Santa Clara University

Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

News and Events


Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events

  •  New Assessment of the Uneven Distribution of Environmental Burdens and Benefits for Santa Clara County

    Monday, Oct. 27, 2014

    ESS faculty members Iris Stewart-Frey and Christopher Bacon, together with SCU undergraduate researcher William Burke investigated the uneven distribution of environmental benefits and burderns in Santa Clara County.

    Inequalities in the exposure to environmental burdens and access to environmental benefits are an environmental justice concern for urban and regional environmental planning. Recent studies have assessed the exposure of different populations to a combination of environmental hazards through GIS-based Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessments (CEIA). The contribution of this study is the development of a CEIA, which incorporates the distance-based impact of transportation, the cumulative impact of environmental hazards, and access to environmental benefits for Santa Clara County (SCC), a highly diverse and rapidly developing region also known as ‘Silicon Valley’. Our results show that social vulnerability, cumulative environmental hazards, and environmental benefits exhibit distinct spatial patterns in SCC. High environmental hazard values are found along freeway and railroad corridors with substantial industrial legacies, while environmental benefit scores are generally higher in the suburban periphery.

    Correlations indicate that socially vulnerable populations in SCC are predominantly hispanic and are more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, while white and wealthier populations are more likely to have access to environmental benefits. The results from this study may serve to develop community-based initiatives for neighborhood improvement and environmental-justice-based regional planning and public health policy reform.



  •  Lucy Diekmann awarded USDA postdoctoral grant

    Monday, Oct. 27, 2014

    ESS congratulates Lucy Diekmann, who has been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture! Over the next two years, Lucy will be working with Associate Professor Leslie Gray on a study of urban agriculture in Santa Clara County. Lucy is an environmental social scientist with a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California, Berkeley.

    This research project will produce a comprehensive assessment of the benefits, costs, and challenges associated with Santa Clara County's home gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and farmer's markets. One of the project’s goals is to better understand how the benefits and costs of urban agriculture are distributed across the county, with particular attention to low-income communities.

    In addition, Lucy is working with a national Cooperative Extension group for people interested in local, community, and regional food systems. Through her participation in this group, Lucy aims to foster learning and information sharing among Extension educators involved in urban agriculture and to create research-based educational content for a broad audience.

  •  Ancient sediments point to rising mountains as origin of arid Central Asia

    Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014

     Scientists have long debated the topographic and climatic history of Asia. What were the forces behind the creation of expansive arid regions? How and when did the uplift of Asia’s great mountain ranges occur? While the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau have received much attention in the tectonics and paleoclimate communities, the history of mountain ranges and deserts to the north of Tibet have remained largely overlooked. Hari Mix and his colleagues at Stanford University and Rocky Mountain College set out to examine the evolution of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, Hangay and Altai Mountains. In order to track changes in aridity and uplift over the past 80 million years, the team collected and analyzed the chemistry of hundreds of ancient soil, stream and lake sediment samples.

    Many previous explanations for the origin of an arid Central Asia invoked the uplift of the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau over the last 45 million years. By examining the carbon isotope composition of these ancient sediments, the team was able to quantify the productivity of ancient plants, and in turn the amount of ancient rainfall. These data point to the importance of moisture from the west, not Tibet to the south, as the dominant control on the climate of Mongolia. Sediments from central and southern Mongolia document a 50-90% decrease in rainfall over the past 30 million years. The group’s findings, published in this month’s American Journal of Science, suggest that the uplift of Mongolia’s Altai and Hangay Mountains created rain shadows leading to the expansion of the Gobi Desert. Hari hopes to return to Mongolia and Kazakhstan to continue examining the evolution of moisture transport in Asia

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