Undergraduate Research in Environmental Analysis

Environmental analysis offers a wealth of topics for students to dive into via research projects. Below are some recent Summer Undergraduate Research Projects by environmental analysis students. 

The Environmental Heritage of Claremont: A Story of Powerful Women and Foothill Preservation

Pauline Bekkers ’21; Advisor: Char Miller

This research examines Claremont’s environmental heritage. The city has taken major steps to protect its open natural areas, referred to as Urban Protected Areas. Though interviews, research in archives, and field studies, I have explored the history of nature in Claremont and how humans have interacted with it. A combination of factors including a culture that supports citizen participation on political issues and a significant percentage of residents with higher education has promoted the protection of open space – with the majority of residents understanding that these Urban Protected Areas are important for education, nature preservation, and recreation. Women, particularly members of League of Women Voters (LWV), played – and continue to play - a dominant role in conservation efforts in the city. Since the 1950s the LWV pushed for the preservation of open space in the hillsides, urging the city to buy parcels of land and eventually opening this open space to the public for recreational use in the form of the 1693-acre Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP). Although CHWP provides access to nature for residents of Claremont and the region, there remain many challenges. Climate change and increased urban development are threatening such Urban Protected Areas as the CHWP, so that it is vitally important that the community understand Claremont’s environmental heritage and use that legacy to create even more open space for those living in Claremont in the 21st Century.

Mapping The Slum Divide: Testing Geocoding Certainty To Examine Disease Presence Across The Formal And Informal Urban Divide In Rio De Janeiro

Zachary Wakefield ’22; Advisor: Guillermo Douglass-Jaimes

Geocoding converts an address description into a physical location on the earth’s surface. Errors in this process impact public health and environmental surveys and initiatives, among other things. We aim to establish a framework for address data cleaning for assessing the accuracy of Google Earth and ArcGIS in geocoding said addresses. This research provides a novel perspective by focusing on Brazilian addresses, where address formatting is not yet fully standardized, especially in regions officially classified as aglomerado subnormais (AGSN)—the Brazilian Census Bureau’s term that equates to slum, which describes areas lacking in basic municipal services.

Results: Geocoding match rates were higher when address formatting was standardized, and Google Earth was particularly unlikely to yield matched results if components were misspelled, out of order, or duplicated. For the addresses that did geocode successfully, there were consistent discrepancies between Google Earth and ArcGIS coordinates, though most geolocations were within 200 meters of one another. Whereas Google Earth often placed coordinates in the middle of a forest or a road, most ArcGIS-geolocated coordinates were clearly placed within a defined building parcel. This suggests that ArcGIS may be a better-suited geocoding service for Brazilian addresses. Future research might explore possible sources of geocoding error and the geocoding accuracy level necessary to assess specific gradients of pollution or disease.