New Podcast from the Center for Sustainable Communities and Planet Philadelphia

The Center for Sustainable Communities, in conjunction with Planet Philadelphia, has produced a new podcast covering the proceedings of a recent NSF-funded workshop hosted by the CSC focused on sustainable infrastructure. Bringing together researchers in social, engineering, health, data, and environmental sciences from across the region and the country, along with practitioners, industry leaders, government agencies, educators, and community organizers, the workshop sought to address the role of infrastructure in shaping sustainability, equity and well-being across the urban-rural gradient.

Recognizing the popularity of podcasts, and their potential as an important tool in science communication, the CSC partnered with Planet Philadelphia, a weekly community radio program based in Philadelphia and centered on environmental issues. Kay Wood, host of Planet Philadelphia and Linda Rosenwein, Planet Philadelphia assistant producer, along with Geography and Urban Studies graduate students conducted interviews with participants over the course of the three day workshop. The end result provides not only insights from area experts into challenging sustainability issues, but also a rare view for non-academics into the processes and practices of trans-disciplinary science.

The podcast aired April 17, 4-5:00 pm EST, 92.9FM WGGTLP in Philadelphia and is available for streaming on You can also find the podcast using the following link.

NSF Sustainable Urban Systems Workshop: How Does Infrastructure Shape Equity and Well-being across the Urban-Rural Gradient?

Principal Investigator at Temple University: Melissa R. Gilbert
Collaborators: Laura Toran, Hamil Pearsall, Victor Gutierrez (Temple University), Eduardo Brondizio (Indiana University), Simi Hoque, Franco Montalto (Drexel University), Bill Solecki (CUNY-Hunter), Christa Brelsford (Oak Ridge National Library)
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This workshop, held September 11-13, 2019 brings together multiple stakeholders from academia, municipalities, industry, and non-profit and community organizations to discuss how infrastructure shapes equity and well-being across the urban-rural gradient for Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) in the Philadelphia metropolitan region. The workshop brings together academics from geography, engineering, anthropology, hydrology, biology, planning, public health, and other fields (with research expertise in Philadelphia and beyond) with representatives from local government, non-governmental organizations (environment, regional planning, education) and industry to achieve three objectives: 1. Identify new conceptual frameworks, research questions, methodological challenges, and data gaps for a convergence science of equity and well-being for SUS; 2. Identify new models and challenges of co-production of actionable knowledge for SUS; and 3. Determine the scalability of the conceptual frameworks to the regional and global scale. We use the Philadelphia metropolitan region and its associated urban-rural gradients to develop our frameworks because it provides a compelling site for the study of infrastructure, equity and well-being as one of the largest, oldest, and poorest cities in the US. It also has a high density of universities with relevant research centers, and the Philadelphia Office of Sustainability has a Greenworks initiative to address municipal sustainability. Philadelphia has an active and extensive network of non-profits who grapple with the reality of social and economic polarization on a daily basis.

Transdisciplinary Sustainability Science Research: Conference and Workshop

Principal Investigator at Temple University: Melissa R. Gilbert
Funding Agency: Oak Ridge Associated Universities

The symposium held March 22-23, 2018 brought together top-level researchers and students working in ORAU and other institutions on topics related to the social, environmental, economic, policy and cultural dimensions of sustainability science. The purpose is to inspire and outline the next frontier of research for understanding and anticipating pressing sustainability challenges as well as for facilitating the contribution of science and academia to enabling societal transitions toward sustainability. We expect to identify gaps, provide a conceptual framework, and outline a transdiciplinary sustainability science research agenda with hypotheses, key questions and funding strategies for research proposals.

Synthesis of the Benefits and Costs of Urban Public Spaces

Principal Investigator at Temple University: Hamil Pearsall
Collaborators: Anneclaire De Roos, Patrick Gurian (Drexel University), Yuki Kato (Georgetown), Michelle Kondo (USDA Forest Service)
Funding Agency: William Penn Foundation

Urban public spaces impact quality of life for communities. They build community and sense of place within a city, and they catalyze economic development. They provide benefits for both the local environment and the health of people who live in them. However, the nature of public space is changing. There are new models of public space provision and management that shape the distribution, accessibility, and use of public spaces.

This project brings together an interdisciplinary team of social scientists, health and engineering scientists from multiple institutions to synthesize research on the economic, environmental, equity, health, and social benefits and costs of urban public spaces in American cities from 1990 to the present.

We found that public spaces serve as anchors for the social, economic, and health aspects of communities. They benefit and shape residential development, economic development, environmental quality, and physical and mental health. Further, civic participation makes public spaces what they are, through collective uses of non-traditional public spaces, as well as civic stewardship and voluntary maintenance of parks and trails. Yet, there are major disparities in public space access that limit the equitable distribution of those benefits. Low-income and racial minority communities consistently have lower levels of access to public spaces. Finally, public spaces present an opportunity to preserve and improve the environment in cities by lowering local temperatures, reducing stormwater runoff, and creating habitats to promote biodiversity. Our study also identifies a series of knowledge gaps to inform future research, practice and policy on urban public spaces.

Integrating Earth Observations with User Needs for Biodiversity Decision-making in Colombia

Principal Investigator: Victor Hugo Gutierrez-Velez (Temple University)
Collaborators: María Cecilia Londoño (Insitute for Biological Resources, Alexander von Humboldt), Wilson Lara (Temple University), Miguel Mahecha, Lina Estupiñàn (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry)
Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Earth Observations data and products represent great potential for understanding, managing, and conserving biodiversity. The ability of decision-makers to translate this vast amount of data into information for practical decisions is constrained by differences in data structures, sources, and formats and the complexity of operations necessary for data assimilation, merging, analysis, and interpretation. Overcoming these constraints is critical in Colombia, where recent and unprecedented achievements to end more than 50 years of internal war constitute challenges and opportunities for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Current high rates of deforestation and ecosystem degradation constitute sensitive pressures for biodiversity conservation. Colombia is also one of only three countries worldwide pioneering the implementation of a national Biodiversity Observation Network (BON). The Colombian BON has identified as crucial, the need to provide processing tools and analytical skills to decision-makers for integrating biodiversity information into national and regional development planning.

We are developing a Decision Support System (DSS) for Biodiversity Conservation and Management in Colombia. The DSS will facilitate the integration, processing and analysis of Earth observations in one platform, to inform biodiversity decision-making. The DSS will allow users to bring existing Earth Observations into compatible data structures and to develop metrics for different geographic domains and time periods. The toolset will be accessible at two “tiers” of complexity, suitable to different levels of user expertise. Project activities include workshops, training sessions and webinars to broaden the participation of stakeholders in the development of the DSS and to build capacity for its use for research, policy decision-making and environmental monitoring.

Sustainability Variations in Mexico City Metropolitan Area 2000-2018

Principal Investigator: Carlos Topete Pozas (Temple University)
Funding Agency: Concejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mexico)

Urban sustainability in megacities metropolitan areas have become a central concern in the context of global environmental change. Population growth and urban expansion have exacerbated socio-environmental problems placing megacities on the edge of sustainability. Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) is one of the biggest human agglomeration on earth and a great example of socio-economic attributes. This research aims to study land cover/ land use changes occurred in MCMA during the last two decades, using remote sensing analysis to foreseen variations on sustainability. Land use change and variations on sustainability are key processes that must be linked for a deeper understanding towards an urban sustainable scenarios. Deep understanding of the processes of change is crucial for stopping and reverting undesirable land use changes and sustainability issues and its triggering forces.