Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

2012-2013 Fellows

Natividad Chen '13 has been fascinated by the ocean since scooping up zooplankton during a sixth grade field trip to Bamfield Marine Station in British Columbia, Canada. At Brown, she is a concentrator in marine biology. This summer, she worked with Professor Mark Bertness and EEB graduate student Lauren Szathmary to examine how climate change impacts salt marshes. Salt pans are bare areas within marshes, and their expansion reduces the marshes’ ability to generate essential ecosystem services. Her project involved shading treatments to test whether solar stress drive salt pan formation. She also helped with Lauren’s research which investigated whether drought and elevated temperatures cause pan development. Even though the results from the shading experiments were inconclusive, rain-out and greenhouse manipulations seem to show that the amount of rain and temperature level are key climate variables that affect pan growth. The experiment data has all been collected, but the data still needs to be analyzed for statistical significance. Natividad is from beautiful Vancouver, Canada and loves to draw critters and creatures in her spare time.

Emma Dixon '13 is an environmental science concentrator interested in human-managed and urban ecosystems. In collaboration with Chris Neill (Marine Biological Lab) she is studying the effects of urban development on plant communities.  Over the summer and fall of 2012 she conducted surveys in residential yards and unmanaged reference sites in the Boston area to compare site-level plant biodiversity to intensity of urbanization. She also conducted interviews with homeowners about use and management of their yards. Throughout this process she learned just how complicated plants and people can be, but she can now identify lawn grasses without flowers. She is now working with Erika Edwards (Brown) to compare the phylogenetic diversity and degree of urban development in the sites surveyed. This will shed some light on how plant communities might change with urban intensification in the Boston region, an inevitable consequence of increasing population. 

Hannah Miles '13 is an environmental studies concentrator from Brooklyn interested in forest conservation policy and environmental education. She is working with Caroline Karp (Environmental Studies) and Lisa Primiano (RI Department of Environmental Management) to investigate different methods of forest conservation in Rhode Island and to help shape a cohesive strategy for RIDEM’s land acquisitions. Hannah recently returned from studying rainforest management in Queensland, Australia. She is a community fellow for the elementary literacy Swearer Classroom Program and plays for Brown’s women’s rugby team.

Becca Rast '13 is an Environmental Studies and Africana Studies concentrator interested in the impact of natural resource extraction on communities, and particularly on farmers. In collaboration with Profs. Stephanie Malin and Kathy DeMaster she investigated the impact of unconventional gas drilling on farmers in Pennsylvania. In particular, she explored why different farmers have leased their lands and farmers reactions to the swift expansion of drilling.  She is spending this year writing her thesis regarding the ways in which drilling is changing agriculture — in particular how the economic benefits of leasing land is impacting farmers. Rast hails from Pennsylvania, so this project hit close to home and she enjoyed spending the summer meeting many amazing farmers and hearing their stories.  Through her summer experience she was able to learn more about the complexity of drilling in PA and think critically about the swift changes to these rural communities. She is active with the Brown Student Labor Alliance, the Environmental Justice League of RI, and other community organizations in Providence. She also loves farming, old-time music, and bonfires.

Mary Alice Reilly '13 is an Environmental Studies concentrator interested in sustainable agriculture and regional food systems. In collaboration with Professor Kathryn DeMaster and partners at John Hope Settlement House (JHSH), Mary Alice is using her hands-on experience as John Hope’s school garden manager and garden educator to inform her research on urban agriculture (UA) and food justice (FJ). What are the intersections of UA and FJ, particularly in the U.S.? And how can various forms of UA contribute to realizing FJ at John Hope? Given the content of numerous surveys and interviews conducted this summer, Mary Alice and JHSH community members both recognize the untapped potential for UA- beyond the school gardens- to impact the broader JHSH community. As such, Mary Alice shifted her focus to identifying the potential opportunities and challenges for establishing other forms of UA at JHSH, particularly the remediation and development of an adjacent brownfield site into additional food production space. Recommendations for UA development and planning at JHSH may contribute important insights to grassroots organizing, community development and/or policy for leading UA, FJ and policy organizations that influence the regional and national food system.

Elizabeth Ryan '13 is an Environmental Science and Architectural Studies concentrator interested in conservation biology and ecology. She is working with Professor Dov Sax (EEB/ES) and Michael Dosmann (Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum) to better understand how plant species ranges will respond to climate change. This past summer, she looked for seedlings of North American exotics at botanical gardens across the east coast to broaden existing knowledge of where certain plants can reproduce. In addition to the Arnold, Elizabeth conducted field work in Pennsylvania at the Tyler Arboretum and Bartram’s Garden, and in New York at the Cary Institute. This reproduction information, when matched with climatic data, will be used to pinpoint certain species traits that can guide predictions of where plants will be able to survive in the future. The aim of this investigation is to help determine which species are appropriate for “managed relocation”, a strategy in which human’s move plants that might not be able to move themselves. The constant guidance of the Arnold Arboretum”s Living Collections curator, Michael Dosmann, was invaluable when navigating the world of public horticulture. Equally helpful were  the plant identification skills, and stories about the Arboretum’s trees, that he passed along to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams at Brown. A native of the Northeast, she enjoys triathlons, pick-up soccer, skiing, catching insects, and herding sheep and goats.

Katherine Siegel '13 is an environmental science concentrator interested in conservation biology and environmental policy. She is working with Professor Heather Leslie (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology/Environmental Studies), Dr. Leila Sievanen (Environmental Studies), and Dr. Sheila Walsh (The Nature Conservancy) to analyze the relationship between national regulations and species ecology in small-scale fisheries in Mexico’s Gulf of California. She will compare management practices at the federal and local levels with species’ life histories with the goal of developing proposals to increase the sustainability of the region’s ecologically and economically vital fisheries. She is a peer advisor in the Center for Environmental Studies and volunteers with the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment Program.

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