Signature Projects

  • Sustainable Wetland/Floodplain Communities from a Human and Ecosystem Perspective

    Wetlands serve as valuable resources for human and natural communities. By filtering and sequestering harmful contaminants such as nutrients, road salts, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and pesticides, wetland communities play a significant role in protecting our water. Wetlands are also an essential habitat for a diversity of wildlife and provide environments that contribute to the health of the human communities. Thus, the contaminants that wetlands filter can lead to negative consequences on sensitive wetland organisms and the people who live in the region. Understanding the resilience of wetland communities to contaminants and how natural settings contribute to human health is paramount to protecting the ecosystem-level services provided by wetlands and maintaining sustainable human and wetland communities.

    Toward this goal, future work will pursue three lines of research:

    1. Can low, environmentally relevant concentrations of contaminants reduce wetland resilience?
    2. Can populations within wetland communities evolve resistance to contaminants?
    3. How do contaminants interact with other stressors, such as pathogens, to shape wetland resilience?

    For more information, contact Professor Joe Graney.

    Specific projects:

  • Sustainable Forest Communities

    North American Eastern Deciduous Forest communities provide essential ecosystem services with benefits to society. Intact forest communities provide aesthetic, cultural and recreational value to people, support biodiversity including functionally important species such as pollinators and natural predators, provide habitat for wildlife, mitigate climate change and are integral components of watersheds. These forests have undergone major transformations in response to land-use changes. Very little of this ecosystem has been left undisturbed, with the remainder in smaller fragments surrounded by urban and agricultural areas. In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, remaining forests are under threat from multiple environmental stressors including invasive plants, insects and pathogens, overabundance of some native species like deer, pollution, changes to nutrient regimes and climate change. These types of global change stressors are linked and can have synergistic effects on ecosystems. In efforts to mitigate and manage forests that sustain essential ecosystem services, we need to understand the impacts of multiple global change stressors on forest communities. However, impacts and management of ecosystems are often focused on only one or a few stressors (such as the impact and removal of a single invasive species).

    Binghamton University sits in a unique position to conduct research on the impacts of multiple environmental change stressors on forest communities and to explore management practices. The University owns over 600 acres of protected deciduous forest that is dedicated to teaching, outreach and research. One example research project is to examine how to best restore native understory plant communities that have been decimated by overgrazing, habitat fragmentation and invasive species. Additionally, as forests are embedded within an urban and agricultural matrix, understanding the feedbacks between society and natural forest ecosystems is essential to promote both sustainable living and natural ecosystems.

    For more information, contact Professor Weixing Zhu.

    Specific projects:

  • Local Sustainable Communities (U.S.)

    At Binghamton University, sustainability involves integrating the natural world with issues of social justice and local communities, both urban and rural. At the core of our collective work is a focus on poverty, inequality and community-scale sustainability, particularly through capacity building. Social justice, including issues of equity and education are central to the sustainable communities research efforts. Opportunities to share research findings and data from locally-based projects and forums to form/strengthen a research community around local social justice issues provide productive avenue for collaboration and research efforts.

    For more information, contact Assistant Professor George Homsy.

    Specific projects:

  • Sustainable Island Communities

    Islands present unique conditions that challenge the sustainability of communities. Often small in land mass, limited in overall resources and isolated, island communities must consider inherent constraints in local resources with few local alternatives. These constraints, however, can lead communities to organizations and practices that are remarkably resilient and that have persisted for millennia. These unique solutions offer exemplars that can be used to evaluate hypotheses about the factors necessary for sustainability and valuable insights into practices that can be adopted in terrestrial contexts.

    At Binghamton University, researchers work on islands around the world to investigate aspects of community health, organization, economic development and subsistence practices. Our work spans from Haiti in the Caribbean to Vanuatu and Easter Island in the Pacific.

    Specific projects:

  • Sustainable Energy Communities

    Sustainable energy communities use an integrated systems approach to fulfill energy requirements. Co-generation energy sources (sources that provide useable heat and electricity simultaneously), renewable solar and wind energy, passive and active solar thermal systems, and redundancy in the production and distribution of energy are often utilized.
    Ecovillages are examples of sustainable energy communities. They are helping to transition residential energy in the United States and elsewhere in the world. The nearest ecovillage to Binghamton University is in Ithaca, N.Y. Binghamton University is developing the Living Building at Nuthatch Hollow which will produce 105 percent of its energy requirement from renewable sources.

    The production and distribution of renewable energy has received a great deal of attention. When we speak of sustainable energy, we mostly think of renewable forms such as solar or wind. Tools have been developed that estimate the performance of potential photovoltaic (PV) installations. Two examples are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) PVWatts Calculator and the NREL Wind Prospector that estimates wind energy. More generally, in the U. S. the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, an office within the U. S. Department of Energy, manages the Energy Saver website. These resources can be of use to small communities and individual home owners wishing to move to more sustainable energy.

    The emphasis is not just on the generation and distribution of energy in these communities, but also the more efficient utilization of energy. There are national efforts in some countries to promote higher standards of energy efficiency and renewable energy usage to promote better energy communities, for example in Ireland. In the U. S., Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), promotes energy efficiency. Reducing the utilization of energy is a necessary part of becoming a more sustainable energy community.

    Specific projects:

    • Carl Lipo, Anthroplogy and Environmental Studies
    • Pam Mischen, Public Administration
    • Mike Elmore, Engineering Design Division, switching power converter design and control optimization for higher efficiencies and better performance.
      Switching power converters are found in many, if not most, electronic devices. They provide a more efficient means of electrical power conversion than other technologies, such as linear regulators. Some power converters can shape alternating current (AC) to reduce current distortion and increase power factor (PF). Energy Star guidelines call for PFs above 0.9, but this is not mandated in the U. S. In Europe EN 61000-3-2 requires power factor correction to be incorporated into consumer products. Optimization of switching power converter efficiencies and performance reduces the electrical load on the power grid. Optimized converters for increased efficiency is a necessary part of an integrated systems approach to achieving sustainable energy in our communities.
    • John Zhang, Electrical and Computer Engineering
    • George Homsy, Public Administration and Environmental Studies
    • Rob Holahan, Environmental Studies
    • Hiroki Sayama, Systems Science and Industrial Engineering
    • Sandy DeJohn, Binghamton University Facilities