GUS Icon

Sustainability research invokes questions across a multitude of spatial scales and is deeply interrelated with the department’s social justice, globalization, and geographic methods themes. Our work focuses on local quality-of-life and justice issues within larger political, social, and economic contexts. Current research foci include urban food systems, sprawled development patterns, land use/land cover analysis, urban ecology, environmental justice, public health outcomes, and comparative dimensions of environmental sustainability at the national and global scales.


Allison Hayes-ConroyRob MasonMichele MasucciJeremy Mennis, Hamil Pearsall, Christina Rosan, Jacob Shell

Research Projects

Slide10Evaluating Collaborative Land Use Projects (Rob Mason)

Rob Mason’s book, Collaborative Land Use Management: The Quieter Revolution in Place-Based Planning, proposed a broad framework for understanding and evaluating specific land use programs. Among the measures included in the model were ecosystem health, landscape integrity, cost effectiveness, social justice, carbon impacts, and vulnerability management. Following on the book’s discussion of these evaluative dimensions — and their relevance to case studies ranging over multiple and overlapping spatial scales — will be refinement of the model and application to specific programs.

Relationships between Community Planning, Environmental Management, and Information Technology (Michele Masucci)

Previous research by Michele Masucci examined the relationships between community planning, environmental management and information uses and technologies in non-governmental organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest Region of Brazil , in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin region, and in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania . Professor Masucci developed an appropriate technology GIS that analyzed drought and flood data for the ACF River Basin that permitted an analysis of the relationship between information resources and drought contingency planning during a period of extreme fluctuation in drought and flood conditions during the 1980s and 1990s in the southeastern US. The outcomes of this study were the focus of a book (co-authored with Richard Perritt) entitled Human Environmental Interchange: Managing the Effects of Recent Droughts in the Southeastern U.S.

Environmental Justice of Urban Air Pollution (Jeremy Mennis)

Environmental justice is the principle that all people have equal protection under environmental laws and the right to participate in environmental decision-making in their community.  I am interested in the quantitative analysis of race, class, and other socioeconomic characteristics as they relate to indicators of environmental risk, particularly toxins produced from industrial and commercial activity.  Recent research has focused on the distribution of air toxic releases in New Jersey , as well as on racial equity in actions taken by agencies responsible for enforcing environmental policies.

Slide11Urban Agriculture in Philadelphia (Hamil Pearsall)

This project examines urban agriculture in Philadelphia and questions the role of sustainability initiatives in this post-industrial city’s quest to reinvent itself as an economically competitive city. Urban agriculture has become a symbol of Philadelphia’s economic revitalization, sustainability, and increasingly, its gentrification. Through archival research, a media content analysis, and interviews with urban farmers, gardeners, and city officials, this research examines urban agriculture’s role in Philadelphia’s transition to economic and environmental sustainability.

Planning and Politics of Urban Sustainability: From Metropolitan Governance to Green Infrastructure (Christina Rosan)

Christina Rosan’s research focuses on the politics and policy of urban sustainability planning. She is interested in how we manage our cities and metropolitan areas and the role that institutions play in mediating the transition to sustainability. She has researched metropolitan governance and land use planning, urban greening, environmental justice, and urban sustainability planning. Rosan is currently a part of an EPA STAR grant researching community engagement in monitoring of green infrastructure.

Slide12Elephants, Mobility and Conservation in Southeast Asia (Jacob Shell)

Trained elephants are used for a wide array of functions in Southeast Asia: for tourism, for religious festivals, for logging, and for off-road, cross-border and flood-time transportation. Focusing on case-studies in Myanmar (Burma), this research project seeks to evaluate the potential advantages of elephant domestication, especially from a conservation standpoint. As Southeast Asia rapidly urbanizes, how are elephant-training and elephant-riding cultures and skills adapting or becoming eroded? What possibilities for human-elephant relations and mobilities might be imagined going forward?