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TIE has chosen 11 Fellows for their 2017-2018 cohort!

These 11 graduate students represent the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, the School of Engineering, the Friedman School of Nutrition, and many others. The research projects are also very diverse, with focuses based on food security for smallholder farmers in Guatemala to the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the Atlantic and Pacific marine environments.

 

The current TIE Fellows will begin work on their research projects over the summer. In addition to the funding awarded to these Fellows for their projects, they will also participate in workshops devoted to research presentation skills, understanding and navigating a literature review, and grant writing. The goal of the Fellowship is to give students the opportunity for interdisciplinary engagement with their peers and TIE affiliates, and provide a supportive community for the pursuit of scholarship, research, and professionalization. We are very excited about the incoming cohort, and look forward to the results of their projects!

Isabel Beavers
Master of Fine Arts, Museum Studies Certificate
The Communicative Power of Contemporary Art: A case study of environmental public art in Bozeman, MT

The Communicative Power of Contemporary Art investigates how contemporary art can foster interdisciplinary relationships on current environmental issues. It involves two distinct but related projects, Upstream in which I author my own art installation about water quality in southwestern Montana, as well as Waterworks, a series of large-scale public art works in which I assist in production and educational programming. Through the TIE Environmental Fellowship I will expand the scope of these projects asking how these projects function to integrate scientific research on water conservation, artistic research that seeks to understand the communicative power of contemporary art, and how art can function for social and environmental change. Through participation in community panels, informal and formal interviews, discussions and other assessment methods I will evaluate the effectiveness of the public artworks in creating a community awareness and knowledge of water conservation. This project fosters collaboration within Tufts, between Tufts and Montana State University, and most importantly within the Bozeman and Southwestern Montana community. It fuses scientific and artistic research practices, utilizing both in the creation of a shared knowledge about environmental conservation and water resources.

 

Anne Christian
Master of Science in Conservation Medicine; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Parasite Load of Atlantic Sturgeon in the Hudson River During Breeding Season 

Atlantic Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus oxyrhynchus) are endangered after centuries of human-induced environmental disruptions.  Examining parasite loading on the fish population will indicate stress levels during the spawning season, a gap in previous research.  This study will characterize variations in parasite loading in Atlantic Sturgeon in the Hudson River over the duration of the spawning season.  Studying variations in parasite loading is applicable to the broader goals of maintenance of the sturgeon population and recovery of the species and its environment.

My research involves collecting parasites from live Atlantic Sturgeon, determining severity of infection and identity of specimens. The overall parasite loading and diversity can be compared over the four-week breeding season.  Further data will be collected on sex to compare to parasite loading.  The results of this project will show how parasite burden varies within sturgeon populations and what effect this might have on survival or breeding success.

Abby Clayton
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine; Master of Public Health
Antimicrobial Resistance in Rehabilitated Harbor Seals in British Columbia: A Temporal Assessment

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global public health threat, affecting humans and animals in every country. Antibiotics are becoming ineffective, making normally treatable infections difficult or impossible to treat. AMR bacteria are entering the marine environment through freshwater outflow, wastewater treatment runoff, and aquaculture. Rehabilitation facilities, where incapacitated wild animals are commonly treated with antibiotics before release, could act as another environmental entry point. This study will determine the temporal patterns of AMR bacteria cultured from rehabilitated Pacific harbor seals over the last 10 years in British Columbia, and compare them to trends observed in Atlantic harbor seals. We will retrospectively analyze medical records for harbor seals treated at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (MMRC) for AMR bacteria prevalence. We will swab harbor seal pups in rehabilitation at the MMRC during 2017 for culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing upon admission and release into the wild. This will establish current AMR prevalence, and determine the associated risks and impact of rehabilitation on the animals’ AMR prevalence upon release into the environment.

Anthony D’Angelo
Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
Solvate Ionogel Electrolytes for Lithium-based Energy Storage

Energy storage research and design has been a focal point for the advancement of renewable energy technologies, such as electric hybrid vehicles (EHVs) and remote solar and wind farms, typically accomplished by means of lithium-ion batteries. Recently, lithium metal batteries have received attention due to their ability to provide up to 2-3 times the energy density relative to existing lithium-ion batteries on the market today, creating the potential to develop a lighter, more compact battery. Lithium metal batteries utilize a high capacity lithium metal anode that is inherently unstable and requires optimization of the electrolyte-anode interface to fabricate a safe and long-lasting battery. My research aims to investigate the stability of a lithium metal battery utilizing our laboratory-developed solvate ionogel electrolyte comprised of a cost-effective ionic liquid, namely a solvate ionic liquid, that possesses low volatility that diminishes the risk of a fire.

 

Tatyana Kalani
Master of Science in Conservation Medicine
Geospatial Assessment of Environmental Lead Contamination in Somerville, Massachusetts: Can we identify lead exposure hotspots for humans, domestic animals, and wildlife?

Through increasing industrialization, environmental lead contamination has shown to be of concern for humans, animals, and environmental health. While animals may acquire lead toxicity through soil and water sources, humans can additionally obtain lead toxicity through urban farming practices. However, there is currently a lack of information on the level of environmental lead contamination. Therefore, we will perform a geospatial assessment of environmental lead exposure risk in the urbanized city of Somerville, Massachusetts. Sampling of soil in Somerville will be interpolated and combined with other variables to create a risk map to identify environmental lead contamination hotspots in Somerville. Furthermore, this map – combined with demographic data and animal land-use data – will offer a means to educate the public on a sustainable future in urban farming, promote conservation, and further research across other cities.

Jessica Rozek
Ph.D. in Biology
Human-wetland-bird interactions in Trinidad and Tobago

Jessica’s research interests include vulnerability of ecological systems, wetlands and avian ecology.  Wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet, especially in the Caribbean. The Caribbean’s diverse wetlands support one of the most remarkable events in the natural world, the large-scale migration of birds between continents. Trinidad and Tobago retain some of the largest remaining wetlands in the Caribbean and are a key link in a major migration route, over 100 species use the islands during their semi-annual journeys.  Currently, Jessica is working on a project to evaluate the vulnerability of wetlands and wetland birds and the potential for mutual gains in human-wetland-bird networks in Trinidad and Tobago using an interdisciplinary social-ecological approach.

Ilin Sadeghi
Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering
Heavy Metal Ion Removal using Novel Functional Membranes

Industrial wastewater is a major source of environmental pollution. Heavy metals are among the most dangerous contaminants even at low concentrations. Metal ions are not biodegradable and can accumulate in the living organisms. They can be highly toxic by binding to cell membranes. This hinders their function, causes neuronal damage, bone toxicity and cancer. Membrane separation processes offer a green and energy efficient technology for removing heavy metal ions from surface water. Some of the major problems associated with commercial membranes include low binding capacities, low selectivity for metal ions, complicated fabrication routes and high operating pressure. Ilins’ studies focus on fabrication of novel membranes with small pore size (1-3 nm) by self-assembly of functional polymers that incorporate binding sites for metal ions in a single-step and scalable fabrication process. The proposed membranes can selectively bind to metal ions while simultaneously removing microbial and larger pollutants through size-based filtration at much lower pressure than current membranes. Thus, synergistically combining benefits from high flux and low operating pressure of current ultrafiltration membranes (i.e. membranes with pore size of 5-100 nm) with high selectivity and capacity of adsorption processes. She also aims to explore the feasibility of using these membrane adsorbers for compact, portable filtration units to provide safer water in rural areas, short-term crisis (e.g. natural disaster, war, humanitarian purposes) and even camping and hiking.

Tessa Salzman
Master of Science in Agriculture, Food & Environment; Master of Arts in Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning
The Intersectionality Between Farm Labor and the Environment

As population growth and climate change highlight the biophysical limitations of our planet, the ability to construct a sustainable food system is vital to both human and environmental health. While food production is clearly dependent on human labor and environmental resources, there is a lack of understanding around how these two inputs are in turn impacted by the agricultural system they are a part of. This research aims to identify and understand the interdependent outcomes of labor policy and environmental policy on farms in the US. Bringing together issues of labor, agriculture, immigration, environment and federal policy, this research seeks to demonstrate the relevance of labor in environmental research and policy making, expanding conventional thinking about what constitutes a sustainable agricultural system. The outcome will expose opportunities for better policy coordination across agencies to support the interdisciplinary goals of sustainability, social justice and health.

John VanderHeide 
Master of Science in Nutrition Science and Policy, Agriculture, Food & Environment; Master of Arts in Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning
Participatory Food System and Water Footprint Modeling in SW Guatemala

I am particularly excited to be going back to Guatemala for this research project.  It is home to 23 Mayan groups with farming cultures that date back millennia, but currently 80% of the arable land is owned by 5% of the population which pushes many indigenous farmers onto marginal land.  The impacts of these inequities were demonstrated in 2014 when an El Nino drought caused such wide crop failures that the World Food Programme provided emergency aid to 150,000 smallholder farmers in Guatemala while the country enjoyed 5-year record highs in the production of the water intensive export crops banana and sugar cane.  This project seeks to work with stakeholders and civil society organizations from three Guatemalan departments (Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu, and San Marcos) to develop a series of food system and water use models that will aid in decision making and in the advocacy work of the Pastoral de la Tierra of San Marcos (PT).  The PT is a small branch of the Catholic Dioceses which focuses on resolving agricultural conflicts and promoting more sustainable and just agricultural systems.

Lauren O’Brien 
Master of Science in Agriculture, Food & Environment

Kristin Sukys 
Master of Science in Agriculture, Food & Environment
Lost Food:  A Quantification and Systems-Thinking Comparative Analysis of Food Loss in Meal-Kit and Supermarket Supply-Chains for Innovation and Strategic Development

Building on our preliminary research on food waste quantification methods and systems dynamics, we will create and implement a consumer survey to quantify and assess the impact of meal-kits in consumer behavior around food waste. We define a meal-kit supply-chain as a system of food distribution through which food is delivered directly to consumers in a “kit” form, containing specific ingredients for a predetermined meal. Food loss has been quantified throughout the food system in peer-reviewed and government publications, but not for a meal-kit supply-chain. A meal-kit company has provided access to the consumer-base in their New York distribution center. The project will take place in three main phases: In phase one, we will develop and implement a comprehensive online consumer survey quantifying the difference in food waste at the consumer level between meal-kit sourced food and supermarket-sourced food. Using key indicators of consumer food waste, we will include questions to assess how consumer behavior in consumer-level food waste changes after meal-kit use. In phase two, the data will be analyzed with a systems-thinking approach and through multivariate statistical regression methods and trend analysis in STATA. We will develop a comprehensive model to intuitively demonstrate key elements of the system (stocks and flows, relationships and components) and quantify food loss at each level both food system models (i.e. supermarket versus meal-kit). In phase three, innovative management and marketing strategies and tools will be developed for food loss reduction at critical points in meal-kit and supermarket supply chains.