AREA 4: SCIENTIFIC TOOLS FOR
RESPONDING TO SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGES
In this area, students learn how to use scientific tools in order to prevent, detect, respond and adapt to pressing sustainability issues, such as the loss of biodiversity, climate change impacts, soil and water contamination, and threats to populations.
SUSC PS5120 The Technology of Renewable Energy
Instructor: Jonathan Hollander
Renewable energy is generated from natural processes that are continuously replenished. Aside from geothermal and tidal power, solar radiation is the ultimate source of renewable energy. In order to have a sustainable environment and economy, CO2 emissions must be reduced (and eventually stopped). This requires that the fossil fuel based technologies underlying our present electricity generation and transportation systems be replaced by renewable energy. In addition, the transition to renewable technologies will move nations closer to energy independence and thereby reduce geopolitical tensions associated with energy trading.
This course begins with a review of the basics of electricity generation and the heat engines that are the foundation of our current energy systems. This course will emphasize the inherent inefficiency associated with the conversion of thermal energy to electrical and mechanical energy. The course then covers the most important technologies employed to generate renewable energy. These are hydroelectric, wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, geothermal, biomass/biofuel, tidal and wave power. The course ends with a description of energy storage technologies, energy markets and possible pathways to a renewable energy future.
SUSC PS5135 Air Pollution and Measuring the Environmental Burden of Disease
Instructor: Dr. Steve Chillrud
In this course, students will first be provided with a global perspective on the current status of environmental problems and the leading environmental contributors to the burden of diseases. Students will then introduce how air pollutants are produced, transported, and what are their environmental fates. This course will cover how air pollutants are measured and monitored, including government monitoring networks, NASA remote sensing techniques, and research tools for fixed site monitoring (indoor and outdoor) and personal level monitoring. Students will be able to learn basic concepts about the toxicity and target organs of different pollutants, both of which are important to understand dose-response and health outcomes. Building on knowledge of exposure and toxicity, Students will then introduce risk assessment and the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) associated with air pollution. Their usage in evaluating sustainability as well as their limitations will be introduced.
The course will provide students with the methods and tools to understand, monitor, and analyze current environmental health threats in air, and explore strategies for policy interventions for solving these at times complex challenges. Students will leave the course with a stronger sense of the power, and limitations, of environmental data and better equipped to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of new interventions. After completing the course, students will more confidently be able to apply core scientific concepts to evaluating and addressing public health challenges posed by, for instance, fine particulate (PM2.5) contamination.
SUSC PS5350 Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage
Instructor: Dr. David Goldberg
This course covers the technical and non-technical aspects of Carbon Utilization and Storage (CCUS), one of our most important and achievable tools to mitigate climate change. The course begins by presenting our global energy needs and the environmental motivation for CCUS and its natural analogues. Students will review the basic concepts and methods involved in CO2capture, trapping, and monitoring, as well as established methods for modeling the fate of CO2in the subsurface. Students will then consider the needs and implications of CO2capture from industrial sources (power plants) and directly from ambient air and examine current examples from around the world. This course will go on to discuss integrating CCUS with renewable energy sources (negative emission) and ocean storage options. Students will think through the challenges associated with CCUS, including the transportation of CO2to storage locations, regulations and incentives, and the public view and acceptance of this technology. The course will end with a discussion of where to go from here to find pathways to a carbon neutral future.
At the conclusion of this course, each student will have gained a practical understanding of the potential for CCUS solutions to mitigate climate change and gain experience in presenting related technical and non-technical information to their peers. This will critically inform decision making and hone communication skills for future careers in fossil and renewable energy generation, power distribution, manufacturing, environmental policy, and scientific outreach.
SUSC PS5130 Improving Health through Environmental Measurements in Water and Soil
Instructor: Dr. Lex van Geen
This course will lead participants through a series of case studies of environmental contaminations of natural or man-made origin. Topics include soil contamination with lead from mining and other industrial activities, and natural well-water contamination with arsenic are some of the topics to be covered. One of the goals of the course will be to develop the critical sense needed to distinguish undisputable harm from poorly substantiated claims and concerns by both reading the primary environmental and public health literature and analyzing existing data sets. The course will cover cases of egregious exposures in developing countries, as well as some environmental issues in and around New York City. The course will provide students with the opportunity to learn how to use and deploy several field kits and monitors for analyzing water, and soil, and assess the quality and implications of their own data. An emphasis on empowerment through measurement, mapping, and sharing of information will lead to a discussion of regulation, policies, and mitigation to reduce the burden of disease caused by environmental exposures in both industrialized and developing nations.
The course will provide students with the methods and tools to understand, monitor, and analyze current environmental health threats in water and, and explore strategies for solving these at times complex challenges. Students will leave the course with a stronger sense of the power, and limitations, of environmental data and better equipped to evaluate and communicate the effectiveness of new interventions. After completing the course, students will more confidently apply core scientific concepts to evaluating and addressing public health challenges posed by, for instance, soil and water contamination with lead.
SUSC PS5040 Sustainability in the Face of Natural Disasters
Instructors: Dr. Einat Lev and Dr. Suzana Camargo
Natural hazards, naturally occurring phenomena, which can lead to great damage and loss of life, pose a great challenge for the sustainability of communities around the world. This course aims to prepare students to tackle specific hazards relevant to their life and work by providing them the scientific background and knowledge of the environmental factors that combine to produce natural disasters. The course will also train students about the methods used to study certain aspects of natural hazards and strategies for assessing risk and preparing communities and businesses for natural disasters. The course will cover a range of natural hazards, including geological, hydro-meteorological, and biological. The course will emphasize the driving physical, chemical and biological processes controlling the various hazards, and the observation and modeling methods used by scientists to assess and monitor events. Many case examples, including hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that occurred in the last five years, will be given and analyzed for the characteristics of the event, the preparation, and the response.
By providing students with a solid understanding of past natural disasters, the course prepares them to think more critically about creating more resilient communities, which can resist catastrophic events. Students will be studying the underpinning scientific principles of natural disasters but will also learn specific strategies for planning, mitigation, and response. During the course, students will master cutting-edge tools and technologies that will prepare them to work in the complex and demanding field of disaster management. After completing the course, students will be able to understand past events, communicate risk, and make critical decision related to disaster and preparedness. In increasingly unpredictable times, there is a need for more resilient and connected communities, and this particular course will train students in both the knowledge and skills needed to lead and strengthen those communities and resilience efforts at scale.
SUSC PS5250 Quantifying the Financial Impact of Climate Change: Scientific Tools and Applications
Instructor Dr. Marco Tedesco
Investors in residential and commercial real estate, and those in infrastructure, are potentially exposed to risks of flooding, droughts and forest fires as a consequence of the reverberations of climate change on environmental factors and weather. Such risks are higher for stakeholders with properties close to the coast or in regions where drought and forest fires are increasing (e.g., the Western U.S.) as well as for financial institutions that finance their purchases and hold their securities. Risks associated with sea level rise, flooding, inundation and other extreme events have generally not been properly assessed nor quantified and it is currently hard for investors to assess the risks that they now face, and will face in the future, from climate change. Since Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy this has been changing and the 2017’s hurricane and forest-fire seasons (with four major hurricanes landing over southeast U.S. and fires in northern California killing more than twenty people) have been catalyzing this change.
This course will cover issues related to quantifying the impact of climate change on the financial and house markets and provide the students with updated references and recent progress on sea level rise, inundation and floods. This will be followed by the introduction, explanation and implementation of analytical and quantitative tools for estimating the increasing risks of extreme events using global and local scales. This will be complemented by a similar approach focusing on the financial and house markets. Students will be applying these concepts and knowledge to case studies concerning extreme weather and flood events such as Sandy, Katrina (or similar) to develop professional skills that will be applicable to other sustainability or extreme cases, either for mitigation and adaptation or for response purposes. Moreover, ‘Modules’ will be developed and offered that will specifically focus on practical aspects of the course and its applications. These include: GIS software (QGIS), basic programing (Python, Matlab, etc.) and other related aspects.
SUSC PS5330 Environmental Investigation and Remediation
Instructor: Edward Garvey
This course covers the major steps in the investigation, assessment and remediation of contaminated sites. The course will introduce the student to the multidisciplinary aspects of environmental remediation, an important background for any environmental career, such as an environmental consultant, a corporate remediation manager or a government regulator. Management and remediation of contaminated sites is an important consideration in sustainable regional development, since failure to control contamination usually yields an ever increasing area of impact, with greater environmental and societal costs. Using US EPA Superfund guidance as a framework, the course will explore the major steps in identifying a site, establishing the degree of contamination, identifying the likely ecological and human receptors, and selecting and implementing a remedial action. The Superfund process has been extensively developed through more than 30 years of legislature and agency guidance, and now provides a robust approach for pollution assessment and remediation. Contaminated sites typically involve a broad spectrum of contaminants across at least two media, including soils, sediments, groundwater, surface water, and air.
This course examines the main steps involved in environmental investigation and remediation primarily from a technical perspective, although legal aspects will be incorporated at the major decision points in the process. In particular, the course will focus on the main environmental sampling and analytical techniques needed to conduct a remedial investigation, and cover some of the main remedial engineering considerations for the successful selection and implementation of a remedy. Students will be assigned one of several completed Superfund sites to track the application of the Superfund process to a real world example as the class proceeds, providing a regular link between theory and application.