Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

2017-2018 Voss Fellows

Fiona L. Beltram '18
Concentration: Biology
Research Mentor: Jon Witman

The productivity and diversity of reefs in the Galapagos Islands are closely tied to El Niño cycles. Shifts in temperature and nutrient supply associated with this phenomenon can affect biological interactions in the subtidal community, sometimes leading to the introduction of novel species. In 2016, at the peak of the strongest El Niño event since 1997/1998, researchers from the Witman Lab observed a new cyanobacteria at several study sites, forming extensive mats over the reef surface. Beltram’s research investigates the potential introduction mechanisms and ecological effects of this cyanobacteria, especially its palatability for grazers. 

Kelsey M. Fenn '18.5
Concentration: Environmental Science
Research Mentor: Stephen Porder

Fenn is studying the dynamics of plant growth in tropical ecosystems. She is using a greenhouse experiment to study how abiotic and biotic factors help or constrain the ability of legume trees to fix nitrogen. Understanding mechanisms and patterns of nitrogen fixation will help to outline practices for reforestation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon. Reforestation will play a critical role in mitigating climate change. 

Geoffrey D. Kocks '18
Concentrations: Applied Mathematics, Hispanic Studies
Research Mentor: Andrew Foster

Kocks is researching the impact of Cuba's growing tourism industry on methods and patterns of local food production, particularly in urban areas. Anecdotal evidence supports competing claims on whether Cuban tourism has encouraged or hindered local food production, and he hopes to match environmental and economic data from the past decade to assess these effects empirically. His research combines two new data sets generated as part of his project: remote sensing data to quantify agricultural land area and food price data collected from private food markets in Havana. His work will help evaluate the full environmental effects of economic growth strategies that focus on tourism.

Clare E. Peabody '18
Concentration: Environmental Science
Research Mentor: Dov Sax

Peabody will use data from the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) to investigate range shifts and decadal-scale regime shifts in the assemblage composition of ichthyoplankton in the southern California Current.

Jarunetr Sae-Lim '18
Concentration: Geology
Research Mentor: Yongsong Huang

Wildfire is an important disturbance in Arctic ecosystems and can cause abrupt perturbations in global carbon cycling and atmospheric chemistry. Over the next few decades, arctic fire frequency, intensity and extent are projected to increase due to anthropogenic climate change, as regional air temperatures are increasing at more than twice the global average. In order to be better able to predict the effects of human-caused climate change, it is crucial to study past climatic changes and their effects, using a high resolution proxy. Sae-lim’s project will use charcoal and other past wildfire residues in lake sediment cores from the Alaskan arctic as a proxy to determine the history of natural wildfires in that region because wildfire frequency and extent are likely to correlate with climate changes.

Kaya C. Salem '18
Concentration: Environmental Studies
Research Mentor: Timmons Roberts

Over the past decade, Rhode Island legislators, regulators, and policy makers have embarked on a series of policy initiatives to help the state transition to a modern, low-carbon electrical system. Some of these policy initiatives, like the Comprehensive Energy Conservation, Efficiency, and Affordability Act of 2006, have successfully transformed the way Rhode Island reduces carbon emissions. Others have become bogged down in bureaucracy or haven't produced the results that environmentalists hoped. Salem theorizes the variances in effective implementation correspond to contrasting policy design, stakeholder input processes, and activist action. To test this theory, Salem is conducting research by comparing four different case studies of energy policy in Rhode Island. Salem’s hope is that conclusions drawn from this research will aid local advocates and policymakers in their efforts to transition Rhode Island to a more sustainable, just electricity system.

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