Every year, students from the U.S., Canada, Europe and San Jose -- just over the mountain -- travel to the rural Costa Rican town of Monteverde, adjacent to that nation’s magnificent and seriously endangered "Cloud Forest." They come to study and work in community projects that support a sustainable future for the area, as part of a University at Buffalo summer-abroad program. Started in 1991, “Sustainable Futures,” an eight-week program created by UB, has developed community projects in Monteverde in planning, architecture and landscape architecture that support a sustainable future not only for the endangered forest, but for the communities that surround it.
In the Department of Urban Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning, studios offer students an opportunity to gain real world experience with clients from the community. Students in Alex Bitterman’s studio worked on developing a plan for “Radial Bikes,” an innovative bicycle sharing concept for downtown Buffalo. Students developed the proposal, shared it with the community, and it now informs the work of community organizations that are implementing a new bicycle sharing program in Buffalo.
In the Department of Geography, Dr. Christian Renschler uses images from Google Earth and the Virtual Disaster Viewer to assess damage sustained during natural disasters. Renschler and his team applied their research to the earthquake disasters in Haiti and hurricane damage in the Gulf of Mexico during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Renschler’s work creates resilience and leads to more efficient responses to current and future disasters.
Samina Raja, associate professor in the Department of Urban Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning is known nationally for her work in food security and Health Impact Asssessments. Raja is the only urban or regional planner appointed to a committee of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) that has been charged with developing a framework and guidance for health impact assessments (HIAs) in the United States, and she recently received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build on her prior research on community food systems in Buffalo.
Department of Geography Assistant Professor Trina Hamilton studies how corporations handle increasing pressures to be more socially and environmentally conscious. She is also interested in the effect of new corporate responsibility consulting firms on facilitating contracts between environmentalists and corporations. Hamilton has just began an investigation of corporate responsibility in the international diamond industry. She is investigating whether the higher ethical standards in Canada will force a standards increase in Africa where the diamond trade finances rebel warfare.
Hamilton is also looking at how environmental gentrification in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is affecting the neighborhood’s environmental activism, economy, and ecological goals.
James Olson is the Director of the Environmental Health Sciences division in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, and also a Professor of pharmacology and toxicology. Olson leads studies on the potentially harmful effects of organophosphate pesticides (OPs) on certain populations. These pesticides are the most widely used in the world, and can inhibit enzyme action that is critical to nerve function in humans, animals and insects.
Olson and Matthew Bonner, director of the School of Preventative Medicine’s Masters of Public Health concentration in environmental health, have received $1.5 million in grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue this work. They are using these grants to determine the effects of OPs on the nerve function of Egyptian cotton field workers.
The arts, media, and lecture series hosted by the Humanities Institute explored the connections between water, globalization and culture, through lectures by renowned environmental scholars and art exhibits along area waterways designed by local artists. Buffalo in particular is an ideal place to contemplate such connections because it has the world’s largest supply of fresh water in the Great Lakes.
Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Justin Read co-organized Fluid Culture with his department colleague Colleen Culleton.
In addition to his work on Fluid Culture, Read has been writing the book “Alternative Functions: The Spatial Poetics of Latin American Modernization”. It is about the transformation of places such as Mexio City from rural to urban after the turn of the 20th century.
Colleen Culleton organized Fluid Culture with Justin Read and also works in the department of Romance Languages and Literatures, as an Assistant Professor. Her focus is Spanish and Catalan cultural studies however she also researches narrative theory, memory studies, and spatial practices in the construction of collective identities.
She has also started a project on landscape, literature, and the cultural imaginary in rural Catalonia.
Elevator B is a collaborative project between graduate students from UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Department of Architecture’s Ecological Practices Research Group, and Rigidized Metals, a Buffalo based building material manufacturer. The overall goal of the project was to successfully design for the relocation and habitation of a colony of honeybees occupying a building at Silo City, a dense cluster of grain elevators in Buffalo, NY. Elevator B was selected from a group of ten entries by a mixed panel of jurors, who represented Rigidized Metals, the fields of architecture and planning, and the bees.