RISEUP: Research Internships for a Sustainable Environment with Undergraduate Participation

Summer 2015 Project Descriptions

2015 Project Proposal Summaries

(Titles in green have been selected and assigned to interns for summer, 2015)

Project 1: Heavy Metal Mapping and Community Responses in Urban Gardens
Mentor: Larry Lemke, Wayne State University

Project Description: Concerns about exposure to unhealthy levels of heavy metals in soils redeveloped for food production in urban gardens in the City of Detroit are investigated by measuring metal levels and variability, and impacts of soil modifications or replacement. The project will observe reactions to reports (some of which, as in 2014, are expected to exceed state criteria) and recommend sustainable responses that protect gardeners and customers health.

Project 2: The Role of Environmental Education and Community Outreach in Organizational Sustainability of the Belle Isle Aquarium
Mentor:  Alisa V. Moldavanova, Wayne State University

Dr. Alisa Moldavanova’s projects investigate sustainability of public cultural institutions like museums, zoos, and aquariums, especially factors that enable them to be resilient in the face of financial and physical disasters. The student intern will assist the investigator in assessing the role that environmental education and outreach programs play in building community commitment to the Belle Isle Aquarium.

Project 3: Social Sustainability in the 21st Century Urban Landscape
Mentor:  David Fasenfest, Wayne State University

This project will investigate how social sustainability functions to inform the kinds of investments needed for communities to grow and prosper. The intern will assist in investigations of the social nature of markets, their impact on the use of renewable resources, and the development of an alternative vision of the future for Detroit.

Project 4: Environmental Issues and Action Plans at the Belle Isle State Park
Mentor:  Jeffrey L. Ram, Wayne State University and Belle Isle Conservancy

This project investigates current environmental issues in this newest of Michigan state parks, taking into account various stakeholder concerns including cost, environmental impact, environmental education, and recreational and other benefits. The project currently focuses on Phragmites, an invasive plant, documenting methods in the USA and Canada to obtain a sustainable reduction of its presence and investigating. The intern will investigate the effectiveness of educational displays and a self-guided trail about invasive species and conduct molecular marker analysis of the relationships among invasive species infestations on Belle Isle and a nearby Canadian island, Peche Island.

Project 5: Concepts of Care in Urban Neighborhood Environments
Mentor: Joan Nassauer, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

To inform program, policy, and land use interventions in post-industrial cities (specifically, Detroit), this project seeks an improved understanding of how residents view and improve their neighborhood environments. This project utilizes activities and features that emphasize positive aspects of neighborhoods, specifically concepts and cues to care, community photos, and discussions to develop valid observational scales to measure the physical and social environment of the neighborhoods to be used in planning neighborhood improvement.

Project 6: Comparative Effects of Green Infrastructure (GI) Improvements on Neighborhood Satisfaction, Engagement, and Health
Mentor: Natalie Sampson, University of Michigan, Dearborn

This project compares four Detroit neighborhoods: two with GI treatments designed into demolition processes, and two control sites with no GI treatments. The intern will work with researchers and a community organizer from each neighborhood to conduct random sample surveys that measure residents’ perceptions of their neighborhood, levels of community engagement, and health near GI and control sites

Project 7: Sustainable Small Harbor Management Strategies
Mentor: Sanjiv Sinha and Donald Carpenter, Environmental Consulting & Technology (ECT), Inc. and Lawrence Tech University

Small harbors face an uncertain future due to costs of maintaining depth and infrastructure. Economic analysis, community charrettes, and other methods to identify values and constituencies will be incorporated into a model and tested in several harbor communities to develop a general tool for priority decisions to be made in other small harbor towns.

Project 8: Impacts of Water Conservation in the Great Lakes: Environmental Benefits, Financial Implications & Effective Knowledge Transfer
Mentor: Jeffrey Edstrom and Jodi McCarthey, Environmental Consulting & Technology (ECT), Inc. 

This project explores and tests environmental and financial rationales for municipalities to adopt water conservation and green infrastructure practices and tests techniques to encourage implementation of practices to secure the long-term sustainability of the waters of the Great Lakes basin.

Project 9: Communication Complexities in Alaska for Integrated Environmental Management and Development in the Arctic
Mentor: Rahul Mitra, Wayne State University

This research project examines how the U.S. government “Integrated Arctic Management” (IAM) initiative impacts the rapid transformation of the Arctic brought about by climate change, resource extraction (e.g., offshore drilling, mining), infrastructure (e.g., roads, bridges, pipelines), and the complex statutes regarding the governance of tribal and state resources. In-depth interviews, participant observations, and archival research will consider how stakeholders negotiate the communicative complexities of the IAM. The intern will work in Detroit, assisting in analysis of the data (i.e., transcriptions of interviews, texts, pamphlets, pictures, videos) collected by the mentor in Alaska.

Project 10: Impacts of Environmental Education on Awareness of the Need for Sustainable Environments for Animals
Mentor: Diane Miller, Detroit Zoo

The intern will determine effects of environmental education in increasing the interest and understanding of the role of habitats on animals. We will assess the impacts of our Zoo Tots program on both the children who participate (2 – 3 year olds) and on their adult caregivers who attend an 8 week series of programs focused on animals and habitats.

Project 11: What is "Natural"? Seeing Social and Ecological History in "Natural" Places
Mentor: Alan Rudy, Central Michigan University

This research identifies the ways political economic and sociocultural processes are part of “natural” landscapes and their uses, and investigates the work necessary to keep such places – from wildlife refuges to hunting areas, public parks to wilderness set-asides – “natural” despite Nature’s efforts to alter them in undesirable ways. Discovering how these assumed-to-be natural places came to their present state clarifies for the public how socionatural our environment is, opening up possibilities for thoughtful interventions to generate more sustainable, and desirable “natural” places. The intern will assist in developing a new study site in southeast Michigan.

Project 12: Environmental Inputs and Public Responses to Toxic Algal Blooms
Mentor: Sandy Bihn, Lake Erie Waterkeeper

Blooms of toxic algae in western Lake Erie have created conditions toxic to recreational activities and drinking water, including a shut-down of water intakes for drinking water in Toledo in 2014. The intern will investigate the multiple factors, including inputs from farm fertilizer runoff, wastewater plant discharges, and other sources, the economic costs, and actual and potential responses for sustainable solutions to this growing problem. 

Project 13: Progress and Policy for Improving Areas of Concern in Great Lakes Watersheds 
Mentor: Rose Ellison, Environmental Protection Agency

The intern would assist in research on methods and progress towards removing the Detroit River, the St. Clair River and the Rouge River from the list of Areas of Concern (AOC), which are characterized as such based on the extent of environmental degradation, their bi-national significance, and their proximity to heavily populated areas. This work specifically involves restoration of target habitat sites, communication and consensus building, data collection to document progress, and technical support to remove remaining Beneficial Use Impairments


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