Eight Princeton University graduate students were selected to receive a Mary and Randall Hack ’69 Graduate Award from the Princeton Environmental Institute. The award provides up to $8,000 in research funding to Princeton graduate students exploring water and water-related topics in various disciplines, including climate science, biology, engineering and environmental policy.
The 2017 recipients are Kessie Alexandre, Keita DeCarlo, Ying Liu, Hamid Omidvar, Melany Ruiz, Kimia Shahi, Kaia Tombak and Siyuan (Henry) Xian. Their research addresses areas such as urban activism and aging water infrastructures; plant-soil dynamics; cleaner oil extraction; thermal pollution in urban runoff; biological wastewater treatment; art and the perception of oceans; the effect of parasites on zebra populations; and coastal flood preparation.
Brief descriptions of each recipient's research proposal are below.
Adviser: João Biehl, Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology
"Clean Water, Green City: An Ethnographic Study of Aging Water Infrastructures and Urban Greening in the City of Newark"
Newark will provide the setting of Alexandre's research into how aging water infrastructures in
American cities inspire political mobilization and environmental efforts such as gardens, rainwater harvesting, volunteer waterway cleanups and monitoring, and calls for environmental justice. By
residing in areas faced with frequent water contamination, she seeks to plot how regular infrastructural breakdown in specific areas correlates with residents' perception of water and environmental issues over time.
Adviser: Kelly Caylor, professor of ecohydrology, director of the Earth Research Institute, University of California-Santa Barbara
"Merging Soil Structure with Plant Function: Investigating the Role of Belowground Plant Morphology
on Soil Water Dynamics"
DeCarlo will use neutron radiography to expand our knowledge of how plant growth influences the structure and water uptake of soil. Working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he will add his
findings to a global species-independent framework for modeling plant water uptake.
Adviser: Howard Stone, Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
"Enhanced 'Greener' Oil Recovery Through Low-Salinity Waterflooding"
Low-salinity waterflooding presents an economical and less environmentally destructive method for oil extraction, but the method's poorly understood mechanics prevent widespread adoption. Liu will study the technique's basic physical mechanisms in porous underground substrates to improve the control, efficiency and ultimate feasibility of low-salinity waterflooding.
Adviser: Elie Bou-Zeid, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering
"Hot Runoff Effects on Streams Temperature and Ecology"
Omidvar will look into the heat energy that storm runoff from the hot impervious streets and sidewalks of urban areas dumps into streams and other waterways. He seeks to quantify and model the amount
of heat energy urban runoff carries, the percentage of that energy transferred to streams, and how that thermal pollution compares to other sources such as power plants.
Adviser: Peter R. Jaffé, William L. Knapp ’47 Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering
"Characterization and Optimization of the Feammox Process for the Development of an Energy
Efficient Anaerobic Ammonium Removal"
Ruiz' research will focus on developing a biological method for treating wastewater that would employ the microorganism Acidimicrobiaceae-bacterium A6 and biological systems known as Microbial Electrolysis Cells. In natural systems, A6 relies on iron to remove toxic compounds such as ammonium, but MECs would eliminate the need for iron and allow for the more efficient removal of compounds and
Adviser: Rachael DeLue, professor of art and archaeology
"Margin, Surface, Depth: Picturing the Contours of the Marine in Nineteenth-Century America"
Shahi will investigate how the representation of the ocean and seacoasts by 19th-century American artists participated in changing aesthetic, cultural, scientific and ecological understandings and articulations of littoral and marine terrains. These historical questions are urgent now as the impacts of climate change prompt renewed attention to how we understand, value, use, inhabit and picture both sea and shore today.
Adviser: Dan Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology
"Parasite-Exposure Dynamics and Their Impacts on Zebra Populations in a Landscape with Changing Water Distribution"
Working in Kenya, Tombak will examine how the increased concentration of zebra dung in areas surrounding watering holes during periods of low rainfall — which could be exacerbated by climate change — affect parasite infection. She will study the environmental circumstances that influence infection and — through a non-invasive analysis of individual animal's immune function — the repercussions of parasites on the overall populations of zebras, particularly the endangered Grévy's zebra.
Adviser: Ning Lin, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering
"Coastal Flood Resilience Under Climate Change: From Scientific Modeling to Behavioral Understanding"
Xian seeks to address the underutilization of risk reduction and transfer in American coastal regions that leads to the devastation that follows storms such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He will use observations and modeling to update risk information and to determine the best risk-reduction strategies at regional and local levels, such as sea walls and house elevation. To address risk transfer, Xian plans to examine how insurance can be used to better motivate property owners to engage in risk reduction, which would create a positive interaction between risk mitigation and transfer.