Category: International Activity


Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Caroline Bond makes this connection in Manila, Philippines. This current event was reported in Citiscope, on June 23, 2016, under the title, Cleaning up Manila’s Pasig River, one tributary at a time, by Anna Valmero. This is a believable news story, based on a report from 2011 that stated that Benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers (BUVSs), a component of many consumer products, including plastics, building materials and personal hygiene products were found in fishes collected and analyzed from Manila Bay. Manila Bay is fed by the Pasig River. To find more about the accumulation of plastic byproducts in the Manila Bay area, see “Contamination and bioaccumulation of benzotriazole ultraviolet stabilizers in fish from Manila Bay, the Philippines using an ultra-fast liquidchromatography–tandem mass spectrometry”, available online.

This is a WRE story at its core because the solution to keep the water ways clean from pollution requires engineered prevention and continued treatment of contamination. The main message of this article, is that cooperation by both the government and the community is essential for implemented solutions to work. This is important news because it is a success story. In the past year since the project was technically completed, heavy rains have flooded some parts of Manila. Noticeably however, the project has succeeded in keeping the neighborhood around Estero de Paco above water. This article failed to mention in detail the timeline of the problem from the beginning to the end. To know how long the time was between the mere annoyance of a few plastic things floating around to the findings of the bioaccumulation in the Manila bay fish, to the beginnings of restorative efforts until the end result of clear waters would be helpful in order to fully gage how effective the response was.

Figure 1. The cleanup of Manila's Estero de Paco pictured above has become a model for other rehabilitative efforts around other rivers in Manila like the Pasig River.

Figure 1. The cleanup of Manila’s Estero de Paco pictured above has become a model for other rehabilitative efforts around other rivers in Manila like the Pasig River.

Manila is a coastal city, constantly subjected to flooding, when waterways are clogged with garbage to the extent seen in (Figure 1) they lose their ability to drain efficiently. Even moderate rains can quickly overwhelm the river causing flooding to wash up loads of garbage in some cases the same garbage residents tried to dispose of (in the stream) hours earlier. According to Takeuchi (2002) flooding is the most deadly natural disaster, responsible for claiming 40 million more lives just between 1993 and 1997 than drought, winds, landslides, and volcanic eruptions combined. The wastes in standing water have many negative health impacts as they can host mosquitoes and bacterial diseases like leptospirosis which out broke in 2009 after Typhoon Ketsana left Manila submerged for weeks. However the ultimate environmental goal was to stem the flow of waste into Manila Bay where it was being ingested by, and absorbed by, and disrupting the sea life causing still unknown health impacts along food chains. Floods are an economic issue because it disrupts local economies and causes a lot of damage repeatedly. Economically it was struggle for Manila with a highly impoverished community to get behind this project off the ground including a new sewer system however I believe that the benefits will soon outweigh the costs. The constructed wetlands serve a dual purpose as they protect against flooding and create green space which has helped build community, lower the frequency of crime, and bring back tourism to the area as the foul odor that once lingered has mostly left the area. It has also been noted that as a whole inhabitants of manila, are not suffering from illnesses and asthma attacks as much as before. This is a hidden economic benefit as families are now saving money on health related costs.

Reference: Takeuchi, K. (2002, January ). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from Research Gate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228558237_Keynote_lecture_Floods_and_society_a_never-ending_evolutional_relation

 

Environmental forensics professor Dr. Massimiliano Lega of Parthenope University in Naples, Italy recently visited the US to join forces with specialists in remote sensing, modeling, and chemistry and crack down on toxic algal blooms. The story is reported in this National Geographic blog:

Environmental Forensics: Drones and Advanced Technologies to Track Eco-criminals

Below is some of what Prof Lega reported:

The idea for this visit originated in the spring of 2016 while SUNY ESF Prof. Ted Endreny served as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Environmental Sciences at University of Napoli, Parthenope. During this portion of the trip a collaborative manuscript on remotely sensed pollution detection was finalized, two seminars were delivered, field sites were visited, and new professional contacts and proposal ideas were established.

Nutrient management is critical to the water resources of this area, which serve as a drinking water supply as well as many other social, economic, and environmental functions. Two examples of problems include Sodus Bay, New York and Toledo, Ohio.

On Sodus Bay in Lake Ontario for two weeks in August 2010 a bloom of toxic cyanobacteria formed and wreaked havoc on residents and tourists; and on Lake Erie in August 2014 an enormous but short-duration harmful algae bloom shut down the water supply for entire city of Toledo.

Prof. Endreny and I are working with partners from the i-Tree tools consortium, including the ESF professors and students, the USDA Forest Service, and the Davey Institute, to address the nutrient management trigger for these blooms. The i-Tree Hydro and related tools are free to the public, and help communities identify areas generating excess nutrients, their runoff pathway as non-point source pollutants into the receiving waters, and recommend locations for strategic plantings of trees and other green infrastructure to filter the nutrients, using them for useful ecosystem services.

To improve the data input for these models, I met with SUNY ESF Prof. G. Mountrakis(Department of Environmental Resources Engineering) to identify shared research goals and challenges with the use of UAV platforms and sensors in environmental remote sensing of terrestrial and aquatic systems.

My practical experience with flight logistics and converting data into forensic evidence complements and supplements information obtained by Prof. Mountrakis using digital image analysis of satellite imagery. Remote sensing still cannot distinguish between the harmful and non-harmful algal blooms, but research is actively developing rapid and accurate methods for in-situ detection. To this end, Dr. Teta met with SUNY ESF Prof. G. Boyer (Department of Chemistry), Director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium, to discuss collaborative methods to improve harmful algal bloom monitoring and management. Dr. Boyer is the lead in several harmful algal bloom projects, including the Sodus Bay site.

Before leaving SUNY ESF, Dr. Teta and I each delivered a seminar on September 6, 2016 as part of a dinner event entitled, “Environmental Forensics with Remote Sensing Methods”, at Attilio’s Italian Restaurant, in Syracuse, NY. The seminars were sponsored by the Council on Hydrologic System Science ( ) and the SUNY ESF Outreach Office community professional development hour (PDH) lecture series. The audience consisted of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Syracuse University, as well as practicing scientists and engineers from many firms and agencies the community interested in more effective water quality monitoring programs.

This is a dispatch from Theodore Endreny’s sabbatical in Italy….

Greece laid the foundation for modern education with the Socratic method (i.e., engaging in critical thinking to eliminate faulty hypothesis), the Academy (i.e., Plato created a free institution for students to collectively engage with instructors in higher learning), and the Lyceum (i.e., one interpretation, linked to active learning is Aristotle established a learning environment to get students out of their seats, also called the Peripatetic school). This year Greece constructed a high priority educational initiative on this foundation, to find sustainable ways to reduce urban pollution. This initiative is dedicated to training teachers, and by extension the students. As part of the Fulbright Inter-country Lecture exchange between Greece and Italy, I had the chance to participate in this initiative as a representative of the i-Tree and Parthenope urban metabolism research teams. It was my assignment to share important advances in urban environmental management with the school district of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece.

Piraeus is geographically expansive, surrounding much of the Saronic Gulf, steeped in history, having served as the port for ancient Athens, rich in environmental resources due to its mixture of land and sea ecosystems, and a thriving cultural and business district, with cruises to many of the Greek islands. Our workshops occurred on each end of this blue travel line.

Piraeus is geographically expansive, surrounding much of the Saronic Gulf, steeped in history, having served as the port for ancient Athens, rich in environmental resources due to its mixture of land and sea ecosystems, and a thriving cultural and business district, with cruises to many of the Greek islands. Our workshops occurred on each end of this blue travel line.

Researchers want to share their results, so investing in teacher training is extremely rewarding due to each teacher disseminating the information each year to an eager and high energy group of students. Some of those students then take the information into their subsequent learning and careers, influencing others. To achieve this dissemination, I worked with Vasiliki Kioupi of the Directorate for Secondary Education of Piraeus, in the Greek Department of Environmental Education, and Dr. Anna Endreny, Chair of the Jamesville Dewitt Middle School Science Department and an expert in teacher training, active learning, and science education curricular development. Our focus was to create a workshop and lesson plan that addressed a problem important to the teachers and their students, so that it would be used in the classroom, and generate learning outcomes that could guide future coursework and careers.

The problem identified by the Pireaus teachers was urban pollution and the impact to coastal areas, making waters unfit for fishing and swimming, and lands unfit for growing crops. Our workshop team knew that solutions to this problem should consider local constraints, including the prolonged economic debt crisis in Greece. The teachers wanted their investment in a solution to yield benefits to human well being, available to all, particularly the increasing number of poor refugees arriving in the Pireaus port. The teachers and students wanted a solution that they could implement, as individuals and small communities, to empower everyone to contribute to a healthier urban environment. To better understand the local problems faced by the school district, and begin our dialogue on solutions, we toured the land and water resources with the local teachers.

On the left, the Agia Triada cathedral of Pireaus, built in a Byzantine architectural style. It is located on Ethnikis Antistaseos Street. On the right, subsurface infrastructure project has encountered archaeological resources. Green and grey infrastructure updates will be challenging in Greece due to subsurface archaeological riches, surface monuments, and budget constraints exacerbated by debt crisis and refugee crisis.

In the left photo is the Agia Triada cathedral of Pireaus, built in a Byzantine architectural style after being bombed in WWI. It faces onto Ethnikis Antistaseos Street, shown on the right, where a subsurface infrastructure project encountered valuable archaeological resources. Green and grey infrastructure updates will be challenging in Greece due to subsurface archaeological riches, surface monuments, and budget constraints exacerbated by debt crisis and refugee crisis.

The solution we introduced involved planting and managing urban trees to deliver pollution removal and other ecosystem services. Our research team focuses on how the urban forest and each of its trees is fueled by solar, i.e., renewable, energy to provide low-cost, interconnected functions that holistically make urban areas richer in environmental, social, and economic services. Urban trees can be planted and managed by individuals, and they will significantly improve human well being and biodiversity. For water and soil quality problems, our research team promotes use of tree based filters, which have physical, biological, and chemical properties to treat many pollutants.

A tour of Athens and Nikaia. On the left, the stone theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus on southwest slope of Acropolis (5000 seating capacity, originally built in 161 AD, renovated in 1950) overlooking Hill of the Muses (1 of 4 major hills) and the location of Socrates prison. On the right, Column remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus to the southeast, with the National Gardens to the north of the temple, and Panathenaic Stadium (built entirely of marble, hosted first modern Olympics in 1896) further east.

A tour of Athens and Nikaia was designed, in part, to understand the urban landscape and the presence of green areas, and individual trees. We visited the Acropolis to take these photos. On the left, looking southwest, is the stone theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus  (5000 seating capacity, originally built in 161 AD, renovated in 1950) and then the Hill of the Muses (1 of 4 major hills in Athens), which is the location of Socrates prison. On the right, looking southeast, are column remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, bordered by the National Gardens and Panathenaic Stadium, which is built entirely of marble, and hosted first modern Olympics in 1896.

We entitled the workshop, “Advances in urban environmental management”, and at each workshop I was asked to deliver a research lecture on how to improve urban water resources using green infrastructure design. We offered the workshop in two locations, and during each the workshops the teachers would role play the part of a student, engaging in our lesson plans. The first workshop was held at the Public Middle School of Galatas. The second workshop was held at 3rd Public Middle School of the city of Nikaia. Each workshop provided 4 hours of professional development credits for the attending teachers, which is 10% of the total they need to earn each year. The teachers attending the workshop were responsible for courses in biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, environmental education, and student based research projects. We had 16 teachers and 3 community members attend the workshop in Galatas, and 30 teachers attend the workshop in Nikaia. Each teacher teaches on average 100 to 200 students each year, so by training 1 teacher, our message was efficiently disseminated to a much larger audience.

In the Peloponnese are of Pireaus, we visited Galatas, and crossed a 200 m channel to visit the neighboring island of Poros island. On the left, we tour a cave and nearby water sources, and on the right, we lookout over the volcanic activity. The Galatas area has beautiful clusters of pine forests and aromatic shrubs and flowers. We also toured the nearby volcanic peninsula of Methana containing >30 volcanic eruption sites, many of which were visible from the peninsula’s Helona Mountain at 740 m above the Saronic Gulf. This site is considered the western edge of the Aegean islands volcanic arc. While the evidence of eruptions in Methana was still present, with vegetation yet to fully cover lava flows and pyroclastic debris, the most recent eruption was from 230 BCE, as reported by Ovid.

In the Peloponnese area of Pireaus, we visited Galatas region. In the left photo, we tour a cave and then nearby water sources. The Galatas region has beautiful clusters of pine forests and aromatic shrubs and flowers. In the right photo, we toured the nearby volcanic peninsula of Methana containing >30 volcanic eruption sites, many of which were visible from the peninsula’s Helona Mountain at 740 m above the Saronic Gulf. This site is considered the western edge of the Aegean islands volcanic arc. While lava and pyroclastic evidence of eruptions in Methana were still present, the most recent eruption was long ago, in 230 BCE, as reported by Ovid.

The lesson plans were structured to connect the problem to the solution, using cause and effect and deductive reasoning principles. The workshop started with a lecture illustrating how urban pollutants (e.g., nutrients, metals, oils, organic compounds, sediment, etc) travel from yards, sidewalks, parking lots, roads, leaky sanitary pipes, across the landscape or through the soil to receiving waters. This travel is referred to as non-point source runoff. To treat the pollutant during the non-point source runoff process requires mapping its travel, or flow, path across the landscape, and then placing a tree based filter in its path. To better understand the water and soil contamination problem, the students should identify the pollutants (i.e., is it nitrogen or lead?). While schools typically do not have the expensive gas chromatography and mass spectrometry equipment to auto-analyze samples, they can visually characterize samples with microscopes.

Anna and Vasiliki coordinating the computer lessons with SimRiver during the Galatas workshop. The i-Tree Canopy lessons then followed. The success of these computer activities was dependent on the incredible IT support provided by the IT personnel at the Galatas and Nikaia schools.

Anna and Vasiliki coordinating the computer lessons with SimRiver during the Galatas workshop. The i-Tree Canopy lessons then followed. The success of these computer activities was dependent on the incredible IT support provided by the IT personnel at the Galatas and Nikaia schools.

Our first lesson plan connected the complex pollution chemistry of a water sample with a simple, naturally occurring indicator, the diatom. The diatom can be viewed by a microscope. It is a unicellular aquatic plant with > 100,000 species (>200 genera), with varying sensitivity to pollution. In the lesson plan the students used the free, online, SimRiver to: a) virtually collect water samples; b) characterize the diatoms in that sample with microscopes; c) categorize the percent of diatoms that were tolerant or sensitive to pollution; d) conclude if the water sample was polluted or clean based on the diatom categories; and e) categorize the landscape flow path for each water sample; and f) associate clean and polluted water with different landscapes, which were forest, agricultural, and residential, with and without factories. A learning outcome that we emphasized was the association of clean water with landscapes that had more trees.

On the left, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Nikaia workshop. On the right, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Galatas workshop.

On the left, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Nikaia workshop. On the right, a photo of some of the teachers attending the Galatas workshop. The teachers in Nikaia are standing in front of posters that explain environmental research projects conducted by their students.

The second lesson plan had students analyze their landscapes for tree cover, and make inferences about water quality. The students used the free, online, i-Tree Canopy tool to view aerial photographs for an area of interest, and characterize the landscape cover (e.g., tree, house, road) using samples from random points in that area. The scientific method uses random point sampling to improve and qualify the accuracy of our predictions.  We structured the lesson plan to create areas of interest and examine the landscapes around the Greek schools. Once the students determined the percent tree cover for their landscape, they could make inferences about whether the trees were providing a water quality benefit. These inferences are improved by making a site investigation (think active learning, with Aristotle’s Peripatetic school) to examine the likely flow paths for the non-point source runoff, and determine where trees are most needed to intercept and filter the pollutants. The i-Tree Canopy tool also provided a list of other tree benefits, including reductions to air pollutants (e.g., CO, NO2, SO2, PM 2.5) and carbon sequestration, which will help reduce the magnitude of climate change. The discussion of benefits introduced the teachers to the concepts of river basins, and how the landscape cover classification would be used by our i-Tree Hydro model to more accurately predict the water quality impacts of tree cover.

The delivery of the lesson plan ideas and theory to the teachers during the Nikaia workshop.

Anna and Vasiliki during the delivery of the lesson plan ideas and theory to the teachers during the Nikaia workshop. Throughout, Vasiliki would summarize the lesson in Greek, to ensure that language was not a barrier for learning. The Nikaia and the Galatas participants engaged in the Socratic method during these presentations, asking several probing questions to eliminate false hypothesis and focus the discussion on practical solutions to urban water quality pollution. They were extremely interested in tree-based environmental solutions that also improved economic and social well being.

The teachers provided helpful feedback on our “Advances in urban environmental management” workshops. They were generous with their positive comments and gratitude for offering this training; the teachers in Galatas were particularly grateful for us traveling 2.5 hours from Athens to arrive at their relatively remote school, given how expensive it is for them to all travel to Athens for a workshop. The teachers asked for follow-on workshops that continued using hands-on learning, so their students can actively engage in sampling, characterizing, and remedying pollution problems. They also asked that the future workshops continue to use an interdisciplinary approach to problem characterization and solutions. This is motivated by the Greek students taking at least 3 science courses simultaneously, each year, from the offerings of biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and research methods. This interdisciplinary framework is shown to provide the holistic perspective needed for solving complex problems, and is evidence that Greece continues to lead the way in education.

 

Our teacher training workshop team, Noah (for honest feedback from a student on the quality of our ideas), Anna, Vasiliki, and Ted, after delivering the Galatas workshop.

Our teacher training workshop team, Noah (for honest feedback from a student on the quality of our ideas), Anna, Vasiliki, and Ted, after delivering the Galatas workshop.

Acknowledgement: The travel for this project was supported in part by the Greek Fulbright Commission and a USDA Forest Service i-Tree award. Logistical support was provided by Artemis Zenetou, Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, Nicholas Tourides, Educational Advisor of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, and Paola Sartorio, Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Italy. Programming support was provided by Vasiliki Kioupi, Environmental Education Coordinator, Directorate for Secondary Education of Piraeus, Greek Department of Environmental Education. The preparation leading to the workshop was supported by the U.S. – Italy Fulbright Commission and Parthenope University through a Fulbright Scholar grant to Theodore Endreny to serve as Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science at Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, and by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry through a sabbatical leave to Theodore Endreny.

Vasiliki Kioupi, Artemis Zenetou, Nicholas Tourides, Anna Endreny, and Ted Endreny, at the Greek Fulbright Foundation offices.

Vasiliki Kioupi, Artemis Zenetou, Ted Endreny, Anna Endreny, and Nicholas Tourides at the Athens office of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece.

Sean Murphy, who earned his BS from the SUNY ESF ERE department, was the recipient of a Dow Sustainability Fellowship to work on alleviating health problems in Indian slums. Here is the beginning of one report by Sean, with a link to a blog site where you can read more …

“There is a never ending chatter of honks, horns, and beeps from vehicles declaring urgency or simply exchanging pleasantries as my teammates and I are shuttled through busy downtown streets, linked between daily meetings or chauffeured to a magnificent landmark in one of India’s iconic three-wheeled automatic rickshaws. Apprehensive from the overcrowded streets filled with impatient motorists and doubtful of the city’s traffic laws, I lean forward to study the world as it passes and am reminded there is method in the madness. There are children playing cricket in an open lot, merchants sprawled over the sidewalks selling art, clothing, and jewelry, and vendors waiting on corners with panipuri (fried bread filled with flavored water), pav bhaji (vegetable curry), ganne ka ras (sugarcane juice) and other wonderfully aromatic snacks. Homes and shops wedged one on top of another, built of crude materials and standing awry like that of Seussian architecture, colonize much of the valued land. The skyline is sown with corporate and residential high-rises, though many are delayed in construction, windowless, and awaiting occupation.

Indian megacities face several unique challenges in providing even basic needs and services, notably housing, water, and waste management, for one of the largest and most dense populations in the world. Recently launched in 2014, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) is a government campaign and nationwide call to action for a cleaner, healthier, and safer India. The program’s goals are to improve solid waste management through proper disposal, reuse, and recycling, eliminate open defecation through construction of sanitation facilities, and generate public awareness through health education across all twenty-nine states. Achieving these ambitions will be complicated in an urban environment where core problems are magnified in scale, and particularly daunting in Mumbai, where half of the city’s population is estimated to live in slums.”

Read more at Slumdog Engineer.

Sean has completed his assignment, and is now working for the US Indian Health Service, working with Native American communities in South Dakota as they design technical and financial solutions to problems related to water and sanitation.

This is a dispatch from Theodore Endreny’s sabbatical in Italy….

Not only does Portugal define mainland Europe’s western edge, it is also on the cutting edge of Europe’s urban renewal and sustainable landscape design. The country can showcase stunning graffiti and green infrastructure installations that serve environmental, social, and economic goals. Portugal’s portfolio of projects, and the leadership team helping design them, were on display during the early May 2016 workshop, “Design and implementation of urban green infrastructure: adaptation to global change”, held at the University of Beira Interior in Covilha, in the Star Mountain Range. As part of this workshop, I was invited to deliver a seminar on our i-Tree Hydro tool, explaining the new soil water balance routines; these were primarily developed by SUNY ESF ERE PhD student Tom Taggart to respond to grey infrastructure pipes that drain and leak water, as well as green infrastructure devices such as rain gardens, rain barrels, and green roofs.

Green Infrastructure Workshop Panel members. This group of includes an economist, landscape architect, architect, city and regional planner, geotechnical engineer, hydraulic engineer, civil engineer, and an ecological engineer.

Green Infrastructure Workshop Panel members. This group of includes an economist, landscape architect, architect, city and regional planner, geotechnical engineer, hydraulic engineer, civil engineer, and an ecological engineer.

University of Beira Interior engineering department, home to the workshop, featuring tiles from the building's wool factory origins

University of Beira Interior engineering department, home to the workshop, featuring tiles from the building’s wool factory origins

The workshop was strategically small, providing greater impact by providing attendees a rare chance for long and detailed conversations on the challenges and opportunities for sustainable green infrastructure design. The organizers had arranged for participation and talks by a wide range of professionals, both academics and practitioners, and this interdisciplinary mix created several aha moments for participants as we reached beyond our own discipline and learned from our colleagues. The mix of professionals included economists, city and regional planners, landscape architects, architects, geotechnical engineers, civil engineers, water engineers, environmental scientists, and botanists. The students attending the workshop, and the panel discussion, were provided with very practical training. For example, I presented the steps to use the i-Tree Hydro tool, with details on how to obtain and process input data of land cover, precipitation, and terrain elevation, which is used to calculate a topographic index for predicting wet areas that may benefit from more tree plantings. Dr. Cristina Fael explained how to design river flood plains so that they provide riparian forest habitat as well as convey new, likely larger, flood waters due to climate change. And Carlos Ribas explained how to install a green roof that spans about 15 soccer fields, but also includes a variety of slopes, elevations, and functions.

Carlos Ribas on the 8.4 ha green roof he designed fro Alcantara Wastewater Treatment Plant in Lisbon.

Carlos Ribas on the 2.1 ha green roof he designed for Alcantara Wastewater Treatment Plant in Lisbon.

Field tours added to the workshop learning. In Covilha, installations of green infrastructure are fitting into a streetscape that has historic tiled buildings and avant-garde graffiti, both of which celebrate the town’s wool heritage as home to the Royal Textile Factory. In such a setting, street trees and vegetated walls would need to installed such that they enhance, and not obstruct visibility of the graffiti and tiles. Working with biological growth can create graffiti and beauty, as illustrated by Artist William Kentridge who power washed specific parts of the biological muck from stone levees lining the Tiber River right bank, to create expansive, yet disappearing, murals called Triumphs and Laments. In Milan, and increasingly other cities, vertical forests are grown on buildings, again providing an example of creating and not obstructing beauty.

Covilha wool themed graffiti set alongside church tiles from the town's 19th century era as Royal Textile Factory.

Covilha wool themed graffiti set alongside church tiles from the town’s 19th century era as Royal Textile Factory.

Covilha wool themed graffiti celebrating the role of the sheep in sustaining the town's economic past, its eco-tourist future.

Covilha wool themed graffiti celebrating the role of the sheep in sustaining the town’s economic past, its eco-tourist future.

Covilha wool themed graffiti showcasing spinning, and the many threads connecting the society and economy.

Covilha wool themed graffiti showcasing spinning, and the many threads connecting the society and economy, with fresh laundry drying overnight in front of this mural.

In Lisbon, the tour focused on the green roof for the Alcantara Wastewater Treatment Plant, designed by Carlos Ribas and Joao Nunes. This green infrastructure project performs multiple functions, including decreasing the stormwater runoff burden of the plant, the odor of the plant, and the break in landscape connectivity between hill and river initially incurred by the plant, as well as provides a picnic site for the plant workers and an inspirational aesthetic for the tens of thousands of commuters. Back in the University of Beira Interior, a tour of the engineering department featured their laboratory flume used to represent a meandering river and design sustainable floodplains. This laboratory can contribute to analysis of green infrastructure as linear systems, connecting urban to rural landscapes, and providing corridors to support biodiversity and human well being.

Contact information: Dr. Theodore Endreny, te@esf.edu

Acknowledgement: The travel for project has been supported in part by the Portugal Fulbright Commission, the University of Beira Interior, and a USDA Forest Service i-Tree award. The preparation leading to the workshop was supported by the U.S. – Italy Fulbright Commission and Parthenope University through a Fulbright Scholar grant to Theodore Endreny to serve as Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science at Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, and by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry through a sabbatical leave to Theodore Endreny.

This is a dispatch from Theodore Endreny’s sabbatical in Italy….

The urban areas of our planet are an extremely popular living environment, and the simple act of maintaining or increasing tree cover can profoundly improve urban sustainability [0]. The global urban area covers only 4% of our land, yet it contains 60% of our population. The metabolism of these areas is enormous, with each person needing between 1 and 10 hectares of non-urban area to support their resource consumption and waste generation [1]. Urban trees can help reduce the ecological footprint of this metabolism and improve ecosystem carrying capacity by delivering an array of ecosystem services. These services include production and regulation, such as growing nutritious foods and maintaining a livable climate, as well as supporting and cultural services such as biodiversity and peace of mind [2]. With urban areas containing such a high density of residents, an urban tree has the potential to improve the well-being of a large number of people. Our i-Tree research team develops tools for measuring the benefits of urban tree cover in order to help communities manage their sustainable well-being. In January 2016 we initiated a collaborative urban metabolism research effort with Italian scholars (led by Professor Sergio Ulgliati of Parthenope University) to collect data on tree cover and potential tree cover in a set of global urban areas, predict the associated ecosystem services, and investigate whether trends in tree cover and their services scale geographically or demographically. Our urban areas include several in Italy, such as Naples were the group is stationed, as well as the global megacities (Tokyo, Beijing, Istanbul, Cairo, London, New York, Manila, etc), defined as areas with at least 10 million human inhabitants.

This report presents the first step in our urban metabolism research, which was to select a method for determining the percent of tree cover, and potential tree cover, in our set of global urban areas. Although there is no international standard for land cover classification, most land cover maps limit classes to landscape units and fail to explicitly include trees in urban landscape units, limiting them to forested units [3]. Ecological engineers will often use such landscape units, and make inferences about associated ecosystem structures (e.g., trees) and services (e.g., wood and fuel products, climate regulation) they need in their project designs (see Figure 1). However, in urban landscapes there is no explicit estimate of the tree cover and structure, and the assumption of zero tree cover ignores the substantial value contributed by existing urban trees [4].

Illustration of landscapes and their associated ecosystem services, where parks and gardens are an extremely valuable sub-unit providing services in the Urban landscape.

Figure 1. Illustration of landscapes and their associated ecosystem services, where parks and gardens are an extremely valuable sub-unit providing services in the Urban landscape. [credit Millennium Assessment]

Our research method involved testing several products to estimate tree cover in Naples, Italy, defined by its political boundary to have an area of 118 km2. By testing several land cover classification products we could determine if there were differences in the estimated area between products, and then identify which product would be best for our classification of trees in the set of global urban areas. We considered the following products, NLCD, CORINE, MODIS, MAGLC, i-Tree Canopy, each explained below: In the US, the 30 m raster National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD) from LandSAT is a common land cover product that classifies urban areas as 21 – 24 (developed areas of low to high density), and forested areas as 41-43 (deciduous, evergreen, and mixed forests). In Europe, the polygon CORdination of INformation on the Environment (CORINE) land cover dataset is a common land cover product that classifies uses the class of artificial areas, and sub-classes of continuous or discontinuous urban fabric, which can include many sub-classes of residential cover, as well as several forest area classes such as agro-forest, broadleaf, coniferous, and mixed forests. Global datasets include the 500 m raster Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Land Cover product (MCD12Q1) that has a single urban class and five forest classes (evergreen needle and broad, deciduous needle and broad, and mixed). The Millennium Assessment global land cover (MAGLC) used similar data to create a 1000 m raster land cover map that inventoried landscape elements for estimation of associated ecosystem services, and it used 1 urban class called artificial cover, and several forest classes (e.g., broad leaf, needle leaf, mixed). An alternative method for land cover inventories involves a random survey, using photo-interpretation with i-Tree Canopy, to identify the fraction of inventoried points in discrete land cover classes, such as deciduous tree and evergreen tree to identify tree canopy, and other classes to discriminate between non-plantable and plantable areas, such as impervious area that is not-plantable, and impervious are that is potentially plantable. Outside of the United States, in place of NLCD we used the LandSAT based maps of forest cover, created by M.C. Hansen et al., and published in Science.

Our results clearly identified the i-Tree Canopy photo-interpretation product as the best estimate of tree cover, and the product we will use for future urban land cover characterization. The Naples area has a mixture of landscape units, including urban and forest, clearly seen in aerial photographs (Figure 2). Using i-Tree Canopy with a 2014 photo dataset the tree cover of Naples was estimated as 24.2% of the urban area, and potentially plantable urban area, such as sidewalks and plazas, could contribute another 20% of the total urban area to canopy cover. This estimate is based on a survey of 500 points, which takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete, and it had an uncertainty of 2%; 500 points is a recommended minimum for controlling the uncertainty in the estimate.

No other land cover product approached this i-Tree Canopy estimate of 24.2% forest cover. LandSAT (i.e., Hansen et al. equivalent of NLCD) estimated tree cover in Naples for 2014 as 6.3% of the total area, with this number accounting for all detected loss and gain in cover between 2000 and 2014. CORINE estimated forest cover from 2006 data at 7% of the Naples area (Figure 3),the MAGLC estimated forest cover as 4.5% from 2000 data (Figure 4), and MODIS estimated forest cover from 2013 data as 1.8% of the Naples area (Figure 5). Although the dates of each land cover product were different (2014 to 2000), this is not expected to explain the range in tree cover (24.2 to 1.8%). The MODIS and i-Tree Canopy products are closest in date (2013 and 2014), yet they capture the 22.4% range in variation between the maximum and minimum estimates. In general, based on land cover analysis by the Naples government, the vegetated area in Naples has decreased by 1.2% between 2011 and 2015, suggesting the 2014 data product used by i-Tree Canopy is a conservative estimate of tree cover. Given the uncertainty in this estimate is less than 2%, it is also considered the best estimate, and spatially it is the most precise estimate by providing a value for tree cover in the urban fabric.

The i-Tree Canopy product used in photo-interpretation. Naples is bounded by the red polygon, and the area surrounding Naples includes the Mediterranean to the south, and mixed uses to the north.

Figure 2. The i-Tree Canopy product used in photo-interpretation to estimate 22.4% tree cover in the red polygon that is Naples.The area surrounding Naples includes the Mediterranean to the south, and mixed uses to the north.

The CORINE land cover product.

Figure 3. The CORINE land cover product to estimate 7% tree cover in the red polygon that is Naples.

 

The MAGLC land cover product.

Figure 4. The MAGLC land cover product to estimate 4.5% tree cover in the red polygon that is Naples.

The MODIS land cover product.

Figure 5. The MODIS land cover product to estimate 1.8% tree cover in the black polygon that is Naples. It also mis-classified a rocky outcrop as snow and ice.

Future work in this research area will involve applying the i-Tree Canopy tool to nearly 30 global cities. We are interested in having volunteers contribute to this work, and if you are interested please contact us (see below). We will then apply the i-Tree Canopy surveys of land cover types to estimate the existing and potential ecosystem services in these urban areas. This will include using the i-Tree Hydro tool to examine stormwater runoff and how trees reduce volumes and pollutant loads. For the i-Tree Hydro applications, the i-Tree Canopy photo-interpretation product was able to sub-classify each tree cover area by the type of land cover below the canopy, as either impervious or pervious. This sub-classification is important for simulation of urban water balances, in order to allow precipitation passing below the canopy to partition into soil infiltration or overland runoff. The i-Tree Canopy product identified shrub and herbaceous cover in the urban environment, as well as bare soil areas, and of course the impervious areas as potentially plantable or not plantable. The i-Tree Canopy tool could be used to provide data for regression models that estimate the tree cover for each urban class used in CORINE and NLCD (e.g., LandSAT product by Hansen et al.), perhaps implementing multiple-regression with additional explanatory variables such as geographic region or urban density. This would allow users of these CORINE and NLCD data products the opportunity to benefit from our estimates of urban tree cover.

Contact information: Dr. Theodore Endreny, te@esf.edu

Acknowledgement: The scholarly collaboration for this project has been supported by the U.S. – Italy Fulbright Commission and Parthenope University through a Fulbright Scholar grant to Theodore Endreny to serve as Distinguished Chair in Environmental Science at Parthenope University in Naples, Italy, and by the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry through a sabbatical leave to Theodore Endreny.

Our ESF Club, Engineers without Borders, is collaborating with the Syracuse Professional Chapter of EWB on sanitation projects for a primary school in Las Majadas, Nicaragua, near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The EWB project is part of the Healthy Schools Program in the Palajunoj Valley managed by Primeros Pasos, a Guatemalan non-profit dedicated to holistic approaches for improving health care. When the Primeros Pasos program provided free medical examinations for nearly 1000 children in the Palajunoj Valley, they discovered many children suffered from gastrointestinal parasites and the associated problems of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases. To combat these problems, Primeros Pasos developed a holistic plan that involves health education workshops and training to school staff, teachers, children, and their parents to reduce the incidence of gastrointestinal parasites and enable the community to achieve the health and well-being needed to engage in learning and working and living. This January 2016 our ERE students will join the team in Guatemala!

Palajunoj Valley, south of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and site of the EWB sanitation project at the Las Majadas primary school.

Palajunoj Valley, south of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and site of the EWB sanitation project at the Las Majadas primary school.

Below we post a project description from the EWB website:

“Our mission, as the Syracuse Professional Chapter, is to plan, evaluate, construct, and maintain the latrines at the Las Majadas school, in addition to constructing additional handwashing stations. The Chapter will act on its vision to improve the quality of life for Guatemalan rural communities through access to adequate sanitation, integrated health education programs, and access to medical services. Improving the school’s infrastructure will encourage students to practice hygienic habits in school, reducing their risk of contracting parasites. The Chapter hopes to meet the needs of the community and empower the people with knowledge and skills by emphasizing community training during construction.

EWB Members in Las Majadas, Guatemala.

EWB Members in Las Majadas, Guatemala.

We visited the region and six schools in the Palajunoj Valley in October 2013, and we returned from a second trip in May 2014. The purpose of the second trip was to finalize the Project Partnership Agreement with the community and to collect the remaining technical information needed to move on to the design phase.  The travelers took measurements to map the layout of the school and photographs to document site conditions.  Specific technical tasks completed included further inventorying of the school’s infrastructure, characterizing soil, conducting soil percolation tests, projecting latrine usage, investigating local building regulations, documenting specific materials costs, and mapping out alternative routes for site material delivery.

Children of the Las Majadas, Guatemala primary school.

Children of the Las Majadas, Guatemala primary school.

The existing latrines at the Las Majadas primary school were constructed in a piecemeal fashion, with latrines added when previous ones failed. The school has been unable to provide an adequate number of latrines and handwashing stations for its students. Maintenance has also been a major barrier, as the current unimproved pit latrines provide no ability for reuse. Improved designs will allow the community to maintain these new latrines far into the future.

Currently we are working on developing our Alternatives Analysis Report for installing latrines at Las Majadas. We are comparing ventilated pit latrines, composting latrines, pour flush toilets or a hybrid of the a ventilated pit latrine and composting latrine. Our goal is for project implementation and construction to occur in August 2015. If you’d like to travel and help with construction, we need your regular participation at meetings.

The Las Majadas community supports our work in their community and eagerly anticipates our design.  We are partnered with the local school director, a teacher, interested parents, Primeros Pasos (an NGO operating in the Palajunoj Valley), and a Peace Corps Volunteer in the area.”

What follows are notes from Alex Caven, President of Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS), and Ted Endreny, their adviser:

Instead of relaxing during over spring break, five members of our ESS club (including Jen Gienau), traveling independent of ESF, but with an ESF ERE alumnus Stan Hovey, gathered in Haiti to implement sanitation and reforestation projects. The sanitation project was developed last year when ESS members embarked on an exploratory trip to Haiti, and the reforestation project has been in the works for decades thanks to the dedication of Stan Hovey. To prepare for the trip the ESF students learned of Haiti’s long history of political exploitation, and began to understand the underlying reasons of the country’s economic, social, and environmental challenges. In short, the country lacks adequate sanitation infrastructure, emergency facilities, and has experienced severe deforestation. To assist us at the interface of humanitarian engineering ESS has partnered with SOIL and Agronomy Institute, local organizations working to improve conditions in Haiti.

SOIL – Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods – is a non-profit founded in 2006, which provides waste to resource services by composting human waste composting for families and communities. ESS became involved when SOIL identified a problem that could benefit from an engineering solution. SOIL takes in many cubic yards of waste each month, allows this to compost for several months, and the final product then must be sieved to remove the remaining cover material and other unwanted particles. The sieving process has been a burden for the workers, requiring use of pitchforks to move the compost onto a screen and push it through by hand. ESS agreed to build a bike-powered compost sifter to improve their efficiency in the post-processing and sieving of compost. During the winter of 2015 ESS students came together to talk through design challenge, consider design alternatives, gather materials, build a prototype in Syracuse (in an unheated barn owned by ESF), and coordinate logistics between Syracuse and Haiti. One logistical obstacle to note – Haiti happens to be the only country in the world prohibiting the shipment of a bike.

Compost sifter frame as reconstructed in Haiti, with chain leading to rear wheel of bike.

Compost sifter frame as reconstructed in Haiti, with chain leading to rear wheel of bike.

In Haiti, the students reconnected with their shipped materials (sans bike), and met with the SOIL team to discuss the engineering design solution. Working together with SOIL staff, we built the compost sifter over the course of two six-hour sessions. This was completed at the SOIL office in Port-au-Prince and then loaded into the back of a pickup truck and driven into and through the city dump to reach the SOIL composting site. There, we connected the bike to the structure, worked through some issues with keeping the chain running smoothly, and gave it a first sifting test. Looking for a rider was easy – the SOIL workers at the compost site were eager to ride the bike. The final product will continue to be tweaked to better handle a range of size distributions.

The reforestation project was initiated by ERE photogrammetry specialist Stan Hovey, who spent some of his childhood in Haiti where his father was tasked with promoting reforestation and building an agronomy program. More recently Stan has taken up the reigns on his father’s projects and reached out to ESS for help. During the 2015 spring break ESS students participated in the building of two tree nurseries, and worked with Haitian agronomists from 6 different regions of the country to develop record-keeping, map-making, and technical skills. During this trip, ESS members approached a school outside of the city of Petit-Goave to start environmental clubs for budding scientists to promote environmental awareness. The agronomists, when the nursery trees are ready for planting, will recruit these environmental club members to help plant the trees. Stan has introduced advanced geographic information system (GIS) technologies to the tree nursery projects, and the ESS students helped agronomists to geotag nursery locations in the EpiCollect platform.

Coffee seedlings planted by ESF ESS students, Haitian agronomists, and Petit-Goave community members.

Coffee seedlings planted by ESF ESS students, Haitian agronomists, and Petit-Goave community members.

Jen Gienau teaches Haitian agronomists to geotag locations in EpiCollect and how to download the data into a central database and upload it to a GIS map.

Jen Gienau teaches Haitian agronomists to geotag locations in EpiCollect and how to download the data into a central database and upload it to a GIS map.

In addition to moving forward with these projects, ESS plans to engage in other efforts. Smart phones and computers are needed by the agronomists to help keep records and maintain communication across sites. Financial and material resources are needed for an innovative goat program which provides families with pregnant goats, along with nursery development, management, tree disbursement and planting to provide goat food and complete a nutrition cycle. Finally, electricity is needed by the mountain community of Bon-Bon, which has a high energy stream running nearby. There is the possibility ESS will build a pico- or micro-hydro system to provide Bon-Bon with year-round electricity.

SUNY ESF’s ESF Engineers without Borders club and our Engineers for a Sustainable Society club are honored to announce that the entire community of Buena Vista, Honduras now has potable water. This is the result of many partners, including the community of Buena Vista, the local NGO Alfalit, our EWB and ESS clubs, and numerous donors and friends.

In October 2014 we received confirmation from our partner organization Alfalit that the eight tasks designated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in August 2014 are complete. These tasks included finishing the distribution lines, house connections and taps for the borough Los Vegas, replacing/covering up piping, repairing concrete on the dam, putting in a new valve box and establishing a cable crossing, all of which are challenging tasks. We are told by Alfalit that the entire Buena Vista community is jubilant with the potable water supply reaching every home, and they plan a celebration recognizing the project’s completion in November 2014.

Buena Vista community with new water line cable crossing at Prieta Creek.

Buena Vista community with new water line cable crossing at Prieta Creek.

Our EWB club will be filing for project closeout and working on close out assessment measures. The EWB and ESS clubs are also working on designing, funding, fabricating, and installing signage about the potable water project in Buena Vista to recognize the contributors to this project. This project has been an outstanding collaborative effort across 7 years.

Read more on our Buena Vista project!

In August 2014, ERE students Tom J. Decker (Senior) and Taylor Brown (Sophomore) were led by Professor Ted Endreny to Buena Vista, Yoro, Honduras to extend a community water supply project. ESF has been involved with this project since 2007, with plans, funding, and designs coming from ESF’s Engineering for a Sustainable Society club and Engineers without Borders club, and onsite project coordination from a local NGO called Alfalit International. Due to Honduras suffering from political and criminal instability since 2009, ESF students have had limited travel into Buena Vista, with the last visit in the summer of 2011 (see earlier article).

The purpose of this August 2014 trip was to extend the water supply (i.e., dig trenches, lay pipe) into Los Vegas, a hamlet of Buena Vista, evaluate the existing system of storage and conveyance for needed repairs and flow regulation, as well as sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Buena Vista water board, known as the Junta de Agua.

ESF travelers, (left to right): Professor Ted Endreny, Tom J. Decker and Taylor Brown in the village of Buena Vista, Hamlet of Los Vegas, in front of the home of a Buena Vista Junta de Agua officer.

ESF travelers, (left to right): Professor Ted Endreny, Tom J. Decker and Taylor Brown in the village of Buena Vista , Hamlet of Los Vegas, in front of the home of a Buena Vista Junta de Agua officer.

Buena Vista is located in the mountains southwest of Olanchito, Yoro. The villagers are mostly farms growing beans, corn, yucca, coffee, fruits, and raising farm animals such as chickens and pigs. The community water supply project has tapped water from a deep pool in a reach of stream far above the community, and gravity delivers the water through a system of iron and PVC pipes extending several kilometers. Before this community water supply was installed, the Buena Vista villagers did not have a continuous supply of clean, potable water, and their water supply had been from a section of stream exposed to animal and human foot traffic and waste, and conveyed through system of weak rubber hoses lying along the foot and vehicle paths. These hoses were prone to puncture, leaks, and contamination, and villagers suffered from water borne illnesses. Further, the water supply was not reliable, with the hoses primarily bringing water during the rainy season (late summer to early winter) and only to a limited number of homes in the community. The community water supply system implemented by the ESS/EWB club has provided approximately 45 families with a clean, reliable source of water in their households for drinking, bathing, cooking and laundry.

Map of water supply overlaid on a photo of a typical street scene in Buena Vista village. The water source is in the upper left, with pipe (in yellow) leading to a sedimentation tank, distribution tank, and 2 storage tanks. Distribution lines for Hamlet of Las Esperanza (in red) and for Los Rosales (in purple) are already complete. The final distribution lines and taps for 11 homes in the Hamlet of Los Vegas were being implemented during the August 2014 trip.

Map of water supply overlaid on a photo of a typical street scene in Buena Vista village. The water source is in the upper left, with pipe (in yellow) leading to a sedimentation tank, distribution tank, and 2 storage tanks. Distribution lines for Hamlet of Las Esperanza (in red) and for Los Rosales (in purple) are already complete. The final distribution lines and taps for 11 homes in the Hamlet of Los Vegas were being implemented during the August 2014 trip.

The establishment of a Junta de Agua in the community is a standard procedure that is critical for the long-term success of these projects. Giving people in the village leadership roles allows them to look out for their local interests, mobilize others in their community, and through ownership builds a sense of pride and responsibility. This transfer of ownership is a sustainable design concept intended for the community to maintain the system through pay-to-use fees, without being financially or technically dependent on the ESF clubs or Alfalit. Going forward, ESF clubs and Alfalit can partner with the village to undertake major repairs. Fortunately for our ESF clubs, our NGO partner Alfalit has experience establishing Junta de Aguas in other communities, and has helped establish the Junta de Agua in Buena Vista.

The wash area behind the home of an officer in the Buena Vista Junta de Aqua, Hamlet of Los Rosales.  A new water line with tap is filling a tub of water.

The wash area behind the home of an officer in the Buena Vista Junta de Aqua, Hamlet of Los Rosales. A new water line with tap is filling a tub of water.

Alfalit, our NGO partner, considers the Buena Vista community water supply project one of the most challenging in the region due to long distances for distribution lines connecting the three hamlets. Indeed, this project has faced many challenges funding materials and installing the distribution and supply lines. The work season is short, with no road access to Buena Vista during the rainy season, when roads are washed out. Project momentum and funding was lost in 2009 when Honduras faced a coup d’etat and the club was barred from traveling to the country by EWB-USA, so additional fundraising was needed. It is extremely gratifying that fundraising was successful and this August 2014 we were able to get the remaining construction materials into Buena Vista, and pipe installed in newly dug trenches to Los Vegas.

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The MOU signed during the August 2014 trip gave more ownership of the project to the village of Buena Vista. The Junta de Agua was formally given the responsibility of collecting monthly fees from the people using the water supply to cover repairs of materials, system operation, maintenance and protection. The MOU also specified the consequences for people who did not pay the monthly fee or disrupted the water supply system. The MOU established that major technical issues with the water supply will be addressed by Alfalit rather than the ESF clubs, but the clubs can be involved in providing support. The MOU explains how Alfalit will supervise the gradual transfer of management of the community water supply to the community. At the signing of the MOU, the villagers expressed their excitement and gratitude to complete this project and to be taking on more responsibility. The villagers of Buena Vista have been empowered to sustain this new community water supply for their future needs and those of future generations.

The signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was signed by the ESS club and EWB club president, the local Alfalit director, and the president of the Junta de Agua.

The signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was signed by the ESS club and EWB club president, the local Alfalit director, and the president of the Junta de Agua.