Environmental Studies – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Research Discipline(s): Environmental Studies

Civic resilience and neighborhood resilience projects and hubs.

Anthropogenic climate change is one of the most threatening challenges facing the world today. As global temperatures continue to rise over the course of the next century, a host of issues including dramatic sea level rise, dangerous storm systems, widespread drought and wildfires will impact every facet of American life. Cutting carbon emissions is the most effective short term solution to curb adverse effects, but we must also develop resiliency in our governments, in our communities and in our neighborhoods if we are to successfully mitigate climate change. This research project attempts to build resiliency through understanding and awareness in localized communities to prepare for both short and long term consequences of climate-related issues. A comprehensive compilation of behavior patterns, relating to neighborhood-scaled physical and structural adaptations, are included in this document to help neighborhoods prepare for these climate events. It is meant to be self-directed, so that individuals, neighborhoods, and civic organizations can decide which tools are necessary for local adaptation. A neighborhood, for example, in reasonable proximity to a floodplain will have a very different set of useful patterns compared to one exposed to seasonal wildfires. Neighborhoods that adhere to climate resilient programs will be less vulnerable to the threat of climate events, and will be more likely to sustain themselves in the future.

Political and Financial Power as Determinants of International Adaptation Assistance: An Analysis of Households in Madagascar

Climate change is one of the great threats that humanity faces today. It is imperative that policymakers and governments provide their citizens with the tools necessary to handle potential natural disasters and slow-onset crises. The United Nations (UN) Paris Agreement of 2016 attempted to address the issue of climate insecurity by allocating funds to countries in need. Among the countries particularly vulnerable to climate change and in need of funds for adaptation is Madagascar. Madagascar, along with my other countries, is vulnerable due to its low capacity to adapt with weak government management and infrastructure. This study analyzes how effectively the UN and Malagasy government have implemented a climate adaptation program in rural Madagascar, where many households are vulnerable to climate crises both financially and physically. The study analyzes 600 household surveys collected in three intervention sites of a UN adaptation project, including both participants and non-participants in the program. Relevant survey data consists of banking access, land ownership, religion, food security, total household assets, political connectivity, and quantity of benefits a household received from the program. Qualitative data were given numerical values and imported into R statistical software to uncover any trends regarding correlations between financial security, political connectivity, and a household’s benefits. Multivariable and single variable regressions were conducted to find correlations between household characteristics and project benefits. The study hypothesizes that the allocation of funds favored households that have political connections and are already more financially secure. The implications of this study are very important for the international community and policymakers. If the hypothesis is correct, that the world’s most vulnerable are not getting the funds they need to adapt, it is a critique of international policy and a representation of the larger problem of corruption within leadership bodies.

Assessing Climate Adaptability in Madagascar Through U.N’s AFRice Program

Adaptation to climate change has become an important topic in recent years as climate impacts have become increasingly severe. Discussion of adaptation is particularly important in low-income countries, which are more susceptible to changes in climate. One of the recipients of the UN’s adaptation funds, Madagascar, provides an example of how conflict of interest among governmental institutions prevent their citizens from being able to adapt. One of UN’s funding programs, AFRice, attempts to prepare rice farmers within the Alaotra-Mangoro region through a series of training seminars and workshops, rewarding participants with agricultural tools and seeds. In order to understand how efficient the AFRice program was in its goals, a survey was conducted on 600 households (among both beneficiary and non-beneficiary households) to understand the living conditions that could attest to the success of the AFRice program. The collected survey data was analyzed for descriptive statistics in the statistical program R. Three variables were used to determine differences in the adaptive capacity of beneficiary versus non-beneficiary households: Adaptive Capacity, Long-Term Coping Strategies, and Food Security. During the analysis, the averages were determined for each variable, and an ANOVA test conducted in order to understand significant differences between the two groups. It is hypothesized that households that participated in the project will have higher adaptive capacity, rely on fewer coping strategies, and will be more food secure than households that did not participate. These findings would indicate the effectiveness of the UN AFRice project and contribute to better practices of future UN projects that can aid other vulnerable countries as they face climate impacts.

Revitalizing Northeast Detroit through data base research

Northeastern Detroit has long been a historical focal point in Michigan. It has a rich history that stretches back over a century, however, for much of its history it’s been utilized in an industrial manner. While this industry has brought its benefits to the area, these were not without consequences. These consequences are more apparent now than ever with the struggles of truck traffic, environmental concerns, and industrial encroachment. The goal of our research was to tackle some of these concerns and promote the true needs of the diverse community. Whether through land use hearings or research on the property and zoning use of an area, our community engaged research covered all arrays of public policy advocacy.

Revitalizing Northeast Detroit through data base research

Northeastern Detroit has long been a historical focal point in Michigan. It has a rich history that stretches back over a century, however, for much of its history it’s been utilized in an industrial manner. While this industry has brought its benefits to the area, these were not without consequences. These consequences are more apparent now than ever with the struggles of truck traffic, environmental concerns, and industrial encroachment. The goal of our research was to tackle some of these concerns and promote the true needs of the diverse community. Whether through land use hearings or research on the property and zoning use of an area, our community engaged research covered all arrays of public policy advocacy.

Antarctic Atmospheric Rivers

Atmospheric Rivers (ARs) are long and narrow areas of concentrated moisture found within the first few kilometers of the atmosphere. When they make landfall, this moisture is released in the form of rain or snow, at times transporting moisture from the tropics or subtropics. Due to their impacts at landfall, there has been an explosion of interest in characterizing ARs. However, the AR definition is largely qualitative and relies on regionally specific case studies from the North Pacific, therefore, a number of AR detection algorithms exist. I will be focusing on the region of Antarctica because there is little studied from that region, and there are large differences between algorithms when applied to that region. The Atmospheric River Tracking Method Intercomparison Project (ARTMIP) aims to identify and quantify the uncertainty in AR science due to algorithm choice. The focus of this project is on a set of AR catalogues from ten algorithms run on MERRA-2 reanalysis (1 hour time intervals and 0.5 degree latitude and longitude intervals). This project seeks to understand and quantify the differences between regional and global algorithms when applied to the region of Antarctica by examining how the number of AR events changes with algorithm and comparing algorithms along transects in Antarctica. We can cross analyze the output of each of the detection algorithms to identify areas of inconsistency in atmospheric river detection and understand the nature and source of those inconsistencies, which is the goal of this UROP project.

The effects of fragmentation on avian vocal behavior

As avian habitats across the globe face increasing fragmentation, the resulting consequences on behavior are not fully understood. One potential outcome is a change in vocal behavior, as fragmentation may decrease opportunities for social learning among birds. We examined how fragmented landscapes affect avian behavior, and using this data, I analyzed the effects of fragmentation on vocal behavior. The data was collected by conducting behavioral assays of birds inside a novel environment and recording behavioral components such as latency to enter, movement frequency, perches visited, and vocal behavior. Using the data collected on vocal behavior, I determined the the frequency (pitch), amplitude, and complexity (number of syllables) of bird song using Audacity. I then analyzed patterns in these components and their relationship with fragmentation in R. As increasing fragmentation may result in increased isolation of birds, it may promote a decline in song learning. This is because passerines primarily learn birdsong from other tutors, and increased isolation may limit the amount of tutors birds are exposed to (Hart et al., 2017). The decline in the exposure to tutors may decrease the number of vocal components birds are exposed to, consequently reducing the number of vocal components within the population (Hart et al., 2017). Thus, I predict that increasing fragmentation will result in decreasing diversity of song. The relationship between fragmentation and vocal behavior is an important component of bird conservation, as avian vocal behavior is essential for mare choice, territoriality, predator avoidance, foraging and group cohesion (Catchpole & Slater, 1995). As song diversity may indicate a population’s viability (Laiolo et al., 2008), it is vital to examine the effects of fragmentation on avian vocal behavior in order to inform future conservation strategies.

The Historical Seasonality of Paratyphoid Across the Globe

Paratyphoid fever is one of many bacterial infectious diseases shown to exhibit seasonal dynamics, likely influenced by environmental conditions. However, a complete understanding of the seasonal patterns and identification of environmental factors which drive disease transmission have not been fully studied. We compiled and analyzed global data from the World Health Organization spanning from 1932-1957 and provincial level Thailand data from 1980-2020. Both of these datasets report monthly clinical cases and deaths of paratyphoid that occur in the given area. We used optical character recognition software to transform the data from pdf format to a format conducive to statistical analysis with R. Based on previous studies and initial findings, it appears that paratyphoid cases spike during hot weather months which vary depending on hemisphere. Other environmental factors, such as rainfall and variation in temperature have also been shown to influence paratyphoid spread and seasonality. Understanding the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases such as paratyphoid fever is imperative for public health officials to develop comprehensive guidelines and policies. The nuances of infectious disease transmission are also important to understand to reduce the size of epidemics and prevent the inundation of healthcare systems that would stop an otherwise treatable condition from being treated.

Civic Resilience and Neighborhood Resilience Projects and Hubs

As the climate crisis accelerates, emergency and civil services increasingly are overstretched. Resilience-based programming provides relief by empowering individual citizens, neighborhood organizations, and local institutions to share the planning and preparation on behalf of their communities. Settlements become more resilient to the impacts of climate change when they develop the capacity of neighborhoods to endure, quickly recover from, and renew after extreme events. To aid these processes, we developed “A Pattern Language for Neighborhood Resilience” as a starting point. This book contains a number of guides – or patterns – on how to invest in skills, small-scale infrastructure, relationships, and supplies that increase a neighborhood’s resilience. The book is currently in draft form and soon will be pre-tested before being released. As a living document, it will undoubtedly be modified and expanded throughout its adoption.

Differing Road Types in Urban Areas Impacting Coyote-Rabbit Relationships in Detroit

Over the past decades, Americans have moved to urban cities across the country. In an effort to cope with increasing populations, many cities have elected to build ever-expanding roadway systems, which increases wildlife habitat fragmentation and reduces connectivity. Detroit, the largest urban center in the state of Michigan, has a park system made up of a few dozen parks, which offers a number of resources to wildlife, including food and water. However, most of Detroit’s parks are separated by roads and buildings, hindering the ability for animals to move between green spaces. Here we assess the effect of various types of roads (residential, city transit, and highways) separating the parks on the potential predator-prey relationship between coyotes (Canis latrans) and cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus).

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