The Environmental Collaboratory’s Inaugural Research Grant

In June of 2022, The Environmental Collaboratory announced the awardees of its inaugural research grant, promoting transdisciplinary research innovation through participatory climate and environmental problem solving, with support from Drexel’s Office of Research & Innovation, College of Engineering and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

The funded projects demonstrate strong multidisciplinary and multi-college engagements with external partners, as well as community-centered approaches to solving environmental problems. All of the projects, briefly described below, will provide unique, experiential learning opportunities for students. They are also aimed at building community; fostering curricular and research innovation; and informing the ongoing, year-one implementation of The Environmental Collaboratory.

Inaugural Grant Awardees

A Community-Scale Monitoring System for Multiple Air Pollutants in South Philadelphia

Monitoring air pollutants and tracing pollution sources in a vulnerable community in South Philadelphia

  • Led by Jane Clougherty, Dornsife School of Public Health
  • Partners: Lewis Clark State College, Harvard’s TC Chan School of Public Health, Philly Thrive

The team will collaborate with Philly Thrive to monitor air pollutants in a vulnerable community in South Philadelphia. The project aims to trace pollution sources in the community by identifying source signatures of pollutants like volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. The South Philadelphia community is inequitably subject to air pollution from transportation, manufacturing and industrial sources, and this project seeks to provide valuable data for, and engage in learning processes with, residents to advocate for improvement.

The Impact of Greening Strategies on Occupant Health

Gathering empirical data on the effects of home weatherization on indoor air quality and health

  • Led by Simi Hoque, College of Engineering
  • Partners: Dornsife School of Public Health, Energy Coordinating Agency, Philadelphia Energy Authority, Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF), Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, and Temple University

The team will gather empirical data on the effects of home weatherization on indoor air quality and health. Working with the City’s Built to Last program, which streamlines the resources available through low-income housing intervention services, the team aims to collect temperature, humidity and health-symptoms data before and after houses have been weatherized. This project will address health inequity in Philadelphia due to poor indoor air quality and thermal comfort; it will also educate low-income households about behavioral strategies to improve indoor air quality and conserve energy.

The Refugees of Eastwick: Urban Renewal in the Age of Climate Change

Producing a short film portraying the history of environmental injustice in Philadelphia and the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities

  • Led by Ben Kalina, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
  • Partners: Drexel College of Engineering, Eastwick United CDC

The team will produce a short film portraying the history of environmental injustice in Philadelphia and how climate change is directly impacting vulnerable communities in the city. The film will illustrate the story of the communities in Philadelphia that are facing severe implications due to climate change and will develop a social-change framework to address policy change through the government.

Impacts of Climate Change on Primary Care Utilization and Needs in Philadelphia

Analyzing the impact extreme heat, flooding and cold patterns will have on primary care utilization

  • Led by Nathalie May, College of Medicine
  • Partners: Drexel College of Medicine, College of Engineering and Dornsife School of Public Health; Esperanza; Eastwick United

This project will analyze the impact of climate change on primary care utilization patterns in Philadelphia. The study will use databases of health records from medical practices to examine how extreme heat, flooding, and extreme cold patterns may impact primary care utilization by the general public, as well as by socially and environmentally vulnerable communities. The study will also investigate the effect of climate change on acute illness among susceptible patients in Philadelphia to advise ways to improve primary care infrastructure as climate change worsens.

Fair Data for Just Adaptation: Promoting Environmental Justice in Climate Adaptation Policy by Improving Environmental Data Infrastructures

Transforming data infrastructure to allow climate data to become more findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR)

  • Led by Gwen Ottinger, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Partner: Open Environmental Data Project

This project aims to transform data infrastructure to allow climate data to be more findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). The project will result in a report recommending tangible actions for improving climate data infrastructure that includes accessible climate change and environmental justice data. Using a three-phase approach of Systems Mapping, Vision Creation and Realization, the team will assemble suggestions to create climate data infrastructure for use in climate adaption and mitigation planning.

Evaluating School Building Health in the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood and Empowering Stakeholders with Knowledge

Developing health models of ventilation, filtration and air quality impacts on student health, performance and disease transmission

  • Led by Michael Waring, College of Engineering
  • Partners: Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health, College of Engineering and School of Education; Advisory Councils and Committees from Schools in the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood

Tackling the increasing and urgent concerns of indoor air quality in schools due to COVID-19 and poor infrastructure, this project aims to engage school advisory groups to develop health models of ventilation, filtration and air quality impacts on student heath, performance and disease transmission. Using these models, the project will assess the data and engage community members in communication takeaways and discussions to empower them to advocate for improvements and resources.

Developing a Community-Led Research Project in Collaboration with ENLACE, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Analyzing geospatial flood data and engaging undergraduates in participatory research to build climate-resilient communities

  • Led by Elizabeth Watson, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Partners: ENLACE, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The team will analyze geospatial flood data and engage undergraduate students in community-based research that builds resilient communities to address climate change. The project will also develop a course focused on community-engaged research and climate solutions and justice. The team will collaborate with community members by engaging them in deploying and downloading data while immersing students in a community-based case study to support their academics.