A Sampling of Graduate Student Research Interests

Ida Ansharyanis research

Smallholders’ Adaptation to Climate Change in Indonesia

Ida Ansharyani

I established my own NGO concerned with environmental education in Sumbawa Indonesia where I manage several marine and forest conservation projects. I decided to do my PhD to help me better develop my projects for the people in the Island where I live. I am now writing my dissertation about smallholders’ adaptation to climate change in Sumbawa, Indonesia. I am doing my research in the upper watershed context where forest degradation is continuing in high biodiversity forests that provide important environmental services for the population in the watershed. My research explores climate change adaptation policy for watershed, smallholders’ vulnerability to climate change, traditional climate knowledge, and adaptation to climate change.

brady research

Rapid Shoreline Change Along Alaska's North Slope

Michael Brady

As a Human-Environment Geographer, I study how climate change constrains and enables resource use at the local community scale. My research emphasizes collaboration to include stakeholders in the research process for development of geographic information system (GIS)-based decision support systems. I use GIS, remote sensing, and cartographic tools to engage stakeholders in collaborative research. My dissertation research examines local community impacts of rapid shoreline change along Alaska's North Slope coast driven by sea ice loss, permafrost thaw, and sea-level rise. To enhance usability and decision relevancy for local managers, I do this research in collaboration with affected communities.The research is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (award # 1523191)

Gendered Seascapes in Senegal

Amelia Duffy-Tumasz

My dissertation interweaves long-standing and contemporary debates in feminist political ecology and Africanist household studies to reflect on how structure, technology and work are profoundly gendered processes in Senegalese fishing economies. Combining a commitment to empiricism with a critical framework, I argue that understanding political ecological factors that enhance social differentiation among and between women and men are crucial to theorizing access.  I elaborate how: female fish processors transformed waste into products to be sold; migrant laborers consented to a hegemonic regime of masculinity as they sought social adulthood as boat owners; and a highly publicized gender conflict over the installation of a fishmeal-producing factory evoked an evolving conjugal contract to contest intergenerational transfers of fish, as cases in point.

tabby fenn

Ecological Communities within Protected Areas

Tabby Fenn

The selection, management, and fate of ecological communities within Protected Areas (nature reserves, parks, and preserved lands) are the focus of my research. My dissertation draws upon my interest in the interaction between human social processes and the ecological processes co-occurring within the landscapes where Protected Areas exist.
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Long-distance Migratory Bird Conservation

Jenny Isaacs

As a PhD Candidate in the Rutgers Geography Department, I am a critical human-environment geographer researching and teaching about the challenges of long-distance migratory species conservation. I serve as Co-President and Annual Conference Organizer for Natura, an Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Working Group at Rutgers focused on the History of Science and Epistemology. In 2014, I won the Geography Department’s Graduate Teaching Award as well as an Association of American Geographers award for Best Graduate Paper in Animal Geography.
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Marine Systems in India

Divya Karnad

I have worked in marine systems in India for nearly a decade now. I started off as a conservation activist, then as an ecologist, but at present, I am trying to understand fisheries in India as a coupled human-natural system. With the help of Dr Bonnie McCay and Dr Kevin St. Martin, my research will explore the patterns and processes involved in access and control of Indian fisheries, as they are constituted and bound at different scales of governance. Fishing communities in India are poorly understood, and they remain at the fringes of politically active society. Still, fishing communities have come together in the past to create national-level political actions that have repercussions on who gets to fish and where they get to do so. I will compare across communities to look for the drivers and consequences of differing patterns of access and control over fishing grounds.


Garbage Governmentalities and Environmental Justice in New Jersey

Raysa Martinez Kruger

In this dissertation I research the evolution of garbage governance approaches in New Jersey and related geographies from the 1870s through the 1970s. My goal is to examine how governance approaches are implicated in the production of contrasting but mutually-constituted landscapes of garbage disposal and environmental cleanliness. This work gives special attention to how the current pattern of landfills, incinerators, and solid waste transfer stations in the State came to be distributed among differently situated people and places, especially during the State's implementation of a solid waste flow control policy in the 1970s and its cited spatial, environmental, and economic components.
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Violent Waste

Hudson McFann

In April 1975, after five years of civil war with the US-backed Khmer Republic, the Khmers Rouges captured Phnom Penh. Then, almost immediately, guerrilla forces of the nascent regime began displacing city dwellers and refugees from the capital to the countryside. They provided a multifold rationale for this draconian transfer of the population. Among the reasons conveyed was that it was a procedure of sanitation: they needed to “clean up” the city.

samiah moustafa in greenland

Influences of Global Climate Change on the Hydrology of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Samiah Moustafa

Samiah Moustafa's research focuses on studying the influences of global climate change on the hydrology of the Greenland ice sheet. Some of the most exceptional global environmental changes are occurring in the high latitudes of the Arctic, particularly along the Greenland ice sheet. Due to a warming climate, Greenland ice sheet mass loss has accelerated, strongly driven by enhanced meltwater runoff exiting to surrounding oceans. This may have profound implications for regional hydrology, ocean circulation, as well as global sea level rise. Despite climate models and satellites confirming these recent trends, urgent questions regarding Greenland ice sheet's meltwater losses and its future sensitivity to climate change are not well understood. more ➤

Coming Face to Face With War

Ariel Otruba

To better understand the impact on everyday life in villages affected by the occupation along the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary Line, Ariel Otruba wanted to experience it. So Otruba spent the summer of 2014 in Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, to learn the language and get to know the people. She felt that a personal involvement would help her produce a more effective dissertation. Read the full Feature article in Rutgers Today

Diya Paul

Wildlife Conservation Outside Protected Areas

Diya Paul

My research focuses on wildlife conservation in forests that lie outside Protected Areas. Working in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh (India), I plan to explore the social, ecological and political factors that converge to conserve wildlife in forests that have historically played a role in connecting two distinct biogeographic regions, the Eastern and Western Ghats.  more ➤

sharpe research photo
Hurricane Damage in St. Lucia
Photo: Fairtrade.org.uk

Framing Food Security and Building Resilience as a Nation in the face of Climate Risk: The Case of Jamaica

Charlene Sharpe

The study will focus primarily on how food security is framed in Jamaica and perceived by various stakeholder groups especially within the frame of climate-forced food insecurity. What climate risks are projected to impact on food security and can communities build resilience and climate adaptation strategies to ensure their food security? The overarching question therefore is: How does Jamaica frame food security as a nation in the face of climate related risks and build resilience?


Analyzing Climate Change Governmentality, Activism and Adaptations in Gujarat, India

Kalpana Venkatasubramanian

My dissertation uses a governmentality lens and Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine the narratives through which climate change discourse, policy and action emerge in Gujarat, India as shaped and produced by state and non-state actors and their potential outcomes for current and future adaptation strategies. more ➤

A Sampling of Former Graduate Student Research Interests

septa map

The Public Transit Agency: Movement and Mobility in the Climate Change Era

Mark Barnes

Intrigue surrounds institutions responsible for mass population movement within and between urban regions during the course of hazard events, as this very hard and complicated task carries with it enormous risks and significant rewards. One mobility institution, in particular, the public transit agency, has entered our field of vision in recent years because severe weather events have exposed its operational systems and hard infrastructure (e.g., transit vehicles, rails, tunnels, etc.) weaknesses at great spatial and temporal scales. Across the ‘global North’ and ‘global South’ these weaknesses are being further exacerbated by exposures to budget shortfalls due to global economic crises; aging modal and civil infrastructure; increasing ridership resulting from rising gas prices; and fluctuating city and regional boundaries due to industrialization, urbanization or a combination thereof. more ➤

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The Politics and Practices of 'actually existing sustainabilities': Urban Forestry and Urban Agriculture in New York City

Lindsay Campbell

My dissertation examines how the politics and practices of urban forestry and urban agriculture in New York City are negotiated. It centers on the municipal long term sustainability plan, PlaNYC2030, which was created in 2007 and updated in 2011. From this entry point, it pivots to examine the network of actors, institutions, discourses, and socio-natural environments that constitute urban forestry and urban agriculture as natural resource use systems. It asks: what actors via what institutions make what claims (resting on which assumptions) in order to shape the goals that are set within the plan? What accounts for the varied treatment of urban forestry and agriculture in a single city within a single sustainability planning process? more ➤

community gardens

Production of Community Gardens

Luke Drake

My dissertation research focuses on the production of community gardens—the processes through which they are planned, created, maintained, and changed. In other words, I am interested in how these spaces come to exist. Much is already known about the purposes and effects of community gardens, but less is known about how they work. I draw on poststructural theories such as diverse economies and actor-network theory to investigate the many different types of spatial relations that constitute these space, and asking questions about community and scale. Community gardens are a widespread and diverse practice—they are in every U.S. state (and other countries too), found in many different types of cities, and involve many different types of people for many reasons. A better geographical understanding of how community gardens work will help increase our knowledge of how urban space is being created and help the efforts of community gardeners.

John Mioduszewski

Harbinger of Global Warming

John Mioduszewski

Snow has been melting sooner across much of the Northern Hemisphere at least since the beginning of the modern satellite era in the late 1970's. This has been most evident in regions of high latitude and altitude where continuous snowcover is an annual occurrence, and melt occurs in a relatively well-defined melt season. The significance of this melt process and its timing lies not only in using it as a harbinger of warming in one of Earth's most climatologically sensitive regions, but the subsequent strong feedbacks within the climate-cryosphere system that are altered as a result of earlier melt. My goal is to understand why this is occurring within the uncertainty range of inter-annual and -regional variability. more ➤

nisa pows

Evolving Spaces of Bodily Control

Richard Nisa

In my dissertation I explore spatial and technological shifts in American-run military detention dating from the signing of the Geneva Conventions in 1949 to the present day. I describe the historical development of techniques of bodily control as framed by two seemingly irreconcilable goals: one premising security on the confinement of the unruly body and the other seeking to both define and control that body through the management of spaces and technologies of circulation. My work suggests that military detention is a vital and continuously evolving instrument in discourses of security and the geography of violence.
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pangallozzi photo

Class Dimensions of Racial and Ethnic Conflict

Laura Pangallozzi

My dissertation considers tensions under racial transition in inner suburbs of Newark, NJ, where local gentrification strategies have provoked controversy. Integration management (IM) markets housing to whites in order to slow black settlement. From the practice flow questions: How do residents, new and old, black and white, interpret IM? Who wins and who loses with its implementation? More broadly, how do race and class intersect in the peculiar geography of the inner suburb?
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Joshua Randall

Water and Forest Resources

Joshua Randall

I am a second year MS student whose research interest lie in resource management, sustainability, and political geography. I am particularly interested in the use of GIS, remote sensing and spatial statistics in the study of these topics, especially water and forest resources and their political implications. My thesis will be a spatial and statistical analysis of water demand characteristics in the Phoenix, AZ metro area. My work with the EDGY project involves EVI damage analysis of forested areas in the Yucatan.

sarmiento reseach image

The Local Food Movement in Oklahoma

Eric Sarmiento

My dissertation presents an in-depth case study of the local food movement in Oklahoma, beginning with a genealogy of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, a unique statewide enterprise constituted by both producer- and customer-owners, and a range of non-human participants, from microbes to ice chests, open-source software to tribal governments. Tracing connections between this enterprise and a series of actors operating at varying spatial and temporal levels, the account goes on to explore how the Cooperative and the broader local food movement articulate with other groups of actors, including regulatory agencies and well-established commodity production networks, and processes such as urban redevelopment, the ongoing construction of race and class, and the territorial struggles of different species of grasses in the state. Drawing on posthumanist and feminist approaches to affect, embodiment, and distributed agency, the project considers the local food movement's efforts to expand while confronting issues of exclusivity and convergence with conventional food systems. Offering concrete insights into the challenges facing alternative food networks, my research also aims to contribute more broadly to contemporary efforts to reformulate science, politics, and economy.

Soft Law and Scientific Uncertainty: the case of New & Emerging Issues at the Convention on Biological Diversity

Debby Scott

I study the production of global governance of emerging techno-scientific objects. My research uses the treatment of biofuels and synthetic biology within the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a case study of how varying kinds of scientific uncertainty are dealt with in the process of developing global mechanisms of governance. A significant part of my data collection occurs through participant observation at CBD negotiations – taking copious notes and pictures, following up with negotiators and participants for interviews, and understanding the evolution of documents through rounds of revisions.
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Integrative Graduate Education & Research Traineeship (IGERT) article

abidah cropped photo

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

Abidah Setyowati

My dissertation research focuses on exploring the process and politics of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) policy development and implementation through investigating a case study in Indonesia. It will specifically assess efforts to attain REDD+ potentially competing goals of conservation and development. The proposed research will deepen theoretical debates in the emerging climate change studies literature through documenting and analyzing the set of changes that have been implemented under the “plus” in REDD+ initiatives. It will constitute one of the first empirical studies to explore the effectiveness of the expanded agenda envisioned by REDD+ policy makers. The proposed study will also examine the significance of local agency in shaping the global REDD+ agenda. The fact that the project is also being implemented in Indonesia, the world’s second largest contributor of carbon emissions resulting from deforestation and one of its most critical biodiversity hotspots, suggests that it will be closely studied as a model for future climate mitigation initiatives. The broader impact of the new knowledge created by this research will be to assist policy makers to develop better tools for the assessment of climate change mitigation projects, and thereby ensure that such projects are more likely to improve human development and empower forest dependent communities in the future.

 Asher at lunch in Niamey, Niger with climate experts from ACMAD, 2010

Assessing the Potential of Index Insurance as an Adaptation Tool in a Changing Climate Context: Case Study in the West African Sahel

Asher Siebert

My dissertation research attempts to address a case study of how index insurance, a type of financial adaptation to climate risk, may itself be challenged by the dynamics of a changing climate. Given the shortfall of global adaptation financing relative to need through top-down "official" channels, there is evident need for bottom-up, public private partnership and market based approaches to adaptation that can be scalable. Weather/climate related index insurance is a form of insurance that is based on a geophysical index that pays out to a client population when a particular trigger index level is reached. more ➤

 Kim on her first visit to the Ganges

Political Ecologies of Conflict: Transboundary River Governance in
South Asia

Kimberley Thomas

My dissertation combines political ecologies of resource governance, critical geopolitics, and environmental history to analyze processes of conflict and cooperation over transboundary rivers in South Asia. Focusing on the Ganges River, my work questions the conventional wisdom that disputes over international rivers solely exist between states co-located along a watercourse. Although hydrological hazards in Bangladesh are overwhelmingly ascribed to upstream water practices in India, my work identifies enhanced vulnerability to floods, droughts, and seawater intrusion as pernicious outcomes of foreign development interventions. more ➤

Patterns of Land Use and Land Cover Change in the Tropics

Irene Zager

I am broadly interested in drawing from human-environment geography, landscape ecology, remote sensing and geographic information science in order to answer questions related to current patterns of land use and land cover change in the tropics, and their socio-ecological impacts.

My doctoral dissertation research aims to characterize forest fragmentation in the Calakmul - Sian Ka’an Biological Corridor, Mexico, over the last four decades, and understand how it relates to forest damage and initial recovery from the impact of hurricane Dean (2007). My methods include a detailed temporal analysis of available land cover products, socio economic data, and plot-level field sampling data. Improving our understanding of the synergistic effects of fragmentation and hurricanes on forest dynamics in the Mexican Yucatán is particularly relevant in light of current predictions of increased hurricane intensity associated to global environmental change in the future.

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