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.

Institutional Risk of Climate Policy and Adaptation Investments
This project assesses the financial risk of stranded assets (e.g. shuttered fossil fuel plants) due to aggressive climate policy, and examines the financial risk of climate adaptation investments by development banks.

Land Use Change, Food Security, and Long-Range Telecoupling
Building upon the Pardee Center’s research on multiple breadbasket failure, this project seeks to reveal where losses in agriculture may have the greatest global impacts, providing insights into the relationships among distant locations (i.e. telecouplings).

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.

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

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.

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” during the 2020-21 academic year at Boston University. They plan to bring together scholars from around the world, from such diverse fields as philosophy, law, history, political science, communications, and computer science, to assess the possibility of creating supranational democratic institutions in response to new environmental and social challenges that no nation can face alone.

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. The goal of this symposium, and its follow-on activities, is to broaden the community of practice beyond ecologists and other environmental scientists to include a much wider, interdisciplinary community that includes social, computational, and physical scientists, as well as stakeholders from multiple industries (natural resources, computing, environmental sensing), federal agencies, and more. The aim of the symposium will be to foster dialogue, innovation, and new research directions. Following the symposium, a number of virtual working groups and a website will be launched, which will include a community bulletin board, educational materials (videos, activities, slides), an information clearinghouse (papers, figures, meeting notes), and a rotating blog with technical tutorials, descriptions of research activities, and more.

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 will host a workshop for oyster farmers and scientists where they will assess the current state of knowledge of nitrogen removal via denitrification associated with oyster aquaculture, examine environmental conditions that are associated with efficient denitrification, and help develop a path forward for including nitrogen removal capacity in future nutrient trading schemes. Ultimately, this project will inform coastal water quality management and nutrient trading credit policy.

Prof. Jillian Goldfarb, Formerly Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering
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 their technology would have on reducing human health risk due to exposure to a suite of pharmaceutical compounds. They will conduct an original survey, interviews, and use case study research 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.

Prof. Sucharita Gopal, Earth & Environment
Prof. Les Kaufman, Biology
Prof. Bruce Anderson, Earth & Environment
Prof. Susan Foster, School of Public Health
Faculty Research Fellows (2015-2018)

Climate Change and Health Issues in Cambodia and India

This research explores the connections between climate change and human health impacts in India and Cambodia to help inform policies that may be developed to reduce morbidity and mortality. The project will include a meta-analysis of the literature from multiple fields that have examined the connections between climate change and disease, and an analysis of monthly temperature extremes in each country over the past 40 years. This work will provide an understanding of the frequency and distribution of extreme heat in India over that period. As part of this project, Prof. Gopal gave a lecture titled “Geospatial Technologies for Public Health Research” at Sri Ramaswami Memorial University in Chennai, India, in July 2016. As a result of this talk, Prof. Gopal established connections with in-country scholars to further collaborate on research on the health impacts of climate changes, leading to better informed policy decisions in the areas of public health and related fields. In addition, Profs. Gopal, Anderson, and Foster participated in a Pardee Center seminar titled “Public Health Impacts of Climate Change in India” in April 2016.

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

Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition Throughout the Greater Boston Area

Human activities have altered the global nitrogen cycle through emissions from electrical power plants, automobile exhaust, and fertilizer applications. However, much of the scientific and policy focus has been on reducing nitrogen emissions and atmospheric deposition at large geographic scales that do not consider urban hotspots. This work demonstrates that atmospheric deposition rates of nitrogen are not only elevated in cities, but are just as variable as the range of values that span entire urban to rural gradients, such as that from Boston to Harvard Forest, MA. This project builds upon ongoing urban biogeochemistry research to monitor rates of atmospheric deposition at several sites across Greater Boston, partition sources of nitrogen emissions and deposition throughout the Greater Boston area, and include these research and community engagement efforts in training of graduate students in the BU URBAN Graduate NRT Program. Together, these activities will help determine the causes of excess nitrogen with the goal of helping the City of Boston and other localities reduce nitrogen inputs to local waterways and the atmosphere.

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.

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

Establishing a Pardee Center Working Group on Leaf Emergence and Fall (LEaF)

Warming temperatures are lengthening growing seasons in temperate ecosystems for most trees and shrubs — leaves are emerging earlier in spring and fall later in autumn. These seasonal shifts in leaf activity affect ecological relationships (e.g., species invasions and temporal mismatches among plants, insects, and birds), ecosystem processes (seasonal fluxes of carbon and water), and economic activities (e.g., urban tree investment and tourism to view fall foliage). These impacts, in turn, have important implications for policies regarding forestry, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and economic planning. The Pardee Leaf Emergence and Fall (LEaF) Working Group is gathering researchers from multiple departments at Boston University and neighboring institutions, all of whom study some aspect of the timing of leaf-out and leaf-fall, and facilitate dialogues with policy and management experts to accomplish three goals: (1) identify opportunities for interdisciplinary and synthetic collaboration; (2) articulate a research agenda that addresses critical needs and provides research support to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers address these needs; and (3) communicate insights gained from these activities through at least three peer-reviewed articles and several presentations and dialogues with land managers, policy makers, and other scientists. As part of this project, Prof. Primack convened a Working Group meeting at the Pardee Center which included 18 participants from Harvard, University of Massachusetts at Boston, the National Phenology Network, and BU in March 2017. For the past several months, the Working Group has been carrying out a variety of projects, most notably evaluating leaf characteristics in the Arnold Arboretum herbarium in relation to leaf-out times, and comparing leaf-out times in the spring using drones, field observations, and satellite data.

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 two years will be focused on publishing in academic journals, which will lay the groundwork for an international conference on carbon pricing in the third year.

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

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

This project will examine 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 will complete her first book, The Armored City: Violence and Seclusion in the Mexican Metropolis, and convene an interdisciplinary seminar on new forms of urban inequality in Latin America.

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. Despite the long history of human activity in this region – perhaps up to 35,000 years or more – the long-term archaeological record of human activity remains marginal in discussions of climate change, ecosystem response, and cultural adaptation. This project will convene social scientists, resource managers, and climate scientists at 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.

Prof. Min Ye, Pardee School of Global Studies
Faculty Research Fellow (2015-2018)

China’s Silk Road Diplomacy: Studying and Shaping China’s Long-Term Economic Footprints in Asia and Beyond

The aim of this project is to establish a coordinated, multidisciplinary, policy-relevant program of research on the impacts of various aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in other developing countries in Asia and elsewhere. Prof. Ye has been investigating the bureaucratic sources of the BRI in Beijing and localized implementation of the BRI by Chinese commercial actors. The research provides important knowledge on China’s elite politics governing the country’s globalization and first-hand discovery of how local governments and companies influence national policies. Together, Prof. Ye’s research explains how China rises in the world economy through market globalization, and how the economic process strengthens political autocracy in the nation. The effort includes fieldwork in China, annual events, and the development of sustainable networks of scholars and practitioners who will collectively identify important issues and policy-relevant insights related to the China’s BRI. In 2017, Prof. Ye convened two Pardee center forums titled “China’s Global Future and the Future of the Globe: How the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is Quietly Changing China and Surrounding Countries” and “Economic Expansions, Past and Present: How America’s Experience Connects to Modern-Day China.”