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Center for the Urban Environment

Who We Are Syracuse Urban Long Term Research Area (ULTRA)

This group of investigators represents a broad variety of academic perspectives and experience working with international, national and regional (e.g. Great Lakes) energy, water and air quality, conservation, forestry, and urban issues. They are affiliated with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), the SUNY ESF Center for Urban Environment (CUE) (www.esf.edu/cue), the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station’s Urban Forestry (USFS) unit located on the SUNY ESF campus, and the Upstate Freshwater Institute (UFI), all located within the City of Syracuse. They have a long history of collaborative research, teaching, and publication.

Research Teams and Objectives

A. Measuring and Modeling Rust Belt City Metabolism – Net Production and Energy Fluxes at the Local to Regional Scale
(Charles Hall (energy, ecology, modeling); Dave Nowak (urban forestry), Myrna Hall (urban and spatial ecologist), graduate student Steven Balogh).
Objectives: a) quantify urban structure and ecosystem services within the neighborhoods and at the City scale; b) quantify SEM and energy budgets for natural and human-dominated systems within the region to determine if the city and neighborhoods could be sustained using local to regional production.

B. Neighborhood LULC Impacts on Atmospheric Pollution and Air Temperature (Myron Mitchell (biogeochemistry, air pollution effects on ecosystems), Gordon Heisler (urban meteorology), graduate student Shannon Buckley).
Objectives: a) characterize and compare air temperature and pollutant fluxes and concentrations in the downtown area and at an urban residential site in the Strathmore neighborhood; b) develop models that predict the influence of vegetative and impervious land cover on the spatial pattern of temperature and air quality; c) predict spatial patterns of temperature and air pollutants under different atmospheric forcing conditions; and d) explore how changes in temperature affect human comfort.

C. Neighborhood LULC Impacts on Storm Water Quality and Quantity
(Steve Effler (freshwater ecosystems), Dave Matthews (freshwater ecosystems), Karin Limburg (systems ecology, fish biology), Bongghi Hong (hydrological modeling), Myrna Hall (urban and spatial ecology), graduate student Ning Sun)
Objectives: evaluate a) sediment and nutrient loading, b) hydrological flows, and c) in-situ ecosystem metabolism as a function of both current LULC and future possible alternatives using GI.

D. Human Dimensions, Governance of Neighborhoods and Design Applications – Linking Stakeholders with Green Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services
(Brenda Nordenstam (risk perception and communication), Emanuel Carter (urban planning and design), Valerie Luzadis (ecological economics), Richard Smardon (environmental planning), graduate students Katie Barnhill, Kristy Barhite, Barbara Rodriguez)
Objectives: a) develop a structure for sharing data, resources, and collaborative hypothesis building related to metabolism, policy, social systems and ecosystem services; b) integrate this information in analyses that help understand the interactions between green and gray infrastructure on human attitudes and traditions affecting acceptance of such infrastructure; c) explore with local and regional decision makers the most important decision driving factors related to LULC and integrate this information in GI planning from neighborhood to lot scales; d) explore neighborhood perceptions of ecological diversity and ecosystem services; e) determine the impact of historical urban design and mortgage lending policies begun in the 1930s on vegetation cover in Syracuse; f) ascertain which city planning and design principles, strategies, and techniques offer the best legal, procedural, and administrative support for implementing GI for urban revitalization, and the enhancement of desirable green metabolism, and g) investigate the socio-ecological and spatial implications of new LULC patterns that can be applied to the city’s traditional and projected urban design structure.

E. Education and Outreach
(James Gibbs (conservation biology), Richard Beal (urban environmental education; educational outreach), with participation of all investigators and graduate students Sam Quinn and Elizabeth Hunter)
Objectives: The primary objective of this work is to embed the project goals within local urban school systems to facilitate education on urban metabolism, ecosystem services, and contemporary evolution in the urban environment to foster a sense of urban ecosystems as being comprised of dynamic and inter-related components. We will develop two web-based programs to engage citizen participation in ecosystem science and contemporary evolution. They include a) a web-based survey form for residents to reply to questions about urban greening (given in #1 in the full proposal), and b) web-based interface for citizen-based mapping of squirrel color variants as “backyard-based” research about biological evolution and diversity (Hunter and Gibbs 2006). For this project, honorariums will be provided to four teachers to review the material and web site design. The purpose for this review is to integrate such material into the State education standards, e.g., for high school this means, “living environment/ecology” and for middle school this means imbedded within general education. The overall goal of the squirrel mapping activity (Gibbs 2009) is to cultivate interest in New York’s native fauna, biodiversity issues, and the process of evolution, especially on the part of urban and suburban dwellers. Fostering citizens’ appreciation for nature, which is a prerequisite for becoming environmentally concerned and informed citizens.

Syracuse ULTRA Participating Investigators


Graduate Students