Cape Cod.
This year’s trip took place this past Saturday where students boarded buses at BU at 8:00 am and made the hour-long journey to the Cape. After arriving, students were provided with guidebooks and headed for Humarock Beach in Marshfield where they viewed an eroding drumlin cliff, a boulder retreat platform, and various types of protective engineering structures. This particularly spit system is sediment-starved and severely impacted during winter storms.
The trip included six stops covering dunes, marshes, tidal inlets, beach processes, and glacial landforms. Students learned about the 15 ka evolution of Cape Cod and examined the present-day effects of sea-level rise. The trip ended after climbing the 30-m high parabolic dunes in the Province Lands of the outer Cape (see below).
By Rick Reibstein
Seven students this semester participated in a new directed study course performing research tasks related to climate change for state agencies. Each week they met and went over progress, reporting to each other on their work. They were supervised by Rick Reibstein, lecturer in environmental law and policy, who used his contacts from his career in state government to arrange the projects. On April 19, three of the students made an extended presentation to officials at the Department of Environmental Protection, and on April 25, all seven students will present their work to Matt Beaton, (a former student of this program), who is now the Commonwealth’s Secretary of the Environment.
Celia Simpson and Tara Moore used the “Tier 2” database, which includes information about chemical storage, to identify facilities in areas of high flood risk. Their work will be of help to the state’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA), which is now engaged in training fire departments in how to reduce the vulnerability of communities to contamination from chemicals dispersed by more frequent and intense storm events. Qiyuan Fu and Sophia Xiong searched out reports of net-zero building projects and produced an analysis of the range of construction costs for the specialist at the Department of Energy Resources in charge of promoting net-zero buildings. Zach Schmidt, Sam Campbell and Sari Klein sorted through various approaches to determining the cumulative impact of environmental and health threats to communities, and mapped the vulnerability of communities to the increased risk of storm events disrupting ongoing cleanups at already contaminated sites. Their work will help DEP to evaluate approaches to identifying at-risk communities and their presentation was very well received.
In our last meeting the students shared these comments on their experience. Zach noted that it was an opportunity to understand how the government of Massachusetts works, and to get to know what is expected of you when working in the environmental field. The topics they covered were “very real topics facing state governments now”. Sari said that it was the “first professional experience in the environmental field” that she had participated in thus far at BU, and Sam noted how valuable it was to work with the state employees, and that the experience allowed for a lot of freedom in how they could approach the problem, while the advice received helped to maintain focus.
The students learned about waste sites and waste cleanup, chemicals used and stored in the state, flood risk, environmental justice, existing environmental information, relevant laws, and how buildings can become zero-energy and the practical aspects of that effort. They know a good deal now about how state governments do their work and they have had a taste of how good it can feel to contribute to the effort to protect the public, because their work will be used for that purpose. They made a real contribution. Celia and Tara learned how hard it is to download and access the Tier 2 data. This may help explain why fire departments have largely failed to use it, and how OTA can focus its efforts. Qiyuan and Sophia have done pioneering work, as it appears that no one else has pulled together the information that they found, and they have come up with some ideas for standardizing such reports. Zach, Sam and Sari showed DEP how they could use Google Earth in conjunction with the department’s GIS system to produce maps correlating information. Mark Smith, Director of DEP’s Office of Research and Standards, has thanked the Earth and Environment Department for the help given to DEP, noting that the students’ “work and presentations to MassDEP were fabulous and very helpful. I look forward to continuing collaboration with your Department and exploring other ways for students to do similar projects.”
Students interested in participating in this directed study course next year should contact Rick Reibstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be in contact with state agencies through the summer and ready to describe potential projects relating to environmental topics, at the beginning of the Fall semester. Contact him to be on a list to be notified of specific information about these topics. They will likely include continuing some of the work described above, as well as new research tasks.
For the past 3 years, Earth & Environment’s James Baldwin has been accompanying his GE150 students to the Boston Museum of Science (MOS). GE150, Sustainable Energy- Technology, Resources, Society and Environment is a course that examines the social, economic and environmental implications of energy technologies with a goal of considering how society can produce and use energy sustainably. The course is highly interdisciplinary making use of knowledge from both the physical and social sciences to analyze existing energy technologies and resources as well as options for the future.
Each Fall, Baldwin’s GE150 students take advantage of the annual admission-free MOS college night to take part in a class scavenger hunt for extra credit. The students are given a set of five clues that lead them to exhibits that related to material that has been, or will be, covered in lectures. To get credit, students take pictures of themselves with the exhibit related to a specific clue.
While his students explored the museum, Baldwin walked around with groups of 3-6 students to discuss some of the exhibits and how they related to the challenges society faces with respect to energy.
Noviello was a member of the research team working on the project “Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Identify Oil Spills and Natural Oil Seeps off Coastal Alaska.”
As part of the project, NASA produced the following video featuring Noviello, the project, and the rest of the team.
To see other media featuring members of the department, check out our Department Media section.
Earth & Environment Lecturer Rick Reibstein has been featured in a new Huffington Post article. The article, “This Rocker Has a Heavy Metal Warning for Fellow Parents,” focuses on Jon Fishman, the drummer for the band Phish, and his campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of lead paint.
Reibstein and his research on the Regulated Community Compliance Project are featured prominently in the article. The article also recognizes recent work performed by Reibstein’s students who surveyed public awareness on lead-paint-related issues.
To read the entire article, click here.
Earth & Environment Associate Professor Lucy Hutyra, Professor Nathan Phillips, PhD candidate Jon Wang, and ESO President and Senior Environmental Analysis & Policy major Andrew Held have been featured in a new article published in The Daily Free Press.
The article, “Tree density study draws attention to limitations of human knowledge, concern,” focuses on a new study published that estimates the total number of trees on the planet.
To read the article, click here.
To learn more about the work of Professor Hutyra, check out her profile page.
To learn more about the work of Professor Phillips, check out his profile page.
Recent PhD graduate Brittain Briber has first authored a new article published in PLOS One titled “Tree Productivity Enhanced with Conversion from Forest to Urban Land Covers.”
The article is coauthored by Dr. Briber’s PhD advisor, Associate Professor Lucy Hutyra, and several other members of the department including Post-doctoral Associate Andrew Reinmann, PhD candidate in Geography Chris Holden, and former Environmental Science undergraduate Victoria Dearborn (CAS ’15). Former Post-doctoral Associate and current Assistant Professor at Hofstra University Steve Raciti also contributed to the paper.
To read the paper, click on the title above. To learn more about the work begin done by Professor Hutyra and her team, check out her profile page.
Earth & Environment Environmental Analysis & Policy major Emily Korman will be presenting her senior thesis research on “Political Ecology: the Reality of Boston’s Gas Leaks Policies” later today, Thursday April 30th, 2015, at 3:30 pm in CAS 132.
In an email sent to the department, Earth & Environment Professor Nathan Phillips described Korman’s work on the project:
“Emily Korman has spent the last year identifying and analyzing inter-relationships among entities involved in management of Boston’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure. As part of her work Emily managed to interview many key players to gain some valuable insights into this issue. I invite you to her talk…where she uses this knowledge as a basis for solutions to managing urban infrastructure problems.”
All members of the department are encouraged to attend Korman’s talk.
Earth & Environment Environmental Science senior Victoria Dearborn will be presenting her senior thesis research on “Carbon Dynamics of Urban Street Trees” this afternoon, Monday April 27th, at 4 pm in CAS 132.
Dearborn is advised by Assistant Professor Lucy Hutyra.
All members of the department are encouraged to come and support Victoria!
Earth & Environment undergraduate Patricia Zundritsch will be holding her thesis defense this coming Monday April 13th, 2015 at 10 am in room CAS 116.
Zundritsch’s thesis is titled “Labor Market Implications of Solar Energy Policy In the US, Germany, and China.”
All members of the department are encouraged to attend and support Patricia.
Zundritsch’s thesis abstract is below.
“Labor Market Implications of Solar Energy Policy In the US, Germany, and China”
This study analyzes how the Porter hypothesis applies to employment effects of solar energy policies. The Porter hypothesis argues that environmental regulations can generate economic benefits. Few of the 21 studies reviewed comprehensively consider the myriad of employment effects, which critically determine the magnitude of net employment effects, and whether these effects are positive or negative. Though the studies are hardly comparable due to the heterogeneity of assumptions and measuring metrics, the majority show positive net employment effects based on the high labor intensity of solar photovoltaics (PV). Model results and trade data support the Porter hypothesis as countries that established renewable energy policies gained a competitive advantage in the global market. The results also indicate that job impacts are time-dependent; delayed impacts of the budget effect, time at which policies are established, and changes in demand related to policy introduction and price reductions all constitute different time dimensions of employment effects. The influence of cyclical policy support on the comparative advantage of the US illustrates the importance of consistent policies. Germany’s policy created a mature PV market, but the plateauing comparative advantage and declining domestic market suggest that current employment in the PV market may be hard to sustain. China’s rapidly growing exports, but low domestic demand, also illustrate a one-sided dependence that is more vulnerable to negative employment effects. The employment effects of late adopting countries are uncertain as they may be unable to build a comparative advantage, but could benefit from PV reaching grid parity.