Core Faculty Research


  • Robin Leichenko - economic geography, climate and society, globalization, urban and regional vulnerability and resilience, equity and environmental justice
  • J. Kenneth Mitchell - human response to environmental hazards; environmental policy and planning; global environmental change
  • Åsa K Rennermalm - hydrology, climatology, Arctic region
  • Dave Robinson - climatology, climate change, snow dynamics
  • Laura C. Schneider - land change science, biogeography, Latin America, remote sensing and GIS
  • Rick Schroeder - development and underdevelopment, political ecology, Africa, agriculture, gender, environmental justice, community forestry
  • Kevin St Martin - economic geography, diverse economies, political ecology, community and commons, critical cartographies, GIS

Featured Research
Professor Kevin St. Martin (left) meeting with fishermen. Discussions like this are one type of participatory action research with fishing dependent communities.
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The Economic and Equity Implications of Climate Change

Robin Leichenko

I’m currently working on several research studies of social and economic vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in New York and New Jersey. In the New York projects [project website], which I’m working on in partnership with researchers at Columbia, Cornell, and CUNY, we are investigating the potential economic costs and equity implications of climate change for eight economic sectors including agriculture, ecosystems, coastal zones, energy, transportation, communications, public health, and water resources. The New Jersey research is focused on identification of key economic vulnerabilities to climate change and options for adaptation in a broad range of economic sectors. Each of these studies employs a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods including vulnerability and risk mapping, cost-benefit analysis, and stakeholder and expert interviews.

Neglected human dimensions of hazards and disasters

mitchell coconuts

James K. Mitchell

I am engaged in several long running research projects that seek to illuminate aspects of human engagement with environmental hazards that have not received adequate attention from mainstream scholars. The purpose of these projects is to broaden public discourse about hazard as one way of encouraging the growth of larger, more permanent and more effective constituencies for the use of hazard information in the management of disruptive change.
1. Transitions of knowledge about human adjustment to climate risks. It is important to push back the historical record of what humans have done about floods, storms, droughts and other extreme events because existing knowledge about society’s responses to climate risks is largely based on 20th century data. These are too limited to reveal the kinds of far-reaching transitions of thought and action that previously developed over decades to centuries but are now being forced more rapidly by globalization and other societal pressures. This project is being addressed by means of trans-Atlantic library research on newspapers, letters, diaries and other documentary evidence from the 19th, 18th and late 17th centuries, with a particular focus on Ireland and the Northeast USA.
2. The Shantytown Mapping Project. The widespread availability of high quality aerial imagery for many major urban areas is making it possible for laypeople, as well as experts, to gain a better understanding of the hazard vulnerability of communities at risk to extreme natural events. This project explores the feasibility of identifying, analyzing and classifying shantytown vulnerability to flooding in large poor cities of the developing world. More ➤

Understanding Arctic hydrologic change

Åsa K Rennermalm

Temperatures are increasing faster in the high northern latitudes than the rest of the earth, and projections for the next 100 years suggest drastic changes to many aspects of the Arcticclimate system. Indeed, a largenumber of observational studies indicate thatthe high northern latitudes arealready transitioning towards a new climate state. One aspect of high-latitude climate that show signs of change is its land surface hydrology. In this project, large scale data sets and model outputs are analyzed to better understand thegeographical pattern of change and the drivers for thesechanges.

Understanding Greenland ice sheet hydrology

Åsa K Rennermalm

Ice covers most of the island of Greenland. Observations and climate models indicate that surface melt area and intensity on the Greenland ice sheet is increasing, and will continue to increase. Accelerated ice and water mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet could increase global sea levels significantly. An urgent scientific unknown of our time concerns the sensitivity of the Greenland ice sheet to climate change, and the potential impact of its melting on global sea levels. A fundamental unresolved research question is: How much meltwater is the Greenland ice sheet losing to the ocean? In this project, this question is addressed by collection of field data, construction of mathematical models, and analyses of satellite remote sensing data.

Snow within the Climate System

Dave Robinson

The distribution of snow cover across the globe, relationships between snow and other climate variables and snow as an indicator of climate variability and change are all explored by a team of students, post docs and staff within the Rutgers Global Snow Lab led by Professor Dave Robinson.

New Jersey Climate Variability & Change

Dave Robinson

How does New Jersey’s weather and climate impact the well being of Garden State residents today, and howmight this change in the coming decades?

The Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist, led by Professor Dave Robinson collaborates with colleagues from academic, government and private sectors to gain a better understanding of New Jersey's climate system and how it impacts natural and built environments.

Environmental Disturbances in the Greater Yucatán

Laura C. Schneider

The Environmental Disturbances in the Greater Yucatán [EDGY] project seeks to understand the social and ecological impacts and responses of natural disturbances, with a focus on Hurricane Dean, which struck the Yucatán Peninsula in 2007. Assistant Professor Laura Schneider leads a joint effort of Rutgers University-Geography, Clark University, The University of Virginia, and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR). We employ a combination of remote sensing analysis, ecological field assessments, household- and community-level interviews and surveys in order to map and monitor hurricane-related damage, assess individual- and plot-level damage and understand impacts on livelihoods and market opportunities. We are also interested in understand the relations of disturbance events to fire regimes, invasive species, and landscape composition.

Africa after Apartheid: South African Capital, Race and Nation in Tanzania

Rick Schroeder

The economic boycott launched by the global anti-apartheid movement in the 1970s and 1980s had the dual effect of isolating South African capital and simultaneously insulating much of the rest of the continent from direct competition with South African firms. With the formal end of apartheid in 1994, however, hundreds if not thousands of South African corporations suddenly set their sights on investment targets elsewhere in the region. The threat of economic domination generated acute anxiety among regional observers, and the fact that most of these initiatives were led by white investors was equally disconcerting. This was not what most Africans expected from their first encounter with the “new” South Africa after apartheid. This project analyzes the social and cultural dynamics that accompanied the dramatic reconfiguration of Africa’s economic geography in the post-apartheid period. Its focus is the former “frontline” state of Tanzania, once one of the staunchest opponents to apartheid. In a particularly ironic twist of fate, Tanzania emerged as a preferred destination for South African capital when the anti-apartheid boycott ended in the early 1990s. Several thousand South African whites subsequently took up residence in the country and saturated its economy with foreign capital and imported goods – a stunning change of events for Tanzanians. Controversies in the mining and safari industries and several other sectors of the economy experiencing expanded South African investment are a primary focus of this project. It also tracks a spike in race consciousness that has accompanied the emergence of de facto all-white bars, restaurants and clubs catering in part to a South African clientele. Finally, it examines the anger and resentment expressed by Tanzanians who are increasingly fearful that South Africans are bent on reproducing apartheid on Tanzanian soil.

Assessing the Potential of Participatory Environmental Mapping

participatory mapping boats


st martin chart

Kevin St Martin

My current research continues to be focused on the project of Drawing Communities Together (see below) via participatory action research with fishing dependent communities. Such communities are increasingly subject to an ongoing implementation of new marine resource governance projects (e.g. Marine Spatial Planning) which are rapidly altering local economies, cultures, and livelihood opportunities.

Drawing Communities Together: Assessing the Potential of Participatory Environmental Mapping for Marine Resource Management and Community Development is one project which investigates how the documentation of local ecological knowledge (LEK), particularly via mapping technologies, works to support community and place identities as well as community-based social and economic development in “first world” sites. The project entails collaboration with partners in the Fávllis network at the University of Tromsø, Norway who are documenting LEK and other socio-ecological data in the fishing communities of Northern Norway. I am engaging with the Fávllis project and comparing it to my own similarly structured research in the Gulf of Maine in the Northeast U.S.

Other current projects include the examination of community supported fisheries (CSF) as an emerging model of an alternative market and food network. CSFs are organized similar to community supported agriculture (CSA) but must address the additional problems of a common resource and a regulatory regime unsuited for CSFs or the cooperativism which they engender. How are such organizations and alternative markets emerging despite these formidable challenges? How are they spreading to other locations both nationally and internationally? Do they emerge from or do they constitute alternative economic and environmental subjects? These and related questions are being pursued with partners at the Island Institute, Duke University, and the University of Tromsø.


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