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E-IPER Dissertations Stack Up: Creating Change

Creating Change

How are native forests on Hawai'i, slum dweller movements in Tanzania, energy installations on the California and Gulf coasts, and climate change over the last million years connected? As subjects of recent E-IPER dissertations, they represent the range of research topics, sites, scales, and theories studied by E-IPER students and interconnect in a number of ways. They look at conflicts or tradeoffs over land use, risk assessment on a global and community scale, social movements, and environmental policies and decision-making processes. These students' thesis research - and their future careers - can potentially influence the long-term health and sustainability of specific communities in the face of increased development pressures and global threats such as climate change.

Michael Hooper's interest in slum dwellers and the international federations that organize and empower the urban poor originated with his work in East Africa with the United Nations Development Program prior to coming to E-IPER. His dissertation research in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania played out in real time as he followed a neighborhood facing a forced eviction to expand a nearby port, studying individual community member's motivations for participation in the Tanzania Federation of the Urban Poor and tracking individuals' post-eviction resettlement success. His findings suggest that policies aimed at addressing the concerns of the urban poor in developing countries should consider a number of social identity and status factors, most importantly property ownership, that influence the dynamics and success of social movements.

Starting in September, Mike will be an assistant professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, MA.

Hilary Schaffer Boudet also studied social movements and community mobilization, focusing her work on the siting of liquid natural gas termini,one of many so-called "locally unwanted land uses" which include hazardous waste facilities, landfills, prisons, and power plants. Studying two coastal California communities in depth and following with a broader study of sites on the Gulf and North Atlantic coasts, Hilary found that a number of local social and political factors influence the success of a siting proposal, including the perceived threat of the facility on the community, the community's political
influence, and the resources the community can direct toward mobilizing against the proposal. Hilary's work provides important insights for researchers on facility siting and for planners embroiled in such conflicts, in terms of key policy levers affecting mobilization outcomes.

Hilary will be a postdoctoral scholar with Tom Robinson in Stanford's Department of Medicine/Stanford Prevention Research Center to develop and evaluate a community-based intervention to increase energy efficiency behaviors among children and families, starting this summer.

Kate Brauman focused her fieldwork on several upland sites in Kona, Hawai'i, comparing the effects of native forests with pasture on available water resources. After collecting biophysical data for over a year at several sites, Kate concluded that native forests are able to capture significant quantities of cloud water and thus replenish groundwater resources, which directly benefits the populated coastal communities. She builds the case that upstream landowners could be paid to preserve or restore native forests on their land to provide a valuable ecosystem service, increased groundwater resources, to the downstream community, a positive outcome for the landowners, the coastal residents, and the native forests.

Kate will be a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment working in collaboration with Global Landscapes Initiative (GLI) research team to develop new approaches to the study of land use, agriculture and water resources at regional and global scales.

Carolyn Snyder's research looked at nearly a million years through the Earth's climate history to help us understand how the Earth might respond to the increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases projected by studies such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Her analysis suggests that the Earth's climate may be more sensitive to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations than predicted, resulting in potentially larger temperature increases and higher risks of climate change than previously published. She believes most current policies are conservative in their anticipation of climate change impacts and hopes her work will influence future climate policies to take into account the increased climate sensitivity she has calculated.

Carolyn has been appointed Director for Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the State of Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, starting in July.

The dissertation titles and committees are listed below (lead advisors are listed first):

Hilary Schaffer Boudet
Contentious Politics in Liquefied Natural Gas Facility Siting
Committee: Doug McAdam, Sociology; Leonard Ortolano, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Monica McDermott, Sociology; Meg Caldwell, Law; Nicole Ardoin, Education and Woods Institute, chair.

Kate Brauman
Hydrologic Ecosystem Services: Managing Land Cover to Enhance Water Resources
Committee: Gretchen Daily, Biology; David Freyberg, CEE; Lawrence Goulder, Economics; Harold Mooney, Biology; Barton Thompson, Jr., Law; Pamela Matson, School of Earth Sciences, chair.

Michael Hooper
The Dynamics of Displacement: A Study of Slum Dweller Mobilization Around Urban Evictions in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Committee: Leonard Ortolano, CEE; Jeremy Weinstein, Political Science; Doug McAdam, Sociology; David Abernathy, Political Science; Nicole Ardoin, Education and Woods Institute, chair.

Carolyn Snyder
Key uncertainties in the risks of future climate change: Insights from a probabilistic analysis of climate change over the past million years
Committee: Chris Field, Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science; Steve Schneider, Biology and Woods Institute; Rob Dunbar, Environmental Earth System Science; Claudia Tebaldi, Statistics, University of British Columbia-Vancouver, and Climate Central; John Weyant, Management Science and Engineering, chair.

Watch all the dissertation presentations online.

Image credit: Helen Doyle; students pictured from left to
right:Justin Warren, Carolyn Snyder, Kate Brauman, Michael Hooper,
Hilary Schaffer Boudet.