Rubenstein School Research Emphases
The Rubenstein School targets three areas of emphasis for scholarly pursuit: Natural Sciences, especially ecology and environmental science; Social Sciences and Human Dimensions of the environment; and the Development and Use of Innovative Tools, such as spatial analysis, mapping, and modeling, to study the environment/human interface. Healthy and sustainable ecosystems, which in the School's definition include vibrant human communities, depend upon the integration of knowledge and skills developed in all three of these areas. The emphasis on integration contributes to the distinctiveness, quality, and growing national and international reputation of the School.
Forest Ecosystem Health
Rubenstein School faculty, staff, and students study relationships of acid rain and nutrient depletion to decline in tree species' health and response to environmental stressors, ways to improve restoration of tree species and their habitats to northeastern forests, factors affecting tree growth and carbon sequestration in northern forests, use of remote sensing for early detection of invasive insect and disease outbreaks, host tree genetics in plant-insect pest interactions, and potential biocontrol agents for invasive forest insects, among other topics.
Landscape Ecology and Biodiversity
Rubenstein School faculty and students with expertise in wildlife biology/ecology study human impacts on wildlife habitats. They model and predict effects of land use change on Vermont's wildlife biodiversity, studying such populations as black bear, bobcat, and songbirds, and measure habitat fragmentation effects on wildlife populations. Faculty and students with expertise in forest ecology study climate change impacts on forest ecosystems and how ecologically-based silvicultural systems, structure and function of old-growth and riparian forests, natural disturbance ecology, and restoration ecology impact forest biodiversity.
Water Resources, Lake and Watershed Science
Faculty, staff, and students with expertise in aquatic ecology, lake studies, and fisheries biology are conducting research on a broad array of topics including food web dynamics and eutrophication in Lake Champlain, sources and control strategies for nonpoint source pollution in agricultural and developed watersheds, the ecology of toxic cyanobacteria blooms, nonnative and invasive species impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and fish population dynamics and restoration. Climate change impacts in arctic and local watersheds, and potential adaptation strategies, are emerging areas of research. The UVM research vessel Melosira and state-of-the-art research laboratories in the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain on the Burlington waterfront support this work.
Rubenstein School faculty and students design ecological systems that use ecological principles and natural organisms to treat wastes, produce foods, generate fuels, and restore damaged ecosystems. They study ways to promote sustainable community development and problem-solving through holistic landscape and building design and planning.
Social Sciences and Human Dimensions
At the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, faculty are developing, testing, and implementing innovative methods and models that reflect the need to integrate the social, built, natural, and human capital components of our world. They research ways to shift the world's economies away from their present emphasis on infinite economic growth and toward a focus on sustainable human wellbeing. They forge fresh and visionary approaches to the economic challenges and opportunities that await us in the 21st century by bringing together experts, teachers, students, and stakeholders from all disciplines in order to pioneer vital new developmental tools and ideas. Watch recent videos of the Gund Institute in action.
Environmental Policy and Thought
Faculty and students with expertise in environmental policy and thought pursue studies of causes and consequences of environmental conflicts and how ecological factors can promote peace; how cultural, religious, and gender identities emerge from and shape perceptions of the natural environment; environmental interpretation and education; and social justice and the legal aspects of environmentalism. Faculty and students are involved in projects that seek to identify how markets, policies, and practices related to climate change affect small-scale and community based forestry initatives. Research products will inform both community practitioners and policymakers seeking inclusive and equitable ways to engage communites and family forests in advancing their socioecological goals and addessing climate change.
Tourism and Recreation
Faculty, staff, and students are involved in research, planning, and management applied to national parks, wilderness, and related areas. Special focus is placed on outdoor recreation and related public uses of parks. The Park Studies Laboratory conducts a program of research in the U.S. national park system and also conducts studies applied to national forests, national wildlife refuges, state parks, nonprofit institutions, and related areas and organizations.
Watershed and Land Use Planning
Faculty and students pursue a holistic approach to managing the working landscape, including the natural resources in those landscapes. This is an interdisciplinary research area that contributes to sustainable solutions to water quality management, conservation of natural habitats and their biodiversity, and livable human communities. Some examples include developing strategies for engaging communities and citizens in decision-making, exploring innovative land use policy options, food and agricultural systems analysis, and ecological planning.
Development and Use of Innovative Tools
Mapping and Monitoring
A team of Rubenstein School faculty, staff, and students, collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service, have developed cutting-edge methods to automatically map tree cover from high-resolution satellite imagery in order to help cities better understand how much tree canopy they have and how much room they have to plant trees. Cities from Annapolis to New York have used this information to set tree canopy goals and better account for their green infrastructure and to address a multitude of pressing environmental problems, ranging from stormwater runoff to the urban heat island effect.
What will Chittenden County, Vermont transportation and land use look like in 25 years? How will development choices and policy strategies influence the environment? Faculty, staff and graduate students in the Spatial Analysis Lab use sophisticated computer models and historical data to answer these and other questions. Collaborating with regional planning organizations, consulting firms, and other UVM departments, Rubenstein School researchers develop alternative scenarios of policy strategies, infrastructure investments, and demographic and economic changes. They run cutting-edge urban simulation and transportation modeling software to visualize effects of these scenarios on development patterns, traffic, and other socioeconomic factors.
In the Spatial Analysis Laboratory (SAL), faculty, staff, and students use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related technology to quantify and evaluate ecological patterns, including wildlife habitat, landscape fragmentation, and biological diversity. The SAL incorporates this information into conservation-planning efforts that help develop priorities for protecting landscapes and their natural resources. In collaboration with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, for example, the SAL used land-use/land-cover maps, landscape-diversity indices, lake characteristics, and fish-occurrence data, to identify currently unprotected lakeshore zones in Vermont where conservation would best support protection of rare or sensitive fish species. Such information helps in conserving resources by providing a quantitative assessment of value to overall biodiversity-protection goals.
Last modified October 08 2013 02:49 PM