Related Faculty Projects

In addition to their work at the ASRC, faculty researchers in the Environmental Sciences initiative lead or contribute to impactful and innovative external research projects. Learn more about some of these projects below.

This project studies how residential yard management decisions interact with biodiversity and ecosystem processes across the United States.

Baltimore Ecosystem Study

Long Term Ecological Research

ESI Researcher: Peter Groffman

Since 1998, the Baltimore Ecosystem Study has been investigating the ecological, cultural, and economic forces that shape the Baltimore metropolitan area. It focuses on three focal process areas: watershed biogeochemistry, ecological communities and sentinel species, and human environmental perceptions and behaviors.

Deltas at Risk

Profiling Risk and Sustainability in Coastal Deltas of the World

ESI Researcher: Charles J. Vörösmarty

River deltas constitute a quintessential example of how human-dominated ecosystems are evolving over the Anthropocene. Sitting at the interface of land and ocean, deltas owe their existence to a fundamental interplay between natural terrestrial and oceanic processes. At the same time, these coastal landforms have long served as prime locations for human settlement due their inherent capacity to support agriculture, gas and oil extraction, fisheries, and trade. These benefits have been accompanied by elevated risk arising from a broad array of human actions: local land use for agriculture; urbanization; hydrocarbon extraction; groundwater overuse; upstream water management that reduces essential flows of water and sediment needed to nourish these land forms; coastal engineering to ensure the utility of these systems for society; and, the specter of sea level rise from global climate change, accompanied by changes in storm and flood surge exposure. Many of these factors are interconnected, operate far beyond the boundaries of the deltas themselves, and generate substantial risk to the half-billion people who live there. The long-term integrity of these systems has thus been called into question. This project developed a global, systematic assessment of how delta risk is increasing due to sea-level rise and anthropogenic drivers of delta land subsidence.


ESI Researcher: Ricardo Toledo-Crow

FloodNet is a cooperative of communities, researchers, and New York City government agencies working to better understand the frequency, severity, and impacts of flooding in New York City. The data and knowledge gained can be used by local residents, researchers, city agencies, and others to advocate around and work to reduce flood risk. FloodNet brings together innovative sources of information on street flooding impacts in neighborhoods that are vulnerable to high tides, storm surge, and stormwater runoff.

Freshwater Ecosystem Services Supporting Humans

Pivoting from water crisis to water solutions

ESI Researcher: Charles J. Vörösmarty

The majority of the world’s population is dependent on freshwater provisions from threatened upstream water sources, with 82% of the world’s population served by upstream areas exposed to the highest levels of threat. Industrialized countries are often successful in offsetting threats on their freshwater provisions via infrastructure investments, realizing up to 70% reductions in threat. However, the least developed countries, due to economic constraints, realize fewer gains in threat abatement (<20% threat reduction) employing traditional engineering solutions. Developing countries, although highly constrained in their capacity to mobilize hard infrastructure investments, represent a significant global opportunity for adopting new and innovative nature-based or green water management approaches that could simultaneously promote human well-being and environmental benefits at a lower costs than traditional engineering. This study, reported in the September 2015 issue of Global Environmental Change, presents a new global framework that not only maps the state of freshwater resources and levels of service it conveys to downstream users throughout the world but also provides a critical tool to prioritize national investments to better manage these valuable resources.

Sustainable development demands reliable water resources, yet traditional water management has broadly failed to avoid environmental degradation and contain infrastructure costs. This project explores the global-scale feasibility of combining natural capital with engineering-based (green-gray) approaches to meet water security threats over the 21st century.

Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study

Long-term ecological research in the northern hardwood forest.

ESI Researcher: Peter Groffman

The Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study is a long-term, collaborative research program that takes place in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, a 7,800-acre field site in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. For more than six decades, scientists have used long-term monitoring, experiments, and modeling to build fundamental knowledge about the northern hardwood forests of eastern North America. The Study is a partnership among the USDA Forest Service, the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) and Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) programs, the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, and scientists from research institutions throughout the world.

The goal of the Northeast Regional Earth System Model is to better understand the interaction between our infrastructure, land, atmosphere and freshwater systems and to provide insight on the implications of environmental management decisions.

Rivers in Crisis

Global Threats to Human Water Security and River Biodiversity

ESI Researcher: Charles J. Vörösmarty

Rivers maintain unique biotic resources and provide critical water supplies to people. The Earth’s limited supplies of fresh water and irreplaceable biodiversity are vulnerable to human mismanagement of watersheds and waterways. Multiple environmental stressors, such as agricultural runoff, pollution and invasive species, threaten rivers that serve 80 percent of the world’s population. These same stressors endanger the biodiversity of 65 percent of the world’s river habitats putting thousands of aquatic wildlife species at risk. Efforts to abate fresh water degradation through highly engineered solutions are effective at reducing the impact of threats but at a cost that can be an economic burden and often out of reach for developing nations. The project’s analysis, reported in the September 30 issue of “Nature” represents the first global-scale initiative to quantify the impact of these human-induced stressors on human water security and riverine biodiversity.

Sub-Saharan Resilient Water Systems e-Network

An International Partnership for Green-Gray Infrastructure to Improve Water Security

ESI Researcher: Charles J. Vörösmarty

A virtual partnership dedicated to forwarding the joint use of traditional engineering (gray) and nature-based solutions (green) in the design and implementation of innovative 21st century water security solutions across sub-Saharan Africa.  The eNetwork promotes student and young professional training as well as expert knowledge exchange provided by its many eNetwork partner institutions. We together address issues of resilience, risk, and improved decision making across scales to improve the efficiency, cost effectiveness, and long-term sustainability of green and gray infrastructure investments in the water sector.