Current Research

Faculty Fellows Research

Pardee Center Faculty Research Fellows lead two- or three-year interdisciplinary research projects that are aligned with the Center’s mission and interests in topics related to improvements in the human condition over the long-term. The Pardee Center provides “seed funding” for project support and in most cases works with the Faculty Research Fellows to seek additional external funding for continuation of the research. The Faculty Research Fellows produce Pardee Center publications and lead seminars or other events related to their research. READ MORE.

Pardee Center Research

Coupled Human and Natural Systems
This study of coupled human and natural systems (CHANS) looks at the dynamic interactions between people and natural systems and seeks to highlight the implications of important trade-offs that policymakers face when making decisions related to natural resource management and development.

The Future of Energy Systems in Developing Countries
This project examines the plausible pathways for achieving energy security in a select number of developing countries based on a variety of factors, including political and societal conditions, available technology, financing mechanisms, and geographic realities.

Climate Impacts, Food Security, and Multiple Breadbasket Failures
This project seeks to understand the potential consequences of crop productivity failures in the world’s major breadbasket regions.

Wildlife Management in Novel Ecosystems
This research examines the challenges of wildlife management and conservation in human-dominated landscapes, specifically exploring how the management of deer in urban and suburban landscapes presents new challenges for wildlife managers.

20 Years of War: A Costs of War Research Series
This research series is a collaboration with the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University to expand the ongoing Costs of War project. The two-year “20 Years of War” research series explores the human, financial, environmental, social, and political costs and consequences of the post-9/11 wars and illustrates how the impacts of the wars will ripple into the future.

Human-Environment Interactions and Land Use Dynamics
This research explores the complex interactions between humans and the environment and how these interactions drive land-use changes that are critical for global processes such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem degradation.

fellowsGraduate Summer Fellows Program 
The Pardee Graduate Summer Fellows Program provides outstanding master’s and doctoral students at Boston University an opportunity for intensive interdisciplinary research and writing on topics that are aligned with the broad research interests of the center.

Faculty Fellows Research

Click here to read about past Faculty Research Fellows projects.

Prof. Shelley Brown, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2021)

Perinatal Mental Health and Human Development Working Group

Perinatal mental health is a significant global health and human rights issue, which requires a comprehensive response outside of the traditional biomedical approach to health and illness due to effects on human development throughout the life course. Critical barriers to progress include the lack of mental health governance and absence of fully implemented policies to meet sustainable development goals, and the unique vulnerabilities of women and children in poverty and low resource settings requiring increased governmental action. Given the importance of perinatal mental health for development, and the number of BU faculty engaged in research on different aspects of maternal mental health, this interdisciplinary project includes the establishment of The Perinatal Mental Health Working Group. The Working Group will facilitate research collaboration, discussion of maternal mental health as a development issue, and shape a research agenda for field research in South Africa, to be completed in subsequent years, to investigate mental health legislation and issues of equity and access to perinatal mental health services.

Prof. Neta C. Crawford, Political Science
Prof. Heidi Peltier, Political Science
Faculty Research Fellows (2019-2021)

20 Years of War: A Costs of War Research Series

Over the course of the past decade, the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute has focused on the human, financial, environmental, social and political costs and consequences of the post-9/11 wars and illustrated how the impacts of the wars will ripple into the future. Founded in 2010 by Neta Crawford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at BU, and Catherine Lutz, Thomas J. Watson Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown, the Costs of War project has produced over 70 papers and garnered significant attention from policymakers and major media outlets. Beginning in Fall 2019, the two-year 20 Years of War series will produce a new set of analyses to mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the post-9/11 wars. This effort will include updating existing papers as well as producing new reports in order to provide a comprehensive overview of these wars’ many costs. Dr. Heidi Peltier, an economist who has been in the Costs of War network for a decade, has joined the Pardee Center and the Department of Political Science as a research professor. Dr. Peltier will direct the 20 Years of War series at the Pardee Center, coordinating the new work in collaboration with the ongoing Costs of War project at Brown. The 20 Years of War research series is funded by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York through the Pardee Center. BU’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Provost, along with the Watson Institute, are also supporting the project.

Richard Samuel Deese, Social Sciences, College of General Studies
Michael Holm, Social Sciences, College of General Studies
Faculty Research Fellows (2018-2021)

Democracy Beyond the Nation State

As climate change and other forms of environmental degradation become increasingly disruptive in this century, the democratic nations of the world will face heightened stress from extreme weather, flooding, droughts, mass migrations, and transnational terrorism. If democratic governments respond to these challenges by embracing nationalism and building barriers, they will weaken the universal principle of human rights upon which democracy is founded, thus eroding the strength of democracy within their own borders. Conversely, if democratic societies can create new forms of electoral representation beyond the boundaries of the nation state, they will be in a better position to face the global challenges of this century and beyond. For this reason, the idea of supranational democracy now requires serious consideration by scholars from across all disciplines. In response to this need, Richard Samuel Deese and Michael Holm will hold a conference titled “Democracy Beyond the Nation State” in October 2020 at Boston University. Confirmed speakers and participants to date include an international group of scholars from the fields of political science, physics, law, history, international relations, and more. The conference will assess the possibility of creating supranational democratic institutions in response to new environmental and social challenges that no nation can face alone. They have leveraged the Pardee Center’s seed grant to secure over $20,000 in additional internal and external funding, and they are coordinating co-sponsorship with the College of General Studies to have one of the plenary talks double as the annual Stanley Stone Distinguished Lecture.

Prof. Michael Dietze, Earth & Environment
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2021)

The Ecological Forecasting Initiative: An Interdisciplinary Symposium

Near-term ecological forecasting is an emerging research area focused on accelerating environmental research and making it more relevant to society. Prof. Michael Dietze used his Pardee Center seed grant to leverage additional support from the Sloan Foundation to sponsor the Ecological Forecasting Initiative (EFI) conference at AAAS headquarters in Washington, DC, from May 13-15, 2019. This was the first public conference by EFI, an international grassroots consortium that Dietze organized and launched in fall 2018 with the goal of building a community of practice around the new research area of iterative near-term ecological forecasting. Over 100 people of all career stages (from undergraduate to emeritus) were in attendance for the meeting, representing a broad range of academic disciplines, federal agencies, and NGOs. The conference also launched EFI’s working groups, all of which have had follow-up calls to further discuss their short- and long-term goals. EFI has also launched a website (, which provides a wide range of resources aimed at continuing to build the community, including but not limited to: a discussion board, a Slack channel, educational resources, a member directory, and a listing of currently-running ecological forecasting projects. Building on the Pardee Center seed funding, EFI has been successful in winning a five-year NSF Research Coordination Network grant.

Prof. Robinson W. (Wally) Fulweiler, Biology (jointly with Earth & Environment)
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2021)

Synthesizing the Nitrogen Removal Capacity of Oyster Aquaculture

Excess nitrogen causes coastal eutrophication and a variety of negative consequences, including hypoxia/anoxia events and decreased biodiversity. In an effort to ameliorate this excess nitrogen, land-based nutrient mitigation strategies (e.g., improved wastewater treatment) are employed. While these efforts can be successful, they are not 100% efficient and they cannot capture non-point nutrient sources. We need other solutions. One solution is harnessing the power of oysters, efficient filter feeders that clean the water column of particles and appear to stimulate sediment denitrification, thereby removing excess nitrogen. Denitrification is a microbial process that removes biologically usable nitrogen, providing a natural filter that can help improve water quality and ecosystem function. For roughly the past decade, researchers have been measuring rates of denitrification associated with oyster aquaculture in different coastal environments with different techniques. The goal of this project is to synthesize this research. Fulweiler convened a workshop from September 10-11, 2019 at Boston University, bringing together a group of about 30 experts to assess the current state of knowledge on denitrification associated with oyster aquaculture, and develop a path forward for including nitrogen removal capacity in future nutrient trading schemes.

Prof. Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Environmental Health
Prof. David Glick, Political Science
Faculty Research Fellows (2016-2019)

Integrating Science, Health and Policy to Engineer Global Sustainable Water Access

Global sustainable water management efforts are hampered by technological limitations, insufficient health risk assessments, and untenable policy solutions that lack public support. Access to pathogen-free water is a challenge in rapidly urbanized developing nations where underdeveloped infrastructure encourages water stagnation and microorganism growth. Compounding these issues, both industrialized and developing cities suffer water scarcity (an early implication of climate change) and are investigating water resource management solutions such as recycled water, but technological failure of such water reuse systems could lead to drinking water contamination of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs known in the water supply. The team is developing novel materials and processes for the degradation of such potential contaminants in water for household to industrial scale use in developing and industrialized urban areas. Laboratory results will inform a risk assessment model to predict the impact our technology would have to reduce human health risk due to exposure to a suite of pharmaceutical compounds. An original survey, interviews, and case study research will be used to understand factors influencing support for water reuse policies, and gauge the ability to sway public opinion with information about technological developments that protect both human health and water resources across developing and industrialized populations. As part of this project, the Pardee Center hosted a public seminar on the group’s research findings to date on October 25, 2017. The team published a paper in Resources Conservation and Recycling and presented a paper at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in 2019 focused on identifying barriers to water reuse. They will also organize a symposium at the Fall 2020 ACS National Meeting, and plan to produce a Pardee Center publication resulting from this symposium.

Prof. Lucy Hutyra, Earth & Environment
Prof. Pamela Templer, Biology
Faculty Research Fellows (2015-2018)

Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition Throughout the Greater Boston Area

This project established the first urban nitrogen monitoring stations (in the City of Boston) as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP). The project team established a new NADP site on the BU campus along with several other sampling sites throughout the City of Boston and converted a recently established monitoring site at the Arnold Arboretum to a long-term one. In addition to contributing to the national research program, this new urban monitoring network fits well within a larger biogeochemistry research program at Boston University, which is seeking to establish a mechanistic understanding of sources and transformations of emissions and deposition of nitrogen within the City of Boston to enable predictions of future atmospheric nitrogen deposition rates. An unanticipated but important part of this research was the inclusion of phosphorous monitoring at the request of the City, in hopes of understanding the potential sources of phosphorus showing up in runoff. Prof. Templer presented the research in a Pardee Center seminar in spring 2017, and to date there have been three journal articles and a book chapter as an outcome of this research.

Prof. Lucy Hutyra, Earth & Environment
Prof. Pamela Templer, Biology
Prof. Dan Li, Earth & Environment
Faculty Research Fellows (2018-2021)

Mitigation of Boston Heat Island Effect with Urban Canopy

The frequency and duration of extreme heat waves are projected to continue to increase in urban areas throughout the world, leading to higher risks of heat related deaths. Increasing urban canopy is a key strategy for mitigating excess urban heat by creating a cooling microclimate via shading and evapotranspiration (transpiration and evaporation). However, our ability to predict the mitigation effect of urban vegetation is limited by existing approaches that assume urban trees behave like their rural counterparts. Transpiration rates are known to vary by tree species, climatic conditions, and nutrient availability – factors known to vary between urban and rural environments. This project will develop new estimates of urban transpiration by: 1) empirically quantifying rates in both urban and nearby rural trees; 2) integrating field estimates of transpiration into the advancement of urban heat island models; and 3) applying the newly improved model to identify and test the efficiency of urban canopy mitigation approaches. Building on the Pardee Center’s seed funding, Hutyra and Li were awarded a $650,000 NSF grant for this work.

Richard B. Primack, Biology
Faculty Research Fellow (2016-2019)

Addressing Urban Environmental Challenges

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban environments, and cities will continue to grow faster than rural areas in the coming decades. People in cities face serious environmental threats from air and water pollution, and such threats will increase in the future due to climate change and extreme weather events, most notably heat waves, drought, and sea level rise. Dealing with these threats and changing public policy requires increased communication and cooperation among researchers, government officials, and the general public. An interdisciplinary approach is needed that brings together expertise from the fields of Biogeoscience and Environmental Health with policy makers, the private sector, and the people who live and work in cities. Boston University recently received a National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) grant to train 60 Ph.D. students, 20 of whom will receive NRT stipends, in the areas of Biogeoscience, Environmental health, and Statistics. This project will strengthen the BU URBAN program by providing interdisciplinary summer fellowships to graduate students whose research addresses urban environmental challenges including, but not limited to, air and water quality, noise pollution, citizen science, and environmental modeling.

Prof. Jim Stodder, Administrative Sciences, Metropolitan College
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2021)

Forecasts for Carbon Pricing and Energy Transition

This project aims to explore new approaches to modeling carbon prices, and to bring together scholars working on economic and climate models to look at energy markets, macroeconomic stability, climate projections, and geopolitics. The first year of the project was spent on an empirical model of carbon taxes or permits. Stodder convened an all-day workshop exploring carbon tax forecasting at the Pardee Center in February 2019, which was attended by an interdisciplinary group of 15 people, comprised of Boston University faculty, staff, and graduate students, as well as climate change experts and economists from Beijing Normal University, McKinsey & Co., MIT, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Synapse Energy Economics. He also made a presentation in June at the Montreal convention of the International Association for Energy Economics. Ultimately, he will host an international conference on carbon pricing during the 2020-21 academic year.

Prof. Ana Villarreal, Sociology
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2021)

Armored Cities: Drugs, Violence, and Seclusion in Latin America

This project examines a new pattern of urban seclusion emerging in Latin America in response to growing horrific violence. Where private security falls short, the upper class is leveraging state resources to create armored cities or heavily policed cities within metropolitan areas, micro-states within a state. This ethnographic project highlights two factors of global environmental change that are key to the development of urban life in the longer-range future: social inequality and violence linked to the global illicit drug trade. As a Faculty Research Fellow, Prof. Villarreal is completing her first book, The Armored City: Violence and Seclusion in the Mexican Metropolis, and will convene an interdisciplinary seminar on new forms of urban inequality in Latin America. Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, she worked on completing the first draft of the book manuscript. With the support of department and faculty mentors in the department of Sociology, she held a book workshop with three leading experts in her field from Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Michigan, who read and provided positive feedback on the manuscript. She plans to complete the final version of the manuscript over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Prof. Catherine West, Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2020)

Symposium on Circumpolar Climate Change, Resource Management, and Applied Archaeology

The role of the social sciences in northern circumpolar research has surged in recent years as humans grapple with new adaptations to changing climate, landscapes, and resources. This project will convene social scientists, resource managers, and climate scientists in the fall of 2020 for the first Symposium on Circumpolar Climate Change, Resource Management, and Applied Archaeology to create real discussion about the value of long-term archaeological and paleoenvironmental records for contemporary resource management. More specifically, this symposium will build on existing collaborations to discuss the role of these long-term records in fisheries management in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, where fishing is central to cultural and economic health in both regions.

Prof. Ziming Xuan, School of Public Health
Faculty Research Fellow (2018-2021)

The Epidemiological Transition of Alcohol Problems and Policy Issues in China and India: A Tale of Two Countries

Along with rapid economic growth in China and India in the past several decades, there has been a striking increase in social and health issues related to alcohol use and misuse. Alcohol policies have been shown as an effective population-level driver in reducing alcohol-related morbidity and mortality in developed countries, yet the research evidence in both China and India is lacking. The aim of this project is to establish a multidisciplinary and policy-relevant program of research on the impacts of alcohol policies during the epidemiological transition in both countries. This project will include a review study of the literature on alcohol policy research in China and India. This project will also assess the feasibility of conducting legal research to identify nation-wide and state-specific alcohol policies and examine health surveillance data sources on alcohol use and related morbidity and mortality in China and India. As part of this project, Prof. Xuan gave a talk at the Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society in the Netherlands in June 2019.